Cathedral Remodeling and Stained Glass Adventures, Part 1

While I was on eBay looking for mills last week, I came across a built-up church for a good price from the same seller as I got my water wheels (combined shipping, always nice) so I added it to my purchase, figuring I’d use it as an experiment in “remodeling”.


Whoever had built it up committed the terrible crime of not painting it first, so I tore it apart and started not precisely from scratch, but pretty close. I eventually discovered that it is a Bachmann Snap Fit Cathedral that is widely available and still in stock, so not as special a find as I had imagined, but it has some very nicely molded brick work that will take details beautifully and the extra time it took me to tear it apart and take stock wasn’t so bad that it negated the ‘discount’ price.

After tearing it down, I used some plastic-friendly Rustoleum primer in dark grey to prime the whole business. I have found that the spray can stuff works better for me than the primer that’s “meant” for styrene models (specfically Testors Acryl) because it goes on much faster and gives a nice, even coat without obscuring molded details  (unless you’re silly with it) and in this particular case was really great for the base color of some deep, dark stonework.


After it dried, I painted all the stonework with full strength white acrylic paint (the Testors model stuff, which is quite a lot thinner than the Apple Barrel acrylic at Wal-Mart) and then took a dry paper towel and scrubbed off the top layer as I went along. It did a nice job of coloring the mortar, brightening the dark grey just a bit, and starting the weathering process.

The roof pieces, I painted a very dark, sort of rusty red. Once I’d done it, I realized it was sort of daft and I should have gone for a lighter color, but I ended up using a little rust-colored chalk to lighten and weather it in places, and then left it alone after that. If/when I do another, I’ll revisit the roof situation. I kind of think it would look cool with a copper roof. Anyway.

I did an all-over black wash to weather the grout a little more, but it didn’t seem to accomplish very much. Ironically, the same black wash on the red front door did a really nice job of picking up the wood panel details. Then, I went around with an X-acto knife and scraped away some of the color on a few stones here and there, to give them further variance of tone, and got out my teensy-weensiest brush and added silver accents to the door handles and hinges. The bell was bothering me because it seemed out of place in the otherwise-dark church, so I primed it with the dark gray and then painted it with my metallic “steel” model paint.


The cathedral had paper “stained glass windows” in it when I tore it apart, and I couldn’t get them back out intact. Really, I didn’t want to. They were sort of crummy. So, I sat around and mulled for awhile over how I could do a better job of stained glass. I decided that printing on something transparent would probably give a pretty good effect, and I could achieve any custom design I wanted with Photoshop and my own mad skillz.

I went searching for photos of stained glass windows, and found some lovely interior shots of the Lincoln Cathedral. A few minutes of concentrated photoshopping later, I had several rows of HO scale saints to test in my windows. I printed off a page on regular paper to see how it looked, and was very pleased with how the little rows of saints just happen to fit up perfectly with the window slits of the cathedral.


Here is the “window” I made, if you’d like to try it yourself. Clicking will pull up a full-resolution, and it should be saved as 350dpi. If you have larger windows to cover (the tall cathedral windows on this model took about a row and a half) you can just copy and paste with no space between, and it will print nicely. Not seamlessly, but if you’ve got someone trying to identify saints on your 1:87th scale cathedral, you have bigger problems than seamless stained glass. I digress…

Next, I tried printing on a sheet of styrene “window glass” that I had lying around. That, however, was a complete failure. The ink blobbed and was not very vivid, and just looked like a smeary mess. (But still managed to wreck a sheet of styrene – mmph!)

By this time, I was fully invested in the idea and decided to go looking for how-tos and other options. I discovered that there are transparency sheets (like for an overhead projector) designed specifically for inkjet printers, and looked around for some of those on Amazon. They’re stupid expensive for what I need them for, so I decided to print one test page at the local copy shop, and go from there. [Before I did that, I stopped and made some different stained glass designs, as well as a sign that I needed for a shop window for another project so I had something to fill up the page since HO scale windows are really sort of ridiculously tiny…]

The copy shop option worked pretty nicely for another project I’m working on (I’ll talk about that one in another stained glass entry.) but the stained glass printed on plain ole’ paper seemed to look better and highlight the windows more for the cathedral, so I left it that way.

Only then did I decide that if I had put all that effort in to making “better” stained glass, it was senseless not to light the thing to highlight it. Except, prepping a plastic model for lighting is more complicated than I thought it would be…. And rather length to talk about, so I’ve put that in another entry: Light Blocking/Sealing for Plastic Model Buildings – the Molly Way.

Once the inside was as finished as it was going to get, I took another look at the outside. This was around the time that I identified the model and came across someone else’s truly stellar paint job on the Hobbylinc website. I decided my stonework wasn’t varied enough and the whole thing looked sort of half-arsed in comparison, so I went back over the accented points with a slightly different grey, ‘weathered’ the roof a little more with some rust-colored chalk, and then used some black chalk to dirty up the front steps and give it a little more weathering under the windows and other dirty places.

I probably could have spent another week and a half adding tiny drops of paint here and there to give the stones further variation, but I’m actually kind of sick of this project at the moment. Once my teeny-weeny LED lights come (they are currently on a slow boat from China) I’ll get some black cardstock and experiment with lighting the thing. For now, it has a coat of matte clear finish to take the shine off and seal the chalk, and it was appropriately finished(ish) on Easter.

He is risen!

Oh yes, and a bonus sneak peek at another project I’m working on, the arch bridge.

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