Tuesday, December 31, 2013

093 The Navajo Mining Railway - Depot Base Work

Now that I can paint, we'll finish the depot in a few days.  I'm going to need to complete the base for it, so let's work on that tonight.  Working with me on workbench #2 will be my daughter Taylor who is painting a Forth of July picture.  Guess she is tired of the snow, too.

We stained some ties the other day, so let's put down the track.  We'll use the new tie jig we made as well.

I put in the ties, applied a layer of masking tape, and pulled out a strip of ties.  Using Carpenter's Glue (stronger than straight white glue) I put down a thin coating using my finger to smear it around.  Then I applied the ties and left the masking tape there while the glue dries.

While the track dies, let's get a foundation under the building.  I'm going to use Dr. Ben's Baby Building Blocs to make the stone foundation.  Rock is easy to come by here in Utah and the sandstone cuts well, so a foundation of this type material is well suited.

The blocs are a sandy-brown color.  Using white glue I put down a thin line of adhesive along the foundation line, and start stacking the blocs one at a time.  This is time consuming, but I enjoy it.  In the background I've got the blues playing, featuring Muddy Waters.  Blues is GREAT music to build by!

Next, I put down the runners for the walkway.  Since this is low to the ground and won't be seen, I just glue them down with white glue.

After waiting a few minutes (white glue when applied thin dries fairly quickly) I take the blocs and put another layer around the foundation, staggering the blocs half way over the lower level in Lego fashion. Click on the photo to enlarge.

The ties are dry, so I pulled of the masking tape.  I put down Micro Engineering Code 83 weathered rail sections using some Micro Engineering small spikes and an NMRA track gauge.

Let's deck the walkway!  Using the pre-stained wood and a 30-60-90 angle to keep us straight, I start putting down about 1/2" of boards at a time using white glue.  I don't want it to look to perfect, but don't want it too unperfect either.  Every once in a while stand back and look at your work and see if it is pleasing to the eye.

There!  The decking is done.  Notice the nice coloring of the different boards.  While it is a bit much now, when I weather it with a light wash later the colors will shift and be more in line instead of like stripes.

While there may not be a reason to do this, I painted the interior of the foundation a dark brown just in case you can see through anywhere.  I just used cheap craft paints.

I still haven't chosen all my colors for the layout yet.  That takes some time.  So for now I'll use a sandy tan color as a base.  Always use lighter colors for base coats, not darker.  The dark can show through and is harder to get out once its down.

Done!  While I probably should have painted it before I put the track down, it really won't matter as it will be 100% scenicked and textured when I'm done.  This coat really just seals the wood, and gives a better surface for the glue to adhere to.


1.  Paint and stain your wood with the knowledge that you will add an all-over weathering coat later.
2.  Dioramas are a great way to test scenery colors and textures prior to using them on the layout.
3.  Craft paints like Delta Ceramcoat, FolkArt, and Apple Barrel are inexpensive and give you lots of coverage.  Keep a supply handy and buy them on sale, especially after the holidays.

Monday, December 30, 2013

092 The Navajo Mining Railway - Airbrush Cabinet Vent


I needed to hook up my air brush cabinet.  It is Christmas Time, which means we've spent a lot of cash on presents, so I don't have $150 lying around to put in a vent.  Let's try to do it on the cheap!  Actually the real problems are:

1.  My basement area is just too small until we buy a new house...working on it.
2.  I don't have a place in my shop for the air brush cabinet
3.  I don't want to spend $150 more on the airbrush cabinet
4.  I don't have enough uninterrupted time today to do this right.

After searching the stores for a higher velocity bathroom fan, I did find this.  It is an Inductor air mover.  I don't paint with solvent paints, so this in line air mover might just work.  It is rated for 160 cfm to 250 cfm.  This is a lot more than the noisy bathroom fans!

Here is a look inside the 6" pipe.  The fan wires up to 120 volt and is very secure, and after a test...it is very quiet!

Here is the window where I plan to use to vent the fumes. This is a basement window that gets good natural draw out...perfect.  It is under the layout, so it will not be seen.

Here is the airbrush cabinet that I made over three years ago.  It has never been used.  The light had been missing for some time, and I just recently found it.

The rear of the airbrush cabinet is a 6" vent...perfect.

Using painter's caulk, I heavily caulked and sealed the vent.

The window will take a 23" by 14" plate for the vent.  Using a small piece of 3/8" plywood, I cut the board.

After test fitting in the window, I trimmed a little more off.  The next steps were not photographed because I was up in the garage, and it was very cold...so I wanted to finish as quickly as possible.  Essentially what I did was cut a hole in the plywood, and mount the fan.  Then I build a box around the fan assembly to protect it and to hold the wiring.

Here I am wiring a SPST switch and adding a power cord.  The box is made of 3/8" plywood using glue and 1" brads.

I put two handles on either side of the box to make it easier to move in and out of the window.  The initial tests of the fan draw were disappointing.  This is no where near 160 cfm...probably more like 70 cfm.

I connected the duct work to the cabinet and the vent and hit the switch.  Oh, this is not good.

I gave it the match test.  Essentially you light a match in the cabinet and there should be enough draw to pull the flame to the back of the cabinet, but not quite blow out the light.  Or, you can blow it out and watch the smoke drift to the back.  Neither happened.


Now I'm out about $30 and STILL have to build a proper vent.  That sucks.


1.  Sometimes cutting corners doesn't work.  Stick with tried and true methods when money is involved.
2.  Test the vent fan thoroughly before installing it.
3.  If you don't have time to work on something properly...just wait until you do have time.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

091 The Navajo Mining Railway - Mining Uranium in Utah

I haven't done all the research yet on my layout...it will take time.  At night when I have a minute I poke around on the internet to see what I can find.  This is a GREAT article, though a little later in the time line than my layout.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

090 The Navajo Mining Railway - Staining Crossties for On30

I plan to get some track done in the next few days.  There is still a switch and some flex track to be installed...so I'll try to do that tomorrow.  We are going to need some crossties, so let's do that tonight so they have time to dry thoroughly.

This is EASY to do...but can be extremely messy.  I've done it a lot...so follow the instructions to a "T" and you won't go to work next week with black stained fingers.  First, clear off your work area and put on old clothes.  I wear an old black T-shirt and old jeans...and no socks.  You'll need a metal pan to catch accidents.

I've got two bags of crossties.  We'll do about 2,500 of them, then stain more if needed.  Always had a hard time estimating how many I need, so now I just do half of what I need.  These are sugarpine ties and they take dye really easy.

You need a bottle of black shoe or boot dye.  This is DYE and not shoe polish.  A mistake here will have you throwing out ties.   ALWAYS keep this powerful dye in a bag with a zip lock closure.  Don't think you'll ever spill a drop....just try me.  Or ask my friend Coalfinger Ken how he got his nickname!  Special note: other colors of dye such as gray or blue do NOT always work as they are more colorant than dye, so be careful and experiment.

You'll need some isopropyl alcohol.  Don't worry about the water content or alcohol percentage.  Just get the cheapest you can find and keep the empty bottles.

You can use disposable gloves, but I like the heavy dishwashing/housework kind.  I have one pair that is ONLY for dying ties and keep them in a bag labeled for this purpose.  You'll also need a glass jar, drinking glass with a wide opening or possibly an old tin can.  This is the dye bath.  I've covered my pan with two sheets of paper towel.

A long pair of tweezers will help you keep your fingers out of the dye.  A few stir sticks, like a popsicle stick, are helpful for mixing the dye solution.

I poured about 4 oz of alcohol into the glass, and added about 1/2 oz of black shoe dye. Stir with a popsicle stick.  Normally I start out with a light/thin wash solution, and gradually keep adding dye until it gets as dark as I want it.  I'll dye a handful of ties with each level of darkness giving me a mixed assortment of weathered ties.

Take a handful of ties.  Don't try to work with more than this.  Drop it into the solution.

Using your popsicle stick, stir the ties around in the solution making sure they are well coated.  Leave them in for 5-10 minutes or so.  Different ties, and even different batches of ties from the same materials, will stain differently.

Let the ties soak up the dye.  Watch them and stir occasionally to get them a bit darker than you would like them to be.  The colorant lightens up as the ties dry, usually to a nice weathered looking silver/gray color.

Fish the ties out with your tweezers, shaking off the excess fluid.  Put them on the towels and stir them around.  Try to get the wetness off of them as quickly as you can and unstick any ties that are together.

I usually use my hand to mix them up and stir them around.

Using another pan, paper plate or towel, move the ties you just stained to a dryer towel and let them dry out.

Add some more black dye...or in my case, I got the dye mix too dark, so I'm going to pour out some dye into the empty alcohol bottle and put more clear alcohol into the glass.  This will make the solution lighter.

Stain, dump, stir and move them to a drying towel.

Here you can see them drying out and turning a light gray.  One batch is slightly lighter than the other.

The alcohol dries quickly, but sugarpine sucks it up deep into the tie causing them to swell.  Getting them dry quickly is important, so I put them under a hot lamp.

Again I thin out the black dye and stain another handful....dry, move, make some more.  I did this five times with a total of 2,500 crossties.

When putting away your suppliers, put all dye materials in zipper bags and label them properly.  Spills occur, as do leaks.  Do not take chances or something will get destroyed.

I keep all my staining materials in one plastic box and I hide it from everyone so that accidents don't occur.  Trust the man with the black finger nails....do this necessary step!

Here we have five plates full of ties, each a slightly different shade.  These ties have not been distressed yet, but will on the layout.  I stain them now so that 100% of the tie has color.  You cannot stain a tie that has glue or glue residue on it.  Once they are glued down, I'll distress and sand them flat, then give them a spray coating of tie stain just before laying rail.

Stand by for laying track!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Review: Panavise Model 301

I recently received as a Christmas present a Panavise Model 301.  For many years I've wanted one of these, but they are very expensive.  My shop has had a smaller, similar type vise that has served me well, but I still wanted a Panavise.  Let's take a look at it.

Here is the vise I've used for 20+ years.  Like the Panavise, it has a ball head and is easy to position.  This one is much smaller than the Panavise, and the jaws are not quite as smooth.  I don't know the make or model, but remember paying only $12 for it at a tool outlet similar to Harbor Freight.  In fact, Harbor Freight has a similar one that might work for you for $16:  http://www.harborfreight.com/2-3-4-quarter-inch-articulated-vacuum-vise-3311.html

The only reason I don't already have one is the price.  They are $49 on Amazon, without shipping. Also, this one is much bigger than my old one.  The ball latch is much stronger, too, which is a big plus.  Let's put it together.  First I take them out of the boxes.  They are packed in heavy shipping boxes, and wrapped in paper.  They aren't oily like some tools and have a nice silver finish.  There is no flash or rough edges.  They come from Reno, Nevada USA, just so you know.  The clamping system is huge and very heavy.  One problem I can see already is that it has a big handle on the back that sticks out from the workbench, which I don't like.  I don't want to mount the vise to the work surface because sometimes you need the whole surface. Clamping is much better in my opinion.

The mounting clamp #311 is $45 on Amazon, which is not cheap. Using the screws provided (very high quality) I mounted the vise onto the bracket.  The machining of this tool is excellent...much better than the old one.  Wow...it is really big.  Much bigger than I expected at seven inches from the work table.

I put the 3M rubber feet on the bottom to help protect the wood surface.  Once that was done, I locked it into place with a smooth moving screw turn.  My file drawers underneath wouldn't open where I put it, so I had to move it around to get a better location.  There are lots of other parts to Panavises such as soldering station tools, wide jaws, vacuum bases and other things that make this tool very popular with model railroaders.

This is a really nice vise...but very large.  My left arm will not like it I'm sure.  Can't wait to try it though.  I don't usually keep the vise this close to the work area, so I'll move it out of the way, and then move it back when needed.  All the mechanisms work very smoothly and without grinding or binding.

I went to register the gift on line with Panavise at www.panavise.com but the site was down.  It's Christmas, so maybe they are doing work on the site.  I'll just send it in the old fashioned way with a card.  In the comments section I did let them know that price was the issue why I didn't have one already.

The form will get mailed this week, and I did look through the colorfull calendar.  Will it serve my needs, probably so.  Do I REALLY need a Panavise brand vise?  Probably not.  Since I spend a great amount of my time and dollars with model trains, I feel I should have the best equipment, so I'm glad to have it.  But consider the $16 Harbor Freight variety before shelling out $94 + freight and tax on a Panavise.  Honestly, I would have never bought this and would have settled on a cheaper model.  But now that I do have it...let's get it dirty!

1.  Christmas is a great time to get the tools you need, just be sure to give your family the model numbers.
2.  Amazon is getting to be a very cost effective place to get modeling tools
3.  Beware of tool brand envy as it can mean you spend too much for something that is similar and a lot less costly.