A Guide to making Kitchen Table Models

Mr. T.R. Raghunandan, of Museum of Movement, shows how to make rail models entirely by hand.

Step into the workshop of Mr. Raghunandan, a cardboard rail model enthusiast. This is a finished cardboard model of the DHR's B Class Locomotive. This model took a year and a half for Mr. Raghunandan to finish, starting in November 2007 and completing it in March 2009.

Finishing the model within Rs. 300Museum of Movement

Recreating rail models

Kitchen table modelling is a fun way to start scratch building, using just about anything for basic materials. While the skills that you acquire when you make simple models are the stepping stones for graduating towards more complex projects, kitchen table modelling can be a rewarding hobby in itself. There are virtually no limits to how much complexities and details you can achieve. All model makers have started with simple models, tools and materials. Let us start with the process. 

The cutaway for fitting the furnaceMuseum of Movement

Scratch building

Scratch building is the art of building a model from basic materials, such as metal, plastic, epoxy resin, wood or even paper and cardboard. While it usually takes more time than kit building or kit bashing, it gives complete scope for originality and detail. Scratch building, particularly in metal and wood, requires special tools for miniature work and some level of skill and practice.

Cardboards and elephant dung handmade paper were used for the locomotive Cardboards and elephant dung handmade paper were used for the locomotiveMuseum of Movement

Basic raw materials used

Cardboard, paper, bottle caps, PET bottles, pencils, old ball pens, paper pins and clips are some of the materials that are used into making of the models. Apart from all these, old toothbrushes, keychains, electric wires, sawdust and coconut shells were included. Old invitation and greeting cards, newspapers, gift wrapping papers, corrugated cardboard sand handmade papers are also useful. This model in the picture is made from paper created out from elephant dung. 

Chassis frames cut by hand from waste cardboard sheetMuseum of Movement

Simple techniques for making cardboard models

There are a few techniques that are frequently used when making cardboard models. The most commonly required skills are drawing, cutting, laminating, gluing, folding, rolling and making compound curves with paper. All models start with a pattern, which is nothing more than a set of drawings which will guide you in modelling your subject.

Wheels cut by hand from cardboardMuseum of Movement

Always use a sharp pencil or a good ballpoint for drawing. Mark the starting point and finishing point on the cardboard, without lifting or moving the scale. Be open armed when drawing or cutting along a straight line. There are a variety of free downloads of drawing and CAD software available on the internet that you could use.

Chassis frames laminated with paperMuseum of Movement

Laser-cutting and laminating

To speed up the work, if you has access to a laser cutting machine, you can export the cutting sheet pattern into a software used by the machine and have the parts cut out. Laser cutting gives you very clean cuts. Laminating is the process of sticking together several numbers of the same piece so that you get a part of the desired thickness. There are two ways of going about laminating paper or cardboard. One is to laminate the raw material before cutting and then cut the laminated material. The other is to first cut out the required number of patterns and then laminate them. 

The pattern for the coal scuttleMuseum of Movement

Folding the paper and the cardboard

Most people tend to draw a line and then fold the cardboard or paper along the line. It is much better to score along the line indicating the bend, with a blunt knife blade. Take care to not cut through the paper. Scoring prior to actual bending gives a much sharper bend.

Chimney of the locomotiveMuseum of Movement

Rolling of the paper

Rolling the paper into solid rods or hollow tubes is necessary to represent several of the circular parts on a railway engine. Solid rods are required for axles and some of the moving parts. Hollow tubes include the smokestack and the boiler. Use a circular template such as a broomstick, toothpick or earbud as the core of the rod and wrap the paper around it, applying glue in thin strips while working around the core. For rolling a hollow tube, use a circular rod, such as a pencil or anything else of an appropriate thickness. When making boilers, retain the core as it provides additional stiffness. In this model, tubular objects are used, such as old ball point pens and shampoo bottles.

The base of the smokeboxMuseum of Movement

Making compound curves with paper

This is the most complex of paper use techniques. A compound curve is where an object curves three dimensionally. Making an object with a compound curve, such as a steam dome or the rear of a headlamp, calls for special techniques. The first step in building an object with a compound curve is to build a template or pattern, over which you can place layers of paper till you achieve the desired shape and thickness. When the object is thoroughly dry and think, use fine sandpaper to smoothen the sharp edges. Finally, when the finished object is sufficiently dry and strong, prise it away from the template with a sharp knife.

Mock-up body of the locomotiveMuseum of Movement

This is what it looks like when compiling everything together.

Underbody and running gear fitted onto the chassisMuseum of Movement

And this is what the final result looks like.

Mr. Raghunandan has also created a cardboard model of a YG Locomotive, which lays on the side table.

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