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.

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!

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!

Advancing Scenes in Liberty Village

Sometimes just looking at the layout is good to remind myself how much things have advanced. A bit over a year or so ago, I wrote about “Making a Scene” and compared some Toronto Archives shots to shots taken on the layout. I got asked recently to consider giving a presentation on my layout that I gave at a Hindsight 20/20 Virtual RPM in December 2020 to another club. In considering that, I looked at the presentation and started thinking about images that need updating after a year. For me, even with unfinished buildings, and roads needing weathering and grime, seeing buildings go from foam core placeholders or unpainted work in progress to styrene and partially painted really brings things to life. This is the good part of the hobby, seeing things advance when you step back from an individual building or project to look at the sum of what happens when a lot of things you are working on start to come together.

Left, Toronto Archives Picture (series 1465, Folder, 0051, Item 0007), on the right, as close as I could get my hands in to recreate the view looking east on Liberty Street at Jefferson Avenue in October 2020 and November 2021.
Left, Toronto Archives Picture (series 1465, Folder, 0037, Item 0023), on the right, as close as I could get my hands in to recreate the view looking west on Liberty Street at Hanna Avenue in October 2020 and November 2021.

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.