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Scale Modeling Tips & Tools Monthly, Issue #059-when You Care Enough
November 15, 2011
November 15, 2011

Real Men Share Their Light

Ever since I started scale modeling as a kid, I knew there was something different about this hobby. The experienced share their expertise. What's more, they go the extra mile. Case in point this exchange on the Yahoo Group "N-Scale Model Railroading" with a quick nod to Jerry.

How to tell Posted by: "Ron"   rd.frost Thu Nov 10, 2011 3:19 pm (PST)

I'm a new comer to rail roading and have a question. How can I tell weather the Atlas track I got is code 55 or code 80. OH, one more question. I bought 3 left hand Atlas turnouts and they came without the remote machine. Where or who might have them for sale? Thanks

Re: How to tell Posted by: "Jerry Jankura"   toolznglue Thu Nov 10, 2011 6:25 pm (PST)

If you have a caliper, you can measure the height of the rail; code 80 is 0.080 inches tall and code 55 is 0.055 inches tall. Or, you can look at the track. Code 80 has black ties that are rather hefty while code 55 has brown ties which have a lower profile.

Atlas sells switch machines for code 80 track; New, they list at about $13.00 each. You might want to check out a flea market and just buy used switches for their switch machines. You can often find used automatic switch machines for $5.00 or less.

Also, if you're new to the hobby, you'll want to be careful with Atlas switch machines. To achieve their small size, the coils are wound with few turns or relatively heavy wire so they have a low resistance and draw a large current. If you simply pulse the switch machine (push button switch pressed for less than a second) all will be OK. if you use a toggle switch or have a really heavy finger, the switch machine will overheat and melt the plastic case making it inoperative. Worst case, you could have a small fire on your hands. Unlikely, but that could happen.

I've just finished up wiring a test layout that is mounted on a 2x4 foot piece of foam; the layout uses 12 Atlas automatic code 80 switches. I've built a control using a Chipkit Max32 micro controller that allows me to use simple miniature toggle switches on my control panel. The Max32 sits in a loop checking all twelve switches on the control panel. When it sees that one switch has changed position, it pulses the appropriate switch machine solenoid to turn the turnout. So far, it seems to work well, and having the micro controller be responsible for generating the pulses means that a young grandson can't accidentally keep his finger on a push button too long.

Jerry Jankura Abstract art is a product of the untalented, sold by the unprincipled to the utterly bewildered - Al Capp

Scratch Building Ship Models

I am generating a new series of eBooks about scratch building. The first happens to be on ship building. The series is based on my own experience and research. One of the things I have learned is that it isn't scratchbuilding. That comes up "No Matches Found in my good old Meriam-Webster.

The plan is to publish the first "Scratch Building For The Landlubber" by Thanksgiving. Click on the cover for a quick peak.

Excerpted from "Scratch Building Ships For The Landlubber"

My first scratchbuilding project (though I guess it would be more rightly called a kitbash in more ways than one) took place over a three month period of time back in 1974. Yes I remember it today.

I was busting with anticipation, some might even say bordering on panic, as I brought home the  1:220 Revell kit of the Cutty Sark with its 160+ parts, a couple bolts of thread and the glue. This was going to be a project done piecemeal as I was working 8-hour days back then.

We lived in a small five-room home (counting the bathroom) at the time, but I had my "modeling bench" in an adjoining shed, my "man cave". The bench was hardly big enough to contain the 30-inch hull pieces, specially littered with a variety of tools.

But I followed the plans systematically, after all I had invested over $25 in this kit and I wanted to be proud of the results. My plan for the Cutty was to have her tied up at a scratch-built wharf on pilings, complete with resin water, several buildings and a scene populated with people and a horse-drawn wagon, all in the correct, or close to it, scale.

Looking back on it, the scene wasn't overly complicated, not much paint and no weathering, but it was enough for me to take pride in my work.

The only construction detail I remember today was that blankety-blank rigging, even on a 30-inch model it could be quite daunting.

I finally ended up with fish line for the stays to maintain rigidity and carpet thread for the running rigging. This was my first rigging job and I even short-sightedly  decided to tie my own ratlines--what a mess.

As the details come back to me, I realize I could easily create a novel here when the intent was simply to relay an experience.

Safe to say I did finish my Cutty Sark diorama which with the coffee stirrer dock and black/blue water and display board now measured 3.5 feet in length,  19 inches in width and 25 inches in height.

Getting it out of the shed was tricky enough, so getting her through a 30-inch door was pretty simple. Boy did she look grand in that living room, but as easy going as my wife is, that only lasted a while.

It was mid-summer so she came to rest on top of the wood stove until a better place could be found.

It just so-happened  the stove was just below my 12-year-old son's loft bedroom which was up a steep ladder-like set of home-made stairs a building inspector never saw.

It doesn't take a mystery writer to guess what happened. 

She'd been tied up on the stove for about a month when we were moving in a new bed for our son. You know, out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new. I decided it would be easier to just slide the old mattress down the stairs. It took the Cutty amid ship. The rest is just too painful, but I do remember a jumble of plastic, mixed with thread, laced with hundreds of coffee stirrers. Not pretty, but in 40 years, I've pretty much gotten over it.

Get Out Your Coloring Book...

As I look outside my bedroom window this fall I am again impressed by the astounding array of colors this season brings to New England. It can't help but impact anybody's scale modeling efforts. No matter what you are modeling, you can’t really call it your own until you change its appearance. Whether your starting point is a plastic rattle box, a few pieces of stripwood, or a blob of plaster, you never will be very satisfied with the original color. It just ain’t cool.

And since we’ve just come through New England’s most beautiful season, we’re devoting the rest of this issue to color, how to mix it, how to apply it and how to age it.

So if you are mixing, applying or aging, hopefully you will find something here to guide you.

Let's Mix It Up

No matter what you are modeling, you can’t really call it your own until you change its appearance. Whether your starting point is a plastic rattle box, a few pieces of stripwood, or a blob of plaster, you never will be very satisfied with the original color. It just ain’t cool.

And since we’ve just come through New England’s most beautiful season, we’re devoting the rest of this issue to color, how to mix it, how to apply it and how to age it.

So if you are mixing, applying or aging, hopefully you will find something here to guide you.

Without a doubt model builders could easily spend a lifetime exploring the results of mixing paints to get specific colors, there are just so many possible results from mixing two or three colors together. One man’s auburn, for instance, is another man’s rust and what one individual sees as rust. What one calls chestnut, another refers to be as being hazel-colored. What one person sees as burnt sienna, another sees as reddish brown.

If it was only a question of what you call the color by decreeing this particular color will always be called auburn.

But what do you call the same color that has a little more red or a little more brown?

In the final analysis the “that’s it!” decision will be made by the viewer and not you.

A general formula for creating brown is one part red, one part blue and a little yellow, but how much of each will depend on what you and your girlfriend recognize. You can make a substantial change with just a drop or two difference in any of the primary or secondary colors involved.

To be more specific, you can use the formula part of burnt umber, three parts of golden ochre and twenty parts of white lead (I n art, lead white is known as flake white, also sometimes known as Cremnitz white.) It depends on how artistic you want to get.

Things to remember when mixing paints:

1. Get Out your paints (I find you can mix brands as long as you stay within the acrylic or oil-based paint families.
2. Use a color wheel to help you learn to mix paints to get the colors you want. Color mixing adds detail and excitement to your work.
3. It is a very good visual tool that demonstrates the relationship between the different types of colors of the spectrum. Learn the three elementary divisions of color:

• Primary colors are red, blue, yellow. These are the three 'starter' pigments and can’t be created using any other combination of colors, hence the term 'primary'.
• Secondary colors are orange, purple, green. They are the products of the three combinations of primary colors.
• Tertiary colors are those that involve all three primary colors (red, yellow and blue) in some combination or another.

4. Recognize the various hues of a color. All colors have various shades and are either 'warm' or 'cool'. Warm colors are prominent and bold, whereas cool colors are subdued and sober. Traditionally, yellow, orange and red are considered warm colors while blue, green and purple would be classified as “cool”.
5. Create a color grid. Use a piece of water color paper and mark of a grid with several blocks. In each block, place a splotch of your one of your “created colors with the “recipe” (measured color combinations) beneath it.

Incidently you will find a color wheel in the Download Center.

Give Your lungs A Break

You can’t begin weathering your model until after you have finished painting, detailing and decaling it. This is probably a good time to get into the brush vs spray fracas. Being an apartment dweller, I do come to the fray a bit predisposed. There are few places in an apartment complex where spray painting would be considered ‘neighborly’. Even my wife would not tolerate my spraying paint inside my modeling room/office. Firing up a spray gun inside an all but closed tight 10’X14’ space doesn’t really sound all that healthy for a Senior Citizen.

Anyone who has ever applied multiple colors to a model of significant size has had the experience of blowing their nose afterwards and “Yuk, that’s gross”. If you spray indoors, you will see a spray mist drifting past your model to land on your layout, walls, windows, computer screens, anywhere you don’t want an “extra coat of paint”.

Brush painting with acrylics from your local craft store can be a lot more user friendly. You aren’t breathing paint propellants, there is no serious overspray problem and both the tools and the paints are cheaper.

I have a collection of about 50 brushes in various states of wear I use to create different textures. The oldest work really well as applicators and tampers for powdered weathering colors.

Also, brush clean-up is a lot easier.

What's So Easy About Brush Cleaning?

Weathering Your Armory

Military vehicles have always been known to take a beating and keep on keeping on so they seldom look realistic without a strong dose of weathering and outright abuse (not unlike the real thing).

Over the last few years there have been changes in the way military models go through the weathering process. There are new methods of dirtying them up with “dried mud”, there are new methods for fading paint jobs, adding spills, embellishing with wear and tear and rusting and chipping. Doesn’t sound too healthy for your newly assembled, painted and detailed WWII GMC 2.5 ton tank truck but if you are building a contest quality model, you won’t win without it.

Do Everything else first Only begin the weathering process after you have completed all of the painting, detailing and decaling your model requires then top it off with a coat of gloss varnish. The shiny surface will contrast well with your weathering and it is also better for wet weathering techniques.

Add Some More Color Apply a very thin layer of an extra color which will highlight uniform and flat surfaces. Make sure this his highly diluted (5% paint, 95% water). This will add an earthy tone to the model’s surface and will tend to blend the different colors of your camouflage plan.

Wear it and Tear It Now is the time to add wear and tear. Painted objects like vehicles, loading docks, planes and most railroad cars seldom get pampered. They are exposed to handling, walking, bumping, spills etc. You can simulate a lot of scratches and bruises with colored pencils. The choice of colors is less important than uniform application.

Armored vehicles inevitably developed large and small scratches and scuff marks which, in time and greater numbers, altered the overall appearance of the surface from "uniform" to "worn".

Scratch Your Neat Paint Job Using the pencils go over the entire model, drawing thin lines that resemble scratching. At this stage the effect of the pencils may look a bit harsh in places. Don't worry; everything will blend in nicely once the weathering continues. Chipping Without A Nine Iron With the thickness of paint (after many repaints) armored vehicles were easily chipped on and around protrusions and exposed edges. Realistic chipping can be accomplished by giving an area you want chipped a coat of metallic (aluminum colored) paint. Let it dry for three or four hours. Apply a coat of Future Wax or your favorite clear coat. Set this aside and let it dry for at least 24 hours. Next coat the Future coating with the base color. Cover it completely and let it dry for an hour so it is dry to the touch. Next is the fun part. Tear of a piece of masking tape and dab the area pressing on the tape and pulling it off quickly lifting “chips” of your base coat exposing the metalized surface beneath. Don’t get carried away. You can pull off more around the leading edges and protrusions which would be subject to glancing blows.

Chips tend to concentrate around hatches, foot steps and handles as well as other protruding details that would be subject to heavier wear and tear. Before detailing and weathering More realistic looking water tanker One last step is to enhance the light and dark areas with a dark wash, which will add depth to the areas which normally remain in shadow. A "wash" is an application of highly thinned paint (10-20% paint, the rest water) intended to deposit color in the nooks and crannies of a model.

Six different steps may sound like a lot of work, but once you have tried the described techniques, you will notice that most of them are both quick and easy to apply. I think you will agree that the final effect is worth every bit of effort!

Your Help and Ideas Needed
To Expand SMH Idea Base

Making daily decisions involving for the past 62 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 fifth 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 73rd 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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