I Knew I Would Need That Eventually

I found the previously mentioned Campbell profile shingle kit after a gratifyingly short amount of hunting. Multiple winnowing passes of the supply stash over the years has reduced the height of the pile more than I thought. Apparently some of that pile is psychological. 🙂

In this case, over the years is almost an understatement. I purchased this shingle kit sometime in my teens which makes it on the order of 40 years ago. I am conflicted about how to feel about finally finding a use for it. It is not like I have never constructed a structure in the last four decades but never one in HO that required a shingle roof. Let this be a caution against purchasing materials on vague contingency. Or an exhortation to get out this sort of thing and create a use for it. Take your pick.

On the actual usage, the decades have caused some disarray in the reel and, I presume, some curling and taking a set. The adhesive on the back is still viable but, being a belt and suspenders sort of guy, I used double sided tape to attach it with judicious adhesive activation via water and small brush as required.

Side trimming still in progress but the result is satisfactory but does suggest some general weathering will be required to get things to blend.IMG_20200401_104914344

Book Nook Mockup

It appears that I have some time on my hands in the next few weeks so I intend have a go at my proposed railway themed shelf insert. I cut the pieces for a 8.5x11x6″ wide box from 1/4″ plywood on my new table saw(more on that later). In my enthusiasm, I glued one side to the back before I realized that one would generally find it easier to build up the scene before enclosing it inside a box…

So, last night I took some salvaged foamcore and mocked up an alley. The black colour makes the jog in to the right hard to pick out but, like a bare plywood baseboard, I can see the intended result in my head. The major point was to check lines of sight which were satisfactory.

Next step is permanently glueing the foamcore together (currently held with straight pins) and attaching each section to the appropriate wall. I haven’t committed to scale and gauge yet but, as the bit of N scale flex indicates, On18 is a possibility. This would put me in the neighbourhood of the Guinness brewery railway’s 22″.


A Small Infrastructure Investment

This afternoon I built a slot cutting jig for my router. The idea is that the collar (round silver thing in the photo) goes on the bottom of the router and fits into the slot between the two boards which are both parallel to each other and perpendicular to the end boards. You line up the reference slot in the end board and just run the router along in the slot.


What does this have to do with model building? I have acquired a couple more  substantial tools over the last couple of months and my free bench top real estate has shrunk to the point of paralysis. All this preparation for slot cutting is so I can install 1/4″ plywood dividers into some DIY modular tool storage. The first unit will have pigeon holes for such things as:

  • digital soldering station
  • resistance soldering unit
  • sander
  • NWSL tools (chopper, duplicutter)
  • some categories of tools that I want handy like measuring (rules, squares) and metal working (bending bars, drop riveter, big files)

Hopefully I can have a result to report by the end of the long weekend.


“You can never have too many clamps” is an axiom of wood workers and probably most everybody else who engages in activities requiring clamps. As I alluded to in my previous post, the Rite-Way magnetic clamps are dandy for assembling wood structures. I also have an assortment of other clamps but there is always a point where you either have already used all the appropriate clamps or have none that work in the first place.

Like the Mad Hatter said, you have way more un-birthdays than birthdays. You also have way more things that aren’t clamps than clamps. And some of them can be used for clamping. I have employed a flock of pint paint cans as weights when glueing down sheet goods, for instance. Recently, I have (probably late to the party as usual) taken a shine to painters tape as a clamp substitute.

The latest instance was getting the shed attached to the Willy’s main building. The Rite-Way clamps just wouldn’t fit. Sometime you can use elastic bands but none were handy. But I have a roll of painters tape! IMG_20191204_214731836

There are also macro uses for the stuff. When I couldn’t get a clamp usefully applied to the top corner of the plywood I was installing to protect the foam on a corner of Comstock Road, it was again, tape to the rescue.IMG_20191102_122552879_HDR

There is definitely a limit to the holding power but the gentle adhesive doesn’t leave residue (that I have noticed) and it is easy to get off after things cure.

Using Photo Textures in Structure Modeling

As previously noted, I spent most of the scheduled clinic time at  NNGC 2019 sitting in a chair, trying to learn something more about the hobby. One of the highlight clinics for me was Scott Robertson’s clinic Creating and Using Photo Textures for Structures. Scott is a talented and highly productive modeler who uses textured papers for structure modeling in both On30 and G. Being local to Sacramento, Scott’s layout was on the tour the very next day and I made it a point to see the results in person.

Here is what I took away from Scott’s clinic:

  • Paper textures are a material that can be very effective when used appropriately.
  • Appropriate is walls and other flat surfaces. Less convincing are folded up attempts to produce in paper what wood, styrene or metal is better for.
  • A textured wall is far harder to detect when detailed with trim and window castings as per usual.
  • The glossy finish laser printers produce is less effective than the matte finish you get with an ink jet.
  • Teasing up edges and such can enhance realism but you don’t want to viewer to be able to see the texture edge on. For something like that, if you use actual corrugated roofing or whatever, the viewer will assume the rest of it is 3D, too.

Scott stated that he regularly catches people touching structures to see if it is a texture or not. While not one to commit such an atrocity, I did start out trying to spot textures on Scott’s layout but even at a distance of a foot or so, I did not have much success. I was initially frustrated but then I realized that that was the key lesson! We don’t use styrene for structures in hopes of the viewer being able to tell what material we used. Photo textured paper should be the same, results not material is the goal. (We won’t get into the whole leaving your expensive brass locos lacquered raw metal thing. 🙂 )

Here are some of my photos of Scott’s Never Done and Always Changing Railroad in On30 and G.

Fixing The Last Turnout and Onward

Today I got the last “eighth” of the turnouts sorted. I resoldered the rail at the joint I broke loose last week, tweaked the alignment and aligned the servo. The servo alignment is good enough to work but just barely. I clearly goofed a bit when I sited the servo and bent the wire so maximum travel on one direction just gets to the stock rail. I will see how it holds up but for now, all of the trackage is operational.

I then set out to do a little cosmetic work on the trackage. It feels a bit odd to be working on purely cosmetic aspects of the track but I had to get there eventually. I started by filling in the ties around the front track baseboard joint where the rail is soldered to screws. I am not fussing over really tight fit since I expect things to get well buried in ballast and weeds. I am also using up scrap tie bits because who doesn’t save those for just such an eventuality! Nothing glued down in this shot, lower right bit is out of place for illustrative purposes.IMG_20190804_154937687

After a break for glue drying, I masked the front track’s surroundings and sprayed the track with the base brown colour (Rustoleum Camo Brown). Additional colouring is definitely in the cards since the result looks like commercial flex track. No point in putting all those spikes and tieplates in if nobody can see them. You can tell where the soldered screws are since the paint dries a lot slower on the solder than it does on everything else.IMG_20190804_194002504


87.5% Operational

Today I installed the links that complete the connection between throw bars and vertically rotating servo wires for the 3 remaining (of 4) turnouts. I bent them up on a (new) eye forming jig since I have lost track of the original one and mass produced the three before fitting them individually.IMG_20190728_140231745

Installation required measuring and bending a 90 degree bend to match up with the hole in the end of a throw bar. In two cases, I had to drill out the hole to clear the music wire. I must have missed those in the assembly process.

Once the links were installed and a break was taken to deliver the mother-in-law to a church service, I set about adjusting them with the handy dandy alignment board that Tam Valley sells to go along with the Octopus servo controller. All went well for two of the turnouts but the last did not align properly for the diverging route, one of the ones through the diamond. Further examination indicates that the stock rail is not diverging at enough of an angle to allow the business end of the point to lie flat against the rail. I think I know how the geometry has to change but making it happen will be “interesting”. I tried to bend things a bit in situ and ended up breaking the solder joint at the baseboard edge nearby. Another break to retrieve mother-in-law and cool off was in order!

In any case, before I bodged up the solder joint, I managed to have the loco visit all of the layout under power with only the occasional nudge required due to dirty track. I figure of the eight possible routes through turnouts, I can 7 work hence the title. Here is the star of the show exploring the track in front of the traverser.IMG_20190728_145430347

Airbrushing Upgrades


Leading off is a shot of my first practice session with my new airbrushing capability. This is just ink on newsprint as a cheap way of working on the basic skills. I got the idea and a list of practice drills off of Youtube. I clearly need to work on the basics before I cut loose on a model.

As I mentioned previously, reading the first of George Dent’s weathering books hardened my resolve to get my airbrushing act together. I had a spray booth (not exhausted outside), a venerable Paasche Model H single action airbrush and a little diaphragm compressor bought used over 30 years ago. All of this needed some upgrading.

The airbrush techniques George describes in his book require a double action airbrush (or a talent with a single action brush I could never achieve). Additionally, the model H is a siphon feed that has a long path from bottle/cup to nozzle that makes cleaning a challenge that discourages undertaking small jobs. I have seen demonstrations of gravity feed brushes that used a drop or two of paint and got plenty done with that. So, first on the list was a good quality, gravity feed double action airbrush. After much deliberation, I took the plunge on a Harder & Steenbeck Infinity CR. I liked that it comes with two sizes of nozzle (.2 and .4mm). (I am a bit of a Teutonophile when it comes to tools. And cars.)

I have been hankering after a better compressor for years. The old semi-reliable could manage 18 PSI on a good day, has no tank or auto-on/off, not even an on/off switch. Working on the theory that this would probably be the compressor I had for the rest of my life, I splurged on an Iwata Power Jet Pro which has both auto on/off and a tank. On a happy note, I was able to buy locally at Wheels and Wings Hobbies for the same price offered by Canadian suppliers online. Supporting the local store and instant gratification is hard to beat!

I purchase an under counter light a few years back with the intent of lighting the spray booth. With that light, the compressor and the booth fan, I was up to three cords and counting. There are not as yet any outlets handy to the airbrushing station location so I needed some way of distributing power. I also wander to avoid fishing about for switches behind (booth fan), in (light) and under (compressor) every time I started and stopped a session. I therefore made up a switchable outlet box with two outlets to plug things into. I used two switches, one for each outlet because sometimes you just want to spray bomb and don’t need to start the compressor. I attached the box to the side of the stand that holds up the spray booth.airbrushpower.jpg

With all that done, I am open for business albeit with some temporary measures.sprayboothasis.jpg

Still to do:

  • Exhaust the booth outside. I have a 3″ hole for a vent drilled but the booth is 4″. Am dithering on whether to enlarge hole or reduce vent. (Am leaning towards bigger hole to avoid back pressure.
  • Wire a permanent outlet nearby so I can stop running an extension cord from the next room.
  • Permanently attach that light so I can have my clamps back. 🙂
  • Install a couple of shelves underneath for paint and supply storage. The compressor is currently sitting on an unattached piece of plywood.
  • Holders for both airbrushes at booth level. The compressor has two holders but with it sitting far enough forward so that I can see the gauges, the brushes stick out far enough to possibly get knocked.


Weekend Reading: Weathering for Railway Modellers Volume 1 – Locomotives and Rolling Stock


As the various non-modelling pressures ease up, I am regaining some momentum on the hobby front. I have not done much of note in the shop but I have been keeping up with my reading. The current book queued up on my phone is Weathering For Railway Modellers Volume 1 – Locomotives and Rolling Stock by George Dent. As previously noted, I have done little weathering in my modelling career but am actively working to correct that. George Dent’s book looks to be going to correct gaps in my knowledge if not my talent.

The book is lavishly illustrated with colour photographs as one would expect for so visual an art. George starts off with the why then goes into materials (paints, washes and dry pigments) and tools. Airbrushing is covered quite well in a separate chapter (George has also authored an entire modeller targeted book on the subject) after simple starter projects are covered.

After the various techniques are covered with examples, there are three! chapters specifically on simulating rust then a chapter each on timber and shading.

The balance of the book covers weathering specifics for coaches, diesels and steam locomotives through example projects combining the foundation techniques as appropriate.

I have not finished the book but I certainly will! I also intend to roll right into the companion volume on weathering structures and scenery with possibly a detour for that airbrushing book. (More on my nascent airbrushing adventures to follow). Weathering for Railway Modellers, volumes 1 and 2 are currently in print and available in paper and e-book form from the excellent Crowood Press which is getting a lot of my money these days.

Trust in the Rust

I was at the Ontario Narrow Gauge Show last Saturday and while I did do a turn in the ticket booth, I managed to get out enough to attend a couple of clinics. My major motivation for plotting my escape was a promised talk on simulating rust by  George Dutka. I enjoy following George’s blog and one of the things I admire is his mastery of weathering. Having not weathered anything beyond the odd ink wash, I need all the help I can get.

George did not disappoint and presented a basic method of applying “rust” using acrylics and powders. Even better, he brought supplies and encouraged attendees to have a go on a small piece of material. I tentatively waded in and here is the result of a few minutes work:NoobWeathering

Not a contest winner by any means but I am encouraged nontheless. Things I learned in this brief exercise include:

  • less is more on the paint, the areas around the patch on the left are the first bits I did and I gobbed it on too heavy
  • I need to work from prototype examples. I am not convinced I rusted the right parts.
  • applying a light grey chalk as a final finish blended and muted things nicely.

I am looking forward to practicing on some of my more inexpensive rolling stock once I obtain suitable confidence and source photos.

As something to aim for, here is one of the structures George brought along as an example.NotNoobWeathering