Not a New Year Resolution

I have been struggling with hobby inertia in the last couple of months. It is just easier to sit down at the computer(upstairs) rather than descend the stairs to the shop and figure out what to do next. And the longer you are away, the harder it is to remember what that was and where you were at in it.

Late in December, I decided that I needed to reform the habit of regular effort. (Just ask be about workout routines, I am a master of starting those…) I have scheduled a daily block of time merely labelled “shop”. I am using Google Calendar so that it goes ping on my phone so I have less excuse to “forget”. The intent is to be in the shop or doing shop related things for at least that long.

I have taken the approach that anything done is good (barring fire and flood caused, of course) and that it will eventually produce results through accumulation. So far, so good. I have done a bunch of cleaning and reorganization, done some planning for the developing machine shop and made, at long last, some progress on foam scenery base for Comstock Road. The lighting update is one identifiable result.

I have more or less stuck to the routine and it feels like I am getting some forward progress. Hopefully I will have more discretely identifiable things to share in the near future.

Lighting Update

I previously described, I installed an LED strip in valance of Comstock Road. I applied it using the self-adhesive backing which turns out to be less than permanent. On multiple occasions, I entered the room to see one of the two strip sections dangling down, held up only by the wires at one end. This, as they say, won’t do.

After a bit of research, I decided to try double sided carpet tape. If that fails, I will go all the way to stables or some other mechanical fastener. Having got the valance down to do the taping (not trying that upside down and leaning into the layout), I decided to continue with running the wiring.

I will likely change power supplies when I add a second strip so the current power brick is temporary-ish. I have been hung up on the idea of some sort of shelf but decided to just zip-tie the brick to a cross member.

Zip ties, what can’t they do? El Kabodge strikes again.

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!

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.

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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.

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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

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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.

Flush Mount Clips for Detachable Backdrop

Waaaaay back when, I briefly mentioned flush mount clips in my baseboard plan for Comstock Road. I bought them from Lee Valley Tools and have finally got to the point of actually installing them.

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These clips are only 1/8″ thick when together and provide a rigid enough attachment to keep backdrop sections upright on their own. Any sort of serious lateral force would be a problem, though, so I am making a tradeoff for speed of assembly and disassembly. The sections just drop into place with no fussing around. At least once I figured out the best way to mount them.

The product description specifies #6 screws but the ones available to me don’t fit entirely flush in the holes in the clip or are at least nigh unto impossible to get exactly flush. (The photo above shows the #6’s) The tightness of the fit between the two pieces makes any protruding screw top an problem. I did the first side piece with #6’s and it is a jam fit. I then tried #5’s for the other side and they work a treat. So 5’s it is if you plan on taking things apart often. I will have to redo the first side at some point soon.

Here is the stage left end with a back section propped in place for the photo.IMG_20200527_143937521

The backdrops will take a bit longer than anticipated due to a design oversight. The backdrop is supposed to clip onto the back of the baseboards and span the section gap. (Two 4’6″ pieces will do the visible part before the fiddle yard.) Also spanning that gap on the back is one of the clips holding the sections together… I will have to do something like frame around those points and cut suitable holes. I am not sure what the solution would look like if I planned for this but I have enough leftover 1×2 to bodge up something that will work.