Hints and Tips - The first 499
Using Old Picture Frames to Build Models
By Michael Shearer (NJ USA)
I build structures on a large picture frame I picked up cheaply. The glass provides a flat surface to work on and the frame provides right angle guides. Also styrene cement does not stick to the glass.
Matches as Sleeper Details
By John Gibson (NZ)
I cut up used wooden matches and paint them to represent sleepers. I paint them an appropriate colour and stack them near yards or paint them a heavily weathered tone and scatter them as replaced or broken sleepers along the right of way.
A Dust Cleaning Tool?
By P T (who would prefer to remain anonymous… you'll see why!)
My wife gave me a makeup applicator, the big soft type that she would use to apply blush and such, and it makes a great duster. It cleans the dust off wagons and buildings but is soft enough that it does not break any details off.
I have found it very handy for the cleaning but I must admit to being a little bit scared at the thought of going to buy a replacement…
Tea Bags and Tissues as Details
By Dale Brooks
I was making a cup of tea one day when I noticed the tea bag as made of what appeared to be fine cloth lace. This stuff is perfect for window screens in OO or even N scale or could be hung out on a model washing line to dry. Tissues could also be used as models of sheets in this way as a detail in a model back yard.
Hints & Tips No.308
Securing Figurines on a Foam Base
By Trevor Gibbs (Melbourne, Australia)
You can take the base off a figurine and using a heated pin put the figurine over the pin to embed it into the legs. Cut the head off the pin according to need and secure the pin with PVA glue.
Place your figurine in your scene with the outward part of the pin placed in your scenery base. This should help keep your figures steady and avoid the clear plastic base look as well!
by Sid Price
If you are doing track work, ballasting, painting, gluing etc. take some plastic straws and cut a straight split down one side. Place the straw over the rails, one on each side laid end to end, and do your spraying, stoning and whatever. When everything is dry, remove the straws and expose your untarnished rail tops. No more sanding, scraping or polishing should be necessary.
Working on relatively short areas, you should only need 4 or 6 straws
Hints & Tips No.310
Detailing Card Buildings Pt 1
By Ken Walsh
I am a fan of card for buildings, I mix them in with plasticard buildings, you have to look close to spot the difference.
I detail them as follows. Looking ,for instance at my signal box, the steps, handrails and balcony are plasicard, using the card ones as templates. The printed relief is a mixture of paper, card & plastcard. The printed bolts at the building corners were replaced with brass bolts & washers. The finial is cast metal. Add drain pipes, interior, plasticard chimney and soon to be added other clutter around the ouside and you have a reasonable signal box.
Detailing Card Buildings Pt 2
By Mike Cheeseman
With a little work Metcalf buildings look OK and all I have done is ensure the cardboard folds are coloured in to match; I use a selection of felt pens, and some light use of weathering helps. I weather with acrylics, watered down and rubbed in and off with paper towels and rags.
They can be further improved with gutters and drains. Probably the biggest problem with them is that they are now so popular they have become a bit of a cliché. However if you are prepared to dedicate more time than I have, they can be modified to make them more unique.
Detailing Card Buildings Pt 3
By Colin Whitelock (Colchester)
Sometimes it is a good idea (if economically a bit questionable) to buy two identical card kits and use one purely as an overlay to give depth to a model.
Using 2 kits, doors can be recessed, plinths, window ledges and other relief added and you get rid of the flat/printed effect that could otherwise spoil a lot of card buildings. A misting with the airbrush, using matt (very) dark grey or similar gets rid of the slight sheen present on some printed card, and do not forget to colour in any exposed card edges - I prefer to use cheap acrylic paint for this. Add some Microrod for downpipes etc, fit some gutters (Ratio/Peco?) and you can end up with a very convincing model.
Printed windows can also be fretted out and replaced with scratch or, if you are lucky and they fit, ready made replacements from Wills/Peco etc.
Cutting Tiny Wires using a Razor Saw
By James Fulham
Put the wire on a surface like a cutting mat. Put the saw blade across the wire so that it it trapped between two of the teeth. Now gently pull the wire to remove the insulation.
Depending upon how big your razor saw teeth are, this can work for very small wire - i think that I was using 0.25mm wire at the time.
Hobby Knife Blades
By Tony Comber
Hobby knife sets come with a variety of blades… and their uses are…
Straight blades: cutting sheet materials, especially with a straight edge.
Round blades: good for cutting detail off models as they don't dig in like a straight one does. Will wander if you try cutting with a straight edge.
Flat/straight ended: never found much use for these, can be used for cutting off detail but the corners tend to dig in.
Other shapes, hooked etc.: one day you will find a use that only they will reach, but not often.
Just a few pointers to start, you will soon learn what suits you. Some do things with a type of blade I would not even consider and vice versa. Just remember you are more likely to cut yourself using a blunt blade than a sharp one.
Hints & Tips No.315
Safety Tread Patterns
By Trevor Gibbs
Stretching Tulle and gluing it to sheet styrene etc for manhole covers and the like. Or you can use recycled plastic plates with a tread pattern for the same purpose.
By Derek Louw
I have used both thin MDF and hardboard supported by timber cross bearers - it is usually easy enough to find cut wood strip in the DIY which gives the right overall height. MDF or hardboard glued and screwed to the timber. Platform support walls are Slaters stone faced plastikard, prepainted and glued in place. Surface is scribed plastikard for the surface edges, and Slaters paving stone in between, but surfacing is to choice.
Rather obvious tip is to watch clearances very carefully. I once built (partly - never finished) an N gauge layout using the Peco platform edgings in brick, with a plastikard surface supported on the rebate in the edgings and vertical plastikard cross supports within the platform.
All went together very easily and set nice and solid. Then I started to run the trains through. Whoops - those carefully checked clearances were all wrong, and I then spent a good few hours shaving off the many bits which were in the way.
By Wayne Hoskin
I do a lot of scratchbuilding for myself and others. I do not use a scale ruler for marking out sides of projects in styrene. I prefer to use a calculator and a pair of vernier calipers. For use in OO scale for instance divide a given dimension by 76, dial in this measurement into the Vernier Caliper and mark off the styrene with a sharp pencil.
Hints & Tips No.318
By Trevor Gibbs
At time of writing I was reading where a few modellers had used a small block of stainless steel and rubbing it along the track used it to flatten the track. Although I was a bit skeptical, I tried the process using some thin steel I had then rubbed a few sections using the hardened rim of a tin.
Physically it did not change much up top very visibly but the performance over the track seems to have improved. This was particularly evident in a section where I was contemplating relaying it, thinking the rail was building resistance through aging The section would be at least 25 years old and possibly older. And the cost? The edge of a tin and a bit of elbow grease.
Using the Hornby Track Cleaner Car
By Ken Darville
The old Hornby track cleaner (R344), can still be used on the modern layouts. Couple two together. Over the cleaning pad of the first of these, use 2400 grade emery cloth. On the second one, soak the pad in isopropyl alcohol. Attached the two vehicles to a loco and let it run over the line. As the old advert used to say.., 'Save all that hard scrubbing!'
Weighting & Modelling Tarpaulins
By Paul Jansz
To add to the armoury of weighting options, sheet lead may be obtained from plumbers’ and builders’ merchants. Because this material is indefinitely recyclable, many take in returned off-cuts from completed jobs and so may have a suitable small piece to hand with no need to cut.
If you ask for ‘code 5’ (five pounds per square foot) that is probably of most utility for 00 (0 gaugers can take the chunkier code 7). The benefits are that it comes with a bright surface so is clean to work with, it is easy to cut to shape, and very quickly secured with a little contact adhesive, which also makes it readily removable if that is necessary at some future time.
Regarding the problem of weighting open wagons, a small piece of sheet lead suitably wrapped can make a folded wagon sheet on the wagon floor. For that wrapping, some grades of dustbin bags have a textured dark grey finish on one surface that is a very economical basis for modelling tarpaulin. I am steadily working my way through one, for wagon sheets and loco cab weather sheets.
Two Motor Units
By Trevor Gibbs
I read a piece of advice many years ago about someone who had a twin motored locomotive who rewired it so that instead of the two motors being parallel to each other, they were rewired so that they were in series with each other.
A number of things improved when I did this for a friends Australian Powerline brand loco. The top speed was within an acceptable range and slow speed performance improved a good deal. Like a few other conversions and new inventions etc, there were some spurious claims made like “loco became a better puller” which is difficult to believe because the weight and friction is the same.
However current draw would be reduced and that with the reduced top speed are an asset to any model.
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