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We Hold You Up While Others Let You Down! Scratchbuilding a Small Commercial Structure

We Hold You Up While Others Let You Down! Scratchbuilding a Small Commercial Structure

Nov/Dec 2023By Martin Brechbiel/photos by the author

Having not built a structure for some time, I was feeling such an exercise was overdue. I wanted another business, not a residence, that I might have a bit of fun with in its purpose and naming. I cast about looking through the stack of what I term “interesting” photos, ideas, and kits of current and of ancient and forgotten lore until I arrived at a manila folder, the contents of which determined it to be this project. I confess I passed up a residence project that I will return to in the distant future.

To start this project, I delved into my stock of milled clapboard siding; not going to do another board-by-board clapboard construction project for a long time. While the result of that looks good, it is tedious. So, the bundle of 1/8” clapboard, 1/16” thick, from Midwest was taken down from the wood shelf. I started edge gluing sections together since this wood is only 3” wide, and for any O scale building I’m going to need at least twice that width.

I started out by mapping the dimensions of the walls while looking for the array of windows and doors that volunteered and were accepted as appropriate. I decided that the building was not going to be all that wide, but rather deep to reflect a business front with a manufacturing presence that extended back from the street, probably to access from the rear by means of an alleyway.


The front was set to be 16’ wide with the side at 19.5’. The high point of the roof was established to be 27.25’. Working counterclockwise from the front wall around to the side, I made that wall 16’ wide with the side at 19.5’ high, too. Skipping the back wall and moving to the next side wall back, it measures out as 20’ long and just 8’ high. This represents part of the rear manufacturing shop area. Going back the front and working around clockwise, this takes us to other side wall which is “L” shaped and is 19.5’ high, with one section of the width being 16’ long and the rest being 20’ long.

All these dimensional numbers should complement to build the structure. But, I’ve left out the back wall which, as you might realize from the preceding figures, is not symmetric and at 19.5’ wide is wider than the front and with one side measurement of 8’ and the other of 12’. The roofline mimics the pitch of the front wall, which then required creating a back wall for the front part of the building to align with and account for this asymmetry. This is fairly simple to do, starting by making a second wall unit. Then I just made an extension bit to add onto the one side to meet up with that 8’ high side wall and also align with the far back wall.


Cutting all these out after gluing up a stock of appropriately wide clapboard stock was done by first marking every one with the trusty metal scale ruler. Due to the thickness, a scalpel blade is not really going to last very long, so when I’m confronted with having to cut 1/16” thick stock I’m using the regular utility knife, still making several cutting strokes to ensure I stay on the line, make a fairly square cut, and minimize cutting myself…

Nov/Dec 2023Read the rest of this article in the Nov/Dec 2023 of O Scale Trains!

This article was posted on: December 11, 2023