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Structure Projects for Craftcutters

This section will contain structure-related projects we have done with our cutters or that we have found online and consider informative.

Craftcutters are very helpful for things like cutting out many windowframes precisely in a single operation (once you have the blade depth and pressure correct of course). So even if you build your buildings out of something you can't cut with a craftcutter, you will find uses for it that streamline some of the more tedious parts of scratchbuilding.

Offsetting Cost and Availability of Model Buildings - I probably have most or all the buildings I'll ever need, thanks to gradual accumulation, kitbashing, and "trashbashing" efforts over the years. But as a sort of "coach" for newbie hobbyists, I'm always thinking about ways to help folks have the railroad they want without remortgaging their houses.

With the cost of building kits tripling in the last ten years, beginners are even more at a disadvantage. So I'm constantly coming up with structure ideas that may not satisfy a fastidious modeler. But they may stand in, at least, for the eventual communities of your dreams.

In other words, the goals of these patterns, articles, and links are to help:

  • Hold down structure costs for new hobbyists.

  • Create attractive, but inexpensive buildings for public displays that might not always be carefully monitored.

  • Create buildings for seasonal use, such as a town inspired by Dickens, Harry Potter, Polar Express, etc.

  • Model buildings that are not available in commercial products period.

About SVG Files - "Vector" graphic formats use lines and curves, which makes them ideal for use with a craftcutter, as long as you create them with automatic cutting in mind. "Scalable Vector Graphic" files (.svg) may contain other content, but the ones made for craftcutters contain only lines and curves, no shading or bitmaps.

We provide .svg files for several of our projects - files we created with CorelDraw, but which you can edit with Inkscape or Adobe Illustrator. You can use these files to:

  • Make buildings, rolling stock, or other projects for your own use.
  • Make graphic files for your own use (say in personalized greeting cards).
  • Use with other technologies such as laser wood-cutters.

However you may not sell our patterns or incorporate them into products that you sell, whether electronic or physical, without prior written permission from the pattern's author (in most cases Paul Race).

Structure Project Articles and Links

The list below includes projects we designed, as well links to projects other folks have created. Many of the latter are not detailed enough to use directly, but they are included because they have good suggestions and may inspire you to try something we haven't tried yet.

  • Using a Craftcutter to create Western-looking buildings. Click to go to article.Western Storefront Craftcutter Project - Western movies are full of board-and-batten buildings, hailing back to the days when boomtowns went up in a hurry and lumber was cheaper to ship west than bricks or steel. All you see on the outside of these are the vertical "battens," thin boards that cover the cracks between the wider boards that make up the actual wall. (Fishing villages on New England's northern coastline used plenty of these, too, by the way, as did many Eastern and Midwestern towns that stopped growing in the mid-1800s.)

    This article uses several layers to build up the various components, including one layer that provides all the battens joined together by trim pieces at the top and bottom, so you can just glue it down to get all that detail. I've only tried it in Large Scale, so the details may be harder to get right in smaller scales, but I provide the .svg files for you to try.

  • Using a Craftcutter to create building fronts. Click to go to article.Making Building Fronts from Vinyl and Plexiglass - Years ago, a request from an arboretum gave me the idea of mass-producing buildings for a temporary display with a signcutter and vinyl. While researching the feasibility of such a project, I created a number of SVG files, then used my cutter to cut three layers of vinyl that make up the little building front shown at the right.

    The biggest advantage of this sort of approach is the ability to cut out many complex windowframes precisely in a single operation even if you use other materials.

    SVG files for two different storefronts in Large Scale, O, and S are provided in the article.

  • Click to go to articleUsing Stencils to Make Buildings - While I was experimenting with the cutter for the article above, it occured to me that if you needed to make something inexpensive to represent large scale buildings on a display railroad, you could do a lot with stencils.

    The truth is, I never got very far beyond cutting the stencils, though I hope to get back to it eventually. I put this article up about the project in case anyone else wanted to try it. It actually uses the same .svg files as the article above, but, obviously, there are different directions and suggestions.

  • Windowframe Patterns for Putz Houses. Click to go to article.Windowframes for Putz Houses - Many of my friends make and restore "putz" houses - those little cardboard houses with the holes in the back that people used to put around Christmas trees in the mid-20th century.

    A big need has always been replacement windows - the old red cellophane widows fell victim to decay and "pokey little fingers." When illness forced the hobby's biggest supplier of those to stop making them available, I stepped in by creating a substitute you could cut on a craftcutter. I also made .svg files that included every common window size. The article that resulted also describes settings I used for various kinds of materials.

  • George Downer's O Scale lobster shed, cut almost entirely on a Cricut Explore.  Click to see the discussion forum.George Downer's Lobster Shack - In 2018, forum moderator George Downer began documenting his experiments with a Cricut Explore, starting with making an O scale "lobster shack," complete with cedar shake siding and double-hung windows, all cut out on the Cricut.

    Another contributor volunteers photos of his "slate roof."

    The link takes you to a forum page which, and you have to step through the pages to see the entire project, but it's worth seeing what George accomplished.

  • RMWEB.CO.UK's Craftcutter Forum (Mostly Silhouettes). This forum has been active since 2013, and the contributors have done some amazing projects. Including things I've considered, like building sidewalls for cars, but imagined would be too tricky with styrene only being cuttable up to about .015". I didn't go through the whole forum - so far there are 100 pages, but I kept finding great ideas and helpful hints. Here are a couple project photos I especially enjoyed seeing - a classic British coach and a window detail from a switch tower. There aren't many details on these projects per se, but there's a lot of information on what materials you can cut, etc.

    JCL's GNR coach sides cut with a Silhouette Cameo.  Click for bigger photo. JCL's switch tower windowframes and windows cut with a Silhouette Cameo.  Click for bigger photo.

  • My friend Lucy's PaperGlitteGlue site has countless useful articles for folks wanting to make putz houses and other cardboard buildings.  Click to go to a page that provides some basic information about doing this with a Cricut.Make a Paper House With Your Cricut - "My friend Lucy's PaperGlitterGlue site has countless useful articles for folks wanting to make putz houses and other cardboard buildings. Click to go to a page that provides some basic information about doing this with a Cricut.

    If you sign up for her newsletter (free), you'll have access to any number of downloadable .svg files for buildings, shingles, and other details.


We have more articles about specific projects planned, but we got so many questions from the first few things we posted, we thought establishing some context would be helpful. Consequently, this article is mostly background information for people who are just getting their feet wet, but if that describes you, I hope is helps steer you in a good direction. And maybe clears up some common misconceptions.

Watch this page: more articles are in the works.

As always, we want to hear your suggestions, criticisms, additions, etc. Enjoy your hobbies, and especially any time you can spend with your family in the coming months!


Note: Family Garden TrainsTM, Garden Train StoreTM, Big Christmas TrainsTM, BIG Indoor TrainsTM, and BIG Train StoreTM are trademarks of Breakthrough Communications ( All information, data, text, and illustrations on this web site are Copyright (c) 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 by Paul D. Race. Reuse or republication without prior written permission is specifically forbidden.
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Garden Railroading Primer Articles: All about getting a Garden Railroad up and running well Big Indoor Trains Primer Articles: All about setting up and displaying indoor display trains and towns. Garden Train Store: Index to train, track, and other products for Garden RailroadingBig Christmas Trains: Directory of Large Scale and O Scale trains with holiday themes
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Visit Lionel Trains. Click to see Thomas Kinkaded-inspired Holiday Trains and Villages. Big Christmas Train Primer: Choosing and using model trains with holiday themes Free Large Scale Signs and Graphics: Bring your railroad to life with street signs, business signs, and railroad signs Click to see HO scale trains with your favorite team's colors.
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Visit the largest and most complete cardboard Christmas 'Putz' house resource on the Internet.
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