Wednesday, February 3, 2016

E. L. Moore in the 21st Century: The Combination Houses

[E. L. Moore's Stucco House and Green House - two of the Combination Houses]

At the September meet-up I saw two little houses that weren’t associated with any particular E. L. Moore construction article. I chalked them up to something that Mr. Moore built for his friend Fred Kelley. It turns out they were meant to be the subject of an article, but an unpublished one. I came across a manuscript called Combination House Plan while going through some of E. L. Moore’s letters and manuscripts. It described how to build three houses based on variations of a single plan. One was clapboard, the second stucco, and the third brick. The descriptions of the clapboard and stucco versions exactly matched what I referred to as The Green House and The Stucco House. Unfortunately, I saw no brick house. 

Combination House Plan was written sometime in 1969, which corresponds to the date E. L. Moore wrote on the bottom of the models. This now 47-year-old, unedited manuscript is shown below. It contains references to figures and photos, but none were included with the document. I’ve left those references in for completeness and inserted my own photos to try and fill in. 

I’d say the project isn’t one of Mr. Moore’s most significant. The models are handsome and well built as is his standard; however, they aren’t fantastically imagined or include a tale that would add them to his ‘canon’. However, if you’re an E. L. Moore aficionado the manuscript contains a number of important features. I think this is the only project where he modelled stucco as a wall finish, and he explains his technique in the text. He also goes into detail about simple methods for modelling panel doors and window shutters, pens to use for lining, and a digression into how to paint a curtain effect on the inside of window surfaces. And speaking of digressions, there are also some thoughts on pen tips and the ‘60s generation gap, which in our smart-phone gapped age, hardly seems noteworthy at all :-)

E. L. Moore

A couple of fellow model railroaders have complained that there is a dearth of small conventional inexpensive house kits with which to fill their villages. One asked if I couldn’t come up with a plan which might be used in building, say, three different styles of houses. I can’t provide a kit, but this just might provide an answer to the low income housing shortage if one exists.

My design calls for a basic unit 20’ x 30’, a wing 12’ x 15’, and a porch 6’ x 15’. By switching these units around one may combine them into four differently styled houses as shown in Figure 5. Or, by using different sidings one may get as many as a dozen variants from the plan. I built three test houses, as pictured, and combined them into three styles, each built of different siding material so as to arrive at a cost figure. 

I found the balsa stucco job could be built for about half a buck, the clapboard siding for about a dollar, and the one in brick for a little over a dollar and a half. I wish I could promise they could be produced at the rate of, say, one an evening, but the best you can expect is one house in about four evenings, or, if you’re speedy and willing to put in seven days a week, possibly you could turn out two. Three hour evenings, that is. If your union boss will allow longer work evenings, that puts a different light to it.

These houses, although simple in design, have a bit of class afforded by the simple expedient of contrasting color shutters, which cost nothing but the time it takes to make them. The cottages are reminiscent of the building boom of the late twenties, and you’ll still find some of them around today.

Here are three lists of materials (in HO):

Stucco 27” 1/16” x 4” balsa
       6” 1/8” x 3”        “
       36” 1/16” square stripwood
       12” 1/32” x 1/16”
       12” 3/32” square
       6 sq ins acetate

Clapboard 18 1/2” 1/16” x 3 1/2” Northeastern clapboard
          6” 1/8” x 3” balsa
          9” 1/16” x 4”
          36” 1/16” square stripwood
          12” 1/32” x 1/16”
          12” 3/32” x 3/32” stripwood
          6 sq ins acetate

Brick 19” 3 1/2” x 1/16” Northeastern Brick
      6” 1/8” x 3” balsa (or 1/8”) [sic]
      9” 1/16” x 4” “
      48” 1/32” x 1/16” stripwood
      12” 3/32” x 3/32”
      6 sq ins acetate

A general description of building procedures follow, with exceptions as noted, due to different siding materials employed.

For the clapboard house, cut the sides and ends as in Figs 1 and  2 -- sides to be 16’ x 29’, and the ends, after cementing on the 1/16” square stripwood corners, 20’ wide, 16’ at eaves and 23 /1/2’ at peak. Scrape the lower two feet of each piece smooth -- the foundation brick paper will later be cemented here.

An exception to above is made when cutting out balsa for stucco and brick sheet for brick house. These sides should be full 16’ x 30’ and the ends 20’ wide as the corners will need to be mitered are joined.

The wing as shown in Fig. 3 has sides 11’ long, 15 3/4’ high and two similarly shaped ends (rear one not shown may be of balsa) and after cementing on the 1/16” square stripwood corners, should be 15’ wide, 15 3/4’ at eaves and 20 1/2’ at peaks. Of course, in the stucco and brick structures the sides and ends will be a full 12’ long and 15’ [sic], and the corners mitered to fit.

Window and door openings next. I lay mine out using rule, razor blade and awl, for accuracy. Window openings in the stucco and clapboard houses are all (with exception of attic window openings which are 2 1/2’ x 4’) cut 3 1/2’ x 5 3/4’, and these cased sides and top with 1/16” square stripwood, with bottom sills of 1/32” x 1/16”, and will then take 2 1/2’ x 5’ windows. Attic windows are cased with 1/32” x 1/16” all round. Door openings are 3 1/2’ x 7 1/2’, cased sides and tops with 1/16’ square stuff, with .020 or 1/32” x 1/16” for bottom sill. Exception: brick house has window openings 3’ x 5 1/2’ and are cased all around with 1/32” x 1/16” and doors are 3’ x 7 1/2’ openings and similarly cased.

Window stops (against which acetate windows rest) can merely be strips of thin dark paper cut 1/8” wide and cemented to inside wall so that they overlap window openings about 1/32” all round.

Walls should be assembled in order they are shown in plan. After assembly I added inside corners of 1/8” square balsa strips and floors of 1/8” balsa (or 3/32”) to true units up.

At this point it would be well to choose your colors and paint. A word here, too, is due about obtaining our stucco effects on balsa. I mixed my paint, a little rust and quite a bit of white until I had the desired shade, then loaded this with finely sifted sand, stirring frequently as I brushed it on. When dry I added two more coats of straight paint the same shade, all being thickly applied. When dry I stippled the surface with a shade darker paint and the resulting effect was quite realistic. I used tan, here, for trim color. Now, you can add brick paper, 2’ wide, around bottom.

The plans call for 14 2 1/2’ x 5’ window and 2 2’ x 3 1/2‘ones. These, I laid out in detail, with a sharp pencil, on white card, a portion of which is shown at top of Fig. 4. I taped my acetate over the card, rubbed it lightly with powdered pumice (kitchen cleanser or talc will do) and with pen and ruler I inked the lines using black drawing ink. Cut appart with scissors or razor blade, fit and cement in. I’ve always taken it for granted that every one knew what a pen point was, and that in use it is stuck into a pen holder. Until, that is, a college student disillusioned me and showed me how wide generation gaps can be. I buy the points at an office supply store, 6 for 25¢, and find Gillot #170 fine and Gillot #303 medium to my liking although Speacerian points come in a great variety of styles. I prefer these to modern drawing instruments. Too, I sometimes use frosted acetate, one side dull, the other glossy when see through clarity is not needed. Ink the dull side. And fit with glossy side out. A nice touch before inserting windows is to use brush and water colors on the inside, giving a curtain effect.

I made my doors of thin cardboard previously painted of desired color, then with a dry ball point pen, impressed outlines of panels and cut an opening at tops for acetate. A tiny brass nail of lill is pushed through an .020 hole, the head simulating a doorknob.

The roof next, of 1/16” balsa, 15 1/2’ x 34’, each side. Two sides may be got from a 4” width of balsa by adding a 1 1/2’ wide strip to one of the sides. Top edges of each side should be beveled. A longitudinal strip of 1/16” balsa (or other available thickness) about 1/2 inch wide may be slipped in from peak to peak to strengthen ends and help support roof in the middle.

The placement of the wing will decide how its roof is to be cut. If attached to the side of the basic structure you’ll need to cut away 15’ of the eaves and set the wing in place. Using 1/16” balsa again, cut the two sides according to the outline at top of Figure 3. If the wing is set against the end of the larger unit, then cut pattern on dotted line.

Shingles are desirable for this type of house, and I added an overlay of 1/32” balsa to mine and burned my shingles in with an electric burning pen. However, Shingles Galore are advertised in these pages and will do admirably. 

For variety I gave the stucco house a roof of simulated metal which I painted red. To make this I used 20 lb bond paper, a little heavier than ordinary typewriter paper which has a tendency to split, taping 3 1/2” x 6” sheets over Northeastern .040 spaced corrugated roofing, then using a dry ball point pen as a tool, ran it down every fourth groove. When completed I turned it over and painted it. Aluminum paint may be used, and to take the shine off go over it with diluted Floquil primer. This material is easily cut and fitted and cemented to roof.

I added brick ledges below and above windows and above doors on the brick cottage. For this I painted a sheet of 1/32” thick card stock to match brick. This varies, but 5 parts  caboose red, one of yellow, one of tuscan, and one of white (brushfuls) is average. I rule across this with white ink making lines 1/16” or less apart. Cut strips from this 1/16” wide and cut lengths as required for doors and windows.

The one thing that fancies these little homes most is perhaps the shutters. I painted 3” x 5” index cards the desired color, then outlined each 1 1/2’ x 5 3/4’ shutter with light razor cuts as designated by dotted lines in drawing (see top of Fig. 4). This sample area shows a variety of designs from which to select. I using tan or green I filled in the designs with brown or green ink. However it gets pretty tedious ruling in a lot of lines so after the first lot I selected styles requiring less work. After completion cut apart along the previously razored lines and cement in place beside the windows. The attic shutters are 1 1/2’ x 4’.

Out last bit of carpentering concerns the porch. Form a base 5 3/4’ x 14 3/4’, using strips of balsa, making this 2’ high, and cover with brick paper. Add to top a 6’ x 15’ piece of 3/32” balsa then an overlay of 1/32” which should be scribed. Cement against house. I cut six squares from 1/32” x 1/8” stripwood and positioned these on floor as base for the upright roof supports. Add two 3/32” square stripwood uprights, 10 1/2’ long against the wall of the building. 

Form the porch roof of 1/16” balsa, 7’ x 17’, adding 1/32” thick stripwood to each end as in Fig. 4. Cement roof rear to top of upright, then add the four front posts, these 9 1/2’ high, being sure they line up properly. Make railing by lightly cementing the ends of two strips of 1/32” x 1/16” stripwood, each about 2 1/2’ long, to a piece of cardboard, having previously outlined railing and baluster positions with pencil. Slip a strip of waxed paper between rails, cut your balusters or rungs of 1/32” stripwood and cement them in about one scale foot apart. Then cut off lengths as needed and fit between uprights.

Add steps. For the front ones I outlined the steps with pencil on paper, cemented the paper to 1/32” x 1/8” stringers and cut the step conformations with razor blade. For others, I merely cut balsa of 3/32” thickness to the required width, overlapping the pieces, cemented them together forming simulated concrete steps.

As a variation I used a piece of Northeastern’s three color terra cotta flagstone and made an open terrace for the brick cottage and thereby saved myself a bit of labor.

I made the chimneys of 1/4” square balsa, each 5 1/2’ long, adding a bit of 1/32” balsa around bottom and a narrow strip at top, covering with brick paper and cutting a wedge shaped slice from the bottom to fit the roof -- drill a hole in the top and she’s ready.

Prototype builders have been juggling plans around for many a year, using one set of plans for several style houses, so we’re right in line there.

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