Friday, January 17, 2020

East Berlin Scenery Update: Mattabesset River

I have a confession to make - since I started the Valley Local group over on Facebook, the blog has lagged behind my progress a bit. In some cases, really far.

So (again with the New Year's Resolutions), I resolve to do better in 2020 and try and keep the blog more up-to-date. After all, it's a (web)log of my layout's progress that I own and can keep without worrying that Mark Zuckerberg will someday take it away.

With that in mind, this post will bring you up-to-date with what's been going on in East Berlin (click here for the posts so far). Here's a grab pic of where we left off last time:

I'd painted the Mattabesset river bed and installed the backdrop. Things were looking so good I was afraid no matter what I did next that I'd somehow mess it up. But the only way forward (to your end goal) is through (your fears) so I continued by working more on the river banks.

The first thing I did was try to get away from the river looking too much like a road (as The Missus put it) by roughing up the edges of the banks with more blended brown & black paint.

I also added some trees and ground scrub toward the back of the scene, not only for texture, but to hide the bottom edge of the backdrop. I used a variety of materials here, including static grass, lichen, Woodland Scenics foliage net, and even some stuff I picked up from the dry flower section of my local craft store.

I added tufts of taller grasses by rolling some longer fibers between my fingers, cutting to a length that looked good, dipping the cut end into some glue, and "planting" in place along the banks.

Meanwile, I decided to make the edges of the banks even more irregular and created some "shallow" spots in the center of the river, all with brown and black paint.

Don't be afraid to go over even "done" scenery to add more texture/variety. Here I'm adding some patchy glue that will hold some more static grass (for a patchy grassy look).

Looks a mess when you first do it . . .

. . . but it improves when you vacuum it . . .

. . . and looks eve better when it starts to dry.

After getting some feedback, I decided to add some "deadfall" (twigs) - again, more variety and texture.
 After all this working and reworking, I ended up with this:

And that's where things ground to a halt while I worked on some other projects and ginned up the nerve to actually pour the resin "water."

But like with many things in this hobby, the fear proved to be unfounded. Doing the water effect ended up being easier than I thought.

I used Woodland Scenics' Deep Pour water product (which Bill used in Goff Brook) and followed the instructions to the letter: basically, warming the two parts of resin beforehand, mixing them in the proper proportion in the right amount (calculated using a handy water volume estimator app available from Woodland Scenics), and then pouring . . .

This is what it looked like immediately after I finished pouring. WOW! I really like how the riverbed looks. Looks really deep (it's actually only 1/8" deep here).

Warmth is important to this product, so Woodland Scenics recommends covering the pour with aluminum foil to keep the heat in (the curing process itself generates some heat) and to keep dust off the resin as it cures.
 Believe it or not (BION), this is what it looks like after it's all cured!

Just as "wet" looking as when it was poured.
 One thing I did notice was that the product does tend to creep up the sides a bit. . .

But I don't really see that as a problem since I think riverbanks would be wet along the edges anyway. And check out the depth!

Speaking of depth: Be sure to pour the right amount! The calculator proved extra handy when I realized (AFTER the pour, of course) that I hadn't created a dam at the edge of the layout!

Turned out, the resin filled just to the top of the fascia. Talk about beginner's luck! Whew!

And this is what the scene looks like as of today:

Compare this to the photo at the top of the post
So now you're all up-to-date on the Mattabesset River. Be sure to stay tuned for the rest of the East Berlin Scenery Update - I've been working on the road and a grade crossing as well. And I still need to decide how to do some ripples on the river. I love the beautiful reflection, but no river is that still...

Hope to get this scene to a level of "done-ness" by the Springfield show. Wish me luck!

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Storage Case for NCE PowerCab

Almost three years ago to the day, I posted about a box I made from foamcore to mount and use my NCE PowerCab more easily. Click here for how I did that project.

The small size of NCE's PowerCab DCC system makes it ideal for taking to the workbench - or even taking to a show. But not being mounted to anything makes its ungainly components a bit inconvenient to manage. The foamcore box solved that problem.

Well, after almost 3 years of use, turns out the foamcore box - while nice - had a couple of shortcomings. First, its light weight wouldn't prevent it from being pulled around by the wires if I had to move them. Admittedly, that didn't happen that often and wasn't really a problem - but I wanted something a little heavier and more substantial. Even if that didn't bother me, one of the hot glue mounting connections came undone and wasn't where I could repair it easily.

This is the old foam box. If you click on the image to enlarge it, you'll see the vertical PCB has some unattached.

This thing was more like a tray than a box - no lid and the throttle would just lay on top of everything.
So, being one to embrace a new woodworking project, I figured I'd just make a new box.

Beware: This post has a LOT of photos, but I let them do (most of) the talking. And if you make it to the end, you'll know how to make a cool box like this of your own:

Everything is mounted directly to the wood - including the throttle (mounted with velcro) - and the wires are stapled in place, so no fear of things moving or coming apart.

I started with a wooden box I got from Michael's Arts & Crafts. I think it's used primarily as a keepsake box, but I liked its plainness - and lid.
Here it is on my bench, ready to be modified.

First thing I did was lay out all the components so see how they'd best fit and work in relation to each other. Then I marked where the plug-in panel would go.

Three hole-saw holes got me started . . .

. . . and a 4-in-hand file made quick work of the remainder of the soft wood.

I also used a small saw when I wanted to remove material more quickly. It also came in handy when squaring things off.

And here is the panel all mounted, and a mark for the USB interface made, there on the left. Given the size of the box, I was able to include my Lokprogrammer module as well - something I couldn't do with the foamcore box. It's mounted inside toward the back of this photo. I'll get into precisely how it's mounted a bit later.

I couldn't mount the USB interface directly to the floor of the box since there are components on both sides. So I put it on its own wooden pad to lift it up. Since I'd be drilling the hole for the plug from outside the box, I needed to mark the outside. And since I needed to account for the thickness of the floor of the box, I mocked it up to get the correct height of the hole.

Once that was done, I drilled a couple 1/4" holes and filed to the markings.

Here's the mounting pad I mentioned. I was too impatient to just get the proper plastic screw sleeves to mount the board, so I used some balsa I had on-hand to create the needed clearance. Bonus: the balsa glued nicely to the plywood base.
Here are a couple of views of the mounting pad glued in place, showing how it was made.

Here's the USB panel all mounted - not as pretty as the plug-in panel, but just as effective.

And here's how it looks inside.

Remember I mentioned the Lokprogrammer had to be mounted with a screw? Well, that screw comes up through the bottom of the box and the Lokprogrammer is secured with a nut on the end of that screw. Problem is, now I had a screw head sticking out that would mar any surface the box was placed on. And I couldn't countersink the screw since the floor of the box is so thin. So I used these little wooden plugs to make four "feet" - thereby keeping the screwhead from ever hitting anything.

Da feets

Closeup view. The little feet were simply wood-glued to the box.

So here's the box "done" - but I took everything out so I could give it a much better, more finished appearance.
The smell of Minwax brings back many great childhood memories of my dad refinishing furniture. One of the running jokes was that he stained everything Provincial - and it turns out, that's what I chose for my DCC box :^)

Just brush it on and rub it down with a rag. ProTip: Don't do this while wearing nice clothes. And be careful of the brush whipping stain all over the place, well beyond the newspapers you put down . . .

But doesn't it look purdy?

Huge improvement over just a plain wooden box.

Here it is with the components mounted. And I added a little hook & clasp to keep the lid shut.

At first, I figured I'd just store the throttle loose on top of everything as I did with the other box. But I changed my mind about this later . . .

Here's everything all out and ready to go.

A couple more closeups of the exterior - this one showing the latch.

And showing the "business end"

I changed my mind about how to store the throttle once I realized that the lid had enough depth to store the throttle there. So I got some velcro . . .

. . . and just used that to mount the throttle in the lid.

Like I said, quite a few photos, but hopefully you enjoyed seeing this little project go from dream to reality. And if it inspires you to do something similar, I hope you'll let us know in the comments!