Some time ago I asked my twin Sons to help me building the scale model of a Flemish farmhouse.
I thought it would provide the ideal setting for a skirmish in the War of the Austrian Succession, involving perhaps a foraging party of French Hussars unexpectedly stumbling upon a piquet of British regulars, themselves busy with exacting contribution from some hapless Flemish farmers…
After some research on the Internet, we found the web-site of the Open Air Museum of Bokrijk, Belgium (see here), where more than a hundred original buildings from the 17th, 18th, and 19th Century are grouped in hamlets representative of various parts of Flanders, most of them farmhouses and other rural buildings.
Among the many buildings displayed at the museum, we choose to reproduce the Contzenwinning Klein-Hoeselt farmhouse, which is part of a U-shaped homestead consisting of four half-timbered buildings dating from the late 17th Century.
Besides the L-shaped farmhouse, which my Sons have built for me, the farm complex also includes a barn with built-in pig and cow shed, a horse stable, and a bakery. As the Twins have now moved abroad for college, I will have to build the remaining buildings myself, which I may do at some future time…
Having collected as many pictures as possible of the farmhouse, both on the museum web-site and on other sites, we could reconstruct the appearance of each side view of the building with reasonable enough accuracy.
My Sons then drew each side view of the farmhouse on squared sheets of paper, in a scale visually compatible with my toy soldiers, although somewhat undersized (I find that undersized buildings, as well as other terrain elements, not only save a lot of storage and tabletop space, but actually look more attractive next to toy soldiers…).
The next step was cutting each side of the house and roof structure from pieces of corrugated cardboard. At this stage, my Sons divided the L-shaped building in two main sections, so that each of them could work on one section separately.
My Sons made the oak timbers with strips of card, 2mm thick, cut irregularly and glued onto the cardboard structure. To represent the rough texture of the axe-cut timber, they applied an irregular spread of neoprene glue on the card (we used this method to texture the wooden posts and planks of the stockade fort cabin, see previous post here) .
Having completed the timber framework, they filled the spaces between the timbers with a thin layer of papier-mâché to simulate the plaster that in the original building covers the brick or wattle-and-daub infill (note that in the real thing the plaster layer is always level with, or slightly proud of, the timber framework. For this reason, it would not be correct to simply glue the card strips onto the base structure).
The house sits on a stone-wall foundation, which my Sons simply rendered by gluing onto the cardboard structure small card pieces roughly cut to the appropriate shape and size. To get a more realistic effect, they covered the card pieces with a thin layer of paper tissue and a wash of diluted PVC glue.
The Twins made the roof tiles with strips cut from the fluting layer of corrugated cardboard of the kind used by house painters to protect the floor of a room when working in it (consisting on one layer of flat and one layer of fluted cardboard). They glued the strips on the roof structure so as to partially overlap one another. Looking for a more realistic effect, they cut the ridges of the roof structure to a humpback shape, and laid down the fluted strips somewhat irregularly. Once painted in a mixture of red, raw umber and yellow ochre acrylics, and given a coat of semi-gloss protective varnish, the farmhouse roof acquires indeed a very convincing look…
Finally, important details have been added to complete the model.
The chimney is a 2-mm thick structure, on which thinner card bricks have been glued one by one.
The overhanging privy is also a 2-mm thick structure, covered with strips of thinner card to represent the wood planks. Note the heart-shaped decorative cut-outs on the sides of the privy… The wooden roof tiles are also made with card strips cut at irregular intervals and glued so as to partially overlap one another.
The gable planking, the door, the gate, the window frames and the shutters are all made with thin card strips, while the doorway steps are pieces of 3-mm thick card.