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We Will Rock You

James Hickman

JAMES HICKMAN shows us how to create a rockface on your layout.

Noch Rock Moulding

Throughout my years attending model railway shows and seeing the variety of layouts on display, it is noticeable that a lot of modellers tend to shy away from modelling rock faces - possibly due to the pre-conceived notion that they can be difficult to create. Although the details on any rock structure can take a bit of time, the skills involved are not challenging. We recently modified part of our shop layout and used the new Noch Rock moulds to create the display shown above. What follows is a step by step guide to the making of this new part of our display.

The first thing to do was to prime the area. To create the initial wall where the rock face would be installed, a selection of Balsa Wood pieces (GM167/GM168) were glued into place using our Glue Gun (GM655). This gave me a former for the wall on which to work. Next it was time to cast the rocks for the wall. For this model, I decided to use the N61234 Rock Mould as it gave three different casts from the one mould.

The Noch Rock Moulds conveniently come with a backing card designed to be cut up for use with the rock mould. Once assembled, it allows you to sit the mould into the box and cast with the mould level, stopping the plaster running out. The moulds could precoated with a release agent made from water with a dash of washing up liquid. This is perfect for the first use; however, you may need to clean and re-coat with a similar mixture after a few uses if your rocks begin to stick in the mould.

Noch Rock Moulding

From here it was time to mix the plaster. My colleague Martin cast these rocks for me, so I'll let him explain the process:

"The important thing to remember is that both dry and wet plaster tends to be quite messy, so make sure surfaces are well protected.

The amount of plaster needed does of course depend on the size of the mould, and it is probably better to mix too little rather than too much as the plaster can set very quickly, leaving you with a mixing bowl a quarter full of solid plaster.

For a standard mould I tend to use 4 or 5 heaped tablespoons of plaster, adding and stirring in the water until I achieve the right consistency. Make sure that no dry balls of plaster are hiding in the corner of the bowl, but experiment with the volumes to find the best mix for you.

I aim for a mix about the consistancy of double cream. This can be poured carefully into the mould, slowly easing the mix into all the small spaces and corners.

Once poured, leave the mould where it is not likely to get knocked over for thirty minutes to an hour, then gently ease the plaster out of the mould and set it aside to continue setting."

As Martin mentioned above, the plaster will have begun to set and can be removed from the moulds after 30 to 60 minutes. The plaster rock can then be set aside to set completely for 24 hours. This doesn't stop you casting more rocks in the mean time, and the amount you see used on our layout here were cast over a single morning. Once the rocks were cast, they were offered up to the area where they would be placed.

Noch Rock Moulding

You will notice that the rocks exceed the required height of the wall. To cut them down a mark was made along the desired location and a razor saw was used to cut around halfway through the rock. This can be a bit hard work, but once you are halfway, the remaining part of the rock will usually just snap off across the cut. These off cuts were then put to one side for use later. Once all the rocks had been cut, they were glued in place.

Noch Rock Moulding

You will notice in the image above that the off-cuts have now been turned so that the back of them is now sitting on the top of the rocks. This gave the look of the top of the rock, and a wall to the road behind. The gaps between the rocks can now be filled. To begin with I used some additional plaster, the same that was used to cast with, however I found this started to run and create a much too flowing effect. After all rock faces are meant to be jagged aren't, they?

To cover this and the remaining gaps, I turned to a wall filler. This can be purchased from any DIY store and some craft shops. This creates a thicker substance to work with and is already generally more rock-like. The other reason I used this was I was looking for a white chalk cliff, had I been modelling a darker rock I would have chosen the rock modelling compound, available in either a granite or sandstone finish.

It was at this point I added the additional rocks. On any cliff face there will be breakaways and slips as the rock face is naturally eroded and thus piles of small rocks would form. For these I used the Noch N09214 and N09216 boulders. These were then pressed into the wet plaster towards the bottom of the model. It is always a good thing to work from references - A few pictures from Google or the real thing are invaluable as they will highlight the way in which rocks naturally fall, so that the model does not look unrealistic.

I found through my own research this way that loose rocks are not just found piled up below. Some fall and get caught on the way down, so don't forget to put some in the crevices too. If you want to place some where there is no wet plaster, they can be fixed in place with a strong PVA, I would recommend the Deluxe Materials Speed Bond over for cheep craft PVA as this has a stronger hold and will make the following stages easier too. If a cheep PVA is used, when the painting begins, these can come loose and cause more problems than it is worth.

Noch Rock Moulding

As I previously mentioned, the aim was to create some chalk like cliffs. Once the filled in sections and the loose rocks had all dried in position, it was obvious that the colour of the loose rocks was greatly different to the result I was looking for. To remedy this, the whole area was painted with Revell RL36371 Acrylic Matt Light Grey. Although it may seem like a strange colour to choose, the description is slightly misleading; the colour is in fact an off-white. The result is an ever so slightly grey colour. This was chosen as the colour of chalk becomes more grey after time, absorbing colours from its surrounding. Only fresh chalk is white. This was the perfect colour for the basecoat.

Noch Rock Moulding

From here I wanted to add some visual depth to the rocks, wash made from Revell RL36188 Acrylic Ochre Brown was applied to the rocks and allowed to settle in the recessed areas. The brown was chosen to mimic the build up of general grime and dirt from the surroundings.

Noch Rock Moulding

The next layer of paint was then added. A dark green wash using Revell RL36361 Olive Green was used to simulate the growing of algae and beginnings of plants growing. Again, like the rocks this was applied more on the top and into the recess where the water would naturally collect.

Noch Rock Moulding

Now that the painting has been completed, it was time to add the scenics. A layer of Speed Bond was applied to the plateaus and around the base of the rocks. Then a layer of Gaugemaster GM171 Summer Static Grass was applied using the static grass bottle. This allowed the grass to settle onto the glue and stand up mimicking real grass.

There were a few patches that settles on areas that weren't glued. These were removed by gently brushing them off with a paintbrush. The grass was then sealed with a coat of Humbrol AXD6034 Spray Matt Varnish.

Noch Rock Moulding

The final stage of building was to add the final scenic elements. The grass had additional colours added by way of Gaugemaster Leaves and Faller Clump Foliage, and the top had the same treatment with additional ground cover by way of the Faller FA181392 Mid Green Foliage Material. This is a teasable mat which can be pulled apart for realistic and quick ground cover. This was all glued into position again with Speedbond and sealed with Humbrol Varnish.

Noch Rock Moulding

The final result. You will notice that we have also added the Ratio RO436 Security Fence around the base of the rockface. The intention is to build a supermarket and carpark in this area, so a suitable high security fence was used. The kit supplies you with the posts and a mesh to cut up to make the fencing. This was treated to a spray of Humbrol AXD6027 Sea Grey Spray before attaching to the posts. The kit also includes a small selection of wire for the upper 'barbed wire' section, however for this exercise, there wasn't enough in the pack, so a Plastruct Rod (PLS90850) was used instead. To complete the look of the chalk rock face a pure white paint was added in the odd position to simulate areas where the rock had recently been exposed.

Hopefully this article has shown that building a realistic rock face can be achieved by the experienced modeller and novice alike. I'll let you into a little secret here as well; apart from a quick test run, this was my first attempt at a full rock face, so hopefully this will inspire all of you to fit a little rocky outcrop or cliff into your layouts too.

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