Pavements provide definition in the urban scape. They give a clear distinction between highway and pedestrian - road and built up. Expanding the footprint of those terraced rows or high street shops, turning them into built up islands, they offer a psychological barrier, a movement channel, a mini objective.
They also host their own iconic urban gloss in the form of lamp-posts, telephone boxes, rubbish bins and more.
I've been wrestling with getting the right pavements for Winter of '79. Card and paper just didn't seem to cut it. Finally I managed to hit on a solution thanks to an enterprising eBayer selling OO scale scenic moulds for £6.50 plus postage. And you can see the results for yourself when given the quickest of washes with GW's Nuln Oil.
I already had a carton of Woodlands Scenics Lightweight Hydrocal casting plaster, so thought 'I'll give it a punt for a few quid'. The mould arrived before the weekend allowing me to start a cottage industry churning out 80mm x25mm x2mm pavement section after section.
I have to admit that it was fun of sorts, but I had a day to spare so it was just a matter of being disciplined as you obviously have to wait for each batch to set and harden before you can make the next pair of pavements.
Each set took 5 minutes to mix and pour the Hydrocal. I used one heaped and one level teaspoon of Hydrocal mixed with two teaspoons of water using a wooden coffee stirrer. Nothing onerous there. Then laid to one side for a minimum of 40 minutes to set. I basically looked at it as an hourly task - returning each hour on the hour to cast a new batch.
So, what about the results? Well not surprisingly they got better with each attempt. Even so, you can see in the 'before' photo below that the best of the cast pavement sections still had enough of a rough edge that they will need to be smoothed off with an emery board. But this takes only seconds.It's exactly the same batch in both photos
So here's what I learnt after a few breakages for those of you who may be tempted yourself.
- Place the mould on a flat surface.
- Handle the mould as little as possible once you've poured the mixture. It's flimsy and picking it up may weaken the structure of the casts once the Hydrocal starts to set.
- With that in mind, don't hand around as the Hydrocal is only workable for about five minutes.
- Press the mixture down and into the nooks and crannies, then top up as required.
- Use the flat edge of your coffee stirrer to level the mixture to get a near perfect flat cast.
- Do all three casts then, clean round the edges with a damp tissue to reduce the cleaning required on the cast sections.
- However much you are tempted now, leave it be for at least 40 minutes. 55 is better and more, better still.
- To remove the cast sections turn the mould upside down on a flat surface with the corner piece facing you. Now slowly peel back the mould. The corner piece is easy enough, it will drop out, but if a pavement section seems to be sticking just gently turn back the other end of the mould. That should be enough. DO NOT press or apply any pressure where the pavement sections are or they are likely to break.
- Breakages - no big deal really. The breaks are usually very neat and come at joins of the paving slabs so you can seamlessly glue them together again. Worst comes to worst you have broken paving slabs for barricades, craters in the street etc.
- Bubbles and miscasts? Some, though the faster you try to be with your mixing and pouring, or should that be 'lazy'. the worse it seems to be. On the most part they look like natural wear and tear and of course the road workers are on strike! Seriously, just use a blob of left over Hydrocal or whatever or hide/repair the worst or plant some weeds or leave a discarded newspaper or a Coke Can cut from a piece of sprue if you are that bothered.
- Left over Hydrocal gloop? Have some newly based figures on standby to avoid wastage.
Alright then, want to try this for yourself? Check out eBay seller 087_odea.