Why I build paper models by Michael Irwin

I started constructing cardstock/paper models out of sheer desperation. I model exclusively British railroads and there are almost no plastic kits of British structures. There are plenty of European plastic

kits courtesy of Vollmer, Faller, Piko, etc. Thus my only reliable source of British structure kits was through Metcalfe Models (https://www.metcalfemodels.com/) or other internet websites


In the last 5 years several new sources of cardstock models have become available. These cardstock models consist of PDF downloads that you print out and glue to various thickness of cardstock. These manufacturers build quite amazingly detailed kits with interior finishes to include rugs, wallpaper, fireplaces, paintings, furniture, etc. The better of these PDF models are supplied online by http://scalescenes.com and http://www.modelrailwayscenery.com/ .

Another internet stockist is Wordsworth Model Railway http://www.wordsworthmodelrailway.co.uk .

There kits are more for the beginner modeler and are not of suitable detail, although several of their kits have been redesigned and are reasonably good.

Metcalfe Models has been my favorite supplier of cardstock models due to several reasons. First, the model is ready to construct right out of the box. Second, their kits are reasonably detailed. Third, their kits have a reasonable amount of weathering incorporated into the printing of the kits. Fourth, their kits are all printed with matte inks which give a nice flat finish (the PDF kits once printed have a shiny finish due to the plastic laser ink toner). And finally their kits are glued together with Aleene’s glue (available at Walmart or any art and craft store such as Michael’s) with ease and have clear assembly instructions.

Issues with PDF cardstock modeling

While the individual costs of the PDF downloads are quite inexpensive the costs of printing them out brings the cost in line with plastic models. A note here in regards to paper size, European 8.5 x 11 is the metric equivalent to our 8.5 x 11 and thus slightly larger is in size. Some of the PDF pages have narrow margins which will cut off some of the printed areas when printed out on American 8.5 x 11 paper. Thus you have to print them on legal or ledger size paper. If you scale the paper size down, make sure that you scale all of the PDF’s down by the same value or the kit will not go together correctly.

Finding suitably thick cardstock is another issue. You need three thicknesses of paper: Normal paper, card stock, and fiber board. Fiberboard is 1 mm thick and can be found at FedEX Office and occasionally at the UPS Store. Be prepared for some weird looks and even staff that state that they do not have it.

These stores use fiberboard between regular printing jobs so that the printed paper does not get damaged. Costs have ranged from free to $1.00 or more per sheet.

Another source of fiber board is from “cereal boxes” and other dry food packaging. Please note that fiber board coated with wax will not work as the wax inhibits glue adhesion.

Another issue with PDF models is the need to print out the windows onto clear sheets.

Sources of paper models (See Full Article for more links in Resources Section)

My usual sources of good quality paper models are from the following websites. Note that most of these websites charge for their products in British Pound Sterling currency. This is usually not a problem with a standard credit card. Note that your cardholder may charge you a foreign transaction fee. Check before making a purchase.

[Check the resource section of this website soon for photos and a downloadable version of this Article]