Scratch build correction!

Well, I have to start with a correction today.

Yesterday’s post – Ray’s station – was indeed a kit, and not scratch built.

But that opens a can of worms. Have a look below, is Clark’s building a kit or scratch built?

“Hi Al,

I built a 3D printer to expand what I could do at home, and wound up printing this small building.

The first two pics are as it came off the printer.

My best friend’s father Philip Koehler is also into N-scale trains; he was visiting and obviously liked it, so I was pleased to give it to him. I got the pic of it in his layout a month later. He did far more justice to it than I would have been able to, it looks great in his layout!

For the curious, the building is printed in ABS plastic (same stuff that Lego bricks are made from), one tiny layer at a time (about 0.2mm in this case).

The top of the roof and top of the smokestack looking a bit squirrelly is due to the hot print head spending too much time near that section of plastic and that keeps it from properly hardening in shape. I have since learned that if I print 3 or 4 objects at a time, it looks much better!

The original file for the building is not of my creation, it was posted by Thingiverse user, Stevemedmin.



Printed building1

Printed building2

Printed building3

What do you think? Kit or scratch built? Anyhow, here’s some old school scratch building:

“Hi Alastair

I send you my fuel station for 1:120 gauge. I’m would like to built TT diorama with polish rolling stock era III.

Everyhin’ the best



That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming, even if it’s a kit, a scratch build, a kit bash, a layout, a start… just hit reply to any of my mails.

And if today is the big day when you get going on your layout, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

37 Responses to Scratch build correction!

  1. James Ruggiero says:

    I think 3D printing is not scratch building. I’d put it in the category of kit bashing. Because, it’s more your design process, and then more of a modified kit. Scratch building, in my opinion is more using pieces, parts, and components of non-related buildings to make a completed structure.

  2. Philip Howe says:

    What a nice little house; the development of 3D printing technology has opened a whole vista of opportunity, including creating complex replacement parts for worn-out components on RTR stock etc.

    However, this is neither a kit, nor is it scratch-built. Clark has simply printed something he has downloaded from a design posted for use by someone else, a bit like printing a photo that you like from Flickr for your office wall.



  3. Mike Street says:

    Definitely not a kit and not scratch built as such, designed and certainly unique and looks very good in place on Phillip’s layout.
    The oil depot looks excellent, especially as it must be tiny, can’t tell from the photo, nothing to measure/scale it by. If that is scratch built in TT , eleven out of ten for that. The tugboat and the U-boat are brilliant models of course. Mike S

  4. 3D printing is a logical extension for us modeller-techies! It is kit-bashing, but it is also scratch building too – How about we call is Techie-Builds?

    If you think about it it allows us to clone any thing, and reproduce it – well, as long as it fits in the printer! Here is to the end of obsolete and unobtainable items of rolling stock, broken items, and so on!

    Now all we need is an affordable 3D scanner to link, and we are done!

  5. builder Kim says:

    What is the time it took to make up that building. How much did it cost for material. What is the cost for such a printer. That isn’t scratch building.That be kitbashing for sure.Still cool, Any info would be good.

  6. builder Kim says:

    Greg that fuel station is very cool. Is that a scratch build? if it is very cool indeed. I guess it is Ho scale? if it is scratch built.Is it possible you describe it more in detail.As to what you used for material,how long it took. cost that sort of thing. If anyone was to copy your cool station be easier to figure what pieces they would need to start with. thanks for any info Greg

  7. Peter Jones says:

    I think it is kit build. As far as I understand to scratch build something you start with photographs, plans, blue prints, dimensions etc then assemble the materials you are going to use ie wood, metal, plasticard then start making the model. Thats my idea of scratch building for what it is worth.

    Pete “The Mackem” in England

  8. Ken Finley says:

    To my mind, scratch building is taking raw materials and building a recognizable object. If I take styrene and build a lake bed racer that looks like the Spirit of America because no kit for that exists in 1/87, that is scratch building. Kit bashing is taking parts from one or more kits to build something different. If I take two P-51 Mustang kits and modify them to become an F82 in 1/87, that is kit bashing. Taking two service stations and melding them together to create a larger station with a two story office is also kitbashing. Modelers have taken existing products and created molds to reproduce them in quantity for years. There is an excellent example of that on the 1/87 scale site. We don’t call it scratch building or kit bashing. The printed building is definitely not kit bashing, it may be scratch building, but I really think we should avoid the argument and call it modeling. It’s a new creative process we can have a lot of fun with, without arguing about it.

  9. Marion Each says:

    Scratch-building, kit-bashing, whatever! Note his opening statement: “I BUILT a 3D printer……” Oh, my goodness, as engineering-challenged as I am, I can fully appreciate his ability to do such a thing. Otherwise, I think his product is neither scratch or kit; it’s in a category all its own, for which I do not have a term…..yet. Meanwhile, I will have to be content with something like “producing”. That is certainly an understatement, and I apologize to you, Clark, for not having the brain power to come up with a more appropriate term. At any rate, you have done a marvelous job of building a mechanism that puts out a product that the rest of us would have to pay a lot for and/or put in endless hours building. Thanks for sharing that!


  10. wow pretty koool way to build structures for modeling…
    and how original can u get?
    keep it running…!!!

  11. svyatoslav vykrest says:

    I wonder what engine the boat has. And when looking I remembered the boat models from my childhood which had remarkable type of engine -two small tubes soldered to the thin metal diaphragm fixed to the support stand .After filling the tubes with water from the syringe,the boat was put on the water,the burner (a small candle) gave off heat to the membrane and engine started working with a wonderful sound of working engine! the boat started off very quickly. Does anybody know the engine like this?

  12. paul Otway says:

    I like it all.

  13. Joe Touchette says:

    What is the scale of the print out buildings?


    Joe T.

  14. John Moody says:

    The engine mentioned above is called a “pop pop” boat engine because of the sound they make. I have one that I bought from a curiousity shop a couple of years ago. They are still made in India.
    They work great.

  15. Peter P says:

    Hi folks, it is totally irrelavant wether you scratch build or build from a kit or merge the two processes, what IS relevant, is thet you have a go and produce “stuff”
    I started out with very simple plastic kits and now have the motto, “if it suites my purpose I can build it” I dont care how I get to the end result, but enjoy getting there and seeing the finished product.
    The only bit of advice I can give is, if the object of your efforts looks good 3 feet away, its a goer! Ask the “rivet counters” what have you produced? Generally they will get a bit shy at that question.
    Go on, build stuff!

  16. Brent Polson says:

    I would consider it scratch built if he was the author of the electronic computer file that was transmitted to the 3-D Printer. Otherwise it would be considered a kit if he takes someone else’s creation that took many hours to draw up and layout. This technique of using someone else’s file is called “Plug and Play”

  17. Brent Polson says:

    I could construct a knife and make glue, but it doesn’t mean I scratch built a model. Same thing with the 3D printer. He made the printer, but he didn’t make the blueprint of the building.

  18. Clark says:

    Marion picked up on it before I could ask the question 🙂 If I build the printer, does it count as scratch-built? 🙂 But really, the house in question was drawn up by someone else. I do a lot of designing things for myself, I just happened to see a neat building and wanted to see how it’d turn out. I would encourage anyone interested to try using Sketchup to model a building or whatsit in scale. If you don’t know someone with a printer, there are services online that can print your files for you. It’s a blast and so very satisfying when you see something you’ve drawn up come to life. I’m working on some structures of my own and I’ll send an update to Al when I get some printed to show. To everyone who scratchbuilds ‘old school’, I still do that, and many of you are better at it than I am and have my respect. I don’t see 3D printing replacing scratchbuilding in the near future for building unique and fantastic things for our setups; more as complimenting it 🙂

  19. Brian Morgan says:

    I think perhaps we are getting a bit neurotic about scratch building and kits – all I know is that 3D printing opens a new world to modellers to create “things” that will look good on our layouts – especially items such as bridge arches that we may need a lot to build a viaduct – many very good modellers have in the past had things made by specialists to incorporate in their models but don’t get this level of criticism

  20. John Reynolds says:

    In my opinion, a 3d printout is most definitely not kitbashed. To be kitbashed, there has to have been a kit and that kit has to have been modified.
    It is not exactly scratchbuilt either. Traditional scratchbuilding does not have the kind of preformed parts that define a kit. Depending on the source code for the print, it is not really a kit either.
    The only conclusion then is that anything built using 3d printing technology falls into a category all its own.

  21. Rod Mackay says:

    Is something scratchbuilt? Probably not if it comes with instructions.

  22. Phil says:

    So neat to see 3 d printing develop into something everyone can use! As for the Fitzroy, -brilliant, she looks good in the water and seems like she would be a dry boat!

  23. Fred says:

    Hi Al
    I really appreciate it when submissions use a ruler in their photos and announce the scale of their models. There is a big difference between a N scale model and one in O. Just finding some of the bits and pieces for an N scale scratch model is a real challenge. Most of the modelers that have submitted their work have done an excellent job. Please keep up your window on our hobby. It is one of the few places that is not trying to scam our money. Just let us know when you need our support. Thanks.

  24. don kadunc says:

    There is point when kit bashing is so extensive that it is scratch building. Most “scratch builds” use pre-made windows, doors, and other accessories.

  25. Mike Childs says:

    Greg, Your fuel depot is fantastic. Great job.

  26. James says:

    What is a 3 D printer?

  27. Doc Raffety says:

    This is no more kit bashing than the print buildings you sell to print out and customize to use on the layout. I think it is neat and agree we have to find ways to use cheaply .

  28. Stephen D Gispanski says:

    3 D print is not a kit’ a machine built it. Or you can look at it as, you designed it on paper or computer and had the 3 D printer make it for you just like a machine makes the part and puts it in the box and then you went too the store and paid money for your kit. Every person has there input on kit or made it from scratch.

    Now the fuel station looks like it was from parts of something else, straws, bullet cases, small can, ect, but it also looks like a kit.

    Who is to say what is kit and what is not. Me, lol, not to be rude but come on guys, even if I built my home, business, town ect out of wood but if I still put straws for pipping, would it be scratch built, 1/2 & 1/2? All I have to say guys, have fun doing the build.

    Here is my dilemma, I have been disabled for the last 19 years, I have a very hard time finishing anything so I have a hard time starting anything. So I turn to you guys, I love the stuff that everyone comes up with and I will keep on reading everything that you print and the pictures are so great guys, no matter what comes of my little outburst. Keep on on building guys and I am going to keep working on my problem that I have. Now you know, even if I don’t know all of yall, you know more then I have ever share with anyone, beside family. So Please keep on building and keep on posting. I have some trains but I only have a 10 x 10 room. No excuses, right, right . so I am going to design a fold down table and make it. 2 x 4 , five of them. I am putting numbers in my brain so !!! Happy Building
    SDG. St.Petersburg Fl, USA

  29. Being old school (age 77) as well as being a highly advanced Technologist (new school going on 55 years) to answer your question where a 3-D printer is scratch built or machine built. First one must define what one would consider to be machine built – as in thousands of duplicates based on forged tools out of steel or something to catch liquid plastic as in a computer operated very tight tolerance dimensions vs something that as one piece once or maybe twice though no more. All you have to do is look to “how many” of any kind of a model is made to understand that whatever it takes to make something from scratch whether it be with a Xacto Knife or a heat gun or even a 3-D printer and therein lies your answer. It’s SCRATCH BUILT, no doubt about it.

    Otherwise, we might as well return to hand made stone knives and heavy rocks for hammering and forget about paperclips altogether.

  30. Terry Fleet, Old Hampshire says:

    Wow Al you hit the jackpot for replies today.
    You have joined the digital age that everyone reading this can also join. All over the UK and I expect the world schools are teaching the use of 3D printers and many of those pupils are buying / building their own or joining their local digital makers clubs physically or on the web.
    Anyone with a computer [that’s you] can search for the local facebook page and find people with 3D printers who might [will probably] be happy to help or print for you at cost something a bit different to their usual products. Then you browse Thingiverse and other sites to find bits or complete models. When you have mastered them then you can start to play scaling to get perspective ie make prints smaller for the back of your model, screeching and adding more windows to make a double fronted property. I find that they are best for wagon loads.
    But there limits most printers cannot produce model much longer than 6 inches unless printed end on [ie standing on end mine can print up to 11 inches] the modern longer wagons have to made in sections and / or may warp. They take time and may only be able to make one model a night, the more you try to print at once to fill the bed the longer it takes and the more waste if the print goes wrong.

  31. My my… A can of worms indeed.
    Before 3-D printing there were three common understandings of model building.
    3-D printing really needs its own name.
    Kit built was just that, building something from a kit the way the manufacturer intended. 3 D printing almost fits into this category but not quite — Especially if the builder who printed it is also the designer.
    Kit Bashing or Kit Mingling (Art Curren’s term since he believed “bashing” sounded too violent) is modifying a kit or more commonly, using parts from other kits to make something that is uniquely yours. – This is what I do with your wonderful Print-Out kits. Your parts, your design, but the result is uniquely mine. 3-D printing really does not fall into this category except for printing parts to modify a kit.
    Scratchbuilding is to use raw materials to create a model when no kit is available. This is what I do with my windows but have also done with other structures. 3-D printing really does not fall into this category at all.

  32. Mike Balog says:

    First Off. Congrats to the use of new Technology in Model Building. Am Old School, age 70 where I know the difference between kit building Vs real Scratch Building. This 3 D Building is the newest version of advances of computer technology. Just Call It 3 D Building.. it’s Not Rocket Science. Just Use it instead of Arguing and Whining About it. This is supposed to be a HOBBY.. not a Job. Guys Give it a Rest.

    I saw the capability of the first gen of 3 D printers… cost was several thousand dollars.. Which I am NOT Willing to invest in at my age. The Price has to Come Way Down… For Those of Us Old Enough to Remember, There used to be a MATTEL Vacuum Forming Plastic Molding Machine offered to “Kids” in the 1970’s You had different molds to make Thin Plastic Models With. Remember the Model Cars you could with these. BUT they were taken off the Market… due to “Consumer Lawsuits” I bet…. Sometimes you find these at Yard Sales or What Not Used Stuff Shops.

    One thing about using the New 3 D Printers, you can make exact replacement parts for things that are no longer in production. That is very helpful.

    Regarding the Oil Storage Depot.. Excellent Results.. Looks like the “Real Thing”. Like the Details that makes this jump to life.. Would Like to know where you got the Plans of the Layout, The Main Storage Tank. Piping, Etc. Can see the used AMMO Cartridges.. .45 Cal ? Could have used Dull Coat to knock off the Shine. This Oil Storage area modeled like this is good for limited Space on a small or large layout. If you combine several you would have a Tank Farm, so you could have a Duel Siding with Tank Cars and delivery trucks Would you considering sharing the Plans for the Storage Tank Project? Thanks.. Wishing ALL who Read this a Very Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families.. ~ Mike in Lebanon, N.H. U.S.A…

  33. Andy Evans says:

    I love how folks keep saying they want posters to include scale info, then not bother to read the post when they include it (good try Greg, 1:120,as well as TT) as well as requesting a parts list, instructions and costs of any project…..
    Let’s see, when I build something, it’s usually off the cuff, out of parts on hand and over a period of days. This means that costs for items in my part of the world may not reflect where you live. This is an international site, after all. The fun of our hobby is that I’m creating things for myself, and after a few days, at my age, I am lucky to even remember how those first parts went together, let alone what my original design was.
    If I were producing a TV show (or a video), I would probably take the time to note all of these details. But then, if I went to all of this trouble, should I not be able to be paid for my intellectual property? Fair is fair.
    Guys, this site is to inspire us to get off of our collective duffs, and see what WE can do for ourselves. Al has and continues to inspire me to start that Big scale Lionel project in the basement (I know, lucky me) after sitting on my hands for over 10 years, for that, I thank you! It is coming along nicely.
    I’m not even concerned about how you address 3D technology….
    This site is a wonderful service, let’s enjoy it for what it is…
    Andy in Yakima Washington, USA

  34. Will in NM says:

    Greg, Great looking oil terminal, especially since it’s TT (1/120th) scale. Almost as tricky as building in N scale (1/160th).

    Clark, Interesting use of your 3D printer. The building remoinds me of some resin cast buildings I’ve seen made by ERTL and others. The idea of building your own 3D printer is more of a project than I could imagine tackling. Good show!

    For all those debating “scratch-built” versus “kit-bashed” versus “3D printed”, what do you do with “craftsman kits” which are like scratch building without having to source all your own parts? Personally, I don’t care what you call a nicely built model railroad item – I just like seeing what others are doing in the hobby and deriving some inspiration from their ideas. And, Al, thank you for providing this forum where such free exchange of ideas and opinions is possible.

  35. The real question is if the 3D printer was scratch build or kit making its product the same

  36. Ken of Lakewood Shores says:

    Geez why can’t we just enjoy the fabulous layouts seen on this site without the nitepicking. After all it’s YOUR layout. And that’s good enough for me no matter how it got that way.

  37. Roger says:

    Definition: scratch built
    Scratch Built : An object which is conceived and built by its creator from whatever materials are available

    Kit Bashed: An object which is created and whose parts are fabricated with the intention of being assembled by another but when the parts are then used to assemble an object different from that intended

    Kit Build: An object which is created and whose parts are fabricated but then assembled by another

    Thus, if the assembler had the idea, 3D printed it and assembled it then it’s a SCRATCH build
    If someone else had the idea and formatted it for 3D print and then another person printed and built it it’s a KIT build
    If someone else had an idea and formatted it for 3D print and someone Kelsey built something else, it’s a KITBASH

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