Updated: Aug 28, 2020
Building a Dovecote
The other day I was sitting at the table finishing up a model church for my Normandy table. My wife happened to comment that I should make a dovecote to go with my set. We had seen lots of dovecotes when we were in France in September, and we had been particularly drawn to the one in the grounds of Chateau de Talcy, in the Loire Valley. My creative mind went into overdrive, and within minutes I was rummaging in the kitchen for various bits of cardboard etc that I had hoarded for such an event.
The dovecote in question is this wonderful structure. It has a lovely squat proportion, and the interior is so cleverly built (there’s an amazing rotating ladder mechanism!) that I was very pleased to model it for my wargaming table.
The first task was to work out how big the tower should be when it was reduced to 1/56 scale. The door was a good indicator, and I knew from going into the structure that the door was about 6’ high (I had to duck a little). That, in addition to the drip-rings that run around it, gave us a good indication of an approximate height. The base of the model was a cardboard tube, and I was able to get a close enough ratio between tube diameter and height. It looked right, anyway!
Construction of the core structure was straightforward. I made a cone from cereal-box cardboard, ensuring that the height of the apex was correct. There’s no tile overhang, although there is a course of stone that stands slightly proud just below the tiles, so this was modelled with cardboard and then the roof was hot-glued in place.
A set of small steps was carved from blue extruded polystyrene, and a door made from coffee stirrers (I used a spare door from an mdf kit as a placeholder). The next stage was to apply quick drying filler. I use any cheap brand of filler – this one happened to be the Diall range from B&Q, but any should be fine. I used a small trowel to apply a semi-neat coat all over the tube. Before this had dried I used a wet textured rolling pin (from Greenstuffworld) and carefully rolled it around the circumference of the tube. Wetting the pin ensures it doesn’t stick to the filler. I gave it a quick blast with a hair dryer to remove the excess water from the surface. The model was then hot-glued to a base, and then the door and steps were also glued in place.
The next step was one of the trickiest, and I had to think hard on how to achieve it. A distinctive feature of this dovecote (and others) is the rings of bevelled tiles that run around then. Their French name translates as ‘drip’, but their function is primarily to prevent predators from scaling the walls and getting at the pigeons inside! I thought about using strips of card or foam, but I didn’t think they’d give me the effect I wanted. However, then I had an idea! I created a ‘collar’ of card and taped it around the tower at the height I needed. I then carefully scraped filler downwards against this collar. When I removed the collar it left behind a ledge of material with a flat lower surface and a sloped upper surface. I was chuffed! I repeated it with the upper course, and when it was almost dry I neatened it with a knife and applied a coat of PVA to strengthen it.
When all that was dry I cut some pieces of card to form the large stone blocks and lintel around the door, gluing them in place. I then started on tiling the roof. I used a set of laser-cut rooftiles (these ones were from Warbases) and carefully shaped them around the conical roof. I used superglue to fix them in place quickly. The ‘dormers’ (with little doors for the pigeons) were constructed from 5mm foamcore, thick cardstock, coffee stirrers and more rooftiles. The final step before priming the model was to apply a filler-slurry to any ‘stone’ items. This is a loose wash of filler (just wetted with a few drops of water) and applied to anything that needs to have a stone texture.
The model was primed the next day with a standard grey primer, and then base coated in emulsion. I used a mix of beige and grey (see my previous tutorial on Normandy buildings for details of the colours used). Once dry it was given a wash of diluted Agrax Earthshade. The roof was painted in terracotta colours and also washed in Agrax Earthshade. The final stages included painting the door, applying some highlights to the roof, using muddy-green washes to produce weathering and staining, and dots of grey for lichen. The base was flocked with a mix of fine and coarse turf.
And there you have it – a dovecote suitable for your WW2 table, or really any table going back to the middle ages. It was very satisfying to build something entirely from scratch (and having to think through how to achieve a certain thing), and also to make a model of somewhere I’ve visited and thoroughly enjoyed. I should note that in the initial discussion with my wife she also suggested building a modular abbey – I was also suitably inspired by that, so let’s see what happens down the road…
If you’d like to follow my wargaming hobbying, with games, terrain and minis, I’m on twitter at @Joe_Wargamer.