Monday 8 November 2021

Mediaeval Japan

 Here are some more photos of the buildings I made in my "turning Japanese" phase of the mid-1980's. These images are of a multi-storey temple, walls and village houses, arranged into scenes and posed with figures from various sources including home sculpted. The photos were taken somewhat later, when I had acquired a trusty piece of "foreground" in the shape of a slab of mounting card textured with earth and grass. The blue background works better when the "join" is well concealed, although the final shot disconcertingly portrays the back garden of my old house!

I am working through the image mountain in something like chronological order. Naturally the later models are noticeably better than these early ones, but I will try to explain the progression of my methods, and mistakes that I learned to avoid, which I hope will be of interest to those wanting to build their own models. 

With these examples, the Linka cast plaster sheets of stone and tile were being replaced by the much better Wills plastic sheets. The thatched roofs were made in the way pioneered by Ian Weekley, based on plumber's lagging felt glued down strongly to card. That is then soaked in thinned household filler and firmly brushed/ combed down. The resultant shaggy mess is then trimmed neatly with scissors and scalpel. Nowadays everyone uses this method with "teddy bear fur" instead of the felt, but the old material worked OK for thick, rough thatch. I seem to remember I painted these roofs with very thin washes of brown and black oil paint. It took ages to dry and smelt like hell, but the effect looks real enough. Actual thatched roofs aren't yellowish at all but grey-brown when new and dark grey for the older ones. 

One big mistake in the building of the temple was how I constructed the platform "fences". I used balsa. fixed together with UHU glue. Now I still use UHU a lot and it's great for sticking card and all sorts of materials, but balsa isn't one of them! I only have to take this temple out of its box and there are breakages every time. The fences are horribly fragile. Wood glue would have worked better, and pins could have reinforced the arrangement, but balsa also isn't robust enough for this kind of structure. I did make a rather picturesque Japanese bridge by this method a few years later, but the same problem defeated me in the end: it was coming apart so fast it never got completed! Later models would avoid this mistake, but that's for the next post.


  1. Your Japanese structures are works of art, John. Super job and a pleasure to see.

  2. Thankyou guys, I've got one more most of Japanese stuff to go and then I'm done on that front. I would like to have another go at wargaming Samurai warfare some time in the future, not least for the excuse to build a really good castle, using the skills I have learned over the decades since those first efforts.

  3. More fantastic work - I am currently in a "Pulp" phase and painting up some different nationalities including several Asian ones (Chinese and Japanese) I would love to be able to create scenery of this standard - simply outstanding!

  4. I remember Linka moulds, although I never used them. I think the plumbers hemp thatch looks great and frankly better than most fur fabric.

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