Saturday 5 February 2022

Russian Church

Here's the largest of the Russian buildings I made. Some were much more elaborate but this is typical for a Russian village from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century. It's built almost entirely from balsa wood. This one's a little larger than I usually like to make and the walls consumed an outrageous amount of balsa dowel: I think it was twelve metres, £30-odd's worth, and that was years ago. But it goes together easily enough with a bit of patience. I described the technique in the comments on the Russian houses. 

A wargaming friend asked me very recently how I paint the aged woodwork, so this might be a good place to explain. Firstly you need to get a very thorough undercoat of matt black over every millimetre of the surface, making sure you get into the cracks and crevices and checking from every angle. Then it's mostly careful drybrushing with a big flat bristle brush. I learned the concept of this colour sequence from an article by Dave Andrews in White Dwarf long ago:

  1. Dark brown, applied quite heavily, leaving black mostly just in the cracks.
  2. Medium grey-brown, somewhat more lightly applied
  3. Light grey with a touch of buff, sand or whatever mixed in. This is a light drybrush only.
  4. Wash over some individual logs or planks to vary the colour. Well-thinned inks, or washes by GW or whoever: black, dull and bright browns are what you want.
  5. Final very light drybrush with a pale silver-grey colour.
  6. I often also add a hint of moss with very thin olive-green, spotted on randomly and immediately softened by dabbing with a damp ball of tissue.
The dome and cross of this model (see final photo) are the bits I am proudest of. The pointed shingles were cut from thin styrene sheet, textured with rough sandpaper dragged forcefully down it. They are applied in a pattern I learned from peering closely at photos of real examples. The trick on the dome is to vary the width of shingles in each row. So the first row at the bottom of the "onion" are a medium width, each of the next two rows a little bigger, then reducing in size again up to the top. The shingles on the flat sections of spire start with the biggest size and gradually reduce. 

The area of Coventry where I live is home to minorities from around the world, one of them being Orthodox by religion. I've often noticed the unusual three-branched cross on their church, thinking it would look interesting on a model. But it had to have as much strength as I could give it, being a delicate thing in a place vulnerable to accidental damage. I thought about wood and plastic, but they would just break if it gets caught hard. So I resolved to do a bit of metalwork. I marked out the shape on a sheet of 0.8mm brass, using strips of masking tape, then clamped it firmly in the vice. Using a fretsaw I cut it out, tidying with a square-section file and rounding off the ends with a flat one. After a couple of tries it came out a bit thinner than I'd intended, but got the shape OK. Hopefully, if it gets caught it will at least bend or pull out as in one piece rather than breaking.  


  1. This certainly is a magnificent piece of ecclesiastical building work John...beautiful details once again!

  2. That is a superb model John, with great attention to detailing for the spire and dome. Nice to see how you went about painting it too.

  3. I'm Orthodox, and that is an excellent representation of a church.

  4. Thanks, guys, especially Benjamin, whose comment I regard as high praise.

  5. Fantastic, and great ideas for painting the wood effects. Thank you


  6. John a fantastic piece and thank you for the aint recipe - I have struggled for a long while to get a representation of aged wood that I happy with. I'll be experimenting with this.


  7. That is a superb centrepiece for a Russian village - great work. The onion dome looks excellent.

  8. Thanks everyone, much appreciated. Glad to hear the formula for painting aged wood was of use. As always, if there's anything you would like to ask about I am always happy to respond. I'm just about to post the last pictures of the Russian setup and then it will be time for another photo session.

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