May 14, 2010

Building a farm house

While work continues on benchwork, to wit Marco stopped by Thursday to work on Aquia Harbor benchwork, I decided to build a structure.

I planned to install a farm house on the north side of Potomac Run. The photos I have of this area are not very clear as to what exact type of structure was there, but it is clear that several structures existed.

So taking a bit of license, I used the Lydia Liester farm house at Gettysburg as a design. This is probably the most famous farm house in the civil war as it was used as Meade's Headquarters during the battle of Gettysburg.

My model is not an exact copy of Leister house as I used Mt Albert 4 inch clapboard, while the Liester house has random width butt joined siding. The other tricky aspect arose from problems with the plans for the Leister House posted on the HAB/HAER web site. The plans just don't match any of the photos of house in the ACW or now. They are close, but the chimney and basement are in the wrong spots. I can only surmise that the house was either moved or extensively rebuilt.

Other than the clapboard walls, all the rest of the structure is scratch-built.

I laser cut the base pieces, including the walls, foundation and windows. I accidentally swapped the walls when assembling the building, so my chimney is on the same side as the extension for the basement stairwell. The actual house had an exterior door to the basement stairwell but the HABS plans show a window only.

Once the stones were carved, I painted the whole structure with two coats of gray primer.

The windows are laser cut. Each window has three layers, a laser cut frame, laser cut mullions and a hand cut acetate glazing. The laser cut pieces are self adhesive so they can be easily assembled with no glue mess.

To simulate the stone foundation I carved stones into a thick coat of wood putty applied to the foundation sides. I waited until the putty was set but not completely hardened when I carved it. I gave the stones a coat of acrylic sandstone paint for simulate the mortar. Then I painted each stone with varying shades of brown and gray. Once that was dry, I gave all the stones a wash of dark gray. When dry, I dry brushed with light gray to blend all the colors together and bring out highlights.

I added a layer

of cardboard to represent the attic floor, but I did not detail the interior.

I used cardboard for the roof, as I was hoping to capture the sway-back nature of the prototype structure. The prototype roof has 9 rafters made with 3 x 3 oak beams. They are pinned at the ridge with a single pin. There is no ridge beam. That probably explains why the roof sagged. My cardboard sheet and underlying rafters are glued and are too strong, so my roof did not sag. I glued my roof to the structure, so it is not removable.

The shingles are laser cut maple with two sided adhesive. The prototype shingles are double overlapped, mine just overlap one way. To do shingles like the prototype would require each shingle being added one by one. I stained the shingles with Mt Albert Gray weathering wash. I touch a few shingles with Mt Albert Black, Barn Red and some acrylic burnt under to give variation. When all the alcohol and water evaporated, I dry brushed with warm grays.

The chimney is carved bass wood. I spray painted it red oxide. Then I painted the mortar lines with a Woodcraft paint pen. I painted a black strip to simulate the tar flashing at the base of the chimney though many ACW era photos do not show visible flashing at the chimneys. I also added several black washes of flat black acrylic paint to simulate soot, including soot washed onto the roof.

I primed the whole structure with Rustoleum gray. Then brush painted white craft acrylic in thin coats. When dry, I scraped several areas with an X-acto knife. I left some of the peeling paint on the structure to enhance the weathered effect. As for the peeling paint, I was inspired by an out building at City Point National Park. Photos show the paint on the Liester House to be in good shape at the time of the battle. But my farm has been in occupied territory for the better part of two years, so I decided to show some signs of neglect.

The photos show the model building posed at Stoneman's Station, but eventually I will move it to Potomac Run.

This building is a test bed for a future Alkem Scale Models kit. I learned some tricks for the next time.


  1. AnonymousMay 15, 2010

    Good looking structure. You have quite a layout going.

    Bill Uffelman
    Las Vegas NV

  2. Very pretty rockwork on the foundation.

  3. AnonymousMay 15, 2010

    Nice. Looks like the real thing.

  4. Nice job. I'm a Battlefield Guide at Gettysburg so I see the prototype every day. I believe the HAB/HAER plans accurately reflect the appearance of the structure in the 1930s, today its been restored back to its 1863 appearance. The layout is really well done and you've done some great research on the operations of the USMRR. Thanks, Rich Kohr, Licensed Battlefield Guide GNMP

  5. Thanks for the comments.

    I suppose a trip to Gettysburg to measure and photograph the house as it currently exists is in order.

    What other structures there are accurate for the civil war? Might as well measure a few for kit ideas while I'm up there.

    Darn, another reason to visit Gettysburg. :)

  6. Most of the farm buildings on the battlefield are period structures. However, a number of them are "regional" in nature, Confederate troops routinely mentioned in letters and diaries seeing farmhouses and barns larger than those in Virginia. Farm structures typical of those in VA would include the Bryan farm on Cemetery Ridge, the Klingle farm located on the Emmitsburg Road, and the Patterson farmhouse on the Taneytown Road. Some of the farm buildings on the field are inhabited so it might be difficult to measure some of them. The National Park Service also has data on some of these buildings in their library. Feel free to email me at if you need more info, also when you come to town let me know and I'll be happy to go out on the field with you. Thanks, Rich Kohr

  7. AnonymousMay 16, 2010

    Nice Job,
    I like the peeling paint effect. What method did you use?

    Bob Harris

  8. I'll update the post with a better description of the painting techniques.

  9. Rich,
    Thanks for the info. We'll have to plan a road trip.

  10. Gary GoodmanMay 18, 2010

    Excellent modeling!! Used to go by it every day on my way to work.

  11. AnonymousMay 22, 2010

    Really nice - I made the same model a couple of years back in a smaller scale.

    so I know a lot of the problems you've encountered. You may find something useful in the previous posts.

  12. Those are really fascinating period structures, however simple they may be. And it is cool that you were able to obtain those old barn photos. It makes you wonder how barns in the old era looked like. Barns today look far different from those. Newer barns use metal roofs and sturdier, more advanced material so they can withstand the test of time. [Lino Kosters]