|September 15, 2010
My Layout Before The Ambulance Ride
You Gain From Editorial Surgery
As a retired editor I have often thought my job of cutting helped the reader, little did I realize, the opposite was also true.
I am not sure I could have done it as easily and probably would have been a lot more resistant if not recovering from surgery for a colostomy. The destruction of the St. J. and L.C rebuild was carried out by my wife and friends when it became evident I wouldn’t finish. Multiple sclerosis has my standing work down to about five minutes at a time.
Now add in dealing with the colostomy and the physically debilitating 15 day hospital stay and two weeks of rehab, and I am learning I will be undergoing some lifestyle changes. First, there is now a hospital bed in place of my half-finished N-Scale model railroad and I will be devoting more time to my computer (website) and less to my former work as an independent contractor.
You as readers and regulars stand to gain immensely from this change in direction.
One of the structures salvaged from my layout is the scratch built N Scale Fisher Covered Bridge. I am thinking, it could be yours.
I have over 20 finished structure models ranging from a scratch-built covered bridge (see left)complete with a roofing crew at work to a grist mill waiting for the water wheel and a brook, to a scratch-built riverside boat repair shop complete with a dry dock.
There are literally months of work in finishing and detailing these structures which can be easily transplanted to another pike.
I will be making them available to Scale Modelers Handbook users and in particular, the 1,200-plus subscribers to Scale Modelers Tips and Tools Monthly. Prices will be reasonable and will include shipping to U.S. based customers.
By Sept. 20, this offer will go onto the main website, available to all. If you are interested, send me an email immediately, it is first come, first served.
Got a question, email me at:
Advantages of Living Past 70
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 nap times.
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
20.And you notice these are all in Big Print for your convenience.
Cheaper is Often Better
I have learned a lot about modeling over the years (learning some things the hard way) and other techniques, just in time.
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.
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.
Columbus Had It Right,
So many layouts you see these days are built on Styrofoam insulation bases making bench work a snap, it is about the right size, easily worked and easily cut.
The World Ain't Flat
Resist the temptation of building your layout with a flat yard or switching area, it is not prototypical. Columbus proved the world isn’t flat. Granted, he had bigger things in mind than your little layout, but the principal is still the same. Your layout should have small hills and mini canyons. Even pavement isn’t really flat—many potholes where you live?
Most foam board molders would be horrified by this technique. Find a particular flat spot on your layout, place your elbow in the middle and lean on it. Yup, you want to break the nice flat surface you painted or provide a major dimple in the flat pink or blue surface you are working with. If space allows you might try a couple of them.
Pick another smaller, flat area. Give it a thumb gouge, the idea is to provide a spot where water might puddle or pond as well as providing small dips and swales in the landscape.
But the world is not only depressed, you will find a variety of bumps, nodules, protrusions and terrain warts in your average backyard, back lot, or back 40.
Start with a conservative spreading of rocks that exceed the size of a freight car door in your scale (kind of a neat place for a hobo or a hunter to sit).
Now add the paper mache. Mix up a batch which will provide you with enough to spread over the target area and cover it to the depth of an eighth of an inch. Don’t worry about smoothing it, you are trying to create blobs and swells with no apparent pattern. Try not to cover the rocks you just dropped. If it looks to smooth add a few swells.
Before this coating dries, this is a time to add “landscape junk”, occasional twigs to represent logs, a few more rocks (smaller than a freight car tire) in a hit-or-miss array, a plank or two that look well aged. Remember, you are trying for the WOW! Effect, not the “oh yuh, there’s another one”.
Get out your sand bag (usually the finest sifting of your dried yard covering). Before spreading, thoroughly soak the area you are working on with water from a mist sprayer. Keep the sprayer handy. Now spread random blankets across the patch you are working .
Mix a dark and light “grass”--I use Woodland Scenics Fine Turf Green Grass and Burnt Grass in a cup saucer. Grab your handiest pincher (thumb and forefinger) so you actually spread your grass in clumps to result in random bare spots..
Speaking of pinches, we need some dark earth. My preference is dried coffee grounds (after they have performed their primary function). To make my supply I move it from the filter and spread it on a flat oven-proof tray covered with aluminum foil. I heat at 300 degrees for an hour or two. Once it cools, I pick up the edges of the foil and drain the powder into a baggie (you can never have too many baggies in your hobby room).
I use baggies for all three sizes of sand and stone, and my coffee grounds. They also serve as weights when I am working on structures.
Now, using the coffee grounds as dark earth patches, with your 0-2-0 drag bucket, deposit sprinkles of your dark earth on the grass, the patch should look mostly green.
Like the looks? Grab your spray bottle again and this time, mist from a high level to the point where you soak the surface you have been working on.
The final step is to secure the whole thing. I mix a white glue 50-50 with water and apply it with an eye dropper. You can also drip it on a drop at a time, but you will find the eye dropper more precise..
Let the patch rest for 10-15 minutes. Use the mister again to apply more water. The object of this final application is to spread the white glue droppings.
Now size up your work. Is it ready for prime time viewing?
If you are not entirely happy with the look, grab a spatula, scrape it all of and try it again.
Ocean Dioramas Take Special Techniques
Whether you are talking about building a diorama depicting an ocean battle between a couple of ocean-going behemoths or and underwater scene like the resting place of the Titanic, you'll need a good idea of how the ocean operates.
The ocean’s surface is a series of parallel ridges (wave tops) crisscrossed by smaller ripples. You will seldom find a level area. The height of these seas can be anywhere from one foot to as high as 60 feet.
Review Ocean Wave Topography
Visitor Project Temps Recovering Editor
One of the visitors to the site while I was hospitalized added some interesting content with his plans to model the 20-mule team Borax hitch-up and provided me with a rich research project in trying to give him suggestions as to the color of the mules, wagons and weathering suggestions.
I really enjoyed searching through old photos and articles regarding this very real, yet almost legend-like solitary trekker of 162-mile jaunts through the 136-degree to 150 Fahrenheit of Death Valley. It was not a trip for the feint at heart.
These 20 mules (actually 18 mules and two horses) were hauling 2 wagons containing 25 tons each of borax and a trailing tank car containing 1,200 gallons of water. The journeys were from Furnace Creek in Death Valley to Mojave, California; and from the mines at Old Borate to Dagget, the nearest railroad points. Their routes carried them over some of the most forbidding land on the face of the earth.
If you are looking for a historically correct model, consider the Borax 20-mule team. Rick Seyoski introduced the idea under the heading
20 mule team Borax model
Your Help and Ideas Needed
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.
To Expand SMH Idea Base
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
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!