Monday, 11 June 2018

CLXXVI. Peasant House Step-By-Step

When I published my peasant house I got a lot of requests for a more detailed account of the build. I have completed two more of these cottages now, and I tried my best to document the process for those interested. If you have questions, you are welcome to ask in the comments. I'll be happy to discuss it further.

  • polystyrene
  • balsa wood (1mm, 2mm)
  • DAS clay
  • MDF base
  • pelt of a teddy bear 
  • masking tape
  • PVA glue
  • superglue
  • pins
  • wooden toothpicks
  • wire
  • blister pack
  • insect net
  • paint

The core shape was assembled from polystyrene, toothpicks and masking tape. It's sturdy and easy to build upon, so a good choice if the house is closed (no playable interior). The base is MDF.

First, I grabbed 2mm balsa and got started on the roof. That's only the parts of the wooden roof structure that would be visible. No need to bother with the rest since it will be covered with 'thatch'.

Next comes the wooden framework of the walls. Also made of 2mm balsa, glued with PVA.

The walls were then filled with DAS clay. I do this with my fingers and leave it uneven and messy. Only I always make sure not to leave fingerprints - having those showing is on the same immersion-killing level as having mould lines on a painted mini. Water helps smooth things out. Before applying the clay, I smeared some PVA on the surface for DAS to adhere better. If your polystyrene has a textured surface, do sand it smooth. The texture will show in the overlaying clay when it cures. You can still fix that with another layer of DAS, but it's better to prevent it from happening at all.

While the clay was still wet I added more detail to the overhang of the roof. It's just toothpicks, cut in half. Pointy end stuck into the wall just under the roof.

That's the big stuff done. Moving on to the detailing.

Leaded windows. Insect net, blister pack plastic. I cut the shape with scissors, glued them to each other with superglue and then on the wall with PVA. Built the window frames around the glass. Easy.

Doors. 1mm balsa. First, basic shape and size. Then it was marked and cut into planks. Each plank got wood grain engraved. Each distressed around the edges. Then all glued into place in the door frame. The 'empty space' behind the door was prepainted black, since it would otherwise have been hard to reach. Thinking ahead saves you from frustration later.

Metal detailing on the door. Blister packaging, pin heads, metal rings. Glued with superglue.

Painting time. Sprayed white. Grey and brown glazes on the wood, some staining on the whitewashed walls. Rust on metal.

After the messiest part of painting is done, the teddy fur thatch can be glued into place. I prefer to do it this was to avoid fur getting in the way when painting the underlying wood.

The fur thatch is best done by cutting horizontal strips and pasting them onto the roof, starting from the bottom and slightly overlapping. I used pins to fix it all in place until the glue set. I pulled them all out afterwards.

You will notice it looks very fuzzy. To make it more like straw, I applied a mix of water, PVA and light brown paint. Used a large stiff brush and brush only in the downward direction, following the flow of the hairs. This is also how water would normally go down the roof during rainfall.

After this, the roof will be pretty drenched and it will take time for it to dry. Best leave it overnight. When it was completely dry, I added the chimney, the wooden ridge, and some planks nailed to the roof. The latter are mostly an aesthetic choice, since they help break up the large, relatively bland surface.

It's the little extra details that really help sell the scenery piece as a house someone inhabits. A simple, rickety ladder can be made from balsa and cut up toothpicks. For a tidier and sturdier result, harder wood is recommended.

This water pitcher hanging on the wall was made of a wooden bead, a metal ring and a bit of wire:

Bits leftover from kits, or bits designed for dioramas and basing are also good for this. I add these little bits at the end since it's easier to paint them separately from the building.

As you can see, it is not complicated and it doesn't require expensive materials nor tools. The more time you spend on it and the more attention you give to details, the more spectacular it will be. And you can always go back and work on it some more, add a little thing here, tidy up the paintjob there. I will leave these as they are for now, since I have a few more pieces to build before the deadline. But nothing is stopping me to snazz them up more at a later date. 

Cottage No.2

Cottage No.3

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In other news, I'm still making minis. I have shown this image somewhere else already, but I want to include it here as well. Second Bloodfiend is done, the Custodian finished, and a little piper devil is the newest arrival to the green group. Bosch for the win.


  1. Thanks for the tutorial. I met a few new, cool ideas.

    I steal to the next issue 'chosen from the week'. :)

  2. Excellent looking tutorial. Really love it!

  3. Shows that with a little hard work can bring out some impressive results. Thanks for showing us your methods Ana.

  4. Thanks for showing/explaining this! The method is straight forward, but the results incredible! I really really like that old ladder!

  5. Lovely work Ana and great stuff with the tutorial.

  6. OMG, everything about this past is amazing!

  7. Thank you, that is an excellent tutorial. Lots of useful little tips and tricks!

  8. Brilliant tutorial, thanks for taking the time to compose it! I was especially surprised about those beams under the overhang - I thought to myself "you expect us to make that many beams out of balsa?!" and then I read "It's just toothpicks, cut in half." That door looks so pretty darn realistic too :)

  9. I would never have guess that you use DAS clay for the walls. Thank you so much!!!!

  10. Spectaculart! The painting of the weathered wood is especially nice. I think the, most impressive thing is the scratch built ladder though- very fiddly and time consuming!

  11. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and skills on this project!

  12. Clever use of teddy bear fur! I play on a mat of the same material, and it makes great grass, but I never thought of using it for thatch. I’ve always used old towels, which i’d still highly recommend, but which definitely don’t have as stylish of an effect as your fur. Great work!

  13. Fantastic. Thanks for sharing the, "How?" of these wonderful pieces.


  14. I enjoyed reading this, really interesting!!

  15. Absolutely gorgeous buildings! I think when I've got a fair chunk of my hobby log cleared I may have to make some myself. Thanks for the awesome step-by-step :)