Make a realistic thatched roof

making a thatched roof model

Living in Surrey, I see a lot of thatched roofs. There’s no denying their beauty. But recreating them in miniature for a model railway or diorama is incredibly difficult. One modeller however has nailed it.

Other techniques to create thatch I’ve seen, using strands of string or drawing a comb across clay, don’t come close to the realistic texture ModelRailwayEngineer community member and scenic diorama modeller John Simpson creates.

The results also easily surpass the pre-made models commonly available.

John recently posted some photos of the thatched roofed buildings he’s made and I’m not exaggerating when I say they’re some of the most realistically textured model thatching I’ve seen.

I reached out to John and he kindly agreed to share his technique here.

John starts with the base of the cottage or building he’ll be adding the thatch too. He makes his own roofs from 5mm balsa but other model materials could work just as well.

making a model of a thatched roofTo this he adds a thick, dense, layer of 6mm static grass held down with PVA glue, see here.

This is then left to set.

Next he applies a further coating of PVA. John recommends painting this on in a downloads direction and flattening the grass down as you go.

Let this dry and tidy up any stray strands, cutting or filing them down.

Finally paint and weather to your desired coloured.

That’s it. I’m sure you’ll agree the results speak for themselves, it creates beautiful thatching that will add and compliment any layout.

Further examples of John’s outstanding work can be seen on his Facebook page.

Pictures, reproduced here by kind permission and (c) John Simpson.

Founder of ModelRailwayEngineer, Andy Leaning

Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.

Afflliate disclosure:The links on this page may take you to carefully selected businesses, such as Hornby, Amazon, eBay and Scale Model Scenery, where you can purchase the product under affiliate programmes. This means I receive a small commission on any orders placed although the price you pay does not change. You can read my full affiliate policy here. I also sell my my own ready to use, pre-made and painted buildings and terrain features. browse the range.

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