Tutorial: Irish Cottage


Cardboard box, Newpaper, Modge Podge, Grandt Line door and windows for Quarter Scale, Paint, brushes, upholstery trim, tongue depressor sticks, Quick Grip glue, 1/2 inch Foam Core, Razor tip cutter and Liquid Nails All Purpose Adhesive Caulk (plus silicone.)

Take any box the size you’d like your cottage to be. I used a Tea Box. Cover in paper Mache to strengthen the box. Apply strips of newspaper over the box, coated with either laundry starch (messy, and can flake when dry) or use Modge Podge (matte, not glossy.) Brush the area where strip will go, put on piece of paper, cover top of it with more Modge Podge. You can build up to create great strength. Now cut out windows and space for door to fit. Glue them in, any gaps at sides can be filled with a bit of paper or I use white caulking from a tube (an easy squeeze tube from the grocery store hardware section.)

I also cut a section, 3 sides so it folds back, on the bottom of the box for my hand to fit. It make it easy to hold the cottage while working, but is not necessary. It also makes it easy to paint the interior black, which I prefer to do, as curtains in the windows have a nice back drop color. It’s also easier when adding both the windows and the door, lace  etc…if that is your choice. (You can also choose to cut the back of the box off at this time, while it’s good and strong with dried paper Mache, so the little house can be open like a doll house for decorating. It’s a step I’ve not taken but think it would be fun. Any cut edges can be sealed with paper clay, or add a small piece of strip wood to frame the back opening so it looks tidy and complete.)

Once all the paper Mache on the box has dried, cut two small triangles of 1/2 inch foam core to make a roof pitch on either side at the top of the box. Add more paper Mache to secure and smooth the addition. It’s now strong, and ready for a skin of Paper Clay. Roll paper clay thin and glue to the little house, smoothing seams with a wet finger. Irish Cottages usually had very thick walls and the effect of creating depth around the windows helps make it look real. it’s simply done by making the paper mache and Paper clay thick enough to give a nice curve for depth. Allow the clay to dry overnight. If paper clay develops a crack, which it can, just fill with a bit more paper clay that you’ve made wet, and soft. Smooth the area. You are now set to go.

The 1/2 inch foam core sides of the roof can now have two tongue depressors glued to the peak. On these you will form the chimneys as shown.

Take bits of upholstery trim, any color will work, though it would be nice if you can find it in a thatch color. I used pink, because it’s what I had on hand. The trim comes joined in little bunches with thread. With just a snip each little bundle becomes separate and like real thatching can be put on in layers (each bundle acting as a “yealm” of thatch). It can be easier to handle to bundles if you run a small amount of glue at the top, pinch to keep it’s shape and let dry.  Glue to the tongue depressor one after the other until you have a thick row. When you have a full row, end to end, begin at the bottom of the roof and glue the tongue depressor ends to the foam core on each side. Now make the next layer. I know the threads got this way and that and look messy. This is easy to correct later. No more glue is necessary, other than to the depressor and “the roof” side. Build your way up until you are just below the chimneys. The last row of trim will be added to the top of the roof where the chimneys are resting on their wood depressors. It may still look a bit messy but the next step helps this.

Once you have done both sides of the roof, comb out the thick layer of threads as best you can. I use a toothbrush or my fingers and you can also add a watered down glue to the threads to make them smooth and “thatch” looking, but it’s not necessary. You will now smooth the threads with Liquid Nails All Purpose Adhesive Caulk (with silicone or not…mine comes that way from the grocery store). This stuff is the best invention for mini work that I have found. It can be used in so many ways and remains pliable, easy to cut or pull off- if need be, easy to clean while still damp and a dream to fill gaps, holes, and make “Thatch” behave itself. With your fingers smooth the caulking thinly over the thatch roof. (I use pure white color caulking, as it’s the only color I know of). You can dilute it a bit if you like by dipping your caulk covered fingers in water and then applying to the threads. Now you can make them straight, flat and strong. It takes awhile to dry so there is time to work with the roofing to make it look right. The Adhesive Caulk can also fill any gaps around the chimney with just a little squirt of the tube and running and toothpick through it can make it look like the rest of the thatched roof. It’s easier and more fun than it sounds and once you start working with it, it’s pretty instinctive. The edges of the roof may be a little thin or “uncovered” looking, again add a thin squirt of caulk and texture it with a wet toothpick to match the main body of the thatched roof.

Let dry when you are satisfied with the results and paint. Liquid Nails All Purpose Adhesive Caulk (what a long name) is amazing to paint. It takes colors beautifully and holds them. You can seal it if you wish with matte Modge Podge. Or, if you are unhappy with the color, paint over it, or add a shade darker paint in spots to make the roof look real, as if it was indeed covered in rushes and reeds.

I used this same technique on the two Irish cottages in Quarter Scale. The trees in both those scenes are also wire covered with Liquid Nails Caulk. It keeps the trees flexible for re-shaping and easy to touch up the paint when you do.