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How To Make Miniature Shingles for a Scale Building or Dolls House

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One inch size cedar shingles and paper strip cut to resemble 1:48 scale shingles

Scale Shingles for Dollhouse and Other Miniature Buildings

Photo ©2007 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.
Scale miniature wood shingles or shakes are something that can make or break the effect of a scale miniature building or a dolls house. Shingles are often used both on walls and roofs and a number of materials can be used to successfully mimic a shingled effect. As shingles are most often viewed in real life from a considerable distance, the sizes of shingles used for scale buildings should not be true to scale size, or the perspective will seem off when the building is viewed up close.

There are several types of material you can use. Choose the one best suited to your requirements and scale.

Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: Several hours, depending on roof size

Here's How:

  1. Use Strips of Paper - Strip paper shingles come precut in various scales. You can easily create paper shingles in smaller scales by cutting random appropriate shingle widths 3/4 of the way into a long strip of paper, leaving at least 1/4 the total depth of the cut as a solid band above the cut to hold the strip together.

    Paper shingles are easily finished using a dry brushing technique and acrylic paints.

    To create your own strip paper shingles,look for papers with a grain line surface which resembles wood. Classic laid paper is an example. When painted the paper resembles the grain of wood if cut in the correct direction.

  2. Use Die Cut Paper Tags- or use a paper punch for tags to cut suitable shapes. Slightly more substantial shingles can be cut from card stock or heavier weight papers using a paper punch. These need to be treated as individual shingles which makes them a bit more difficult to lay than strip cut rows of paper, but the effect can be very rewarding. Different shaped ends on paper tag punches will create different shaped shingles for decorative purposes. You can also cut standard rectangles, and use an edging punch to create a particular shape for the end of your paper tag shingle.

  3. Use Wood veneer or Edging Tape - Individual shingles can be cut from iron on wood cabinetry edging or sheets of wood veneer. As veneers are usually thin, flexible wood, they make good shingles for projects 1:24 and sometimes 1:48 scale. Some scrapbook or hobby stores carry sheets of wood veneer. Choose a veneer with a grain that will resemble a shingle and test the effects of your ageing solution on this wood before you cut out all your shingles to make sure it is suitable.

  4. Use Cedar Shingles -Precut cedar shingles are available from dollhouse and railway supply shops. Effective at larger scales (1:12, 1:24) they are fairly thick. To create a more natural roof effect, trim shingles to different widths approximately 1 1/8 inches long. This is not to scale given real shingle sizes, but it avoids the appearance of an unusually thick roof and creates a better perspective when viewed close up. Hand cut shingles were not standard widths until recently. Cedar Shingles can be aged using the vinegar/steel wool technique. Age and allow them to dry before installation.

Tips:

  1. Age wooden shingles - Use an ageing solution to age precut cedar, or wood veneer shingles before applying them. If your ageing solution turns your sample too dark, you can try a mild bleach solution to lighten the effect. After the shingles have been glued in place, brush them with a wire brush in the direction of the grain, and reapply an aging solution if necessary, or bleach them, or add a wash of raw sienna, titanium white, or sap green depending on the effect you want.

  2. Paint paper strips- Before applying, paint paper strips of shingles. Burnt umber, raw umber, raw sienna, Mars black Payne's gray and titanium white are useful colors, sap green can be used as a wash to indicate moss and lichen. Dry brush down each individual shingle 'tab' on paper shingles to create the illusion of wood grain. Paint both sides and any exposed edges before applying..

  3. Laying Single Shingles - Apply glue in a "T" shape across the top and down the shingle centre, this allows them to cup naturally at the edges when the final finish is applied.

    Glue a narrow edging strip of material equal to the thickness of your shingles along the bottom edge of the roof. Lay the first shingle row so that the bottom covers and goes over this edging strip.

    Use a spacing bar to give you the set back for each row of shingles, In 1:12 scale it should be approximately ½ inch, in 1/48 scale, it might be 3/16 inch or less.

    Leave only a hairline between shingles in a row, so the roof support remains hidden.

  4. Offsets from Row to Row - Lay paper strip shingles so that the individual shingle lines are offset over the row beneath. Cut the strip to length before painting, in order to make sure the cut edges are painted.

    Lay individual shingles so that the side edges of the shingles on the row beneath are overlapped by a shingle on the row above. The shingles should not be centered over a preceding row of shingles, as varying widths mean the overlaps would never be precise. The gaps between shingles should be overlapped by at least 1/8 of an inch by the row of shingles above.

  5. Final Finish -Once wood shingles are glued in place they can be wire brushed and bleached with a mild bleach solution if necessary to lighten them (or washed with a mixture of Payne's gray and titanium white.)

    The illusion of moss/lichen on shingles can be created by washing the lower areas (or shaded areas if you are using trees) with a light wash of sap green acrylic or watercolor. Actual patches of lichen can be applied by dabbing small amounts of bright green, tan, and orange chalk on in tiny irregular patches. The chalk can be fixed in place with an artist's fixative, or by a light coating of matte varnish.

    For more tips on miniature shingles, see Pat and Noel Thomas' Shingling Tips

What You Need

  • A Sharp Knife or Strip Cutter for Wooden Shingles
  • Sharp Scissors and or Paper Punches for Paper Shingles
  • Appropriate Wood Veneer, or Pre Cut Cedar Doll House Shingles
  • Appropriately Grained Paper for Paper Shingles (See above for types)
  • Aging or Bleaching Solution for Wood Shingles
  • Acrylic or Watercolor Paints for Paper Shingles
  • Pva (white glue) for Paper Shingles, Pva or Wood Glue for Wood Shingles

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