What materials could be used to make small buildings?

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Want to make some small buildings (a church, home, restaurant, etc.) to set up around a miniature train set. Considering using cathedral glass and painting windows, etc., but wondering if there might be a better alternative that is less expensive and easier to work with. Perhaps there is a strong clear plastic that isn't too expensive and could be cut into the proper pieces. Suggestions?


  20 answers
  • Chloe Crabtree Chloe Crabtree on Dec 05, 2020

    Would this work for you: https://amzn.to/2L6vjKF

  • Flipturn Flipturn on Dec 05, 2020

    What type of material are you making the buildings out of - wood, paper ?

    Are you wanting to cut pieces of plastic and glue or tape them on to the 'buildings' to make windows?

  • Cindy Cindy on Dec 05, 2020

    Hi Julie. You could make buildings with craft sticks and glue. Dollar Tree sells colored craft sticks. Or you could use spray paint if you want to make buildings different colors. If you have small pieces of cathedral glass, you could make stained glass using paint. Mix equal parts of black paint and Elmer's glue. It's easiest when you can put this mixture back into the glue bottle because you have more control with the pointed tip. Squeeze the glue bottle and make black lines on the glass. (I would use a piece of cardboard to practice on before diving in.) The lines will be thicker than just paint alone. Let the lines dry and then color the different sections with acrylic paint. The final result looks like stained glass. This DIY sounds like fun. Good luck Julie. Happy Holidays.

  • Cynthia H Cynthia H on Dec 05, 2020

    Hi! We''ve always made small models with balsa wood or foam board. Both are light, inexpensive and easy to work with! Good luck!

  • Flipturn Flipturn on Dec 05, 2020

    I am wondering if transparent plastic file folder dividers might work to create 'windows'.

    They usually come in a package of several different colors including clear.

  • Chipboard is a great material for making small buildings.

  • Clear plastic and alcohol ink will work well to make them.

  • Redcatcec Redcatcec on Dec 06, 2020

    Here's a bunch of ideas depending on what you want to build:


    https://www.thesprucecrafts.com/building-materials-for-scale-models-2366089

  • Johnavallance82 Johnavallance82 on Dec 06, 2020

    Hi there,

    Any Blocks of wood, MDF etc the right shape should be fine, or use cardboard to make them! Have fun. You could always buy model houses etc from ebay - used.

  • Hobby stores and craft stores have all the supplies you’ll ever need for this. You can buy sheets of acetate or sheets of acrylic for windows. Balsa wood comes in sheets and sticks.

  • Maura White Maura White on Dec 06, 2020

    Balsa wood is thin and cheap and could really help you out. You can get some at your local craft store!

  • Simple Nature Decor Simple Nature Decor on Dec 06, 2020

    Metal is another alternative.

  • Betsy Betsy on Dec 06, 2020

    Hi Julie: You can use things you have around the house, match boxes, used salt and pepper containers, tp tubes, you can even use a small pump bottle from sanitizer or soap for a water tower for the train set. The plastic from laundry soap and softener bottles can be cut up to use. Just a bit of paint or contact paper should work.


    Good luck

  • Michelle Leslie Michelle Leslie on Dec 07, 2020

    Hi Julie, we make loads of miniatures and one of the cheapest ways to create small building is to use polystyrene (styrofoam). It's easy to cut with a craft knife and can be painted with water based craft paints. Here's one example where we made a Tuscan home front for a book nook  https://acraftymix.com/blog/making-a-book-nook/

  • Michelle Leslie Michelle Leslie on Dec 07, 2020

    WRT to the windows you can use alcohol inks, shrink wrap, and any kind of transparent sticky paper. Here's an example of a stained glass fairy door we made a while back  https://acraftymix.com/blog/stained-glass-fairy-door/ and this is what the little window looks like when it's lit from behind with fairy lights

  • Perhaps you could use heavy card stock or balsa wood?

  • Chas' Crazy Creations Chas' Crazy Creations on Dec 09, 2020

    Here's a video that might help - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p14L06Jerhk

  • Annie Annie on Dec 09, 2020

    That white plastic board that sign makers use, it cane easily be cut and glued.


  • Patricia Patricia on Dec 09, 2020

    Would you still be able to see through the windows?Just asking.

  • Deb K Deb K on Dec 19, 2020

    Hi Julie, honestly, the best medium you can use is cardboard, use the stuff from boxes, use thinner stuff it is so malleable for all your building needs, form there you can add clay or dough to make them additions for detail. Once you paint them they will look awesome!

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