We will be providing you detailing hints and methods that will make visitors to your layout stop and look your model and wonder how you made it look so real... 

By nailing the individual external boards to the internal wall studs, a building develops its own character.  It only takes a few minutes to nail the boards to develop this character.

Nailed is performed by placing a scale ruler was placed along one board of scribed wood.  Every two scale feet (assuming framing of 24” on center), we nailed the board with the point of a very sharp pencil or awl.  The nailing process is primarily to mark the board with the sharp point and leave a small depression.    

After this a straight edge was placed at the bottom of the scribed wood and an architect’s triangle was butted up against it on the top of the scribed wood with one leg at a 90⁰ angle to the scribed boards.  Line the angle up with one of the previously made nail marks and nail the rest of the boards. Make sure the nailing is not in a prefect straight line as no one nails perfectly straight.  Also, make sure you nail around windows and doors, even if they are not at 24”.  Remember you are simulating the nailing into the building framing so wherever there is internal framing, there would be a nail securing the external boards…

To enhance the nailing, a stain or a wash can help define the nail marks.

NOTE: Do not punch a hole in the wood or make the hole too large.  You are making nail marks that are maybe 0.25” in diameter at most.  Practice on a scrap piece of wood before actually doing this on your model.

Staining the Wood Before you start

General weathering or staining your walls is best done before the assembly of the walls, while you can still lay them flat.  If using a commercial stain or paint, follow the manufactures instructions.  If you are making your own stain base from stain/paint you should never use more than a 50/50 mixture of stain/paint to thinner.  The less you use the better.  The best way to apply your stain/paint is to wipe it over your walls repeatedly building up to the color that you want.  You can always add more stain/paint, but you cannot easily remove too much stain /paint.

Weathering using Chalks and Powders
While it is not covered here, there are many other methods to weather your model such as chalks and powders that are available commercially.  I have used them in many of my structures, but apply them after the structure is complete.  If you decide to use them, refer to the manufacturer’s instructions and always practice before using them on scrap wood.

Making your own wood stains
You can make you own stains using a mixture of Black India Ink or Acrylic Artists Ink mixed with Isopropyl Alcohol.  The alcohol quickly evaporates which reducing the danger of warping the wood. I mix four (4) to eight (30) drops of Ink to 0.5 fl. Oz. (15 ml) of Isopropyl Alcohol, depending on how dark you want the stain.  Try a few drops and experiment on a piece of scrap wood.  You can apply the stain several times to obtain the color you want or you can add a few more drops of Ink and use fewer applications.  Just remember that you can always make the stain on the wood darker, but you cannot make it lighter so experiment on a piece of scrap and have fun.  To get a different weather look so not all my projects look the same, I will sometimes substitute brown India Ink, brown liquid shoe polish or a brown fabric dye in place of the Black India Ink.  In some cases, I have mixed the black and brown colors together. 

CAUTION: When using Isopropyl Alcohol, please do this outside or in a well vented room.  Also, use gloves when using this process or you will end up with black or brown hands or fingers after which you will have to explain to your family and friends. As always, make sure you protect your work surface from this stain by working on newspaper or paper towels. 

CAUTION: Make sure that the alcohol on the newspaper or paper towels has evaporated and are dry before you throw them away so you do not start a fire in your trash can.

Replaced Boards in the Wood Walls  
This is an optional step that you would perform after staining/paining the model.  This step paints or stains some of the individual boards on your model making them standout as if they were recently replaced. Using a brush paint/stain some individual boards causing them to get darker and showing a sharp contrast to the lighter boards.

This step should only be attempted after you have thoroughly practiced the process on a piece of scrap as this can completely damage your model.  This technique involves wiping on a coat or two of your dirty/used Dio-Sol or Thinner on the surface of the completed, painted and weathered model.  Keep in mind that you are applying a thinner and using too much will damage your model.  Again…PRACTICE FIRST on scrap wood.   What this technique will provide is that it will alleviate too much of a sharp contrast between the boards, unless you are waning that just replaced and painted look on the individual boards.  It will also tone down your paint job to look old and weathered. 

Wood Dry-rot  
Take a look at some old wooden buildings near you.  Notice that some of the lower boards are broken away or have a rough surface.  On a real building this would be caused possibly by dry rot.  Dry-rot is typically located along the ground or near areas where water may collect at times such as near a faucet or under eves or by gutters.  To achieve this look, rough up the lower boards in spots by gently passing your modeling knife repeatedly along the boards parallel with the scribed lines.  Do not over do this until you want to show a building that is in bad disrepair.

Broken Wood Boards
Using your modeling knife, cut out a section of a board either at the board joints or along their edges.  If your building does not have an interior or framing, add a 2x4 stud or two inside next to a window or door or any location where someone can see inside the building.  This will provide the illusion that your building is complete with interior framing.

Wood Knots
Knots in wood are achieved by putting the point of your modeling knife into a board where you want a knot and gently twisting as you would a hand drill. Do not over do this.  When done, you should add some gain detail around the knot so that it will stand out a little more. Using your modeling knife pass the point along the board parallel with the board until you get to the knot, then go around the knot.  When you get to the other side of the knot, continue your parallel line then fade out. Continue this above and below the knot fading the grains out the farther you get away from the knot. NOTE:  In HO and N Scale, this technique is difficult to see and may not be worth the effort.

Mud and Dirt Splatter
Mud and dirt splash from the ground after a rain or snow darkens or stains the lower portions of a building. This is especially prevalent when the ground around the building is dirt or when the building is next to a dirt road.  Remember not to apply the splash on walls next to a grassy area or paving.

Roofs and Bird Droppings
Take a look at the buildings around were you live.  Notice the evidence that birds have been there from the whitish or off-white colored bird droppings on the roof peaks, ledges or even streaked down the side of the walls of extreme cases.  A few properly placed off white or whitish colored dropping on your kit will show that not only people are present on your layout, but birds also.  As you are only looking to give the appearance of bird life, do not over do the droppings.  Finally, if you can find a couple of birds in your scale that are sitting, add them to the building’s roof line or a ledge.

A Broken Window
Using your hobby knife, scratch the window to indicate a cracked window or cut the window material to indicate a broken out window.  Remember that cracked window can be found on many buildings and never fixed.  However, completely broken out windows are more for the abandoned buildings, sheds or Out Buildings.  Remember to use this trick on only a few buildings.  Let your viewers find the cracks and broken windows.

Doors and Windows
Unless it’s cold on your layout, have a few doors and windows open on your buildings.  This helps give the impression that someone is home.  Also with an open door, make sure that if you can see inside, that there is something to look at like a chair or table by the door or window, or maybe a rug by the front door.  Do not forget a rug outside the front or back door to wipe your muddy shoes on before going into the building.

Do not forget curtains, blinds, drapes or shutters on the windows..  These can be simple colored paper or even fabric. 

Weeds Around Buildings and Structures
Weeds pile up and grow next to buildings and structures.  Look outside your house and see where they grow and place them around your structures.  The weeds can be purchased commercially from several hobby manufacturers or you can make your own.   Remember that weeds look different depending on the location you model.  Some are bright green, dark green, light brown when they dry out later in the summer.  Some even have yellow, or purple or whatever color flowers on them.  The flowers can be made by applying the applicable paint to the weed material.  I stress again, do not overdo it.  It you look at a field or weeds, you can see the hint of color from the flowers (unless you making sunflowers or fields of lavender).  Tall grasses can be made from the bristles of old paint brushes.  Head down to the local Arts and Craft Store near you where they sell dried flowers for arrangements.  There are many dried flowers you can use parts of to model weeds on your layout.

Stuff Around Buildings
We are all guilty of it.  Collecting stuff and having it sit around the house or building.  The stuff could be old cars, parts of cars, oil drums, left over lumber from some past project, piles of weeds or even weeds next to the buildings, that old rusty refrigerator or stove you replaced, cans, bottles, newspapers….  You get the point.  Take a walk around your house and town and see what we just leave on the ground.  If you want the appearance that people live on your layout, put “Stuff” out to weather and rust. 

As we generally look down on our layouts from above, make sure that you pay attention to the roofs.  Roofs age and leak over the years which is indicated by patch repairs to tar paper, metal roofs and shingles that look newer than the surrounding areas.  Also, maybe the neighbor kids threw something on the roof like a ball.  How about a television (TV) antenna?  Cable TV may not have been around when your model was built, but maybe a TV antenna was.  

Signs on Buildings
There are many companies that offer decals or cardstock signs or you can even make your own.  Take a look at photos of building from the era you models.  Notice the signs.  There were everywhere and in every condition to “just put up” to “been there for years and can barely read the sign”.

Out Buildings and Support Buildings/Structures

Out Buildings and Support Buildings/Structures  help fill in the voids between your main buildings and structures.  These include garages next to houses, sheds, outhouses, pump houses, dog houses, fences…well you get the idea.  By adding these to an existing main building or structure, that area now becomes a scene where the visitor can look at the area and not just a simple building. 

Figures, Animals and Vehicles
These items help to provide life to your building or structure.  How many times do you find a Gas Station or Garage without people, maybe a dog or cat, and a car in for repair or being worked on?  Never!  Maybe the car is up on jack stands with one or two wheels removed.  Maybe you can have the mechanic under the car with just their legs sticking out.  If you have a vehicle with a detailed engine compartment, raise the hood or maybe even remove the hood.  If you remove the hood, place it on some saw horses so it is not just lying on the ground.  Make sure the engine is dirty as many model vehicles come with really shiny chromes engines.   Don’t forget to open a vehicle door or trunk of possible.  

Your next trip to the store….
Next time you are in the store shopping, take a look at the items for sale.  Not for what they were originally made for, but for what you can use them for to detail your buildings and structures…


This is just a sample of things you can do add details to your buildings or structures.  Take a look at books on the time period you model and look past the building and structures.  What else is in the photographs?  The same applies to walking and looking around your house and town.  Look past the buildings and structures to see what makes the areas look “lived in” or show the presence or people and animals…

If you want to add to this list, send us your ideas and we will add them to our website and this list along with providing you credit for your ideas!!

In short…Have Fun!!  Ken and Peggy

Copyright © Evergreen Hill designs, LLC. All rights reserved. 

Laser Cut wood Craftsman-Style kits and detail parts for O, HO, S and N Scale.