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Scale Modeling Tips & Tools Monthly, Issue #050-- "Getting Plastered"
February 15, 2011
February 15, 2011

Moving To HO Provides
New Modeling Opportunities

I have been modeling in N Scale for so long, I see the words six feet and immediately visualize a half-inch…what would happen if it was .82 of an inch, or HO Scale?

Several things became apparent during the construction of my first HO Scale Design Preservation Model of Carol’s Corner Café, some, I really liked.

For instance, working in HO:

--you get to hold a wall piece in your hands to paint without having to paint your fingers;
--You can actually trim flash from window openings without slashing into the wall with an out-of-control blade;
--you will find walls are more easily squared and will hold their position long enough to retrieve the glue;
--you can glue the edge of a wall without having great blobs of the sticky stuff sticking out from the corner;
--You can actually see inside an HO building and distinguish between a clock and a trash can cover;
--you can design building signs in 18 point type and it will fit on the building while still being large enough to read, and

--when you drop a part on the floor you can find it, and even pick it up.

These are some of the advantages that first came to light when I brought my first HO DPM structure model to the bench.

I have also found the detail is a lot more apparent in the larger version and allows me to do more in the relm of kitbashing. For instance, I revamped this model into a billiards hall and furnished the entire interior of the second floor for a "roof off" view.

All of the furnishings for this apartment were scratch built and it is obvious, this is an area where I can only improve.

Getting Plastered
To New Structure Technique

I am slowly beginning to realize that scratch building involves more than buying ready-made sheets of basswood with scribed in detail, detail that can’t be easily altered and in the small scales, easily and accurately assembled.

Recently, I had been buying a lot of Builders In Scale individual planking sheets in N Scale and found there is nothing wrong with the product, it is more my diminished eyesight that concludes with a result that leaves me less than satisfied.

After decades of working in the N Scale venue, my wife suggested I give my eyes a break and move to a larger scale. About the same time, I wandered away from the Builders In Scale website to its new owner, Clint Crow’s who operates the CC Crow site. Here I started exploring the world of hydrocal castings. I have learned that hydrocal is a type of plaster with beneficial characteristics for hobbyists. It easily casts and can be used as its own mold. It is relatively easy to scribe and cut; offering modelers a lot of custom ability.

I learned the hard way, it cracks easily but Clint offers a complete collection of clinics and tutorials on his website dealing with hydrocal castings. Yes, there is one dealing with dumb mistakes like mine. (I mean really, you couldn’t find another place for your elbow besides the middle of the casting?)

Once walls have been produced in white hydrocal, they easily take paint and weathering techniques common to scale modelers. My first step was to order three HO scale brick panels from the website simply to explore my capability to work with this material.

I picked one for initial testing to find out how well it takes the dollar-a-bottle Apple Barrel acrylics that come in a two-ounce bottle (fast becoming my painting standard) as opposed to the Floquil one ouncers that ring up at about $4.50 per.

My first tests (applying a brick red with a brush) revealed to me one of hydrocal’s strong benefits, the mortar lines easily take on a dark line while brick surfaces remain lighter in color. I let this dry overnight and then apply a coat of Bragdon’s Lime Mortar White weathering powder. I swipe it off the brick surfaces and find It softens the color of the mortar lines without eliminating the darker color.

Using the test sheet I also learned you can customize your look by gouging out random bricks. I use an Xacto with a No. 11 blade. So far, I have found a couple of good straight edges, a flat square and some clamps helpful in working with hydrocal sheets.

Painting White Metal Castings

Details tend to make the scale model scene whether it is a diorama or a model railroad layout and most of these details today are produced as white metal castings. Some of us have hundreds, many dozens and still more get them as they are needed. Once you are ready to populate your scene with details like barrels, buckets, pallets, fire hydrants, mail boxes, dumpsters, trash cans, exterior wall vents, pipes, tires, cordwood, junk, rusted vehicles, coiled rope, ductwork, work benches or even trash bags, you will find they all are available as metal castings.

Many of these are less than a foot-and-a-half in HO Scale (that's under 3/16ths of an inch) and as a case of 12 bottles requires at least a dozen pin-dot sized paint applications.

Like any other form of modeling, a good finish makes or breaks your end result. It all starts at the beginning with careful preparation and plenty of patience to let things dry.

• Clean them—Make sure your castings are clean. If you have latex rubber gloves, use them. The oil in your skin will be your biggest problem.

• Scrub them with warm soapy water, a toothbrush is really helpful. Rinse them and leave them to dry.

• Pickle them in a vinegar rinse to rid your castings of the mold release material. You can again use a toothbrush. The vinegar will also give the metal castings “tooth” (not for the toothbrush but to allow paint to adhere more readily).

• As a final step I like to spray mine with a coat of clear, acrylic sealer to act as a primer and will allow your paint to spread evenly without the need for a second coat..

• Tongue Depressors—Adhere your subject casting(s) to the end of a tongue depressor to handle during the painting process. I like to use a non permanent paste like dental adhesive or even rubber cement to bind the detail item to the end of a tongue depressor, yet it is easily removed.

• Painting is another area—where time spent practicing will be rewarded with the final look. It will improve your results and since it is usually the first thing visitors see of your favorite model. This is an area where getting as close as you can to perfection will pay off for years to come. Use some ingenuity with your practice—drill yourself on painting in tight places, start with an 8-pane N-Scale window and paint the frame around each “pane” a different color.

• Generally acrylics are friendlier than enamels which expose users to a toxic fume environment. Enamels offer a harder clean-up environment and you need turpentine or something stronger to clean-up and thin your paint. With acrylics, you use straight water.

Junk Yard Diorama: How Much Did It Cost?

Yes, there is one decent vehicle, see if you can find it.

This YouTube tour of a 1/43rd modeler’s imaginative junkyard draws rave comments and probably accolades from judges. It sure beats putting unused RC cars away in a drawer or leaving them to collect dust on a shelf.

While you are at it, figure $8.50 per car, how much is invested in this diorama?

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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