Monday, May 25, 2020

Three Way Stub Switch or Turnout Detail Photos from Sacramento California

The California State Railroad Museum should be on your bucket list to visit. Outside I got to see an even more rare sight! A working three way stub turnout or switch.  Here are some photos, select them to enlarge!

Friday, May 22, 2020

Product Review: Ultimation Sander from Fast Tracks

I just received my new Ultimation Sander from Fast Tracks. Its Memorial Day Weekend so I have some time to play with it and put it through its paces. This is a precision sanding tool designed to make perfect precise components. My goal in modeling is to make more accurate, more precise models so I do invest in good tools. Its my drug habit. This is a major investment for me as far as tools go. We just have to answer "why would anyone pay $296.60 US for a manual (non-powered) sander and repeater!" Let's find out...

The sander comes packed very well. The box was secure in another box, and the unit is carefully packed in thick bubble wrap.

Fast Tracks loves to send post card literature. It also came with some "instructions", hex wrenches and sanding disks. I bought a few more of them when I made the purchase.

No shortage of packaging!

The knob on the turning crank is loosely screwed on backward to help protect it. Using the provided hex key I quickly turned it around.

I also bought the Ultimation Repeater. The purpose of this device to to help you make precision length and/or angled parts as accurately as possible. Think trestle bents that have to be the perfect angle and length.

Like the sander is was well packaged and free of damage. The products are very nicely machined and laser cut. Its a quality piece of equipment for sure. Quite heavy as well and all metal.

It comes with the Repeater device, a spring loaded "feeder" that attaches to the sander. Also comes with spare parts and hex keys.

When I put the knob on I immediately attempted to turn the sander but it wouldn't move. I quickly noticed that the table had moved slightly in shipping and the sanding wheel was butted up to the metal plate.

A quick adjustment of the table by loosening the screw underneath allowed me to move it slightly and it worked fine after that. The table is on a hinge and is not fastened, so be careful when moving it around so you don't pinch a finger. It would be nice if the table top had a locking feature.

The next thing I grabbed were the "instructions." I put them in quotes because they are really more like a sales pitch than instructions. A person unfamiliar with tools is going to have a hard time with this unless they really follow the video on the website, and even that isn't great for setting up the device. I'm pretty upset that I paid so much for something that came with tons of pretty literature and no instructions for how to use the device!

I set the protractor bar to 90 degrees to test the accuracy of the device right out of the box..

Spot on 90 degrees! Good so far!

Let's check the half way point at 45 degrees...

Again, spot on without any adjustments. I like it when it comes out of the box without having to make adjustments. Good engineering.

There is a handy hole on the bottom of the frame. I found that I really did need to fasten the tool down as it likes to walk on the benchwork. For the time being I used a clamp and fastened it to the workbench.

I like the rubber "grip" on the sanding disk! It is easy to move with your finger or hand and get a very gentle, precise sanding on a part.

Why buy a tool like this? Here is a model of an engine shed that is under construction on my workbench. I model in O-scale so the large beams are a scale 12" and 1/4" standard measure. Its a thick board as far as modeling goes. The only way to precisely cut this is with a saw, and they have to be cut slightly longer so they can be sanded smooth. Trying to cut 50+ short boards with angles cut on both sides and at different angles took me almost two weeks of off and on modeling time. Had I had this tool I could have produced them all in a fraction of the time and at a significantly higher level of precision.

The guys on Wiley's Scale Modeling Podcast site asked me to review the tool when I got it, so here it goes. Wiley's is a podcast for craftsman model kit builders and is extremely helpful for both new and highly experienced model builders. I highly recommend it.

What I want to test first is the ability of the device to duplicate parts and to see how accurate they are. To test it I cut a really poor cutting of a 1/4" piece of harder than normal basswood. The cuts were made with a Northwest Shortline Chopper. The wood is much too thick for a chopper and didn't quite go through, so I broke the board leaving a nasty burr on the tip. That should be a good test.

There! Uneven, unlevel, gross. Perfect for a test! In real life I would have sawed this with a Zona Saw and an X-Acto miter box, using a clamp to hold the wood in place. Very time consuming.

I held the wood against the protractor at a 90 degree position to the sander and gave it a few gentle cranks of the handle. Sawdust piled on top of the wood part. The machine started "walking" across me desk even though I was barely turning the crank.

Using a large clamp I fastened the tool to the workbench. With the glass top it still moved a little. I'll eventually mount it to a wood base and then double clamp the wood to the desk top.

With both ends sanded, I measured the piece with a vernier caliper. 1.3000. As close as I can get to 1.3 inches! Now I want to make five more parts just like it, completely flat and sanded to 90 degrees on either end.

To use the Repeater, you have to remove the protactor. Using the provided wrench and hex key, loosen the nut on the bottom.

My fingers are rather small for a guy 6'2" and I had a hard time getting the nut back on. Finally I lifted the table to get it to work. Some of you may have to fight with that nut to get it off and on because of the other parts underneath the table. Replacing it with a wing nut might be my next step.

The assembly is made with the fine thread screw, compression washer, regular washer and a metric nut.

I put the Repeater on and put in the screw and the knob to lock it in.

The Repeater protractor is 1 degree off from the standard protractor. I decided NOT to adjust the setting because I planned to change it back. We'll just deal with the single degree off.

Using my Caliber Cutter (no longer in production, but a new device is coming out soon!) I cut boards about 1.4000 inches and did it as poorly as I could do it.

You can see here that the boards are crushed on the ends, broken, cut at angles, etc. What we want to do is to sand both sides perfectly and size the whole board to 1.3000 inches.

You remember when I post the photo above of the screw, two washers and the nut? The reason I did that is I accidentally picked up the thicker washer (more likely called a spacer) and put it on the nut assembly, instead of on the tightening knob. When I did this the Repeater would not slide. Never said I was smart, just amazingly attractive.

I mounted the first board I cut into the fixture by sliding the compression device back and dropping the board in. When you let go of the slide, it compresses the board against the sander surface.

After going back and watching the video a second time I realized that I didn't use the "thimble" or micro adjustment correctly. I should have set it so there were a few threads on the left hand side and then put the adjustment to zero. The markings are 0.001 each. There is a locking screw on the thimble that can be set with a hex key. You can adjust the tool to fit the piece or to a measurement.

With the device set I put in a board and began to sand. My natural way was to turn the sander clockwise and the piece politely jumped out of the fixture. Sanding counter-clockwise seems to work better. I sanded one end flush, watching the gap between the thimble and the edge of the spring holder. When it got to half the distance, I flipped the piece and sanded the other side until the thimble rested on the spring holder and the sander turned without friction. You can both feel and hear it.

I cleaned off the sawdust from the piece and some fibrous edges and measured the second piece. 1.3020. Excellent tolerance for O Scale! A shout out to my On30 brothers out there!

As I began working on the third board I noticed the heavy sawdust and the fibrous edges. This is a harder piece of basswood than normal, and was quite messy.  I used a hobby knife to remove the fibers from the edge.

The part measured 1.2985. Again, a good number.

The forth board was not as accurate and I could see that the board had a very slight angle on one end. My thought is that I didn't set the board in correctly. I'll blame that one on me.

Its hard to see in this picture but there is a slight deflection in the board causing the measurement to be off.

In a vain effort to not admit my blunder, I checked the angle of the sanding disc to the table top only to find it a perfect 90 degrees. Yup...Scott's fault.

The sawdust is a pain, and putting the tool over by the vacuum will be a necessity. I'm using a fine brush to keep the work surface clean and the tool accurate.

Boards five and six came out great at 1.3055 and 1.3005 respectively.

Here are the six boards in line and a copy of the test data.

Honestly that is probably more accuracy than I need for O-Scale! I'm totally happy with that. The test data would have been way more accurate had I not botched piece 4. But hey, its just you guys, so I'm not repeating the test.

Ok, let's test the angle cutting ability. This time I didn't make a perfect piece to set up by. I took the cutter and horribly cut six pieces at slightly varying lengths of about 1.2000" and ballpark cut the angles so no two boards are alike.

Here again you can see rough edges, different lengths and bad angles. You know, like my normal quality of work!

I changed the protractor and set the Repeater to 45 degrees. My goal was to get the length of the long side of the board to 1.1500. I put it in and sanded. Just 5 thousandths off.

Another quick turn of the sander and I'm down to 1.1490. Good enough.

There is a video on the Fast Tracks site that you should review before you get started. There are not written instructions for using this tool, and its won't be intuitive for someone not familiar with tools. Take the time to see the video. You pull the spring loaded compression device back and put the board in with the proper angle to the sanding disk. Gently let it spring back into place and start sanding.

On the angles pieces the fibers are becoming much more plentiful! Here you can see the great angle cut, but the Covid "I've not had a hair cut in three months" look. A quick hit with the hobby knife took care of the very fine fibers. I didn't sand them because they are so fine the just move around.

Once the first board was set, I set up the thimble and locked it down. You must lock it in place as it likes to crawl off the threads.

Another good board. I checked the angle too and it was spot on.

The remaining boards came out 1.1490, 1.1510, and 1.1505 respectively. Here's the outcome:

To me these numbers are incredible for sanding. I know I can't do this well cutting and not with a power sander or a Micro-Mark Sand It. And even if I could those options would take forever. These pieces are being made in seconds.

The video recommends cleaning the sandpaper, so I took my brush and easily flicked the dust off to extend the life of the sandpaper.

The Repeater is a bit long and like to reach out and grab things, so be careful. Look at all the extremely fine dust. I am wondering if the sand paper is a bit too course for this kind of work and I make get some finer grit discs and try it.

Look at the edges lined up in an angle! Precision baby! You HAVE to have one of these for large scale wooden structures like trestles, snow sheds or buildings with an angles on them.

Summary: The tool is expensive and is probably out of reach of a lot of folks in the hobby. For those that scratchbuild often and like to work in wood, this tool is almost mandatory. For sure, put it on your Christmas list. Expect no instructions and study this blog post and the linked videos. When you buy it from Fast Tracks, don't buy any wood. Then you can come back with over 300 frequent flyer points and get a lot of free lumber! Enjoy!