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Dragonboy

Chinchilla Dust

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I’m currently building a new layout using British Finescale N track and have been wondering about using Chinchilla dust for ballast. This was after seeing Little Salkeld at Milton Keynes and Hawes Junction at the NEC last year.

 

Ive been experimenting on a piece of spare track using ballast bond which was not entirely successful as even after misting the dry laid dust the ballast bond has lifted a lot of dust onto the sleepers and I’m finding it very difficult to scratch off.

 

I’ve now got a second test piece drying having gone back 50 years to when I first started, and used a 50/50 water and PVA mix with a few drops of Fairy Liquid added but I was wondering if anyone has produced a satisfactory result with chinchilla dust and what method was used? 
 

 

Edited by Dragonboy
Too many typos!

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Try laying the dust where you want it and then spray a light mist of water with a little washing up liquid - I use an empty throat spray, but anything similar will do. You need to get the ballast visibly damp. Then use 50:50 diluted copydex or matte medium dripped out of a bottle with a small aperture so that it comes out slowly enough that you can be reasonably precise. The adhesive will spread through the damp ballast of its own accord.

Hope this helps

Best wishes

Eric  

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An alternative to the bottle is an eye dropper. 

 

Jim

Edited by Caley Jim
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I didn't ballast the track on Jawed Junction but the person who spent many happy months on this task told me she strained the chinchilla dust first to let the really fine dust go through and just keep the slightly larger stiff for ballasting.

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1 hour ago, Chris M said:

I didn't ballast the track on Jawed Junction but the person who spent many happy months on this task told me she strained the chinchilla dust first to let the really fine dust go through and just keep the slightly larger stiff for ballasting.

 

I would agree with this practice especially for mainline type applications. If you are ballasting a siding or a yard scene, this would not be necessary i would think.

 

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15 hours ago, Chris M said:

I didn't ballast the track on Jawed Junction but the person who spent many happy months on this task told me she strained the chinchilla dust first to let the really fine dust go through and just keep the slightly larger stiff for ballasting.

Thanks Chris. My bad here I had planned on sieving the dust first but totally forgot to. 

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On 07/02/2020 at 16:47, Caley Jim said:

An alternative to the bottle is an eye dropper. 

 

Jim

 

I like the clear plastic pippettes for this kind of job, they hold a useful amount of liquid.  Something like ebay item 163936584747.  There's a multitude of uses for these, like transferring paint into airbrush cups.

When applying the glue mix to ballast, I've found that if it's misted over with a wetting solution, dropping some glue mix at the edge of the ballast and letting it wick upwards seems to give least disturbance to the ballast. Capillary action is your friend here.

Sealing the trackbase with a coat of Unibond before laying the track helps too, as then the trackbase isn't absorbing the liquids.

 

Mark

 

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Hi, I’m the builder/owner of Little Salkeld.

 

I used a mix of 2/3 chinchilla dust and 1/3 fine N gauge ballast.

 

The fiNetrax was glued down onto a thin cork underlay which already had a paper Templot plan fixed in place. I hand painted the underside of each piece of track with a slightly watered down PVA solution and laid it in place with a piece of flat ply and weights on to ensure it cured whilst nice and flat - then 24 hrs to cure.

 

The ballasting was then the fairly common process of pouring ballast onto the track and using a small paint brush to get it off sleepers and shape it on either side of the track. A light spray from a distance with a water detergent mix to wet it and then a heavily watered down mix was carefully applied using a pipette.

 

A good 24 hours then to dry again. Chinchilla dust drys like concrete, so it’s preferable to get it off sleepers and shaped before you apply the PVA. I air brushed mine after as I found that the chinchilla dust was too light with a bit of a greenish colour which didn’t look right.

 

It does take a bit of time, and not as easy as PECO code 55 because the track is much thinner allowing the ballast to spread around, so it it needs a lot more fettling but the end result means that it’s worth the extra 25% of effort and will be the thing that really makes your track work and layout stand out.

 

By the way I recall that I also did a test piece with around 8 short sections of track bonded onto a piece of scrap ply to get the ratio of ballast to chinchilla dust right. It’s worth painting the samples as well because you get a much better sight of what they will look like when finished.

 

Hope that helps

 

Good luck with it!

 

Paul

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I've used it for groundwork in 4mm and I've sprayed  Isopropyl Alcohol as a wetting agent prior to using a pippette to add my watered down PVA. 

I've found the alcohol really works to break any surface tension.

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I need to have another go. I used dust a while back on an HOm test piece. Damping it with a re-purposed kitchen spray bottle containing "wet" water simply displaced the dust too much. 

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It is also worth mentioning there are different types of Chinchilla dust. The one I tried was made up of ground clay which when wet just blended back together and cracked on drying.

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I came across an alternative, and very effective, "wet" water via my pottery activities. There are many recipes online (Google magic water) but the one I use is made up of 4 litres of water, 50 ml of sodium silicate and 10 ml of washing soda. Sodium silicate (also known as water glass) can be had from craft shops that sell pottery supplies. I don't know what it costs in small quantities. I buy it in bulk for $8 a litre, which would probably ballast most of the ECML in 305 mm scale. 

Anyhow, this stuff is so effective that the smallest drop I can sensibly muster will wick all the way through a 2 mm scale sleeper gap if applied at the sleeper end (ballast being sand/grit from the garden, sieved to between 0.3 mm and 0.8 mm). 

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