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Foam packing from white goods - The Landscape - Getting You Started. - Your Model Railway Club
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 Posted: Sun Mar 27th, 2022 12:12 pm
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Passed Driver
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Hi All.     Being a scenery virgin, I would like to remove the flat baseboard effect from my plank. Can I use scrap foam packing from a washing machine for the job or do I have to purchase the real McCoy from the model shop. It is only a low embankment that I want to create alongside the yard, for now. Best wishes Kevin 



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 Posted: Sun Mar 27th, 2022 01:15 pm
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Kevin, you are modelling your own model railway and can use anything appropriate you have to hand. If you think that the modelling material is dangerous and might cause some harm, then you must be getting it from a dubious source, so please be safe.

Bon courage and enjoy the new scenic experience.

Bill

PS, why not post all your questions regarding your layout on your inglenook layout thread, then you'll always know where they are for future reference?



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At 6'4'', Bill is a tall chap, then again, when horizontal he is rather long and people often used to trip over him! . . . and so a nickname was born :)

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 Posted: Sun Mar 27th, 2022 01:59 pm
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Hi Bill.    Thank you for your reply. Funny enough that has been suggested to me before. Best wishes Kevin 



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 Posted: Sun Mar 27th, 2022 09:08 pm
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Hi Kevin
As you have not posted this in your layout thread, I thought I would answer here.  I use the polystyrene you mention for all of my terrain building.  I cut it with a knife rather than a hot wire, (I use a bread knife) and although it makes a horrible mess, it is relatively easy to work with.  I glue it down with PVA, although it can take a while to dry.  Once fixed, I take the knife to it again to get it to the sort of shape I want, then cover the whole lot with Modroc.  Both of the banks in this picture were made this way, with all sorts of odds and ends of polystyrene, so it can be quite forgiving and the Modroc covers a multitude of sins!  I am never entirely sure how things will turn out, I have what I want in my mind's eye, but getting it to match in practice is another thing altogether.  More than once I have had to pull things up and start again, but the embankment you want should not be too demanding if you take your time.  



Michael



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 Posted: Sun Mar 27th, 2022 11:19 pm
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Hi Kevin,

The white material used as packing is not the best. Not dense enough and crumbly. Closed cell high density foam (as used by builders and home renovators for wall and floor insulation, pink or blue) is much better, and cuts with a knife without crumbling. Cuts even better with a hot wire or hot knife, which allows shaping. No risk of cuts.  I'd recommend the hot wire rather than knives. I buy mine in 2 x 2 feet x 1 inch thick squares from Amazon.

There are ways to keep weight down. Use plaster cloth and cardboard frames fixed with hot glue to the base. Or even plaster of Paris and kitchen towel or cheesecloth. If you can get some, chicken wire mesh serves as a frame. Screw to the baseboard. Paper mâché and some white glue gives a hard and durable shell. Recycle the newspaper as well.

Nigel.



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 Posted: Mon Mar 28th, 2022 07:31 am
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Petermac
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BCDR wrote: Hi Kevin,

The white material used as packing is not the best. Not dense enough and crumbly. Closed cell high density foam (as used by builders and home renovators for wall and floor insulation, pink or blue) .....................

Nigel.

Two different products Nigel. ;-)


The white stuff used in packaging is "expanded" polystyrene whereas the blue or pink stuff is "extruded" polystyrene.

Extruded material is more expensive and too dense for packaging purposes, i.e. it isn't very good as a shock absorber.  On the other hand, it is, as you say, quite a bit cleaner to work with although the "dust" created by sawing or sanding is the very devil to clean up.  Hot wire cutting works extremely well with either product and leaves zero mess. 



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 Posted: Mon Mar 28th, 2022 08:33 am
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Hi Michael.    Thank you for your reply. It would seem that we have a difference of opinion, me being new to scenery of any sort, and this small job taking more time at the planning stage than possibly doing? I have stalled, and although the advice is clear I will have to have a moment to think about it. Best wishes Kevin 



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 Posted: Mon Mar 28th, 2022 09:45 am
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Passed Driver wrote: Hi Michael.    Thank you for your reply. It would seem that we have a difference of opinion, me being new to scenery of any sort, and this small job taking more time at the planning stage than possibly doing? I have stalled, and although the advice is clear I will have to have a moment to think about it. Best wishes Kevin


I don't see that there is any difference of opinion in any way at all Kevin, as Michael is simply agreeing with you that he also uses white polystyrene packing offcuts for all his land formations, when he says, " I use the polystyrene you mention for all of my terrain building". He then goes on to give you further information on how he uses this material, but you are perfectly entitled to proceed as you think best suits your situation.

How were you intending to construct your embankment?

You don't need to use any fancy hot wire cutters if you don't have them, but you will need a way to shape the embankment.

Best,

Bill



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 Posted: Mon Mar 28th, 2022 11:50 am
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I don't particularly like the really crumbly stuff, but some packing uses a denser form of the same thing (or the particles are smaller, something like that). Whichever form of expanded polystyrene you use, don't use a solvent based glue on it, or it will just melt away. PVA glues work nicely, even watered down a bit.

In the past I used an old steak knife to cut the polystyrene, but in more recent times I invested in a hot-wire cutter, which produces a lot less mess. Using the old method of cutting with a knife, it is useful to have a vacuum cleaner on hand to suck up all the little bits floating around, including all the ones sticking to oneself (static cling!).

A late friend who was an industrial chemist warned us all about running electrical wiring through the polystyrene, as he found that there was a long-term leaching effect from the plastic insulation on the wires in contact with the polystyrene that caused the insulation to become sticky and break down.




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 Posted: Mon Mar 28th, 2022 01:50 pm
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Petermac

Two different products Nigel. ;-)


The white stuff used in packaging is "expanded" polystyrene whereas the blue or pink stuff is "extruded" polystyrene.

Extruded material is more expensive and too dense for packaging purposes, i.e. it isn't very good as a shock absorber.  On the other hand, it is, as you say, quite a bit cleaner to work with although the "dust" created by sawing or sanding is the very devil to clean up.  Hot wire cutting works extremely well with either product and leaves zero mess. 
Peter - I don't think that the blue or pink (also available in other colours...) is polystyrene - I beleve it's PIR, (polyisocyanurate) at least, I know both Celotex and Kingspan are. Different beast to Polystyrene.



Shaun.


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 Posted: Mon Mar 28th, 2022 03:37 pm
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Ah, I hadn't thought of that Shaun...... :roll:

Yes indeed, Celotex and Kingspan are PIR but I was thinking of what we know as Styrofoam this side of the pond.  I know it's very popular for scenic work in the States.  In fact, many modellers use it where we'd use cork - as the track bed because it's strong enough to carry the layout on open frame baseboards, is easy to cut out / carve to get below track level for culverts etc. and is also used to hide point motors by cutting a foxhole for them.

Maybe Nigel will enlighten us when he comes on again. :thumbs



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 Posted: Mon Mar 28th, 2022 08:14 pm
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gastwo
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:lol: We've used it for three layouts so far!
This is one of them:



7mm narrow gauge, and been to three local exhibitions so far - possibly going to Burton-on-Trent in June.
Based on a 50mm slab of Celotex - wire-in-tube points, DC powered with home brewed controller.

Shaun.

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 Posted: Mon Mar 28th, 2022 08:41 pm
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Seems ideal Shaun.  

Have you tried Styrofoam and if so, how does it compare with PIR ?  My guess would be, inch for inch, it's stronger and lighter but I have absolutely no experience with PIR except in roofing panels which have plasterboard facing and timber battens bonded into them.



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 Posted: Tue Mar 29th, 2022 02:13 am
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Hi Kevin,
Go to http://www.railmodelleraustralia.com and check out the Nov 21 issue... the subterannean parts will come up soon!

Cheers

Trevor

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 Posted: Tue Mar 29th, 2022 03:08 am
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Hi Kevin (and everybody else),

Styrofoam is extruded closed cell polystyrene (XPS), and is a trademark of I believe Dupont. Blue for insulation, white and green for craft applications. Expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) is the material found in packing, food containers and cups.

Red polystyrene foam is made by Owens Corning over here.

After trying various types (white fluffy, white dense, the commercial offerings from Woodland Scenics,  blue, red) I decided to use only the red or blue insulation grades. Ideal for low embankments, carve and sand as required (wear a mask - N95). I use a large disposable snap blade cutter and a hot wire, it will blunt a sharp knife beyond redemption after a few cuts. It comes in 1/2", 1", 2" and 4" thicknesses, and is actually quite expensive. Use adhesives designed for it. I usually finish off with a layer of plaster cloth (plaster cast variety).

I like it for low embankments and small hills. I've seen it used for rocky canons and the like, and once built a substantial hill for a railway tunnel. Not sure I would use it again for something that big.

If you can find some packing strips (white) then they make ideal low embankments, especially if you invest in a hot wire cutter. Low density EPS does not sand well, and tends to crumble.

If you want a minimal cutting alternative, use balsa wood formers and plaster cloth, or even rolled-up newspaper and carboard formers and plaster cloth. If you require high embankments I would go for cardboard, newspaper and plaster cloth. Just needs a pair of scissors and a hot glue gun. Cut the cardboard (cereal boxes are fine) into strips and basket weave. Old school, but minimal cost. And hopefully no cut fingers. It's what I will probably use on the current layout, which is quite hilly and would require quite a lot of polystyrene foam.

Nigel










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 Posted: Tue Mar 29th, 2022 07:37 am
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Papier-mâché has served me very well for creating the hills above Heathfield and I've not had any complaints.This was early construction work on Westown-Heathfield so never written up anywhere. I needed a hill structure over the track and created it with a simple wooden frame base at Ground level, this holding dowels and old antenna rods to give a range of elevations as required, with chicken wire as the sub-surface attached to these.

This was a good start as all were recycled so free. Then several layers of Papier-mâché to the age old formula were applied et voila. I got a very robust and satisfactory hill which has withstood being pulled off two or three times (originally designed as a fully removable module). This pic from Dec 2019.


BTW I like the paper / chicken wire combination because it allows you to get all the subtle variations of contours by just shaping as it is formed. It gives a very good representation of hilly indentations and random unevenness without much effort at all.


I'll take some more pics including internals and put them up on the Westown-Heathfield topic sometime soon.









Colin






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 Posted: Tue Mar 29th, 2022 09:16 am
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On Farleigh I used card formers with cereal packet card framework, all covered in newspaper liberally coated in PVA. Virtually free and simple to do. 


Terry


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 Posted: Tue Mar 29th, 2022 10:05 am
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Longchap
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Thank you for reminding us all of this Terry, as it seems to represent an optimum solution for forming undulating terrain and as far as Kevin is concerned, it’s perfectly within his capabilities and posses no danger from carving knives or indeed excessive mess!
 
I’ve copied this excellent post into my layout construction database for use on my own layout.
 
Will you be considering exhibiting Farleigh at some stage, as it deserves to be popular and instructional, representing great attention to detail and superb modelling.
 
Best,
 
Bill



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At 6'4'', Bill is a tall chap, then again, when horizontal he is rather long and people often used to trip over him! . . . and so a nickname was born :)

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 Posted: Tue Mar 29th, 2022 10:30 am
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Yes, cardboard is certainly easy and, once you've eaten the contents, totally free however, I have always used chicken wire for all the reasons Colin mentioned.

I do have access to free supplies which I suppose makes a difference but I think it's easier to form those subtle bumps and hollows found on the real thing.  In my case, I covered it with home made plaster bandage - "J cloth" material soaked in a plaster soup.  Papier mache is certainly cheaper and more readily available. 



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Hi Shaun.  Terrific layout you have there, I wasn’t certain what you had used three times, was it the foam? Originally after returning to Model Railways after forty odd years, I had a grand scheme, but that turned out to be too big, and then I saw a much more convenient idea. That being a plank, much more suitable for council type homes, smaller, compact you could say. That is when I decided to make it portable and I wish I knew then about the foam. Which would have cut down the weight. I also use wire in tube point control. The idea of the proscenium arch rounds it off nicely, but since I had a heart valve operation I cannot see myself transporting it anywhere. Best wishes Kevin 



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