Matakishi's Tea House

A simple little site...

Making 28mm scale buildings for Vietnam and other jungle settings

Here are the basic components of the first house. This is going to be a large building raised off the ground. The other buildings will be simpler, ground level affairs.

As usual I have cut a base from hardboard and everything else from a 3.2mm untreated cork floor tile. It takes less than a single tile to make this building so the material costs are low at about 60p for everything.

The side walls are quite complicated so I have prepared a template for them. It should come out the correct size if you just copy it and paste it into a Word document or similar. If in doubt, you need to size it so it is 72mm across the base ad the rest will then be correct.

Once the basic walls were done I cut some bamboo skewers to various lengths to represent the support posts for the walls.

The skewers were attached with wood glue before the walls were assembled. It's a lot easier adding details at this stage rather than later. It's also much easier to correct any mistakes.

Once the support posts were secured in position I assembled the walls, fixing them in place with superglue.

As usual with the first of a new type of building I had the side walls fit inside the front and back walls. I don't know why I always do this, it's wrong. I think it's because when I draw up my plans I draw the front wall to the full width of the building and then decide on the position of the doors and windows and mark my measurements on the plan. Enthused, I then go and cut everything out and finally realise my mistake.

I've had to add some matches and a piece of cork to adjust the angle of the roof. If the side walls were outside the front and back walls the original slope I cut would have worked fine and I could have saved myself about an hour's fiddling around. I will do my best to remember to get it right for my next project. It's only crucial if you have a sloping roof however; if you're making a rectangular building it looks better with the front and back walls on the outside so you don't see any edges from the front.

If you'd like to get it right first time you need to make the front and back walls 122mm wide rather than 130mm and increase the base dimension of the side wall to 80mm. You can't just make the template bigger I'm afraid, you'll need to keep the other measurements the same. You will then have to arrange the windows and doors to your liking.

The roof is made from two rectangles of cork joined with a masking tape hinge on the underside. The final roof is going to be thatched so this part is just the supporting structure. The shorter length is designed to go at the front.

More bamboo skewers and some cork off-cuts were pressed into service to make the front screens and roof supports. I also added another skewer to each side wall for aesthetic reasons.

I placed the house on the hardboard base and drew around it so I could see where it would end up. Then I cut some dowel into sixteen 20mm lengths and stuck them down with superglue. I started at the corners and arranged them by eye, there's no point measuring anything for this bit.

Since the basing material is actually going to be the thing that holds the dowels in place and
the glue join doesn't have to be strong I used superglue accelerator to speed this part up.

here we are so far; the house is just standing on the supports, it won't be glued down until everything is painted.

The roof is waiting for the thatch to be added and I need to make a simple ladder to reach the veranda. I'm going to make the other buildings and then thatch everything at the same time because it could well be a bit messy and I'm trying a new technique.

The smaller buildings

The smaller buildings are very simple to construct and really only take a few minutes to do. The doors and windows are the same size as on the large building and are positioned in the same places to keep a similar theme running throughout he village.

The bamboo is cut and stuck as before.

This time I've positioned the end walls on the outside.

The roofs are simple too, just two rectangles per building.

All done apart from the thatching.
Next up are the smallest buildings......

The shacks

The shacks are essentially just half of one of the previous buildings.

The roof sections measure 55mm x 90mm. The vacant areas on the bases will have some fenced enclosures added later.

That's all the buildings made then, just the thatch and some small detailing to be added.

All five buildings were made from two cork tiles, a handful of bamboo skewers, 1sq ft of hardboard and half a length of dowel. The total cost works out at less than 2.00 for everything not including glue and tools. Not too much of an investment if you want to have a go yourself.


Here we go then, a step into the unknown. The first step is to cut a piece of towel a bit bigger than the roof.

The cut towel is then soaked in watered down PVA glue. I added a few drops of washing up liquid to the mix to improve the flow properties of the PVA.

The towel needs to be properly saturated so dunk it in and then wring it out. I put some neat PVA onto the roof section to get a quicker and more solid bond and then draped the wet towel over it. Make sure you put the roof on the building so that it conforms to the correct shape. I was worried that the glue would shrink as it dried and pull the roof out of true but it didn't. It seems gravity is your friend here.

It took overnight for the glue to dry. Once dry the towel becomes rigid and holds the roof at the correct angle. I trimmed off the excess towel with some scissors and then ran some more glue around the roof edges to ensure a strong bond.

Finally I cut a narrower strip of towel to cover the apex of the roof and attached this the same way as before. Once it was in place I doused the edges with brushed on PVA and water and squished everything down to get a firm join.

All done, there's another night of drying ahead for it and then a slight trimming of the ends; after that, the painting can begin.

This was really easy to do and not very messy.
Thatching no longer holds any fear for me

Painted buildings

Here's the test building painted up. I wanted to go for a dark, dank and wet look.
The photos make the hut look a little brighter than it really is because I have 300w of daylight bulbs shining on it.

Buildings made by other folk

Here are some Vietnam buildings made by Peter Stedman ( Steders on Frothers Unite UK) using my designs as a starting point. I like the steeply sloping roofs and may have to make some.