Thursday, 27 November 2014

Andrew Barclay master in 2mm scale...

It's just too wet, damp, soggy and 'orrible to go dragging the band saw outside to do woodwork, so I thought I'd have a bit of wee metal bashing in the form of the new Andrew Barclay 0-4-0 in 2mm scale for N-Drive.
I'd already made the footplate for this model t'other day, so next was the distinctive saddle tank.
At this scale there is sometimes a need for compromise.  And so it proved with this one.  The motor would not go inside a scale boiler, so the motor becomes the boiler for its length with the hope we can make a convincing forward section of boiler, including the smokebox and its saddle shape, beyond the motor.  The rounded-bottomed saddle tank then becomes the "wrapper" of the motor.
This is done by bending, in the jaws of the vice, one side, then tother, then squeezing the ends of the nickel silver sides, now at 45 degrees to each other, together, making the radius on top of the tank appear automatically (I love metal, try that in styrene!).  Then the length is adjusted accordingly to the drawings with a file.  The bottom edges of the sides are also trimmed to the right depth.  Always start with more and trim it down when you're done.  You can't add to it, but you can always take away.

Once happy with the tank, the cab needs to be done, which is just 4 sides of 1mm nickel silver.  We'll probably go for photo-etch for the roof.
Although detail on front and back of the cab are very different, the size and outside shape are the same, so I cut two pieces and trued them up together in the vice.  Some would solder them together, but I find that once a bit of burr has developed on both pieces, they hold themselves together, which saves a lot of cleaning up of solder on four faces.  Think about it...two inner faces, all tinned and two outer faces marred by solder off the soldering iron tip.

Of course the cab front piece has to be notched over the worm gear and be given clearance from the nickel silver sides of the N-Drive Productions chassis, since this will be a white metal kit and liable to shorts if not careful.
Some may think 1mm material too thin, but we have had good results so far from castings of that thickness on the other w/m kits of the Hayward "Effie" in O9, the Lilliput in OO9 , the Quarry Hunslet in OO9 and the Wisbech and Upwell tram loco in 2mm scale.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Half hour on the 'bike shop...

Having packed the three F1s for posting tomorrow and had a big clear up, I found a spare half hour for the bike shop, so I stuck some more slates on the roof with the remaining strips from the other day and I thought, "Why not paint it?"
I found a pot of Revell matt dark red and slapped a coat on the brickwork.  I like enamels first and gouache/weathering powders after.  I only use acrylics for detailing here and there. They dry too quickly and have me running every 5 minutes for the sink or risk ruining a thanks, not a big fan, although the Vallejos are very highly pigmented, which is nice to see.
In Fenland there are as many different bricks as house styles, so the brickwork on this substantial building doesn't have to match the office of the garage, which is built with sand faced later bricks.
The bike shop has older, darker red stocks.  Naturally, these will need mortar and weathering.

The end wall showed evidence of old Evo-Stik and the brick sheet had moved, so the mortar didn't line up, something I am very particular about.  Clearly this had to be disguised, so I glued a sheet of 10 thou. styrene on it in a broken irregular shape as if it was being removed, half heartedly by the owner, leaving patches of old limewash under the render.  This was suggested by a thin application here and there of my tube filler, which some kind of epoxy filler, known as Feinesspachtel in Germany, where I got it back in '97 when I was making prototype cars for the VW group.  Still using it!

So, here we are for a wee while.

Mirror, mirror on the car...

You would think that having made dozens of F1 slot car masters, yes, dozens, that I would have at least a couple of mirrors left in a drawer somewhere, wouldn't you?
But not a mirror to be found for the BRM model I've just built for a client from an old FPF resin body.
As you can see, holes in the screen, but no mirrors.

So, off to the shed to lathe up a couple of mirrors.  No thin ally rod either (must get some), so I made them on each end of a stick of brass, because they're body colour, as it happens.
Back to the workshop to solder them onto each end of a stick of thinner brass wire, then mix up some enamel to paint them with.
This took no more than half an hour to do to this stage.  It's just a bit of a faff, having to make new ones.  It's much easier to solder them on to the thin stick before cleaning them up.  The mirror face, which will have some self adhesive aluminium tape added, as it's easy to tidy up, will need filing smooth.  After cutting the mirrors off the rod that I used to make them on, it would have been hopeless trying to hold them in my fingers, whereas once they were soldered on the thinner stick, they could be held easily and rested face up in the gap between vice jaws and filed up smooth.  They could also be painted easily on each end of a stick, finally to be clipped off the stick and glued in the holes in the screen.

Finally, with its partner Lotus 25 and Cooper Maserati, the three models will go to their new owner to join the other seven I've made for him.
Two more after these, a Ferrari 801 and an H-16 BRM, as promised and then that's it.  Too fiddly for the money paid and the work involved.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Bikes AND cars?

Chatting to my best customer, Nev, of N-Drive Productions.  I mentioned that if I was going to make some bikes for my own set-piece, would he be interested in them as masters.  He jumped at the chance as he's developing a scenic accessories series, of which the two little boats are the first.
I then remembered I have a couple of ancient brass masters in a tobacco tin, of a Trojan Chummy and a Morgan 3 wheeler, which I'd originally made as Grand Prix Models' first ever kits in the very early 70s.  Brian Harvey decided to do only racing cars, so I ended up with these two.  Nev loves the idea, so there will be two 43rd scale w/m kits to come of these two vehicles.  The Trojan was beloved of country vicars and district nurses.  Famously, the track of the narrow solid tyred versions was exactly that of tram systems and many a vicar or nurse had to be manhandled out of the tram depot at the end of the day!

Trojan went on to make the vans that the chimps "drove" in PG Tips tea adverts and finally made McLaren's customer Can Am racers!
The Morgan needs no introduction.  My one is the classic pointy tailed, JAP V-Twin engined version.
Watch this space, folks.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Article the First...


Let’s get one thing straight about roads.  They ain’t flat and they ain’t black...two, two things about roads.  Most roads and lanes are actually a quite lightish shade of grey and all roads are cambered, or most start off that way or they’d flood dangerously.  They also go up and down, they have cracks, potholes, they react to trees growing nearby, by having ridges above the tree roots, even on the larger secondary routes. 
Note the marbles down the middle and in the cess at the edges

So, we need to go and look at them and take in these facts and features.  A bit of 240 grit wet and dry, complete with unsightly joints , slapped down outside the station, just will not do.  Because the grain of most tarmac stones is around 3 thou. in 4mm scale and 5 in 7mm scale, you won’t see any texture, except in the irregularites.   Consequently, paint is more likely to look right than any kind of textured surface.  I use Polyfilla because it’s cheap and easy to get a decent finish on.  Then cracks, dips, bumps can be carved into it, before painting.  A test pot of emulsion paint would do for the average amount of road on a model railway.  Nothing darker than a battleship grey is right.  Recently our lane was resurfaced. It was very dark grey, almost black for a day or so.  After a week, the dust and carried-in muck had it as light as usual.   After a fortnight, it was filthy.  The other day, it was SO filthy, that I got a puncture from the flint encrusted mud a tractor had left on it.   That mud has now been flattened into and in places washed away from the surface, but the stones have been scattered around, mainly at the edges and down the middle.

Because our lane is used by very heavy lorries and agricultural equipment, dips are worn in the outer edges, leaving a very pronounced ridge right down the middle. So much so that the tarmac can’t always bend enough, so it cracks and drops on one side, making it almost dangerous for a modern, lower car.  This sort of feature, carved in with a round ended blade scraped along will give you the shape, then the cracks go in with  the back of a knife blade or a pin in a suitable pin chuck.  Observation will show you how minutely irregular those cracks are.  Often they will start and stop in different places, not take a constant line.  Some of the cracks will have a little grass growing from them.  Not too much, but certainly visible.
Very recent repairs, but before they were potholes, they were cracks.

Where bigger roads will have drain covers in the gutters, lanes have little trenches dug through the verge into the ditches or even the fields, about every 20-30 feet.  We were flooded recently and I dug 13 extra ones myself!  Some into the ditch one side, some into the field the other side which is a lot lower than the lane.

Which brings us to the subject of verges.  If a lane has a ditch beside it or a field, the verge will be about 4 feet wide at least.  It can go up to around 10 feet.  The wider the ditch, the wider the verge leading to it.  The verge starts at lane level with slightly poor looking grass of a much lighter shade than the longer grass of the raised portion of the verge.  It gets covered in road dirt and may get driven on as vehicles pass.  
From lane to cess, to short dirty grass, to verge itself

Between it and the lane proper will be a cess. A strip of tarmac about 10” wide that gathers most of the debris and dirt distributed by passing traffic. This is where you can leave some fine marbles and lumps of stuff.  Nothing bigger than, say, a grain of sand.  But more than that, this is where you find junk.  Actual bits and pieces of real stuff, broken number plates, bent and broken hub caps, nuts and bolts.  Don’t be shy.   We picked up no less than 10 saplings recently.  They are now growing well, down our fence line.  Only yesterday my grandson spotted a large ballraced castering wheel and immediately found a use for it.
Note just how light a grey that really is.  And to judge the camber, catch the power pole shadow.

Of course, where the tyres go most often is where a slight darkening of the basic colour is required.  Very subtly.   This can be best suggested, not by paint, even from an airbrush, but using powders as they have become known.  Now, if you love a bit of retail therapy and have the money, you toddle off and pay Gawd knows what for Humbrol, MiG, AK or all the other pots of what is effectively ground pastel.  Me, I used to sand or file my own. Still do for small amounts, but I now use a small coffee grinder to munch the chalk up. A quick buzz in that little devil gives you powder so fine it comes out like smoke.  Do a shorter whizz, if you’ll pardon the expression and you’ll be able to sift some of those marbles out for the central ridge and cesses of your lanes and roads.  I had intended being my usual skinflint and looking for one at a boot fair, but with the weather turning and fewer boot fairs around, my dear wife bought me a brand new one, free postage for £8.  That’s about two pots of proprietary powders and you’re going to need a LOT more colours than that. The average pastel stick is about 80p, much less if you buy as a set from Lidl’s or Aldi’s.  DON’T use Oil pastels. They are completely different and would just turn to paste, although they can be very useful when used in conjunction with white spirit to blend them.  I have used oil pastels and oil crayons in that way for weathering brickwork.  About the only thing I will not cut corners on is a brush.  From 3” for boat painting to a triple 0, for hand lettering or corners when lining.  Buy sable and look after them.  I know of no synthetics that do the job as well.  Of course, for basic or mass weathering, the better synthetics are fine, but for that final assurance of perfection, it has to be a sable every time.   Of course they’re expensive,  why wouldn’t they be?  When did you last see a sable’s  earlobe?   Look after them.   Clean them thoroughly.  Then put them ‘twixt your lips as if you are going in for your first kiss, draw the brush out and get it in a tube to protect it.

Using Polyfilla or similar, you can put a camber into any road.  Best to model that in first, then go on to the individual lumps and dips.  Don’t forget that there is usually a dip round a drain cover.  Often they are far from level too.  They are easily made from the same material you use for the road surface.   Just a few lines engraved in the rectangle.  The rectangle should be cut into the cess, easily done with basic scratch tools, or you can get photo-etched versions which do make  life easier and probably neater.  When painting, work a little graphite into the drain cover finish to suggest the cast iron look, but black in the grooves.  It’s pitch dark down there.  Also, don't forget that even the tiniest lane has inspection covers for gas, electricity, water and drainage.  Once again, p/e versions can be found.
The beauty of using a polyfilla type material for roads is that if, when you’ve rubbed it down, there are gaps and fissures that aren’t useful, you just fill them with a little more and rub down again, till the road/lane is exactly the shape and appearance you require.

Don’t forget to suggest the odd repair.  Yes, some councils do actually send a couple of unfit, barely sub-pensioners out in a Transit flat bed occasionally, to throw some vaguely tarry stones into a pothole and drive the truck over it a couple of times.  That’ll leave a much darker, slightly raised section of what is probably a totally different type of tarmac.  That’s fine, leave the difference to be admired by those that remark upon your fine observation.

And that...observation, is the very key to what we should be doing.   I am not an anal anorak, but I do like to use what I was given at birth. Two eyes to see and a good brain to process what comes in.  Everybody can do it.  I hope not to preach about it, rather to recommend it as a very satisfying and pleasant thing to do.

Articles, anyone?...

Whilst attempting to clear out the first of my two storage caravans ready for dismantling, I found some articles I wrote for MRJ, but which were turned down by Tim Shackleton because and I quote:- "Nobody makes anything anymore".
You can imagine my disgust at such a comment from the then editor of Britain's most serious organ of railway modelling.

Well, they've resurfaced in a drawer full of mouse eaten Airmail envelopes (intended for you when we were afloat, Rich!). Mice, it seems, don't have a taste for large ruled notepads fortunately.

Anyway, would anyone be interested in seeing them, if I type them up on the blog?  From what I recall they cover general modelmaking techniques, roads, paths and boat models.  Anything, BUT the railways.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Sign of the times...

Needing some suitable signs for the Riverside Garage set-piece, I trawled through the 'net and found a good few that I could use on both the garage buildings and the motorbike shop opposite.
Now, I can find 'em and download them all, but how the devil do you get them all arranged on one sheet for printing?  No idea, so I called my computer-minded son and blow me if he didn't do it in no time and send me a print tother day,   I'd guessed at the sizes of sign required and he'd done that for me too.

So now, I have to clear coat the sheet to give it an enamel sheen and stiffen the paper, then work out a suitably subtle rust and dirt scheme for them.  A lot of weathering seems to me to be far too extreme.  I have some old enamel signs on my shed and they are not the least bit rusty, just a little dull on the finish.  Of course on a garage wall they are likely to get knocked about a bit and probably never cleaned, so a bit of rust and dirt is more likely.

Bike shop:-

I'm looking forward to getting the motorbike shop to a level of finish where the Triumph and Norton signs can go up on the wall.  Time is the enemy currently.
Of course, the problem with doing a 'bike shop is that there HAS to be a bike or two outside and they ain't going to be the same bikes.  So no proprietary jobs here! They will need photo-etched spokes too.
I've decided on a classic caff racer, a Triton. Triumph engine, Norton Featherbed frame and a Norton Dominator. My neighbour's son used to have bits most weekends!  It's that or a BSA Gold Star, the first bike I ever rode pillion on.  One bang every lampost!

The window of the shop will have various goodies like exhaust systems, kneehole tanks, carbs, etc. on show.
Be still, my beating heart!

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Old MRJs found...result!

I've been clearing out an old caravan in the garden, in which I used to work and wondered what was on the top of the old wardrobe.  Well the usual junk, of course, but I found a carrier bag full of old Model Railway Journals.  My daughter thoughtfully used to buy a year's subscription to any magazine of my choice, for Christmas and these were that year's.  Wonderful, because I've forgotten every word in them and those Bob Barlow days were the best.  So I have a nice bundle to read during the adverts on telly, which I despise with a passion.

Also found up there were lots of old spice bottles, all washed, ready to mix and store paints if I have a bash at this weathering lark.  AND an old bug bat, so I can watch all those Youtubes that show how to make your own static grass applicator and save £140 on the overpriced Noch item.

Then there's the box full of engine rebuilding gear that my No 2 son will appreciate.  Everything from Plastigauge to engine assembly lube, valve grinding paste and Dow Corning cylinder liner seal. Some Reliant Fox suspension goodies, too, cost little, should ebay well.

Not a bad short afternoon's work, I'd say.  Oh shit, here comes the rain again...

Friday, 14 November 2014

Weather..., or not...The Art of Making Dirty...

Weathering, what do we think chaps?

I always weather a model building as a matter of course, wouldn't give it a second thought, but weathering locos and rolling stock has never been a big thing for me.  And the recent passion for a grimy loco has had me thinking it isn't generally done very well.  Everything looks just dusty, like it's been hanging around a cement works or a China clay factory for too long.  Practitioners of the weathered model just seemed to make something look overall dusty, with no real observation of where and how much the grime and neglect needed to be represented, so I went off it, especially as my chum's lovely SCRATCHBUILT O gauge stuff looks so nice in its North Eastern Green with teak Gresley coaches made from pear veneer real wood.

Then I started thinking that spraying, brushing, powdering a few plastic locos can't be rocket science and if model making was going to go all 3D print and generally disappear from my client lists, it might be an idea to have a look into this new fashion for grime.  I also have breathed in more dust than most should have a right to do, making master patterns in Ureol and wood.
So, I had a gander round the Interweb and found a LOT of weathering outfits.  Most were the aforementioned "dust" merchants, but some were really good and one or two were VERY good.
An averagely convincing outfit were around 50 quid for an O gauge loco or diesel, 35 for an OO model.  But THE best, bar none, were a ridiculously cheap £25-30 for a big model and they look like this:-
Please do click on the picture to have a close look at these.  They are remarkable for a thirty quid service.
Whilst the V1/3 loco was the first scratchbuilt model I ever built from nickel silver sheet and a Skinley drawing and is therefore one of my favourites, I hate to see it in this condition, but just look at the scaling of the footplate, the textured rust on the smokebox.  How DOES he do that?
Bear in mind these are just plastic RTR Bachman or Hornby type things (you can see the mould lines here and there).  Clearly the moulded detail is a bit better than when I was dirtying the model shop window with my 10 year old nose.  I'm not sure I could scratchbuild a loco and then do this to it, but the truth is, all locos look a bit this way after a day's running at a Heritage line, never mind neglectful late BR days in the 50s and 60s and if you have a convincing layout and buildings, the stock is going to have to match.  Speaking of stock, look at this:-
Not just rust but flaking, peeling rust, done, probably with the salt, hairspray, etc. method.  But on a £10 weathering job??  I wouldn't do this for less than fifty notes of anybody's money. I know how long it takes!  These are just OO gauge proprietary wagons. No idea which as I buy nothing and can't be bothered to trawl through the ad sections of magazines I've been bought/given.  But don't they look good?

Now, I'm yer akshul Gresley teak cognoscenti, let me tell you. I have made Gresley teaks from BSL aluminium kits covered in real teak when I was 14 to Gauge 1 made from Perspex and veneered in steamed pear. French polished.
I've also made them in home cast resin section,s grained to look like teak.  But look at the grimey BR liveried one above.  It really looks like a cleaner has done his best to respect these most elegant of coaches and almost failed.
These above examples of the very best of weathering techniques and skills are the work of a company called The Art of Making Dirty.
Have a longer linger here:-

Realising that my beloved Paasche Model H airbrushes might not atomise finely enough for this kind of work, I faced the fact that I might have to get one of those neo for Iwata things for around 50 notes, but whilst doing my research I found a company flogging a perfectly good looking instrument called a Finespray. Eventually I found a set they do of TWO airbrushes with hose, spare sizes of nozzles/needles and connectors to the air line plus other bits 'n' bobs for an amazing 30 quid!  In exclaiming aloud, my dear bride got interested and jumped across the room and "Bought it now" as a Christmas present, bless her.  So now I have a spotting gun (small spraygun for car dents and large coverage), a Paasche Model H for colours, another Paasche for clear only and this new set coming for weathering. I already have a large and a small compressor so I should be, as they say, sorted.  Throw into the mix a Paasche Air Eraser (bought as part of the deal when I got my original Model H years ago) and I should be able to get some interesting effects.

I also found that The Weathering Works were very convincing for only a little more money and GCWeathering, a husband and wife team in Essex were excellent, but sorry guys, you don't get close to the above detail and one of them is twice the price.  And of course the great Martyn Welch, who wrote the book on the topic (amongst many who have done just that) doesn't even mention what he charges, on the web. The almost lionised Ian Rathbone has a stuffy website more or less saying he's so good that he is too busy to answer queries about more work, blah, blah...

I say"Sod the Gods".
Go to The Art of Making Dirty, (no connection whatever)

or wait till I get my airbrushes out again and my chalk pastels ground up and I'll do it for you!
I fancy having a go

Pics from their website.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Ullo, John, go'a noo mo'ah?

The postie delivered a parcel today.  I wasn't expecting one, much less one with a "zollamt Flughaven Frankfurt label!  Then I discovered a label from Canada and assumed it was my old friend Tom in those parts.  Couldn't think what it might be as he'd sent me two parcels of lovely old open framed motors a few months back.  Imagine my surprise and delight to discover this absolute gem inside, in its original brick shithouse of a box with original packing and leaflet.
Older, more xenophobic viewers will identify this as a Zenith X3, made by that august builder of the BEST 12 volt motors by far as a cheaper model for certain model railway suppliers and manufacturers.  Complete with splined axle ends for the Stewart-Reidpath wheels of the day (very early 50s) and a good old 40-1 worm gear set.  Tom, you're a gentleman and a boy scout, mate.

Here it is in my showcase
Ooops!  I put it too far right, but as you can see, I am a bit of an open framer nerd. Not for me nasty Japanese cans, thankyou.  Sharp eyed will spot a complete collection of Romfords, some with boxes and a similarly complete collection of K's on the right.  Between them , a Zenith of the twin magnet, 7 pole type that I'd always wanted and Tom obliged.  
As an aside, you will also see that my interests are wide. On the top shelf is a beautiful whaler, completely scratchbuilt by my old friend Steve Bowen and a lovely built kit by Fred Harris of Bluebird K3, holder of the World Water Speed Record for a while.  I hate kits, but I was placed next to Fred's company stand of Replicast at the first Modelex show in Dunstable and was knocked out by the quality and "soul" of his work.  That Christmas my dear wife bought me this one, Bluebird K7 and Stanley Sayers' "Slo-Mo-Shun".
Fred gave her a massive discount, just because we'd been nice about his resin cast kits.  Now they are no longer available, I treasure my three.  In that regard, the little red box on the third shelf is a tiny model of K7 made from some rivets salvaged from the real boat during its restoration after finally being raised.  This is a very rare item.
On the fourth shelf are some Coventry Climax relics which will be going on my Austin Seven Special as it has a Coventry Climax engine.  A zinc plate of Coventry Climax Engines, a steering wheel hub badge in enamel and a brass plate from the three spires period, before the famous graphic that I love on the cam covers of so many astonishing little engines.  It's an eclectic bunch of bits, but I love 'em.

And I love my motors too, of which this is just a tiny selection of what Tom sent me.
In a thimble display case that cost me all of 50p at a local boot fair.
Now, how long will it take to make locos and slot cars for all this lot?

Friday, 7 November 2014

It's my mojo, Doctor...

Yes, you see, Doc, I am so sick of making little model car patterns and so fed up with no-money model aircraft. What shall I do?

"What you do, boy, is get on with making the stuff for customers and IF the work dries up, make some scenery, or bash out something for the Austin 7 Special, but get to that bench and just damned well get it done.  Some people don't have a job, or worse, they work for Wallmart!"

What am I moaning about?

What has actually appealed to me recently has been not the usual foray into model scenery that always perks me up, but the old 1/12th scale McLaren M8F model.

Still plenty of fiddly metal bashing to do on that yet around the gearbox and rear suspension.
I keep looking at the box with all the bits in and have to stop myself.  I keep glancing through the big, fat book of sketches and notes that I made for it and wondering what the hell a particular set of pencil lines meant when I drew them!  My chum made some resin copies from my plastic patterns of the Keith Black Big Block Chevy AND the LG 600 gearbox, so no excuses there.
Alas, many of my photos of the real car have gone missing between house, boat and where I am now, but I can probably get by.

This is the bit that needs most finishing off work.

Then there's the small matter of the body to make, in the thinnest possible fibre glass.
But there's so many other customers, Doc!

Sunday, 2 November 2014

A new name in architectural modelmaking to me...

I was having a general gander through industrial model railways on google recently and came upon a chap called Ralph Burrows.
He takes commissions for his work and his rather nice illustrations too.  Odd how so many modelmakers also draw very well.
What struck me about his work was the preponderance of domestic architecture, from cottages to what we used to call "villas".  Large, imposing red brick houses from the Edwardian period onwards. Every town has them, yet they seem to be largely ignored.
In a country with such a very rich heritage of vernacular architecture it seems a shame to ignore so many popular types.  This is something Mr. Burrows doesn't do.
Here's a link to his simple website:-

No more Facebook for me...

I recently had a post I'd made on FB peremptorily removed.
I can only assume that "they" objected to my strong comment on Far Eastern people and their liking for eating dogs which they skin alive.  Something I'd rather like to see done to them.  I called them Chinks.  Really, when "people" do such things, who cares what we call them?

I will NOT be censored by a bunch of self important God bothering opportunists for something far less offensive than the subject matter in hand, so I am leaving the outfit on Bonfire Night, to give clients (the only reason I ever went on FB) a little time to respond and make sure they have my contact details outside of that narrow facility.

I don't think this will affect many who follow this blog, but just in case, I thought I'd mention it.