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David's Workbench

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David Holman

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....he could be stooped over a live steam loco model doing repairs, with lads in caps admiring the link rods!




Apparently the CVR General Manager and some of the Aughnacloy Works staff built a scale model of a Caledonian 4-4-0 in the evenings after work

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  • 3 weeks later...

Several people have asked me about using DAS clay, so here are a couple of posts on what I do. However, I must point out that this is all taken from Gordon Gravett's books, particularly 'Building a Layout in 7mm Scale' [Wild Swan]. For those of you who have not come across DAS before, the first picture shows a pack. It comes in both grey and terra cotta colours and is an air drying clay which also contains a proportion of shredded paper. Once opened, keep the pack well sealed and it will last for months.

I smear the DAS in pea sized balls on to a frame made of foam board. Use PVA/Resin W to stick the foam board together, but use dress making pins to hold while it dries. Coat both sides of the area to be covered in DAS with PVA, or walls might warp. The DAS should be spread to around 1mm thick and will dry overnight. If you get any cracks, they can easily be covered over with further additions.

The next post will show how I did the chimney.






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The photos show things in reverse order. The first is the final bit, using a damp cotton bud to remove excess mortar colour from the surface of the bricks. This is water colour, which is washed on top of the acrylic brick colour [burnt sienna in this case], once the latter is dry.

Before that, the chimney stack had been built up using pieces of foam board, fitted into the ridge of the roof. A thin coat of PVA goes on, then the DAS is smeared all over, including the top. The latter will give the impression of cement rendering around the bases of the chimney pots. Once the DAS had dried [leaving overnight is best], the surface can be scored with a scriber of choice to give the brick [or stone] courses. I find it helps to have an old toothbrush handy to scrub away the dust made by the scribing. It is also useful to arrange to have a light source coming in from one side, that way, the scribed lines show up better. For brick courses, I scribe horizontal lines a scale 3" apart, with vertical line 9" apart for brick faces. The final picture is a close up of the upper storey of the station building, scribed and painted as above. Tedious, though not as bad as might first appear. Indeed, the hardest part was actually getting started.

One big advantage of this method is you can accurately make brick courses go round the corners of buildings. Not recommended below 7mm scale though...






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  • 1 month later...

A couple of folk have asked me about these, so have attached photos of ones I made using dimensions & photos in the Patterson book. High tech they ain't, but hopefully of some use. To 7mm scale, I've included a 'rule' to help with re-sizing if you want 4mm. At least by going smaller, any errors are reduced accordingly!DSCN2434.jpg


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It seems to have been a very long time since I started this pair of buildings and probably is. A combination of weather [far too hot in the workshop] and holidays, plus the fact that buildings like these, despite being low profile, demand a high amount of work & detail.

Anyway, just about done now, so worth sharing.

Initially, I made the shells for the pub and shop separately [from foam board], but once the DAS clay rendering began, I fixed them together, so they have been treated as a single unit since. The pub and shop windows/surrounds are all plastic strip, building up the profiles in layers, before eventually painting in enamels. The upper walls are just DAS clay, sanded smooth, then given a coat of cement colour [for the pub] and white for the shop. In fact, pure white looks too stark, so I toned it down a bit with a touch of ochre.

Upper floor windows use a technique described by Gordon Gravett, where self adhesive address labels are stuck onto clear perspex, the glazing bars drawn on in pencil & then the window apertures cut out with a craft knife. It is then easier to paint the glazing bars with acrylics, as any paint on the glazing itself is easier to remove.

I pondered long & hard about what I was going to do for the interiors of the buildings. The pub was fairly easy - a piece of card across the window to represent the back of a wooden settle; then everything else [bar, fireplace, clock etc] just drawn on another pieces of card which is actually the back wall. A few items printed from the CG Textures website completed the scene.

The shop was more of a pain until I remembered good old John Ahern. His book on Model Buildings first came out in 1950 & my version goes back to 1970, but in terms of the basics, it really is the Bible. Sure enough, there is a chapter on shop windows, so once that was read, it was pretty straight forward. Both windows are simply layers of 'flats', cut from card & coloured with felt pens, crayons etc. The upper storey windows have simple curtains from coloured paper and nets from tissue.

The pub name [Forbes] refers to Henry of course, though also down to the fact that this was the only name I could make from the raised letters I had available. Clogher Valley pictures show a general store run by David Graham, so a bit of work on the laptop soon produced my version.

The two street lamps are Peco. Plastic mouldings, they are very delicate & for me, every bit as good as the white metal versions from other sources. Easier to make too. As yet they are unpainted, but will probably still end up green - unless JHB suggests otherwise! Some angles do not favour the painted back scene, but overall, 3D & 2D seem to blend in ok & I'm pleased that the road & pavements seem to be fairly seamless.

With the back part of the scene done, hopefully I can now turn my attentions to the station again, in particular the overall roof.






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David, a truly fascinating piece of modelling. I can see you possess the gift of patience. The detail and choice of colours are so good.

I just can't wait to get back to my modelling again soon, just back from Australia yesterday and off to Naples and Rome in three weeks time. Then the challenge begins. With inspiration like yours on this forum, it all helps.

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Many thanks for all the positive comments folks. As ever, such things are great for going on to the next thing, which in this case is the 'train shed'. This is the 'Fintona' aspect of the fantasy, though in fact owes more to Wantage. Some major doodling eventually helped with the design, for which I'd got some quarter inch square balsa strip quite a while ago. A simple jig enabled me to make the five roof trusses. These were glued with Resin W wood glue and once dry I made a false roof from cereal packet card and glued the trusses inside with contact adhesive.

Fitting the roof to the support posts is going to be interesting, not least because it requires the station building to be fixed down as well, so I have a list of things to do so beforehand, one of which is installing uncoupling magnets for the Kaydees. It will be somewhat difficult once the roof is in place - as will back scene detailing in that area & so on...

The roof will eventually be covered in 'wiggly tin', aka Wills 4mm scale corrugated asbestos sheet. The fact that the scale 38' length of the roof is exactly that of two Wills sheets is no co-incidence!


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  • 3 months later...


 Back in July, I posted drawings of Clogher Valley wagons that I'd made resin castings for. After what seems like an eternity, at long last a batch of six are nearing completion.  All are cattle wagons, though half have their drop down sides closed, enabling them to serve as ordinary goods vans. Had hoped the resin sides & ends would speed construction & I suppose they did, but it has still proved a laborious process because the semi open nature of the wagon bodies meant I have had to add a lot of additional detail which could not be cast. There were also some areas which needed fettling because the castings did not come out as well as I'd hoped - mainly small details missing.

 In their unpainted state, you can pick out the areas concerned - mainly along the base, where there is  a gap to allow old bedding to be swept out. The open sided cattle wagons also needed the bars adding, while the roofs were a bit of a pain, being corrugated iron. Slater's sheet was used for this, pre curved by wrapping it round a piece of plastic water pipe. 

 The chassis are Branchlines, with wheels on new axles made from 2mm brass rod. Back to back dimension is 19.5 mm, with pin point ends fashioned on a slitting disc in a mini drill. Crude but effective. The brass wheels and axles will not get attracted to the rare earth magnets I'm using for uncoupling the Kaydees [yet to be added]. Another minor detail is the door chains, which I make from a single strand from multi strand wire, just twisted with a loop on one end.



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I love updates on your workbench David. The wagons look superb and the castings have turned out really well, I can't wait to see them progress. The buildings are so evocative especially Forbes bar and the hardware store. The hardware store reminds me of the much lamented and missed Johhny Hearnes in Waterford city.


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The wagons are now almost complete, with 4/6 having couplings fitted this afternoon. Am kicking myself for not buying some more Kadees at ExpoNG last weekend...

 Painting was initially straightforward, Halfords grey primer being both under and top coat. Like many Irish vehicles, under frames are the same colour as bodywork, though get fairly dirty of course, so it was the usual Martyn Welch weathering mix [Humbrol 133 & 53] brush painted.

 Lettering came next, hand done, using a white gel pen. One of these days I will get round to acquiring a proper bow pen, but for now I find that the gel works ok as long as you don't look too close...

The corrugated roofs got the same author's treatment, this time running a dilute weathering mix into the grooves and [once dry] dry brushing Humbrol 64 [light grey] to highlight the ridges.

 Bodywork then got an even more dilute mix of the weathering colour, then after an hour or so, once it was dry, but not fully 'set', I got to work with weathering powders. I find this works well in terms of the powders not needing to be sealed with varnish as they are fixed by the paint.







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Nice touch with the grass growing siding, with shrubs and bushes at the stop blocks.  The CVR seems to have been a spit & polish operation with well turned out locos & stock and well kept stations right up to closure in 1941.  With Sir Basil Brooke (NI Prime Minister)  and Henry Forbes on the Committee of management they would have run a pretty tight ship

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Absolutely brilliant work as always. This is an amazingly original layout.

Another thing about the lettering. Any time a vehicle of any sort had white lettering or numerals applied on any railway, the white would weather to a more creamy shade almost immediately, exactky as shown above. This may be used as an example of the  CIE "snails", numbers and / or  roundels on wagons at any time. Clear, stark, pristine white never looks right - it needs to be treated to look like this in terms of weathered shade.

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A good day's work?

 One of the advantages of being a serial layout builder is that I frequently go where the muse takes me. A bit of a butterfly mind one would say & maybe a dustbin one too...

Anyway, after tidying up the workbench following recent efforts with Fintonagh's baseboards & infrastructure, I decided to have a go at something new. Actually, not quite true, as I'm always plotting what might be the best way to move my projects forward & CVR Railcar No1 has been working its way up my mental list for some time. Indeed, I'd hoped to buy a set of etchings from Worsley Works at Expo Narrow Gauge a week or so ago, but sadly the redoubtable Alan Doherty seemed to have everything but, while the website suggests it may not be available for a while. So, a scratch build then.

 Not too much of a problem [hopefully!], as I've built several of the beasts over the years, starting with a 4mm scale Taurgem kit of a pair of Colonel Stephens railcars & then going through various 7mm narrow gauge versions including a 'rail-lorry' made from a Corgi Lipton's tea van, then a Waggon & Mashcinbau BR railbus [just before the Heljan one came out], before finally doing the SLNCR railbus and Walker railcar for Arigna. I've got the 7mmNG Society drawing, a range of photos in books and ones I took myself at Cultra, plus the Alphagraphix card kit and even some bits left over from the CVR 'Unit' I made from Worsley etches earlier this year. On the latter, knowing I was going to do the Railcar at some point, I made my own castings for the roof and bonnet sections, so I've got a fair bit to get me started.

 The plan is that the chassis of the tractor unit will be in nickel silver, while most of the rest will be plasticard, with seats cast from resin. So, this morning, I delved into my 'nickel silver' box [there's a brass one too], to see what bits were available. There was [just] enough 30 thou sheet for the frame sides, while frets I'd kept from the two SLNCR 'small tank' kits yielded material for frame spacers and coupling rods.

 I follow what I believe is the standard practice for making a simple chassis. Two pairs of 'blanks' were cut, one for frame sides, the other for the coupling rods. I'll confess to being a bit of a heathen here, preferring to use a reinforced slitting disc in the Dremel to a coping saw any day.Each pair was soldered together, then the rods were clamped & soldered to the frame sides, so I could drill for the rods and axle holes through all four pieces. This then means the axles and coupling rods line up perfectly - not always a gimme where kits are concerned, I've found - though newer ones [probably drawn on computer] are much more accurate these days.

 Once drilled, each pair of rods and frame sides were separated & filed to shape. Finally, all four pieces were separated, then I cut for frame spacers so I could assemble the frames, using one eighth stainless steel rod through the bearings to ensure everything was nice and square. Finally, for today, I added small brass washers to the rods to beef up the bosses, plus some fluted brass strip to make them thicker and the correct profile. All this took getting on for five hours and the pictures below don't seem to amount to much, but [fingers crossed], once the wheels arrive, I should have a working chassis in fairly good time after. Watch this space!




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Wow! That'll bring to another level, not that that's easily achieved!  Fantastic stuff - I'm sure i won't be the only one following this with great interest. 

Odd that they painted the "Unit" grey and the railcar brown - because the idea was that when the railcar power bogie was being serviced, they could remove the body from the "Unit" and stick it under the passenger car. I am unaware, despite the high mileage that the thing clocked up, as the absolute mainstay of almost ALL passenger services, of any eyewitness report of the "Unit" being coupled to the passenger saloon. Maybe it happened, maybe it didn't. But to have both on the same layout is, as far as I am aware, a first.

Now, the question is, can a modeller of even your great stature produce a working Fintona horse? I wouldn't be surprised! :-) 

Out of interest, is anyone else aware of the "Unit" being used with the railcar body?

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Measure twice, cut once...

 It had all been going so well, but then the wheels arrived in the post from Slaters & upon fitting them, it soon became apparent that the chassis was sitting much higher than that of the 'Unit'. I'd taken the latter apart, so I could compare & contrast with 'the one I'd built earlier' & I found I'd drilled the bearing holes too low in the frames. So, a pox on my measuring then.

 A bit of head scratching [& not a little bad language] seemed to indicate two options - build a new set of frames, or investigate fitting new bearings in horn blocks, thereby adding springing or compensation. I'd done this a few years ago with a couple of Slater's Manning Wardle kits & it must be said, the locos ran superbly. However, the Slaters website only seems to have horn blocks for 3/16" axles, but the Railcar ones are 1/8". A bit more searching turned up some of the latter on the Dart Castings website. Seems they are intended for the Sharman 'flexichas' compensation system & given this is an 0-4-0 I'm working on, am hoping a fixed driven axle, with the other one able to 'rock' ought to be possible. Bearings and horn blocks are just £6. Shame postage is another £3 though!

 So, while waiting for these to arrive, I made a start on the bodywork for the tractor unit. A 'footplate' was cut from 80thou [2mm thick] plasticard, with a slot cut in the front, so I could let in the radiator casting I'd made for the Unit. Here, another unwanted issue presented itself. On the completed Unit, I'd put the distinctive 'side beams' level with the top of the buffer beam, when they should actually sit just above. Something else on the 'to do list' then.

 The cab bodywork has proved extremely challenging to get my head round, because it is made up of all sorts of different angles & levels. In itself, it is just a collection of plasticard rectangles, but working out what to cut when has caused a lot of thinking & several false starts. Using the completed Unit as a reference point has not been helpful either as its dimensions are not consistent with the 7mm Narrow Gauge Society drawings. Hence, am sticking to the latter, though the Alphagraphix card kit [which must be based on same] is helpful both as templates & for some of the inside cab detail. The 'dashboard', for example has simply been cut out & stuck in place. Same for the cab floor. Realised it was also necessary to paint the cab interior at this stage & that was done with acrylic brown, which of course dries quickly.

 The body work was built in layers, with a 40thou inner shell and 20thou outer shell to enable the tumblehome on the cab sides and make the bonnet sides appear separate. This work was only done up to the base of the windows, because it seemed to make sense [to me, at least] to make the upper glazed section separately & then fit the resin cast bonnet & roof sections around this. Only time will tell if this is success or not! However, while the Unit is not quite going to be the identical twin of the Railcar tractor unit, its chassis has enabled me to try the cab body on it & if the two will not be interchangeable like the real things, it is helping me carrying on building till the hornblocks arrive. 

 Photos show progress thus far - the castings need quite a bit of fettling, while the bonnet needs a run of louvres on the long side, plus there is a fair bit of beading to add. Am just hoping I don't see any fresh errors when I go back to it...




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