By Matrix

Tutorial Date 8/27/06

Craft stores can be a great source of inspiration for battlefield scenery. I discovered this gem of a birdhouse on the shelf of my local A.C. Moore. So many birdhouses look like, well… birdhouses. But this little chapel is the perfect scale and shape for a 28mm building. I knew I could spice it up with a little work, while all of the major construction is already done for me.

(For those of you not living on the east coast of the US, A.C. Moore is a chain that carries craft, floral, sewing, and art supplies.)

In this tutorial, I’ll focus on detailing a pre-existing building. Whether it is a birdhouse you discovered at your local craft store, or a building that you have built from scratch, these techniques will give you some sharp looking structures. I will leave basic construction for another day.

Techniques Used:
Common Items, Crosses, Shingles, Stonework, Windows

Love at first sight! This is the birdhouse right off the store shelf. The roof, steeple and doorway are what cried out to me. (I just know a Warhammer fortress door will fit over the opening!)

First things first. Any "birdhouse" details need to be removed. So, that cross and windows have to go! Pop them off with a hobby knife and clippers. The trick is to avoid marring the surface of the walls, because that will mean less clean up later. I will cover those rough spots with styrene card windows.

Make a template for the windows and trace it onto your sheet styrene. The important thing is to ensure that they are all the same size and shape.

(Construction note—I use superglue for all gluing. It dries much faster than white PVA or wood glue, and will bond all of the materials.)

Before gluing anything on, whittle down the square base. I found that a box cutter worked pretty well, but a small belt sander will also do the trick. You want to get a rounded, natural feel to the base without gouging the building, or worse, cutting yourself!

Once your base is the desired shape, glue a strip of textured plasticard all the way around the bottom of the chapel. Carefully bend the card around the corners to avoid having a seam at the edge. The stone-textured card will create the illusion of a stone foundation. Don’t forget to leave a spot for the door, and to cut out notches to fit around the card windows.

(You’ll notice that I’m not giving any measurements. Your building will most likely be a different size and shape than mine. I just eyeball everything and go by what looks right. If your stone foundation is 1/4" thicker or thinner than mine, that’s fine, as long as it looks right on your building.)

A Warhammer fortress door does indeed fit nicely over the front opening. No more birds allowed; Acolytes of Menoth live here now! Cover the top gabled windows with plastic card to fill in the gaps.

Here’s a close up shot of the stonework, and the windows. (

I had to re-cut my windowpanes. The original windows were too large, and did not leave enough space between them. Plus, after a bit of experimenting, I realized that the rounded tops would be impossible to frame with the materials I had on hand. So, I cut them into more angular shapes. Elmer’s wood putty covers the rough spots left when I tore off the first plastic windows.

Framing out the structure. Use Basswood strips to give the chapel a Tudor-style framework. Start with the windows and basic frame. Make sure to notch the edges of the wood strips so they’ll look old and worn.

Then add some interior framing.

Front detail. The tall windows are Plastic card with wood strips glued onto them. Assemble the entire window separately, then glue it in place.

Rear detail. The wood stripping is now complete. Time for the roof!

Cut long strips of cardboard into small rectangles for the roof shingles. Notch some of them with clippers.

Start at the bottom and work your way up. Glue one strip at a time, and overlap each new row about halfway over the one below. Be sure to have the shingles extend about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch over the edge of the roof panel.

Before you get too far along with the shingles, add the top round windows. I found it difficult to cut perfect circles out of card, so I resorted to cutting the tops off of Warhammer 40K oil drums. Large round plastic shields will do the trick as well. Use putty to smooth out the seam on the oil drum tops.

Take your shingles all the way to the top. You’ll need to cut specific shapes to fit in the corners. For the apex of the roof, fold a longer strip of cardboard over the top and glue it in place. By angling it up at the ends, you can make the roof look like it’s sagging in the middle.

The finished roof. Check out the sag!

The Menofix! Cut a Menofix out of card and add it to the front of the steeple.

This one’s a bit trickier… I use a hollow square brass rod for the cross, and cut plasticard for the top and wrench ends. The base is a wooden bead. A paper clip "pin" runs through the entire crossbar into the wrench hands. Another pin affixes the top, and another long one runs through the bottom, so it can be pinned onto the steeple.

Don’t glue the Menofix to the steeple. This will allow you to remove it to prevent damage during transport when you bring your awesome Menoth Chapel over to your buddy’s house for a game!

All that’s left is to add some sand to the base for texture. Next time we’ll tackle painting the Chapel!