Friday, December 13, 2013

076 The Navajo Mining Railway - Installing Depot Windows

Tomorrow a big snow storm will hit Utah.  Our first of the season.  That tells go to the basement!  Let's go work on the little depot.

Can't see out to enjoy the snow, so let's cut some windows in the walls!

The tv is always fun when I'm working down in the dungeon.  Today I'm watching a video on scratchbuilding.

First we'll take the windows out and trim them up.

Each window is on a sprue, which has got to go!

There are several different ways to remove a sprue.  I use either the sprue cutter (best) or the hobby knife.

With a quick "clip" the sprue is gone and I have minimal remains left on the part.  The reason I like the sprue cutter is that it is faster, more precise and much safer.

Having cut out the windows (actually I need six, but two escaped from the picture somehow and are on a boat to Mexico) We need to check them carefully for flash and imperfections.  I'll give Grandt Line credit, their casting are very nice and seldom have a glitch.

I'll use a sanding stick to finish off the sprue tab and to clean any flashing off of the windows.

This is similar to an emery board, but much thicker and stronger.  The abrasive is very fine.  You don't want to mill too much of the window off!

If you click on this photo you may be able to see the small injection port markings at the tip of the hobby knife.  These are raised up and would interfere with window glazing when I want to put them on later, so I sand them flat.

Hot chocolate warms me up in the cold basement.  Its 17 degrees and dropping outside.  Brrrr....but nice and warm down here.

A small oil filled heater keeps me warm on really cold nights, and it is much safer than other heaters.  I always keep in mind that I have glue, paints, alcohol and other accelerants here in the basement.  Should it catch on fire, my children would be in danger.  Safety first. The fire extinguisher is OUTSIDE of the room so that I can use it.  Never keep it near the accelerants.

I draw a line vertically using an angle and the point of the roof as a reference.  All of the windows are three feet up, so I draw a horizontal line there.  The window is measured and then divided by two, the steel rule is set and a mark is made for either side of the window.  I mark the line with the angle.  I measure the length of the window, and make that mark on the top.  Now we have a hole to cut.

Quickly I check the hole against the window so that I make sure I didn't make a mistake.  The old saw "measure twice, cut once" is very appropriate in scratchbuilding.

DON'T USE YOUR MEASURING RULE AS A STRAIGHT EDGE FOR CUTTING!  Hope you can read that.  Use an expendable ruler with a metal edge as this one does.  Once a year in the summer these rulers go on back to school sales for a quarter to fifty cents each.  Buy a bunch of them. Using the ruler and starting on the flat side of the board, make gentle cuts on the VERTICAL side of the window hole first.  The reason for this is because it is the most wood to cut through and the most critical cut you'll make.  The horizontal cut will take about three passes with the blade, the vertical will take 20.  This is due to the clapboard siding on the other side.

Take your time and do this right.  You are in NO RUSH.  Be calm.  Be patient.  Stop drinking coffee.  If you go fast you might slip with the knife and cut the wood or even break the piece.  If you cut the window even a slight amount, say 2" off in O scale, you can see it when your model is finished.  Really.

Test fit the window and make it as straight as you can.  Even better, take a picture of it as close up as you can and look at it.  Cameras are evil about showing problems and a lens WILL pick it up.  Our window is slightly more snug than I care for it to be, but that is by design.  See that little piece of wood on the left I took out of the hole???

That wood is now a template for cutting out the other windows!  When you use a scrap piece like this always take time to label it, or you'll be looking for it all over.  Normally I keep a red pen for such work, but it went to Mexico with the two windows and a bottle of tequila.

Now I just need to measurement lines, the vertical center line and the window base line.  Take your #2 pencil and draw around the template!

Ok, for those of you who might not believe me, these two units ARE DIFFERENT!  Click the picture and tell me how in a comment.  Let's see how good you listen and observe!

Next, we'll work on the front of depot.  I'm going a bit off plan.  The plan has only one door on one side.  I like a back door, so we will put a door on either side.  This makes these two side equivalent.

Using our drawing we can figure out where the windows and doors need to be.  We'll have to make some estimates because the drawing doesn't have enough measurements to go by, and it is out of scale.

To me it looks like the center line of the door is in the dead middle, and the windows center lines are in the center of each half.  I draw vertical lines at the 5', 10' and 15' marks on my 20' side wall.

Doors are a bit more tricky in that the door itself fits into the door frame, so all parts must be clean and fit neatly.

Using the sprue cutter and sanding stick, I clean up the casting and make sure they fit.  Don't worry about dust and fingerprints right now as we'll get those later when we wash the parts.

Using the window templates I draw out the windows.  I measure the door frame and sketch it out as well.

There!  Lots of holes.  Caution, the wall is very delicate right now and can break easily since it has not been reinforced yet.  Be gentle!

We test fit the castings and make sure everything fits.  Trim any gaps with a hobby knife and a sanding stick.

Now draw out and cut the second side and you are done!

Here are all the parts waiting on the next step.  I'm going to research colors next, and then we'll go to work on reinforcing the walls.


1.  Its better to cut out the window holes too small, and sand them to size.
2.  You CAN see a window that is crooked by as little as 2" in O-scale!  So can the camera!
3.  Basswood is delicate and can break if you cut too deep or fast.


  1. Looks like the L/H window is slightly lower than the R/H?


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