Moving on to the next Building

Having taken a bit of a break from serious layout work through August and the first half of September, last weekend I pulled the Cricut out and started drawing walls and windows. The Building at 20 Mowat Avenue is one that is compressed in size to fill space between two others that are more focused in 18 Mowat Avenue and Canadian General Electric.

The Cricut out and cutting walls, then laminating vinyl window frames onto clear styrene, and weeding the window panes. Once the walls were cut, I then use them to prep the brick sheet to be laminated on before cutting out the windows.

This is a pretty small building, its selectively compressed to fit the space. My approach to building buildings has been to use a thick base of 0.060″ styrene to match the foundations I installed at the start of layout building. With the Cricut, I can now cut out the building cores, and work to laminate on brick or stone details. Once the brick is laminated onto to the core, I use the openings cut by the Cricut to open out the windows from the inside. I can then file, shave and nibble the openings to fit the windows. For this building, I am again using vinyl to create the window patterns. With the windows, I can check and see how much space I need to trim to fit. As with many things, I leave my windows cut by the Cricut a bit small, as it is much easier to make the openings larger than it is to fill in gaps if they are too big. That is a bit less critical with the vinyl windows, as it is a lot easier to re-cut them to a larger size and on buildings using either commercial plastic windows, or on buildings where I need to do 3D printed windows and cast them in resin to create the right look and feel.

My technique for “painting” with Pan Pastels, using a micro applicator to get good coverage into the tight spots that I can’t get into for good coverage with the sponge on the brick.

I am still learning how I want to paint my buildings. I’ve done a bit of everything on the layout. I do like the PanPastels powdered pigment, as I am starting to get the hang of applying them and not filling in the brick mortar lines. I have found this easier than going back with paint washes or mortar washes to pick out the brick lines as I have had to do on buildings painted with the airbrush or a spray can. I think there is need for both techniques as I go depending on the building, so improving how I do things is important. On this latest building, I am continuing to work with experimenting in weathering and aging the building as I go. Nothing crazy, but getting a feel for applying a bit of grey where water would run off the window. As the PanPastels don’t self adhere permanently without being oversprayed with a fixative, you can treat them like an oil, and pull them down, move them after application. This meant that I could dab on grey, and move it about using vertical strokes to create the appearance of water runoff. I am waiting on some more colours (I need white) to finish this work before I spray the building to seal it. The one thing I don’t like, and that I am still working on, is the clear spray inevitably changes the appearance of the pastels. It darkens them (not the end of the world), but can cause fine detail to disappear (more of a problem). I am finding that I have to be, more generous in how much PanPastel I apply so that what looks good before I spray, still is visible after! There is a feel to this, and I’m not sure I am there yet, but I would rather underapply now and go back and add more over, than overdo it.

From hardboard mockup to styrene, to primed and then partially painted with PanPastels. Not bad for a weekend and a couple of evenings work.

The next few buildings are ones that are not as compressed to fit and fill space, and that will help create the sense of being in Liberty Village by representing actual major buildings, like Canadian General Electric and the Toronto Carpet Factory. This of course, is all in my seemingly pathological effort to avoid cutting out the windows on Hinde & Dauch and actually moving it along… someday…It is a hobby after all, at least I have things to work on even if a lot of the time it is to avoid a slow and fiddly task that even when I make progress on it, seems to daunt me!

Four Years of Construction Progress on Liberty Village

Wow, four years since a group of friends helped launch the construction of Liberty Village. I had no idea when I started construction, how it would go. It turns out, its been a varied four years since I started work, two years where I had help from friends that got me to the point that the benchwork was done, and track laid, then two years on my own where I’ve plugged away at scenery and buildings. I can’t wait to have my friends back to see the layout again and run trains, but for now, this is just a thanks to show how far I have come, how far I still have to go, and appreciate the process. Still plenty of building to go, but certainly lots been done in the past 4 years. Here’s to four more years of progress getting me to a point where its largely complete!

Before benchwork, at the end of the day August 11, 2018, and today, August 11, 2022. Progress clearly visible!
Looking into the closet, again before Benchwork, after it was just built, and today.

Constant Steady Progress on Buildings

Slow and steady wins the race as they say. I haven’t done anything crazy or particularly revolutionary, just slowly making progress when time permits on scenery and buildings. It is however, immensely satisfying to see things come together, every bit of scenery or layer of paint or pan pastel moves the layout forward, and brings it ever closer to a state where it looks decent in photographs.

Slowly but surely a building emerges. From no paint and no paving, to paint, windows and then the windows fogged from behind. Now to blend the scenery and build a fence and gate!

My latest progress has been on a curved portion of a building on the west end near Mowat. I used this building as my test mule for the Cricut in cutting wall cores and making vinyl window transfers, so I was motivated to actually get it along to the point of being ready to assemble and start to see how it looks as the different parts come together. It is now together and on the layout. I think it will need some more work with pan pastels to build layers of grime and colour on the bricks, but over the course of the weekend its gone from primer to a nearly complete building. I need to spend some time blending scenery around the edges of the styrene pavement, but once that is done, this end of the layout will really start to come alive. I have also decided that the spur where the tank car is parked should be fenced off and have a gate, so I’ll need to break out my fence making jigs again and make some more home brewed chain link.

What a difference some paint makes. Threw a mix of a bunch of brown-ish paints together and threw some paint at the parts of Hinde & Dauch that were ready for it. Let that cure for a while, the mask and paint the window frames.

On the other end of the layout, I am slowly making progress on Hinde & Dauch. I haven’t cut out any more windows in the largest part of the building lately, but I did throw some paint at the other two portions, just for the motivation of seeing the building start to come alive, instead of being grey primer. It is a hugely satisfying and motivating result of half an hours work mixing up a brown paint from 3 or 4 shades and spraying, to then see it look like a building. I will need to let this cure for a bit, then mask and paint the windows and doors, but it is a relatively low effort high reward task to have gotten some paint on it.

Windows & Signs for Hinde & Dauch

It’s been a while since I’ve updated on building construction on the layout. I have been mostly working on boxcar kit builds of late. I have done a bit of work since buying my Cricut in advancing the Hinde & Dauch paper company factory. It is one of the main structures on the layout, its size and location makes it prominent when entering the layout room, and it was an industry that generated traffic, and looks big enough to do so, even when compressed in size.

Since using the Cricut to cut new wall cores, I have laminated on brick sheet, and cut out the openings in the brick for the two short walls. I have also installed the windows in the two short walls. They are now basically ready for assembly and painting.

The process of cutting out the brick laminated layer is surprisingly easy. I am finding my windows cut on the Cricut are a touch narrow, but that actually works in my favour. Once I use a sharp xacto blade to cut the brick from behind, the opening is a little bit too tight for the cast resin window. This means I can carefully widen the window to fit each individual casting and account for any variations. This is still a time consuming process, I won’t lie, but it is a much less painful process than cutting out the windows was the way I was doing them before, less mess and much less bending and flexing of the styrene wall causing it to distort. So far, I am much happier with how this wall is going than some other ones have gone.

Walls and Windows. The Cricut cut core, laminated with brick sheet, and getting all the windows cast and ready to install.

With the walls making progress in being ready to be assembled into a building and painted, the next thing I needed is to prepare the painted wall signs. I have written in the past about my technique on this. I have in the past made decals and transferred the black decal onto white painted areas on the wall. I am looking at least if I can use the Cricut to cut masks using removable vinyl and painting the white, then masking, then painting the black. This would look even better than I already think my signs look, I am not sure if it will work. I also don’t think I have any removable Vinyl to experiment with, so this will need some more thinking to see if I do as I have, or try something different.

Hinde & Dauch has lots of painted on signs, and they are large. Getting them drawn up and then testing printouts on the walls.

Even with just paper printouts on unpainted buildings, the sense of the look is inspiring, and definitely helps me feel that this building’s long gestation and many months of taunting me are on their way to being behind me.

A quick update to Layout Wayfinding

It seems like it was just yesterday, but it was literally a pandemic ago (groan, I’ll show myself out for that one) that I bought laser cut and engraved wood signs for layout wayfinding. In the two years since I got them in January 2020, they have faded a bit and become somewhat illegible. The laser engraving is still there, but I am not sure if I want to brave painting them or not. The large sized one on the layout room door has stayed clear and amazing. With my recent purchase of a Cricut, I realized that I have art for the Toronto style street signs, I could re-create the signs and cut them out of vinyl.

The laser etched wood sign, and its vinyl replacement. Much more legible, seen in comparison with one of the wooden signs in the last image.

The vinyl sign looks significantly better than the wood one in terms of legibility. As with most things I do, I will live with the one sign for a couple of weeks, and assuming I remain happy with it, some day when a mood strikes me I will bang out the other ones and install them all in a couple of hours some day. Until then, back to building boxcars, my current main activity! (2 ready for the paint booth and 5 to go on that project)

So Many Windows

Why oh why did I have to fall in love with an early 20th Century Industrial neighbourhood? So many windows to cut out. While I have a good number of buildings, mostly they are shallow along the front edge or rear of the layout. This is a good thing, as I have discovered, it takes a long time to cut out window openings by the dozen when you are scratch-building structures. I have been working this week on the Hinde & Dauch Paper Company factory again. Looking to make some progress in the second of the smaller segments, before the remaining large portion gets started in earnest.

Working on the walls of Hinde and Dauch. Getting the western most portion done, and counting out how many pours of resin I need to do to cast the windows for the last wall I don’t have them cast for yet!

I have written several times about how I have been going about cutting openings and preparing walls. And frankly, the process has left me disheartened at ever finishing my layout and having it look as good as I know I can build. The longer I work on any given wall, the more problem cuts or bad window openings I create. It becomes a self fulfilling prophecy that I will make an ugly cut and really be annoyed at how something is looking.

That said, this week I have made some good progress. I’ve cast replacement windows for bad castings or ones I damaged trying to clean them for installation, and gotten through the last openings on the 2nd phase of the Hinde and Dauch factory. I am really pleased with how it is looking. I see spots that need fixing with some filler and such before paint and primer happens, but I think, sometimes you are your worst critic because you know where all the problems or mistakes you made are. I don’t think others will see them when they visit. I am sure all my modeller friends have structures or scenery on their layouts that make them crazy but which visitors are blown away by. Being my own worst critic is definitely a skill I wish I didn’t posses!

Getting the windows done on the western block, checking as I progress, the finished wall, and test fitting everything before assembling the block for painting.

That said, the slow and steady approach is working, but I know there are better ways out there. I’ve got something to experiment with this weekend, which is a long weekend here in Ontario, and I’ve taken Tuesday off to extend it. Before the weekend is out, I will have an update hopefully on a path to getting my buildings moving quicker. Hopefully I’ll move from being delayed by cutting out openings to delayed by not having drawn the custom windows I need to print and cast for some of the buildings. Time will tell, but for now, I am out on a windy Saturday morning to chase some trains in the freshly fallen snow!