The Retreat: Am I Biting More Than I Can Chew?

Am praying to the gods I’m not. Otherwise, I’m going to be in big trouble.

So two posts ago, I talked about using the JJ’s Cottage from Real Good Toys as a base for The Retreat. I did my dry run last night, and….just wasn’t feeling the structure at all. I tried rearranging the pieces, thinking maybe I need to get another kit….but rather than hearing a mental “Yup”, I kept getting a constant “No”. Similar to Lana’s way of saying “nope” from the Archer series.

Was pretty dejected when it dawned on me that maybe the kit wasn’t meant to be. Then I got even more dejected that my brain decided to come to this conclusion at 3:00 am in the morning.

Stupid brain. I think the flu not only made it loopy, but the high temps must have fried what few brain cells I have left. (Sigh)

While I’m bummed the kit didn’t pan out (at least I was out….$15 and shipping), I was even more bummed that now I have a door and windows that I’ve already sanded and prepped for installation. Now what?

Then I thought….should I attempt to scratch build something? Is it worth trying?

I did some hunting online…and found examples of folks using Gatorboard as their building material of choice. Started to get intrigued by it, given that apparently it’s rigid and can withstand moisture (which my cellfoam boards can handle…but man they’re a mess when cutting).ย  That definitely perked my interest…but what sealed the deal for me folks? The fact it was recommended that for cutting basic shapes, to use a hand coping saw — or this.

Ryobi 18-Volt ONE+ Orbital Jig Saw.
Photo from the Home Depot site.

I’ve been wanting one for awhile — at first, to give me a means to cut MDF boards that I typically get at Home Depot. But BK thought that wasn’t enough of a justifiable purchase. Well sweetie…..I think “scratch-building” is a justification enough, thank you very much.

So yes…I did order it online to pick up this evening at my local branch. I consider this a Valentine’s Day gift to myself. ๐Ÿ˜€

But here’s a question I’d like to throw out. Has anyone used Gatorboard before? How easy was it? And also, which thickness do you use? I noticed on the sites, they either come as 3/16″, 1/2″, 3/4″ and 1″.ย  Since I’m doing a 1/24 scale house, debating if the 3/16″ thick board will be enough.

In the meantime….I did manage to flesh out what I wanted in terms of the interior layout. Figured so long as I keep the shapes simple enough…this should work.

First floor layout

First floor layout

Using the existing windows and door I’ve purchased/prepped, figured the first floor would have an L shaped layout. Something that’s somewhat open concept. Though I might change my mind later and install a wall partition to seperate the rooms. Being a scratch-built, I’m anticipating possibly changing things at the last second. And working one floor at a time given the smaller scale.

(the red blocks represent windows: smaller ones are my single windows, the larger ones are either my double or triple windows. I know, not exactly creative)


The second floor layout.

The second floor layout.

For the second floor, so far this is what I’ve come up so far. The floor will definitely have the master bedroom and bath, and a I want to build out a dormer to house my large window (and provide natural light). A smaller window will be installed on the bathroom side wall. And I need to sketch out the side walls to accommodate a sloping roof of sorts.

You know what…the more I look at the schematics, the more I’m wondering if the exterior will end up looking somewhat like this.

Stucco Cottage in the Woods of Chappaqua.
From the Fivecat Studio Architecture website.

Hmm….I’ll really need to flesh this out some more. I’m actually getting a little nervous at the possibility of fudging this up….


9 thoughts on “The Retreat: Am I Biting More Than I Can Chew?

  1. Yay, I can maybe be of help with Gatorboardness! I think I picked up mine (3/16″) for less than $30 for a big ol’ sheet that could make a few 1:24 houses because I live close to a Jerry’s Artarama, but at the time I was a little sticker-shocked when the same amount of foam core would have cost $5. I seem to remember finding sellers on ebay who were offering smaller sheets that could be mailed, and sign places may sell it.

    Your coping saw looks very spiffy, and I have known people to saw Gatorboard. I used ignorant patience, a straight edge, and several X-acto blades. If you score an area enough, you can cut it like foam core. Also, a nice thing is you can sand it. Oh, and one thing that I think really helped with structural integrity was to buy Aleene’s Foamtastic glue. It wasn’t the easiest thing to track down ($4 at hobby lobby), and I had to keep things taped while it dried, but once dry, that glue was not letting go of the Gatorboard, or the foam base I had underneath.

    Your plans look very nice and a little avant-garde, and I love the look of the house at the end. One thing I am going to fix in my next build is that the rooms are deep rather than wide, and between that and the roof it is very dark inside. As for my scratchbuilding experience, even though I sketched my 3/16″ wall allowance in my plans, somehow, when it was going together, I was off and I had a gap to fix (much cursing ensued). The unexpected builds character, right?

    I look forward to seeing your build!

  2. This is awesome feedback! Thank you so much! I did find an online vendor who sells the 3/16″ Gatorboard in packs of 10 sheets between $18-30 bucks depending on size. So will go with that – I’m pretty intent on keeping the width of the overall house to not exceed 8 5/8″. But the depth…yeah, I don’t want it to be too deep that the rooms are dark as well! Though I noticed Hobby Lobby sells a 1:12 scale LED battery light for under $15. Wonder if I can jerry rig that to work in half scale (I’m still terrible at wiring, despite the awesome tutorial you posted!)

    And thanks for the advice about the glue! I’ll add that to my supply order at Hobby Lobby (am running out of my adhesives as well). That actually makes sense. I’ve used Tacky Glue on cellfoam, but it’s a nightmare when trying to join them to form a right angle….

    You and me both on the build. Please cross your fingers that I don’t accidentally lop off a finger or something. ๐Ÿ˜€

  3. Sorry, question for you about the blades when doing the manual cuts — which ones did you use? Will be using the jig saw to cut out the walls/roof/floors, but for the door and window openings…will be carving those out by hand.

    • Congrats on scoring some smaller sheets! And for finding an LED set. If you change your mind, (and I realize they charge $2.25 per LED unless you buy 5+ LEDs and its DIY), the people at Evan Designs are very nice, and their warm white chip LEDs rock.

      The Foamtastic glue looks and feels a lot like the regular tacky glue, making blue tape your buddy, but it means business when it is dry. I chose it over over foam glues because most of them are solvent-based (i.e., smell and make your eyes burn) and melt, then re-weld the foam.

      And all ten fingers crossed for no crafty accidents! I’d feel so bad after cheering you into a scratch build! I gave myself a doozie of a slice on my cottage (not related to Gatorboard), and that finger starts worrying any time I even think of taking a shortcut in cutting or using a dull blade. As for the blades themselves, I used basic #11 blades and maybe a 1/2″ wide retractable boxcutter…whatever was accessible at the time. I got the windows and doors close with the blade, then sanded to my pencil lines. Just like foam core, the trick is lots of small cuts instead of pressure…it usually took me 3-6 passes to get through.

      I hope that helps!

      • These are good tips to keep in mind. I think for this scratch build, I have to create an outline listing what I need to do step by step. It’s going to be interesting.

        But until the supplies arrive….I’ll need to work on something else. Something small…and different. Good thing it’s the holiday weekend – might be surprising some of you guys if I do this right. ๐Ÿ˜€

  4. I know nothing about gatorboard, so this is fascinating! ๐Ÿ˜€ I do a lot of cutting with my scroll saw, but that’s working with small pieces. The arm limits the size of the board, and I would not use it to cut an entire scratch build house. One thing I can say is that imperfect cuts don’t hamper a build as long as you have them mostly right. You will have final finishes like flooring, wallpaper, etc., yes? You can fill in gaps with spackling or the like before applying those finishes, and there’s always added trim. ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Hey there — well, I’m going to use the parts of the JJ’s Cottage kit as a template for the pieces, but add a few inches. I realized (based on the components I have like the furniture, flooring, windows, doors, etc) that I needed a deeper house. Figured we shall see what happens.

      Guess in a way, it’s good I’m practicing the scratch build on 1:24 scale versus 1:12 scale. And yes, am anticipating filling in gaps with spackle or wood filling before things get covered with wallpaper and flooring. ๐Ÿ˜€

  5. Can’t wait to see it all come together ๐Ÿ™‚ I find the biggest problem with building from scratch is sticking with the original design, I always seem to add a few inches here and there…until I have a mansion rather then a house opps! The plans look great so far though and the gatorboard looks really interesting! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • That’s what I’m really nervous about. I’m hoping (perhaps against hope) that because I have to stay within the resources I have allocated towards the scratch-build….that might prevent the Retreat from turning into a McMansion of sorts!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s