I’ve been getting a number of enquiries from makers in the US, and some from other countries, who are trying to get hold of the stencil card (or ‘oiled manilla’) I often use for finescale work. I’ve illustrated the usefulness of stencil card in my article Working with stencil card in the ‘Materials/-constructing’ section. It seemed like it was nowhere to be found outside the UK! .. according to those who were looking, and I didn’t have any success either with my quick search of sites outside the UK using the search terms ‘stencil card’ or ‘oiled manilla’. Anticipating a few more enquiries like this in the future I decided to piece together some advice on the best alternatives, if it did indeed turn out that oiled manilla was just another ‘British quirk’!
But .. some good news! .. before I’d finished this post (I’ve been busy, and I’m also a rather slow and painstaking writer) I had a message from Cindy in San Diego to say that she might have discovered it, bearing the name of ‘oil board’ and she sent this link to prove it
This certainly looks and sounds like what I use in the UK, although much less ‘golden’ in colour and the price of $3.55 for a 24″ x 36″ sheet is quite a bit cheaper than the average here! It must be the same though, because the thickness which the Blick site lists very precisely as .015″ is also very precisely what it is here i.e. 375microns (.375mm). Cindy posted two other sources which seem to stock the same product at a similar price, though the sheets are smaller.
This might have sorted it at least for the US, but I’ll include what I was going to post anyway if anyone still needs to order it from the UK. I’d had no idea up to now that this wasn’t a fairly ‘universal’ and familiar material (like ‘mountboard’ or ‘foamboard’), though probably differing a little and called by another name. I know it’s much more specialised than these other standard card forms, but I also know that it’s been around in the same form for a very long time! I remember trying it as a base for oil painting when I was about 10yrs old, so that was almost half a century ago! I found it difficult to believe that it hadn’t spread, and in any case I’d always assumed that it was made somewhere other than the UK. Somehow it just never felt to me like .. ‘one of ours’. I’ve always guessed, either French or Italian?
I’ve never found any clue as to where it comes from, that is, who actually makes it! I know that here Winsor & Newton seem to play a significant role in distributing it because many suppliers such as Flints or 4D in London have told me that’s their source and it’s obvious from other suppliers’ websites that they’re doing the same (i.e. the product description etc. is identical to that on the W&N site). So a few days ago I contacted them, and another more specialist supplier, Wright’s of Lymm, who offer it online at the cheapest price I’ve found, to see firstly whether they ship abroad and secondly whether they would indirectly give any hint as to where they themselves get it from. All credit to both companies (big and small), they replied to me by email within a couple of hours! Winsor & Newton do not ship overseas unfortunately but referred me to the suppliers who do. I’d asked Winsor & Newton whether they knew of sources abroad, but there was no comment on this. Wrights of Lymm said that they do ship overseas but added ‘the stencil card is reasonably heavy and so it really depends if the customer is prepared to pay the shipping charges’. It’s true, it is pretty heavy for what it is (see below for sheet dimensions and weight). They added that they knew of nobody else in other countries that sells it. Finally I phoned Flint’s in London (a leading supplier of theatrical/film scenic materials) who I know also stock it at a good price. They also ship overseas and I asked them to prepare a quote for shipping 10 sheets to the US. I’m waiting for that to come and will add it as a ‘Comment’ to this post as soon as it does.
The standard size for a sheet of stencil card is 762x508mm (30x20inches, can vary a little) and the standard thickness is 375 microns, which is 0.375mm. This is the thickness I use. There is only one other, thinner version I know about, 250 microns, but I’ve only rarely come across it. A standard sheet of 375micron stencil paper will weigh a little more than 135g (I weighed one of the sheets I have at the moment and all are trimmed to 760x500mm). There has always been quite a variation in price between one seller and another!
By far the cheapest price anywhere is from Wright’s of Lymm www.stonehouses.co.uk who sell 1000x600mm sheets (larger than normal) for just £1.55. This is before 20% VAT (payable if ordering from the UK or European Union). Quotes for shipping overseas need to be applied for. I checked some while ago that this was the usual 375micron thickness. At the time they said that it was their regular price and they had a regular/continuing stock.
Flints www.flints.co.uk sell standard sized sheets (just a touch less at 500x760mm) at £2.20 per sheet before VAT which is, after Wright’s, still a very good price for it here. They catalogue it as ‘Oiled Manila Stencil Paper’.
4D modelshop www.modelshop.co.uk also stock it as ‘oiled manilla’ in the standard sheet size and list it as a ‘Winsor & Newton product’. Here it is more expensive though at £5.45 (inclusive VAT) per sheet.