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Luke's Garage & Gas Station

Started by Stuart, June 29, 2022, 10:40:06 AM

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Hello fellow scale modelers. My name is Stuart Wakefield.  Although I have just joined this forum community, when Russ moved away from publishing his beautiful magazines and annuals, I began looking to the forum for inspiration. Over the past several years, I have been peeking in to have a look at all the great work and modeling suggestions you talented artists are doing. So now, I want to share my modeling efforts with you too, get your feedback and perhaps I can offer some constructive advise for some of you along the way. So here goes.

Let me introduce you to one of my projects, Luke's Garage and Gas Station.  This is a 1/12th scale model which is probably a larger scale than what most of you work in. As a young fellow I began in HO scale then as a young adult, graduated to O scale. Now I work in even larger scales and have shifted my emphasis from model railroading to architectural subjects. The larger scale allows me to be more detail oriented, something I enjoy.

At any rate, Luke's is a project I began some years ago. Over the years it has evolved into something more and more complex and detailed as I continue to research gas stations of the early 1930's time period. It's still in it's construction phase with yet a fair amount to do before I can call it complete.

The scenario I have imagined is that Luke, the proprietor, runs the garage and gas station by day and resides in his upstairs apartment by night. His establishment is out in the country and serves the local farm residents and any city folk who may  be out for a leisurely drive. In the hills, not far away, are apple orchards and shops with delicious apple desserts.

Some of the items in the model are purchased pieces available commercially but, I almost always rework them to suit my taste. Most of what I do is scratch built and when I can't find what I need I'll sit down at my computer and work up the item in a 3D program (SketchUp) and then send the file off for printing.

I've included some photographs.



More photos showing interior spaces.



Nice that you show your little works of art here. Can you also tell us a little more about how you do what?


Stuart, please ask somebody to clean that toilet!

And Frithjof is right: You need to tell us how you created the model and effects. Warning: You may end up producing pages of information to answer all the specific questions I anticipate you'll receive.



Very neat workmanship - Plus lots of nice detail
Never Let someone who has done nothing tell you how to do anything
Stuart McPherson

Chuck Doan

"They're most important to me. Most important. All the little details." -Joseph Cotten, Shadow of a Doubt



Okay, I will do my best to recall how I have done things. I began this project back in the early 1980's so remembering exact methods will be a bit of a memory test.

Maybe I should begin by explaining how my project even came into being. 

Back in the 80's the dollhouse craze was in full swing. I had an opportunity to take a class hosted by Noel and Pat Thomas who were, and continue to be, well known for their unique and masterfully created 1/12th scale dollhouses. I use the term "dollhouse" loosely here because their creations were meant for the serious miniature collector, not for child's play.  To get a sense of their excellent work, take a look at their website http://www.thomasopenhouse.com

As I say, I had the privilege of attending one of their classes where they demonstrated their construction, painting and weathering methods. The class included the shell of what they called the "Model A Garage".  The object of the class was to then add the detail, i.e. board and batten siding, shingles, trim, windows, doors, hardware, etc. etc. and to give it an aged "lived in" appearance.  It was a glorious several days as we learned how to gouge, scratch, stain, paint, and generally give our respective garages the look of years of wear and tear.  Obviously there was no chance that any of us would be able to complete the fabrication and finishing methods for the entire structure, we were to take what we had learned and finish our projects at home.

When I got my project home, I wanted to add my own twist to the effort. I came up with the idea of attaching a gas station to the garage to make it a commercial enterprise.  I began researching gas stations of the 1930's, not only the architectural styles but the kinds of equipment such a business would be required to use.  I soon learned that to make a believable diorama at 1/12th scale would require considerable effort and a boat load of detail. This would be great fun and provide an opportunity for me grow in my modeling techniques and methods.  If I could pull it off, I thought, I might venture into even more challenging efforts in the future.

Here I am some 40 years later still learning and growing on the same project.  The chance to work on Luke's Garage and Gas has been sporadic over those 40 years but now that I am in retirement I am hoping I can pick up the pace considerably.

So now, let me put on my thinking cap and see if I can remember just how I have done what I have done.     


In the photo of the interior of the garage, the pot belly stove is a plastic kit by Chrysndon.  Back when Floquil was still producing it's model railroad paints, I used Grimmy Black overall and then finished up with pastel weathering chalks to provide the slightly rusty and dusty condition.  Even though it can't be seen in this photo, I've added a few cinders here and there below the stove made of grains of sand and painted gray.  The stove pipe is fashioned from Evergreen Scale Models plastic tubing. The coffee pot is also a Chrysndon item. It came in the blue color you see in the photo but then I stained it to give it a well used look.

The cabinet and shelving at the back of the garage is all scratch built.  All eight drawers are functional.  The work bench top is stained with India ink blotches to appear as if oil and grease have permeated it's surface. Eventually I will fill the work bench and shelves with tools, auto parts and cast off mechanical junk.

The entire structure is wired and electrified.  You can see the glowing light bulb at the top of the photo.

The plumbing pipes in the corner were created using various sizes of Plastruct tubing. To make the curved sections of piping I heated the plastic just enough to soften the material so I could form the bends.

The garage floor is stained with actual dirty motor oil mixed with dust and fine sifted dirt to mimic years of auto repair work.  I also hoped it would add an odor of old oil to further add to the sense of a well used mechanical space.

Ray Dunakin

Really beautiful work! I love the subtle signs of wear and weathering.
Visit my website to see pics of the rugged and rocky In-ko-pah Railroad!

Ray Dunakin's World


Very nice work! Thanks for posting this


Great work Stuart.  Welcome to the forum.

Glad that your telling us how you did this.

Why isn't there mouse-flavored cat food?
George Carlin

Bill Gill

Welcome to the forums, Stuart. Terrific attention to details! I like the idea of trying to create the ambience of a garage smell by staining the floor with old motor oil


Thank you everyone for your encouraging words.

Moving to the front of the gas station, I have included a scratch-built bench, a couple pieces of signage, and a lubester.

This being a country setting where life would have been a little slower, I felt a bench would be an inviting addition where customers could spend a moment or two chatting with the station owner or enjoying a cool bottle of Orange Crush.  The design of the bench is patterned after a bench my parents had in a breezeway at our home in Southern California. I have aged this one considerably, especially the end of the bench where it is more exposed to the weather.

The lubster is one I drew up in SketchUp. I LOVE SketchUp and use the program regularly in my model work for layouts of various kinds and for preparing 3D pieces for printing.  Such was the case here with my lubester pump and tank lid.  Here in Utah, I am fortunate to live close to a fellow who has made a massive collection of vintage petroleum related items; signage, gas pumps, lubesters, old automobiles and trucks etc.  I made careful measurements of one of his lubsters and recreated it in miniature. 

I sometimes wonder if creating models on the computer is cheating to some degree.  Before the advent of the computer and 3D modeling programs, the scale modeler was relegated to creating things my hand the hard way by sculpting, carving, or machining methods.  But I do not own a lathe or milling machine nor would I know how to use them if I had them.  A computer with a 3D program seems a viable alternative.

Once I had the lubster pieces in 3D form I sent them off to Shapeways in New York to have them printed.  The detail they are able to generate with their printing process is outstanding. There is a little clean up involved before paint can be applied and the finished pieces need to be handled with care. Thin areas are especially vulnerable to damage.  With this piece I managed to break the crank during clean up so needed to cut away the broken area and recreate the crank with brass strip.  I was able to salvage the knob at the end of the crank and epoxy it back in place.  The bolt head at the top of the crank was replaced with a brass one I had in my parts bin.  The pieces are primed and ready for a finish coat.  The lubester tank is .100 sheet styrene.  The whole assembly will eventually be aged and grimed up with oil spills.

The Orange Crush sign was one I was able to pull off the internet.  After doing a little doctoring in Adobe Photoshop it was ready for printing. 

The gas price placard was made of sheet brass and painted to appear as a chalk board surface.  The Regular and Ethel labels are decals I created in Photoshop.  I used a white Prismacolor pencil to indicate the hand written gas prices. The No Smoking sign is another decal created in Photoshop.

Brass tubing was used for the handrail.  The 45-degree elbows and the tee fittings are also brass tubing cut, shaped and then put together with J-B Weld epoxy.  The white paint job still needs to be aged a bit to indicate wear.


Station front showing bench, railing, signage and lubster.


Nope, you weren't "cheating" with the tools you use, Stuart. Everything changes; SketchUp, 3-D printing, and lasers may well be the future of mainstream modeling. A caveman with a hammer and chisel could say guys with razor saws and hobby knives were "cheating" but the reality is we now just have better tools to create more perfect models. Like yours.

Were it not for computers, digital cameras, and digital printers I'd never have been able to start and maintain my publishing company. Unless I'm mistaken, our first issue in late 1991 was the first completely digitally created magazine. And, because I had to spend so much of my time on Photoshop and AutoCAD, I had almost no time to learn hand painting and weathering techniques. Instead I ended up creating those effects with Photoshop and inkjet printed paper. They produced better results than I could achieve with paints and stains (although maybe a little below the standard the guys on this forum achieve with traditional methods).

In other words, embrace positive change and use whatever tools best suit you to get the results you want.