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!

Scratch Built Traffic Signal

I posted earlier this week about a new side project in discussing brass fire escapes for a building. It does tie to the layout in some skill-building as I will need fire escapes for one building on the layout, and learning to solder brass is a useful modelling skill.

This post, is another related to the diorama, but where the skills being used can be applied to my layout. I don’t have traffic signals on the layout, but I do want to have working streetlights, and there are something like a dozen of my hydro poles that will have street light arms added. Figuring out how to make the lights work is important. For my previous Bar Volo model, I drew up the Toronto Style “Acorn” lamp heads, but they were a bit oversized, and Shapeways does not print the translucent material anymore. I am at some point going to at least get some static versions printed so I can “finish” the hydro poles on the layout, as long as I am smart about how I add the arms, revisiting them to add working lights later is something I can do at some future date, but for now, on with what I was doing this past week, making a traffic light.

Scratch built light standard using K&S Aluminum tubes, some Tichy Phosphor Bronze wire, and the D5 DEM Modelsmiths LED Traffic Light.

For this diorama, I need a single traffic light, in a very specific style of design for the location of the building being modelled. I spent a lot of time searching online, and then, found on Etsy of all places, Modelsmiths Designs. They have a stand alone website too. When I first found them, neither site offered shipping to Canada, which is something I find too often that places won’t ship here, or ask exorbitant rates. Fortunately, the owner was very friendly when I contacted them, and looked into it with their shipping services, and was able to add affordable shipping to Canada, so I ordered two hanging 3 light traffic signals. They sell a range of traffic signals, streetlights, railroad signals and other details in HO, O and S Scales. They also sell electronic controllers for them. I didn’t buy a controller, as I expect I will just static wire the light to a single colour for the diorama, but as I build who knows, I think I have a three way switch somewhere that I could wire in to manually change the light aspect. My initial response to testing the lights now months after I bought them, and fishing the wires through the tubes, is that I am very very happy with them, and hopefully down the road I will have use for other of their projects, I like to support people who make good products, and who go out of their way to be fair in shipping to Canada, as its much easier as a small producer to just saw “naw, the effort for a handful of sales isn’t worth it.”

In terms of construction, I had some different gauges of K&S Metals Aluminum Tube kicking around. I thought about using styrene tube initially, but I think the aluminum does two things, it bends a bit better for the extension arm, and is a little bit stronger for long term handling. I was able to find the specification drawing for the light online, so I had rough dimensions to make sure I built it roughly to scale (as close as my eyesight allows, and I don’t tend to get too worked up about an inch here or there on scale dimensions!).

Working Streetlights. Red, yellow and green LED’s in the lamp housing.

I have some cleanup work to do, and filling in the open ends of tubes, but once I am happy with it, and have fabricated a base, it will be off to the paintshop to provide a cleanish look for the pole and hide the different materials. All in all, a good quick project to get the core work done and see if what I thought actually worked in terms of how to realize this part of the project.

Quick General Scenery Update

Haven’t been working much on the layout the past few weeks as May has rolled into June. I’ve been “working” on a batch of seven box cars, six are now painted and ready for decals, but other than a post when they are done as a point of pride in completing a bunch of resin kits, they haven’t made for interesting projects to write above. The weather has gotten nice outside as Spring has finally arrived in Toronto (and summers Humidity has not), work has been busy, and staying in the layout room to work on it after the day job work ends has been less attractive. That said, a couple of weeks ago we had a rainy weekend day where I wasn’t feeling like watching TV, and I wanted to both move the scenery on one side of the layout that is nearing completion forward, and make some steps on the other end where I have recently been working on buildings and paving/scenery to keep it moving forward.

The first fence I wanted to do was a wood board fence, I’ve built plenty before, but in doing this one, I used up pretty much all the scale lumber in the right sizes I had. Time for an order of supplies to start being put together. To build the fence, after I cut everything, I dyed it a variety of stain colours to create the appearance of different ages of boards. Once they were all dry, I pre-built the sections on the desk, drilled holes in the layout, and test fitted as you can see below. I am quite happy with the look of the fence. I need to paint and finish the gate you can see in the pictures, but that’s an easy task. Now that I’ve finally got a fence here, I can sort out finishing scenery in the Brunswick Balke Collender yard.

A “quick” wooden fence in progress, counting out if enough boards have been cut, and the finished project.

The second area, I wanted a chain link fence with a big gate across the siding as this is an industry that received tank cars, so that seemed like it would be appropriate detail for it to be fenced off. I have written in the past about my home made chain link fence, so I won’t go into all the details here. I have only half finished it, I haven’t gotten out the tulle to add the mesh, but I have the gates and pieces I need to finish it, which I need to do sometime even though gluing the tulle to the brass frame inevitably means gluing my fingers to it with the CA! Once I get this bit of fence done though, a quick trip to the paint booth, and the gate for the wood fence above and this fence will be done, and I can blend the scenery around the fence.

Making some short sections of chain link and the gates for an area where tank cars are unloaded.

It is as always, nice to see things go from my minds eye to reality, every time I do this, and I know I’ve said it before, seeing things come to life helps me to get/stay motivated to work on other parts of the layout. Always keep making progress, even when its small!

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.

Cutting Vinyl Windows

So, I can’t claim to have had this idea myself, I am just writing about my attempt at it. Thanks to having watched a number of videos on model railroading applications for the Cricut, I am now getting things recommended in my YouTube suggestions thanks to their algorithm. The original video I watched is at the bottom of this post for anyone interested. Its one of a couple of channels on YouTube I have found that have Cricut videos with a model railroading aim on how to use the machine I have started to watch in my downtime to learn.

In any event, I have a number of buildings that have large multi-panel industrial windows. I have not been able to find correct fits from commercial products for many of them, and some of these large windows are a stretch on the capabilities of 3D printing and resin casting. Finding the video suggesting that a Cricut can be used to cut vinyl masks. This may solve some of my problems for some of the remaining buildings on the layout.

So, how does this work? Much like cutting walls, once you have the windows drawn, you get them to scale in the Circut Design Space software and send it to print. My advise is when you draw the windows, make the buffer around the edge bigger than you need, so it gives a bit of wiggle room for placement on the wall and to ensure there are not visible gaps around the window. After cutting, you carefully peel away the vinyl you don’t want, around the edges and the areas that should be glass. Using what is called “Transfer Tape”, a material designed to stick to the vinyl to pull it from the backing and hold it to shape to allow you to transfer it to its final location, you can pull it and then burnish it onto the clear styrene. Once that is done, you cut out the windows and apply them from the rear of the wall.

Loading up the Cricut with some dark green vinyl, cutting out windows, transferring them to 0.010″ clear Styrene, then cutting out and installing into my test walls.

My initial reaction to seeing them is they really look good and give the feel and appearance of multi-panel industrial windows. There are some real opportunities for creating complex window shapes using this technique. I don’t think it will necessarily replace 3D printing & casting or commercially available windows for me, but it is definitely another tool in the arsenal of model making for creating different looks.

Test Windows installed in the 18 Mowat Avenue building’s Cricut wall cores.

As promised, the original video that inspired me is below.

Making headway with the Cricut on cutting walls

Well, since the first tentative steps with my newest tool on the weekend, I have been experimenting and reading others blogs and watching youtube videos, and learning. The good news is, that I have identified things I did wrong in preparing my first cuts from drawings exported from my 3D modelling software. This is good as it means I likely won’t have to re-draw my models in the Cricut Design Space software.

Learning in importing images to the Cricut Software. Select Complex, delete the areas that are not part of your part, and you get a solid silhouette, the software reads this as a part.

When I imported my first image exports to cut, I didn’t bother to read anything in terms of instructions or manuals, and just assumed how things were supposed to be done, and I got a weird double line cut from the Cricut. When I redrew the parts in their software, I got the result I expected. That said, I wasn’t willing to give up and assume I need to do double the work. In looking at other model railroaders commentary, I realized I deleted too much material on the image import. You need to leave the areas that you want as the part filled in, so it creates a solid shape when it finishes the import.

With that knowledge, I had been continuing to mess around with making cuts and the software, it was time to go big as it were, and start experimenting/working on the large wall of the Hinde & Dauch Paper building that was daunting me and drove me to looking at the Cricut. This wall alone has 37 openings, most of them doubles with a thin lintel connecting two larger windows. This was, in the ways I’ve been manually cutting openings, was a monster of a task. With a few days experimenting and learning with the Cricut, nothing says madman like leaping in with both feet and just giving it. Styrene is cheap. I would rather learn by doing than think myself out of things. Worst case scenario if something doesn’t go right, I’ll hopefully have learned something and give it another go later.

Getting set on the kitchen table with the 12″x24″ mat and a large sheet of 0.030″ Styrene. First attempt on Card Stock for checking scaling, then after some adjustments, onto the styrene. This cut took over 6 hours to run and get the windows 90% cut through the styrene.

The setup for the cut said it was going to take close to 6 hours for this large wall of windows. After watching about 2/3 of the process, it was time to go to bed and just let it run and see what awaited me at breakfast time in the morning. The results, were pleasant in that it was exactly what I was expecting. I knew the settings I was using would need a final score with a knife blade to pop out the openings, which is fine by me. I know going forward it will be possible to have the Cricut cut all the way through by doing extra passes at the end of the regular cuts. I will experiment with some small cuts to find out who many extra passes it takes to go all the way through 0.030″ styrene sheet.

Looking at the Cricut cut wall, getting openings popped out and seeing if the resin windows I’ve cast fit, and looking at the whole wall ready for bricking.

In the course of an hour at lunch and my work breaks today, I had all the windows scored and popped out of the main wall. It would have taken me hours to do this wall manually, and that would have made a mess of styrene off cuts (I am constantly finding little bits of styrene across the layout room/office/workshop). The other part of manual cutting the windows was the mountain of tiny bits of styrene from the nibbler or shaving openings with a blade and sanding. I still will have to cut all these windows out again once brick is laminated on, but the brick sheet is very thin and cuts easily, unlike the cores which are thicker to provide structure to the building.

I am really really pleased with the decision to purchase the Cricut, and I’ve only just scratched the surface of what it can do. I am excited to see what else in terms of model making I can come up along with all the other crafting and decorating projects this machine can do. Onwards with building. Time to get casting the windows for this phase of Hinde and Dauch!