Building a Dutch Barn

Building a Dutch Barn

It’s often very satisfying to have a project that can be completed in a short time – this is just such a project.

Dutch barns, in this case all timber with a corrugate iron roof, are not as common today as the many modern barns built with a steel or concrete frame, but most have some form of corrugated iron or asbestos roofing.  The purpose of these barns is for storage, usually over the winter period for hay and straw for feed and bedding respectively.  Being open sided the hay or straw remains relatively dry as the air is allowed to pass the outside of the rick.

I opted to make the all timber version with a dilapidated corrugated iron roof that would fit into my 1930s layout.  Dimensions of these barns don’t seem to be critical so you can make yours to suit your layout.  Mine happens to be one and a half bays long.  Why one and a half? The backdrop around my layout is mirror and therefore when the one and a half bay barn is placed against the mirror it will appear to be a full length three bay barn.  And that’s without any effort!

The actual size of each bay is 19’ wide x 20’ long x 15’ to the eaves.  The dimensions can easily be transposed into 4 or 7mm to the foot scale.

The main timbers, made from obeche started off as a 7mm square section, but had the corners carved off to give the impression of age.  These are joined together with PVA and small panel pins (photo 1).  The holes for the pins are drilled using a pin chuck and drill bit to suit.  Pinning the joints allows the project to move on at a swift pace and obviously makes for a stronger model (photo 2).  The diagonal cross braces are from the same material simply carved down to approximately 4mm in cross section, each end of the timber cut at 45⁰ and glued in place.  The end legs have two braces each, and the intermediate have three braces.  Within an hour the frame of the building is complete and set to one side.

The roof is very simple to make.  It is a ‘tent’ with closed ends made from 2mm mount board or similar.  This should overhang the sides and ends of the leg sub-assembly by abut 3mm.  As can be seen from photo 3, I have carved a hole in the cardboard on both sides.  This should be done prior to glueing the tent together.  The purpose of these holes is to enable ‘slipped’ sheets of corrugated iron to expose the roof beams beneath.  The exposed beams are made from thin strips of 2mm square obeche, glued onto a ‘dummy’ hole.  This dummy is made from card but the hole cut in it is about 3mm smaller all round than the original hole cut in the roof.  This dummy is then glued behind the original hole in order that the roof joists or beams may be glued to it.  The beams are cut to the original hole size and will, therefore, sit on the dummy flush with the roof.  It sounds a bit complicated, but once under way, it will be obvious to you.  Before gluing the beams in place, paint the interior of the tent black.  I use India ink for this purpose, it is cheap and dense in colour.  The reason for painting the inside is to make sure that when looking through any holes in the roof, no construction card will be obviously visible.  That done, glue the tent together and the beams in place with PVA.

Dutch Barn - by John Mileson

I am fascinated by the amount of dereliction on so many of our farm buildings, and the timber cladding and corrugated iron reflects this on this model.  The cladding on the end is made from strips of 200gsm watercolour paper, cut 7mm wide and which are crudely torn along parts of some of the long edges giving the effect of wear and tear and natural degeneration over the years (photo 4).

Starting at the bottom of the first end of the ‘tent’, glue on the strips of paper, each overlapping by approximately half its width.  When dry, using a pair of sharp scissors, trim the ends level with the roofs.  Repeat this operation on the other end.  The next job is to paint these ends with watercolour paint.  Mix a very dilute mixture of water and sepia watercolour paint and give the cladding a wash of this mix.  Whilst doing this, add very small amounts of neat sepia to the brush and apply to the washed surfaces to give darker highlights (photo 5).  Take care not to overdo this, subtlety is the secret.

Whilst in painting mode, paint the legs of the barn sub-assembly and roof beams (if applicable) using a fairly strong grey/green mix of watercolours.  When applying this paint to the wooden components, add talcum powder to the mix.  This will give a lovely thick finish to the paint and give a true impression of older timbers.

Since the roof is to be covered in corrugated iron sheeting, the next job is to prepare the corrugated sheets.  I have used Slater’s corrugated Plastikard cut into sheets 42mm x 22mm (approximately equivalent to 6’ x 3’ in real life).  In readiness for spraying these sheets, a small piece of Blu Tak is applied to the underside of each sheet, which in turn is pressed onto a sheet of scrap card.  Doing it this way makes painting with the grey acrylic primer much easier since the sheets are all together and there is no tendency for them to blow away when spraying.  When dry, the sheets should be stuck to the roof using Bostik all-purpose adhesive.  Starting at the bottom corner of one side of the roof (photo 6) allow the sheet to over-hang the card by about 3mm at the bottom.  The next and subsequent sheets are glued on with 1-2mm overlap on the adjacent sheets.  Having worked along the bottom of the roof, repeat the operation on the second line of sheeting, overlapping the sheet below by a couple of millimetres.  Following this pattern of work complete this side of the roof and repeat this operation on the opposite side of the roof.  The ridge is made by folding the corrugated sheet in half along its length.  Each is then stuck onto the ridge overlapping its neighbour.

You will see from the photographs I have not only left holes in the roof, but have stuck some of the sheets on slightly askew (photos 7 & 8).  Some sheets have also been bent up at the corners and others torn to illustrate damage.

The corrugated iron is now painted a red rust colour using Humbrol 113.  I use a very dilute mix such that the rust colour barely covers the grey primer and whilst wet I just blend in some silver paint in very small amounts such that only a trace of the original ‘galvanising’ is still evident.  Treat each sheet as a separate item and paint the wash on liberally allowing it to run.  A warning! Don’t use too much silver paint as it goes everywhere and can end up looking a complete mess.  Remember, the objective is to achieve a very rusty galvanised effect.

The roof tent is then glued onto the leg sub-assembly and that’s it – job done! (photos 9 & 10).

To finish the whole scene I have made a couple of straw ricks, one flat topped to go into the Dutch barn, the second to stand alongside (photo 11).

John Mileson

October 2012

 This article first appeared in ‘Narrow Lines’, the magazine of the 7mm Narrow Gauge Association


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