Text by Anna-Carin Betzén
In the 1:144 scale furniture projects on this site, I use basswood (a.k.a. lime wood or linden wood) in three different forms:
If you wonder what any of these are, where to find them, or want to know what you can substitute, read on! For those who prefer using cherry and other beautiful woods, this section should contain enough information for you to know how to use your favorite wood instead.
Wood cut to small dimensions, usually 1×1 mm (1/32"×1/32") and up. If it's really wide (like 5 to 10 cm or 2" to 4"), it's called sheetwood. Usually found in model airplane (RC) stores. Basswood is preferable, as it is easy to cut but not too soft, and has a fine grain. Be aware that there are quality differences; not all producers have the same degree of precision in cutting the strips, and some makers' strips have a rough surface while others' is very smooth. A high quality brand is Northeastern Scale lumber, also sold by MicroMark and others. Some specialty dealers in fine wood for miniaturists carry other species of stripwood, you can combine these with PaperWood of the same species.
The species of wood that are available as stripwood may vary depending on where in the world you live. Basswood is American linden; for some 1:48 and larger scale projects I've also used stripwood of some European linden species, and that worked just as well. For mini purposes, I find balsa and jelutong too soft and brittle, and fir too hard. It may be worth your while to shop around for the good stuff. Also, the stripwood will usually be visible in the finished miniature, and then it's best to use the same species of wood for the base as for the glued on bits and pieces.
Whenever possible, I build furniture by using a block of wood as a "base", and then add embellishments like the headboard on a bed, the doors on a wardrobe, or the drawer fronts and top on a chest of drawers. If the instructions call for an odd size of stripwood that you can't (or don't want to) buy, either cut down a larger size or glue smaller pieces together (just make sure the joints are in spots that won't be very visible in the end). It's usually easier to glue pieces together than to cut a larger piece to size!
Especially thin and narrow stripwood made of basswood. It's intended for model railroad builders and labelled in scale inch sizes - the smallest size produced is 0.3×0.6 mm (.012×.024"). That's about 1/3 of 1/32" thick! At that thickness, it comes in widths up to 3 mm or about 1/8". Made by Northeastern Scale lumber, also sold by model railroad stores, MicroMark and others. They're sold in bags of a dozen or more, so you may want to split with some friends. Also, The Quarter Source carries it - to prevent confusion, locate the right size by actual dimension (say .012×.024) according to the table below (the scale inch sizes on The Quarter Source's site are for 1:48, i.e. half the H0 scale inch size).
What I like about the scale lumber is that the thickness of 0.3 mm (.012") equals only 43 mm (1¾") in full scale, which is a quite acceptable thickness for drawer fronts and table tops in 1:144. And, the fact that it comes ready-cut in a few different widths and only needs to be cut to length.
If you need a substitute for scale lumber, you can either cut strips of PaperWood to a suitable width, or shave down stripwood until really thin. (If you're going to paint it, use thin card. A guillotine paper cutter makes nice cuts; if you cut really narrow strips with e.g. a scalpel, they tend to curve from the cutting.)
This table shows the sizes I've used, scale lumber along with some others that may be suitable for small scales. If you cut the strips yourself, tweak the widths as you please!
|H0 scale||Size (mm)||Size (in)|
|1"×2"||0.3×0.6||.012×.024 (3/128" wide)|
|1"×3"||0.3×0.9||.012×.036 (a hair over 1/32" wide)|
|1"×4"||0.3×1.2||.012×.048 (3/64" wide)|
|1"×6"||0.3×1.8||.012×.072 (a little over 1/16" wide)|
|1"×8"||0.3×2.4||.012×.096 (a hair over 3/32" wide)|
|1"×10"||0.3×3.0||.012×.12 (about 1/8" wide)|
|2"×2"||0.6×0.6||.024×.024 (3/128" square)|
|2"×6"||0.6×1.8||.024×.072 (a little over 1/16" wide)|
|2"×8"||0.6×2.4||.024×.096 (a hair over 3/32" wide)|
|2"×12"||0.6×3.6||.024×.144 (9/64" or a little over 1/8" wide)|
|3"×3"||0.9×0.9||.036×.036 (a hair over 1/32" square)|
|10"×10"||3×3||.12×.12 (about 1/8" square)|
Two extremely thin layers of wood laminated together (like plywood, except both layers have the grain running in the same direction). The resulting material is about 0.5 mm or 1/64" thick. It is intended for cardmaking and similar crafts, so look for it in craft stores or order it from the Lederink Technologies who makes it. It is available in different finishes and species of wood; I always use the "natural wood" finish as it can be stained and finished, and as the stripwood and scale lumber are basswood I choose to use basswood PaperWood too.
I use PaperWood when I need thin wood that is wider than I can get from scale lumber. You can substitute any other wood shaved down to a similar thickness. Or, if you're going to paint it later, you can use thin card instead.
You can cut PaperWood with an X-acto or scalpel, or even with scissors. Use Paper Edgers type scissors to get a fancy edge on e.g. the top of a bed's headboard (I doubt this will work on shaved-down regular wood though!).