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Thread: Tips and tricks of scratchbuilding

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
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    Default Re:Tips and tricks of scratchbuilding

    When I first delved into the world of scratchbuilding, I started with a few simple structures first to get the hang of some of the basic techniques.

    1. Pick an easy (cubic) structure to start with (steel/concrete bridge, small house or warehouse).

    2. The basic tools - Get a few good sharp #11 knife blades, a mill file, a smaller set of files for fitting, 400 grit sandpaper, some kind of small sanding block, forceps (for holding small parts - this is N scale :wink: ), pencil, steel ruler, small metal square, cutting board so you don't scratch up the kitchen table and Tenax-7R welding glue. Don't forget a sheet of styrene (0.04" sheet is a good start)

    3. Some simples rules to follow to avoid problems, frustration and disappointment:

    - Always, always make square, straight cuts.

    - Measure twice, cut once.

    - When cutting, place the ruler on the piece you want to keep and score on the side that is being removed.

    - Score lightly along the side of the ruler with a clean fluid motion (may be repeated) and then snap the pieces apart by bending opposing the cut so the two pieces are back to back and then bending in the other direction.

    - I like to sand cuts with 400 grit sandpaper and check them against my square before gluing them to another piece.

    - Use Tenax applied with a small brush to weld styrene together because it makes for a very strong bond.

    Those are some of the basics.
    So what are you waiting for? Grab some styrene and give it a try. Once you place that first scratchbuilt structure on your layout you'll be hooked. Good luck and in the future I'll pass on some more tips about cutting doors and windows.

  2. #2
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    Jan 2004
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    Default Re:Tips and tricks of scratchbuilding

    Keep that old razor saw for scratching texture into styrene. Not just for simulating wood walls, but with enough scratching and knife cuts styrene siding can be made to look like cedar shake shingles.

    Don't be afraid of stick built stuff, especially with a slightly thinned white glue. And brass makes a great material for building jigs for spacing. I just did a tree-house with scale 2x4s, and am thinking a house under construction with framed up walls at prototype stud spacing would be really cool.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Pueblo, CO
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    Default Re:Tips and tricks of scratchbuilding

    My best ideas about scratchbuilding were inspired by old Model Railroader magazines from the 40's. Back then scratchbuilding was the norm, and those old timers were CRAFTSMEN! The techniques they used then are often still the same ones used today, and even outdated techniques serve to save money if you're willing to invest the time. Most newer scratchbuilding articles focus more on showing off a prototype than teaching how to build. These old treasures have many secrets to offer the scratchbuilder who seeks them out.
    "Do Not Hump!?!?! Does that mean what I think it means?!?"--Michelle Blanchard

    "People saw wood and say nothing, but railroad men saw trains and say things that are better left unprinted."--Charles De Lano Hine

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
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    Default Re:Tips and tricks of scratchbuilding

    Hints from my experience:

    1) Ensure you have a flat building surface. I use a piece of marble approx 10" x 12" by 1/2" thick (scrap I picked up at a quarry in vermont - it was either free or a coupke of bucks). It also has the advantage of being easy to clean dried glue etc off of with a knife or razor blade.

    2) Glue your buildings together in two steps as 2 "L" sections first (front wall to side wall and rear wall to side wall) using a block to square the corner beore the glue sets. then glue the 2 "L"s together.

    3) Create a junk box. Save all your leftover parts from every kit. The sprues and everything. For example the vent holes plugs that you trim off nearly every piece in a model power kit make excellent floodlight fixtures when glued to telephone pole arms (remove the insulators). Sprues make nice paint stirrers if nothing else.

    4) Buy a "Chopper". This tool is great when making multiple same size parts.

    5) Spend what you afford to get an initial stock of basic styrene sheets (.010, .020, .030) and some .010x.010 square strips. Look for specialty items everytime you visit a LHS and pick something up. When you want it, it will not be on the rack. If you reasonably expect to use it some day, buy it when you see it there. If you do order specialty items, think of future uses and order all you will need.

    6) Have both fast and slow setting solvents for styrene. There will be times you want one or the other.

    7) Stop at the appropriate point during assembly and paint. Paint walls before attaching window glass for example. Roofs before attaching details.

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