Thursday, January 10, 2019

Finishing Shapeways 3D Printed Plastic Models

Happy New Year to my T-Scale Friends!

I wanted to start off with a helpful "how to do it" post;  Over the years (since 2012) I have developed and refined a finishing technique for what was once Shapeways "FUD" (Frosted Ultra Detail) or currently "Smoothest Fine Detail Plastic" material.  It's not an absolute--you may tweak as per your own preferences of course--but I find it works well.

  1. Clean any oily/waxy residue off the shell.  For me, this is a three step process;  
    1. First, I use a solvent to clean it;  I use Vallejo Airbrush Thinner because it's readily available and I use for my airbrush, and it's not very noxious;  NOTE: Some modelers use Bestine and soak the model;  You might also try other acrylic or wax solvents.   
    2. After this, wash gently with a #6 brush or equivalent in warm soapy water, rinse, and allow to dry completely.  Inspect and repeat if necessary to remove any remaining waxy gunk.  
    3. Finally I use a stiffer brush to gently whisk the surface after this is done.  Be wary around any thin parts.  
    4. NOTE.  It's not absolutely necessary to do the solvent step, just warm water usually works fine and I did that for years.  The solvent cleans it just a little bit better.
  2. Sand any rough areas or printing striations lightly with fine sandpaper or sanding sticks.  Wash/rinse, let dry. 
  3. Apply 2 or 3 thin coats of Future acrylic floor wax (or other acrylic clear coat).   I apply with #2 brush and put it on thicker on any rough areas.  Inspect surface, sand and touch up again if  needed .  Remember the next layers of paint will also add thickness so try not to add too much .  For information on Future or it's equivalents:
  4. Prime with spray primer of your choice.  I use Tamiya Fine Surface Primer rattle can.  Sand lightly again *if needed* and touch up.
    Primed, and a little extra sanding done.
  5. Apply finish coat(s);  I have successfully used both acrylic brush-on, and rattle can spray-can lacquer.  
    That looks better! I actually put a liiiiitle bit too much clear sealer on this one but it's ok.
  6. Decal and weather as needed/desired.
  7. NOTE:  Always allow coats to dry thoroughly before adding more, especially if different base (ie. lacquer vs acrylic).
  8. TIP:  Window glass can be represented with MicroScale Krystal Klear or using clear decal film.  I have used both successfully.
  9. TIP:  I drill a 1mm hole in the base of solid models, or put a small piece of foam in hollow ones, then insert a toothpick into the model as a temporary handle.  This can then be put into a hole poked in a "stand" or your choice--I often use an old Shapeways box!

Friday, December 21, 2018

Holiday Update from Jesse

I wanted to post an update on some projects and developments coming down the line, but first wanted to wish all of my fellow T-scale enthusiasts a Happy and Peaceful Holiday Season!  2018 saw a rekindling of my excitement in T-scale and 2019 will certainly be a big one judging from the amazing things coming out of other modelers' workshops.

I am continually seeking to develop new models, improve old ones..sometimes to the point of distraction.  However, sometimes a special request gets me motivated, or another modeler doing something.  Two cases in point:

I recently decided to make the EMD SW9/1200 EMD switcher since it's so common, and after successfully making it (and still making improvements) a Canadian modeler said "Boy it sure would be nice to have an SW1200RS.."   This is the GMD (Canadian) built and specially modified version of the SW1200.  It rides on Flexicoil trucks so those were put together.   Well it really didn't take too much to modify it, so I have added that to the product line.

Oh and notice--horns and bells (oh my).  Boy are they fragile, but they are there-- on mounting pins that can be drilled.  Also included are extra stacks if you want to model the CP version with the standard exhaust stacks.   The GP40 model also has horns and bells and in that case the bells are the underframe version).

The other motivation was the display of's big steam locomotive.  This was a big freight engine that hauled strings of boxcars across the plains of the US.  Years ago I developed a 40' boxcar, but it was fairly primitive.  So... I updated it, with better detail such a roofwalk and brake gear, and the neat new improvement is that the Bettendorf trucks have "talgo style" CCE #3 couplers built in.  This was motivated by the lack of space for the coupler separately when the improved truck design is used.  I needed the talgo/truck mount for other projects as well such as the 3-bay hopper.

A replica of the private car "Puget Sound" was recently completed, and it turned out quite nicely.  Those windows are clear "glass" made of decal film, but the dome is Krystal Klear.  This was originally a Great Northern Ry. Dome Coach so any GN or Amtrak modelers may want one.  I'll be adding it to the product line as soon as I can validate the truck design as it will also need the talgo trucks. 

In other news-- I'm testing some tiny 1/32-inch thick x 1/16 diameter round magnets from K&J Magnetics,  These are made of "N52" grade and are stronger than the regular ones.  These guys seem to work pretty well, and it takes 2-4 to hold a car reasonably in place on the track.  Necessary for the un-powered models especially.

Thanks for reading, and Happy T-Scale Modeling!

Monday, December 3, 2018

How To Video: Needle Point Wheelset Assembly

I use "Pin Point Wheelsets" for my free rolling trucks (bogies).  When I first purchased them I wanted to save a little by getting the un-assembled set of 20.   After a lesson in frustration trying to assemble them with tweezers and pliers and bare fingers, and sending a couple flying into the void, I devised a way to assemble with a pin-vice and some tacky foam strip.  Here's a video illustrating the procedure:

Friday, November 30, 2018

Project Updates

Since the last post I've made quite a bit of progress on several fronts.  Here are the details:

Turnout prototype:  The #10 dummy turnout (it's permanently lined in one direction) was a qualified success.  I have additional slightly revised models on the way from Shapeways, and included detail such as an switch machine and hand-throw switchstand with lantern like the B&O used.  It looks great, and rolling stock makes it through without issue.  It's designed to be compatible with the roadbed strips (also improved to be stronger).  If you want turnouts, a set of two is available on Shapeways, and so are the roadbed strips.
  I'm almost ready to start laying track on a test module!

Trucks:  I modified the trucks (starting with the AAR switcher trucks used on the SW7, and have since updated the Blombergs, see photo.  This includes improving the robustness of them to not break so easily, and to retain the wheelsets better.  I'm satisfied, and will be rolling out across all the trucks as is feasible, and adding to kits with the shells.  The GP40 is out there with the new trucks.  The only issue is this new design is that it's tough to incorporate on smaller trucks like the roller bearing trucks;  I came up with an alternative I'm testing now and will post as I get prototypes back.

SW9/SW1200:  The dummy SW9 is out there (it's visually identical to the SW1200, hence the slash) in the shop now, in a kit which includes the new AAR switcher trucks and a horn and bell.. I'm not sure they'll print successfully but you can't say I'm not trying to push the limits :-)  I painted one up in Conrail paint as SW9 #9000 using some scavenged N-scale decals.  The number was from freight car data, cut down to size.   All in all I'm quite happy with this model!  I'm anticipating getting a powered boxcar, and have a short train of SW9/box/box/caboose..

Speaking of cabooses.. I'm in the process of revising the NE Caboose to include better detail, truck and couplers.  (Same applies to much of the lineup..) Plenty of work to do until next time! 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

"T" easers and Pleasers

It seems like I have too many projects going on, but progress is being made.  There's just so much testing and re-testing that needs to be done until I'm satisfied (I'm probably one of Shapeways' best customers...) but the pace should settle down once I have the basics covered.

Trucks are on the list.  I need trucks that are substantial enough to take some abuse, hold the wheelsets, and still look reasonably good.  I have the latest batch of test trucks on the way.  There's a suspension that holds the axle in place a bit better and is actually sprung.  I call this the Union Jack suspension since it has several cross-shaped support structures.   I have Blomberg B's, some AAR switcher trucks, and internal bearing test subjects coming.  These are in 2nd or 3rd generation at this point and getting better with each try.

I also am trying horns (and bells) again.  Cross your fingers.  I made some jewelry recently that shows the process (lost wax) is capable with the dimensions I  need, but previously SW declined to try.  Maybe they will print them now??

Oh and this experiment is also on the way (inspired by a post on Facebook..).  It's a dummy but, it's a step towards something functional.  It should work for a fixed line turnout anyway with Code 40 rail, which would be fine for my non-switching layout (the way I figure it, functional turnouts can be located behind the scenes for changing the line of trains).   If it works, I could make straight or diverging versions..

I also made a section of tie strip with roadbed.. the ties are really very fragile, so the roadbed should help make them more rugged and it's designed for a ballast coating to make it look realistic.

As if all this wasn't enough, I'm still refining the GG1, I did an SW9/1200 (SW7/8 if you chop a stack off), and refined the GP40.

Stay tuned, I'm shifting into more of a modelling mode (less computer design) to do some work on a dome car project/small display.  I can't afford all the Shapeways orders anyway!


Thursday, November 8, 2018

Next Up: Trucks

aka Bogies..

The needlepoint wheelsets fit into the new trucks, but they aren't all that solid.  If you put much presure on them, they'll slip--the sideframes are just too thin and flex a little bit.  So, still not perfect.

Some time ago, I made some prototype "internal bearing" passenger trucks to fit on the Amfleet coach which incorporated a "snap fit" for the axle between the wheels.  Test #1 was too small and snapped, not quite rugged enough either.   I then got distracted with other projects and tabled it. 

Recently, I was putting wheelsets into a set of Blombergs and I having a heckuvatime keeping the wheelsets in.  This isn't acceptable-- there must be a better way.  So I combined the idea of the internal bearing truck with a tab that holds the wheelset in place.  Prototypes are on the way..  It only takes a few iterations to get it right, aka persistence pays off as shows with the coupler.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Introducing the CCE #3 Coupler

A package arrived in the mail yesterday, this one containing the prototype #3 couplers.  This project is a big deal to me--I've been wanting better-looking yet functional couplers in T-scale for a long time.  And to cut to the chase--I think these are a qualified success!

Appearance is good.  They are a knuckle style (aka Janney) coupler common to the US and other railroads around the world.  Although slightly oversize from prototype, this is not unusual for the world of model trains.  They come in a self-enclosed draft gear since I body-mount my couplers.  I  will also make a version that can be snapped into the existing coupler pocket for talgo style/truck mounted couplers. 

Functionality is good.  They pivot internally (once snapped free, as shown in the video) so that cars should be able to maneuver curves and turnouts built with the body-mount style in mind.  The jury may still be out as far as durability, but they seems pretty tough.  Check out the video: 

One design actually has a split shank so the coupler has a "spring" action, and so should be able to automatically couple-- but I found this didn't seem to work.. the split was too narrow.  I may have to re-test (to the point of destroying a coupler) because it might also snap free like the pivot action. 

I'm designing my railcar models now to accept the draft gear in a slot in the pilot, or even integrating the coupler on the model itself if necessary, and will be converting all older models to use the CCE #3 coupler. 

If you want to purchase a set click here: CCE #3 Coupler Set