Paint Storage Solution | small bottles

Thanks to everyone who responded – on blog and through private messages – to yesterday’s post about paint storage options. As it happens, I was running errands yesterday and visited a local gaming store (Meeplemart), where I picked up a laser cut MDF rack from Vallejo:

Vallejo Paint Rack

This assembled in about five minutes (as a dry fit – I must go back and glue everything) and holds 52 small bottles, a handful of larger bottles, and more brushes than I’ll ever use. It sits nicely on my desk or workbench and its tiered design means I can see all the paints, inks, washes and so on that I’m most likely to need when painting.

I’ll need to explore the options at Meeplemart (and Wheels And Wings, a local plastic modelling store) for larger paint bottles, such as Scalecoat.

But at least I have the Vallejo under control!

Paint Storage Problem

I have one:

Too much paint

Most of us can relate to this. It doesn’t take long for the number of little bottles of paint to overrun a workshop. I’m currently looking at a few options – including laser cut paint storage racks available at my local gaming store. But I’m interested in the creative solutions that you’ve devised. So if you have solved your paint storage problem – and have a link to the rack manufacturer or to photos of what you did – share in the comments, and thanks in advance.

I’m not looking for suggestions along the lines of “How about something like…” from people who have not done it themselves. I’m looking for ideas that have actually been put into practice. Let’s see what you’ve got!

Preliminary peek at ESU’s “Full Throttle Steam” decoders

On Friday, I hosted ESU North America’s Matt Herman at the TrainMasters TV studios. TMTV brass hat Barry Silverthorn and second camera operator Christian Cantarutti shot a series of segments for DCC Decoded during which Matt and I explored the soon-to-be-released “Full Throttle Steam” sound and motor control files for LokSound decoders. Noted CP Rail modeller Bob Fallowfield – a fan of ESU’s “Full Throttle Diesel” line and a familiar face behind the ESU booth at train shows across southern Ontario – joined us for the day, and a grand time was had by all.

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(Matt – standing – demonstrates the “Full Throttle Steam”-equipped decoder in CNR 1532 as Bob either shoots video on his phone, or genuflects to the awesomeness of Canadian National. Or, perhaps, both…)

As part of this shoot, we equipped one of my CNR 10-Wheelers with a LokSound decoder loaded with “Full Throttle Steam”, including an air-powered bell ringer and CNR-style Nathan five-chime whistle. This is a beta-build of the sound file and there are still a few lines of code to tweak, but Matt is going to send me the updated files once he’s finished working on them.

Once I have those (and have had a chance to customize the various CVs to, for example, synchronize the chuff rate to the driver revolutions), I will shoot video of CNR 1532 on the layout and share it here. But for now, I can say that the early results are certainly impressive. I’m looking forward to converting the rest of the fleet.

(In fact, in preparation for this, yesterday I picked up a refurbished Lenovo laptop loaded with Windows 10 at one of my local computer stores. I use Macintosh computers for everything in real life, but ESU’s LokProgrammer programming and sound-loading tool only works with Windows. Since I wanted a dedicated computer for the workshop, it made sense to find something inexpensive rather than add a PC emulator to a Mac laptop. But I digress…)

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(I’m with Matt and Bob as we prepare to shoot a non-steam, HO scale segment at TrainMasters TV. It’s pretty obvious that we’re having a great time…)

I won’t have to wait long for the finished files- and neither will you: Matt anticipates releasing the first series of “Full Throttle Steam” sound files by the end of the month. It’s a great time to be modelling steam.

Stay tuned for updates!

New life for a Record 0

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Several years ago, as I was preparing my late mother’s home for sale, I liberated my father’s vise from the workbench in the garage.

I knew at some point I’d have use for this vise. I also knew that it was a Number 0 vise from Record, a well-respected English tool-maker – and that it had only been gently used by my dad. Dad wasn’t that talented with tools, but like many guys from his generation he took it upon himself to tackle DIY projects around the home. (If memory serves, dad purchased this vise from Aikenhead’s, a small hardware store chain in the Greater Toronto Area that was purchased by Home Depot in the mid-1990s, becoming the nucleus of HD’s Canadian operation.)

But I also knew the vise needed some restoration work – primarily, cleaning and a new coat of paint – and I had other projects on the go. So it sat in a box for a while.

But then a couple of things happened. Last year, I got serious about setting up my shop. And more recently, I’ve been learning to rework brass locomotives, and a good vise is a valuable tool, especially when using the resistance soldering gear.

So, the vise came out of storage. Last week, while my friend and fellow tool enthusiast Chris Abbott was over for a visit, we set about taking apart the vise so that I could restore it.

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(Major components of the vise. Smaller items – not shown – include a spring, a couple of pins, a washer…)

There was a fair bit of rust and oily dirt/sawdust inside. That oil probably kept the important bits from rusting, although a threaded insert at the back of the vise needed special attention with scrapers before we could remove it to pull the sliding jaw from the body.

With everything disassembled, I tackled cleaning, and then roughing up the surface with sanding sticks and a brass wire wheel in a drill to help the new paint adhere. I was careful to not hit the machined surfaces with the wheel!

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For paint, washed the vise with household cleaner then dried it with paper towels. Then I warmed the vise in an oven (200F – put it in when I turned on the oven and pulled it out when the oven reached temperature – it was warm but could be handled with bare hands). I did this because as a large casting, the vise would get pretty cold in a basement in the winter, and the paint needed to go on a warmer surface. It worked well.

I gave the vise a coat of Tremclad rust-proofing primer and then – since I could not easily get proper Record blue paint (also known as Roundel Blue, which was the colour used in the round “target” markings on British aircraft during the Second World War) – I followed the primer with a coat of Tremclad Dark Blue rust-proofing paint.

The final task was to make a base for the vise. I don’t want to permanently mount it on my work surface – and I don’t have to, since the surface has plenty of dog-holes in it to anchor things. For the base, I laminated together three layers of poplar plywood, then cut and sanded the block to shape before applying a sealing coat of low-glare satin Varathane. Three 5/16″ bolts secure the vise to the base – one on each side, and one under the moving jaw at the back of the vise. The underside of the base is countersunk to accommodate the nuts, which are held in place with semi-permanent Lok-Tite. Washers spread the pressure. It’s not moving unless I want it to!

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I carefully sized the base so that when it’s in use, it fits between the pattern of dog holes on my Festool Multi-Fuction Table (MFT). In this way, I can use up to four clamps on it to secure it in place. As the photo above suggests, two is more than sufficient.

Also apparent in the above photo, I shaped the base so that the front edge projects over the edge of the MFT. The angled shape to either side of the vise means I won’t bump the base with my thigh while standing and using the tool. And the projection was designed so that the fixed jaw of the vise would sit just proud of the tracks that run around the perimeter of the MFT:

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Of course, if I’m not working a piece of material that is going to hang down below the base, I can position this vise anywhere on the MFT, thanks to all of those dog holes.

Thanks for the help getting started on this project, Chris – and for the useful advice throughout. I’m really pleased with how this project turned out, and I’m looking forward to putting dad’s vise to good use!

There. Are. THREE. Lights!

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Over the weekend, I was working on a project in my shop that requires photography. I realized I only owned two arms for my LED photo lights, so I swung past the camera store and picked up a third. As the photo above shows, I get plenty of light on the work surface – not only for photography, but also for seeing what the heck I’m doing.

The lighting rig I built in the shop have worked out really well – although things get pretty crowded looking when I have all the lights mounted:

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I make no apologies for the messy work surfaces. Everybody works in their own way – this is mine. I can live with it.

Pull up some dust and sit down…

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Over the weekend, I found this chair at a good price at a local big box office supply store. It quickly made it into my workshop so that I can sit while working on models.

There’s 32″ clearance under the table, which means a standard chair would be much too low. This height-adjustable bar stool fit the bill. I wanted something with a back so I’d be less tempted to slouch while working, and the swivel base means I can easily slide into and out of the seat to grab tools and supplies. I did not want casters, as I didn’t want the chair to roll away from the work table while I was vigorously sawing or filing.

The best part is, I picked up two of these – so a friend can join me.

The Workshop Report

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(The new workshop, during construction. So far, so good!)

My current project – learning to brass-bash while re-working a USRA light Mikado into CNR 2-8-2 3737 – is also the first real test of the new workshop that I assembled in my basement last year. And I’m really pleased with the results. I’m doing a lot of the “homework” for the 2-8-2 project in the shop and it’s working out well for me. Tools are easy to hand, and the workbench is roomy and stable. The counters behind the workbench are filled with tools and materials – but that’s the point: moving the clutter to the counters means the working surface itself stays clear.

I’m also enjoying my Flex-Shaft Tool – a piece of equipment I picked up a couple of years ago, but have not used much since then. I’ve used it several times on the 2-8-2 project and I like how it works. It’s powerful, quiet, comfortable in the hand, and the foot treadle makes it easy to adjust the speed without taking one’s hands off the work.

I have lucked out: my Sherline Mill came with a set of safety glasses that are quite broad – and they fit beautifully over my reading glasses. So I can see well for close-up work.

I have been working with a task light fitted with an LED bulb, and that works well, too – although at some point I should mount my Fillex lights on the light bars I built. That’s why the light bars are there, after all. I’ve just been too busy soldering brass and burning my fingers to haul the lights out of their storage case and set them up.

Finally, I need to find a suitable chair – something that’s height-adjustable and comfortable for long sessions at the bench. I have ideas on that…

Candy comes in navy with green accents

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(Tool demonstrations and discussions: Who wouldn’t want to take part?)

Today, I took in The Festool Roadshow at the Lee Valley Tools store in Vaughan (north of Toronto, for those who don’t know the area).

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(The Festool Roadshow: a workshop in a rig)

All I can say is, “Wow”. I had a great time and I learned a lot.

I have several tools from this company. Every one of them is a pleasure to use. What I haven’t really explored – until today – is just how versatile the tools are. I know they have variable speeds and other goodies on them – plus almost every tool can be enhanced with accessories to perform specific tasks. But I have never really thought about those: I tend to simply pick up the tool and go. (And to be fair, most of the time that works just fine – in the same way that one can do only basic programming on a DCC decoder and have it serve most needs, but it’s always nice to be able to be able to adjust the more esoteric CVs when the need arises. But I digress…)

While the tools were the stars of the show, the many accessories such as clamps for specific tasks on the Multi-Fuction Table (the work surfaces of which were used for demonstrations) were great to see. I know Lee Valley offers a bundle of useful MFT-compatible clamps in their Veritas tool line. It even comes in a Systainer-compatible storage case. I’ll have to pick up a set at some point.

The staff in The Festool Roadshow display were friendly and knowledgeable. They asked lots of questions and listened to the answers, then tailored the discussion to each guest. I never felt I was being talked down to – but also felt I was learning stuff. I detected at least one German accent, which was great to hear because Festool is a German company: It’s good to know they send people from the home team on these tours, too. If for no other reason, they get to hear what their customers are looking for. (Can we please, please get more tools for the Compact Module System in North America? Please? The system’s bench-mounted router is great – but it would be nice to be able to convert other handheld tools into bench tools, as can be done in Europe.)

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(Routers and “Domino” joiners)

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(Sanders and Systainers)

I was like a kid in a candy store and my Wish List just got a little bit longer – which is, after all, the point of these types of shows, right?

Convertible top work table

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(My work table, ready for model-building)

The heart of my new workshop is a Festool Multi-Function Table. This is a terrific tool for woodworking or other “full-size” modelling, but it does have a big shortcoming when it comes to the smaller stuff with flanged wheels.

The Festool MFT is an extremely flexible work surface in part because it is positively peppered with 3/4″ holes for bench dogs, clamps and other devices. That’s great – until you’re trying to use the table to apply grab irons to a model. Then, the holes become gateways to alternate universes, ready to suck in small detail parts.

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(The Festool MFT in “woodworking mode”)

Since I want to be able to use the MFT for as many projects as possible – big and small – I had to do something about covering up those holes. I also wanted to protect the router table extension when not using it.

This called for a cover. I had several criteria for this:

1 – It must be quick to convert from one use to the other.
2 – The cover must be lightweight and easy to remove and store when not in use.
3 – The cover must be secure when it is in use, and not slide around.
4 – The cover must be easy to replace if (no: when) it’s worn out.

My solution is shown in the lead photo. It consists of two parts: A piece of 1/4″ Masonite and a keeper bar made from a length of 1×3 maple.

The key is that the Masonite is drilled with two 3/4″ holes that line up with the dog holes in the corners of the Festool MFT. And the keeper bar is fitted with lengths of 3/4″ dowel to pass through the Masonite into the MFT, keeping the Masonite securely in place.

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To make this cover, I cut a piece of Masonite to the dimensions of the MFT top, including the router extension. I then lined up the Masonite on the MFT top and used a 3/4″ Forstner drill bit – passed up through the MFT from the underside – to mark the Masonite. I drilled the Masonite with the 3/4″ bit.

I then lined up a piece of 1/3 maple over the holes, and again used the Forstner bit, from underneath, to mark the centres of the holes in the maple. I used my drill press and the Forstner bit to drill perpendicular holes about halfway through the maple.

I then cut two short lengths of 3/4″ dowel, rounded one end of each dowel with my bench-top sanding station, then glued and screwed these into place in the maple. I installed the keeper bar through the Masonite and into the Festool MFT while while the glue dried, to make sure the dowels were properly aligned with the dog holes. Finally, I softened the edges on the maple with a block plane and sanding block to make the keeper bar to remove the sharp corners. This is what a friend calls making the wood “finger friendly”. It makes a big difference. At some point, I’ll stain it with a clear finish.

The keeper bar is quick and easy to install and remove, and prevents the Masonite from sliding on the Festool MFT. It also acts as a backstop, so tools and materials won’t inadvertently get shoved over the far edge when I’m working. And the two pieces – the Masonite and keeper bar – store easily when not in use. Also, when I have to replace the work surface, it’s a simple matter of cutting a new piece of Masonite and drilling two holes: I should be able to re-use the keeper bar for many years to come.

As a bonus, I realized that by leaving the sides of the Festool MFT fully exposed, I’ll be able to use fixtures that link into the table’s T-Slot tracks. This would, for example, be an elegant way to mount a task lamp that could be positioned anywhere around the table…

Workshop: Studio lighting rig

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(I’ve installed four light bars on the ceiling, from which I can mount my Fiilex P360 photo/video lights using a KUPO Max Arm and KUPO Convi Clamp, as shown here. I have three of these so I can do proper “key, fill, and back lighting”, although I’ve only mounted one for the purpose of illustrating this post. With lights up out of the way, the workshop doubles as a studio for photography and video work. And yes: I have a plan to eliminate the dangling cord…)

Good lighting is essential to good work. It’s equally important for shooting images and video. So from the start, I planned that my workshop would also be suitable as a photo studio and as a set for shooting “how-to” video segments. (In particular, I’d like to expand what I can do for Barry Silverthorn at TrainMasters TV.)

That would require light – lots of it. As well, I wanted to eliminate cords and light stands from the work space as much as possible, because they’re a) tripping hazards, b) always in the way, and c) ugly.

The solution was to add a lighting rig suspended from the ceiling. My workshop already has a bulkhead running up the middle of it, containing ductwork, so I was able to tuck my rig into the shadow of this bulkhead so it wouldn’t also become a scalp-gouging system. (I think of this as turning a short-coming of the space into an advantage…)

Barry suggested using pipe hangers, brackets, and 3/8″ threaded rod. This was a great idea, as they were easy to install and I could use a hack saw to easily cut the rod to the ideal length for my application (in this case, 5.25 inches).

Rather than use pipe for the rig, which would be heavy and hard to cut, I investigated whether I could use dowels. My local DIY store stocked 1.25″ (o.d.) hardwood dowels in 48″ lengths (otherwise known as the “inch an’ a quatah quatah-staff”). These fit quite nicely into split-ring brackets designed for 1″ (i.d.) pipe. I decided to use four rods in my lighting rig – two on each side of the bulkhead:

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(The lighting rig on the front (south) side of the workshop)

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(The lighting rig on the back (north) side of the workshop. The rig was hung to easily clear the 24-outlet power strip mounted on the bulkhead.)

The one issue I had to solve was how to keep the dowels from spinning inside the pipe brackets. The dowels are a loose fit, but if they spun in the brackets I would not be able to hang lights properly on the rig. I decided I could use the threaded rod to keep the dowels from spinning. I would install the pipe brackets so that about 0.75″ of the threaded rod protruded through the inside of the ring that holds the dowel, and would drill pocket in each dowel to accept this.

For this to work, I needed to locate two holes in line with each other, one at each end of the dowel, and they needed to run straight through the centre of the dowel. Some Google-Fu turned up instructions for doing this.

I started by clamping a dowel to my work surface, such that both ends were on the surface. (Only one end is shown in the image below.) I then placed a scrap board against the dowel and drew a line where the board and dowel met. Then, without disturbing the dowel, I moved the board to the other end and marked it as well.

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Since the two lines are exactly the same distance off the work surface, they’re also in line with each other. I then measured in five inches from each end and marked my lines to indicate where I needed to drill my rod pockets.

Before drilling, I had to make sure the lines I’d marked were at the very top of the dowel, so that the hole would go straight to the centre of the dowel. So, I used a centre-finding head on my combination square and a striking knife (more accurate than a pencil) to mark each end of the dowel. I then highlighted the mark with a pencil:

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These marks would help when setting up the drill press:

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I lined up the first hole by eye, using a block of wood that I knew to be square against the end of the dowel, to check that the line I struck was vertical. When I was happy with the position of the dowel, I clamped a scrap of board to the table as a fence. It’s tight against the dowel (to the left of the bit in the above image). I then used a hold-down clamp on the dowel itself (to the right of the bit). I held the dowel securely against the alignment board and set the depth stop so I would only penetrate the dowel by 0.75″. Once the fence was set up, drilling the eight holes required went very quickly.

Since I was using 3/8″ threaded rod, I drilled with a 7/16″ bit for a loose fit.

With this done, I could turn to hanging the rig. Since I was going into a drywall ceiling, I decided to use butterfly bolts in the ceiling hangers:

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I marked and installed all the ceiling hangers, then threaded the rods into them with a smear of breakable Loktite on the threads. I then spun the top half of the split ring bracket onto each threaded rod and introduced the dowel. The projecting rod inside the ring keeps the dowel from spinning, as planned. At this point, I used a small level and spun the split rings up and down the rod until the dowel was level. Finally, I installed the bottom half of the split ring bracket.

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Short articulated arms with clamp heads make mounting lights quick, easy and secure. For extra protection, I can add chains to the lights, locked to the rig. I’ll have to add a bracket near each rig, against the bulkhead, to hold the power brick for each of my Fiilex lights and come up with a cable management system to allow me to plug everything into the power strip.

The good news is that in addition to holding my studio lighting, I can also use a carabiner to hang my Flex-Shaft motor tool on the rig when using it at the bench. I’m sure I’ll come up with many other uses for this rig as I start using the workshop.

(Thanks, Barry, for helping me design this rig!)