Monday, February 23, 2015

Still at it.

All be it a little slower than I'd prefer.
These 4 hoppers are now done and in the mail to the client.
You first saw these in an earlier post,
The process was interrupted by a week of working the touring show Jersey Boys, which came through town and ate up more time than I thought it was going to.
I weathered them this morning, after the flat finish had some time to cure. I used Pan Pastels inside and out on these cars and am quite pleased with the results.
One of the nice things about the Pan Pastels, is that by their very nature, the application engenders a certain randomness that I'm looking for in weathered cars, while retaining a colour palette.
I highly recommend the 2 weathering sets from Pan Pastel. One is a series of grey tones and the other rust tones. Easy to use, easy to adjust and awesome results. If you don't want to pay for the full sets, try one of the rust colours on it's own. You won't be sorry.
The move is getting closer. We went appliance shopping yesterday. And I found work cabinets at Home Depot, cheaper than at Ikea. What is this world coming to?

Thursday, February 19, 2015


Life lesson time.
Really try and avoid trying to sell a house over Christmas. It's real hard on the nerves.
On the upside we have sold this old abode and we will be moving into new digs at the end of March.
Which means a whole new space for the railroad. And a new workshop space for both businesses.
Yarmouth Model Works and Elgin Car Shops will be going into a hiatus for about a month. Lots of things to pack and once we're in the new house the work shop needs finishing. Strapping, drywall, electrical, new work surfaces, etc.
I'm half dreading, half looking forward to this. The new place is far newer than anything else I've ever owned, so all the old house issues won't be there. But there's always a surprise or two waiting for you.
So bear with me over the next couple of months while major things transition.
Who has more fun than us?

USPS or Canada Post?

Not sure who gets the blame for this one.
I had mailed out an order of etched parts to a customer weeks ago. After a couple of weeks he contacted me to say that he had yet to receive his order.
 I assured him that his order had been mailed and that sometimes between the post offices and the border, mail can be slow. But if he hadn't received his order by the end of that week to contact me and I would send the order again.
Which I wound up doing.
I got an email from the customer yesterday. The replacement order arrived late last week and the original order yesterday.
Way to be postal services.
And to his credit the customer kept both orders and quickly paid me for the second order. It's forthrightness like that, that can make ones day.
Now if we can just get the posties sorted out.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Some new tools

At the instigation of my friend Jon Cagle, the bright light behind Southern Car & Foundry,  I did a little online shopping for a couple of desired tools. He sent me to Rio Grande, a jeweler supply house. A treasure trove of wonderful tools.
First up.
A really good pair of flush cutters.
I've been using Xuron flush cutters for years, and they've all suffered from the same issue. The jaws are not aligned.
Not out by alot on this pair, but enough as to inhibit truly square cuts. And I've seen Xuron sets far worse than this. The Swanstrom pair I bought are perfect!
And they feature a setscrew to keep the jaws from slamming into each other.

The other tool is a pair of round nose pliers with the smallest pins I've seen.

I can now make very small loops in the end of wire for attaching chain and such.
Both of these tools were not cheap, but that's okay. I'm a proponent of paying for quality. The tools in this case were made in the USA and will no doubt outlive me.
Now to manipulate more wire!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Can you see the Difference?

It's subtle, but it's there.

The requirement for the "Country of Origin" is a US regulation. And I sort of get it.
The border agent was well within his duty to demand proper labeling.
But surely, he could have said, " You are required to... but under the circumstances I'll let you go with the understanding that this will be addressed for the next time."
Model trains are such a threat to domestic security and economic recovery.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Another modeling debate

This time inspired by a thread on Resinfrieghtcar Yahoo Group.
One of the members was expressing his unhappiness with the trials that he'd had to go through building a Sunshine tank car kit. Now I will happily grant you that other than the Sunshine X-3 tank car series, most other resin tankcar kits are a trial. Mostly as a result of poor bolster design. The task of casting multi shaped parts has become simpler as the casting technique improves. And even with that with care those resin tank cars can be assembled into lovely models. And it will only get better.
I'll take a tankcar over a hopper kit any day.
In the early days, Westerfield had you assembling a lot of flat panels into the complex shapes required, Tasks that try the patience of Job.
In later years, Al evolved Unibodies and more complete hopper and chute castings which help enormously. But the struggle continues.
The modeler must be aware of how each piece fits and it's impact upon keeping the car square and flat. They can take an inordinate length of time to get to the point of being ready for the fiddly details, and all through that keep the debonder handy just in case.
How do I know. Well on the bench are these babies,
 These are but 4 I am building for a client. I think to date it's been 20 and more after this. Yes I'm getting good at this car. Not my favorite resin car by far, but as with all them in the end it's well worth the effort.
Ready for paint shop. Time for a new matt. and a new project. But not today. Was in the periodontists chair today and meds have me wobbly. Maybe I'll go work on Trevor's layout instead!

The great wood screw debate

Over on my buddy's blog,, a conversation has started about drywall screws vs proper wood screws for layout construction. Started in part by me when I built Trevor's benchwork in one day and I convinced him to save his collection of drywall screws for hanging drywall.
I have a few reasons for this attitude, which I'll share with you.
Study a flathead wood screw head vs a drywall head. The wood screw should be a simple straight taper, whereas the drywall screw is a buglehead shape. The buglehead will have a greater tendency to split the grain when being seated, especially near the end of a board. The buglehead was carefully designed to create the dimple needed in drywall for taping and not pierce the paper.
Drywall screws are casehardened, to prevent them from rusting when buried in wet drywall mud. Doesn't always work, but that's the intent. The end result is a screw shaft that is very brittle and far more likely to snap if you over torque it while trying to draw 2 pieces of wood together. The only upside of this is the greater depth of your foul language vocabulary that develops when you try to extract a broken shaft.
Most wood screws over 1" long will have a blank shaft above the threads and below the head, while drywall screws tend to threaded to full shaft length. The reason for the blank portion is to prevent bridging of the screw while drawing 2 pieces together. If you have thread all the way up the screw you basically have to strip the screw out of the first board to suck it into the second board, which greatly increases the chance of stripping the threads in the second board, and why would you go to all the work?
Wood screws are available in a far greater variety of lengths, thicknesses, styles, head shapes, thread designs, etc than a basic drywall screw. Go visit a fastener specialty outlet and have a gander. No doubt you'll be amazed as to what's out there.
And for you non-Canadians, shop for square drive screws. We know it as the Robertson screw. Hands down the best drive design for screws period.
See the chart
Everything else aside, the simple joy of working with Robertson screws over anything else settles the argument for me. I have driven 100s of thousands of woodscrews in my work and only once did I have do a job for 3 days with all Phillips screws. It was 3 days from hell. Screws constantly falling off the drivers, drivers camming out of the sockets. It was a fight to do basic work, compared to what I'd been used to.
So the right tool, fastener for the right job. Would you solder your DCC decoder into that loco with a torch? Use a hammer drill to install working signal bases?
I can hear it now, "I've used drywall screws for years on my layout with great success." Good for you, and I can drive my car 20,000 miles without changing the oil. Doesn't make it right.
Besides, visiting the fastener store may expand your knowledge base and show you something that you didn't know existed and may solve that little problem you were having. The construction world doesn't begin and end in the Home Depot or Lowes.