Primer on the Patio

Spring if finally trying to be sprung. This means, a couple of layout structures can make progress again! The Hinde & Dauch factory, and Canadian General Electric are too big to fit in my spray booth to paint inside (at least any painting being done with an airbrush!). This meant, that I couldn’t start with a coat of primer to find any areas that needed construction touch-ups, and provide a good grippy base for paint until it was warm enough to take a rattle can of Tamiya Fine Surface Primer to the patio. This lovely Easter Sunday in Toronto provided the first day where it was warm enough and when I wasn’t at work where I could take things out to the patio and paint.

Before and after of primer on the two buildings.

Even outside, safety is priority. A pair of latex gloves and my respirator that I would use at the paint booth inside are a must. The regulator particularly, so, you only get one pair of lungs, I don’t plan on destroying them sucking in paint particles!

Darth Stephen painting on the patio. Gotta protect those lungs!

There will be at least one more day out on the patio painting, I need to do the base brickwork with the airbrush at a minimum, and that will mean bringing the compressor and all the gear out. I will wait a couple of weeks to do that. Rattle canning at 10 degrees is fine, but its just a touch too chilly to drag out all the gear and use the airbrush. I just need to walk the fine line on Toronto’s legendary stupid humidity kicking in!

Edit: Should have waited, didn’t even think. Below are a couple of pictures of them back on the layout after the primer has dried enough to handle and get them in off the patio before and of our neighbours kids throw something onto the patio and smash then! These are done right? I don’t need do do all that work of painting brick, stone and windows and adding signs/details do I?

Details and Walls Up for Canadian General Electric

As I’ve written about recently, I have been working on the small portion of 219 Dufferin Street, the former Canadian General Electric tungsten light factory that makes it onto my layout. There are times I wish I was getting more of all my structures onto the layout because they all look so great, but then I remember that I am scratch-building everything, and only having small parts of buildings makes doing so achievable (its also all that fits on my 14″ wide benchwork!!).

This building is a real standout, lots of different windows and brickwork patterns. In order to create some of the trim on the ends of the boiler house, I decided to make a bunch of masters using 0.020×0.080 styrene strips, and some brick sheet to create the stepped/smooth details. Once I’d made up a dozen, I cast a couple of molds, and cast them in resin. I made two molds as my first one didn’t set great, so I made a second. This was a good call, between the two molds of the 12 master parts, I was probably getting about 15 good parts, considering I needed around 40, that meant three runs of casting. I made an alignment jig from some styrene to aid in installing them, and getting the spacing right.

I wanted to come back to my wall cores that I am cutting with my Cricut. I am, intentionally leaving window openings a bit small when I am drawing them, this means, when the walls are cut, the windows don’t fit. The reason for this, is that the Cricut cuts are not 100% perfect, its much better and easier to make a window opening bigger, than to create material and make it smaller. Once I have the cores together, I take the windows and a fine sharpie, and trace out where I need to carefully trim away material to get the opening. As always, smart work dictates that the openings should always be too small when working with a knife, so that they can be filed to finished size and not made too big. This is of course, a slow process as you near the end, as you want to only just take enough material away. That said, for me at least, its inevitable that some openings or parts of them are not perfect. This inevitably means at the end of a walls construction, there is some filling with putty from the back to close in gaps and make sure there are not tiny dots of light escaping around the windows.

Casting brick details for the tops of the short walls, and showing how I trim out the undersized openings cut by the Cricut in the wall cores.

Once all the many steps of building the walls were done in adding layers of brickwork and detail, I got them assembled and mounted to the base. I built the building in two parts, the main factory end and side walls, and the boiler house wals that are closest to the tracks. Once the two sub assemblies were done, I installed the boiler house at the front edge of the base styrene, and then worked to butt the factory up against it. Filling gaps at the rear against the backdrop is easier than filling a gap at the front which is more visible.

With the walls assembled, the past big part to build is the stone base of the chimney. The chimney is octagonal, and after much searching a couple of years ago, I found a Cibolo Crossing hydrocal chimney. It is a solid part, and rather than trying to cut it to size as its too tall, I designed the square base of the chimney to act as a drop in hide so I could get the height I wanted. This meant though, that I couldn’t just fasten the chimney to a flat base. To make the stone surround, I layered 3 squares of 0.040″ styrene sheet off cuts from building structures, and traced out the octagonal base. I then took my calipers and measured the diameter of the chimney at the height of the base. With that, I then traced a second octagon using the smaller dimension. This would be my cutout to create a slide down frame. To cut this out, I first drilled holes at the corners of the octagon, and a centre point. With the centre point, I drilled out a 1″ hole using a spade bit on slow speed. Once that big chunk was out, using a flat blade in an xacto handle, I started to trim away to my inner cut lines. Leaving the hole small, I started test fitting. As it got it close to size and sliding down to where it needed to be, I switched from cutting to sanding, and using files and sanding sticks, got the opening to size, and flared the underside so the opening was slightly larger at the bottom to make a tight fit on chimney. With it sliding into place, it is now good to go for painting. For now, the base and chimney are being left separate, as they will be painted differently from the rest of the building, and frankly, the weight of the solid cast chimney actually makes the building unwieldy to manoeuvre on the bench.

The Cibolo Crossing cast hydroal chimney is too tall, so I need to make a piece to cover the square part of the chimney as a “base”. Marking, cutting and fitting a layered bock of 0.040″ styrene. Need to spend some time sanding and cleaning up the layers around the edges!

I like going back and forth from the bench to the layout as I scratch-build structures. It helps me see if I am staying in the size of the space, and if I am happy with the look and feel of the building as it comes together. After weeks of work, actually putting all the parts together for the first time and seeing how it looks, is a really rewarding feeling. It makes the hours and the mistakes and the swearing at the mistakes worth it to see something that you have spent all this time on actually sitting on the layout, and looking like you had planner when you started.

All together in position, nothing helping to hold it up. The roof and skylights are separate pieces to allow for painting, and access to install windows after painting.

The building is not quite ready for the paint booth, but that’s ok, as this is another building along with Hinde and Dauch that is too big for my indoor spray booth. I can’t actually get a go on with painting this until the spring, and given March is coming in like a Lion in 2023 with all the snow after a light start to winter, it could be a while before I’m painting it, but getting this large structure off my workbench frees up room for some other projects and work, and raises questions about how on earth I am going to build the biggest structure on my layout in the Gillett Castle of 135 Fraser Avenue. Its 3 feet long, I may have to figure out somewhere else in the house to do the assembly, but since that is likely the last structure to be built, that’s definitely not a today problem!

Mowat Avenue streetscape, now with almost no foam core stand-ins!

Starting on building Canadian General Electric

While I spent last Sunday cutting building cores for part of Toronto Carpet, and drawing the Canadian General Electric building, I realized that I can’t advance Toronto Carpet until I draw the windows and print the masters for casting. But, CGE is going to be built using off the shelf (albeit with modifications to some) Tichy and Grandt Line windows. This meant, that I can advance this buildings construction immediately, as I need to be in the right mood for the detailed CAD work of drawing windows, which I haven’t been. The mood will strike me soon, but as is so often the case, when I am in a good vein of modelling productively, I want to keep going. The solution, get going on this building.

The render of the finished artwork prior to cutting the wall cores on the Cricut.

I have the habit of identifying things I need, and searching to buy them. I realized that the boiler house extension of the CGE plant has skylights on part of it. From what limited pictures of the roof I can get, they appeared to be different shapes. After a fruitless search online, and realizing that it would only just slow my down, I dove into my storage drawers of windows and found some suitably sized windows that I could use to make skylights. I quickly measured the windows, and figured out the rough dimensions of braces to get the shape needed for the skylights, and cut them on the Cricut. I assembled the windows into blocks which could be glued to the frames, and then trimmed out to make them look the way I wanted them to. Instead of waiting weeks on something that wasn’t what I exactly wanted, In a couple of hours, I had the two built up.

Making skylights for the lower portion of the CGE building, the boiler-house.

Moving on to the brickwork on the walls, I am continuing to push myself to do better. I am not unhappy with any of my buildings, but as I get across the layout, some of the buildings have much more detailed and distinctive brickwork. The longer I look at pictures, the more I want to capture that. This buildings has brick arches over the windows, with stone keystones. I had ordered some arches with keystones from York Modelmaking in the UK several years ago, with their laser cut/etched dogtooth brick that I have used on a number of buildings. The arches are the wrong size for the windows, and I don’t have enough keystones from the set. Again, old patterns and habits die hard, I started looking to order keystones/arches. But literally, the keystones are wedge shaped chunks of styrene…I can make these using my chopper. So I did, using a 0.030″x0.250″ strip, I cut and flipped to make a couple of dozen keystones for the buildings. The N Scale Architect brick I have come to love (thank you Hunter Hughson for introducing me to it) has sheets with trim and curved tops. With this, I could trim and insert my keystones, and make my window arches for the building. Again, a couple of hours work at the bench is better than just trying to throw money at the task.

Working on the brickwork for the walls of CGE. Last weekend at a get together people were teasing about how clean my workbench was in pictures, so here it is suitably dishevelled while I was working last week.

It is a real moment of satisfaction when I toss the foam core or hard board mock-up building and start to see the actual model of a building taking shape. I have been going back and forth with the work in progress from the bench to the layout. I do this for a bunch of reasons, it helps me make sure any size adjustments are caught and made before walls get glued together, and it is really motivating to see a building spring into form as you go. With the large chimney and the brickwork, the back of what you see, a tiny part of the main building is coming to life before my eyes.

Working through the construction, checking fit and adjusting from the drawings to fit the foundation.

Still lots of work to do, but I picked up the windows I need to finish the building this weekend, so over the coming days I can get them prepped and keep on keeping on with the construction.

Sunday Cutting Cores

Last weekend I started drawing the walls for two more buildings, the first to go digital is the Toronto Carpet Building 7. It was ready to start cutting the cores out this weekend. After a trip to Credit Valley on Saturday to pick up more 0.030″ styrene sheet, today it was on to the cutting process.

Cutting the first of the 8 cuts today, and nearing the end as the walls start to take shape into the evening.

The first thing I learned today, is that the Critut software is buggy. I hate Cloud Based Software, call me old school if you want, but software actually installed on your system means it should work, even if you don’t always have the newest feature. After well over an hours frustration, I finally got back into the application. Once in, I started setting up he cuts, because of the height of the walls, and the layering to create depth before adding brick, I neede six sheets of 12”x24” 0.030” styrene. I don’t need the whole sheets, but needed more than half of them all, but the unused parts are plenty big for other layout buildings, no waste from that at least. What was wasted was a 12”x18” piece where the sheet didn’t load in the Cricut right, and I didn’t notice, it wound up making a mess of the sheet, and cutting through the cutting mat. It seems, when the Cricut loaded the mat, it misaligned and thought the material was in a different location.

With the layers, three of the four walls have 4 layers to the core, and the last has 3 layers. The 4th layer is just for the ground floor, and I had a scaling issue with them, where they didn’t align properly. Fortunately, these were the smallest parts of the day, and recutting them only took 20 minutes or so to figure out what the right size should be, set up and cut. All in all, I ran 8 cuts today, as everything was simple shapes, they were reasonably fast cuts, the longest run was about 1:45. The Cricut doesn’t cut all the way through 0.030” sheet, but at most a single score down the cuts is enough to get window openings out, larger seams just fold and snap like cutting large sheets of styrene.

Cores for Toronto Carpet “Building 7” cut out and ready for cleanup and assembly, the left 3 walls have four layers, the right most, only 3!

Now I really need to get onto doing the CAD work for the windows and doors for this building! That will be my next step, drawing, having them 3D printed and casting. Fortunately, this building is only 51 windows and doors…though there are 12 different window size/patterns and two unique doors…

Starting the drawing process for two more buildings

No sooner have I made progress with one actual construction project, was I back at it with the drawing work on the next two buildings for the layout. Progress breeds progress, it certainly didn’t hurt last weekend to have the Daytona 24 Hour car race to watch and keep me motivated and at home.

First up, the last part of Toronto Carpet, the southern end of Building 7. Only a few bays make it on my layout, but it is hopefully going to be a signature building on the west end of the layout. Lots of windows, a lot of different styles (I think my count was 15 distinct sizes/shapes), and some great architectural detail. I have drawn a couple of the windows for 3D printing masters to make resin castings from. I need to get onto the work of finishing them and ordering a print for making molds, but that’s a motivation and time issue more than a skill one.

CAD Work, my working sketch, and a picture of the south elevation today.

The second building, will anchor the western corner of the layout, and again sadly is only a very small part of the building. While it is much less fancy than the Toronto Carpet, it has its own unique elements in the details, and the large hexagonal chimney will stand out. The portion of the Canadian General Electric plant has posed its fair share of challenges. Doing this without drawings is a fun challenge. Counting bricks to get heights and widths. As you can see below, it took me a long time to get the roof line to feel right. I realized the issue is the end parapet wall is higher than the side walls, once I adjusted for this, the height I needed with the right pitch appeared. For this building, in looking through my parts bins, I have either previously decided or have just got damn lucky, and have windows that are right or close enough to right to do this building with a selection of Grandt Line and Tichy windows. I needed a couple more sets of one type, but those are ordered and on their way.

Working hard to get the roofline of the eastern elevation of the Canadian General Electric plant, checking scale with the cast hydrocal chimney, and the building today.

I also did some very rough sketching of the other two buildings which are not yet started on the peninsula of the layout. Both are large, one, the Gillett Company Factory is the largest structure on the layout, at 38″ long, but only 2-6″ deep! The second, the Gillett Mill, elevator and power house, is actually the only complete structure with no compression on my layout, everything else has 3 sides and is against the backdrop or the layout edge. The only other structure with four walls is compressed to fit in the Brunswick Balke Collender powerhouse! The Mill will be its full real world footprint. The sketching has allowed me to get an estimate of how much styrene I need for the buildings, the answer, more than I have, but less than I thought. I will buy some more big sheets in the next week or two so I can at least start cutting cores for these buildings while I work on windows for them both.

Hinde & Dauch Finally Built

Sometimes projects just become, a drag. I knew this was a risk choosing to model an industrial area with early 20th century buildings that have lots of windows. One project in particular has become a bog down. It eventually drove me to scrap the work I had done and buy a Cricut to try a new approach to cutting the windows. I basically tossed the walls I had started, and re-did the cores with the Cricut. This turned out, to be about the smartest thing I’ve done in a long time, but the actual finish trimming still took a very long time, as you can see, there are a lot of windows in the wall, and making an ugly cut or messing up an opening became a bigger pain the further into the wall I got.

On Friday this week, I decided this was getting done. I had 17 window openings to go. I started working on them during my breaks during my work day. By the time I was done work, between my breaks and lunch, I was down to 10 to go. I hit a bit of a hurdle as the last 8 resin castings for the windows were not well cleaned, and had a lot of flash to clean up. Once that was done, and the windows complete, it was on to actually trying to get this thing together and standing on its own.

Starting a Friday with 17 windows to finish trim and install frames, and working through them as the day goes (the first image was after I’d done a couple).

I had the tower interior and the western wall attached to the base, and done work to add stiffeners to the base in the hopes that this would actually have strength to be handled. The building gets as narrow as 0.5″ where the layout wraps around a door frame into the closet. As the walls started getting together, I had bought some 0.100″x0.500″ styrene for building bracing, and it worked perfectly between the upper two rows of windows to add strength to the building and make it totally rigid when handling. This is good as I have had visions of this building flopping itself to pieces while being handled for painting and detailing.

Definitely free standing!

I started the CAD work for the 3D printed windows and wall templates in June 2020 (June 1 to be exact according to the dates of photos and files), so its now been a 2.5 year plus project to get here, and I still have painting to go. Because of the size of this building, I can’t paint it until the spring and weather to let me work on our patio!. It is too big for my paintbooth! Since I can’t paint it, I’ve taken my printed draft signs and taped them onto the building to at least help finish the scene a bit. If nothing else, all the pins holding the walls up and blocking tracks are now gone, so the layout is at least looking a bit more complete, and It can be operated without equipment running into the pins in the tight clearance on the factory siding.

All the structures on the east end of the layout are now assembled and at least partly painted. Since I can’t paint Hinde & Dauch till spring on the patio, I’ve taped my test sign printouts on to help the look for the next few months.

This is 100% a mental hurdle cleared. This building was one that has been staring me in the face, taunting me. It wound up however, driving me to buying a better too in the Cricut and improving my building making techniques so that I advanced a bunch of other buildings in 2022 while it stared at me, daring me to finish the windows. Well now I have, and boy am I happy with how it looks. Already on to the work of drawing the next building, so more to come.