Eldritch Elf: 28 XI 18

Welcome back to the Gilman House, friends. Here’s another living tutorial, sent from my relatives in Innsmouth.

Ok, I tried to cheat and grab a door and maybe a window from the realm of train lay-outs. It’s fun to share my minis-based hobby with my dad, who is a lifelong model railroad fanatic. Knowing about these things, I was hoping for something in O Gauge. I only found HO doors, though, and some O gauge doors that didn’t suit my need.

I was shopping at a truly great old school place in Pittsburgh, Esther’s in Millvale. It’s a time machine, but still vital. The man who runs it is Esther’s son, and he’s a treasure.

Esther’s didn’t have the parts I was after, but I picked up one of my special sanders. We’ll use that later.


Get your music ready. This is fiddly work, but I think it’s best done with a full head of steam. I listened to two of my favorites: Flower Travellin’ Band’s Satori and Magma’s Üdü Wüdü. Check em out.

I often use albums to give me a sense of pace as I work. I still buy & use CDs (I’m several generations behind in music technology, and now my car won’t play the music I want it to), so every 45 minutes or so I have to go stretch my legs, take a breath, and reorient myself to the overall direction of the work.

Here are some supplies we’ll need. I like these little metal rulers rather than a 12″ one. Use a sharp blade, change it often. On top sits the foamboard, for scale.

Then I just have a bunch of styrene scraps. Because everything is going to be so small, you don’t need big virgin sheets of expensive styrene. Keep these little odds & ends when you’re building big stuff.

I make a little door that looks like the right size. Then I figure out how deep the trim ought to be and cut some long strips. Using the door as a ruler, I make the outer trim pieces for the door.

We’re going to glue these trim pieces into place now. Building stuff like a door is about building up layers of appropriate thickness. You can do it with styrene, wood, board, and other stuff. It’s a really useful way of designing & building little custom bits for yourself.

BEST TIP OF THE TUTORIAL: Glue on coin. With tiny stuff, you can’t glue directly from the applicator. That gel stuff sucks, I don’t care what you say. Put the glue on the coin and apply it to your model with a toothpick. My English friends have taught me that this is called a ‘cocktail stick’ there. If you’ll be doing a lot of gluing (like when you’re building a door), it’s useful to glue the coin down, too.

To be frank, it’s pretty sloppy. I can sand most of that away, and anything that goes beyond dilapidation into implausibility can be hidden with weathering effects and doodads.

Don’t get bogged down on these details. You can deal with them later. Sometimes as I’m forced to surmount these little challenges I light upon some felicitous solution. Many a bad highlight has been hidden by a tiny paper butterfly.

Now let’s add some finer details. We’ll make little strips of molding. Take a super skinny piece of styrene thinner than the outer framing, use it to measure out a piece twice as wide, and cut these. You’ll need to cut through the styrene a good way before you can break off such a slender ribbon, so be careful.

Marry the two together with superglue. How do you glue one side of a piece of plastic that’s 1/16th of an inch wide? Use a toothpick to edge highlight it. Boom! Penny superglue holder for the win!

You’ll need to use flat surfaces & steady pressure to get these things glued properly. I’m not going to lie: it’s fiddly. Super fiddly.

You could do this much more quickly and neatly using precut styrene strips, but…

On this project I’m aiming for a sort of cheap paperback, run down look of things. I allow and encourage these these little wrinkles to proliferate. Not only can they be worked into the final product to serve the desired aesthetic, but the minor, almost imperceptible flaws help establish a slightly off kilter, vaguely wrong feeling about the space & geometry of the scene. This disquieting, undefinable oddness to places, people, and our own experience is essential to Lovecraftian horror. We’ll try to reinforce this creepiness later on as we add weathering effects, lighting effects, scenic details, and more.

If you are looking for a perfect facsimile of an actual door, this is not how you do it. You can buy really nice doors, and you can print them, I’m sure. This is how I make doors.

For what it’s worth, I’m also deeply committed philosophically to this kind of rapid adaptation to imperfection approach. Eventually in ToadChapel proper a philosopher will be born to put these ruminations into writing, and others will visit to challenge and disprove his theories.

Here’s where I got tonight.

I may leave it at that, or I may add the trim all the way around. There are options here, which you can read about below, as they ramble a bit.


At this point let’s take a step back and start really formalizing some (provisional) plans for the detailing of the building.

I’ve already checked some key passages from ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth,’ but now I’ll go back and reread the story. This is an integral part of the process of making it. Time must be set aside and the reading must take place in the proper setting with the appropriate mood. What comes out of that engagement with Lovecraft’s work is what needs to go into the scenic vignette. I need to find the particular atmosphere I want. I may want a very pulpy, EC Comics vibe, or a more sinister, repellent feeling. I may heavily emphasize the maritime [glug] culture of Innsmouth town, or just bloop some tentacles on there and paint em purple. When drawing inspiration from Lovecraft, I like to try to straddle that line between the ridiculous and the disturbing.

We’ll try to fit our methods to our desired aesthetic. It’s getting close to full commitment, construction-wise; for now, though, we can still replace the foam with another material, we can alter or replace the door, we can approach the foreground however we choose, etc. Before we advance too much farther, we must make a few decisions about how we’re going to pull this together.

Leave any feedback, questions, or advice in the Comments section below.

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