Tag Archives: detailing

Prepping Models with a Razor Blade

Currently, I have a number of projects waiting for completion as I’m getting ready for a fall FREMO:87 meeting in Germany. Among the cars on my workbench are three DB Snps719 flatcar models that were first made by Märklin and Fleischmann in the 1990s. As one can expect from models of this vintage, a number of parts, such as buffer mounting plates and steps, are molded on the main body. These details will need to be removed before separately applied detail parts can be added.

An Xacto Knife Didn’t Cut It

Removing these molded parts without compromising the surface of the model has always been a challenge for me. Usually, I tried using an Xacto knife for this but time and time again I would gouge the model’s surface. These nicks would remain visible even after applying a new coat of paint.

The Razor Blade Is My New Favorite Tool

When I was at the Amherst Railroad Hobby Show last winter, I bought a bag of straight edge razor blades of the kind that are used in the Chopper cutting tool. I started experimenting with the razor and realized that it is the perfect tool for shaving off molded on parts without leaving much of a trace. The trick is to tip the thick end of the blade slightly up so that the angled cutting edge moves absolutely parallel to the work surface. The shaving motion must be performed slowly and evenly, taking off layer after layer.

Below is an image of an Snps719 frame after the razor blade treatment along with a shot of the subsequently applied detail parts. Next, the buffer plate and step will be painted. The car will be ready for service on an era IV FREMO:87 layout once spring-loaded buffers and original couplers are added.

Märklin/Fleischman Snps719 prepared with a razor blade.

While working with my new favorite tool, I’ve also discovered that a razor blade is very handy for bending small photo etched parts.

Do you have any additional applications for this tool? Leave a comment to share your experience.

New Steps for an Ade Silberling

Ade passenger car models were way ahead of their time. Willy Ade offered un-compressed scale models with unprecedented interior details, built-in lighting as well as unmatched truck and underframe details in the late 1970s already. To this day, used Ade models and kits are traded at premium prices on eBay, including the Ade Silberling in this post.

Modeling has of course made advances over the past 30 years and there are small ways that one can enhance the appearance of these superb models. One thing that can easily be modernized with up-to-date parts are the steps.

Here’s the result of a recent Sunday afternoon project on my model of a German era IV Ade Silberling. The instructions of the aftermarket parts suggest that several layers of etched parts be soldered together. I found that carefully applying CA to the back of the parts works just as well. Just make sure that the layers are properly aligned so that they retain the nice see-through effect. Click on the image below to see the step detail up close.

Ade Silberling with photo etched steps.

Interesting Rapido Trains Ad on Custom Runs of Cars

The other day, I noticed an interesting ad by Rapido Trains Inc. in the July issue of Railroad Model Craftsman. It was advertising custom runs of a car with different paint schemes and showed an example of their nice HO scale Wide-Vision Caboose with custom lettering for the CSX Great Lakes Division Mechanical Department.

I find the ad interesting because custom runs make a lot of sense for large clubs like FREMO. If you get an order big enough (Rapido indicates a 300 piece minimum which is really not that much), you can easily get a run of a cars with no number, which would make unique renumbering for club operation much easier. Instead of trying to carefully remove the original road number, which sometimes damages paint and surface, one could just apply a custom decal, apply dull clear coat, weather the car and be done with it. Leaving a number off instead of making a whole custom scheme should also be a lot cheaper.

Maybe it’s time that European train manufacturers such as BRAWA are starting to openly advertise similar services or at least offer cars with no lettering so one can do the whole thing from scratch.

By the way, I do like this Rapido caboose. They just released new paint schemes and the one I want is among them. But more on that another time…

Building a Penn Central X58 50′ Box Car (Part III)

It’s been a few weeks and I am happy to finally report on the progress of the Penn Central X58 project in this last installment.

Because I am painting inside a small apartment, I decided against using the solvent based Scale Coat Penn Central Green sold by the Penn Central Railroad Historical Society. Instead, I painted the car with the water based Floquil Polly Scale paints Penn Central Green for the car body and Flat Aluminum for the roof.

Rail Yard Models Penn Central X58 after paint job

Rail Yard Models Penn Central X58 after paint job (click to enlarge)

A few days later, I added a glossy finish using Badger Modelflex paint. The outcome was less than desirable as the glossy paint seemed to crystalize in some spots. In my next project, I am going to mix Model Master glossy paint with the Polly Scale green to save me a step and minimize the risk of messing up a nice paint job.

I let the glossy finish dry for a few days as recommended in the X58 instructions and then started to apply the decals.

The decaling was an easy albeit slow process because I was customizing the lettering based on a prototype photograph. After cutting the decals, I prepped the surface with Micro Set, slid the decals on it and let Solvaset work its magic. Excess fluid was sucked off using a cotton swab. The cotton swab did a great job in removing fluid but occasionally left tiny fibers behind. Next time, I will try a micro fiber cloth used for cleaning lenses instead.

Putting the decals on the X58 was a slow process

Putting the decals on the X58 was a slow process

Two evenings later, I was ready to decal the other side. I thought about a way to peek at the other side without turning the car over all the time. The solution was to make a copy of the decaled side. Make sure you cover the area around the car with blank sheets of paper to avoid wasting a lot of black ink.

Copying the decaled side for reference

Copying the decaled side for reference

The copy turned out to be just a tad smaller than the actual model but I found that when referencing lettering to other parts such as ladder steps it was still helpful to use and sped up the decaling process. Every now and then I did take a digital caliper to measure key proportions on the other side, though.

Using a copy of the decaled side of the car sped up the process

Using a copy of the decaled side of the car sped up the process

So here it is, the finished product complete with roof, brake hoses and extra weight.

Finished Rail Yard Models Penn Central X58 36 18 25

Finished Rail Yard Models Penn Central X58 36 18 25

For a first try at a craftsman kit, I am very happy with the result. Let me know what you think in the comments below. I hope you will join me when I report on the weathering after I return from the FREMO:87 meet in Glottertal, Germany.

Updated frame, new numbers and buffers on the PIKO Tds

This week, I spent some time on the PIKO Tds project. I spray-painted two completed frames with Weinert RAL 8012, which turned out to be a very close match to the color of the plastic. A coat of dull lacquer and weathering will make the difference invisible.

Painted PIKO Tds frames.

Painted PIKO Tds frames. (click to enlarge)

Next, I renumbered two of the three cars. It was good that I ordered spare decals because I did end up destroying a few of them and still have to reorder two sets. The lettering could be a little sharper especially around the edges as numbers on the decals are hard to read compared to the printed PIKO lettering. I also found that the lettering doesn’t stick to the film very well and I accidentally wiped of part of a decal with a ruler.

After a few tries, I finally got the hang of it and here is what I learned:

  • Cut the cardboard around the decal with a sharp pair of scissors
  • Using a steel ruler and an X-Acto knife cut closely around the edges of the numbers putting very little pressure on the blade – just enough to slice the thin film
  • Next put decal glue on the cleaned surface of the model and apply a little soapy water with a paint brush
  • Dip the decal in soapy water for 10 seconds using a set of good tweezers
  • Hold the decal still on the cardboard with the tweezers and gently push the decal film onto the model using the paint brush
  • Apply decal softener and carefully position the decal with the paint brush

Lastly, I installed brand new high performance buffers I got from Günter Weimann. In German, these buffers are called “Elefantenfüsse” or elephant feet for their thick and stubby look. They are the best detailed spring-loaded Ho buffers I have ever seen. Each one has screw holes on the front and individually molded lugs on the back. Unfortunately, my camera doesn’t do them justice. The buffers are available from Wagenwerk or directly from Günter.

Fully assembled and renumbered PIKO Tds in the Tds928 version.

Fully assembled and renumbered PIKO Tds in the Tds928 version.

PIKO Tds928 from the other side.

PIKO Tds928 from the other side.

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