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Scale Modeling Tips & Tools Monthly, Issue #026-- "View From ICU"
February 15, 2009
February 15, 2009

A Year Called February

I rolled into my seventh decade last month and by all accounts it probably wasn’t the best time to do it with the economy turning sour, the weather getting colder and deeper and income almost at a standstill.

Little did I know, life can really get you down if you let it.

February rolled in like a lion (that wasn’t supposed to happen until March) and I could tell in the first week, Punxsutawney Phil was going to see his shadow.

It started during the first week with a small bout of constipation which for me, began to eclipse the souring jobless rate as things started to tighten up and I really began to get into a bind.

Suddenly, modeling didn’t matter; there was a pain in my gut that wouldn’t go away.

Within a couple of days my abdomen became distended to the point belting a pair of trousers was impossible.

I finally called my doctor who was 15 miles away for some advice. After describing my condition, he told me I needed to come into Urgent Care immediately. My wife drove me as I’d never have done it on my own.

The emergency doctor took one look after giving me pain medicine. He said I had an intestinal blockage that required surgery and ordered a transfer by ambulance to a hospital another 20 miles away.

The whole thing was beginning to make me a little more than nervous about my prospects. My gut was now bloated beyond believe, I seriously thought I might explode.

The admitting staff took me Straight to ICU.

I was surrounded by several doctor types and I couldn’t catch my breath. The called it Congestive heart failure. My lungs were screaming for oxygen. A doctor asked, “In the event of an emergency do you have an advanced health care directive”?

You hear about it on the news, you may even know someone who’s had to face it, but until you’ve had to face it yourself, the decision to sustain life in the face of life terminating circumstances is a sticky one.

It was a decision I wasn’t able to make without consulting my Pastor, now some 50 miles away.

Unbelievably, my wife said she hade discussed this issue with my Pastor and he wanted every effort made to keep me alive.

I broke as the oxygen mask suddenly rushed the life giving wind into my lungs.

But the real problem was the blockage caused by a knotting of the sigmoid colon.

After a colonoscopy and xRay, it was described to me as resembling a balloon twisted at both ends the way a clown would make an animal toy from a balloon.

After rendering the diagnosis, the doctor said an operation was most likely the most favorable prognosis, but he wanted to try to flip it with the colonoscopy tools. He wasn’t very positive about it working.

But Faith had a different plan.

Within a half hour the doctor had righted my colon and I was on the way to recovery.

Whereto From Here

While I was hospitalized, I gave a lot of thought to model railroading and did quite a bit of reading on building layouts in small spaces as I have room for a door layout opposite my office desk where I do most of my computer work.

But all of the layouts I have tried in the past had electrical problems or track work issues that made operations tedious. I have heard that Kato N Scale track makes layouts “bullet proof” but expensive so I have been looking at alternatives.

I have sort of settled on the N-Scale Carolina Central modified for New England appeal.

Getting from a magazine depicted layout to the rigid foam base is the area where I devoted a lot of planning and worked on this while at the hospital. This resulted in a new idea detailed under the headline

Sometime You Get Your Best Layout
By Blowing It Up And Starting Over

Advantages of Being In The 70-Plus Club

When you reach this stage in your life you are looking for more positives than negatives, even if you have to exaggerate to make it real.

1. Kidnappers are not very interested in you.

2. In a hostage situation you are likely to be released first.

3. No one expects you to run--anywhere.

4. People call at 9 pm and ask, " Did I wake you ???? "

5. People no longer view you as a hypochondriac.

6. There is nothing left to learn the hard way.

7. Things you buy now won't wear out.

8. You can eat dinner at 4 pm.

9. You can live without sex but not your glasses.

10. You get into heated arguments about pension plans.

11. You no longer think of speed limits as challenge.

12. You quit trying to hold your stomach in no matter who walks into the room.

13. You sing along with elevator music.

14. Your eyes won't get much worse.

15. Your investment in health insurance is finally beginning to pay off.

16. Your joints are more accurate meteorologists than the national weather service.

17. Your secrets are safe with your friends because they can't remember them either.

18. Your supply of brain cells is finally down to manageable size.

19.You can't remember who sent you this list

And you notice these are all in Big Print for your convenience.

Lord, Keep Me From "Over-modeling"

It is really possible to get too detailed in building from scratch. Many of us build from the frame up, even in HO and N Scale. Then we cut our own 1x2s for every stinkin' window, we cut the holes, glue them up and even place individual glass panes. No commercial windows. We want them right, and hand made.

By chance I happened to get to the Pennsylvania Museum Commission's historic Pithole (oil boom town) display. It's a BIG display. The cool part is that it's all done in N scale. They had to scratch build, from photos, literally hundreds of buildings to recreate the entire town, building by building, as it was in 1866 or so. I think they chose N because they needed a lot of horses, wagons, and people to populate it.

It looks fantastic. Any modeler would die for quality like this done to historic standards. But when you get really, really, close.... you get a "What tha....?" moment. EVERY WINDOW is drawn on, with shading. Not one pane. Nothing was hand-done like that. No window glass, no individual pieces. And it looked better (even close-up) than anything I had done with individual parts. A humbling moment, for sure.

So the conclusion is that you have to lead into the mind's expectations. You can trick the eye, and the mind, into seeing things that aren't there. Really good model building accomplishes that, and that's why it's so enjoyable to study - it's almost like magic.

One of the first, and hardest lessons in my N Scale scratchbuilding chronicle is not to be obsessive about detail.

Tips and Techniques

Learning It The Hard Way

It takes a sharp blade to make accurate, quality cuts when working with paper stock. The best blade for the job is the Snap Blade knife. You won't find one easier to keep razor sharp (just clip off the tip). You can open it with one hand, they are light and you won't find a cheaper knife. They normally sell for about a dollar, I found a three-pack in a Dollar Store for a buck.

The cheaper the better.

You don't want rugged metal ones, like those offered by the big box stores; they are bigger, heavier, costlier and no better. What you want is a cheap all-plastic made-in-China throw-away that should cost no more than a buck.

Raid Your Own Trash

One of my household chores is taking out the trash every other day and I have found these bags to be an inexhaustible supply of modeling pieces parts.

It seems we are locked into a pattern of throwing away plastic food containers two or three times a week. I am getting in the habit of snagging those that will serve a higher purpose.. I like the hard plastic (black bottom, clear top) and use them for several modeling purposes:

• Corralling parts for a kit bashing project I am working on so they are in one place.
• They serve as a palette for glues and blobs of paint. .
• For RC racers they are handy in your pit kit to store tires, small hand tools, replacement parts, wires, batteries Xacto knives, extra screws and zip ties.
• Such plastic boxes, often stackable, lend themselves well to storing and cataloging model railroad rolling stock. .
• They are handy for storing the myriad of detail parts in an organized fashion in place of the all-to-common junk drawer. .
• They are durable (just ask your average dump manager) and are easy to replace.

Of Glues and Needles

All modeling, sooner or later, boils down to your ability to stick one thing to another and working with wood is probably one of the most important whether you are gluing strips under stress (curved hull planks in ship modeling) or putting together two walls at a right angle.

For my money the best adhesive for wood applications is Carpenter’s Glue and certainly one of the best is LePage’s with a lineage of over 130 years dating back to its invention in Gloucester, MA by William N. LePage, a 19th century “Captain of Industry” who also invented the holster.

Both LePage’s and Elmer’s produce a carpenter’s glue with clear advantages over the more chemical intense Cyanoacrylates, epoxies and ‘Super Glues”.

• They are excellent for wood to wood applications,
• They dry hard and quickly
• They are good glues for joints that don’t fit tightly

Carpenter’s glues also work well when using a syringe as an applicator which allows you to apply your adhesive with much more accuracy because of the fine tip of the needle and the minute amount of liquid dispensed.

If you take the time to clean the needle after each use (with carpenters glue just run some warm water through it) you can easily get three or four months use out of the needle. Needles are available in boxes of 50 for about $7 in most drugstores.

Incidentally, if you are gluing with a syringe, there is no need to squirt it up in the air to clear air bubbles.

You can take one more step to prevent them from clogging, store them point down on a piece of wet sponge.

Until Next Month...

Make It Your Best Effort!

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