“When my children were young, I remember them playing with flat moulds which produced plaster casts of buildings. So I thought to myself, what if I used plasticard to create original components for scale model buildings, turned them into moulds and then cast them in resin?”
George Ridgway does a lot of casting and mould making, all of it as a hobby. 54mm British soldiers from the Napoleonic Wars? Check. 1/1200 waterline ships? Check. 1/72 military vehicles? Check.
He started out intrigued by the process and as time has passed, gradually became braver with what he attempts, leading to a pretty impressive portfolio of work.
Today, we are talking about his buildings. George is explaining how he came to combine plasticard and casting resin in the construction of scale model buildings in N gauge as part of a model railway layout.
“I had built many factories, houses and other buildings from plain plastic sheets, Slater’s Plastikard and similar embossed plasticard. What I really wanted to do though was produce original components to allow duplication and variations.”
Which is when George had his Paul on the road to Damascus moment, or in this case, George on the road to the SylCreate shop moment. If his children were able to use flat moulds to make plaster cast buildings, then he could use the same process with plasticard and resin for producing customised sets and copies.
“I start out by drawing designs of the buildings I want to create,” says George, explaining his method. “I then build the master components from plasticard and place these in shallow mould boxes made from further plasticard.”
“The boxes are as tight to the shape as possible, but with sufficient surround and depth so as not to waste moulding rubber and to retain a strong mould.”
George’s moulding rubber of choice is Sylmasta 380, our medium grade which offers good dimensional stability as well as a softness suitable for deep undercuts. His master moulds of his plasticard components are simple, flat, single moulds.
From these, George uses Polycast G26 to cast resin copies of the originals. “I keep the resin versions as shallow and fine as possible to avoid needing to trim flash, cut out windows or lose any detail.”
“The original components are designed with flanges and to the same dimension so that the walls of the buildings can be glued together using the products in the Sylmasta Superglue Kit. Designing quoins, buttresses and other supports helped.”
Once the structure of the buildings have been created, George adds details like drainpipes, window glass and chimney stacks from plastic rod, tubes or additional plasticard.
George is at pains to point out that he did not master the craft of creating scale model buildings from resin overnight. “The process took time and experimentation to get the original components accurate, the moulds to mature fully and the resin products to thoroughly harden.”
“Even now, sometimes my castings are too thick. I have learnt to be cautious when mixing the resin and filling the mould and that help creates well defined copies that require little trimming.”
“I am no great model painter and initially, I was concerned that the final finish may not have been as well defined as printed card buildings. That was not a problem though and the end products are less flimsy or vulnerable compared to plasticard.”
“Having more robust buildings is good, but the main benefit is of course that I can cast many different customised parts specifically designed for my layout. The mix and match of components allows a real range.”
Plasticard is not George’s only material for creating masters. He also hand builds from wood, plastic, metal and modelling clay. “I am getting braver about what I try now, thanks to finding Sylmasta moulding rubber and Polycast resin so easy to use.”
“I would say I am more of a modeller than a railway or military fan. No matter what the layout, I enjoy trying out my own methods – even when there are better proprietary products for sale.”
“With how many of us model makers there are and the fact that a lot of us like building our own layouts, I guess many of your SylCreate customers feel the same.”