So What’s the Problem, Jack?

The fall is almost upon us and the “traditional” modeling season is about to begin.  I’m looking forward to the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season, which will be enhanced by the fact that I’ve got almost 3 weeks of vacation scheduled during these times.  The last time I made really significant progress on the train room and layout was during this same period last year.  As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I’ve done some work during the summer, but I’m not anywhere close to where I thought I’d be at this time.

As I’ve also mentioned, my biggest hang up has been the light fixture valence.  Several of you have asked why such a long delay due to a simple thing like a valence.  OK, I’ll give you the story.

The construction plan was to attach 2×4 lumber to the ceiling, with the edges flush with the future layout edges.  Gypsum board was to be applied to the bottom to meet the fire code, and the fluorescent strip lights installed to the sandwich.  This was done, and turned out reasonably well.  Photos appear on the website.

The next step was to cut 1/8″ thick hardboard panels (Masonite) to the proper width, then screw them to the sides of the 2×4’s to form the valence.  That’s when the problems began.  It became apparent early on that the hardboard panels alone presented a rather unfinished appearance.  The joints between panels were just too crude. To make matters worse, the ceiling had several undulations in it (not apparent when simply viewing the ceiling) and this created places where the hardboard panel didn’t fit tight to the ceiling leaving big gaps in a number of locations.

I searched around and found what appeared to be an excellent solution for the joints.  Home Depot had some plastic moldings that were used for the joints in 1/8″ prefinished panels that are typically used in bathrooms and kitchens.  There were moldings to trim exposed edges, others to join panels end to end, and yet others to create corners.  I bought an assortment of all this.

When I tried to apply the moldings, I encountered my next problem.  I had already primed and painted the hardboard panels, and the additional thickness added by the paint wouldn’t allow the moldings to just slip on the panel edges as they were supposed to.  After much agonizing, I decided to pull the panels down, then using a router, I was able to shave off enough material on the ends and bottom edges of the panels to allow the moldings to slip on.

The panels were re-hung, and the ends had molding slipped into place.  Everything good so far.  The only joints that were still a problem were at places where the panels met at other than 90 degree angles.  There were no moldings for this type of joint.  I figured I would think about this awhile while continuing with the installation.

To solve the ceiling gap problem, I simply bought inexpensive shoe molding, and nailed it to the junction.  This worked out fine.

By now another problem began to surface.  Some of the panels were beginning to warp, particularly the longer ones.  By warping, I mean they started getting wavy, which was very pronounced at the bottoms.  I wasn’t prepared for this sort of thing.  The panels had been primed and had two coats of paint on both sides.  They are in a centrally heated and air conditioned room.  But they still warped.

As an experiment, Wayne and I clamped a piece of L shaped sheet metal that I had on hand to the bottom of one of the panels, and that easily pulled it back into alignment.  So for the (hopefully) permanent solution I’m going to glue 1×2 lumber to the bottom inside edges of the panels to pull them into alignment.

The odd joint angle problem has been the hardest to solve.  I looked high and low and found nothing suitable for these joints.  Also, because of the warpage, many of the panels don’t naturally meet well at the corners, and will therefore have to be pulled back into alignment.  This means that the joints will have to have some structural integrity.  I have a tentative solution now.  We cut some special 5 sided strips of wood on the table saw, and I think that these may work to make the joints.  They will be glued into the backside of the joint, so the outside will remain clean.  I’m thinking of applying a bent strip of thin styrene over the outside just to cover the seam.

The last steps will be to slip the bottom molding on the edges, then apply another coat of paint to the entire assembly.  As a side note, the panels were pre-painted so I could lay them flat on the floor and use a roller.  Even this was fraught with frustration as the little bit of paint that ran down the edges caused the panels to stick to the plastic sheeting on the floor, requiring a whole bunch of trimming and sanding between coats of paint.  In hindsight, had I known at the get-go that I would be applying all this molding, I would have skipped painting the panels initially and done all the painting at the end.  This would also have eliminated the need for the tedious and time-consuming routing session with the panels.

So, to answer the question: since I had no clean solution, I did little work on the valence during the summer.  Instead, I did other things around the building, primarily in the shop area.  And I also spent considerable time doing things not directly related to the railroad, but nevertheless, things that had to be done.

I’m hopeful that this remaining valence work will be completed during my holiday.  We also have to fabricate and hang some view blocks down the center of the peninsulas, but I don’t think they will be any particular problem (the view blocks are simply to keep the lights on the opposite side from being visible).  They will simply hang on hooks from the ceiling, so the work on them can occur at ground level.

That pile of benchwork lumber in the center of the room should be well seasoned by now!