As regular readers will know if there’s a material that can or even could be used for model making I’ve given it a go. I can’t resist the opportunity to explore and create with new mediums. And, a few years ago, I delved into the world of polymer clay and while I haven’t yet used it extensively for my model railways, I can’t deny the joy I get from creating whimsical creatures with it.
So when I recently stumbled upon the incredible works of Beni Grob, I was intrigued. His buildings are crafted entirely from polymer clay, with a unique and distinctive look that I had never seen before. Naturally, my curiosity was piqued, I reached out to Beni and had a little chat with him about his technique.
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Grab a cup of tea and read on, because you won’t want to miss out on the insights and inspiration that he shared.
Andy (MRE): How did you get started, and which came first, polymer clay or model railways?
Beni: About 15 years ago, my wife started making jewellery with polymer clay. She had successfully acquired many techniques and then also given courses. However, she lost interest over time, and we still had a lot of material left in stock. I decided to give it a try and made myself a bolo tie and matching ring. The ideas kept flowing, and I wanted to create more. That was the beginning.
After creating various pieces of jewellery, I thought I could build a diorama using polymer clay. I made my first house out of clay and later created three birdhouses for our garden. After retiring, I started working on model railroading, and that’s when I remembered the clay. I built a scale replica of our house and liked it so much that I started building other houses in our village. I’ve been doing this for three years now.
Andy: Building straight walls with polymer clay seems like quite a challenge. How do you keep them sturdy and prevent them from getting crooked? Is shrinking a problem?
To keep the walls straight, I reinforce them with approximately 3 mm thick cardboard strips, which I glue to the inside using super glue. Sometimes, I use cardboard for the windows and roofs. So far, I haven’t experienced any problems with shrinking.
To make the houses, I create a template out of paper or cardboard and draw all the windows and doors. I then condition the clay and use a pasta machine to make a flat sheet at setting number 6. I place the template on the clay and pierce all the window and door corners with a needle (as seen in the photo above). I cut out the walls along the contour of the template and use a knife to cut out the doors and windows.
To give the wall texture, I press sandpaper onto the clay. If the facade is wood or brick, I draw lines in the clay with a needle. Finally, I bake it in the oven following the clay’s instructions. The clay colours are not important because I paint the house with acrylic paint.
I also use the clay to create small objects like art pieces for public spaces, chickens, support posts for train station halls, bus shelters, tables and chairs, market stalls, awnings, and parasols.
Andy: Do you have a favourite model?
Beni: I don’t have a favourite house. I like them all very much.
Andy: Your polymer clay houses are so intricate and beautiful. Could you give us an idea of how much time and effort goes into creating each one?
Beni: I have never measured the time spent per house. That might be an estimated 30 to 60 hours depending on the size and number of windows.
Thank you, Beni, for answering my questions and allowing me to share your photos. You can see more of Beni’s delightful model railway in the Polymer Clay Favorite FREE Tutorials & More Facebook group.
I hope this has inspired you to try making houses using polymer clay. If you have already built models with polymer clay or are tempted to do so, I would love to hear about it in the comments below.
> A final, personal, note: I spend a huge amount of time testing, photographing, writing and researching techniques for these articles and pay for all the running costs of MRE out of my own pocket. If you found this article useful you can support me by making a donation on my fund-raising page. Thanks and happy modelling, Andy.
Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of modelrailwayengineer.com. 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.