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Thread: Idea for ballasting tool

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    Default Idea for ballasting tool

    After reading about folks using teaspoons to incrementally apply ballast, I've been pondering ballasting tools. Of course one can buy various bins that ride the rails and deposit ballast in a supposedly even layer. I didn't have much luck with those in HO scale, but back then my ignorance was even more vast than today, if one can imagine that. (pre- NsN forum)

    Then I thought, what about a salt shaker? Might have to drill the holes a tiny bit larger, but it might work. On one of my trips to town this weekend I stopped by the local thrift store to see what might be available in the way of salt shakers. Going down an aisle I saw - a "Sippy Cup." Whoa!

    I looked it over and it was somewhat the worse for wear, apparently having been used as a chew toy by a teething youngster. But later I dropped by Wally World and bought three at $0.96 each. Came home and removed a silicon something or other from under the cap and filled one with a mixture of WS fine gray, fine cinders, and fine buff ballast, and went to repair a small section of track. It works great! I didn't even have to modify the hole in the spout. Much easier than trying to measure out with a teaspoon.

    Thought I'd pass on this idea in case anyone has a bit of ballasting to do.
    Cheers!
    Gordon
    Rheinland Bayern Bahn
    http://www.nscale.net/forums/showthr...4-x-9-5-layout

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    I still stand behind my makeup brush as the best thing ever for spreading ballast, but this is a great suggestion that can work in conjunction with it. One more odd thing to add to my list of things that I'll need to buy that don't make obvious sense for a single/never-married guy with no pets, considering how I use scoopable kitty litter in my ground goop blend, the aforementioned makeup brush while owning no makeup, and now a sippy cup despite having no child.

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    Totally read that as "Idea for ballasting fool". That is a great idea, though.
    WAAAAGH!! Wait, wrong hobby. TRAAAAAAIIIINNN!!

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    I have a couple around the layout for beer consumption... but your idea is so much more practical...

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    Good idea. Someone suggested these once and with the big makeup brush I've had good results - or at least a little less frustrating results - than previously. https://www.amazon.com/d/Plants-Seed...ter/B07567CBDJ

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    To get me to stop using my teaspoon, you'll need to pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

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    There's a Luddite in every crowd. Not trying to persuade, just offering an idea for a different, perhaps easier and more precise (I don't know, having never used the teaspoon) method.
    Cheers!
    Gordon
    Rheinland Bayern Bahn
    http://www.nscale.net/forums/showthr...4-x-9-5-layout

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    Tried a salt shaker for ballast. Gave it up while eating a hard-boiled egg.

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    How about cementing the tip of a plastic spoon to the sippy-cup spout for more direct placement of ballast?

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    Quote Originally Posted by iggy809 View Post
    How about cementing the tip of a plastic spoon to the sippy-cup spout for more direct placement of ballast?
    Or you could use a paper Dixie cup -- smallish size -- and create a slight crease perpendicular to the rim to direct the flow of ballast.

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    In my attempts add (realistic looking) ballast, I have used these methods with Kato, Atlas & Bachmann EZ track.

    I have used (in no particular order):
    1. ballast spreader - leaves too much / very messy
    2. creased fold in sheet paper - no control over what comes down from the upper end
    3. small plastic spoon - no control over how much comes off the spoon
    4. model paint fan brush - built up a static charge / drug more ballast up onto the track
    5. semi wide make up brush - built up a static charge / drug more ballast up onto the track
    6. small hole in sandwich bag corner - hard to control rate of flow / can get messy

    I even tried using a dab of water on sides of the ties' edge, to hold a small amount of ballast in place. to no avail. I just don't understand how others get their ballast to look so good?

    My frustration level is maxed out, with ballasting. Walked away, took a breather. I've come to a point where I would rather edge my lawn with children's safety scissors or clean the cracks in my driveway with a toothbrush.

    I have torn up 3 in work layouts in the last 5 years due to using bad track (Bachmann), screwed up scenery trying replace bad turnouts, or just unhappy with design (Kato). At some stage I have attempted ballasting on all of them and have not been happy with the results.

    Considering my options for ballasting before I start another layout.
    N-joy!
    Tred - (USN-Ret.)
    Kansas City, KS
    (Sent using @ 1000Mbps)
    "No matter where you go, there you are!"

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    The thing I like about the Sippy Cup is that it has a spout about 1/2" long and a small hole in the end. I can apply a very precise amount of ballast exactly where I want it. Using the make-up brush (or other very soft brush) to work the ballast off the ties sounds like a great way to finish.
    Cheers!
    Gordon
    Rheinland Bayern Bahn
    http://www.nscale.net/forums/showthr...4-x-9-5-layout

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tred View Post
    I even tried using a dab of water on sides of the ties' edge, to hold a small amount of ballast in place. to no avail. I just don't understand how others get their ballast to look so good?.
    On my Unitrack I had some of the same problems your experiencing.
    What works for me is I use one of these.
    43485314-95E5-4BCB-AD1E-F6B62F7607AD.jpg

    What I do is tape closed the center hole so the ballast flows only on the sides and not between the tracks. I pat it down gently with a soft paint brush to shape it the way I want. Then alcohol and glue is applied with a pipette.
    By doing it that way it locks down the sides so when I spread the center and level it with a fan brush it stays there even when I’m gluing the ballast and doesn’t run out under the track.
    I use the same tool for the center but tape the two outside holes closed.
    I hope this helps a little for you.
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    @Chicago Rail - Thanks, I'll give it a try when I get started on the next layout. Always looking for a better way.

    I think I forgot to mention, depending on length of track section, I only do about 3-4 tracks at a time. I am still not sure why the fan paint brush/make up brush builds up a static charge, though? And I used an eye dropper to drip water/glue mix onto the center & sides of the track. Had to go back through with a dental pick and pop off the small ballast inside the rails & ties. Way too time consuming.

    Started off with one of these several years ago. What a mess I made. I never got it to work as advertised before moving onto a different method.
    Ballast Spreader 01.jpg

    Thanks...
    N-joy!
    Tred - (USN-Ret.)
    Kansas City, KS
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    @Tred take a look at @Spookshow's blog. His initial two-part process for track ballasting is here
    http://www.spookshow.net/layout2.html
    at 05/31/06 - Started ballasting the track
    This was explained in greater detail in the next layout
    http://www.spookshow.net/layout3b.html
    at 11/27/06 - Finished ballasting the track
    The procedure was later modified as follows:

    As far as the actual ballasting goes, I followed pretty much the same procedure here as I have on previous layouts - but with one small change. When applying the ballast between the ties (inside the rails) I also made sure I got ballast between the ties outside the rails at the same time. This minimized the problem I always used to have during the matte medium step where I'd brush matte medium onto the roadbed outside the rails and inevitably slobber it onto the tie-ends (and consequently, wind up with ballast on top of the ties). Now, with ballast already glued between the tie-ends from the first pass, I didn't need to worry about getting matte medium and ballast in there during the second pass. And consequently, no more ballast on the ties (or at least, not nearly so much).

    I hope this helps

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tred View Post
    In my attempts add (realistic looking) ballast, I have used these methods with Kato, Atlas & Bachmann EZ track.

    I have used (in no particular order):
    1. ballast spreader - leaves too much / very messy
    2. creased fold in sheet paper - no control over what comes down from the upper end
    3. small plastic spoon - no control over how much comes off the spoon
    4. model paint fan brush - built up a static charge / drug more ballast up onto the track
    5. semi wide make up brush - built up a static charge / drug more ballast up onto the track
    6. small hole in sandwich bag corner - hard to control rate of flow / can get messy

    I even tried using a dab of water on sides of the ties' edge, to hold a small amount of ballast in place. to no avail. I just don't understand how others get their ballast to look so good?

    My frustration level is maxed out, with ballasting. Walked away, took a breather. I've come to a point where I would rather edge my lawn with children's safety scissors or clean the cracks in my driveway with a toothbrush.

    I have torn up 3 in work layouts in the last 5 years due to using bad track (Bachmann), screwed up scenery trying replace bad turnouts, or just unhappy with design (Kato). At some stage I have attempted ballasting on all of them and have not been happy with the results.

    Considering my options for ballasting before I start another layout.
    What ballast are you using? Not all ballasts are the same. I had terrible results with Woodland Scenics because it ended to float when I applied a wetting agent (50% rubbing alcohol). When I switched to Scenic Express #50 the floating problem ceased. Scenic express ballast is real rock whereas Woodland Scenics is apparently some organic material (allegedly ground up walnut shells). Ballasting not only became a whole lot easier after I switched but also a tad cheaper too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by inkaneer View Post
    I had terrible results with Woodland Scenics because it ended to float when I applied a wetting agent (50% rubbing alcohol). When I switched to Scenic Express #50 the floating problem ceased.
    I've used WS ballast for years, yes it can float, but if you wet it and prepare it properly, it will minimize it the float.
    I just recently used some AR&M ballast. It doesn't float as the WS ballast can but it can still move around and have washouts.
    Bottom line it's usually contributed to user methods and errors.


    Scenic express ballast is real rock whereas Woodland Scenics is apparently some organic material (allegedly ground up walnut shells). Ballasting not only became a whole lot easier after I switched but also a tad cheaper too.
    Not allegedly, it is ground up walnut shells.
    I don't know if real rock ballast is "Cheaper", even a little bit. Depends on where you get it and how much you buy.
    The Little Rock Line blog


    “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience." George Carlin

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    I use an old solder tube. Of course, I can't find it to post a pic of it but it's the tube with the red top and a hole in the middle to pull the solder through. Works great from pouring ballast of fine to medium size. I will find it and post a pic....hopefully

    0541e9bf-adb3-4a0b-b6f6-1656777eedf2_1.008065ed377dbe985a0670fa99d715d6.jpg

    Here's a commercial pic. Same tube.

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