Thursday, 4 April 2013

A Quick Change of Plan (and a couple of quick projects!) Part 2 - A Pig Sty

Following swiftly from Part 1 is the pig sty. Pigs were an important asset from ancient times, as a valuable way of turning inedible things (cabbage stalks, acorns, beech mast and turnip tops) into edible matter (pork!).

A place to keep the sow when she farrowed and somewhere for the pigs to shelter while they grow was essential. Although pigs were turned out into the woods at times to take advantage of the abundance of things like acorns, most of the time they would have needed to be confined, as pigs are inquisitive, industrious and frankly downright destructive animals, especially if they get into a vegetable patch!

The pig sty follows the usual mode of construction: a simple block of foam, in this case 45x35x35mm is made into something shed-shaped, with vertical walls about 20mm high and a door cut  into one end.

The pig sty could be wattle and daub construction, or planked, according to your preference. I've gone with wattle and daub, made with paper and PVA glue, and framing glued in place. The roof is added with rafters and a towelling thatch. Pigs need plenty of ventilation to be healthy, and a lack of it will promote things like pneumonia, which will restrict the supply of bacon - and we wouldn't want that! The thatch and gaps under the eaves would supply this. You've seen enough of how these buildings are made so I'll skip straight to the stage of having a completed shell.

A very des res!

Now, glue the sty to a base, leaving a decent sized area of base to make an enclosure. The base is the cheap and nasty 3mm hardboard again. Plenty good enough for this, though. Slivers of waste foam are glued down to add some contours to the ground. The next thing the build needs is a good, solid fence. A REALLY solid fence. The strength, ingenuity and downright perseverance of pigs when they want to be somewhere else has to be seen to be believed. So any fence has to reflect this. Otherwise the pigs will be anywhere EXCEPT in the pen...

First, a row of holes gets drilled, at 15-20mm centres (so roughly 3-4 feet in scale) to take a row of posts.

Postholes - always good for archaeology!

Next, add the posts. These are cocktail sticks held in place with superglue, but thick wire would do. I aimed for 1-2mm diameter, so the posts would reflect using 2-4" timbers, which is about what might be used in the "real thing".

 Good stout posts!

Finally, the fence itself was woven in place. This is several feet of 0.7mm steel MIG welding wire, annealed with a blowtorch and cut into 40-60mm lengths. I was after the effect of thickish wooden poles interwoven. Copper wire or thin string would work. This was time consuming and fairly hard on my fingers, but I'm quite happy with how it looks. Once the weaving was completed I gave everything a good coat of thin cyanoacrylate to make sure it stayed in place.  I deliberately avoided trying to use something that looked like a wicker hurdle. Any pig worth its salt would be through a fence build like that in no time flat!

That ought to keep 'em in place!

Finally, a gate, in the gap I left for that purpose. This is made pretty roughly out of basswood offcuts, then glued in place.

Some way of getting the pigs in and out...

Following primer, paint, flock, an ink wash and a thorough dry brushing with a variety of different shades, the usual coat of gloss poly went on to provide protection, followed by two coats of matt.

Finally, some little details. Static grass and weedy scrub was added outside the pen (nothing grows in a pig pen - or not for very long anyway!), along with some straw in the pen. This was sisal string, dampened down a bit and glued in place. A bit out in the pen,and a good bit more in the entrance to the sty. A bit of brown ink wash here and there gives a "lived in look", if you follow me...

Finally, I added a tuft of scrub, to represent a breakfast of turnip tops, and filled the hollow at the end of the pen with PVA to give the look of a nice muddy puddle to wallow in. I'll get some pigs at some point, but until then, I'll just say they're having a kip in the sty.

Ready to move in!

Note that while the sty is partially hollow, there's no pretense of being able to put a mini in there. There's a reason for this. Nobody in their right senses would force their way into a small confined space occupied by a sow and her piglets. Even a man in armour equipped with a spear and a sword might think himself very lucky to come out without horrific injuries. Here's an armoured Saxon from Black Tree Design for scale. He's either unusually brave or really doesn't understand how serious the situation is.

Little pigs, little pigs, come out and play...

Hunter could rapidly become hunted...
Merry Meet!


  1. Thank you! Praise from you is high praise indeed - glad you like it.

  2. Looks so great! I especially love the fencing and thatch.

  3. Great job, and a brave saxon indeed!