Tag Archives: Modelling

Constructing a Caravanserai

2015-02-10 14.16.20

Constructing a Caravanserai or ‘Serai’

Caravanserais were a common feature of the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asian landscape from Medieval through to near modern times. They were more often than not quite simple affairs designed to provide security and refreshment along the many trade routes. They were usually spaced a days travel apart or at major crossroads. If the region was disputed these compounds could take on a more martial role with stronger and higher walls as well as fortified towers and parapets.


This design is for one of the more common examples. This one has been constructed for North West India but with some simple adjustments, mainly to the gateway it could easily be made to represent one of the multitude of other caravanserais in other areas. This basic structure has a basic hollow box square compound with four walls surrounding a courtyard containing the well.


The dimensions have been specified to enable decent space for figures to be placed without significant danger of them falling from the walls.


  • Cutting board or surface
  • Metal straight edge ruler with handle
  • Sharp knife/scalpel (preferably with new blade)
  • Ruler + pencil
  • Set- square
  • PVA wood glue
  • Masking tape
  • Plaster/filler with the means of applying it such as a spatula, paint knife or large brish
  • Sand to mix into plaster
  • 30mm circular tube or compass (or similar) to describe the arches
  • Sewing pins (small heads)


5mm Foam-board

Exterior Walls

  • 2 x 300mm x 100mm
  • 2 x 290mm x 100mm

Interior Walls

  • 2 x 290mm x 70mm
  • 2 x 190mm x 70mm

4 archways should be cut into each of the interior walls where they face into the inner courtyard – except for the wall containing the main gate. These archways will need to be 50mm at their highest and 25mm wide.


  • 2 x 290mm x 50mm
  • 2 x 190mm x 50mm

Courtyard Well

  • 4 x 60mm x 10mm

Baseboard – thin ply

  • 320mm x 320mm

Coloured felt or fine striped material for interior curtains

Mount-board card for constructing main gates 2 x 90mm x 70mm as well as interior doors (2 x 40mm x 25mm) – refer to the sample templates. Alternatively 4Ground do a very useful set of 12 doors.

Mount board or thin balsa for the tiling around the top of the courtyard well (4 * 6mm x 60mm). Lightly score tile impressions into the card using a ball-point pen and ruler.


  1. Glue exterior walls using the set-square to ensure edges are at 90 degrees to each other.
  2. Tip – use masking tape to secure the joins whilst the glue is drying. Joins can be reinforced by bracing them with the small-headed sewing pins through the two pieces of foam board.
  3. Glue in long interior walls and roofs.
  4. Glue short interior walls and roofs.
  5. Attach gateways and interior doorways.
  6. Dress walls with plaster/sand mix.       Apply with reasonable coverage using a spatula or paint knife. Don’t be afraid to create texture by dragging the knife or stippling with a thick brush.
  7. Tip – to achieve a more ‘organic’ and slightly worn appearance use your knife to remove the straight corners and apply slight divots into the corners prior to applying any of the plaster. This removes the rather engineered sharp corners and suggests a more mud/adobe feel once the plaster has been applied.
  8. Gently sand down the walls to remove any excess flaky plaster
  9. Tip – once sanded down apply a watered down PVA covering to the entire model to secure the plaster before any paint is applied. This should protect the model from any rough handling and stop the plaster falling off.
  10. Assemble courtyard well and attach top tiles.
  11. Paint. If PVA has been applied to the entire model earlier then spray paints can be used without damage to the foam core, otherwise apply a simple undercoat. Use of progressive lighter shades either by angled sprays, or dry-brush will finish the main painting required for the walls and walkways. Paint the gateways and doors a dark brown weathered wood effect.
  12. The baseboard should be dressed and painted as appropriate to the region which it is intended for.
  13. Cut and attach the coloured felt to the interior faces of the arches surrounding the inner courtyard.


Use of this model in Wargames

This model was originally constructed to support my interest in the Indian Mutiny (1857-1858). Two of the earlier battles involved serais, the Battle of Budli-ke-Serai on 8th June 1857 (the give away is in the name), and the Battle of Najafgarh on 25th August 1857. In both incidents the serais were central to the Mutineers battle plans representing the focus for their defences.


Attachments to come include;

  • Templates for walls, roofs, and well
  • Templates for gates and doors

Photos of finished model

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Excellent color comparison tools

If like me you have a somewhat eclectic mix of paints then understanding what colours are the same as others in different ranges is very confusing.  This is ever more the case when finding the  great paint scheme for waiting up your troops to only find it listing the Vallejo paint range.

Fortunately the Internet Elves are always busy seeking solutions and in this case there are various charts and tools available.  Most unfortunately (for me at least) focus upon the various Citadel colour interactions compared against each other usually being compared against Vallejo.  Fortunately for those like me who have Humbrol, Tamiya, and various craft paints also languishing in your draws there are other tools available.

Wargames@nordalia has an easy to use  chart for working out what craft paints align to what Vallejo paints;


Another great tool is available from Silicon Dragons


This is a tool which allows you to put in a specific colour from a range and get all of the nearest colour alternatives from the other ranges.

There is another useful site at;


This does some very clever matching to identify the nearest alternative vendors colour with the least ‘gap’

Home grown fencing

I had a go at making my own snake/split rail fencing for my American games.

I wanted the fences to fit onto the standard 6 inch (15cm) mdc bases I use and also wanted them to be relatively easy to build (and replicate) without too much facing around.  With that in mind I decided to opt to use pre-cut matches from Hobbycraft.  You can get 50g for a little over £1.00 which is plenty for probably 6 foot or more (best guess). At 1/50 the 4cm matches are probably slightly undersize for length being approximately  7 foot as opposed to the traditional 9 to 11 foot lengths.

I get my mdf bases pre-cut from Blotz.  I requested a 6 inch long base which is 1 inch wide with fully rounded ends to allow full flexibility for positioning at odd angles or ends without having to worry about corners or the such.

I initially used a watered down ova mix to glue the matches directly to the mdf base.  Having now completed the first batch I would probably use full strength pva for future fences because I found that sometimes there wasn’t sufficient bond and one of the fences fell apart on me when being handled (well at least it’s a lesson learnt for next time).

I wanted the fences to end roughly in the centre at each end so that they could be married up to the next fence base easily.  Unfortunately I discovered that due to the length of my base and the  match size being used I wouldn’t achieve a universal fence base which could be easily placed either way around to marry up without issues to the next one.  I ended up doing a compromise and made two base types which mirror each other and so long as I alternate the basing they will hopefully marry up without issue.  I’m not all that sure if I’m simply putting concerns where they don’t really exist but I’ll only really be able to see it when I use them in earnest on the table top.

Each base starts which three matches laid at roughly 30 degrees to the base length, with the two end matches touching the base edge in the middle.  I then snipped two small pieces to put on top of the end pieces to help support the third level.  this is because the fences are normally continuous so support each other.  Due to my requirement to have individual pieces I would need to compromise somewhere on the aesthetics.  I then laid  two complete matches onto between the three base matches to complete the second level.  The third level was simply a repeat of the base layer using the end bits for support.

I repeated this process until I had 7 matches height in total (4 on the ends and three on the middle – the pictures probably show this better).

I gave the whole structure a light wash with watered down PVA then left to dry.  Once dry I applied a PVA layer to the base and dipped in a fine gravel.  Once all of this was dry I painted the whole item with a watered down Red Earth acrylic ink from Daller Rowney and left it to dry.  I then applied a dry brush of sand (light stone/beige/coffee colour) to the entire fence and base.

To finish it off I stuck greek static flock to the base.

As to lessons learnt.

Well the fencing took slightly longer than I anticipated.  The 8 lengths probably took a couple of hours end to end allowing for drying time within that.  I could halve the manufacture time by doing parts in batches so that I was doing things whilst I was waiting for things to dry but this would mean being somewhat better prepared next time.

I also found that the initial watered down PVA wasn’t a good solution for constructing the fences so will use a thicker solution next time.

The watered down acrylic ink worked very well as it soaked into the base and fence very quickly so didn’t mean that I was trying to patch up areas I had missed later on.

As a final product I was pleased with my first efforts and they were soon used in a Dead Mans Hand game and held their own against the commercial stuff on the table.

Next time I’ll have a go at stone walls…