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!

Friday, 25 October 2019

Sandy Shores - Preparing for ExpoNG - 2nd Part

Whew. A bumper two days of progress on the layout. The text is going to have to be relatively brief as I have to be up very early tomorrow to pack everything in the car and make the 2+ hour trip to Swanley.

So, first things first was to re-attach the crane on the harbour that I kept knocking off (and damaging its plinth). I decided the best way to go forward was to drill a hole in the base of the crane and in the plinth, and simply use a cocktail stick to make for a removable yet sturdy support.

I've always intended to add seaweed on the high tide mark. Having researched real-world examples around the coast near Calshot, I came up with what I hope is a fair representation of how it might form on walls, rocks, and the beach itself. The seaweed itself was simply green fine turf mixed with watered-down PVA and darkish green paint. I found the best way to attach it was to use additional neat PVA, and a dentists tool; using brushes inevitably resulted in the mixture firmly attaching itself to the brush and not the intended areas!

Next up, the area under the trestle needed some treatment to fill in the holes underneath. A plaster mix and a coating of paint and play sand soon sorted that out. I could then add the seaweed (being careful to follow photos found online; it seems most strandlines occur in arches across the beach), and then dry brush it several times in multiple yellows, blacks, and greys to tone it down and blend it all together.

The next area to receive attention was the quayside track. At some point over the last year, the clay around the roadway has lifted up and cracked. Rather than tear it all up and start again, I decided to sand it back and repaint it to represent a nasty tarmac "repair" job! Note how the edges have been painted with a thin line of darker grey, and the whole lot weathered to tone it all down a bit.

Today's job was mainly to sort out wagon loads; it's something (as you may have noticed from the magazine article) that was sorely needed. I actually spent about 5 hours today working on turning this:

Into a lengthy assortment of wagon loads:

It actually forms enough loads to fill all of my 13 flat wagons, although only 9 have both sets of couplings! Most of the wagon loads are removable, with the exception of the bench and the firefighting trailer.

I also took the time to finish painting various wagons, and I'm also in the middle of making some ballast loads for these 5 tippers from plaster. Note how I've lined the tippers with clingfilm so that I can make the loads removable.

Oh, and one final job was to "finish" off the lighthouse. The railing stanchions were re-spaced, and the handrails soldered in place. The whole lot could then be painted with 2 coats of off-white paint. As you can imagine, this was a bloody fiddle job; especially as the stanchions were wobbly plastic! OH, and I also finally got around to adding the windows that I had made ages ago. I've actually fully bedded them in with plaster so they all have proper frames and fit snugly.

So there we have it, whilst I didn't get around to adding any vegetation/trees to disguise the scenic exit, the overally appearance of the layout has been dramatically improved.

Those of you coming to ExpoNG tomorrow; I look forward to seeing you there. Please do introduce yourselves!

Saturday, 19 October 2019

Sandy Shores - Preparing for ExpoNG

What's this? A blog entry?! Yes, I know; surprising, but there is reason for my absence and my subsequent return...

Long story short, I've actually been rather busy with various things; two of them model-making related. Firstly, I was invited to write an article about Sandy Shores for the August 2019 edition of BRM. Needless to say this is a very proud achievement of mine! Secondly, I've actually been involved in a commission for the first time. You'll see the fruits of my labour in December...

Anyway, back to today, and the reason for the sudden blog entry is that ExpoNG is only a week away, and I need to fix a few things on Sandy Shores before I take it all the way to Kent! First things first, back at our little exhibition in Woodgreen, one of the point motors developed a fault that prevented it from throwing in one direction. Unfortunately, this is the most crucial point (and furthest from the control panel) so it was absolutely crucial that it was fixed before Swanley/ExpoNG.

As you'll also see in the photo below, the CDU had become somewhat detatched (it's actually dangling behind the panel here), pulling some of the wires out. The power socket also came out at Woodgreen, and some wires also a little bit too loose for my liking. The CDU has constantly fallen off, but rather than glue it, I just tried to hold it in place with sticky pads and the wires! Needless to say, it's about time that it was glued down for good...

Back to the point motor, and confirming that it was still only throwing in one direction, and that the wiring was not to blame, I took it off. I was about to throw it away and replace it with a new one when I realised that one half of one of the coils had actually broken free from the circuit board. Bingo! That explains why it would only throw in one direction.

After a quick soldering job, and half an hour of swearing trying to glue and screw the point motor into place, I'm pleased to say it is now working perfectly again. I suspect that the motor had moved due to the sticky foam pads that it was partially mounted on. Despite also being screwed down, it seems that it had perhaps moved enough that it broke the copper contact. Perhaps after ExpoNG I'll make some new wooden mounting plates so that I can be sure there is a reduced chance of movement.

During the week, I expect to make a few additions to the layout; nothing crazy; perhaps just a bit more vegetation to hide the scenic exit, and maybe some more detailing and wagon loads.

So, those of you near Swanley next weekend, I look forward to seeing you there! I will be operating alone as always, and I will of course be more than willing to answer any questions, or let you loose at the controls. I'll also appreciate any visiting locos and/or rolling stock; which reminds me, there are a few clearance issues for skirted/low slung locomotives which I need to address before the show.

Oh, and if you can't make Swanley, I'll also be exhibiting at Narrow Gauge South in Eastleigh next year!

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Sandy Shores @ Woodgreen - 2019

Woodgreen Model Show & Steam Rally 2019
This year saw our 11th show, and we're pleased to announce that we raised a whopping £1286; which will all be split between CLAPA & the Alzheimer's Society. We cannot thank our exhibitors, helpers/volunteers, cake-bakers, the church, and the general public for their outstanding support!
Year-on-year, the event grows, and we make more and more money for these worthy causes; without your help, this wouldn't happen, so we are truly grateful for everyone's support.
2020 will see the event get bigger and better, and we're already planning a strategic re-think of the layout of the hall to make more use of the space; as well as the church, so that we can cram in more layouts and displays.

"Sandy Shores" - I think this needs no introduction on this blog! I will add though that the layout ran very well, until the point motor that leads to the sidings would only throw one way; it also ripped up the switch rail on one side, but fortunately it just popped back into place. A little bit concerned as to why it all happened, but it's something I will need to try and rectify before I take the layout out again.

"Elmbridge" - N gauge - Tony Parker. Despite being only 5ft x 2ft, this layout shows just how much detail and interest can be crammed into a small space. It also featured some rather nice illumination:

"Buckleigh"- A OO gauge branch line layout by James & Chandler Thick & John Perry; based on Cadeleigh Station on the old Exe Valley line. Another well-detailed layout, with plenty of cameo scenes:

"Woolbridge" - Sedgmoor O Gauge Group. A wonderful branch line terminus on GWR and SR metals, set between the 1930s to the 1950s; complete with scratchbuilt buildings:

"Tramway" - An unusual end-to-end layout representing high street shops from Wilton - built by Peter Murchison. It features some wonderfully modelled trams, and humourously named shop fronts:

"Farmer's Wife's Layout" - O Gauge - A display from the period between the 1900s to 1930s. Bassett Lowke and Hornby locomotives and rolling stock, along with vintage vehicles and scenic items give off a real dose of nostalgia. Alongside this layout, is a display of WWI memorabilia; commemorating the end of World War I, and dedicated to railwaymen who fought in that war. Display by Reg & Mary Hunt:

Outdoor Exhibits: Various exquisite model traction engines, presented by the Wessex group:

And finally: - A few general views of the show, including the rather delicious array of homemade cakes and other delicacies!

All in all it was an absolutely wonderful event; not only did we raise a huge amount for charity, but the outpouring of support from just about everywhere was fantastic. Many, many helpers made the event run smoothly, and the donation of homemade cakes definitely went down a treat! 

Here's to next year!