Part of my recent experimentation with milling on the lathe involved cutting some steel bar stock roughly to length with a hacksaw. 1/8 x 3/4 bar wasn’t too strenuous but 1 1/2 x 3/4 was way too much like exercise. After considering the alternatives to just quitting, I settled on as cheap a horizontal/vertical bandsaw as can be got the imported 4×6, in my case, the Craftex CX122. Back-ordered during the “Black Friday” echo sales we get in Canada due to proximity to the US, I picked it up on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve.

Assembly was a bit of a challenge due to less than stellar documentation but I think I have it together correctly. I say think because the instructions included a list of required tools and a reference to a loose parts list but neither actual assembly instructions nor the aforementioned loose parts list. </rant>

Anyway, after a fair bit of squinting at the tiny exploded parts diagram and replacement parts list (all the parts of the entire machine, not just those to be assembled) I had a saw and no leftover parts. This, of course, required something to be sawn.

I chose a round bar of mystery steel offcut the metal vendor threw in with my first order because it was bent over part of its’ length. (I don’t want to be there when 1 inch steel bar gets accidentally bent!) Cutting off the bent bit is a useful thing and low commitment if things went pear shaped. I set it up and fired up the saw. After a good while, I had two pieces of steel and no catastrophe. I did realize belatedly that the drive belt was insufficiently tensioned and did correct that. That bit was in the instructions so was entirely my fault.

The cut is nice and smooth and reasonably straight and best of all, my arms do not feel as if they are going to catch fire or fall off. Metal working is looking more enticing already.

Roller Gauges: Design Meets Reality

Two Proto:48 Roller Gauges

When I got to actually laying out the dimensions on the first gauge (ie, marks in big Sharpie with dial calipers, I belatedly realized that the .036 flange width on the ends would be very delicate and vulnerable to damage if one, er, hypothetically dropped one on a concrete floor. Which is why my previous efforts had .100 rims rather than aspire to fit right in the frog of turnouts. I opted to repeat that choice for durability’s sake.

Being an aspiring novice hobby machinist, there are things I know need improving in the execution of these parts. Measuring those small gaps with dial calipers isn’t the most precise method but all I have that works. The finish isn’t as smooth as it should be which I know how to fix but will require developing my tool bit sharpening skills. There are probably things I don’t know that should be improved, too.

Anyway, parts done and sent off into the pre-Christmas postal maelstrom.

Foam Cradle

As I embark on various couple and truck installations, a simple product purchased on a whim is turning out to be very handy. I bought this foam cradle from MicroMark as an afterthought to some order or other. This is one of those things you can almost certainly make for yourself but I guess I succumbed to the lure of convenience or aspiration or both.

In any case, both I and the foam block have redeemed that aspiration and I am finding it essential for installing the new couplers, especially on the loco which tips the scales at over 5 pounds. Holding that upside down in one hand while attempting to tap a whole is not a great idea. Haven’t broken a tap yet, don’t want to start. I will take all advantages I can get given my record on ham-handed damage while handling rolling stock. I will keep this handy on my workbench to discourage any hasty corner cutting.IMG_20200502_204502804_HDR

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.

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.


Trackwork, Various

I managed a few trackwork related moments in the last week in amongst assorted excursions, tasks, crises, crises requiring excursions, etc… Most significantly, I got the first K-crossing for the Comstock Road diamond formed and pinned down ready for soldering. This took place on a larger pine board which I acquired for the purpose. I despaired at the price for a 1x8x6′ pine board until I spotted a stack of 1x10x5′ “pine shelves”  in the next rack over. These looked suspiciously like 1×10 boards and were a quarter of the price. The mysteries of retail!

Here is how far I got.firstkcrossing

While I was acquiring that bigger piece of pine, I also purchased an inexpensive engineer’s protractor. This is a handy way to measure and transfer angles and I wanted to make sure everything matched when I moved it over from the template. The crossing angle is 24° for those who were wondering. That bit of rail has marker on the end so I can mark the angle I need to file. This sort of protractor makes that much easier than the half circle sort.protractor

I also did some other things including getting the start of the second rail down on the main where it leaves the traverser. This rail will feed into one leg of the diamond. I also applied paper to the ends of the rails on each of the four frogs remaining to be laid, two turnouts and the ones I made for the diamond. Rather than rely on an air gap, I try to have something solid and unobtrusive as an insulator. I have used a mere layer of paint in the past but always worried that expansion would squish a short into being. Paper to be trimmed after the adhesive cures.froginsulation

Turnout Control Progress

I have mentioned previously that getting hand laid points connected up and suitably under control has been a stumbling block in past efforts. The achievable scope of Comstock Road (4 or 5 turnouts total) makes the mental size of the task easier to contemplate. I have begun the new year as I mean to go on, by tackling the mentally hard things and have made further progress.

First up is the connecting rod from switch stand location to throw bar. Increasingly prototypical possibilities have occupied my imagination but when I found myself contemplating scratchbuilding scale clevis’, I realized that I was making things harder than they should be, certainly for a first attempt. I resolved to make something out of the piano wire on hand.

I needed an eye or loop in the wire to connect to the vertical shaft comping up from beneath the layout. (I am going for a rotational motion like a switch stand rather than the model railroady back and forth in a big hole. I fashioned a simple jig consisting of a piece of scrap plywood with a nail driven in and cut off, and adjacent to a piano wire sized hole. A right angle bend near the end of the wire goes into the hole and the wire is wrapped around the nail to form the eye. I got the idea for this jig from the Animated Scale Models Handbook.

Here is the jig.bentwirejig

And here is the result trimmed up.eyeinwire

I have got the vertical brass tube and wire combo installed and connected to the throwbar. (We pause while I dash downstairs to take a photo of the installation which I apparently forgot to do. Lack of photos is usually a good sign since it indicates that I have got a head of steam up.) Here is a shot of the connecting rod installation. Bending the crank in the end of the vertical wire was a challenge and I will consider better alternatives such as soldering on a separate piece of brass bar. It does work and will be concealed by the switch stand. The other reason for a separate bar would be to allow the vertical wire to continue up through the stand so the target can rotate.connectingrod.jpg

Finally, we get to installing the servo, Tam Valley Octopus servo driver and associated electrical bits. I have got as far as fashioning a bracket for the servo using a section of 1/2″ aluminum channel from the big box store. I picked this idea up somewhere in the model railway reaches of the internet and it works a treat. The servo is just a friction fit in the channel after a slight pinch with a pair of pliers.bracketmk1