Re-tree and a use for drywall screws

My friend Chris Abbott visited yesterday after work, and since he hadn’t seen the layout for a little while I showed him my progress on trees in St. Williams.

While discussing the trees, it occurred to us that I could easily improve some of my earlier trees by adding fresh poly-fiber finished with my leaf of choice – the exquisite line from the Nigel Knight at The Selkirk Leaf Company – directly over the top of the old canopies.

Since I had my tree-making materials handy, I gave it a try, adding some new canopy (indicated by the arrow in the photo below) over a tree behind the water tank in the Lynn Valley:

 photo ReTree-Sample_zps9bfoivpc.jpg
(That looks much better!)

The old canopy material – Woodland Scenics tree netting – can be seen above the newly applied canopy. It doesn’t catch the light as nicely and doesn’t do as nice a job of suggesting “leaves”, in my opinion. This will be an easy update to make, but I won’t do more of it until I finish my new batch of trees in St. Williams.

While enjoying dinner at our favourite local establishment, Chris and I observed that hobbyists often find one technique to do something, then stick with that for life.

Even those who do experiment (and I count myself in that group) are often reluctant to go back and redo completed areas of a layout, even though they have changed techniques, materials, or both.

It’s hard do do that when there are other, fresh projects to tackle – but as the photo above makes clear to me, making the effort is well worthwhile.

(Thanks Chris – always great to bounce ideas off you!)

I used to use drywall screws to build benchwork, until I learned better. But that means I have a large supply of drywall screws. Is there anything I can do with them? (Besides the obvious use to install drywall, of course…)

Turns out, there is: As I showed Chris last night and as the photo below demonstrates, they make handy place-holders for wire armatures when I remove them from the layout to apply my bark mixture. Kind of like a seat filler at the Oscars…

 photo DrywallScrews_zpschchvjnm.jpg

12 thoughts on “Re-tree and a use for drywall screws

    • Hi Gene:
      Mostly, because people who know more about building things than I do told me it was a bad idea. I’ve forwarded your question to my benchwork guru and expect he’ll provide some useful insights when he gets a chance.

    • Drywall screws are for drywall!
      I urge people not to use drywall screws for construction for a few reasons.
      The heads are the wrong shape. The “bugle” head shape is more likely to split wood, especially near the end of a board.
      The steel in drywall screws is more brittle then normal screws. They can easily snap when having torque applied to draw up a joint.
      Wood screws have a blank portion on the shaft to prevent “bridging” when joining 2 pieces. To draw a joint up real tight the screw needs to be able to spin freely in the first piece you’ve driven into while holding securely into the second. Threads all the way along the shank make that task more difficult.
      I know lots of people have successfully built layouts with drywall screws. But I bet I’ve torn through more screws and board feet of lumber than most who build layouts and that is where I sit on the matter.
      The right tool, fastener, etc for the right job. Simple

        • Model Railroader magazine actually paid me money a few years back for suggesting that modellers use Robertson screws!

          But I’ve read that drywall screws are useful for holding down the “sand” button on the control stand of certain diesel locomotives. Can’t say that I’ve tried this–yet! 😉

      • And I neglected to mention the , arguably, most important point.
        In Canada, we have this little thing known as the Robertson head on our screws. Americans may know it as the square drive.
        It is far and away a superior drive head for a fastener. It has a far greater torque capacity than the Phillips head found on drywall screws and most woodscrews in the US and other locales. It has far less tendency to cam out when being driven, thus striped heads and ruined drivers are rare with the Robertson.
        Drywall screws are made with Phillips heads only.
        Waiting for the raging debate to commence. 🙂

  1. Trevor,
    I have never seen The Selkirk Leaf Company’s leaves in person but the results on yours and the late Bill Kerr’s layouts are incredible,
    What size of leaves are you using?
    Bill Bear

  2. Hi Bill:
    Thanks – I like em!
    I use the size designed for O scale – called “Standard Leaf” by Nigel. Dark green (102), Medium green (103) and Dry brown (109). Cheers!

    • I should add that I recommend you pick up a few bags and see if they work for you. I’ve never seen anything else like them – in fact, I like them so much I approached Bill about buying the business from him but Nigel beat me to it.

  3. Another grand idea, place holders and pre-installed holes. I only wish that there were trees along Sahwatch Street in Colo Spgs in the 1890s

  4. I used to use drywall screws and had the issues with torque, stripping, and breaking. I did use wood screws as well and still found some issues with them, mostly in the stripping because they are Philips head. In my woodworking, I’ve started using pocket hole screws. I’ve applied this to benchwork and find it a lot better. I don’t have any stripping and since it comes from the inside of a joint, it won’t split the wood either. I also used it for attaching risers to sub roadbed, eliminating the need for an additional support piece.

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