Sunday, 5 January 2020

Sandy Shores - Layout Box Construction (5)

The layout box is now pretty much complete (excluding something to help keep the layout in place, and maybe some sort of latch to ensure the lid doesn't lift unintentionally). Let's jump straight to it...

Above: The final bit of painting was completed yesterday; all exterior faces had their 2nd coat of paint on (1), which enabled me to start gluing it all together. Unfortunately, things didn't out to be so simple, and as photo (2) shows, my Dad kindly planed 6mm of paint off of the edges; as the paint added enough thickness to stop the components sitting in their rebates. Eventually, the main shell and shelf was glued in place, and clamped up overnight (3). We initially had a little trouble lining up the rebates for the shelf to sit into; however, once the rear was clamped, it pulled everything into place nicely.

Above: This mornings first job was to glue and screw the castor wheels and associated blocks onto the bottom. Photo (1) shows as I line up the castors so that they lie flush on one edge. Holes were then drilled, 4 of which were also countersunk so that the screws don't interfere with the castor wheel base (2). It was then glued in place (3)...

...before being screwed as well (1). The castor wheels could then be screwed on; due to the screws being thin enough to fit entirely through the holes, washers were used to enable it to be screwed in place (2).

Above: Attention then turned to the sliding handle. In order to keep it relatively smooth in operation, I decided to fabricate some simple spacers (1) (just plasticard with holes drilled in them) to fit under the crossbars (2).

Above: The handle itself could then be assembled (I can't remember if I showed it, but the sides have circular rebates, into which the handle (part of an old outdoor chair saved from the offcut bin!) sits), and the handle itself was glued and also screwed in place (1). Note that the screw has been countersunk so that it doesn't stick out and catch on the sides. The other end of the handle had its PSE bar also glued and screwed in (again countersunk) (2).

Above: The three crossbars were then screwed in place. I actually diverted from my original design where the handle was pegged into its two positions. Instead, I've simplified it by locating the crossbars in specific places, which automatically lock the handle in its two positions. Hard to explain, easy to look at how it's done in the photo! The two crossbars screwed to the main box act as the limits of travel for the centre crossbar, which is screwed to the handle.

Above: All that was left to do was to secure the life-up lid in place. Here's a before (1), and an after (2). Nothing complicated, just two standard hinges screwed in place. In hindsight, it might be better to have two strips of wood to locate the hinges on top of, as I had to use some really short screws; so the strength may not be up to required standards...

Above: Which leaves us with just one more thing to do; test it out! To do that, it was time to fit the 4 mini castors onto the bottom of the layout, and put the box to use. As you can see, both parts fit in with millimetres to spare - perfect! All that's left is to find something to secure the layout to.

The box weighs a staggering 34.9kg, and with the layout and trolley etc in, it probably is approaching 60kg (a few kg more than my weight!). As such, the MDF obviously wasn't the right choice here, but it is what it is, and I have a very cunning plan of how to get the box in the car... more on that in the next blog entry!

Friday, 3 January 2020

Sandy Shores - Layout Box Construction (4)

After a helpful suggestion on NGRM by Michael Campbell, todays first task was to cut out some of the shelf, to help keep what will be a rather heavy box a little bit lighter! I suspect most people would expect me to have cut out a large number of circles, but now that I have the router bug, I figured it would be quicker and more effective to cut out large rectangular holes. I was a little worried whether I had taken off too much, but it still seems to have maintained structural integrity.

The outer holes are 150mm in from the end, and each hole is 100mm wide (excluding the centre one which is only 30mm wide). They are mostly spaced 100mm apart, aside from the centre one, but are all 300mm long. If I made them any longer, the castor wheels on the narrow end of the trolley (that will slide in on top) would fall in the holes!

Above: The method or cutting them out was simple. Photo (1) shows each long side of the holes having been routered out (using the yellow spirit level as a guide for the router). Photos (2) and (3) show that I clamped a long spirit level so that I could do all the short ends in one go. This bit was done in a matter of about 5 mins or less. Photo (4) obviously shows the end result.

Amazingly, the weather stayed dry all day, which meant I could crack on with painting the MDF box components in primer... and crack on I did! I actually managed to get almost all of it done; two coats on one side of every component, and one coat on the other. Some edges also had two coats on, and the rest had one. This means that theoretically I could finish the whole thing by the end of tomorrow.

Above: Believe it or not, I had never used a paint roller before; quite sad given that I'm in my mid 20s! Still, it was very easy, and ideal for these large components; I certainly wouldn't want to do all this with just a brush - I did that with the trolley and that took 8 hours!

Above: By 7pm (after an hour break for dinner), I had got about as far as I possibly could; the holes in the shelf will need another layer of primer, but as mentioned earlier, the vast majority of the painting is now done.

I did plan on building the handle assembly, but I didn't quite get around to it; that's what happens when you more or less spend from midday to 7pm painting!

And there we have it, ready for some more painting, and hopefully final assembly tomorrow!

Thursday, 2 January 2020

Sandy Shores - Layout Box Construction (3)

Just a short one for today; as due to the inclement weather, I was unable to make a start on priming the MDF. That said, I did make some progress, including some minor adjustments to the box for Sandy Shores. The first thing to do today was a dry-run of the box assembly:

Above: To my surprise, almost everything fit as it should; the two exceptions being the bottom, and the shelf as shown here. The former was 4mm too long (it's actually made of two parts to save cutting into a 3rd full sheet; the second bit can be seen in the foreground), and the shelf was only 2mm out. Both were attacked with the Skilsaw, and their edges trimmed to size.

Above: The test fit of the lift-up lid shows that it fits perfectly; all 4 parts interlock as they should, and they sit squarely in the rebate on the side panel.

Above: After a brief discussion with my Dad, we came to the conclusion that it would make more sense to assemble the lid, and a few other parts, before priming. Here, the lid is being glued, and clamps are being put on. It was important to make sure it clamped square, so every joint was checked.

Above: I also glued the handle supports onto the side panels, and clamped them up to cure.

: You may remember that the original design had the castor wheels attached to an angled cut of two PSE softwood lengths. I decided to simplify this by instead cutting out four MDF risers for them to be screwed to instead. These were glued, and have also been left to cure overnight.

I did start late today, so I didn't get much else done, but I did cut out some other components; I decided that the handle would need additional supports and crossmembers, so these were cut out of PSE/6mm plywood. This means the handle assembly can be glued/screwed tomorrow (once I've checked I've got all the dimensions right).

I'm planning to prime all the interior faces first, then glue the main shell together, before priming the outside faces after the whole lot has been assembled. Whilst the paint is quick dry, and the weather looks decent(ish) tomorrow, I don't know if I'll get it all done in one day... we'll see!

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Sandy Shores - Layout Box Construction (2)

Yesterday, I showed how using a Skilsaw, whilst taking time to set up, saves a lot more time and effort when you need to cut out components. Well today, it was time to machine the components; and this is another case where one tool makes this easy-peasy (with a bit of practice, of course). The router takes about the same amount of set-up as the Skilsaw, and indeed much of the process is the same. I'll be honest and say that this would be much easier to show in a video, than it is to explain it; so I hope you can all follow along!

Above: An annotated montage of the front and back of the router, highlighting the various parts that will be referenced throughout this post

AboveDepending on the size of the shank of the router bit, you might need to exchange collets. (I realise at the time of writing this that showing step 3 first would make more sense, sorry!) This is done by pulling out the collet (1), and popping the correct sized one in its place. It'll click into position when it is in correctly. Then go ahead and insert the router bit into the collet (2), and then screw the whole assembly onto the router itself. Hold down the button that locks the spindle in place, and use the appropriate sized spanner to fasten (3). Note that when screwing/unscrewing the nut, it will appear to initially tighten, before loosening, then tightening fully. I believe this is due to the way the collet clamps onto the router bit; so make sure you have tightened it fully before using the router.

Above: For machining rebates that are reasonably close to the edge of components, it's easier to use the guide that should come with the router. Follow the instructions to put it together, then inset it into the router frame as the photo shows.

Above: I've annotated a couple notes to help you identify the parts to the guide. The screws (all 5 of them) hold the guide together, but I only adjust the 3 on the router itself. You can also use the wheel on the left to make minor adjustments, but I don't bother using it, as it's just as easy to undo the three screws and nudge the guide by hand.

Above: If you're not using the guide (i.e. for rebates far from the edge), you'll need to measure the distance from the closest point of the cutting bit, to the flat edge of the router base, so that you can use it to clamp a straight edge to use as a guide (as we did with the Skilsaw yesterday).

 Above: This photo shows how careful you need to be when measuring; router bits like this will have only two points where it is at its widest. Rotate the bit by hand (making sure your hand is nowhere near the on switch (or be safe, and unplug it!)), until the cutting edge is against the waste side of the line.

 Above: Now we can set the depth of the cutter. On the left you'll see the mark which dictates the depth of the rebate required. Lock the router height at this point (see "depth locking lever" on the first photo), then set the depth limiter. This is done by undoing the knob (in front of the measure on the router, right photo), then rotating the wheel where my hand is, which will drop the metal stopper (under the measure) until it hits the base plate. Fasten the black knob, and your max depth will be set. Don't forget to unlock the depth locking lever on the other side to raise the router back up; ready for use!

Above: As with the Skilsaw, it's a good idea to do a quick test "plunge". Again, I am half a millimetre out here, so the guide will need to be slightly adjusted.

Above: We can now go ahead and clamp the component down (with a spare bit of wood underneath, to keep the router guide from hitting the trestles). Routering is best done in 2mm or so depth increments; especially for materials like plywood, you will not want to try and take the full depth out in one go. You'll potentially damage the bit, plywood, or router if you do! Don't forget that you can use the locking lever to set the depth of the cut at the various heights; I always use it for the final full-depth pass, but I don't often bother in the interim increments. This only slows me down (and the lever can be difficult to release without accidentally moving the router mid-cut). Usually it's not too difficult to maintain an even enough pressure to keep the cutter at a set depth.

Above & below: It wasn't just straight cutters that I used for the box; I also used this rounding cutter. This will enable the lid to drop down without binding on the box itself. The result is shown below.

And there we have it; another 5 hours total for all the machining. You'll get quicker and quicker as you get used to routing; I haven't done a lot, which is why it took so long. By the end, I was getting a lot faster. It helps that all the cuts are at 6mm depth, so I only had to adjust this when changing bits.

Anyway, tomorrow will see my doing a test fit, and weather depending, I will try and apply some MDF primer to all of the components. Another couple of days and we should have our finished box!

Oh, and before I forget; Happy New Year to all readers!

Monday, 30 December 2019

Sandy Shores - Layout Box Construction (1)

Construction of Sandy Shore's box - Part 1

A couple of days ago, I showed my design for the box that'll be used to store and transport the layout. Since then (and despite the cold weather), construction has started. A quick note to add here is that whilst I'll be using 12mm MDF, I would strongly recommend you use a similar thickness of plywood instead, should you wish to build something similar. MDF is much heavier, and sadly I just couldn't get hold of any plywood at the time.

Before I get to the construction, I promised to show those mini-castors that'll help the layout smoothly glide into the box. The photo below shows said castor, on a cutting mat with 1cm grid squares. That's right; it's only 40mm (l) x 20mm (w) x 28mm (h):

So, onto the first bit of construction. It probably goes without saying, but it's much safer to mark one component out at a time, than it is to mark everything out on a sheet, and hope that you precisely account for blade thickness. It also means if you mess up, you don't have to re-mark out everything again!

With out first component marked out, it's time to get the battery powered Skilsaw out. This amazing bit of kit is a godsend to people like me that can't cut wood straight to save their life. It also takes all the manual labour out of it. That said, there is some prep we will need to do first:

Above: The first thing we need to do is set the depth of the blade. The black handle (visible on the right side of the photo) is used to do this. Unfastening this will allow you to set the depth of the blade to just fully cut through the MDF as can be seen here. An important, yet easily overlooked step, is to make sure you have some scrap wood (or a gap) underneath whatever you're cutting. The last thing  you want to do is to saw through a metal trestle top!

Above: With the blade depth set, we need to measure the distance from the edge of the baseplate to the inside saw edge. The tips of each blade will be ever so slightly wider, so make sure you measure the right part! It's also important to note that the direction you cut the wood in will determine which side of the blade you measure to; otherwise you will cut the wrong side of the line.

Above: We'll use this distance to clamp something straight (in this case a long metal spirit level) to act as a guide for the Skilsaw. Note that the clamps are positioned so that they don't interfere with the Skilsaw. I could've used the other side of the Skilsaw, but the clamps would likely hit the overhanging encased motor.

Above: Before we hastily start cutting the component, it's wise to double-check the blade is in the right place, offer the Skilsaw up to the very edge, and do a test cut. Note that I'm slightly over the line; so a mallet is used just to knock the spirit level into place, and the test carried out again.

Above: Happy that everything is set correctly, we can go ahead and cut the component. The Skilsaw is very powerful, so it'll have no problem cutting through the MDF.

Above: By 3pm today, all the components were cut out (the photo shows the same pile from two different angles). In a couple of days I should be able to route out the rebates needed to hold it all together. Two have been done already, but I do not have the 6mm router bit I need to do the rest of it.

Anyway, as always, feel free to ask questions or comment with your thoughts or suggestions!

Friday, 27 December 2019

Sandy Shores - Safe Transportation & Storage

If there's one thing that has been long overdue (and in fact is something that none of my layouts have had the privilege of having!), it's a safe way to store and transport Sandy Shores. You may remember back in April when I showed how I transported the layout in my tiny car; with only a rolled up carpet and blanket to stop things moving about. I'm really surprised that I haven't managed to break anything off of the layout, as there are a number of rather delicate structures attached to it!

This isn't the first time I've made plans for making a storage container for the layout. Over 4 years ago, I had planned a simple box into which the layout and it's associated stuff would be stored in. In many ways, not much has changed, but there is now a large trolley that will need to be fitted into the same box, so a redesign was called for.

The box has gone through multiple versions, as the image above shows. It was only after version 2 that it became readily apparent that in its current form, it would never fit in my little car. Thankfully, I realised that the lighting rig and trolley will interlock for transport, allowing for a smaller box. The comparison between version 1 (on the left) and version 3 can also be seen in the photo below:

As you can see; it's still a very tight fit! The problem with making boxes like this, is that it increases the overall size of the layout considerably, and makes it... well... more boxy! It was already difficult fitting it in the car to begin with, but at least this way it'll be more secure and easier to take into any venues. Perhaps the main downside of making this box will be the weight of getting it into the car; but if necessary, I could make a pair of folding ramps from leftover wood.

It was only today that I realised the first three versions shown earlier all suffer from a major design flaw; the access to the shelving inside was through one of the long sides. Of course, this would mean the long end would be unsupported, and given that the weight of the upper section sits on the unsupported shelf, it would be extremely liable to bend to a considerable degree; perhaps as much as 10mm or more! The solution was to allow access only from one end.

Given that I wanted to minimise adding any more height to the box, having two seperate hinged ends was a no-go, as they would need supporting blocks on top. I therefore decided that the best course of action would be to add hinges to the top, and allow the entire stepped end section to lift up. The key here was to rebate each piece of the end section in a way that provides maximum strength without the need for additional bracing.

You may be wondering how I will easily slide the layout in. I haven't modelled them, but the answer lies in some tiny fixed castors that will be fitted onto the underside of the layout. I found these in a well-known DIY store, and are I think less than 30mm tall, including its bracket (I'll show them in tomorrow's post). The awkward space on the bottom shelf produced by the odd shape of the layout will probably have a box wedged into place; likely holding the various structures from the layout.

In the render below, I've shown the general process involved in taking the layout to an exhibition with its new box. As you can see, the box has an integrated extending handle (you'll see this in more detail later), and thanks to its heavy duty 100mm fixed rubber castors, it can be wheeled into the exhibition venue with relative ease. Always exhibiting alone, anything I can design to make it easier for myself to exhibit is worth doing! Anyway, once the layout is set up (shown without its backscene, curtain, and fascia), it can be stood on its end, and used either as shelving during the exhibition, or perhaps a display pedestal:

A view of the underside shows how the handle is integrated. It actually slides between two 18mm x 44mm PSE softwood battens, and is held in place by two thin cross struts on the bottom. To lock the handle in either position, a wooden peg (i.e. dowel with a knob on the end) is inserted into matching holes in the PSE. Simple!

I've already started marking out the two side pieces, so with any luck I'll be able to start construction tomorrow; assuming the weather doesn't make a turn for the worse!

Edit - Colour-coded for clarity (side panel missing to show interior):

Blue = hinged end section (12mm MDF)
Black = top and bottom (12mm MDF)
Green = rear (12mm MDF)
Red = sides (12mm MDF)
White = shelf (12mm MDF)
Purple = handle braces (probably 5.5mm plywood)
Brown = 18mm x 44mm PSE softwood
Yellow (same as brown, but represents the handle)

Monday, 28 October 2019

ExpoNG 2019

Where on earth do I begin? A fantastic day was had by all who attended ExpoNG, and the hospitality and quality of layouts on show was second to none. In this blog post, I'll take you around a tour of all the layouts!