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Soft body, hard shell

Posted by Mikkel , in The Depot, Construction 14 January 2010 · 2,390 views

Snackbox baseboards Depot
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No, this is not a description of the average RMwebber, but a reference to the baseboards for my 2010 challenge layout "The depot". As Kenton keeps reminding us, the clock is ticking so I thought I'd best move ahead with this. The scenic section of this GWR micro- layout is to be housed within an Ikea "Snackbox". This plywood shell now houses a "soft" self-contained baseboard, made from 10mm foamboard and measuring 35.2 x 54.1 cms (13.9 x 21.3 in). This serves to raise the scenic section, and provides room for electrics etc underneath. I'll add a thin fascia to the front in due course.

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The foamboard structure slides in and out of the Snackbox. This should make it simple to work on from all sides during construction, and will make it easier to take photos from tricky angles when the layout is complete.

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The simple bracing, which strictly speaking I could probably have done without, given the thickness and small dimensions. The entire foamboard structure weighs in at 250 grams.

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The 10mm board seen next to a 5mm example and showing the sandwich structure of this material. The idea of using foamboard for lightweight baseboard construction is of course quite well tested by now, eg on Chris Nevard's superb Catcott Burtle. There was also the Kappa Board layout which even made do without the plywood shell.

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So far I have used my X-acto knife as the main means of cutting the foamboard, although I hear that a scalpel may be better. With the thickness used here I do occasionally have problems keeping the end profiles exactly at 90 degrees. Checking the web I found these specialist foamboard cutting tools that look tempting but also rather expensive, so I think I'll keep at it and learn it the old-fashioned way Posted Image

Very interesting !!!! I think its a very clever idea to have the foam board insert removable I would never have thought of that!
Very clean job. What did you use to glue the foamboard? I have the same issues as you with cutting at 90 degrees, but rather than keep on practising, I think I might well knock up another jig/tool for the job. ;)
Good to see the depot starting to take shape and it will be interesting to see what you've decided for the actual building structure. I'm impressed that you've managed to make square cuts in 10mm foam board. I've recently been cutting many pieces of 5mm for Loose Ends and have found a Swann Morton scalpel does a reasonable job if you do a light cut to get through the paper surface followed by a firm cut for the rest. Even then, it is very easy for the blade to fles and give a wavy cut. On the other hand, a Stanley knife, even with a fresh blade, makes it all too easy to crush rather than cut the board.

ps 'fles' should read 'flex' but I don't seem to be able to move the cursor at the moment :blink:
Miss Prism
Jan 15 2010 02:16
Lose the sides. Or better still make them detachable.

(I'm thinking of lighting when you take pics.)
* John, it will be interesting to see what problems may emerge from the foam insert being removable. So far I like the idea but there may be issues with alignment to the fiddle yard tracks in the side, so at some point I may have to fix it in place, time will show.

* Pinkmouse, I used good old PVA glue. That's not without problems of course, given the slow setting, but with an intricate system of elastic bands (not the thin ones which would cut into the board) it turned out reasonably well. On this site (external link) they recommend UHU. Does anyone here have any experience with that? If you make a jig for foamboard cutting please do show it off as I bet there's a lot of us here who be interested!

* Nick, thanks for the tip about the Swann Morton scalpel, I'll try it. I find that if I make multiple light cuts and don't press too hard with the X-acto knife I can get things reasonably straight and square. But getting the end profile (if that's the word, I mean the 10mm "sides" of the foamboard) at a perfect 90 degrees is a bit tricky with this thick board as the blade needs to be kept absolutely vertical (ie not tilted even the slightest bit to one side).

* Miss P, fortunately the sides are already easily detachable, that's one of the advantages of this Ikea lark. Given the self-contained foamboard base, the plan is that any of the sides can be removed at any one time (including the backscene) to allow for viewing and photography from alternative sides. The Ikea box around it is thus mostly for protection and providing the backscene(s). Or that at least is the plan! :)
I, too, use PVA for most joints. I've also used a hot glue gun for quick setting joints where one edge of the foamboard is involved Not my favourite approach, whilst others complain about burning fingers when soldering, I only seem to do it with the glue gun :unsure: I've also used Evo-Stick TimeBond to fix plasticard and wood to the foamboard, but the solvent does initially attack the foam core.

Just tried some UHU and the joint is still flexible after ten minutes. The instructions say it shouldn't be used on polystyrene foam or most plastics, but it doesn't seem to attack the foam core too badly.

Bricks and bulldog clips are my favourite weighting/clamping tools. As you say, you need to avoid things that will cut into the soft board.


ps UHU test piece now seems to have set, so its probably no better or worse than other methods...
Good to see this developing.

I too seem to have problems with cutting foamboard and then sticking the bits back together.
I use a scalpel but even so the foam seems very resistant to cutting clean and ends up tearing at corners. I also find it difficult to cut through square. All of which made me give up on the idea of using it for baseboards - even though others seem to succeed. :(
Of course if the edges are not square - gluing becomes a real problem as the edges do not meet flush or true.

Have you reinforced the Ikea "Snackbox"in anyway?

Just tried some UHU and the joint is still flexible after ten minutes. The instructions say it shouldn't be used on polystyrene foam or most plastics, but it doesn't seem to attack the foam core too badly.
ps UHU test piece now seems to have set, so its probably no better or worse than other methods...

Thanks for testing that out Nick, sounds as if sticking with PVA is just as good (no pun intended :D) although of course the setting time is a lot longer.

I use a scalpel but even so the foam seems very resistant to cutting clean and ends up tearing at corners.
Have you reinforced the Ikea "Snackbox"in anyway?

I had the same problem with the slight tearing initially, but changing to a new blade at the start of every important cutting session seems to have helped.

I haven't reinforced the box so far. It is held together at the corners by the Ikea angle fittings shown here. As there is no side at the front, I will add some additional angles to keep the ends secured to the bottom. So removing a side/end will be a question of removing a few screws.

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