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Scale Modeling Tips & Tools Monthly, Issue #057-9-11-Commemorative
September 15, 2011
September 17, 2011

I dislike repeating myself but not as much as I hate broken links so I have corrected the errors and am remailing the September issue which introduced my new ScaleCraftsman shop. Please forgive my mistakes, and if you get the opportunity, stop by My new shop

Giving Back by Remembering

I have just introduced a new Etsy Shop for my scratch built buildings as I have been developing a formidable collection. To find it Click here As a scale modeler who well remembers the impact of 9-11 and what it meant to all of us, I have been looking for a way to give back; commemorate the ability for us as a country to recover.

I also want to say thank you to the many subscribers to this Tips and Techniques newsletter who have been with me since the beginning.

To announce the opening of my ScaleCrafters shop, to remember  the 9-11 rebirth and to say thanks, I am providing you with a 9-11 discount coupon of 20%  (9+11) good for anything in the shop.

It is good for the entire month of September.

You can activate the discount by inserting the code. 911SMHCODE at the time of purchase.

Lighthouses are new scale modeling subject

Lighthouses have always been one of my favorite nautical subjects of interest and I have often looked for an excuse to model some of my favorites.

Actually, there are only a few available in scale model kit form and even a smaller number selected from the 8,900+lights that grace American shores. 

Lid Lights represent a new scratch building project of mine and I want to build a large variety of these scale model lights in dioramas which will fit in or on the lid of a peanut butter jar.

They are originals and no two will be alike. I am selecting only my favorites  at random, but if you have a favorite, send me an "email". I'm always looking for new projects. This particular light is known as the Southwest Ledge light located off the coast of New Haven, CT.

The Southwest Ledge is a large dangerous rock formation about a mile offshore entering New Haven Harbor. New Haven became a major industrial center in the middle 1800’s.

This lighthouse was established in 1877 to guide the increasing traffic from the dangerous ledge. The eight-sided architectural style with its cylindrical base was a unique design to prevent ice flows from jamming up around the base area during the winter months.

During the 1880s, Assistant Keeper Sidney Thompson was credited with saving four people. From 1914 through 1924 the keepers during those years were credited with saving the lives of at least 20 people.

Seeing the light
terms for lightehouse workers

Every time I embark on a new scale modeling subject, in researching it, I repeatedly run into terms I have to look up to understand.

This is a lighthouse glossary I'd have never thought was available.

As is the case in most specialized occupations, many of the terms related to lighthouses are unique. This listing of lighthouse terminology, while no means expected to be exhaustive, may serve useful when researching lighthouse operation.

Aerobeacon - A

searchlight-type light originally designed for use at airports and

adapted for use in a number of lighthouses throughout the Great Lakes.

Acetylene - A fuel used which began to be used in lighthouses

after 1910. It was the first fuel to eliminate the need for a keeper to

carry oil up the tower, since it could be stored on the ground and an

automatic sun valve used to turn the light off at daybreak and on again

at dusk.

Argand lamp -

A variety of light used in lighthouses

that featured a hollow wick in a glass chimney, with a silvered

parabolic reflector behind to intensify the light. The Argand lamp was named after Aimee

Argand, the Swiss inventor who developed the design.

Astragal -

Metal bar (running vertically or diagonally) dividing the lantern room

glass into sections.


- An acronym for Aid TO Navigation

Breakwater -

A fixed or floating structure that protects a shore area, harbor,

anchorage, or basin by intercepting waves

Bulls eye -

A convex lens used to concentrate (refract) light.

Catwalk -

A narrow elevated walkway, allowing the keeper access to light towers

built out in the water.

Characteristic -

Individual flashing pattern of each light.

Chariot -

The wheeled

carriage at the bottom of a Fresnel lens assembly which allowed the lens

to rotate around a circular iron track atop the lens pedestal.

Crib - A structure, usually of

timbers, that was sunk in water through filling with stone, and served

as the foundation for a concrete pier built atop it.

Daymark -

Unique color, pattern or architecture of towers and other markers used

by navigators to mark their location during the day.

Focal Plane -

The height above the water level at which the center of the beam of

light emanates.

Fresnel lens -

An optic array manufactured using the design principles of Augustin

Fresnel, the French physicist who first established the design, and

after whom the Fresnel Lens was


Fog Signal -

Any type of audible device that could

warn mariners from obstacles during period of heavy fog when the light

could not be seen. Bells, whistles and horns, either manually or power

operated were all used with varying degrees of success.

Gallery -

Outdoor railed walkway encircling the watch room where the keeper sat

and monitored the lantern and weather conditions.


An electronic system for identifying position, GPS is an acronym for Global

Positioning System. A GPS receiver triangulates satellite transmissions to calculate

position on the Earth.

Inner (or rear) Range Light -

The light in a pair of range lights that is

situated behind the other as viewed from the water.



A room surrounded by windows

which housed the lighthouse lens.

lens - Glass

optical system used to concentrate the light in a desired direction.

Lewis Lamp


A variety of light that used a silvered copper reflector behind a glass lens.

The design of the Lewis Lamp was

heavily "borrowed" from that of the Argand Reflector, and was

named for Winslow Lewis who imported the design from


Lighthouse Board -

A nine member board appointed by the US Congress in 1852, established to

manage the lighthouses throughout the United States.

Light Station - A complex containing the lighthouse tower and all of the outbuildings,

i.e. the keeper’s living quarters, fuel storage building, boathouse,

fog-signaling building, etc.


An electronic system for identifying position, LORAN is an acronym for Long-Range

Radio Navigation.

A LORAN receiver measures the differences in

the arrival of signals from three or more transmitters to calculate its


Nautical Mile -

A unit of distance used primarily at sea. The nautical mile is defined

to be the average distance on the Earth's surface represented by one

minute of latitude. This may seem odd to landlubbers, but it makes good

sense at sea, where there are no mile markers but latitude can be

measured. A nautical mile equals about 1.1508 statute miles.


Oil Vapor (IOV) Lamp -

A type of lamp in which oil was forced into a vaporizing chamber, and

then into a mantle. Similar to the Coleman lamps in camping use today. 

Outer (or front) Range Light

The light in a pair of range lights that is situated in front of the

other as viewed from the water. This light was situated at a lower level

that the inner range, to allow both lights to be seen, one above the


Parapet -

A walkway with railings which encircled the lamp room

Pharologist -

One who studies or is interested in lighthouses.

Pier -

a structure extending into navigable waters for use as a landing place,

or to protect or form a harbor.

Range Lights -

A pair of lights placed in such a manner that when they are visually

lined up one behind the other, they lead a vessel into harbor.

Revetment -

A facing placed on a bank or bluff of stone to protect a slope,

embankment, or shore structure against erosion by wave action or


Rip-rap - A loose arrangement of

broken rocks or stone placed to help stem erosion.

Shoal -

A shallow area, such as a sandbar or rock formation.

Stag Light -

A lighthouse with no family living in it, i.e. inhabited by men only.

Tender -

A vessel used in the servicing of lighthouses and buoys.

Ventilator -

Round 'ball' at the top of most lighthouse towers to provide exhaust for

heat of the lamp and air circulation within the tower.

Watch Room -

A room, usually located immediately beneath the lantern room, outfitted

with windows through which a lighthouse keeper could observe water

conditions during storm periods.

Wickies -

A nickname give to early lighthouse keepers who spent a great deal of

their time trimming the wick on the lamp in order to keep it burning

brightly, and to minimize sooting.

Preventing Octagonal Modeling Frustration

Octagon modeling frustration??

Nope, I'm not talking about the Mom.

I used to have the toughest time with structure details like towers, finals, lighthouse globes and windows that involve an octagon. Just getting 8 walls equal in height and width, straight and symmetrical always seemed to be a little much.

Then I got into modeling lighthouses and I had to come up with something. Even the first lighthouse built around 290 B.C. in Alexandria, Egypt featured an octagon, a construction technique for many "modern" lighthouses. The problem with most octagon-shaped lighthouse towers is they are also tapered.

If I was going to get far in scratch building lighthouses, I needed to get beyond this hangup.

To get around it, I resorted to one of my favorite Internet tools, the free, online printable graph paper site. Besides just a bunch of squares and rectangles, this site allows producing sheets of octagons, hexagons, circles and triangles.

The key to building a tapered structure is the ability to print out the sheet with octagons of differing dimensions.

I trace these onto a styrene in decreasing sizes and glue their centers to styrene tubing ends to arrive at the correct tapered height.

A simple way to create an eight-sided structure.

What's Your View From The Roof Down

Model structures get a lot of detailing, weathering and attention during kit marketing, purchasing and construction but seldom does the roof rate more than a passing thought yet it is the first thing your visitor sees.

Many materials have been used for roofing over the years. Through the early parts of the 20th century, tar paper and other rolled roofing materials were common. Cedar shakes were often found on depots, sheds, houses and other sloped-roof buildings. Slate shingles (often in a diamond pattern) were common for larger. fancier structures. Metal roofs of various types, including copper and galvanized steel were also used.

Flat roofs were often tarred and many had crushed rock over the roof itself. Many modern roofs are simply smooth concrete or composite material, sloped slightly for drainage.

Darryl Huffman model
Imagine Darryl Huffman's Alaska Packers with a plain black roof
It is not the number of styrene window frames with clear plastic “glass”, It is not the unique looking sliding freight doors that really slide, nor is it the perfectly cast foundation walls that catch the eye of the casual railroad layout visitor.

The first thing they see is the roofs, the roof structures and the roof “furniture” that set the tone of the visit.

This is where scratch builders don’t spend a lot of time, they spend it on the front or back where they know they will be aiming the camera.

Flat Tarred Roof

This is "a little off the wall" but you can create an awfully authentic looking mini-scene with workers spreading tar on a freshly tarred roof.

Start by doing a portion of the roof using grimy black acrylic paint topped with a light dusting of gray chalk. Now for the fresh look. Use a thick coat of black liquid electrical tape in overlapping coats. Let it dry for about 20 minutes.

What really makes the scene is a set of "Woodland Scenics Roofing Figures". They come with a tar pot and some guys spreading tar with rakes. The guy leaning on the mop will draw the most attention.

Making Plastic Look Like Wood

Whether you are working with individual plastic planks or sheets of clapboarding, you can improve their appearance by making them look more like wood.

Provide an initial roughness by rubbing the boards with the edge of a manicure stick or a strip of wood covered with sandpaper. Do this in the direction of the grain.

Next, with a pointed utility knife scribe "wood grain" into the plastic in varying lengths. If you get it too deep and the edges raise up, use a razor blade to remove the excess.

making plastic wood coloring for texture
Texture the plastic with an initial sanding using a manicure stick or 220 sandpaper. Really beat it up by following with 50-grit sandpaper and roughen it further with a utility knife with a sharp point. Use black Dye-na-flow fabric paint it is available online. Apply it direct from the bottle. If it is too dark add a little water to the paint on the plastic. Allow the paint to mottle and puddle.

Not really a difficult process but a little time is involved. You can make as much or as little rough a wood grain as you want from very slight to really rotten. The reason for using styrene for most construction like this is because it is usually stronger than real wood.

Stumping Your Layout or Diorama

You can cover a lot of ground and make an area of your layout look heavily wooded by putting in 10-20 stumps as opposed to making a number of trees in varying heights.

Face it, it takes decades to grow a prototypical tree and just minutes to make it a stump. The same ratio carries over to your scale railroad layout, military diorama or wargaming battlefield.

So, no matter which you are involved in—stump it.

Start by taking a walk in a wooded area on a gathering expedition.

You are looking for Spruce trees where you can reach into the interior to pluck some dead twigs.

Here’s an ideal example:

The key feature you are looking for is the branch junction with two or three “limbs” you can trim back to look like this:

The objective is to cut through the limbs and across the stem of the branch. Sand it smooth so it will stand on its own.

The next cut makes it a stump. Lop off the bulk of the stem so what you have left is about two to three scale feet above ground.

The stump on the left is shown with a husk left on the upper rim while the one on the right has been roughed up to appear aged and it also has been “planted” beneath dirt and debris.

Use enough of these and you’ll created a “logged over” forested area with a couple background trees and a convincing backdrop painting.


Ship Terms Tend To Conflunder

If there is one area of modeling where termenology can quickly get the best of you, it is ship modeling. From belaying pin to get the idea.

There's an App for that! Avast, Matey! The perfect pocket reference for all things nautical! Sailing, boating and marine terms in general all defined here at your finger tips.

No internet connection required, whether out on the water or watching the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie, find out what terms like Boxhauling, Dunnage and Gimbleting mean in seconds!

The most comprehensive compilation of nautical terms available for iPhone and iPad


Massive Database
Fast, Comprehensive Search
Favorite, Recent, Random Features
Clear, Concise Definitions
Clean, Un-Cluttered Interface
No Internet Connection Required

Let The Buyer Beware

Like any other popular high tech function, there are Apps which are a waste of time and money and more than likely, no opportunity to get your money back or even complain to someone who can do something about it.

A couple of cases in point originate from the same software distribution company, the Both are aimed at the model railroading community and have been seriously panned by purchasers who wrote review information on the sales pages.


Pay Attention To Those Reviews

Poor app

by Sea Low

This app is all text and no graphics. A guide should contain diagrams, an index, and plenty of images.

It's also way overpriced. I want my $3.99 back!

------------------------ Guide to Building Model Railroads

by Shep61

This app was a total waste of money. So basic as to be useless. Sounds like they rewrote first chapter of some book. App is poorly constructed & no graphics!! Does not deserve 1 star. Worst app I have seen. I also want my money back!!!!!



by B90000008

This app/book contains the equivalent of spam. It's written in broken English and contains little to no actual information. AVOID!!!!

The reviews for both Apps were about the same, not surprising since they were produced by the same company. They were written when these Apps sold for $3,99 each. Today's price $9.99.


Your Help and Ideas Needed
To Expand SMH Idea Base

Making daily decisions involving for the past 45 months has led to the creation of over 425 pages of articles on the various facets of scale modeling, this monthly e-zine and a host of modeling questions answered.

As we get ready to embark on our third year, I am hoping to open the site up to input from other scale modelers. You may have noticed the Navigation Bar has been sub-divided into the major hobbies covered.

Each of these sections now has one or two pages that invite participation with questions, tips and pictures regarding your various modeling endeavors.

We want to hear from you as do the other 25,000 modelers who log onto this site monthly.

As I get ready to roll into my 71st year, I can’t believe how much I have learned about hobby activities In the past two years. I have heard from other modelers with similar experiences.

To help me develop and maintain my website your comments on its content are essential. You can send me your comments by visiting the “Voice Your Opinion” feature at the top of the Navigation stack in the left column on each page.

It was never my intention to make this website a one way street as my knowledge is no where deep enough for me to be termed an “Authority”. I hunger for your feedback, comments, ideas, tutorials, plans, pictures and even your negative comments if considered constructive.

The Internet and that includes work best when they are interactive and that is collaboration only you can provide. It has been a pleasure serving as your guide for these past two years and by no means am I throwing in the towel, for I honestly believe the building and maintaining of this website are instrumental in keeping my mind active.

I want to open up this site in the fast lane. That is your part of the two-way street.

Its In Your Best Interest

If you have been giving some thought to launching your own home business in 2010, it is worth your time to take a look at what I found:

Steps To Success

Until Next Month

Make It Your Best Effort!

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