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!


Back on the Bus

IMG_20200523_215448698One of the non-layout related projects I have started is a David Provan etched brass kit of a Sandy River and Rangeley Lakes railbus. I had always wanted to have a go at a UK etched kit and an On30 North American outline vehicle gives me something more than a display model. (Or at least to the same extent as the rest of my currently un-layouted On30 rolling stock!)

With the recent acquisition of a resistance soldering unit and an increase in time for model building, I decided to have another go. I got stuck back in during our usual Train Night in Canada video call. It was easy to find the project in progress since it resides in one of my storage boxes. Remembering where I was at and what I had worked out about the pieces on the frets is still in progress. Nevertheless, I did get the next bit on although I used my digital iron since the joint wasn’t amenable to soldering tweezers and I haven’t worked out a satisfactory method of grounding for use with the probe.

The only downside of this sort of project during a video call is that it requires focus. I missed some of what others were showing to the camera. I need a call specific project like applying shingles. The modelling equivalent of knitting as it were.

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

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.

Willy’s Walls

I have been remiss in posting but not entirely inactive just not doing much that seem worthy of mentioning. (AKA makes a good photo)

I have made some incremental progress on the Bar Mills HO Waterfront Willy’s kit. All the windows, window glazing and most of the trim is done. I have started the actual assembly which is a drawn out process when you have to let glue set and you have one pair of clamps.


Those are Rite-Way magnetic clamps and although I have use them before I am still impressed with how useful they are. The magnets are strong enough to hold through not just the wall but also the 1/8″ bracing on the inside.

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.

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

Beginner Brass Bodging

I have previously mentioned some books on model related metal work by Simon Bolton and Kenneth C. Foran. My soldering and brass shaping skills are rudimentary at best and I did not feel comfortable plunging directly into rolling stock construction so I set out to find a simpler project. While walking past a construction site, I hit upon the answer, a roll off waste bin. These ubiquitous items of the modern era are locally sourced and constructed from metal sheet and structural shapes. Just like those in the metal rack at the hobby shop!

I cast about for a suitable example and discovered that most waste disposal companies provide overall dimensions for their bins as well as photos thereof. Just the thing for the modeler in need. Subject identified, I prepared a basic dimensioned drawing and set about acquiring the necessary brass square tube sizes and sheets.

I made good progress but there was an issue. My Hakko FX888 digital soldering iron is not quite up to the job of soldering a joint where one or both halves is a big sheet of brass aka a heat sink. Cold joints were the order of the day and I put things aside while I mail ordered a big 120 watt iron in hopes of solving that problem.

Today I dusted things off and had a go, big iron and all. The thing is a monster with a half inch tip on it. Not for detail work but boy howdy, does it heat things up. Maybe too much. I managed to avoid desoldering everything previously attached but that wouldn’t be hard to do. Perhaps a finer tip is in order if I can get one.

Anyway, here are the two competing irons, the Hakkohakkoiron.jpg

And the 120 watt Weller old school iron (not so old school as to involve fire but still)bigiron

And here is the project to date. Todays progress was putting the sides, end and bottom together.binprogressjpg

Tarpaper Roof Installed on Shed

I grabbed some time today to glue down the shed roof and install the tarpaper roofing I made with brown paper and India ink wash. I also decided to try out some of my new double-sided tape as suggested in by David Wright in his book. I decided that glueing down the overlaps on the horizontal seams wasn’t essential given the sketchy condition of the roof in question.

Here is the overall result:shed_roofing.jpg

The double sided tape took a little getting used to and I am lucky that it isn’t so strong that if you touch it with anything it stays that way. But, a few bits consumed in learning and I was off. Applying the whole roof took me only about 15 minutes including marking the guide lines. If it holds over time, it is a win. The tape in question looks like regular transparent tape and comes in the same sort of dispense and is thus 1/2″ wide. Covering a large surface would get tiresome so I will see if I can acquire a wider product for future use.

I am also please with the general effect of the tarpaper. Variations in black and grey look like worn but still intact roofing, at least to me. The detail photo doesn’t really do it justice due to my lighting washing out the colours. A future challenge to improve my photography and/or post-processing skills. The variation isn’t as extreme as it looks in this shot.