Learning to Solder… again or properly, or both?

I learned to solder in high school in electronics classes, and have over the subsequent 20 plus years, more or less completely forgotten everything I learned.  I was by no means an expert in high school, but I could competently connect wires.  Over the years, I’ve done a bit of soldering on basic stuff, feeder wires, lights here and there, but its a skill that has so many applications in model railroading that I need to get better at.

IMGP2611RawConvEtched brass grab irons and door handles on a British Railways MK1 coach.  Working on soldering them on.  The brass door hinges just didn’t make sense and I couldn’t manage the size, so I replaced them with 0.020″ styrene rod pieces to look like hinges.

I have a bunch of wiring projects to do, but I am currently working on building a Southern Pride Models British Railways Mk1 Coach.  I recently gave up on the etched brass door hinges, but the etched grab handles and door handles needed to be done, as there isn’t an obvious replacement for them.  These are nicely etched, but very small, and need to be fitted into the holes, soldered from behind to the brass car side, then the soldering filed down so the side is smooth for mounting to the clear interior that forms the cars sides.

I’ve never managed to solder brass parts together, and one of my friends has offered to give me some soldering lessons (and I will be taking him up on that when we find a date that works), but I wanted to keep making process, so decided after watching some YouTube videos, that I would at least take a stab at soldering on my own.

I bought a new soldering iron last year, and haven’t really used it.  This would be a fiddly project, but I recently got some new liquid flux, to help clean the material as it heats and get the solder to flow into where I want it to go, so I figured I would at least have a fighting chance of soldering six handles and six handles.  After some time fiddling around, I did actually manage to start getting solder to flow into where I needed it to go.  Having not done it before, I was being gentle not wanting to apply so much heat that I warped or damaged the brass car side.  By the time I had one side done, I declared the night a success and will do the 2nd side another night!

Soldered in, and filed/sanded down to flush on the back.  It would appear that my solder joints have held after filing off the excess solder and etched brass parts.

My solder joints, while strong, had a lot too much solder.  Finding the handle on getting a little bit of solder to run into the opening around the etched parts is certainly something I need to work on.  That said, after getting the parts hot enough for the solder to run into the opens, and even after filing down my largeish bits of solder the joints held, and the handles are still in place, and the etched brass car side still fits smoothly on the clear plastic inner side.

IMGP2616RawConvOne side done, one to go.  The only damage appears to be a ripple in the car side from where some dolt dropped it to the floor while soldering.

I’m very curious about others experiences with learning to solder and taking their first shots at something.  I see so many amazing modellers that I know and follow online who make it look so easy.  I’d really love to hear some of their story’s of failure and learning, as that’s what this is for me.  A learning experience.  It probably took me 30 minutes to get the first joint done, and I wrecked two etched door handles and three etched hand grabs in the process.  Normally this would generate a lot of swearing, but in this case, the etched fret for the kit has such a large supply of etches, that I’d have had ample extras for the two sides if I’d wrecked three times as many trying to get the technique right.  Fortunately, the next two doors went much quicker, probably 15 minutes for the 2nd and 10 for the third.  With three more to do on the 2nd side, I think I can have it down to a reasonable 5 minute job per door.  Once I do the 2nd side tomorrow night, I can wash the two sides and hit them with some primer to protect the brass and get ready to paint it.

IMGP2612RawConvOne fully fitted out car side, ready to clean, primer and paint, once the 2nd side is done as well.

Etched Brass Coach Door Hinges…Not for Me thanks

On the weekend I got out a project I started earlier this year, and sent back to the pile as other projects passed it by in my motivation to work on list.  Now that I’m back at it, I’m up against one of the reasons I set the kit aside, figuring out the etched brass door hinges for the car.  There are 18 of these to install (3 per door, 3 doors per side of the car).  It’s a lot, and they are, to be kind, tiny.

IMGP2602RawConvThe door hinges are the oblong parts with the raised bulb in the centre.

The kits instructions, are to be fair, probably sensible to someone whose built etched brass coaches before, but with no diagram explaining how to do what they say, and no previous experience, they are proving to be beyond me.  The instructions state “Using the new easy position hinge etch, insert all three hinges into the side from the outside face so that the hinges are just proud of the inside face, solder.  Snip off unused portion of etch and dress back to correct length with a file or disk in a mini drill.”  Seems to be English, might as well be Russian for all the sence I’ve made of it in months of looking at it, and now an evening of trying to do it.  I haven’t even managed to be 100% sure of whether the bulb is supposed to go inwards into the fully etched through opening or not.

IMGP2604RawConvThat little etch is supposed to go into the three oblong holes on the side of each door.

It’s pretty clear to me that I am not going to make sense of this, and any effort I’ve made to install the hinge has resulted in my dropping the tiny part, or feeling like I’m going to bend/warp the etched car side and do damage I’m not capable of undoing.  I’m not above admitting defeat on something, and moving on to Plan B.  In this case, Plan B is to use a material I know and create something that looks like I think the hinge is supposed to look like based on a Bachmann Mk1 coach in my collection.  I am going to use styrene or brass rod to create the appearance of their being hinges on the doors.  I quickly made up some hinge pieces with 0.025″ evergreen styrene rod to see how it looked, and to my eye, it will be passable when painted and detailed, other than being a bit too big.  I need some 0.020″ styrene or brass rod, something I am out of at the moment to make my hinges just a bit smaller looking, so I won’t be finishing this until the weekend and my next shopping trip to a hobby shop, but at least I have a path forward that I know I can achieve and be happy with the outcome of.

Door hinges on a ready to run Bachmann M1 on the left, and my first attempt at styrene replacements on the right.  The 0.025″ styrene is too big, i think 0.020″ will do better.  You can see how tiny the etched hing is to the right of the brass car side.

And yes, in case you were wondering, it was shooting door hinges across the floor that prompted my earlier post this evening about using the Workbench Apron I have to prevent me crawling around beneath my workbench.

A simple solution to flying detail parts

So, I’m not saying I’m clumsy, but I do have big hands and a knack for sending teeny tiny detail parts flying to the floor when I’m trying to add them to models.  This in turn leads to swearing, crawling around on my hands and knees looking for said part on the floor (brass parts match our parquet flooring quite nicely), often more swearing, then abandoning the search to use another expensive part, and often inevitably finding the part some weeks later on a hunt for a completely different flying part. The solution to this, is a simple one, that I’ve had in place for some time, but don’t use nearly often enough.  Working with some miniscule brass etches tonight prompted me to take my workbench apron off the hook, and actually use it.

IMGP2607RawConvWorkbench Apron attached to the workbench but missing its wearer while i work on the etched brass sides and details of a British Railways Mk1 Coach.

What’s a workbench apron? It’s a cheap kitchen apron with some velcro added that attaches to the edge of your workbench to hopefully catch the parts you drop (not much use if you send them flying sideways, but the ones you shoot at yourself our outright drop are saved).  What you need is a cheap, ideally solid colour so you can see the parts apron, and some velcro.  I got mine from a friend who works in BMO Bank’s marketing/promotions department, it’s a nice solid blue that little brass, styrene, metal, etc parts show up on when I drop them.  With the tie straps cut off, and a strip of velcro sewn onto the bottom, it attaches to the other half of the velcro mounted to the edge of my workbench tray, and forms a barrier to hopefully save some expensive (and ever harder to find) detail parts from vanishing into the great abyss of the floor!!

The velcro on the lower hem of the apron on the left, and a sense of what it looks like when you are working with it on.

I know if you are anything like me when it comes to dropping parts while you’re building models, this is a simple one evening project (full disclosure I did no sewing, my wife who actually knows how to sew did that) that can hopefully save some lost parts, crawling around on the floor, and swearing.

Tuesday Train #71


Train by the Highway.  Heading home from Ottawa at Canada Day, despite the number of trains that traverse the tracks along the 401 just east of Kingston, I don’t recall ever seeing one when i wasn’t driving and could take a few shots of it from the passenger seat.  Seeing trains from my seat when on family road trips as a kid was one of my favourite things.  This brought back memories of watching for trains while driving as a kid.