Making Thatch Roofs

5 May 2020

One of the most common roofing methods over pretty much all of history is the thatched roof - or roof made with grasses. It's very common in rural areas, in a variety of forms. It's also not something I've tried to build before... Read on below to see how I did it.

miniature thatched roof cottage

I read up on a variety of different ideas of how to do this online, and eventually settled on using "jute" or twine. Mainly because I had a huge spool of it to use! But another thing going for it was that it seemed to be a good natural color, so I wouldn't have to figure out how to paint it somehow.

building a model thatched roof

I began by cutting small segments of jute, and then "unrolling" the braided fibers, and trying to straighten them out a bit. The first problem was how to attach these to the cardboard roof. My first approach was to lay down a bead of glue and stick them into that - but that was messy and didn't work very well. So I settled on using tape instead. Basically, I lay down a strip with the sticky side up, with the ends folded down to stick it to the table. Then I stick each little segment onto the tape.

making thatch roof cottage 25mm 28mm

Then I lay a second piece of tape over the top of the piece, to stick the two together. Then I just trimmed the top and edges to tidy things up, make the "loose" bottom portion even, etc. Another option is to take a single "clump" and tape it's top to make a small bundle (as on the left above) which is handy for the sides of the roof, etc.

thatched roof cottage

Then just glue each strip to the roof. The taped part makes a handy flat surface to lay your bead of glue on, and gives you a straight edge to keep the layers fairly straight. The loose parts cover the taped parts of the layer below, which works well.

Thatched roof cottage

Finally I used the "bundles" to cover the edges and along the top ridge of the roof to finish things up. Also you can see on the edge of the roof where I originally tried just gluing the twine down - it ended up very stiff and discolored, so the tape system works quite a bit better.

I'm pretty happy with the end effect, although it is pretty time intensive. But hey, it's a hobby, so what's the big deal?