I’ve made considerable progress on distressing and staining the ties on my layout.
I’m almost finished with the ties in Port Rowan. I must still do the ties on the elevated coal delivery track. (Plus, of course, the turntable lead – but that will wait until the rest of the track is finished so I don’t have to lean over the turntable to work.)
For inspiration, I turned to the book Detailing Track by Mike Cougill, from OST Publications*. It has given me plenty of information to get me started on distressing and staining my ties.
My tool kit is fairly simple. It consists of two knives, a bottle of Weather-It, a tube of burnt umber oil paint and thinner (in this case, a non-toxic/non-flammable variety) and a bottle of rubbing alcohol into which I’ve added 1.5 tsp of India Ink:
The knives deserve a closer look:
On the left, we have a home-made tool called a “Wood Wrecker”. I learned of this from Gerry Cornwell, who knows a fair bit about wood (as he should, since he owned Mt. Albert Scale Lumber*).
To make my Wood Wrecker, I saved up a half-dozen used X-acto blades and found a suitable piece of rectangular brass tube to fit them in. I then located, drilled and tapped a hole for a screw that runs through a slot already present in the blades to keep them in place. I added a drop of CA along the backs of the blades to glue them together.
The Wood Wrecker adds parallel grain lines to ties with a light pass. Just be careful with the thing – it is sharp and of course dull knifes are more dangerous than sharp ones. But sharp blades tend to cut the grain too fine and too deeply, I found.
The knife on the right is the Veritas carver’s knife from Lee Valley Tools*. Here’s the stock number: 05K73.01
This knife is a joy to use. It will hold standard X-acto blades as well as scalpel blades sold by Lee Valley, and has a magnetic holder in the handle so one can keep a selection of styles close by. The hooked blade shown here is particularly useful for adding splits to ties because one pulls this blade towards oneself.
Below I’ve included three detail photos of the ties in Port Rowan. In each photo, the tracks – from front to back – are the run-around, the main, and the team track:
I used a war-gamer’s dice-rolling app on my iPhone – there are several available – to generate random amounts of distress on each track, using percentile dice. I would roll, then, based on the result, add 1, 2 or 3 light tick marks (“I”, “II”, “III”) to the top of each tie with a pencil.
For the main, I rolled as follows: 1-19 = Newer (I); 20-79 = standard (II); 80-100 = older (III).
For the other two tracks, I rolled as follows: 1-9 = Newer (I); 10-69 = standard (II); 70-100 = older (III).
This would give me a greater percentage of distressed ties on the siding and spur.
These tick marks gave me a more random distribution of ties than I could have achieved otherwise, since humans tend to like patterns, and it’s easy to fall into them.
Type I ties were given a light pass with the Wood Wrecker, or not touched at all. They were then stained with the India Ink mixture. Some were later lightly brushed with burnt umber.
Type II ties were given a deeper pass with the Wood Wrecker. They were then stained with either Weather-It or India Ink, at random. When dry, they were all finished with burnt umber.
Type III ties were given a deeper pass with the Wood Wrecker, then worked over with the carver’s knife. Some were split, some had the ends carved away, some were worn away between the rails, etc. Sometimes, a second pass with the Wood Wrecker was needed to restore some grain. These were then stained with Weather-It, with no additional colouring applied.
While it’s tempting to rush ahead to rail, I highly recommend taking time to do the ties right. Yes, it does take time, but one can pick away at it when one has a spare 15 minutes and it’ll get done. And the results are worth it – at least, I think so.
(*Check the “Links” section on this blog’s home page for the most up-to-date links)