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Scratchbuilding Wagons From Plasticard


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5 hours ago, Argos said:

 

It's quite pricey though, I don't know if it can be found cheaper elsewhere.

 

 

I would recommend you have a look on eBay. You will probably have to buy a greater amount but per cc it may well work out a lot cheaper. Also, a lot of these traders only sell solvents at exhibition due to postal restrictions. Buying it off eBay it will be delivered to your door via courier. A few months back I bought a 5 litre container of MEK off eBay for around £25. It came via courier free of charge and I now have a lifetime supply. :good_mini:

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Not sure, chemistry was never my strong point so I don’t know if it’s the same stuff. At £8.99 it might be worth taking a punt and giving it a go. 

 

If you get some, let us know how you get on as I may buy some myself.

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So, let’s get started. I prefer to start with the underframe of the wagon; floor, solebars and headstocks. This gives me a nice flat solid foundation on which to build the body. I also prefer to add as much detail work as possible to the individual parts before assembling the wagon. Otherwise, once the wagon body is built you not only have to try and keep the body stable but also your hands. Unless you have a block of wood on which to rest your hands it is quite difficult maintaining stability.

Beginning with the floor, take a sheet of plain 40thou Plasticard and true-up one long edge with a rule and large file. I normally put a small V shaped pencil mark next to this edge just to remind me it is the true edge. Then, using the engineers square and scalpel, score a vertical line about 10mm away from the right hand edge of the Plasticard sheet. Make sure this scored line is at least the same length as the width of the wagon less the thickness of both sides which, in this case, is 2mm.

As a side note, for those that aren’t aware, 20thou is equivalent to 0.5mm. Therefore, 40thou is equivalent to 1mm. As I will be using 40thou Plasticard for the wagon sides I need to make the floor 2mm narrower than the full width of the wagon.  

Now, from this scored line you need to mark out the length of the wagon but, before doing so, you need to consider the relationship between the floor of your particular wagon and its headstocks/ends. On a lot of wagons the floor planks were laid out over the wagons entire length. In which case you just need to measure out the full length of the wagon. On your typical NBR/CR wagon, the ends of the wagon sat on top of the headstocks with the floor planks butting-up against the inside edge of each end.  If this is the case then measure out the full length of the wagon less each end. The GNSR tended to do things slightly different. For this particular wagon I am building the floor planks butted up against the inside edge of the headstocks, so I have measured out the full length of the wagon less the thickness of both headstocks (2x80thou = 4mm). So, having referred to your drawing, measure out the required length of the wagon and make a vertical ‘nick’ with the tip of your scalpel. This ‘nick’ should, ideally, be placed outside the envelope of the floor in the waste area and is used to accurately locate the point at which to score the Plasticard. Place the tip of your scalpel blade in the nick and butt the square up against the blade then, as before, score another line at least the width of the wagon less 2mm.

Similarly, at one end of the wagon floor, measure out the width of the wagon less the thickness of both sides and make a nick. Repeat the process for the other end. Using a similar locating technique as before, place the tip of the scalpel in the first nick and butt one end of your rule up against it. Whilst holding down the rule with your thumb, place the tip of the scalpel in the other nick and butt the other end of the rule up against it and score a line the length of the wagon. You should now have the area of the floor marked out.

The score-lines can now be deepened by subsequent passes with the scalpel. If you are careful and not too heavy handed you should be able to achieve this without the aid of the rule or square. Also, try to make subsequent passes with one single pass. Don’t try to cut right through the Plasticard; a couple of deep passes will suffice. When it comes to cutting Plasticard it is common practice to score and snap the plastic sheet much in the same way you do with glass or a ceramic tile.

Our next job is to scribe the floor planks, and for this I use the Olfa P Cutter or ‘Scrawker’ as some people like to call it. Begin by making a series of nicks along the top, just above the score-line of the wagon floor, equal to the width of each individual floor plank.  Place the point of the cutter in the first nick, butt the square up against it and scribe a line.

 

239283668_ScribingPlanks.JPG.ae668e2f6305ad571834dba5cf3613e2.JPG

 

Continue along the floor of the wagon until all the planks are scribed. The amount of pressure applied to the cutter is basically down to instinct. If you have never done this before it would be wise to have a go on a piece of off-cut. Practice makes perfect as they say and you will soon get the ‘feel’ for just how much pressure to apply. You should now have, what looks like, a wagon floor marked out on your piece of Plasticard.

 

1823406529_FloorMarkedOut.JPG.7d9f71b0dd1097693da99341b3dbd455.JPG

 

You will see from this picture my floor has two horizontal lines running the full length of the wagon. These are scribed 0.5mm in from the edge and represent the side rail/curb rail. Despite the fact that the side rail/curb rail looks like part of the wagons side, it is in fact part of the floor. If you are modelling in a scale smaller than S Scale it probably isn’t worth representing this due to its proximity to the edge of the Plasticard.

Before snapping-off the floor, turn it over and lightly scribe some horizontal & vertical center lines as well as a couple of reference lines for the axles.  You will also need to scribe a number of extra vertical lines using the square. Due to the close parallel scribed floor planks on the upper surface the Plasticard will want to naturally bow convexly.

 

73297982_ScribedBend.JPG.4ec8d13dcdf21da102f06786cf02c798.JPG

 

The extra vertical lines will help alleviate the problem. There’s no requirement to measure these out, they can be roughly placed equal distance apart. Aim for about half the number of floor planks. If there is still some evidence of a slight bow then this can easily be teased out by bending the floor in the opposite direction to the bend.

 

1816672700_FloorUnderside.JPG.508983ca53d7b8d8285d1180f9d1a0cd.JPG

 

To separate the floor from the waste simply snap off the waste. I like to place the Plasticard flat on my cutting mat with the edge I want to snap-off lying just over the edge of the mat. With the cutting mat close to the edge of my workbench I snap off the waste.  The Plasticard should snap off relatively cleanly, leaving only a few strokes with a large file required to clean up the edges.

To finish off I give both surfaces a rub over with some Wet & Dry. The Olfa P Cutter produces virtually no burr when scribing the planks but I like to give the surfaces a rub, just to remove whatever burrs there may be and to ensure the surfaces are nice and clean.

 

Floor.JPG.b3211f1967136479c3a3f8875b60fbe5.JPG

 

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i'd add to the comment of lightly scoring lines on rather than pencil lines because if they get rubbed off easily. but the scoring can be light enough that it is removed with fine sanding and doesnt show through the paint.

 

The main tool is your patience, so many times ive buggered up a cut by going too fast and the kife has deviated away from the ruler of the ruler has slipped under the pressure of holding the knife up against it. same with scribing

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Use of the engineer's square. How do you deal with the thick side of the square being so much thicker than the plasticard? I end up having the platicard sitting on the edge of a block, but the problem is then having to hold the square level as well as butted up to the plasticard.

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4 hours ago, Compound2632 said:

Use of the engineer's square. How do you deal with the thick side of the square being so much thicker than the plasticard? I end up having the platicard sitting on the edge of a block, but the problem is then having to hold the square level as well as butted up to the plasticard.

I rest the plastic on a thickish cutting-mat and hold the square to the plastic by pressing on the blade. This also keeps it level.

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Pretty much like Guy. I always use a cutting mat on the workbench which happens to be almost 3mm thick. I butt the engineers square up against the edge of the cutting mat, then butt the piece of Plasticard up against the edge of the square. Using one hand I am able to keep the Plasticard pressed against the square whilst, at the same time, maintain a little downward pressure on the blade of the square.

 

324618316_IMG_1214(2).JPG.9a46fe461cb7a7f1abdca56d16712382.JPG

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On 09/03/2020 at 15:01, Compound2632 said:

Thanks both - I think I need to get a smaller (thinner) engineer's square or a thicker cutting mat!

 

I recently bought a 2 inch engineers square from Faithfull which is a lot thinner than the one I got (from Squires?) several years ago. 

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For the solebars and headstock I use Evergreen styrene strips. Typically, the NBR and CR tended to use 4-1/2” x 12” thick wood for the solebars and headstocks. Evergreen produce styrene stripes 0.188” wide, which is exactly 12” in S Scale. Unfortunately, it only comes in stripes 0.080” or 0.060” thick which is either too thick or not thick enough. A compromise will have to be made and I personally prefer to settle with solebars and headstocks 0.080” thick.

One thing I have found making this particular wagon is that the GNSR did things differently from the NBR & CR. For instance, the solebars were made from wood 4-1/2” x 11” and the headstocks from 4-1/2” x 13-1/2”. As you can probably guess, Evergreen doesn’t make styrene stipes in either of these sizes. To solve the problem I had to make the solebars and headstocks from various layers. For the solebars I used a length of styrene strip 0.156” wide and glued another strip 0.015” thick on top, this gave a total width of 0.171” which is only 1thou shy of 11” in S Scale. The headstocks were made from three pieces of styrene stripes; 0.188” wide, 0.020” thick and 0.005” thick. The total width equaled 0.213” which works out to be 1thou over 13-1/2”. This is not an exact science so a couple of thou here and there I can live with.

Measure out suitable lengths of material for your headstocks and solebars and cut to length. When measuring out the solebars remember to measure out the total length of the wagon less the thickness of the headstocks. I also mark out the axle position on the back for reference. When you come to snap off the styrene strips you will probably find that they will need a little cleaning-up with a file. One thing I have always struggled with is trying to achieve a nice straight/square end to my styrene stripes. To solve the problem I place the stripes on an old engineers square. With the end of the styrene strip protruding a little over the edge of the stock, I very lightly run a large file over the styrene till the file begins to make contact with the stock on the square.

 

2049766079_EngineersSquare(1).JPG.e36cf730a7b3cf073ff9de4234856788.JPG

 

684932638_EngineersSquare(2).JPG.86512f5125366d555297a8200a6575cc.JPG

 

I bought this particular engineers square from a second hand tool shop many years ago. Second hand tool shops seem to be something else that has disappeared over time. There used to be one a few streets up from where I use to live in Portsmouth which I quite often visited. It was a treasure trove of tools and I could have spent a fortune in there, unfortunately back in them days I didn’t have much spare cash available.

 

95641830_Solebars(Rear).JPG.9cbaf39c4b459a74f4b54afea72ca4ac.JPG

 

Going back to my previous notes about having to use two thicknesses of styrene strip to get the solebars a scale 11" wide, in the photograph above you can see the thinner strip of styrene running along one edge of the wider styrene strip.

You will also see that I have used two layers of 0.040” thick styrene strip for the solebars rather than one single piece 0.080” thick. The reason for which is down to the fact that I use rocking W irons. To allow some clearance for the W iron to rock back and forth I reduce the thickness of the solebars. I could have used one piece of 0.040” thick styrene strip but, in the past, have found there to be insufficient surface area available when it came to gluing on the wagon springs and brake pivot. If you are using sprung W irons then you could just make the solebars from the same material as the headstocks.

With the solebars and headstocks flat on the bench I mark out the positions for all the iron work and nuts, as well as the buffers and coupling hooks on the headstocks.  I use a sharp pencil for this, softer than your usual HB so that the markings are darker and easier to see. The iron work generally tends to be made from 0.005” styrene strips. As far as I am aware there isn’t any 0.005” styrene strips commercially available so these have to be cut from a larger sheet which Evergreen do  produce. To cut the stripes consistently the same thickness I use a homemade cutting jig.

 

Plastic_Cutting_Jig.JPG.5fe30b59af62529abde2520335f76cb8.jpg.e347005cf0c7572d6e04a60b7679da6f.jpg

 

Here I have glued a piece of 0.020” thick styrene strip onto a piece of 0.060” Plasticard, which then acts as a back stop. I butt a piece of 0.005” Plasticard sheet up against the back stop. A piece of thicker commercially produced styrene strip, the same width that I wish my strip of 5thou to be, is placed at each end of the back stop to which my rule is butted up against. A few passes with a scalpel along the inner edge of the rule and I have a 0.005” strip of styrene. The iron work on a typical wagon tends to be 2-1/2” wide which is almost 0.040” in S Scale.

Fortunately, there is no need to make the semi-circular crown plates as these can be bought from the S Scale Society in the form of etches.

The nuts are represented by slicing slithers off the end of a piece of 0.020” plastic rod. Plastruct plastic rod is best for producing nuts this way as it is more pliable than other makes like Slaters. Slaters 0.020” plastic rod is quite brittle and has a tendency to fracture when sliced.

 

42600563_BoltHeads.JPG.a07167b25fc787a594260e228bcdb367.JPG

 

If the nuts on your particular prototype were square then these can be represented by simply cutting squares off a piece of 0.020” x 0.010” styrene strip.

So now we should have the main components of the underframe detailed and ready for assembly.

 

1756032373_UnderframeParts.JPG.53f8462b7551893eb80fceff9192096a.JPG

 

Before assembling the underframe I glue a 0.015” x 0.020” strip of styrene to the underside edge of the floor.

 

294942008_FloorUnderside(Closeup).JPG.7e53e6f6af551b2206d63a38960c19c2.JPG

 

This strip ensures that the solebars are the correct distance apart without the need for any measuring. Also, by butting the solebars up against the styrene strip it ensures they are nice and straight. To make sure the styrene strip is straight when gluing it in position, butt the floor and the styrene stripe up against a straight edge.

With the headstocks in position the underframe of your wagon should be complete except for the drawbar hooks and buffers, which I normally leave till the end.

 

1461906019_UndersideofFloor.JPG.48cec83e171713593bb1826391866536.JPG

 

1168178731_UnderframeComplete.JPG.fc3d23ec295824aad4f98b91dac12f53.JPG

 

Edited by ScottW
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Very impressed. Although I have been building for a very long time I still blunder through without you precise planning and execution. I would love to have more control then perhaps I wouldn't scrap so much. Just shows we are all different and there's more ways to skin a cat. 

Looking forward to learn something new. 

Mike

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On 15/03/2020 at 20:35, Guy Rixon said:

I'm curious about the carpentry of this one. I understand the single strap-bolt at each end of the solebars, but what are the two fasteners with the washer plate below it? It's hard to see what they connect.


The two fasteners below the strap-bolt secures a bracket on the inside of the underframe which, in turn, secures the solebars, headstocks and cross members.

 

CF5C7009-2D74-4DD3-80AD-C2E1987C5265.jpeg.373a2fd19e11ee8bcf61c70ca358d172.jpeg

Edited by ScottW
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Moving onto the body of the wagon. I must confess that when I marked out and cut the sides and ends for the GNSR wagon I got a little carried away and forgot to take some photographs. To correct this oversight I marked out some sides and ends for a couple of other wagons which I can use at a later date. Marking out and cutting the sides and ends pretty much follows the same techniques as previously described when making the floor. Normally I mark out end, end, side, side.

You will have to excuse the untidiness of the Plasticard sheet. To try and highlight the lines for the camera I went over them with a pencil, something I wouldn't normally do, unfortunately it's made the surface a little messy.

 

730791520_IMG_1293(2).JPG.22b3b1adef9b2bd42a3d15cf975f442c.JPG

 

Before measuring out the width of each end remember to take off the thickness of the sides. These particular wagons in this example were for a three and four plank drop side wagon so there was no need to scribe any vertical lines for a centre door. Also, if you intend to build a batch of wagons, like I have here,  make sure your vertical scores extend a sufficient amount. When scribing the side rail/curb rail you will notice that it doesn’t extend round to the ends of the wagon. If the bottom end plank sits on top of the floor then you simply have to score and snap off the piece below the bottom plank. If, like on a typical NBR wagon, the bottom end planks sit on top of the headstocks then you will need to extend the bottom plank down the same thickness as your floor as I have done.

 

1159036369_IMG_1295(2).JPG.e94c84c38060a0565390753182ca15f5.JPG

 

Once you have scored and scribed everything turn the piece of Plasticard over and do the same thing again for the inside of the wagon. When scribing the planks on the inside of my wagons I don’t press as hard with the Olfa cutter as the join between each plank wasn’t as prevalent  as those on the outside of a wagon. There is also no need to scribe the side rail/curb rail as this was level with floor.

Once you have doubled checked everything and you are happy, the individual parts can be snapped off.

 

IMG_1296.JPG.5bd4045ebf699124c06367a3274f0093.JPG

 

With all the parts separated from the piece of Plasticard give the edges a clean-up with a large file and both surfaces a rub with some wet & dry, just as you did with the floor.

 

IMG_1298.JPG.78652fba303e80ab3c13ee462b104a83.JPG

 

Edited by ScottW
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3 hours ago, ScottW said:

Before measuring out the width of each end remember to take off the thickness of the sides.

Think thrice, measure twice. Cut but once.

Don’t ask me how I know this.

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Before starting to detail the sides and ends I remove the small section of the side rail/curb rail that sits over the headstock. I slice a section out using a scalpel, just smaller than that actually required. Then file to the correct size whilst constantly checking against the headstock to ensure I don’t remove too much plastic.

As mentioned before, I like to detail as much of the wagon as possible before assembling it. Using the same techniques as described previously I cut stripes of 0.040” x 0.005” styrene and glue them onto the side of the wagon to represent the washer plates. 0.040” x 0.010” styrene stripes were used to represent the door bands as these tended to be made from thicker steel on the prototype, they certainly were on this particular wagon. Also at this stage, as much of the iron work is added to the inside of the wagon. If you are going to fill your wagon with a load or cover it with a tarpaulin, then it's probably not worth this extra effort.  0.040” diameter plastic rod is used to represent the hinges. I like to file a small flat on the plastic rod just to increase the surface area a little to help secure it in position. For securing the ironwork and nuts my preference is to use DL-Limonene rather than MEK. DL-limonene is a much less aggressive liquid cement then MEK and is less likely to melt the thinner 0.005” styrene strips. Not only that, the cure time is less which help enormously when positioning the parts.

 

1011637379_IMG_1275(2).JPG.cdb9a59fe3bf0fed452e3f700de0e383.JPG

 

Now the exciting part, assembling the wagon body! There’s no hard and fast way of doing this but I usually ‘tack’ the parts in position using a sparing amount of MEK in a couple of key positions. By doing this you have more of a fighting chance if you are not happy and need to remove one of the parts. With all four sides tacked in position, and you are happy, you can then go around and flood all the joints with MEK.

 

IMG_1278.JPG.dc865557fddeb5d9f18f3f1e81053086.JPG

 

IMG_1279.JPG.3b8d838c51e39acf1244326b5a8f2375.JPG

 

Once the basic body is made-up I install two transverse braces that are just a fraction longer than the inner width of the wagon. They are not glued in place, just held there by the pressure exerted on them by the wagon sides. As the solvent dries it starts to pull the sides and ends inwards, eventually causing them to bow. These two strips prevent the sides from being pulled inwards. I normally  keep them in place till the time comes to paint the wagon.

 

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1 hour ago, Compound2632 said:

Where do you get your 5 thou thick strip?

 

For 4 mm/ft scale, I'm using 0.030" x 0.010" strip but filing the washer plates down - so that, as you say, the door hinges are noticeably thicker.

 

Evergreen do larger sheets of 5thou styrene. If you go back to when I made the underframe you will see that I use a homemade cutting jig to cut 0.040” stripes from these larger sheets. I apologise if my post wasn’t clear, let me know and I go into it in greater depth. :good_mini:

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