Let it never be said I don’ t listen – Another S Scale Speeder Car Available

So to follow up on my post from the weekend, I’m rolling the dice to see if there is interest in a second type of 3D printed S Scale speeder car.  The Fairmont M14, another speeder in the collection of the Toronto Railway Museum that I have produced an HO Scale version of, has been converted to S Scale and Sn42 Narrow Gauge for my one customer (from and modelling all the way east in Newfoundland if memory serves!!).

No pictures, as I haven’t ordered them for myself yet, but I’ve made the adjustments I think are needed, and put them up for sale on my Shapeways Store at the links below the pictures.

Shapeways Renders of the S Scale standard gauge (left) and Sn42 Narrow Gauge (right) Fairmont M14 Speeder Cars.  The body details are the same other than some adjustments to get the body to fit the narrower wheels on the Sn42.

As I haven’t ordered them myself yet, I’m relying on this car having the same frame structure as the S2 Speeder to make sure the parts work and fit together when printed.

Hopefully the S Scale community finds these useful additions to their modelling.

Shapeways Sales Review – Who knows what will sell? It sure isn’t me.

The model railroad industry is a surprisingly competitive place, and it certainly isn’t a place where people go (at least not sane people) go to try to make money unless they have a lot of dedication or are crazy (see Exhibit A Jason Shron of Rapido Trains).  I’m a hobbyist, but one with some skills in 3D design, and whose dabbled in 3D printing for our hobby.  As part of this, I’ve been able to make some of the 3D printed bits and pieces I’ve done for my models available through my Shapeways Store.  I’ve sold a fair bit of stuff, but not nearly enough to make any kind of living or consider it to be a real business.  It’s a pleasing sideline to the things I need for myself to fund me buying things I design for myself.  I’m not treating it as a business, and have no plans too, but the emails when things are bought always amaze me and I’m constantly amazed at what sells.

imgp4766My Best Selling Item – A Sprue of HO Scale BBQ propane tanks. I’ve sold 39!!

My top three selling items are all HO Scale little details, the aforementioned sprue of BBQ gas tanks above, a block of 4 HO Scale lockers, then a residential BBQ.  Perfectly sensible small items that are all fairly cheap, and not readily available from commercial manufacturers.  This however, is where it gets weird.  My fourth best-selling item, is something I did initially as a “this would be nice for my friends layout”, a resizing of the HO Scale Canadian National Fairmont Speeder Car into S Scale.

The S Scale Fairmont S2 speeder on its own, and alongside its little HO Scale brother.

Not including the one I printed myself that was gifted to Trevor Marshall, I have now sold 22 of these!! I’ve only sold 18 in HO Scale in a much bigger pond than the S Scale universe.  The message here, is twofold, one, as Trevor keeps telling me, there is a pent-up demand in the S Scale universe for products, and two, even in S scale, something small ish like a speeder can be a profitable item at a reasonable price where its affordable enough to sell lots, but where I can have enough markup to actually make some money from it.

I’ve had a number of people as about the Fairmont M14 speeder I’ve done in HO in S Scale.  I am seriously considering looking at re-scaling it and doing it in S Scale, if there really is a market out there, I’d like to help those modellers, and I’m not going to complain about a few extra dollars in my pockets every month!

imgp6081rawconvFairmont M14 Speeder in HO Scale, aparently coming soon in S Scale based on market demand!

So, with that, S-Scalers, I still don’t do commissions or take on outside work, as my 3D modelling time is my lunch break at work, but if you see anything in the handful of small items or detail parts I offer in HO on Shapeways that you really think you must have or there is a market for, let me know in the comments.  That may be enough to push me over the top into adjusting the 3D model and offering it to you.

587 Yonge St/Bar Volo – Model Completed

For how small the model is (12″x12″ square), this has been a long slow burn of a project.  The idea of it was hatched in October 2016 when the original location of Bar Volo closed for the building to be demolished.  This will be a photo heavy post, but I will include links at the end as this is a project wrap-up post to earlier ones on the process of building the model.

This project had a bit of every aspect of model making and design, 3D printed components, designing signs for printing from the computer, working with styrene, using pan pastels, scenery techniques for the ivy.  The building and interior are all done. There are no loose ends.  I do want to make a sign for when it is out on display, and I am still messing about with which cars are going to be on the diorama, and where they go, but those are cosmetic things that can be changed as I desire.  There are no more “construction” tasks to do, the model is done!! (how nice it is to say that!)

My timing couldn’t be better, with the news this week that Bar Volo has finally found a new home, and that a liquor license application has been filed for a location only a block away from their old home, this time to the northwest of Yonge and Wellesley.  I look forward to seeing many good friends at Volo again in the future, and to bringing the model down to the bar for others to see.

With all that said,  I can now sit back and admire my model, and hopefully you enjoy it too!

IMGP7205RawConvCome on in to Bar Volo, the lights are on, the beer is flowing, and good company awaits.
The Dundonald Street (south) side of the building with the patio.
The Yonge Street view of Bar Volo.
The Interior View, showing the switches for lights, and the opening back wall so you can look into the bar and see the interior of the model.
The east side of the building, mostly hidden behind other buildings not modeled (the black card material)
IMGP7215RawConvAerial View of the diorama, the whole square foot of it!!!
View of the patio from street level, complete down to the blackboards with the beer lists on it.
Slightly higher view of the patio. As you can see, when the interior lights are on, its very visible.
IMG_5154A shot of the model to give a better sense of scale. For those not familiar, I model in what is known as HO Scale, a model railroad scale of 1″ of the model is equal to 87″ in the real world, often seen referred to as 1/87th.

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Getting GOing again on a Project

I haven’t worked much on the first test of the Hawker Siddeley single level GO car since last fall.  The discovery of the CAD error in the first print in October (see here) has kinda set me back, as despite the quick fix in the 3D computer model, I haven’t really felt like spending the money to re-print the first sample body until I was certain any other issues were found out.  For now and for me, for my first sample and the model that will be in my collection, for the moment, I can live with the wrong window radius.  This weekend, I finally got off my rear end and said I’m sick of looking at the half finished bits of this car.  Lets actually paint the fine details, and look at what needs to be done so the car is presentable.  Ordinarily, the upcoming Barrie-Allandale Train Show on the February 17-18th would be cause for motivating me to have had it done, but the Toronto Railway Museum isn’t able to attend the show this year, so my models won’t be out on display.  Their next major outing is likely now Doors Open Toronto at the Roundhouse on May 26-27.  That gives me more time for getting any parts I discover I need, but to figure that out, I actually need to work on it.

IMGP6672RawConvTinting clear styrene window strips with Tamiya Clear Smoke paint. It looks better when done and dry than this mid way though shot makes it look.

With the window error, and this being the largest 3D printed body I’ve designed, along with a completely 3D printed interior and underbody, there’s lots of learning experiences in this project. Not only fit and clearance to make sure the parts still fit when assembled and things like clear window glazing are added, but making sure you can even do things like finish the car and assemble it and have it run.  It has all fallen down on the have it run, my first attempt at 3D printed trucks are to be kind, garbage, but as they are easily swapped out, the only thing really keeping me from moving forward was myself.  I’ve also discovered some parts of the body and underframe have warped over time, even with the strengthening brass in the frame.  This is something I’ll need to examine more, though the longer I have looked at and worked on the car, I suspect that if I ever manage to bring it to the market, it will be by using the 3D prints as masters for resin castings, not as a fully 3D printed car.  The 3D printed material is just posing too many issues for something of this size thats designed to actually run on your layout.

IMGP6673RawConvMagnets to hold the body and frame together and in alignment. A trick I learned while designing D-1, but taken from an Athearn/Roundhouse coach I was using for parts on that project.

The two biggest tasks were installing magnets to hold the frame and body together, and finishing the windows.  The Magnets are 0.125″ diameter round magnets, that are set into circular openings in the frame and body prints and held in place with CA. I’d use epoxy, but I have concerns with the bit of heat it generates as it cures warping the 3D printed parts, CA doesn’t have this side effect.

For the windows, it was a slow and steady couple of hours lining the window frame gaskets black, then inserting the windows with a smoke tint.  One thing I realized from this is the full interior gets lost with the smoke.  This is good for the future as not having the interior would reduce the cost of the 3D prints substantially.

Progress on GO Cab Car 104 as preserved at the Toronto Railway Museum. Need to sort out the cab stripes, then I can finish the front end details.

At times today, it felt like every two small steps forward I took, I took one big step back.  It took four attempts at figuring out how to get a number board into place in the cab.  I’d designed them thinking I could light them.  Same for the headlights above the cab.  Both of those have been non-starters because of other design decisions in how the pieces went together, that whole learning by doing with the 3D designing of models I mentioned above.  For future prints I’ll be making some changes to the design of the interior to leave more clearance for fitting it in when the windows are glazed, and to make installing the number boards a bit easier.

I also discovered that somewhere along the line, I ruined the screw holes for mounting the couplers.  That resulted in me having to go at the front end of the car with my Dremel to drill through the brass bar that forms the spine of the car to let me create new mounting holes for the coupler screws.  It worked, but only just barely was I able to create new holes and tap the brass bar enough to take the screw.  Again, this kind of error doesn’t hurt as bad on my car that will likely never run on a layout, but I need to sort out what I did wrong in the design to make sure someone else doesn’t have that problem if I sell them a print.

All in all, despite many frustrating setbacks, I managed to advance the model a lot.  I certainly know some spots where I need to go back to the 3D model and make adjustments before any future prints of parts of the car are attempted.

Continued Progress on 587 Yonge Model/Diorama

Wow, it’s been over 3 months since my last post on any actual model making that I’m doing (Oct 20, 2017 if you’re keeping track).  Since that post on the model of 587 Yonge Street, a lot has happened in my life, we lost our beloved cat Fergie, we went on vacation for ten days to the UK at Christmas, and yesterday we picked up a new little fuzzball to join our family, Gandalf.

Gandalf.JPGHi, I’m Gandalf, I’m teeny right now, but once I get bigger and am allowed to explore the whole apartment, I can’t wait to meet your trains…

But, this post isn’t a post about cats (though it totally could be!!).  While I’ve certainly written plenty about the planning of my layout to come in the intervening three months, layout planning hasn’t been happening entirely at the expense of working on models.  As I try not to work to schedules to avoid making stupid mistakes, I’ve just slowly been puttering along doing a bit of work here and there, but this is bringing me close to “milestones” in the projects completion.  The interior area of the ground floor is now basically done, as is the ceiling and the lighting.  The next steps after this are to permanently install the ceiling to the interior, and then the upper parts of the walls to the ground floor so that I can start connecting the wiring for the lights.

Progress in November and December, assembling the upper walls and test fitting them over the interior.

None of the tasks have been particularly fascinating.  The most interesting thing I’ve done is with the roof.  In trying to mimic the texture of a gravel/asphalt roof, I spent a lot of time looking for a suitable material.  I found it in decorative crafting sand from Deserres Art Stores in Canada (Sandtastic Sand).  It comes in 1lb bags for $3.49, and in 13 different colours, more than enough for the small roof I had.  I chose a light grey colour for the roof attempt.  To apply it, I spread a layer of thinned white glue on the styrene roof, and placed that in a plastic tray, and dumped sand over it.  This let me tip off any sand that didn’t catch in the glue into the tray, and recover it for future use.  Once it was set, I used a cheap rattle can of primer to paint the roof surface for two purposes, to finish holding on any loose sand, and to give some variation of colour across the roof.

IMGP4310RawConvThe roof, covered with sand and then a rough coat of primer to leave some of the sand colour and sparkle, an attempt at mimicking a gravel/asphalt flat roof.  The air conditioning unit is shown, the piping to it hadn’t been completed yet.

The rooftop mechanical equipment is a combination of a laser cut wood rooftop air conditioner from Inter-Action Enterprises and vent piping made from styrene tube. As you can see from the above picture, most of the roof is visible and not covered by equipment, so it will be quite visible on the finished model.

For the interior, I have used a combination of plastic tables and chairs from Preiser and scratchbuilt furniture from bits of stripwood and styrene.  The brick wall behind the raised bar area is a slider, so I can move that out of the way to take pictures looking through the interior, and to let people see more of the interior detail that would otherwise be hidden.

The ceiling for the first floor, with five 3D printed “Transparent Acrylic” light fixtures from my Shapeways store (hanging & flat) along with two shots of the more or less finished interior before the ceiling gets attached.

At the moment, I have mostly given up on the signs for the tanning salon in the upper windows.  The decals I made myself are not dark enough to be visible on the black plastic I used for the windows.  The only one I got to work is the one pride flag that was hanging in a prominent window at the corner of the building.  These were mostly individual letters that said “Tanning”, but some where overall blanking panels with the letters cut out.  They aren’t the core of the model, and revisiting decals or transfers for this is something I can come back to down the road.

IMGP4944RawConvAnother test fitting of all the parts of the model.  Next up, installing the ceiling in the interior and the walls so I can connect all the wiring for the interior and exterior lights.

So, with that, I’m settled in for the first major 24 hour endurance race of the year on TV, the 24 Hours of Daytona, hopefully some puttering on the model in the night, and waiting on our new kitty becoming comfortable enough in his new home to come out and get to know us a bit.

3D Printing Custom Design Requests or Requests to change the Scale of a Model – Not as easy or appetizing as people think

On a semi-regular basis I get two kinds of emails from people through my Shapeways 3D printing store:

  1. Hi, can you 3D draw item XYZ for me and not charge me an hourly rate for your design time.  I think you’ll sell lots of them and make money?
  2. Can you re-size item ABC that you’ve already drawn in HO Scale to N or S or O or whatever scale?

The first question is easy.  No, I can’t spend tens or hundreds of hours researching and designing something for you that I’m not interested in for no money.  The 3D modelling package I know and use is an older one that I learned in University and we bought at my office eons ago because I knew it.  It’s a bit (nee a lot) dated, but it works for me.  But, the fact that it is on my work computer means that I maybe get 30-40 minutes at lunch, and any time I want to hang around after work modelling (and contrary to popular belief, I do have a life and spending hours at work after work isn’t my idea of fun, even if it does lead to more models!).  I don’t have a sense of how long a project is going to take me to do when I start.  Some projects I thought would be easy have taken ages, and others I thought would be hard, have been advanced quickly.  And I don’t track how long I spend working on a model, as in some ways, I don’t want to know.  As my model making and Shapeways Store are a part of my HOBBY, I don’t want to put a dollar figure on my time, the hobby is expensive enough as is!!  Equally simply, in honest terms, large 3D printed items are not for the faint of heart.  The GO Single level coach is around $200US in cost before I apply any markup to make some money on it.  That’s just the cost from Shapeways.  That means, depending on how much markup I add to make some money, if I mark it up 30%, that’s a $260.00US model kit that doesn’t have wheels, decals, or detail parts.  I may not be a model railroad manufacturer, but I don’t need to be to know there isn’t a market for that when a complete resin coach kit from BGR group is around $160.00CDN and they are a niche market for people who actually want to build kits!

An accurate reflection of the transaction most people expect when they ask you to do custom 3D modelling for their Model Railroad projects, apologies for the swear word (Courtesy of Matthew Innman at theoatmeal.com)

So, on to Question 2.  First up, I need to explain how I create a 3D model.  I draw whatever I am modelling at full size inside the computer program (i.e. an 89′ long passenger car is 89′ long in the computer program.  Over the 5 years I have been designing for printing at Shapeways, I have learned their material tolerances.  For example, in Frosted Ultra Detail, the material I print most of my models in, I know that the minimum width for a wall to successfully print is 0.6mm, or 0.02 inches.  This works out to 1.75 inches in the 1:1 scale real world.  This, is the minimum width that a wall of a building or car needs to be to print.  As you pay by volume of material, you want to minimize any additional thickness to parts to avoid paying for material that isn’t needed. This means, that I know exactly what i am doing in HO Scale, as that’s what i model in.  Once I am done the model, I split it into parts as appropriate (i.e. car underbody, interior, body shell), and re-scale it down to HO scale, and then upload to Shapeways.

FormZScreenshot of FormZ 6.5 and the 3D model of Don Station (before parting out for printing)

So you ask, why is it so hard to then change it to N scale or S scale or something else?  Well, its twofold.  Going smaller to N-Scale, the fine details may no longer be thick enough to print. Going bigger to S or O Scales, the walls may be too thick, and details that are passable in HO become blocky lumps that look terrible.  This is particularly a problem for buildings, as the window mullions are so fine in HO they barely print, which means they won’t print in N. In S or O Scale, if the part will even fit in the print envelope of the machine, the parts can look clunky and oversized, as they probably are over true scale in HO to meet the minimum printable dimensions.

Another problem, especially for locomotive bodies or coaches I’ve done, in shrinking them to N Scale, I know nothing about it.  I don’t have N scale equipment or couplers to understand correct heights, how things are mounted, what will and won’t negotiate a curve or switch and on and on.  When I was convinced to re-scale my CNR D-1 to N Scale, I had to go buy an N Scale mechanism for it to make sure the body would fit over it and to see where the mounting points were as opposed to the HO Scale version. I also discovered that I had to turn the roof into part of the body in N scale to make it strong enough.

When I up-sized D-1 to S Scale, that then posed the problem that the body was too big for the printer, on top of needing to thin the walls to try to bring the huge cost down to something reasonable for my friend who wanted it.  At least in S-Scale, there is no expectation of a commercial mechanism fitting it, so I only had to design with mounting blocks to allow the body to be attached to a custom-made brass frame.  For the carbody to fit in the printer, it had to be split in two.  It took me a long time to figure out where and how to split it, and make sure I had found every possible place where parts needed to be cut, and adjusted so they didn’t bind up when the two parts of the print were assembled.  It worked, but similar to the requests above, if I’d been billing time, it wouldn’t have been cost-effective.

D-1 in Many Scales.  S and HO together on Trevor Marshall’s kitchen table, and N scale on my workbench.  The S Scale required the body to be split apart, while the N-scale required the roof to become a part of the body to be strong enough.  Not just a quick click to re-size when changing scales.

Similarly, I received  a request a few months ago to re-size an HO Scale Fairmont Speeder to S scale.  A request I would normally ignore, though in this case, I didn’t.  The problem with making things bigger, is that it exposes any faults in the modelling. The smaller the model, the more a fudge here or a size issue there goes unnoticed.  I honestly think the only reason I even considered the request was that I have a friend who models in S Scale that I could at least give it to when done.  I also have a lot of respect for S Scale modellers.  They can’t generally go buy anything off the shelf and run it.  They have to work at it to find models, and build things.  I am totally behind that, and like the notion of helping them with a few hours of my time on the speeder resize to make another model available for them.  S Scale is called a “Builders Scale’, you don’t get into it because you want to buy stuff and run trains, you get into it because you are a modeller who likes building things.

The S Scale and HO Scale speeder together, and the S Scale speeder showing it modified to be two parts instead of the single piece of the HO Scale one to ease painting the larger and slightly more detailed version.

For the S Scale speeder, with the details being more visible, it gave me more opportunity to improve the model, and to fix things like the seats which hadn’t printed right in several HO attempts.  I also modified it to have some extra details, to allow wood strips to be inserted for the hand lift bars for turning it.  Making these changes probably took me 4 or 5 hours of fiddling about to make sense of where more detail was needed, trying to do things like make the axles roll (didn’t succeed). I’ve sold one to the person who requested it, which is nice as at least he was true to his word that if I did the work, he’d buy it.  This is where these resizing requests become a problem.  On top of the time sink which is not insignificant to adjust a model, and go through all the checks, I have no reason most of the time to order one myself to make sure it prints and looks right. I also don’t have the budget to be doing that, as it would be even more of a sink than doing the modelling for free is.  Suffice to say, I’m not much of a business man, as I probably made about $1/hour for the modification time on the single sale to date!!

While it may not seem like a lot of time, any time I spend working on adjusting a model for someone else, is taking away from the limited amount of time I have to work on designing things for my own projects, or going home and actually working on the models.  There are times I wish I could walk away from my day job and make enough money designing model railroad parts and models for a living, but I know from friends that turning your hobby into a job takes away the fun of the Hobby.  I am happy to offer for sale what I do come up with on Shapeways to help build a community and help others, but that’s done with the understanding that I don’t have the time to do extensive customer support or custom projects. I will continue to generally politely decline requests for projects and re-sizing for the most part, though as you can see, I’m also inconsistent and at least sometimes, something will pique my interest enough to get me to take it on.