Getting Better at Making Etched Ladders

Back what seemed like ages ago in March I wrote about my first experiments with building etched ladders for box car kits. I don’t think I am going to make it, but at the start of December, I set myself a mini “Goal” of getting three partly build Yarmouth Model Works boxcar kits finished, meaning built, and hopefully painted and decalled. Sadly, these are the same cars I was working on in March when I wrote about the ladders, I’ve been ignoring them on the workbench for a while! I have one done and ready for the paint shop, the second is very nearly there, and the subject of this quick post, and the 3rd, well, if it weren’t for some external factors I’ll talk about in my upcoming year end post, it would probably be further along and might get there. That’s OK though, this remains a hobby, and a way of relaxing. The real goal for me was to get going on projects I’ve started to make some workbench space, which I am well on the way to doing, and the difference between finishing these cars in December vs. January is precisely nil!

Improved process for folding ladder stiles. Get it clipped in the folding tool, then use a metal bar or block to make the fold reliably in one movement to avoid overworking the etch and it going banana shaped.

I had not been happy with the ladders I have done on the previous cars. They look fine by the time they are done, but if you look really closely, they look like they’ve been beaten on while in use. That maybe isn’t the end of the world, but having ladders that have wonky stiles and bend the wrong ways make them really hard to mount to the car sides and ends once they are done.

As can be seen in the pictures, looking back at a video Yarmouth’s owner Pierre Oliver made for Trainmasters TV, he folds his stiles using the technique of getting the etched part in, and using a metal block to make the fold in one movement. This is reasonably easy, it is a bit fiddly getting the part in and clamped, but once you figure out how that works for your, it is doable. I found that using tweezers to roughly get the part in, then using my finger nails on one hand, grab each end, and gently shift until the etched fold line is in place, then tighten the bending tool. Instead of using something on the tool, take the whole bender, line up the etch on the metal block, and twist the holder to make the fold while pressing against the block. One move, and a nice 90 degree bend that doesn’t cause the etched brass to curl can be achieved.

After that, its the basic assembly of adding rungs to make the ladders, leaving a couple of rungs empty to drill through into the car later and install rungs with longer legs to pin the ladder to the car, and they are done. I now have the four ladders for the next car ready to install, but doing that, and hopefully the B end details to get a 2nd of the 3 cars ready for the paint shop is tomorrow’s project.

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