Sunday, August 20, 2017

This is Not Benchwork...Yet

Ikea furniture seems to have become fodder for small layout builders as potential benchwork.  It is mentioned in Iain Rice's perennial "Small, Smart and Practical" layout design book (terrific eye candy, that stuff!) and a quick Google search will turn up some fine examples of others who have "hacked" Ikea furniture into all sorts of things.  Bernie Kempinski even used some under one of his layouts and another modeler posted a link in the comments to his use of IVAR shelving as benchwork here:

I have now joined the ranks of Ikea Hackers, though not formally on their website.  My eldest needed a desk in his room but had these "GORM" shelves.  They came with our last house and moved with us to this one.  After a bit of cogitating I determined that I could use the components from the shelves plus a few planks from the store and arrive at a desk/shelf combo for his room.  With the leftover bits I could then create benchwork that doubles as shelving for the layout space in the living room.

Here is the desk/shelf combo (minus the desk top still to come) in my son's room:

And here are the bits left over, some of which will be used in the benchwork:

BTW, I am hoping to make this Sunday afternoon posting a regular occurrence.  I have been successful at fighting my perfectionist tendencies lately...they tend to get in the way of all kinds of productivity and fun.  So these blog posts may not be as polished as they could be, but I will be sharing content and hopefully eventually gaining a few more readers who share my interests.  If you like this sort of stuff, please share with others who do also.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Let there be...


AND, light.  Both are important, almost equally so.  You can have a layout poorly lit and all your hard work isn't shown in its best light, literally.  OR, you can have a well-lit space with no layout, yet.  That's nice but it isn't always the order it happens.  A space might look well lit until you put a layout in it and realize you need more light.

That was the case here in my living room.  I pulled out the timesaver and set it on a shelf unit next to the workbench.  I knew the workbench needed additional light and so I found a terrific vintage fluorescent desk lamp that made all the difference in the world.  Yet somehow I didn't think about future layout space and how it would be lit until the layout was in the space.

After a trip to our local hardware store I brought home a pair of basic T-12 two-bulb four foot shop lights.  A few moments later I had found the rafter above the ceiling, conveniently placed 32" from the wall.  Four holes in the ceiling, four hooks followed, and then...I needed S hooks!  Why is it every project takes multiple hardware store trips?  I've heard three is average.

Eventually I got the lights up with no trouble.  The cords are plugged into a medium duty grounded extension cord that runs down the wall along a strip of molding for the workbench window.  The MRC Prodigy Express came out of its packing and within moments I had a train running. 

Here are three images; before the lights, before with flash, and after (without flash).  Camera set to auto for all three.  Pay attention to the shadows.

I can stand with my head and shoulders over the layout and the area in front is still adequately lit thanks to the broad, even light reflected off the wall.  Eventually some of the old blue backdrop I brought with me from the bonus-room layout will hang here like a picture.  But for now I have not let the perfect stand in the way of the good, and I am having a ball running trains again.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Fantastic Beast

...and where to find it?  The Nevada State Railroad Museum.

Let's look inside this beautiful creature:

 Can you guess the species of this truly fantastic beast? 

I captured a few images of the exterior of this tremendous and beautiful thing, but there are far better out there and Google can help you find them, I'm sure.  These images were made with my new Kindle Fire (an early Xmas present), and I'm still learning how to use it.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Vintage Victory!

At the recent Great Train Expo in Santa Rosa I found the sort of dealer who carries the sort of trains I like to buy at the sort of prices I can't refuse.  Most were rare, long out of production cars, priced between 2 and 5 dollars, depending on the condition.  I found these three I couldn't live without:

Yes, I already have one of the Purina Reefers, er, ventilated cars.  I couldn't pass it up.  It will need a new underbody, trucks and couplers, as well as new vents - these were not iced, so no hatches.  Still working on sourcing parts for the vents.

The second car is a Varney car, and as marked is just at the edge of my era.  What makes this a must-have are the paper crates.  This is one way early autos were shipped and I have had my eye out for one of these cars.  The flat is in near-perfect condition, with all the sill steps and even the brake rod and wheel still intact.  The paint is factory fresh and the lettering crisp and legible.  The trucks will pass for PRR trucks in use at the time but the brake gear is AB.  However, I may not change it since it really isn't that visible due to the low side sills.  Naturally it will need new couplers, and if I ever come across some Carmer uncoupling levers I may add them, otherwise it is RTR with a little weathering.

Finally the last car is a custom lettered car for the Shepaug Valley & Western.  If any of my dozen or so readers, okay, the three or four of you, know anything about this road let me know in the comments or send an email.  I think there was an actual Shepaug Valley Railroad that was folded into another Connecticut line early in the 1900s, but beyond that I have to assume this was a private road name applied by a creative individual.  Love the orange and green.  This car will need some TLC as the orange paint chipped away from where the price tag pulled off....<grr>....and one of the doors popped loose.  The trucks are fine but I may trade them out for T-sections or express trucks at some point.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Per Ardua, Per Aspera

"Through Adversity, Through Hardships" would be one translation, but I prefer to draw on the derivatives for direction - Ardua; Arduous; Strenuous or Hard Work and Aspera; Aspirations or Hope.  That's the direction of my hobby right now, through hard work and hope.  I hope, very soon, to begin model building again, and I know it will take much hard work to get there.

In a nutshell, Kristi took a call to serve a congregation in Ukiah, California, I resigned my call after seven years of service at Bethany in Spanaway, Washington, and we have moved.  We are currently living in the parsonage.

To define the scope of the situation, here's a look at my workbench area:

I know it will be a great place to work, eventually, but for now all I can do is hope and work hard on dealing with the boxes of stuff and the piles of clutter (and not just in this photo, but scattered all around the house...and that's not even considering the garage!)

And here's the kicker - the previous tenants had a cat.  More likely multiple cats, based solely on the smell.  Even if I had all the stuff unpacked and put where it belongs, I can't sit in that corner without making a face (you know the one).  Cat urine has got to be one of the worst aromas ever, and this corner of the carpet is saturated.  Fortunately the other end of the large living area, to the left of the images, is pretty clean. 

We live with pets.   I've dealt with cat pee before - we use a great enzymatic cleaner that works wonders.  Our cats don't get to this room so there's no danger there of the smell getting worse.  We also have dogs.  The dogs really need a bath and consequently so does the couch.  But to just let it go and ignore the problem, especially as a renter, is irresponsible.  I don't want this to seem like a rant against the church - on the contrary, they went over and above to fix up the house, painting all the walls, cleaning, etc.  We are very happy with them and this house.  I am especially thankful that they are going to replace the entire living room carpet (sometime next week as of this writing).

Anyway, enough venting.  Big picture - I will be able now, thanks to my new job description (Dad/Husband/Son/Son-in-law/etc.), to model more regularly and that means blogging more often.  I have all I need to be able to relax and work on a model without spending much at all (see this blog post).  However, in order to fund a layout construction project, I may need to add a part time job eventually, but that's a topic for another post...

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Re-kitting a Wabash Box Car

I just posted a new video to YouTube showing the cleaning and "re-kitting" of an HO Scale Wabash Double Sheathed box car.  This is one of the kits I picked up at Puyallup back in November.  I began disassembly and realized that this was going to take alot of work.  I had also filmed that initial disassembly using my smaller camera but I wasn't happy with the resolution.  If I'm going to film and share close-up modeling, I want a higher resolution so that folks can see what's going on.  I'm still new to this video production thing so I know there will be a learning curve, but I hope to produce good quality videos of the kind of content I'd like to see.

Here's the video, embedded:

You may not be able to tell but the cast metal ends are really distorted.  I solved this by building up the castings with styrene then sanding them flat again, but that's another video.  I'm already casting parts for this car using a casting set from Alumilite I purchased last year at Hobby Lobby using a coupon.  Again, that's another video (the casting, not the trip to Hobby Lobby).  And I'll need to scratchbuild doors and door hardware...that's another video too.  Not sure how many parts this will be when all is said and done, but I hope to keep each video under 10 minutes (closer to 5).  No rambling, shaky camera, distracting background chatter from a TV, etc.  Just simple descriptions and straight up modeling.

Thanks for reading, and for watching.  Please share this video with folks you think may find it interesting.  I hope to post follow-up videos every couple weeks or more often during my Sabbatical.  After that, more like once a month as long as there's something worth watching.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Clutter Putter

Do you 'putter around' your train room or garage or workshop?  Let me flesh out that idea a bit.  I believe most of us who claim to just 'putter' are actually doing one of three things: we are either cleaning and straightening, putting away the remnants of previous projects, or just dreaming*.

For me, the value of clear space cannot be overstated.  I need clear space both inside my head and outside in my living space in order to be creative.  I have considered before the times in my life when I was most productive as a modeler, and I had thought that the productivity was the result of living with imposed limitations.  For example, during a move I took a tub of kits, tools and supplies to work on in my temporary quarters until we could settle into a more permanent dwelling.

But I'm beginning to wonder if it wasn't as much a factor of the limited projects, but a result of keeping the work space clear.  Life certainly was busy and stressful and there was much to occupy my mind and my time.  Limiting the projects in number and scope may have helped some, but that can't explain the extraordinary output produced at the same time.  I believe the greater factor is this: in a shared, temporary space, I had to put away the project in process after a work session.  Each time I sat down to work it was at a clear space.

You can see the video of my recent workbench cleaning following a project completion, in last month's post.  Here is a picture of a recently de-cluttered space next to that workbench:

Perhaps this looks cluttered to you, but trust me, it is a massive improvement; it looks pretty close to the way I want it to look, and functions well too.  The upside-down Badger Air Brush box lid is a stand-in for a basket to hold remote controls (and chocolate).  I'm not sure I'll keep the little stack of scratch paper in the back, but I do use it from time to time.  Up on deck is a coaster for beverages, a tissue box and a little candle holder my wife made before we met. 

Everything that lives in your space is either a Tool, a Supply, Reference material or a Decoration, or it is a project in process.  I choose to keep limited but meaningful decorations in my space.  For too long I've had way too many knick-knacks, bits and pieces laying around that really didn't mean much.  Now, it must be useful or beautiful in order to take up valuable horizontal space.  That space is valuable because it allows the mind to relax and the creative juices to flow unhindered.

And so to the title of this post - the Clutter Putter.  This little table is the beachhead in my assault on train room clutter (and world domination).  My wife and kids can't mess it up since they're rarely working in this space (next to my workbench).  If it is to remain clutter-free, it is up to me.  So from now on, I am making intentional de-cluttering a part of my puttering routine.  A little time each day puttering in the train room will create clear space.  The goal is less puttering (cleaning and straightening, putting projects away and generally dreaming*) and more modeling.

*A note on dreaming - Yes, dreaming is part of the creative process.  But dreaming alone, without the space to realize those dreams, is futility and leads to frustration.  "I'd love to _____, but first I have to clean up all this junk..."  As George Carlin put it, "Junk is the stuff we get rid of, and stuff is the junk we keep".