CNR D-1: Bring out the big guns

CNR D-1 and the air eraser
(Progress on the shells: Knocking down the ridges on one of the trailers)

As mentioned yesterday, I’ve decided to make some progress on the long-stalled CNR D-1 project.

CNR D1 - Grit blasting at Ryan's

A big stumbling block was how to deal with the ridges that are a characteristic of 3D Printed items. Such items are built up in layers and there’s often a ridge where the layers are bonded together. This stratification was very much an issue on the 3D Printed shell for D-1 and its two trailers.

Sanding and surface primer is the usual approach to addressing this problem, but there’s a lot of shell to cover here, and the sheer magnitude of the project made it easy for me to say, “Hmm… I wonder what’s on TV?” I needed a better answer. And that answer came in the form of a big red box fitted with cocktail-length rubber gloves…

Ryan and the air eraser
Ryan sets me up for a day of grit blasting

I visited my friend Ryan Mendell yesterday for an afternoon of hobby fun. (Stephen Gardiner, who designed the D-1, joined us too.) Ryan has been building patterns for resin casting and recently started his own hobby business, National Scale Car. He makes many of his masters using 3D Printing and was looking for a better way to deal with the ridges – and found the answer in the form of a grit blaster. I was curious about how effective it was, so I arranged a visit.

I worked on the three bodies for a couple of hours and I’m really happy with the results. The grit blaster (also known as an air eraser or media blaster) did a terrific job – especially in areas where it would be difficult to sand by hand, such as the recessed doors. In fact, I realized that if I focussed on those difficult areas, I could do the large flat sections of the shells with sanding sticks – or, even better, Ryan’s Tight Spot Sanders.

Ryan has a Paasche Air Eraser and a Blast Cabinet by Central Pneumatic (obtained from Harbor Freight). For the D1, I was shooting 220 aluminum oxide at 80 psi.

The before and after photos below show a definite improvement in the curved nose of the power unit:

CNR D-1 Texture - Before

CNR D-1 Texture After

The translucent nature of the 3D Print medium used makes it difficult to see the improvement, but running a thumbnail over the surface tells me the ridges are much less pronounced. I will finish sanding this shell using my Tight Spot Sanders then give it another application of Surface Primer and see how it looks. I expect this will be a “repeat as necessary until satisfied” operation, but I now have a strategy for tackling the project, which is the important thing.

Would I add a grit blaster to my workshop? Well, I do like tools, so the answer is “probably”. I don’t have the space right now – there are other things in the shop that must find their way to the curb – but I do have a suitable air compressor to power a blaster, and I’ve already thought of where I would hang the booth once I clear space for it. I would want to do something about muffling the noise of the air compressor, but a sound-insulated cabinet could take care of that.

Meantime, I envision another trip or two to Ryan’s before this project is finished. Thanks for the help, Ryan – the next beer is on me!

Tight Spot Sanders and Fret Saw Table

Here’s an awesome combination to add to any workshop:

Tight Spot Sanders and Fret Saw Table

I visited my friend Ryan Mendell yesterday. Ryan recently made the jump from hobbyist to hobby business owner by launching National Scale Car. His company’s focus is on rolling stock and detail parts for the HO craftsman kit / RPM market. (And yes, I’m talking to him about the potential for S scale kits and parts…)

But Ryan’s also a pattern-maker and he’s developed some cool tools to help him with pattern making and general model-building. He’ll offer some of these through his business – and his first tool is a small offering that’ll make a big difference:

Tight Spot Sanders - NSC

It’s the Tight Spot Sanders. As Ryan notes on the National Scale Car website…

Sanding in corners or between details can be difficult using sanding sticks with foam cores. Tight Spot Sanders are the answer. They allow one to apply enough pressure while sanding flat against a surface. Ideal for sanding inside corners or between rivet strips on a boxcar when plugging holes.

Made from laser-cut acrylic with a precision machined finger dimple that makes them easy to grip and propel. Sanders can also be propelled with the eraser end of a standard pencil or other such implement.

The Tight Spot Sanders are sold as a set of three, including two pieces of self-adhesive emery paper (180 and 320 grit). Definitely worth the $5.00. (While you’re on the National Scale Car website, be sure to snoop around at Ryan’s other offerings, too.)

In the lead photo, Ryan is demonstrating a Tight Spot sander and is supporting the model on a Fret-Saw Table from Lee Valley. Clamped in a vise, this is a terrific work surface for supporting odd-shaped objects – like a car body with braces in it, as shown. I’m definitely adding one of these to the shop next time I visit the Valley of Lee…

A drive train for D-1

CNR D-1 Drive Train

I’ve decided to tackle a few projects that have been stalled, to see if I can make some progress on them. The CNR D-1 passenger train set is an example – I last posted about this almost three years ago, and it’s been collecting dust since then. There are some issues to resolve, and other projects called…

Yesterday, I decided to solve one of those issues: The drive train. I was most of the way there: The motor and power truck – both donated from an S Helper Service SW1 – were installed. But I needed a drive shaft to connect them. I dug through my stash of Northwest Short Line driveline components and found a mostly suitable shaft, plus universal couplings.

I say “mostly suitable” because I had no drive shaft material that would fit the universal coupling at the gear tower end of the drive. Everything was too small.

Fortunately, I have a lathe and making a bushing is an ideal project for it. I had some brass tube that fits the universal coupling, so all I had to do was bore it to accept the drive shaft. I chucked the tube into the lathe and got to work…

Boring the bushing:
Boring the bushing.

Test-fitting the drive shaft:
Test fitting the shaft

Parting the bushing:
Parting the bushing

I cut a length of 2.0mm drive shaft, added the bushing and universal coupling at the gear tower end, added a universal ball at the motor end, and assembled the drive. Everything press-fits nicely – I experienced no slipping. (If I do in the future, I will add some Lock-Tite.)

The assembled drive

I tested the drive with a 9v battery, running it in both directions while wiggling the truck about and turning it to its extremes, and all runs smoothly and quietly. I was worried about the extreme angle of the drive shaft – but that turned out to be a non-issue. Progress has indeed been achieved!

The next step is tackling the texture of the 3D Printed body shells. I’m visiting a friend later today – we believe we have a solution for this. Stay tuned…

CNR D1 Texture (Before)

A new bench lamp (or two)

Mag light - close-up through lens

I hate getting old. I used to have terrific eyesight. These days, not so much.

But rather than try to ignore the inevitable, I’ve decided to throw money at it instead. A few years ago, I bought awesome reading glasses, which also get a regular workout at the hobby bench. (They’re even slim enough to fit inside safety glasses.)

Yesterday, I took another step, and purchased a magnifying bench lamp. There are many of these on the market, but I picked a nice one offered by Canadian-based tool specialist Lee Valley because I trust the company to source quality products that are designed for people who build things – whether it’s furniture or F-units, carving or cabooses.

Bench lamp - overview

The lamp does not have a brand name – but given that the box is clearly printed with the Lee Valley catalogue number I suspect they’ve sourced this directly from a manufacturer.

The lamp is catalogue number 17J30.30 – and here’s what Lee Valley has to say about it:

This is an excellent magnifying lamp. Its array has 56 LEDs with a color temperature akin to daylight (6500 kelvin), making it well suited for task lighting.
The 5″ 3-diopter optical-grade glass lens focuses at a comfortable distance (3″ to 9″) for detailed work. Its spring balance mechanisms are fully enclosed and the lamp has a maximum overall extension of 47″.

The lamp head is adjustable for viewing angle, has an integral flip-up lens dust cover and comes with a 2-1/2″ capacity table-mounting clamp. The LEDs are rated to last 50,000 hours, equivalent to 5 hours per day for 27 years. UL/CUL certified.

To let you mount the lamp in a dog hole, stainless-steel bushings with a 3/4″ or 20mm outside diameter are available separately.

I also purchased the 3/4″ bushing and installed the lamp in a dog hole on my work bench.

The 3-diopter really makes a difference. In the following photo, you can see identical bottles of Vallejo wash both inside the lens, and outside to the left:

Mag light - inside and outside the lens

I’m really pleased with this purchase. While I hope I don’t have to use it all the time, it will certainly help with those fiddly operations, such as reading mouse print on decals or painting figures. In fact, I actually bought two of these lamps and installed the second one on my desk in my home office, where I frequently paint war-game miniatures while waiting for clients to call me back.

Mag light - upstairs

I’m not yet ready for an optivisor – and maybe with these lights, I can put that off for a few more years. If you have a Lee Valley in your area, check out this lamp: They’ll have one on display, and I bet you’ll add one to your “must have” list.

Ready to roll

This beast landed with a thump on my doorstep yesterday:

GW Models 10

It’s a 10″ roller built by GW Models in the UK – useful for everything from putting a curl in a sheet of brass for a cab roof, to rolling a boiler for a steam locomotive.

About 15 years ago, I was vacationing in the UK and arranged to visit GW Models to buy a rivet making tool. At the time, I had no need for the roller so I didn’t get one. More recently, I’ve been getting into projects where such a device would be useful – for example, working on the CNR 2-8-2 brass-bashing project, or building equipment for the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway from photo-etched kits.

Then in April, I attended the 2018 Great British Train Show to help a friend exhibit his layout. While on a break from running trains, I wandered the hall and had a lovely conversation with another exhibitor. He had a selection of tools on display to show how he built his models – including a roller. We got to talking and I realized that if I wanted to acquire my own roller, I’d better do it sooner rather than later.

GW Models - MRJ Advertisement

GW Models is not online. It’s an old-school operation: You write a letter or phone, and wait for a response. So I found the address in a recent issue of Railway Model Journal, and fired off a letter, asking about the cost of shipping to Canada. And waited. And waited. Perhaps I was too late?

I mentioned to Terry Smith – a friend in the UK – that I was looking for one of these rollers and he graciously offered to call GW to ask about them. With Terry’s help, I was able to purchase the roller.

(The lesson here is not, “Ask Terry”. The lesson is, phone GW Models to place your order. I don’t want Terry’s kindness to me repaid with a deluge of similar requests for help. I should’ve called GW Models in the first place.)

The tool consists of three rollers – two of them parallel to each other and connected by a gear train so they turn in the same direction, at the same speed, when the handle is cranked. The third roller is above and between the first two: It can be moved closer to, or further from, the base rollers to adjust the degree of curvature one puts into the material fed through the tool – and can be removed entirely to allow one to remove a closed tube, such as a boiler, after rolling it on the device. The GW roller can accommodate brass sheet up to 0.020″ thick – more than enough for any projects I will undertake.

This is a heavy tool – about 2KG – and is designed to clamp into a vise as shown in the lead photo. Last year, I restored my father’s Number 0 Record Vise and mounted it on a base that clamps to my work table, so I’m ready to roll.

(Thanks so much for your help, Terry!)

A precise vise

Soba vise

Last week, I visited my friend Pierre Oliver to help him draw out the first town for his new layout, full-size on the benchwork. I’ve written extensively about that trip on my Achievable Layouts blog, so I won’t repeat it here. You can visit that blog and read about our work session by clicking on this photo of an SP freight working the Clovis branch:

SP - Clovis branch freight.

But on the way to Pierre’s, I happened to pass a Busy Bee Tools store and recalled that my friend William Flatt has a nifty vise he uses to bench photo-etched brass kits – something I’m going to be doing a lot of as I contemplate my switch to modelling the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway in 1:64.

Fortunately, I’d had the foresight to take a photo of William’s vise when I visited him to collect some detail parts and trolley poles. In fact, we’d used his vise to bend the door frames for an interurban passenger car and I was very impressed by its ability to securely hold extremely tiny things:

Soba vise and bent door frame.
(That’s a tiny bend to make, but the vise had no problems holding the brass)

So, I made a quick detour into the land of the Bee and came home with my own Soba vise.

I decided the vise needed to be mounted in a way that it was secure when being used, but easy to move when I didn’t need it. So I built a mounting pad out of some spare MDF. I included a lip to hold it snuggly against the edge of my Festool Multi-Function Table, with the vise positioned so I would not bash my knuckles when turning the handle.

Soba vise - mounted.

I also included enough base behind the vise to clamp it to the table through one of the dog holes, keeping the clamp out of the way of any material I might be working in the vise. For this, I had to drill a 3/4″ hole in the masonite cover I use to convert the MFT to a hobby bench. This is located directly over a dog hole to pass a quick-release clamp, and I have a small plug for the hole when the vise is not in use.

The vise has already proven its worth many times in my shop. I recently did some resistance soldering work on a brass model and it securely held the parts. I can even clamp my ground lead to the vise for this type of work. I’m really pleased!

Mark: He’s right, you know…

My friend Mark Zagrodney writes A Model Meander and it’s always worth a read – but his post today really resonates with me, and there’s not a single image of a model railway in sight.

I won’t give away the story, but it involves the important role that slippers play in the hobby.

Enjoy if you visit – and while you’re there, have a look around at what Mark is doing. I always enjoy the visit.

I made a washer!

Okay, it’s a humble beginning, but…

Washer-Lathe

Last night, my friend Ryan Mendell visited. Ryan is a brilliant machinist, and he offered to give me some instruction on my recently-acquired Sherline lathe. We didn’t worry about measurements, but we talked about set-up and adjustment of the tools and tool holders, then worked through the four basic operations one performs on a lathe – facing, turning, boring, and parting. By the end of the lesson I had the small brass washer pictured above.

What a wonderful experience. I can’t wait to make something else!

Machine tool bases

I spent a couple of hours in the shop this morning, and built some bases for my Sherline tools.

Lathe base

Mill base

Over lunch at Big Fat Burrito recently, my friend Ryan Mendell recommended that I top my bases with a layer of Ultra High Molecular Weight plastic (UHMW). He reasoned that oils and swarf would clean up nicely – and since he is the most talented machinist I know, I followed his advice. On Thursday, I made a trip to Plastic World, a local supplier where I buy styrene sheet, and had them cut me two pieces of 1/8″ thick UMHW to the base sizes recommended by Sherline.

On the way home, I hit a local building supply company for a sheet of 3/4″ MDF, some wood, and a selection of hardware, including rubber feet. (Sherline recommends the rubber feet to dampen vibration … and they do!)

Lathe base - underside

I used the UMHW and the dimensional lumber to lay out the base sizes then cut them with my track saw. Glue and screws secured the wood rails to the MDF. I used dimensional number of various “1 by” sizes – being careful to choose sizes that were as high as possible to help contain the mess, while still low enough that they would not interfere with tool components such as hand wheels. I also ran strips of 1×2″ underneath the MDF base to raise it slightly off the table, and mounted the feet to these. This gives me enough air space under the machines to easily slip my fingers underneath to lift them by the bases.

Lathe base - top

The UMHW is held in place by the bolts that hold down the machine tools, so that I can remove and replace it if need be. I used the tools themselves to lay out and mark the locations of the bolt holes. Machines are secured with washers, lock washers, and nuts from below.

(Thanks for the advice, Ryan – I’m really pleased!)

Machine tool accessory storage

My workshop is built using kitchen cabinets from IKEA, so naturally when it came time to think about organizing the drawers, IKEA is at the top of my list. Yesterday, I made the trek to the big blue and yellow box in the burbs, where I picked up a sampling of drawer organizers in the “Variera” line, including the two approaches shown below:

Variera plastic bins

These plastic bins are sold in pairs (one green, one white) and do a good job of holding small pieces, such as cutting tools and tool posts. Their one drawback is that they don’t fill the drawer completely, front to back: they leave a gap which becomes wasted space (unless I build a styrene tray to fill it, which is a possibility). I have not tried them in different-width drawers. I’ll need to do that. But they hold 90 percent of the machine tool accessories I have. I’d like some larger bins – the size of two of these, together – for bigger accessories.

Variera wooden insert

The wooden drawer organizers use the full space and I like the look – easy on the eyes, and the tools. They don’t provide as many bins, but I could cut and install additional dividers as required. (For wider accessories, I will have to experiment with cutting away a divider between two bins.) They do offer longer spaces for things – which may make them more appropriate for hand tools such as knives, pliers, hammers and so on. They also provide more room for larger accessories such as the lathe’s thread cutting gear shown at left.

I suspect I will eventually deploy a mix of storage options. IKEA has a one-page handout in the kitchen section that shows how the various drawer organizers fit into various size drawers, so I will have some homework to do…