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Scale Modeling Tips & Tools Monthly, Issue #038-- "DIY-Details For Details Your Way"
February 15, 2010
February 15, 2010

Detailing Brings New Life To Junk Box Finds

This month I ventured into the world of N Scale building interiors building grist mill equipment and “furnishings” from scratch. I learned a lot about early grist mill operations and what it takes to bring things like a 2,500-pound millstone down to N Scale size.

I find so many give up N Scale when they get into their sixth or seventh decade opting for the more behemoth scales to deal with diminished eyesight and shakiness without realizing both are normal and correctable.

I have stayed with N Scale despite occasions or experiencing both aspects of getting along in years. Giving up the challenge of N Scale is not something I am considering any time soon. I have a minimal amount of space for my modeling endeavors so it is my intention to pack as much detail as possible into these few buildings. I find that employing a few scale details makes my buildings more believable and at the same, makes their construction more challenging.

To come up with a plausible interior for a gristmill meant researching this activity which proved to be a mainstay in community life in the early 20th century. You also come to realize the importance of phrases like “stone ground” when doing your food shopping today. A lot of nutritional value goes by the wayside in today’s flour production which relies on steel wheels to do the grinding. The wheels heat up and bake off some of the nutritional value in the grinding process.

Realizing what we have lost through modernization, I wanted to re-create what our ancestors knew as a better way.

That’s what gets me into working with small details and coming up with tricks that make it possible because (1) a lot of these small building components just aren’t available on the commercial market, and (2) the diminutive size makes duplication of such parts difficult when self-made.

For instance, I am now kitbashing a quality kit of a grist mill complete with water wheel like one I remember in northern Vermont. But there were always two or three millstones lying around like spare tires. Only these were four-feet in diameter (.30 in N Scale) with a hole in the center.

Actually, a round wooden pencil is just about the right size so I sliced one into “1-foot” pieces and found if I centered it over the jaws of my modeler’s vise spread about a quarter-inch apart, I could use a small Phillips head screwdriver and pop out the lead from the middle. If I wanted, I could belt out 25 of them from one pencil in less than 15 minutes.

You will find this article about Gristmill Details continued on the website along with several other details you can make from your junk box.


The Wye Grist Mill in the Town of Wye Mills, on the border of Queen Anne's and Talbot Counties, Eastern Shore Maryland dates its first construction back to circa 1682.
The 3rd U.S. patent granted was to inventor Oliver Evans in 1790 for his automatic grist mill signed by President George Washington.

Thought I'd Put It In Print

So far, I haven’t even been able to find a workshop on scale modeling that offers any kind of course credit or a degree. It is unlikely I ever will.

But I’ve always been interested in better ways to build models, new painting and weathering techniques and unique ways to display the results.

If you have a spot over your modeling bench, you might want to clip and post this to give your chosen spot more privacy.

I still have the original which measures 7" by 10.5". If you would like a copy of it in a larger format than is offered in the e-zine simply email me at Reg Hardy

Take A Regular Laugh Break

Scale modeling can get intense when the hour starts getting late and mistakes start creeping into the knife work, gluing, painting or weathering. It doesn’t take much, I know, it happens to me a lot and what was initially planned as a very relaxing interlude becomes stress-packed.

I was bouncing through the channels the other night after a workout with the paint brush and stumbled across a PMS presentation at the Kennedy Center, The 20th Mark Twain Comedy Award presented to Bill Cosby who is a couple years closer to 75then I am, but his comic timing hasn’t lost a thing. I soon found myself laughing so hard tears were blurting from my eyes.

The show’s producers ran in a number of Cosby’s skits that kept me in stitches, they brought back memories of when I first heard them and all of a sudden, they paint splotches lost heavily, their importance. I got to thinking about how great it would be if I could save some of these to perk up my down days.

That's how the Laughter Mixer was born. Need a laugh, give it a spin.

Your Help and Ideas Needed
To Expand SMH Idea Base

Making daily decisions involving for the past 35 months has led to the creation of over 375 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

Duplicating N Scale Windows
Easier If You Have A Plan

Obviously there are N-scale buildings with a lot more than 13 windows but when you are working with a laser cut structure with four-piece windows even a Baker’s Dozen can present a challenge and there are a few things you ought to look out for.

You will soon learn, (if you didn’t begin with the knowledge) that model kits come with exactly the right number of pieces, no more, no less if the windows call for 52 pieces, that’s what you get. Thankfully, most laser kit producers will send you replacement parts (the entire sheet) for broken or missing parts, even lost parts.

Tip 1. Keep the pieces off the floor—When you are dealing with window frames no bigger than an eighth of an inch square with stiles and sashes less than a 32ndth of an inch wide they easily manage to disappear from the face of the earth in a fall from the workbench to the floor.

After losing 3 such tan frames in the confines of a tan carpet (I called and ordered a back-up sheet) I decided a shirt was needed. I use a dark-colored shirt and mate the shirttails to the metal bench legs with magnets loosely tie the arms around my waist. I haven’t dropped a frame since.

Tip 2. Use a Razorblade, not an Xacto knife—Individual window parts are held to the sheet by a couple of tabs that need to be clipped. I N-scale the slot around the frame is more easily negotiated with the thin blade yellow mini-razor scraper. Once cut free I pick up the window frame with tweezers and sand it against an emery board to remove the remnants of the tabs.

Tip 3 Slice it clean—Most of these small parts come with an adhesive backing covered with a paper liner. Once they drop free of the sheet, slipping that paper free is not the easiest trick. I found if you use the yellow razor scraper again under a magnifier, slipping the paper off is simple. Bonus: When the paper slips up on the edge of the blade. Tighten the adhesive on the wood to the reverse of the blade; you won’t drop it.

Tip 4 Make ‘em dirty--These kits usually come with clear plastic window material which means shiny, clean glass out-of-place in an old mill or factory. Instead, I opt for cloudy plastic made by doubling adhesive tape to itself with a slight overlap. I use the overlap to stick the “glazing” to my bench and then use tweezers to place the outermost window frame squarely onto an edge of the adhesive tape. Then trip with, you guessed it, the mini-razor scraper.

Until Next Month

Make It Your Best Effort!

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