Scratchbuilding an O Scale Shed

Written by Al Judy, photos by the author.

Bill of Materials

3/16" Hobby Plywood#11 X-acto Knife
1/16" x 32" Grooved FlooringSmall Steel Square
3/16" L AngleScale Ruler
1/16" x 3" SheetingACC Glue
1/8" Square StockHobby Saw
1/32" x 1/8" Flat Stock

As a veteran scratch builder, I have developed some techniques that serve to simplify the building process while providing excellent results. The following is the step by step build of a small O scale trackside shed used on my On30 layout. I use these techniques for most of my builds no matter how large or complicated the project. Hopefully, you will find some useful tips from this build that will help you in your next scratch build.

Getting Started

Before you begin, you will need a flat and sturdy work surface. I have a large piece of tempered glass on my workbench which gives me a perfectly flat surface which to build on and provides an excellent cutting surface. Additionally, any spills of glue or paint are easily cleaned up using a razor blade scraper. I cannot emphasize the importance of keeping your build square; from cutting the base and throughout each step of your project. Using the right tools and adhesives along with a proper work area will give you a leg up on all of your builds.

I begin by cutting a piece of the hobby plywood to the size of the building's footprint. In this case I have chosen to make the shed 3" wide and 6" long. In 1/4" scale, this measures out to 12' wide and 24' long. Whenever possible I always try to keep the measurements within the sizes of the basswood stock I'm using. Splicing is easy enough but definitely complicates any build and usually results in a joint that stands out on the finished project. To avoid splicing and keep this build simple and quick, I will use the siding vertically on the gable ends and horizontally on the side walls. This will save time, materials and give us a nicer finished model. Once the base is cut and you are sure it is square, cut two lengths of the 1/8" square stock slightly longer then the long side of the plywood base. Once these are glued into place, cut two additional pieces to fit between the two longer side strips as seen in the photo below. When the glue has set up, cut the excess from the side strips and sand all four sides to achieve a smooth gluing surface for the walls. Cutting the side strips will give you a much more precise corner then trying to measure and cut each piece to fit.

Next we will cut the siding to size. I'm using the 1/8" grooved flooring as siding which represents 6" board siding in O scale. The end walls are 12 scale feet high to the eves and 17 scale feet high to the gable peak. After cutting the first end wall, simply lay it squarely on the remaining stock and use it as a cutting template. The side walls are simply cut to a length of 24 scale feet which can be seen in photo 4.

Now we are ready for the doors and windows, which in this case is a set of 9 scale feet high and 7 scale feet wide double doors, a 4 panel man door and 4 windows. The double door was built on one of the end walls by framing it out using the 1/32" x 1/8" flat stock. The man door and windows I used are stock Tichy Train Group castings and are painted flat white. Once you have marked and cut the openings for the door and windows, glue 1/8" square stock glue strips around the outside edges of each wall. Remember to allow for the thickness of the base when cutting the vertical strips for the end walls. The side wall will only require a glue strip along the top edge. Once again, allow for the thickness of the strips on the end walls. The walls have been spray painted black on the inside to provide a dark background when viewing the windows. When the black paint has dried test fit the walls before gluing. Remember the corners do not have to match up perfectly. The 3/16" corner trim angles will cover any small gaps. Now glue the walls to the base starting with the end walls first then the side walls Make sure each wall is perpendicular to the base by using the square.

In Photo 4 we see the wall and floor laid out ready for windows and doors to be added.

One of the end walls showing how the author framed the double doors.

The window and door openings are cut out of the walls and are ready for the Tichy Train Group casting to be glued in place.


To achieve the peeling paint finish I will be using acrylic craft paint. Dry brush the base color on, leaving some of the natural wood show though as seen in photo 7. Light colors work best for this technique and the acrylic craft paints are readily available, inexpensive and easy to blend for custom colors. Allow the base color to dry completely or speed up the process by using a hairdryer on medium heat which will dry the paint in a minute or two. Now apply a coat of either black or brown wash over the entire structure. I used engine black Floquil mixed 10:1 with standard paint thinner.

To create the peeling paint effect on the shed, the author dry brushes acrylic craft paint onto the building leaving some of the wood exposed as seen here in photo 7.

The Floquil paint does not blend completely with the standard thinner and therefore gives you a more random wash and uneven natural look.

Now use the same wash for the windows and man door. Using a stiff brush apply a light coat of the wash and allow it to sit for about 15 seconds until it begins to soften the flat white paint on the castings. Now gently brush and dabble the stiff brush over the casting allow the bristles to remove fine lines of paint creating a cracked paint look. I recommend placing the casting backside down on a piece of masking tape for the wash /weathering process. The paint will stay soft on the castings for an extend time due to the thinner wash. While the casting are still on the tape use the hairdryer to speed up the drying process.

When the castings are dry and can be handled glue them into the pre-cut openings in the walls as seen in the photo above.

At this point you can glaze the windows with clear styrene. By using the 1/16" thick siding the castings mount flush on the inside of the walls allow for the glazing to sit flat so it can be over cut in size allowing of ease of gluing without the worry of getting glue marks on the visible area of the window.

Now cut the 3/16" corner trim which was pre-painted white and coated with the black wash about a 1/2" longer then needed for the four corners. Glue the trim in place and allow the glue to set. When the glue is dry place the structure on end on a flat cutting surface and using an X-acto knife cut the excess trim to the roof angle. Using the 1/16" x 3" stock cut the roof sheeting pieces. I like to allow a 12 scale inches overhang on the ends and about an 8 scale inches overhang on the sides.

After cutting to size and checking the fit, paint the underside and edges the color of your choice. I chose primer gray for the roof sheeting on this build. When dry, glue the roof sheeting in place checking all of the overhangs for the correct alignment. I will be using masking tape to represent rolled tar paper roofing on the shed so when the roof sheeting glue is dry, begin to apply the masking tape lengthwise on the roof. Start at the bottom and apply layer upon layer allowing about scale 3' exposed with each layer. When both sides are finished trim the excess from each end of the roof using a sharp X-acto knife. Now cut a strip of tape 18 scale inches wide and apply along the peak folding equally over both sides. Using black acrylic craft paint apply a first coat to the masking tape roof. When dry apply a second coat of black making sure your brush strokes follow the tar paper sheets.

While the black is still wet blend in some light gray along the tar paper seams for highlights. For the finishing touches on this build, I added door hinges, a hand made latch on the double doors, a smoke jack, several rusty tin patches on the walls and a rusty coffee can lid covering a mouse hole in the wall. I then added some final weathering using soot black and rust dry pigments.

This build took less than 3 hours to complete and would make a great afternoon project for even the novice modeler. The design allows for use with almost any era from 1900 to present day modeling. I also used the scale feet measurements throughout this build allowing for ease of scaling to any other gauge. This typical railroad type shed could be used anywhere on your layout and can be easily changed to meet your placement needs by moving the double doors to the side. Remember that the techniques discussed for this build can be used for many other types of scratch builds such as those shown in photos below.


eTraxx's picture

Impressive modeling - and a great article explaining how you went about it. Question: the hinges on the door - where did they come from? The look like Vector Cut items but I realize there are of course other sources. Again .. great job.

"I drank .. WHAT?"
--- Socrates

Mill Creek RR's picture

Thank you so much for the kind comments and I'm glad you enjoyed the article. The Hinges are from Tichy Train Group and the latch was hand made. Sorry, I don't have the Tichy Part number at hand. They were painted with an oxide red primer and the weathered with a textured rust pigment.