Dremel Tool and Bit Rack

Over the years I’ve acquired four Dremel Moto-Tools, each of which came with an assortment of bits, accessories, and tool parts.  And each time I needed a bit or accessory, I’d spend more time rummaging through the tools cases where the tidbits were stored than actually doing the work.  So I cobbled this rack together from “scraps of scraps” (literally).  I liked the finished result so much that I caved at the end and shot a coat of paint on the thing.

Dremel Bit Rack 1

Dremel Bit Rack 2

The blue plastic box came with my last motor tool purchase.  I simply screwed it to the rack and will use it to hold sanding drums, polishing pads, etc.


A New Drill Press (and other ramblings)

What with all the functions and family things going on at this time of year, I’ve scarcely had time to do anything of great magnitude out in the train room for several weeks now.  I have however, managed to pick away at lots of little things.  I thought I’d post this quick update of what’s going on.

I’ve mentioned a couple times that I needed to start modifying all of my Shinohara code 70 switches to be “DCC friendly”.  I have about 40 or so of these things to work on, and trackwork has come to a grinding halt until I get some of them done.  A drill press should make the task considerably easier.  I’ve had a large floor model press for years, however it simply has too much run-out in the chuck (or perhaps the arbor) for it to be of use with tiny wire size drills.  So I ended up purchasing a small table-top model that I think will be better suited to the task.  Upon arrival and assembly, the first realization was that I didn’t have anything suitable to sit it on out there in the train room.  So I cobbled together a small table from scraps, slapped a coat of paint on it, and now have a stout, compact place to operate the press on.  I chucked a pin vise adapter into the machine and inserted a number 70 drill bit.  I’ve only run it for a minute or so and haven’t drilled any holes yet, but I can tell the bit is running much truer than it would have in my large floor press.  Hopefully I’ll be able to start work on the switches soon.

Wayne Robichaux came over to lend a hand and we’ve installed the first 15 feet of fascia to the layout edge.  It sure makes a difference in the appearance, with even Wayne remarking how it made the layout look like a real layout (whatever that means….).  Nah, just kidding, I know what he’s getting at….even unpainted, it adds a nice finished look to the edge.  We will install perhaps another 20 feet or so along the mainline between Willis and Maynard.  I’ll hold off installing it in other areas until all track is down and wired, and the switch motors are installed.

I keep crawling under the layout to connect more track feeders to the power bus.  I’m connecting feeders to each switch and to almost every length of flex track.  That’s producing a LOT of feeders.  The only track sections without feeders are those soldered to an adjacent section that has a feeder.  I hope this pain now will be rewarded years down the road with good, dependable electrical performance.

I’ve another half dozen minor tasks that I’ve completed, but this post is becoming long-winded, so I’ll spare y’all the details.  Now that I have some fascia applied, I can begin installing some of the fascia mounted items such as throttle plug-ins and switch panels.  I’ll also have car card boxes, work shelves and a few other odds and ends on the fascia, but those will come much later when we are nearing operation.

I’ll post a photo or two in the next week or so when we finish the fascia project.

I’d like to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a great New Year!


A Surprise from Testors

I was somewhat distressed to read the Testor Corporation announcement a few weeks ago regarding the impending demise of Floquil paint.  In fact, they are discontinuing not only the Floquil line, but also the PollyScale and Pactra lines of paint.  I don’t use the latter brands, but Floquil has been my mainstay paint since back in the 60s.

Floquil has undergone “renovation” at least twice since it was brought into the Testors fold, primarily changing the solvent in the paint to something less volatile and smelly.  I haven’t used the latest formulation, but have read that, while still good, it isn’t quite the same as the old Floquil.

Nevertheless, in my paranoia about having to switch to (probably) an acrylic type of paint (which I’ve never had any particular success with), I decided to stock up with enough Floquil to last me for at least a few years.  Fortunately, MicroMark recently ran a sale with their final price being about 30% off the (ridiculous) retail price.  I ordered 28 different colors, getting multiple bottles of my favorites, to hopefully last me a while.

R.I.P. Floquil.

I’ve done a bit more on the layout since my post a few weeks ago, finishing up those tasks last mentioned.  One of the things I’ve noticed about the Homasote now available is the inconsistency of its thickness.  This is most noticeable (and problematic) when butting sheets against each other.  I’ve tried sanding the high side to match the lower edge, but with limited success.  I’ve had better results using drywall compound to build up the low side.  It’s easy, but time consuming because it generally requires 2-4 applications to do a nice job of feathering the two surfaces into something roughly even.  I’ve done a bunch of that where track crosses the boundaries.  I’ve also roughly filled the seams in where there will be no track.

I prefer yellow wood glue for attaching my Homasote to the plywood base.  At wide panels, I use drywall screws to hold the Homasote to the plywood while the glue dries.  Afterward, I remove the screws for re-use elsewhere.  I back-filled all the holes created to date with the mud so I wouldn’t have scenery materials being swallowed up later by those holes.

I’ve started laying more of the raised roadbed for the mainline, and now have the tracks from the west staging yard actually entering the visible portion of the layout.

This weekend I plan to lay more roadbed and perhaps more track.  Stay tuned for further news.


More Track Going Down

Layout progress continues at a slow, but indeed at a steady pace.  As you’ve read in previous posts, I’m starting with all of the (mostly) hidden staging track as it’s the furthest away from the aisle and the most difficult to work with.  The Louisiana Central trackage is complete, including wiring, and is operational, sans a switch machine at the entry to the area.  This past weekend saw the start of trackage for the Illinois Central staging area.  I’ve got enough roadbed completed to do all of the staging track at that end of the layout.

I’ve run the power bus along with the track I’ve been installing, and tapping the bus along the way to feed the track as I progress.  I have the bus temporarily connected to the command station/booster for testing purposes.  Last week I installed a backboard and shelf for one of the three planned booster districts.  I’ll be using DCC Specialties PSX circuit breakers to further sub-divide each power district, and I’ve installed the three C/Bs for the district I’m working in.  I still have to run the interconnecting wiring between the booster and the C/Bs, and then connect the power buses.  When that is done, the wiring for the entire sub-district will be complete, and the other sub-districts can be connected as they’re run.

I don’t generally get any work done on the layout during the work week, however I thought maybe I could devote a bit of time in the evenings to working simple projects, like building car kits and such.  I have an old roll-top desk in my living room that is unused, in fact it was my hobby workbench before my permanent bench was completed out in the train building.  I’ve decided to reactivate the old desk as a secondary workbench, and have recently started to restock it with common tools and supplies….whatever is needed for the “simple” projects.  I have read several times that doing small tasks like that can have a significant impact on overall progress, so I’m going to give it a shot.

As I’ve mentioned before, I operate regularly on Lou Schultz’s C&O Railroad over in Covington.  I’m sure most of you know that Lou has been going through quite an ordeal with a health issue for the past month or so.  Please keep him in your prayers to help get him through this.


Practice Clouds

Well, today I got a little more cloud painting practice in.  I had talked about my initial efforts a few weeks ago in the post Navigating the Roadblocks.  In that exercise, I had used white “rattle can” spray paint with modest success.  Today I fired up my new Paasche spray gun and put it through its paces.

The results were disastrous!

I was using acrylic craft paint for the test.  The paint was spraying with a very course pattern.  I tried about four different paint consistencies, from virtually un-thinned, to very watery.  With each consistency, I tried several different pressures, from about 15 psi all the way up to 40 psi.  Generally, the higher the pressure, the better the result, though none of my results were satisfactory.  At the higher pressures, the atomization of the paint improved, but the volume of paint became too great.  Also, the thicker the paint, the better result I achieved.  Problem is, I wanted a very light, translucent effect for the clouds to help imply distance at the low horizon (based on my observations of clouds these past weeks).  If I need a denser cloud, I can simply use multiple passes of the spray gun.  But I found that spraying a heavy bodied mixture at high pressure (giving an almost acceptable result) just put down too much paint in a single pass.

With this disappointing result, I decided to spray another panel using a recently purchased (therefore, fresh) can of white spray paint.  The results were much better.  No spatter like I had experienced in my first panels a few weeks ago.  The spray can (surprisingly) had a much finer spray pattern and I found it easier to control the paint volume.

Conclusion:  I will not be using the spray gun for the layout backdrop.

One of the primary reasons I had  purchased the spray gun was so I could mix some darker shades of blue and gray for cloud bottom accents.  I’m disappointed that I’ve only been able to find flat colors of spray can paint in white, black and gray primer.  Yes, I know that you can get those tiny little cans of Testors model paint in more colors, but it would cost a fortune in paint if I elected to use those little 3 ounce spray cans.

So, I’m going to buy another spray can of white and one of gray primer tomorrow, and I’m going to shoot another panel or two during my July 4th holiday.  Hopefully I’ll get a satisfactory result which I can then use on the backdrop in the train room.

In the meantime, I’ll be offering my spray gun up for sale.  Despite the course spray pattern, it does fine if one intends to actually put a solid coat of paint on an object (I tested it in a small area, and it did fine in that capacity).

Photo of Paasche Model 62-2-3 Paint Spray Gun

It’s a Paasche 62-2-3 spray gun, and it retails for $49.00.  I’ll let it go for half of that.  If you or someone you know might be interested, please drop me a line.


Navigating the Roadblocks

I haven’t posted anything since April so I thought perhaps I should report about what’s going on.  Unfortunately I’ve made very little progress since my last post.  If you recall, I was going to paint some scrap Masonite panels Sky Blue, then use that to practice some techniques for painting clouds.  Not long after my last post, I procured the paint and rolled it on the Masonite practice panels.  Now I was ready to start painting clouds.  Well, not quite.  I discovered that my old airbrush hose had dry rotted and was leaking, so I ordered a new hose.  I went ahead and ordered a 10 footer so I would be able to move around better.

In the interim, I had to get into truck buying mode as my old 1998 F-150 was definitely showing its age and I decided it was time for some new wheels.  I spent the next three weekends checking out the local car dealerships offerings.  I couldn’t find a single vehicle that even came close to being what I wanted, but fortunately my local Ford dealer was able to locate a new F-150 at an out-of-town dealership that was almost the perfect match for what I wanted.  A week later, I had my new ride.

I had arranged to be off work for four days during Memorial Day weekend, and I had planned to do my practice clouds that weekend.  Right before my vacation time, the next roadblock occurred . . . my back went out!  And it went out without any warning or provocation on my part.  I had a similar back “outage” back in late December through early January.  I had scheduled two weeks of vacation for the Christmas and New Year’s holiday and that happened on the second day I was home.  I was unable to do anything in the train room the entire time I was off . . . a real bummer.  To have this problem again during this, my very next vacation was extremely disappointing and aggravating to say the least.

But there is a little positive news to report.  I wanted to establish a baseline elevation around the train room to aid construction of the layout, so I built a water level to accomplish the task.  I picked up a 20’ coil of 3/8” clear vinyl tubing and found an old small plastic trash can out in the garage.  I drilled a hole in the side of the can near the bottom, then stuck the end of the tubing in the hole.  A liberal coating of GE silicone caulk around the joint on both sides produced a water-tight seal.  I set the can on a stool in the middle of the room, filled it with water, poured a bit of food coloring and a few drops of dishwashing detergent into the water, and I was in business.  The coloring made the water easy to see, both to verify there weren’t any bubbles in the line, and to see where the water level was when the tube was held up against the wall.  The detergent helped break the surface tension of the water so it stayed level in the tube (didn’t creep up the sides).  It worked great!  I made marks on the walls about every 8 feet.  Then at one mark, I measured 47” up from the floor (that was to be my benchmark elevation).  I measured the distance between the water level mark and the 47” mark.  Finally, I went around the room measuring this same distance above all the other water level marks to get my 47” benchmark all around the room.  The whole project went quickly and smoothly.  Yes!

And there’s more…

I had ordered some cloud stencils back in early May and after examining them, I determined that the cardstock from which they were made was just too flimsy to hold at the wall while spraying.  So I ripped some ¼”x1-½” strips from a 2×4 scrap, then stapled a strip to the top of each stencil.  That added the needed rigidity so the stencil could easily be held up near, but not touching the wall.

This past weekend I got a little cloud practice in.  I didn’t feel up to making-up the spray gun, hose, regulator and big, ole’ air compressor.  But I did have an old rattle can of white paint sitting in the garage, so I thought “I’ll just shoot some of that for the heck of it”.  And I did.  The first panel I shot came out so-so.  I studied it for awhile and decided on a few corrections I should make.  I shot the second panel with much better results.  A few things I learned from this:

  • Keep the spray moving.  Don’t hesitate even for a second, or you’ll get a “blob” of paint that will destroy the translucent look you’ll get from the moving can.
  • Don’t use the same stencil a second time anywhere close to where you first use it.  Don’t even use a little piece of it close by.  It’s amazing how quickly your eye will pick up on the repeating pattern, even if ever so slight.  Keep rotating through the stencils for each and every shot.
  • Don’t let the stencil touch the backdrop even in one place.  The resultant cloud will have a very sharply defined border at that point.
  • Don’t paint long rows of clouds, then move higher and paint another row, etc.  When you step back, you’ll see that you now have long parallel rows of clouds . . . not at all realistic.  This is something I’ll really have to work on when I do my next set of panels.  Even my second panel shows distinct “layering” of the clouds.  Much more randomness of cloud elevation will be needed.
  • If the spray can “spits” or sputters, even for a second, that section of backdrop is doomed.  Trying to spray paint over the specs just doesn’t work.  Maybe you could use blue and white paints with a  small artist brush and disguise them, but I didn’t try that (not much point since it was just a practice panel anyway).  I hope that my spray gun won’t have that problem.

Overall though, I’m relatively pleased at what I’ve done.  But I want to get in significantly more practice before I tackle the real backdrop.

As I write this, my back problem is still significant, but I hope I can at least take short and easy steps to keep things moving.  I have simply GOT to see benchwork and track this summer!


Another (interim) Update

Painting continues on the overhead appurtenances.  The valence has been primed and the backside has the finish coat applied.  I hope to get the finish coat(s) brushed on the front side this coming weekend.  The view blocks will be next.  Since these are simply suspended on hooks, it should be a bit easier and less time consuming to get them painted up.  I’ll likely just take them down and stand them up against the wall and roll on the paint.

As a break from the painting, I took a few weekends to build the desk for the train room computer and accessories.  The computer was temporarily sitting on an old kitchen table in the train room and I wanted that table to pile tools and stuff on during the layout construction.  So the computer desk is now designed, built and (sound the trumpets) painted!  It even has a nice Formica top.  It is on casters and will be rolled under the layout at a planned location.  The casters will allow me to easily roll it out of the way during construction of that section of the layout.

I haven’t done the “practice” backdrop yet, but I’m leaning toward the stencil method of painting clouds due to my total lack of artistic ability.  Wayne Robichaux and I employed this method some 18 or 20 years ago on a layout at my former residence.  Bill, I may indeed borrow your stencils if the offer holds, as I think mine are so coated in paint that they can barely support themselves any longer.  Or heck, if they’re still available, maybe I can just order a new set.

I’ve been checking out the spray paint selection over the past couple months.  While flat white is widely available, bluish gray colors are not.  I was thinking of this color to add bottoms to the clouds.  I’ve seen some flat gray paints (primer, ugh!) and one place had some flat blue, but it was more of a light baby blue.  So to hopefully solve this dilemma, I purchased a Paasche spray gun that is somewhat bigger than an air brush, but much smaller than a full size paint sprayer.  It’s very basic in construction, and only the air volume/pressure is adjustable, but I think it will ultimately be more controllable than spray cans.  This will give me the ability to mix paints to whatever color I want.  Since it was only $25, I think I can offset the cost with the savings in paint (rattle cans vs. quart cans).

That’s it for now.  I hope I can have a benchwork progress report within a month or so.  Having time only on weekends to get things done greatly slows down the construction schedule as I’ve learned.  I’ve also learned that getting old greatly slows down the construction schedule.