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!

A new Cutting Tool for the Workshop

So, in response to my bemoaning how much cutting I am doing, I made a decision, to look to add a tool to my arsenal. In a perfect world, I’d have all the space in the world for a big permanent workshop and buy a laser cutter, but I don’t have that kind of space (nor do I have a space in the house where I could set up a 3D printer with proper ventilation for working with the resin for them which is nastier than the casting resin). So I have gone for the next best thing, a Cricut Maker 3 cutting machine. I have seen people call them a “Poor Man’s” laser cutter online, which I think is derogatory to what they can do based on what I’ve seen online and others I know with them, and they certainly aren’t cheap either to be perfectly honest! After spending most of my Friday humming and hawing, I placed an order around 4pm for curbside pickup of a Maker 3, the Knife Tool, and the material mat 3 pack (the light, standard and heavy grip cutting pads so I can experiment). Amazingly, it was ready within about an hour, so off to the store I went to collect it and get it home. New Toys still make me giddy, even when I’d spend the past 8 hours mulling if I wanted to spend the money or not!

Unboxing my Cricut Maker 3 and running a first test cut of my design on regular paper. Nice and quick to see what the machine thinks of my CAD work… not a lot it turned out, the export from my 3D modelling software read as each cut was a double line cut.

The machine does so much more than just cut styrene for model railroaders. I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of what we can do, and how we will find ways to use it. In our circle of friends and family, we have schoolteachers who make decorations for their classrooms, a friend who runs a card making business, and someone who manufactures fishing lures and uses a Cricut machine. Once I figure out how to best optimize the settings for different thicknesses of styrene and levels of detail, we will be able to do so much more than just cut plastic! My initial tests were with the art for a building I have not started to build yet, might as well work with moving forward while I learn how to use the machine. I was drawing it as I do so I have cutting templates, but also to figure out what windows I can use so I can order them. Thanks to having this, I was able to export from my 3D modelling software to the Cricut Design Space software. I was reading from others experiences online, so I included a 1″ square to give me something to use as a scale in the Cricut software to get the sizing right. This worked, and I quickly had my art sized to HO scale. I duly made my first attempt at cutting, on plain white paper, as it would be quick, as this was a good way to test with a cheap material.

The first cut was, a qualified success. It was to scale, and it cut all the parts, but, because of how dated my 3D modelling CAD package is, the only file type I could get it to export that the Cricut software would open properly was a JPG. While this image file worked, it read the line work as double line, so it made two cuts for each opening. Clearly not what I was wanted and this would not be useful when it comes to cutting styrene given the thickness of it and the need for the machine to make many passes to cut a thicker materials. So, after a bit of playing around, the Cricut software is, to be kind, best described as clunky. I was however, able to quickly re-create the simple shapes of a wall core by taking dimensions and measurements from my 3D modelling package and creating the shapes in the Cricut to the dimensions needed. This works fine where it is large rectangular openings to add windows to and brick sheet over top of, I will probably need to find something better if I need to cut complex shapes. The second run on paper, was much better, so I moved on to the next intermediate material I had. I for some reason have a stack of 110lb cardstock for the printer. No idea why, but I do, so it was something thicker to cut. This too worked well. With that, no guts, no glory, I loaded up a sheet of 0.040″ Styrene, and the Knife Blade, and gave it a go.

Loading up styrene sheet for the first time and watching the cuts slowly appear. It made 18 passes and took nearly an hour to cut out three walls.

The Cricut does not have Styrene plastic as a material setting within it. I had to look for something close. It does have Basswood and Balsa Wood at multiple thicknesses. So based on what I’d read of others experiences, I chose Basswood and 1/32″ thickness. My other potential was Basswood and 1/16″, but that runs the risk of it cutting all the way through and into the mat. That may be an OK outcome eventually as I learn the device and how it cuts, but that seemed like a bad idea on the first pass cutting Styrene on the first day with the machine.

My first cuts did not go all the way through, but the software allows you to keep making additional passes. The default for the material is 18 passes with the knife. I did one extra. It did not get all the way through 0.040″ styrene, but it was more than enough that edges could be snapped as if I was scoring sheet styrene, and a few passes with an xacto in the nice deep cut that was made, and the window openings popped right out. It took about an hour to cut out three wall sections from a 7″ x 12″ piece of sheet. The Cricut will do sheets up to 12″ x 24″ with the right mat. I bought the 12″x12″ mats to start as I am treating this as a test, to see if I like the machine and can make it do what I want. I still want my buildings to have the charm and imperfection that comes from my hands, or else I would have looked at sending things out to be laser cut or manufactured, but, with this tool, I can maybe hopefully improve one of the aspects where my hands are letting me down, getting good consistent clean cuts on the core of buildings, as everything else flows from this. If I am not getting frustrated with hours of cutting and nibbling leading to little mistakes, I can spend the time happily building and detailing and focusing on the quality of the of the finish being done, rather than the time in the seemingly endless cutting. While this will inevitably speed aspects of construction if it works out, that isn’t the only reason for this, as having nice consistent starting point will hopefully make the buildings look better when finished.

The first “Building Core” cut with my Cricut Maker 3. It’s not perfect, but that is more in the CAD work than the machine. What it did in under an hour is better than I could have done free hand by far.

I chose this building as the dimensions of the windows I want to use are online on the manufacturers website, I just need to order them! There are several other buildings that I am able to do with commercial windows, which means with the Cricut I can now get them drawn and the cores cut, and let me move on with them in the coming months. I’ll need to get some windows and brick patterned styrene ordered, but the initial returns from a couple of hours on a Friday night after getting it home from the store are that its feeling like a good investment. Now I just need to make more tests and see if I continue to feel that way.

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!

Progress Painting Buildings

As with my last post, I haven’t made a lot of progress, but its good progress. I have also been working on the structures. Partly, the never ending task of cutting out window openings.. I’m still on the first wall…so that’s going well…but I have made some progress on other parts of the structures for the layout.

Progress on painting buildings. Applying new to me techniques with mortar washes and using PanPastels to very the brick tone. The first two shots of the foundry show some work with PanPastels over paint. The second show Roberts Brick Mortar on the warehouse and boiler house.

For the buildings, I am still in experimenting mode, trying to learn techniques, and improve ones I have used before. I am working to find a look and feel for my buidings that feels real to me, and look like their actual selves. One of the challenges of modelling a real place, is that you can quite literally drive down the street and compare your models with the real thing!

The first product I have been playing around with is Roberts Mortar. It is a paint product designed to be applied to brick, then wiped away to create mortar lines. There are many different ways to achieve this. This product is designed for where you have already painted buildings and need to bring the lines out. An alternative that I will be trying is painting the building white/light grey (primer basically), then dry brushing the brick. Dry brushing is when you take a bit of paint, wipe the brush so almost none is left, then wipe it across the surface That applies a little bit of paint to the top of bricks, but not into the mortar courses. This is a technique I have used, badly, and am working to get better at. With the Roberts, I have found that it leaves a fairly bright mortar course, but that you can remove more even after you think its dried with a damp cloth. I have also found that subsequent weathering with PanPastels helps to tone down the courses.

PanPastels are the second tool I am working on expanding my use of. I have used them for weathering, and for roads, but they are also great for creating brick tone variation and weathering on buildings. I am still figuring out the right way to do it, but thus far, I have learned that its similar to dry brushing, once you’ve got some pastel on the applicator, wipe off most on a piece of paper towel so that you are only applying a little bit to the top surface, you don’t want to fill in the mortar courses with the pastels. Once they are applied and you are satisfied, they do need to be sprayed with a fixative, or clear coat. They will stay in place, but if you might need to handle the buildings, not sealing the pan pastels runs the risks of getting future fingerprints in your work.

Still more to go, and more to try, but the buildings are slowly coming to life as they get some paint and grime and such on them. It isn’t where I want it to be at the end of the day, but I can see the vision coming to life every time I experiment with some more paint or powder, and that is a very good thing.