How I Now Make My Own Plaster Cloth For Hills, Tunnels and Landscapes

How to make your own plaster clothI’m a huge fan of plaster cloth. It’s messy, it works and it’s super satisfying but it also costs. Until now.

I love plaster cloth.

Am I the only one who finds getting my hands covered in it and then washing it off later deeply gratifying? Please tell me I’m not — having just told the world my little secret that would be so awkward…

But more importantly, it’s also one of my best go-to materials for scenery construction.

Lay the foundation’s of your hills, mountains, tunnels and even lakes and rivers; cover with plaster cloth; allow to dry, and then paint and apply scatter, static grass and rock faces and you have it: super scenery. It’s wonderful stuff.

The problem, of course, is that it costs. Sure at around £8 for 10sq feet, if you use the Woodland Scenics variety, less for other brands and makes such as ModRoc, it’s not a lot but it still costs.

And, as I’ve said numerous times before, if I can figure out a way to make something instead of spending money on it then I’d much rather do that and then put that money towards something that I can’t make — like a new Hornby, Bachmann or Dapol loco.

Plaster cloth or modelling rock (ModRoc) is ripe for this.

After all, how difficult can making it be? It’s just cloth and plaster of Paris right? And even better, if I use my own cloth I wouldn’t have the annoying holes often seen in modelling plaster bandages and which need covering over later.

All seems good until I tried making my own.

I just couldn’t get it to work with the finish I wanted.

Whatever I tried It just didn’t lay how I wanted or dried as expected. I just ended up with a gloopy mess and a ruined t-shirt that I was using as a test fabric.

But I did get my hands covered in plaster and had a fun few minutes washing it off so it wasn’t a complete disappointment šŸ™‚

Second Attempt – DIY Plaster Cloth Success

With my hands dry, I then went in search of other techniques. And after a lot of reading, chatting with the MRE community and watching YouTube I came across the following video by Alan Plumb. He’s a man after my own heart and revealed a slightly different technique that produces much better results than my attempts.

(The guide to making plaster cloth starts at 10.16mins in).

 

The difference is that this uses a mix of soapy water, filler and plaster. This combination is something I didn’t try and on using this it works so much better. I’ve since used this approach on a few trial landscapes already and it really does work.

No more Woodland Scenics plaster cloth for me but my hands still get delightfully messy! Thanks to Alan for sharing.

Go and give this technique a go and let me know how you get on.


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10 comments
  1. Hiya Andy, I tried to use this technique many years ago on my N gauge layout, but I found the plaster was shrinning as it dried out, causing a crazy pavement effedt and that happens when you don’t add washing up liquid to the mix and it tool days for to dry hard…in the end I used rock bandage. Great video

  2. Dear Andy,
    I have to say thank you for the above. I used cardboard, plastic that was a byproduct from the builders merchant (they were only too glad to let me have it!), finishing plaster, filler, and soapy water. I used some paint but also quite a bit of ink which worked well for the colouring. As the material I used a roll of black garden membrane used for weed prevention as I have stacks of it and it worked fine. I would never have thought of doing it this way, very simple but effective and cheap!

    • Hi Fiona, are you a member of the Model Railway Builder’s community on Facebook, it would be great to see photos etc of your work! Andy

  3. Might I suggest making use of ‘Plasterers Scrim’, (it might be called other things in different outlets or indeed other countries).

    For the uninitiated, this is the bandage like stuff that is about two or three inches wide and is used by plasterers to cover the joints in plasterboard ceilings or walls before the final coats of plaster are applied.

    When I say ceilings or walls, I recognise that it might not always be used for walls and only used on ceilings, although technically it should be used for both.

    It is designed to stop the plaster cracking at the plasterboard joints.

    Comes in a roll and so very easily cut. Should be quite reasonably priced.

    Just an idea which others may find helpful.

  4. Hi Andy, I would make some trials soon on my layout.
    Could you give me the recepy of the mix? If I understood, he put the cloth into the soap water before to put it into a mix of filler and plaster. Did you test the same?
    Since Iā€™m italian, could you give me a sample brand for the filler, just to be sure to understand what you are talking about.
    Thanks
    Fabio

    • Hi Fabio, yes that’s it – take some soapy water and mix it with half household filler and half plaster of paris before soaking a fine weave cloth into it. For brand, I’ve used Polycell multip purpose as that’s what I had to hand although other fillers will probably work just as well. Andy

  5. Thank you. I have been trying to do this for years but my DIY plaster bandages just cracked as they dried. Will save this for my next hill project.

  6. First class, as a 75 year old new boy, at last something that I can understand. Soon I will be in a position to start my layout. I will certainly be using this method to make my scenery.
    THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

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