How do I make a simple model waterfall?

Written by eliah sekirin
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How do I make a simple model waterfall?
Waterfalls can erode the rock they flow over. (Waterfall image by pamtriv from

Waterfalls come in many sizes and shapes, from the thunderous cataracts of Niagara Falls to much smaller cascades in the local streams in your area. The energy of the water that flows over different rock types and sediment can cause waterfalls to move upstream as the water erodes away the rock. You can make a simple waterfall model to illustrate both a cataract and a cascade waterfall, for a child's school project or to accesorize a model train's landacape.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Sheet of plywood or cardboard, 2 feet square
  • Shoebox
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • 2 sheets of newspaper
  • School glue, 1 cup minimum
  • Small mixing bowl
  • Paintbrush
  • Gray paint
  • Brown paint
  • Blue paint
  • Green paint
  • Blue tissue paper or streamer

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  1. 1

    Place a shoebox on the left side of a cardboard base in the upside down position, the long side aligned with the edge of the cardboard bottom. Trace round the box using a pencil. Cut across the two vertical seams in the corners of the right side of the box, which should be the smaller side of the box. Only cut the vertical seams, creating a flap. Bend the flap inward, and tape it in place. Place the box onto the cardboard base where you drew the traced outline.

  2. 2

    Crumple a newspaper in your hands to create a rocky surface--the more wrinkles and folds the better. Place the crumpled newspaper on the top and toward the shoebox's left side. Make sure that at least 1/3 of the shoebox's top is still visible

  3. 3

    Mix equal parts water and glue together in a small bowl. Start with 1 cup of glue and 1 cup of water. Use a paintbrush to apply the glue to the shoebox, the cardboard base, and the newspaper. Completely cover all surfaces. Make more glue substance as necessary to fully coat the surfaces.

  4. 4

    Paint the newspaper "rocks" grey. Paint the sides and top of the shoebox in the brown colour to represent dirt. Paint a circle of blue paint in front of the shoebox "flap". This will represent the pool at the bottom of the waterfall. Paint a thick line of the blue colour away from the pool and toward the edge of your model's cardboard base. Paint the rest of the cardboard base in green to representr grass. Add details, such as flowers, additional rocks, wildlife or trees, as you desire.

  5. 5

    Measure the strips of the tissue paper about 3 inches wide. Cut enough to "flow" down the rocks, across the shoebox, and over the edge of your shoebox. Crumple the tissue paper using your hands to add texture to the water. Tape the tissue paper in its place.

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