Venice Plaster Detail Model, Becky Prince

Made using an MDF mold this detail model aimed to demonstrate the window detail Becky was focussing on at her site. The mold proved to be the most time consuming aspect of the model but turned out successfully. It is always worth spending longer on mold design to ensure a good cast.


The mold was made using MDF which can absorb moisture from the plaster mix and therefore needs to be well sealed before pouring. Becky used Vaselene to act as barrier and release agent for the cast.

The internal void was made by using blue foam to allow for contracting of the cast as it cured and then be removed. This too was well coated in Vaselene to aid removal.

Once cured the MDF was unscrewed and removed before cutting out the internal blue foam. Additional window details were added using initially laser cut and then modified components.


Venice Arsenale Site Model, Matt Arnold

Matt used stained Meranti hardwood to create the block massing on his model. The majority of the model was hand finished to a high standard with time being taken to sand the blocks a smooth finish. The water in the Arsenale basin is represented with a sheet of frosted acrylic.

The site itself covers the Venice Arsenale and focusses around a small site, as is often the case with Venice, in between a restrictively protected mass of existing historic buildings. Matt intends to use the model as a master to ‘drop in’ his site proposals as they develop with the final model being displayed in place at the end of year exhibition.

Change to Opening Times from Tuesday 28th Jan 2014

Beginning Tuesday 28th January the workshop will be closed between 9.30 and 13.00 to all students apart from Contested Peripheries Atelier students. This will remain in effect every Tuesday for the rest of this Academic Year.

This is due to a change in teaching structure which,in the not too long term, will benefit all students. Our efforts will be focussed on delivering specific advice based on the whole groups needs whilst being exclusively available to answer questions as a group and to individuals.

These sessions will aim to focus on the theory of modelmaking and question your approaches based on what you are trying to achieve.

Necessary inductions or refreshers concerning machine operation will also be given.

The workshop will re-open as normal from 14.00 to all students.

Here are our amended general weekly opening times:

Monday: 09.30-13.00 (One hour Lunch Break) 14.00-16.30


Wednesday: 09.30-13.00 (One hour Lunch Break) 14.00-16.30

Thursday: 09.30-13.00 (One hour Lunch Break) 14.00-16.30

Friday: 09.30-13.00 (One hour Lunch Break) 14.00-16.30

Saturday/Sunday: Closed

We look forward to getting started!

Jim & Scott

Manchester City Master Plan Model, Architecture of the Processional City, Atelier VI

Back at the start of December we covered one groups start on their master plan block model of part of Manchester City Centre during the still ongoing spate of block models being made in the workshop. The project was part of ‘Architecture of the Professional City’, Atelier VI at Manchester School of Architecture. You can find out more about their studies on their Blog by clicking here.

1:1 Structural Detail Model, Polys Christofi

I have no doubt that many of you will have noticed the unusual 1:1 detail model that was developed here over the last few weeks before our Christmas break. Polys Chritsofi had decided he wanted to produce he structural study at 1:1 on a mock up brick wall facade. This was an advance on his previous cardboard mock-up which was made at 1:2 Scale.

The journey from idea to reality was an interesting one with several learning curves along the way. Rather than using brick slips (thin cut brick faces) to create the brick wall backdrop Polys decided to use vac formed moulds to create plaster bricks to save on weight and cost. It was an unusual approach that turned out very well.

The detail itself was largely CNC’d outside our workshop and brought in for assembly and finishing. To create a smooth joint between cut components the pieces were laminated together and clamped to dry before being coated in sandsealer.

Applying sandsealer, sanding and repeating is often necessary to achieve a smooth finish on pores materials such as MDF. Any flaws in the surface can further be smoothed using a filler. When the finish was smooth after much sanding, the components were primed with spray primer and painted with a roller.

The plaster bricks were painted with spray paints and individual speckle detail added by hand later. The bricks were then fixed to a back board with an imitation lintel as featured on the actual detail. Once fixed to the back board it was clear the piece would be awkward to move and it was decided that the facade should be made into a skate by fixing wheels that would allow the whole model to be wheeled around.

The bricks were evenly spaced and fixed with Grip Fill adhesive.  To finish the look of the facade mortar was mixed and applied to the joints in the same manner as an actual wall would be pointed. Polys had no experience of this but with a little guidance from Jim was able to get the job done.


Finally the finished components were assembled and bolted in place on the facade board. This level of realistic detail is rarely necessary to convey a design and could be argued is not in this case but the new skills learnt through the process, and their application in later design ideas, will undoubtedly prove very useful for Polys.

How to Save Money and Materials when Making Contour Models

Just before the Christmas break I made a post about the benefits and importance of concious planning and material consideration when thinking about your models. Here is a great example carried out by a group of 3rd year students over the last few days.

This group set out to produce a contour model of a site they have been given to focus on for redevelopment. They took the time to approach us before starting to plan their model which resulted in a huge saving for them in cost and in the materials saved.

Rather than using entire sheets of MDF to build up contour layers We suggested they amend their drawing to construct the contours using the ‘step’ method. This means reducing each contour piece to a fraction of the full sheet size with the only non visible area being a small step to which the piece above can be fixed.

Out of the original materials estimate of 25 full 4mm x 800mm x 450mm sheets for the main contour section of the model the amended drawings helped to decrease this number to just 6.

At the current cost of £2.50 per sheet, the original cost of material for this part of the model would equate to £62.50. After redrawing the file and planning each cut sheet the 6 sheets required cost just £15. A huge saving of £47.50 and 19 full sheets of 4mm Medite MDF.

As you can see it is well worth taking the time to evaluate what it is you are producing and the necessary material required. A good place to start is with your tutors, Jim and myself who are dealing with this subject matter everyday.



Happy New Year and Welcome Back!

It looks like everyone has hit the ground running this year with the workshop being full to capacity all day!

New Power Sockets

You may notice we now have drop down electrical sockets above the main work desks. These have been installed to avoid trip hazards from the wall sockets behind the desks. When using them simply reach up and pull down to the desired length similar to a draw string on window blinds. If you have any trouble just ask myself or Jim to demonstrate.

New Acrylic and Plywood Thickneses in Stock

We have also just taken delivery of a couple of new materials to add to our stock list.

1mm Cast Acrylic sheets are now available at £37 per 800mm x 450mm sheet. These sheets are expensive but can be invaluable in creating detailed facades on acrylic models. It goes without saying that this material should be savoured because of its expense.

In addition to our laserable Plywood stock we now have 3mm and 4mm sheets at £4 and £5 respectively.

See you soon!