Nesting House Scratchbuild

With less than a 15×40 cm left in my tabletop tote, I had a hard choice to make. Do I use the space for more miniatures? Do I stack in a couple of stone walls, or ruins, or grid maps? When you’re a dungeon-master on the go, like me, every centimeter counts. In the end I decided on more castle rooms. But I refuse to take a dolly stacked with rubbermaid tubs to the hobby-shop.

So with a need for more stone buildings, and almost no space whatsoever left in my box, I drafted a new design.

The Nesting House:


(Note: I apologize for the lighting. And the camera. And the…everything. I didn’t intend to share this design. I only took photo evidence only so I could rub this in my fellow DMs’ faces.)


Above: Cheap foam-core from the dollar store. One bottle of white glue. Straight pins. An exacto blade. And a self-healing cutting mat. The goal is to end up with apx. 6-10 houses, which fit inside each other, saving on tote space.


I then used a 50/50 water and pva glue solution to seal the rims of the boxes and the corners. The foamcore wanted to separate from the outer paper layer. I convinced it not to.

Watching glue dry…


I then carved stone-like facades into the foamcore, first by scoring it with an exacto knife, then by deepening the lines with a wax-carver tool. I use the broader spade heads for this part.


You can bond the outer layer of paper on the foam-core by doing another treatment with gluewater in the creases you’ve cut, or strip the paper off entirely, leaving a foam exterior. Keep in mind that the foam under the paper doesn’t take water-based paints or glue as well as the paper layer.


Note: This is a time-consuming yet brainless part of the process. Kick back and watch a movie while you score and mark the sides.

Next we layer tape on the inside of the houses for mock wood paneling. This will be stained later. The tape also acts as extra support.

As you can see I’ve also cut doors into my nesting houses, which are roughly the width of the 32mm miniatures I plan on playing with.


Below I’ve demonstrated how to layer the tape. It’s pretty simple, and any imperfections or horizontal wrinkles in the tape will be brought out by the woodstain later. This can either ruin the project, or make it look authentic and aged, so be mindful of small creases.


This layering is how it should look on the inside of the boxes. Cut the excess masking tape along the seems with and exacto blade and steel ruler.


Now I use an acrylic black paint, mixed with 50% warm water. You’ll want a tar or pancake-batter consistency, to get into the many cracks we’ve carved into the facade.


Be sure to get lots of black paint on your carpet, too.


For the last step on the facade I sponged the brick with grey, starting with a dark gunmetal and working my way toward a lighter concrete. Irregularities in shade and hue are welcome at this stage. For the purpose of this build I’ve skipped flocking the brick, although you may choose to do so before moving on to the interior.


Lastly, clearcoat the bricks. I used a standard matte finish from the hardware store, which costs half what most dull-coat miniature cans cost. For the grainy semi-satin finish on the bricks, this stuff works fine.


Also, the more you shake the camera while you snap pictures, the better your project will turn out apparently.

This is how the wood paneling turned out, using various types of stains and lacquer.


Left is a spray-on pine. Middle is a red mahogany, sponged and brushed. Right is a cherry-wood spray.

The sponged mahogany would have made for a good dungeon or peasant hovel because of the raw look under the tape layers. But I wanted more of a uniform, sophisticated look to the paneling. I went with brushed red mahogany. Again, I got these from the hardware store.


Yes, that’s a tiny outhouse on the right. Because barbarians have needs too.

Here I’ve done some touch-up on my grey bricks. Also, you can see where I’ve intentionally split the wood panels here and there in the floorboards, to give it a segmented, nailed-together look.


Some more touching up on the inside lids is required. Just avoid turning the newly stained wood panels grey.


Next I cut brick fireplaces out of the foamcore. I made a paper template which I glued the carved stone to.


Also seen on the right: A potted plant, made from a halved wine cork and a plastic aquarium plant.


Some rickety shelves for a hovel or two.


Barrels made from wine corks, sharpened / tapered with an exacto blade.


Add layered masking tape, the same as the floorboards, for a wine barrel or cask.


Lastly, paint. I used the same techniques for the barrel as I did the floorboards, and the same tone of grey for the fireplace as I did the walls.


Always measure the clearance available between one nesting box and the walls of the box it will rest in. Some of my smaller boxes will only have room for tapestries or objects narrower than 1/2cm. My larger boxes have a clearance of nearly an inch. Your designs will vary.


As you glue pieces into the houses, I suggest re-stacking them to be sure your furniture won’t hinder the boxes from fitting back together.


As you can see, the final product is a pair of outer boxes that measure less than 6 inches by 4. Each segment can be stacked together for castle walls, or strung together for larger manses, or separately as small homes.



A potted plant in the entryway says “welcome home”.


Published by jdplots

Author and mangler of plots.

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