Old West Building Tutorial 1: The Front
by Gisby

The Front The Side Walls The Floor The Back Wall Finishing the Building Pack's Emporium

For this project, I will be using three kinds of wood. All of these can be purchased at craft stores or dollar shops for far less money than basswood or similar. Basswood could be used, and would be easier, because you don't have to search for straight pieces. (In fact the appearance of the finished building might well be rather better, but that would be a different article, by a far more talented modeller.)

I have colour-coded them for clarity. If you are colour blind, tough noogie, I guess. Figure it out.

The first type is the 'popsicle stick' AKA Craft stick, lolly stick, etc. Usually despised as a thick, crude piece of wood, it is valuable as a brace. It can also be scored to look like thinner boards and used in place of coffee stirrers. VERY useful for floors and fences. It is by far the cheapest craft wood available.

The second type is the coffee stirrer: Longer, narrower, and thinner than the popsicle stick, it is far more visually appealing for most uses. Although readily available through theft at coffee shops, they are cheap enough that you can get hundreds for the price of a cup of coffee.

Last, we have the matchstick: Mostly useful for trim. Not all are the same, some are thick, softer wood, some are thin and finer grained. Both are useful, because they provide variety. Usually the dollar/pound store variety are the thicker, softer ones. Crafty stores will have better quality.

Please read the instructions through before starting, (duh) both so you can understand what I'm doing, and so that you can see any areas where you can do it better.

There are plenty of other ways to do everything, and I'm not saying these are the best, or even how I would do it myself.

But if I had to give written instructions to somebody with no experience of making Old West buildings, these are the instructions I would give. They are designed to make it hard to mess up, so if something seems unneccessary to YOU, it probably is.

STEP 1: Make a Plan

On a piece of light cardboard, lay out your storefront.

I chose 4" wide and 5" tall, with a central door and two windows.

I marked a centre line, and two lines 10mm from it on each side.

I marked the top of the doors and windows at 1.5 inches, and the top edge of the side walls at 2.5 inches.

STEP 2: Build the Frame

This part is built from Popsicle sticks.You will have to trim and piece them together, and glue them to each other, because the cardboard will go away in a step or two.

For now, glue them to the cardboard so they stay in place while the glue dries.

I started with the outer uprights, each made from two pieces. Next, the top brace.

Then the central uprights were added: They will define the door and window widths.

Finally the other braces are glued in place: The lower braces flush to the bottom of the building, the next braces above the 1.5 inch mark, and the last braces above the 2.5 inch mark.

Place the assembly under a stack of books to dry, this helps prevent warping. A couple of hours will do, but overnight is better.

STEP 3: Plank the Face

Plank the front of the assembly with coffee stirrers, starting at the bottom.

Use the straightest pieces you can find, of course.

If they are warped along the flat plane, just straighten them out, the frame will keep them straight.

If one end is bent, cut it off and use the straight part.

I try to use full-length boards, but if you need to splice boards (or want to to make more interesting texture) put the joint on one of the bracing pieces.

Until you wind up with THIS: It will be a wall of boards on a frame, glued to some cardboard.

Place the assembly under a stack of books to dry, this helps prevent warping. A couple of hours will do, but overnight is better. I don't need to say it again.

STEP 4: Remove the Cardboard

Peel away and discard the cardboard.

You will also have to peel/cut/sand away any remaining glue on the back of the piece.

STEP 5: Trim the piece

This is a rear view, showing the cuts, compared to the framing.

Using the outside of the frame as a guide, trim away the excess length of the planking. I use an Xacto knife, but a saw, dremel, or whatever you are comfortable with will do.

Using the inside frame as a guide, remove the door and windows.

Sand the board edges smooth with the framing.

This is a front view.

Nothing much to say, so there's a big white space, but this is the first view that actually LOOKS like anything, so I thought I'd include it.

STEP 6: Plank the Back

Flip the piece over, and using the same steps as for the front, plank the back of the UPPER part of the wall, starting at the 'top of the side wall' point. (In this case, 2.5 inches)

Plank the upper wall. (as in STEP 3)

Let it dry under a pile of books to prevent warping. Bla bla bla. You know the drill.

Trim the excess boards. (as in STEP 5)

This is the result, seen from the rear. (same view as 5a)

STEP 7: Trim the Front

Using Matchsticks, add framing to the door, window, and sign area, and add glazing bars to the windows.

You can be as creative as you want, with lots of trim, cornices, opening doors, etc. This is just a basic design.


I add the horizontal bar first, then two vertical bars. To strengthen the joint, I put glue on the back and press a square of paper into it. When the glue dries, I trim away any excess paper.

horizontal first, then vertical

glue the back and square of paper

trim away any excess paper

Old West Building Tutorial 2: The Side Walls