Skip to main content

Edward Tweats: Modelling the Tobacco Merchant's House

7 September 2017

By Edward Tweats, model making student at City of Glasgow College

Hi, I'm Edward Tweats, a Model Making student from the City of Glasgow College. One of our projects was to create an Historical prop that relates to Scottish heritage from before the 1940's.

After extensive research into Glasgow's history along with my interest in architecture I eventually chose 42 Miller Street, 'The Tobacco Merchants House', also known as 'Baillie Craig's House. The tobacco merchants were an iconic and staple part of Glasgow's past and what made it the prominent city it is today. The fact that 42 Miller Street is one of the last tobacco merchant houses left standing, I felt it to be an appropriate project with great potential.

The house itself was designed by Scottish architect John Craig in 1775. Although the building had undergone a considerable roof alteration in the late 19th century, it was restored back to its original design during the early 20th century, as it remains to this day.

Whilst at the property early one morning with my tape measure and note book, I was spotted by Civic Trust Administration Assistant Karen MacLeod who introduced me to Civic Trust Director John Pelan. Mr Pelan kindly assisted me in finding and photocopying the necessary original working drawings of the building in order for me to accurately portray it.

I began by drawing 1:50 scale drawings of each elevation to become full scale drawings of my model, transferring the information onto autoCAD (Computer Aided Design), duplicating the drawings and adjusting them appropriately for laser cut files.

The majority of the model is constructed from 3mm MDF, such as the exterior walls of the house, the 3-level base and some detailing. Other materials include 6mm MDF, 0.5mm & 1mm styrene, 2mm acrylic and 1.4mm mountboard for the windows and the hand rails at the back.

I turned a stick of dense (purple) tooling board (see text box on right) on the lathe and using a set of needle files and half profile negative templates, created a chimney pot and urn. Using these two pieces as masters in a silicone resin mould allowed me to duplicate them by casting 10 chimney pots and 5 urns from a polyurethane resin.

ET 1

Aside from using the lathe, I'd say the most challenging area of construction would be making the roof tiles as I had to cut 10mm wide strips of 1mm styrene to size, individually, using a scalpel, fixing them together then sanding the back flat so it would sit flush to the MDF roof without being too thick and out of proportion.

ET 2

Using a gravity-fed spray gun I painted everything with a unanimous grey primer base coat, highlighting any imperfections that needed to be remedied before spraying the final colour. The exterior walls of the house are sprayed in a biscuit coloured cellulose paint.

ET 3

To achieve a textured, grainy effect I adjusted the gun to shower little freckles of white paint, then again with a sprinkle of dark grey. This technique is called 'mottling' and helped bring the overall tone down to a realistic stone-like colour.

I have learned a lot of computer aided skills and crucial model making techniques that I hope to utilize in further projects. I really enjoyed this project, from interesting research to creating a fully realised architectural model. I hope it's been an interesting and enjoyable read for you also.

Thank you to Gaby Laing and the rest of the team at Civic Trust for giving me the opportunity to display my work.


Many thanks to Edward for allowing us to display his brilliant work here at the Tobacco Merchant's House during Doors Open Days 2017. Edward's online portfolio will soon be available here: - watch this space!


Tooling board

Tooling board is a grainless resin block that comes in a range of different densities, from a soft foam like density in a light yellow colour, to a heavy dark coloured block resembling the consistency of oak. This material widely substituted wood in the mid to late 20th century and has proved beneficial in the model making industry ever since.

Unlike wood, tooling board is a grainless material which means you don't have any grain to follow when cutting or shaping. It also won't rot or warp. Other names include modelling board and chemi-wood, due to its man-made wood like qualities. The name 'tooling board' comes from one of its primary purposes of creating 'masters' of tools to then be cast in mass production.