Milling About

I haven’t been doing much directly on Comstock Road recently but I have not been entirely idle. Having acquired the lathe and producing some roller gauges, I had not done much with it since. I recently resolved to get a better grip on the lathe’s capabilities and improve my rudimentary machining skills.

The lathe came with a vertical milling slide that bolts to the cross-slide and can be a substitute for an actual mill, up to a point. Being sparsely supplied with t-nuts for attaching things to either slide, I set out to mill down some that came as part of a machinist’s clamping set. (The Myford t-slots are 3/8″ wide but the cross of the T is both thinner and narrower than standard and the vertical part of the T is shorter.

Here is what the milling slide setup looks like:

Getting to that point definitely involved some learning opportunities:

  • I figured out how to read the change gear chart and reduced the feed rate which involved removing and reinstalling some things where washers at the wrong place caused gears to interfere with covers.
  • Got the spindle drip oilers adjusted, more or less. Cleaned grease out of various oil fittings and hopefully got things properly oiled.
  • Filed down a t-bolt to get it to fit so I would have enough to secure both milling slide and vise.
  • Ground the vise mounting lugs out with a rotary tool to get said bolts to fit.
  • Figured out how to square up the slide and the vise.
  • Worked out how to use a dial indicator to measure travel on the carriage.
  • Learned to not bump said indicator in the middle of an operation…
  • Learned that locking the carriage before doing a milling pass was not optional!
  • Much learning about work holding.

I had two exciting failures in workholding resulting in a missing chunk from the top corner of a nut in one case and, in the other case, jamming the whole spindle. Neither was catastrophic.

Here is one of the resulting slimmed down nuts, ready to hold something down. The first something is likely to be a carriage stop since using a dial indicator to measure carriage travel is a bit insecure. I intend to eventually work my way up to some sort of small live steam engine.

This Thing is Lit

While things have been off and on lately, I have finally managed to get the LED strip installed on (in?) the valance and wired up. The wired up part is only to the valance end as evidenced by the unsightly cord and power brick perched on the layout at back right. It should not take much more effort to get some concealed wires going down the back of the wing. I just need to settle on how to get from there to under the layout in a easily disconnectable manner.

I am happy with the lighting result but the intensity is on the weak side for photography. I will almost certainly add a second natural white strip in the not to distant future. I might make it switchable so I can vary intensity to suit.

I think that I will next have a go at complete the basic landforms and roll right into mocking up buildings.

Almost Done Painting

I was going to report that I was done with all the painting until I realized that I still need to do the rear of the backdrop sections. But all visible wood has been done. It is just waiting to finish drying before I reattach the front wings onto the sides. The quick install was verified as I reinstalled the sides as a convenient place to put the dry-to-the-touch pieces while they finished curing.

Things are going slower than they might have because my attempts to replace the now used up 21 year-old! can of Behr flat black paint foundered on the twin rocks of the whole paint code and formulation system having changed during that period as well as Behr seeming to have stopped shipping quart cans of flat. Gallons and sample size you can have but not a quart. No idea why but I do know that a sample size is not enough and, given how long it took me to use up the last quart, a gallon is more than a lifetime supply.

The resolution was to get a quart of Glidden flat black instead. The colour matches but the sheen is not identical. Fortunately I arranged to finish whole sections with the old can so nothing has to be half and half.

Once I get it all done and post the final result shot I will be out of excuses for hanging the LED light strip and getting on with the scenery.

What Colour Is The Sky?

It turns out that this is not a settled question, even in the real world. Local conditions can affect things enough that opinions will vary by geography, never mind personal perceptions. It also turns out that the Behr Android phone app and I have vastly different perceptions of what that sky blue colour is…

Long story short, I rashly tried once again to match a colour photographed under natural light with the app and did not get satisfactory results. My phone shows a nice sky blue and the paint is downright purple. Even with some added white it is never going to do except for perhaps as a participant in a spectacular western desert sunset.

I ended up finding an online discussion of sky paint colours and, for the record, went with somebody else’s light sky blue: Behr Serene Sky 540C-2. The failed match was Periwinkle P540-4. Interestingly, one of the reported sky colours in the found discussion was a periwinkle although not this one. No photo of the result as far as I could tell so who knows. I will stick to the pale white-ish blue suggesting a hazy summer day.

Here is the colour on first application with the failed contestant represented on the stir stick. You can see the some of the problem because even the sky blue looks purplish which is not representative of the in-person view at all. More photographic experience and fooling with lighting is indicated.

Light Support

I have finally got the non-hobby project out of the shop and am unstuck on the infrastructure to stick the LED light strips to. As I previously discused in Lighting Mockup, I am going with a simply box. Two strips of 1/4″ birch plywood reinforced with some small blocks and held together with screws and glue should be robust enough.

The only downside is that I need to paint the things before I can actually stick on the light strips. Thus, the assembly is the first bit of Comstock Road’s top hamper to get painted. And the only bit that will be white to maximize light reflectivity.

Here is the assembly in progress shot. Note to self, need yet more clamps!

Simple Joys

The last couple of Monday night Zoom calls, I have been working along on a 1:48 water tower kit from Built-Rite Models that I picked up at the 2016 National Narrow Gauge Convention in Augusta, Maine. I put the kit in a bin and lost track of it until that pile until recently. Since I am always looking for things to do at the bench during calls, I opened it up and started in.

The kit consists of a four part laser cut frame for the round tank shape, a whole bunch of strip wood, some thread and a couple of castings. There is a clear and well illustrated instruction booklet to help you along. A well designed kit that gives you the pleasure of board-by-board scratchbuilding without the challenge of assembling the materials and figuring out the methods yourself.

The process of applying boards (previously stained) one by one is something I find restful. It also helps that the results are, like hand laid track, impressive looking disproportional to the actual skill required.

Here is the tank with the side boards on, perched on my sander so I can even up the ends of the boards. Sanding or trimming overlength boards almost always results in a better finish that trying to line up the ends. (Church-Key Brewing Holy Smoke Scotch ale in the background…)IMG_20200831_210105109

I got as far as applying the top boards which are obviously going to require more than a little sanding to get them to length. I am looking forward to carrying on with this kit. I am probably going to need an On30 layout to give me a place to put these various structures that don’t fit Comstock Road. This is the meandering comes in.IMG_20200831_213117188

Modelling Goes To The Cottage

There are good things about a stay in Ontario’s Cottage Country but it does increase the distance to the workbench rather unreasonably. I usually find myself casting about for a project that is self-contained enough to take with me to work on. Or a pile of books. Or both. I take it as a sign of improved intensity of modelling activity that I didn’t have to work too hard to find a project.

The project needs to be:

  • Transportable: can it be contained well enough to survive being packed in the back of a station wagon with everything else up to and including 35kg of soggy dog?
  • Self-contained: can I identify and bring along all the needed tools and supplies?
  • Engaging: is it something I want to work on and will the work last long enough?
  • Relaxing: doing nerve wracking fiddle tasks at the kitchen table in company is not going to happen. A repetitive task that is not mentally tasking is what I want.

The project I elected to take along was the Book Nook. The next step required was applying Das clay to all the surfaces that will become some sort of masonry as well as a bit more work with cardboard to complete the base structures.

Here is the work at about the half way mark. IMG_20200803_164802537

I have added a covered bridge spanning the alley between buildings. It will be some combination of non-masonry to provide some contrast. (Neither it nor the right hand side building/side are attached. Getting in there to work on things would be nigh unto ship-in-a-bottle fiddly.

I created a set of steps out of layered cardboard and started to cover it with spackle for a smoother potentially brick or concrete finish. Not really happy with how that is working, will probably scrap it in favour of a wood base and paint.

The street has been “paved” with PVA and Das and the back wall has been covered. It was a small relief to bury the tie staining stains on that back wall as well as the N-scale flex I am using to suggest an On18 plant railroad.

I did get the whole of the clay layer applied and have just begun scribing stonework. I need to consider how to do the tops of the arched doorway and windows. My initial attempt looks like the mason’s apprentices got into the rum barrel and let loose on the work unsupervised. Other than that, progress made!

 

Lighting Mockup

As stated long ago, I want to light the layout with the actual lighting solution so that I can eliminate variance in light from the colour selection problem and this requires the prerequisite infrastructure. I have happily arrived at that point! Next up is working out how to actually mount the chosen LED strips to the valance/pelmet (I previously referred to it as a pelmet but I am going with valance since it is the more familiar word).

Questions to be answered:

  • One “daylight” strip or a daylight and a warm white?
  • Is one strip bright enough?
  • Can the strip(s) be mounted parallel to the baseboard (facing straight down) or does it need to be angled?
  • Do I need something to shield the back edge to direct light down?

The internet is full of various opinions on these questions with no clear consensus. I thus set out to experiment and determine what works for me. I cut a 4′ long cardboard strip and stuck lengths of both types of strip (the excess not needed from 5m rolls for Comstock Roads less than 4m length). After some practice soldering wires to the pads on the strips, I had a working light.IMG_20200711_140748211

Actual experience was informative. It was immediately obvious that the addition of the warm white strip made the overall effect way too yellow for my taste. (1970’s summer smog is not what I want to remember!)

I am unconvinced that one daylight strip is enough but it is at least adequate. It also has the advantage of only needing the default power brick for a power supply. I have decided include space for a second strip but not delay things on its’ account.

The default straight down mounting seems to be close to enough. The spread of light is more than enough to shine well above the backdrop edge so no need to aim it further back.

Here is the test shot with just single LED strip, no room lights and a car on the front track.IMG_20200711_164101780

You can see in the first photo where I put a bend in the cardboard to simulate some sort of backside restriction of the light arc. The LED strips are bright and nobody looking at the layout from the back is going to appreciate looking in the direction of the strip so something needs to block that. As well, any illumination above the top of the backdrop is wasted and perhaps a distraction anyway.

Here is my makeshift back bend in action. I am not excited by the angled shadows on the tall side boards but I can live with that. If people are looking up there, I have lost their attention anyway. With room lights on, the shadow is also much less prominent.

IMG_20200711_164226274

After some sketching and pondering, I think I will go with a simple right angle back of appropriate length rather than fooling about with an angled piece. Ease of construction isn’t my usual motivator but perhaps I am undergoing character development!

No Visible Means of Support

Way back when, I set a goal of getting Comstock Road self-illuminated so that I would be choosing the best colours based on the actual light conditions. (Or at least the best that I can). I have finally got the enclosing infrastructure to the point of proving that my light support concept can work. The first dry fit is pictured with a clear span of just over ten and a half feet.

IMG_20200705_150554412_HDR

The only support is the two visible clamps holding the light support to the side wings. Both side wings now have their front flush mounts to transfer weight directly downwards. I will be adding a couple of clips to each end of the top/side joins for the permanent attachment. Also missing is the front layer of hardboard.

The two sections are hinged together on the bottom edge with the biggest strap hinge that would fit which is not as bit as I would like. In place, the hinge is in tension and easily does the job but when moving the piece separately it is prone to twist. Definitely the weak link. A draw latch holds the back face together at the top but the two together are no match for the leverage of a six foot lever on either end if care is not taken.

It looks like it will do for the first iteration but I expect that it won’t take many outings before a second version gets developed.

I Meant To Do That

IMG_20200617_221519076

When I started this blog, I said I was going to share the mistakes as well as the things that go well. In a non-trivial design oversight, I implemented the above atrocity.  That is the backdrop extending about two inches into the space that the traverser used to travel through. First time operating with the backdrop up was a vocabulary expanding moment.

I cannot claim this was a failure of measurement since I failed to consider the traverser travel altogether. I think the much attentuated construction process allowed me time to forget about such an obvious thing.

On the bright side, the traverser is still usable as-is! The restricted movement means less flexibility and I am not sure that isn’t a good thing. Of the three tracks, the back one can reach the back siding and the runaround track. The center track reaches the runaround and the main and the front track just reaches the main. Effectively, there is a notional runaround with a turnout to the back siding and a storage siding off the main. Much more plausible than the full range of traverser movement. I think I shall keep things as they are and see if I like it. If not, I can rework that backdrop piece to clear things up later.