Monday, December 17, 2018

Monday Modeling & Motivation: Pergola & Trellises

As promised a few weeks back, here's some additional detail on building the pergola and trellises from GC Laser (kit #12341). Ended up being a really fun build that only took about an hour or so (though I still have to paint them...)

Start by carefully removing the parts from the sheet. I started with an X-Acto, then a scalpel, but the most effective tool ended up being the simplest/most common tool of all: a single-edged razor blade.

Here are all the pergola parts laid out. You build it up in layers - each side has three layers. While I considered using ACC to glue things together, I ended up using regular wood glue, applied with a micro brush.

While the kit is really straightforward and easy to build, taking your time and paying attention will yield the best results. Here, I'm using a straightedge to ensure that the tops of the three layers of parts are perfectly flush with one another. - and that the notches line up perfectly. The white is a stack of business cards shimming the long leg of the square to keep the short leg perfectly level.

Once the two sides are complete and glued to the base, apply some glue to the notches in the top to attach the cross pieces (beams). Here you can see I only use the tiniest bit of wood glue, applied with a micro brush. I also tried applying with a toothpick, but that didn't work very well for me. YMMV

The instructions tell you to turn the pergola upside down to attach it to the slats (rafters) (which are conveniently - and ingeniously - spaced perfectly on the sheet). The only caution in building this kit (and not mentioned in the instructions), is to be sure to remove the part of the sheet from each end of the rafters - as you see in the pic above. If you don't, you won't be able to get the beams snug against the slats.
 And here are close-up finish photos!

After finishing the pergola, the trellises were pretty easy - though a bit more delicate. So be sure to take your time and use a steady hand. All that's required is that you remove the parts very carefully and then glue the curved cross pieces (two per trellis) to the main/vertical parts using the printed marks as a guide for proper placement.

And here they are finished!

I'm planning on airbrushing the pergola and trellises white. But what should I do with the pergola base? I'm considering a brick color for the brick pattern and just brown or green for the rest of the base, figuring I'll add static grass or fine ground foam there.

How would you recommend finishing these? I'm especially worried about obscuring the cool brick pattern.

If you need a little modeling motivation, I hope you'll try one of these little laser kits. It was a really enjoyable way to spend a some quality time at the bench and now I can't wait to do some more modeling!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Throwback Thursday: Rt. 15 Overpass DONE!

So, this happened a while ago, but with everything going on I'm just now posting about it. . .

Yes, I finally finished the Rt 15 Overpass which will anchor the "north" (right) end of the Wethersfield scene on my layout. After doing some more weathering, including adding soot to the portion of the bridge that's over the tracks, I put everything in place - and discovered a problem.

The "oil" marks that I'd made down the center of the lanes on the abutments and bridge didn't match up! That's what I get for doing each piece separately (left abutment, bridge, right abutment). Actually, the left abutment and bridge matched ok, but the right abutment was WAY off. No problem. Since I used powders, and hadn't set anything with a fixative (and, since this will never be handled, I may not bother with a fixative), I just used a cloth dipped in alcohol to gently wipe off the marks from the right abutment and redid them - this time with the bridge and abutment right next to each other.  Probably didn't matter too much anyway - you never even see the roadway from normal viewing angles.

So, here are some pics of the finished project!

Before weathering

After weathering

Overview - now the "lane stains" match up

In the end, I have to admit this project took way longer than it probably should have. But with everything going on, it was nice to take my time and work on it during any tiny blocks of time I could. I'm pretty happy with the way it came out though - the goal was to make it look like it was about 5 years old, during an era characterized by steam-powered trains and high-emission vehicles.

I'd be really happy to hear what you think and whether you'd do anything differently with it, have any suggestions, etc (especially whether to bother overspraying it with Dullcote or some other fixative, at the risk of causing the weathering to disappear).

"All" I need to do now is get some scenery in under and around the overpass. Oh, and figure out what to do about the backdrop here. I'm afraid that'll be a whole other challenge....

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Wordless Wednesday #245 - Rich Billings

I'm sorry to have to report that Deb's dad passed away last week, after a long - and bravely fought - battle with cancer. You can read the notice here. Thank you again so much to all of you that have supported and encouraged us with your thoughts and prayers, as well as making donations on his behalf. He lived life enthusiastically and with a sense of wonder and following his example will be one of the many ways we'll be keeping his memory alive.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Tuesday Tool Time - Small Soldering Iron

After an X-Acto knife, a track nail hammer, cutting pliers, and a small screwdriver, one of the first "sophisticated" tools you purchase as a new model railroader is probably a soldering iron. I got mine probably a little earlier than my airbrush, but I've used it extensively ever since for all sorts of projects - wiring feeders, soldering rails together, etc. I've even used it for decoder installation. And it's still going strong after all these years.

So why did I bother purchasing a new & different soldering iron? Well, ask my buddy Bill. He brought a couple of his newly "decoderized" steamers over to the layout to do some test running and decided, pretty quickly, that they needed "Keep Alives" (aka capacitors) installed. "No problem," said I. "Not only do I have a couple on-hand, but I have a great soldering iron you can use if you want."

Well, let's just say beauty (or, in this case, "greatness") is in the eye of the beholder.

After exclaiming how he couldn't believe that anybody could use such a beast for decoder installation, and expressing his awe (or was it incredulity?) that such a newbie installer as myself would even attempt using it on such delicate wires and soldering pads (at least that's how I remembered the conversation), I asked him what he uses. "Something with a much smaller tip and adjustable heat settings - and, by the way, it's pretty inexpensive."

He had me at "it doesn't cost much." At least that's how I remembered it.

Anyway, here's what he recommended and what I got - a Vastar AC222 Soldering Iron Kit.

To have a proper "unboxing" you need a box - in this case, the kit comes with its own toolbox.

Ahhhhh..... pretty

Lift the top tray, and you see all the other cool stuff that's included.

Here's everything, all laid out.

And not only is the iron fully adjustable heat-wise, it comes with a handy on/off switch right on the cord.
One thing I didn't take a close-up photo of is the main reason I got the iron - the fine tip. I've already used it for some decoder work, as well as soldering together some wire to make finescale railings. 

Definitely worth the $23 bucks - even though that's double what I paid for my old Radio Shack iron - over 30 years ago(!) But my old iron will continue providing yeoman's service on rails and feeders.

Let me know what you use for soldering the teeny-tiny wires that come with decoders. I may no longer be in the market for a new iron, but - like Bill - you may be helping someone else get a more-suitable tool in their hands.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Tuesday Tool Time - The FrankenPipe

Most of you that do any airbrushing probably have a nice, sophisticated setup. At least, you have a small, quiet compressor that's a joy to operate and maintains family harmony.

Or maybe you're like me. I have a compressor that I lovingly refer to at The Beast.

Yup, that's a full-sized compressor that I bought a while back to power my air nailer and some other accessories. Nowadays, I don't use the air tools all that much - and I needed a compressor for my airbrush - so I took the cheap thrifty route, figuring I could just use what I already had on-hand.

But going from a large compressor like this down to an airbrush, with its teeny-tiny airbrush hose, required a bit of creativity...

Introducing: the FrankenPipe. Yup - that there's eight (count'em - 8!) different fittings, plus moisture trap and gauge, all connected together with some thread tape and wishful thinking.

The idea was to bring the full-size hose into the paint room and - through a series of different fittings - create a moisture trap/gauge cluster that could be easily and quickly disconnected. Same on the airbrush hose end - but that also required some converting from the small hose to the full-size fittings.

What resulted might not look all that elegant, but it allows me to maintain a lot of flexibility - including adding more standard size hose to extend the reach of my airbrush into (most parts of) the layout room.

I think it actually looks pretty cool. Heh - but sound - well, that's another issue. Let's just say more than a friend or two has jumped out of their skin when The Beast decides to kick in and they're not expecting it!

Oh - and forget about late-night and early morning paint sessions. Ask me how I know . . .

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Weathering the Abutments

I woke up pretty early this morning and couldn't get back to sleep, so I figured I'd see what I could accomplish down in the basement.

When I last left the Route 15 Overpass, I'd finished the building & painting and even added little concrete footpads under the piers. Then I put it in place on the layout . . .

Looks pretty awesome, if I don't say so myself. But it looks way too new.

So, what better thing to do in the basement during the pre-dawn hours on less than 4hrs sleep and hopped up on 3/4 of a pot of coffee? How about trying my hand at weathering and potentially screwing up months of work?

Why not

Since my brain wasn't totally foggy, I at least knew enough to start by practicing on the back side of the large abutment - a side which will never be seen. My first attempts were - predictably - pretty awful. But knowing that I had the freedom to experiment helped me get comfortable with a technique that ended up passable, I think:

I used a combination of gray & black chalks & pan pastels, with a bit of rusty colors mixed in, and India Ink wash. Kept applying, and wiping it off, and reapplying until I came up with what you see here. I haven't done the actual bridge, girders, and piers yet, so any feedback/suggestions/guidance on what I've done so far is MOST welcome, as always.

And that's where things stand currently. Knowing that our days and evenings are already packed with work/life stuff, it's nice to be able to steal a little time in the morning - even if I have to pay for it later with more pots of coffee.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Modeling Monday: Pergola & Trellises

Just a quick post since I've been offline for a bit - and will likely be sporadic for a bit longer. We got some bad news about Deb's dad a couple weeks back so we're spending as much time with him as possible.

So not much of anything going on with the layout, although I did have a chance to pull out a few things that Deb got for me last Christmas - and spent a little time putting them together before heading to the hospital. It's the "Pergola & Trellis Set" (#12341) from GC Laser. Fun little project, though it takes a steady hand.

I'll eventually post a more detailed build with some tips & lessons learned. But for now, thanks for your patience with the blog and especially for your continued thoughts and prayers.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Wordless Wednesday #242

Back of photo says:
"Main Line thru Pine Orchard, CT 3/22/47 - on
the New Haven - a sad state of affairs!
ain't it? #3504 - east is
passing this halfbreed"

Friday, November 16, 2018

Friday Fun: Dave Messer's "E-Z Bild-It" Gra-Rock Kit

So, Dave Messer and I are collaborating on the construction of the Gra-Rock bottling plant in Wethersfield. This building is one of the few "brick factory" looking industries on the layout, plus it received materials (and maybe even shipped finished product) by rail, so I had to include it. The fact that the prototype sits just south and west of the Wethersfield station makes it a huge part of the Wethersfield scene (for more about this area on the layout, click here).

Here's how it looked back in the 1920s:

As the "caption" says, this is looking south. Church Street is the grade crossing, and the long passing track (middle track) is long gone by my era of 1948.

And, to show how everything fits, here's the scene in recent times. Still looking south, with Church Street (now long since paved) in the distance and the station on the left (BTW, that's Randy on the defunct track).

As part of our collaboration, Dave wanted to send me a "test mockup" before starting construction. So, lo and behold, I get this in the mail:

The first-ever (and perhaps only) "E-Z Bild-It" kit!

As with any kit, "some assembly is required." This particular "kit" consists of flat cardstock wall sections based on measurements that Bill and I calculated. It was difficult at first to figure out how to "selectively compress" a pretty large prototype building. One of my pet peeves in the hobby is (are?) industries that are so severely compressed they can barely justify a carload of freight. However, it became obvious pretty early on that if we built Gra-Rock to perfect prototype dimensions, it would overwhelm the scene and everything around it. Read on to see whether we hit the mark and achieved the right impression . . .

Here are all the pieces laid out:

As you may have guessed, things went together easily and quickly with a flat surface and some masking tape (used instead of blue painter's tape for the stickiness as well as look).

Just match up the edges, apply tape, fold, and . . .

BOOM - You've got a building!

And here are some photos of the building in the scene (with a printed front wall showing the windows):

It's often difficult for a left-brained guy like me to embrace the "compromise" of compression. But the fact is, we seldom have the space on our layouts to recreate the prototype in perfect scale. That's where we really have to rely on our "right-brain" - becoming an artist that can convey the impression of a scene modeled in perfect scale, without actually doing so.

Hopefully, this mockup shows that we're on the right track.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Throwback Thursday: The Choice of the '80s

If you've been on the Valley Local website (you do know about the website, right?), you may already know this from my "About" page, but I was introduced to the hobby 36 years ago this coming Christmas. Like many newbies, I went in both feet first - made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot in the process.

A couple of years in, I decided to become a "serious" modeler and that meant learning how to airbrush.

So I got myself an airbrush and - typical of me - my first project was painting a green & orange scheme New Haven Alco S-2 locomotive (heh - sound familiar?). Now, I wasn't sophisticated enough to mask & do the little curve of green between the cab and the hood, but I could certainly paint the two parts separately. I did - and it came out pretty nice, if I don't say so myself (shortly thereafter I sold that engine for double what I paid for it, based on the "custom" paint job).

Then, inexplicably, I didn't touch the airbrush again - or much else in the hobby -  for over 25 more years(!!). Despite my early success, its mystery continued to grow way beyond any reasonable proportion to reality.

When I went to pick it up again a few years ago, all the lost time really hit me. Heh - maybe it was the fact that I still had the original packaging and Propel can (partially used on that Atlas S-2). But it was just the kick in the pants that I needed. And thankfully - with some help & guidance from my friends - I'm no longer intimidated by airbrushing. Heck, I almost even find it fun.

Proof I actually still use Badger's "Choice of the 80s"- although, given the current state of my airbrush booth, you'll have to take my word for it.
Don't make the same mistake I did. There's nothing in this hobby that you should be too scared to try. And the longer you wait, the more time passes during which you could have made all the inevitable mistakes - and you'd be an expert by now (even if almost).

So give that scary thing a try - especially if you have something that's been sitting around for over 30 years just waiting to spend some quality hobby time with you.