Monday, March 30, 2009

Bunn's Feed & Seed, Part 3: Metal Siding

To make the metal siding for the addition, and the barn roof as well, Mr. Moore describes a unique method, apparently of his own invention, for embossing paper to make simulated metal sheets. He recommends placing a sheet of not-too-thick paper over a piece of HO-scale Campbell metal siding and embossing the pattern into the paper with a spent ball-point pen. I found that this works pretty well, but it takes a little practice to get the hang of the method.

I had some leftover styrene 'metal' pieces from a Rix Products Quonset hut kit to use as the form. They're curved, so I carefully flattened them, glued a few together, and then glued the assembly to a piece of wood with super-glue.

Tape a piece of paper squarely on the form. I don't know what the weight of the paper was that I used, but it felt similar to photocopier paper. Don't use anything too heavy, or the embossing won't be deep enough to be seen. As well, if the paper's too thin it will tear during the embossing process. The simulated metal sheets were to be a scale 4' x 8', so size the sheet so that you'll get whole 4x8 panels when you cut it up.
Strangely enough, trying to find a suitable empty pen around the house took a little doing. Most of the ball-point pens I could find had a tip that was too large to fit into the grooves of the form. Eventually I settled on a purloined Hilton Hotels pen still filled with black ink. No problem, the panels ended-up having black lines from the embossing process on their back side, but once they were glued in place and painted, they weren't visible.
It took a bit of practice to make some good looking panels. Use a steel scale to help guide the pen in the grooves to keep things aligned. Don't press too hard or you'll tear the paper. Go slow. The later panels I did, which are the ones used on the dust box at the back of the complex, turned out the best. They had consistently straight, well-defined grooves. The ones used on the addition aren't too bad, but they have a little less definition. One trick I learned was to make a few panels, then put off making more for a day or two. Coming back to the task in a different frame-of-mind seemed to help reinforce the skill for some reason. I'm thinking of building Mr. Moore's Jones' Chemical Company project from the March '74 issue of Model Railroader later in the year, so hopefully all this practice won't go to waste.
After cutting the embossed sheets into scale 4x8 panels, they were attached to the addition by coating its walls with a thin layer of white glue. Apply them in rows and make sure the alignment of successive rows is staggered so that the vertical panel divisions don't all lineup. Try not to press the panels too hard while you're gluing them in place so not to soften the definition of the embossed pattern.

[Paneled dust bin]
Once the glue had thoroughly dried, I trimmed off the overhanging pieces with a sharp knife. The addition is brush painted with Tamiya's XF-16 flat aluminum. Once dry, I gave the addition a wash of Model Master Acryl flat black thinned out with Model Master Acryl Thinner. This both dulls the shine of the aluminum paint and partially fills surface indentations with black colour to help them visually standout a little more. The barn was brush painted with two coats of Tamyia's XF-9 hull red. I try and use acrylic paints wherever I can in my work since they'll cleanup with water, and they don't seem to out gas a great deal which makes them acceptable for use in the house.
Mr. Moore recommends using balsa to make the foundation and that's what I did. But when it was done, and I read the paragraph again, I think he meant it to be built up from complete sheets instead of strips framing the perimeter. That would have made it squarer and more solid, as well as providing a floor for interior details. The finished foundation is painted with Tamyia XF-20 Medium Grey.
[Painted structures on foundation]
[Top view of complex]

Monday, March 23, 2009

Bunn's Feed & Seed, Part 2: Basic structure

The basic tools for this project are pretty simple: an x-acto knife with a sharp #11 blade, a steel-scale with inscribed HO-scale units, a sanding stick of medium coarseness, and a pair of scissors. A razor-saw, small steel-square, and a pair of tweezers will come in handy, but you could get along without them. I like to make sure that I have lots of new, sharp blades on hand because the work goes faster and easier - as well as safer - with a sharp blade.
As far as glues go, I used an everyday, white school glue, Testor’s glue for styrene (I'm partial to the gloppy Testor's tube glue - apply it sparingly and it creates smooth, strong joints), and some thick super-glue with an accelerator spray. You really don’t need the super-glue, but I’m spoiled and use it for lots of bonds where I don’t want to wait for the adhesive to setup and dry. Spraying a little of the accelerator on the super glue bond makes it dry instantly if you’re like me and sometimes can’t even wait the 10 or 20 seconds for the glue to dry. Mr. Moore doesn’t mention what type of glue he used on the project, I guess it was just common knowledge at the time about what was appropriate for use on a project such as Bunn’s that this could go without saying.

I started by building the basic forms for the barn / office and the addition from sheet styrene. For this part of the project you only need a few of the tools: the x-acto knife, the steel-scale for laying out and cutting the pieces, a sharp pencil or two, the styrene glue, and the steel square to help keep the corners perpendicular while laying-out, cutting and assembling.
The walls of the barn / office are made from 0.040 inch thick Evergreen Scale Models 0.100 inch styrene clapboard siding instead of the wood clapboard that Mr. Moore recommends in the materials list. The reason I went this way is that I just couldn't find any HO-scale wood clapboard at the local stores, but the plastic material was readily available. It turns out that the styrene worked just as well. The sides of the building were laid-out on the material using the dimensions in the article, and then were cut out using the x-acto knife loaded with a fresh blade. They were then glued together and the inside corners were reinforced with square-section styrene strips. This part of construction is always satisfying to me because I can quickly see the basic shape of the building take form after a relatively small amount of work.
For the metal-sided addition, Mr. Moore recommends building the walls from 1/16 inch sheet balsa. I bought the balsa, but after the barn / office was built, I decided to substitute with 0.040 inch plain, sheet styrene since I'd already gone down the styrene route with the barn / office and it went together fairly well. Like the barn, this assembly went together quite fast.

When you are cutting the outlines of the walls, use a couple of light strokes of the knife against the steel ruler when it’s lined up against the wall edge to score the material. You don’t need to cut right through the plastic. Just a few strokes, then snap along the score, and you’ll get a nice, clean break. The window and door openings take more work. You’ll need to cut right through. Always make sure your blade is new and sharp and you’ll get a good cut. Use several strokes of moderate pressure to cut out the openings. Don’t use heavy strokes - this will make it easy to slip and mess-up the cut or even cut yourself. Use the sanding stick to cleanup any roughness on the edges after they are cut.
I guess the only downside at this stage is there are a lot of window and door openings that have to be cutout. I tend to find that tedious work.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

How I built E.L. Moore's "Bunn's Feed & Seed Plant"

I first stumbled across Model Railroader magazine back in the '70s; probably saw it while looking for comics at a local smoke shop; can't say for sure. But, what kept me purchasing over the next few years were the E.L. Moore articles on how to build a wide variety of HO scale buildings from scratch using readily available materials. I tried my hand at building a few of them; the results were mixed. The first article of his that I read - and it turns out, I liked the most - was Bunn's Feed & Seed Plant that was published in MR in August '73.

[Model Railroader cover, August 1973]

Looking back at that issue I'm astonished by the high quality articles and how technical they are. As well as Mr. Moore's article on how to build Bunn's Feed & Seed Plant from scratch was an artilcle on how to scratch build a camera (!) for taking stereo pictures, roving uncoupling ramps, and an electonic circuit for detecting trains, among other things. All the articles are detailed and not trivial.

[First page of E.L. Moore's "Bunn's Feed & Seed Plant" construction article, Model Railroader, August 1973]

Over the years I've learned that Mr. Moore published an extensive collection of articles on how to scratchbuild various types of model railroad structures from the late 1950s until his death in August 1979 at age 83. He was probably the most prolific author in this field during that era. Over the period I was paying attention to his articles, from Aug '73 to his last Model Railroader article that appeared in Sept. '79, he published around 2 or 3 articles a year in various model railroading magazines. If I can get myself organized, I'd like to devote an entire post to his structures from that period.

In the '70s I built the barn portion of Bunn's Feed & Seed in 1/32 scale, and used it as the basis for a garage scene for some similarly scaled cars. The metal sided extension was a little too complex a project for me at the time, so I didn't attempt it. However, knowing what I know now, I thought I'd go ahead and try and build Bunn's Feed & Seed as described by Mr. Moore.

The technology of scale model building has improved a lot since the days when the article was written. Today there is a vast array of highly detailed, excellent quality, readily available kits and components for sale at fairly reasonable prices. There is really no need any more to scratch build all the components that Mr. Moore did as a matter of course. So, this project was almost an exercise in retro scratch building. Only 'almost' because due to limited local availability of materials described in the 36 year-old article, some substitutions had to be made.

[I think this is the only published colour photo of Mr. Moore's model, Model Railroader, February 1980, photo by Ernest H. Rohl]

One of the things that made Mr. Moore's projects compelling to me, and I suspect to many other readers, was their use of simple and readily available materials. So, the basic ground rule of this project was to build the structure as described in the article, but if some component wasn't readily available at the local hobby or craft stores in my area, I'd substitute with something that was. With internet shopping making everything in the world literally available at one's finger tips, this is a little extreme, but I didn't want to get into exoteric subsititutions that the internet affords so I could see what I could do with locally available materials - which I think is in the spirit of an E.L. Moore project. In the end, it turned out that I made many subsititutions.

Originally I thought I'd post the construction story in one, long post. But as I worked on the project, I realized that it was going to be too long for a single post. So, I'll make a number of smaller posts over the next few days and weeks focusing on the construction of specific sub-assemblies. I guess the normal way of pursing this kind of project is to make posts as the project is in progress instead of waiting until it's done, but, frankly, I didn't know if I'd be capable of finishing, so I figured I'd build it first and then write about it. The finished model isn't perfect, but overall I was happy at how it turned out even though there are a few things I'd do differently if I were to do it again.

One of the many things I learned during this project was that Mr. Moore was a very skilled - and frugal - builder. He states in the article that this project took 2 weeks of spare time; my version took me 6: from the 1st of February until the Ides of March. I must admit that some days I only worked 10 or 15 minutes on it, on others I didn't do any work, and somedays I worked an hour or two. As well, it only cost him $US2 in 1973. I spent considerably more and I'll try and explain why along the way.