So came back today, first time in a few months, and am getting ready to start a new N-scale structure from Bar Mills.

I noticed that WordPress was asking me to make a few updates…in particular to version 4.2.2 and also to a few various plugins (7 to be exact).  So I went ahead and updated them blindly and am hoping for the best.  So if you see any errors or other formatting issues, please let me know.

Also, there were a few comments/questions that have come in regards to some previous posts.  I apologize profusely for not getting back sooner, but I did my best in answering them today while weeding out a lot of spam (the spam engine was also upgraded today, so hopefully that will help as well).

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Structures: HO – Ron’s Lobster Shack (Part 5)

I think this entry should wrap this build up folks.

Pic 1: Finished front

Pic 1: Finished front

Not much to say other than show off finished product, weathering, and misc. details.  In Pic 1 (above)  you’re looking at the front of the structure after I have applied a little weathering chalk.  Notice I tried to create ‘streaks’ at various points from the roof line eves and very subtle hints as well under the windows.  I used a combination of grimy black, dirty brown, rust, grimy yellow, and even some blue.  The blue chalk was used very sparingly under the window sills.

I also used a combination of these chalks on the roof paper as well, to help blend some of the more obvious sponged paint splotches into each other so their individual outlines weren’t as dramatic.

Pic 2: Window and office side.

Pic 2: Window and office side.

Picture 2 shows a close-up of the opposite side.  Same chalks and techniques involved.  However, the only noticeable critiques I have against myself here is: 1) The noticeable cardboard edges of the roof panels, and 2) The ‘office’ roof is slightly slanted down at an angle that is somewhat apparent in this particular shot.

It is so noticeable when looking at other angles, or in person, but this shot (at least to me) magnifies the fact that the optional roof bracing I placed in a previous post wasn’t high enough, so that the cardboard roofline peak is a few millimeters lower than it should be in my opinion.  Other than this, I think my weathering was pretty decent.  Sure it could be better, but overall, it’s decent enough to illicit the idea that this building has been around for a while now.

Pic 3: Side shot.

Pic 3: Side shot.

In Pic 3 we see yet another angle, and the weathering isn’t as pronounced.  I may go back and add a little bit more so it’s more consistent with what you see in Pic’s 1 & 2.  It might be a little weak here, but the natural sunlight may also be highlighting the effects to my detriment.  Again, I’m also not so keen on the cardboard edges being visible on the roof panels, but I’m unsure how to hide those effectively.

For a freebie structure with no instructions and some creative license, it was fun to practice.  If you have any questions or comments, I encourage you to drop me a line.  Heck, I may learn something from you.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this build with me and thus concludes Ron’s Lobster Shack in HO.



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Structures: HO – Ron’s Lobster Shack (Part 4)

In part 4 today I’ll be working on the roof.

There are three individual cardboard roof panels.  One of them needs to be slightly scored with a razor blade down the middle, lengthwise, so that when folded it will form the peak for office outcropping.

Pic 1: Adding roof tabs

Pic 1: Adding roof tabs

I want to bring your attention to a few different things here in Pic 1 (above):

  • Notice the large piece of bass wood corner bracing which I used to secure the office outcropping to the main structure.  There is an identical piece (hidden from this angle) on the opposite wall doing the same.  It was attached to the building use wood glue.
  • Note that I did not paint the inside of the office outcropping with flat black spray paint.  Again this is an optional step, and I chose not to do it for the office.
  • You can see my paper towel window shades pretty clearly here.
  • The most important thing I wanted to point out here was the two small scrap wood pieces I placed at an angle on the main structure wall that will form additional bracing for the cardboard roof.  Since there were no instructions, I came up with this on my own.  You can faintly see where I drew in the roof line in pencil as a guide.  The whole purpose of this is to give the cardboard roof (pictured to right of structure, already scored, above) something to rest upon instead of just relying on white glue adhering to the building side.
Pic 2: Cardboard roof attached.

Pic 2: Cardboard roof attached.

In Pic 2 (above), I have attached the roof panels with white glue.  I used a rubber band on the scored roof section on the office to hold in place while the glue dried.  You can see I have also added some more signage as well.

I’ll admit that I made a mistake in my opinion by trying to dab on some light paint to the large blue sign.  It did not have the effect I intended, but instead looks more like a smear and obstructs some of the lettering.  I was going for more of a peeling and aged look as I have done on other models, but clearly I did not remove enough paint from the sponge before dabbing on.  I tried to clean it off immediately, but instead I just ended up smearing it with my finger tip.  So what’s the lesson here?  I should have tried ‘sponging’ on the paint to the sign first, even before I cut it out and affixed it to the building.  Hopefully, I will be able to correct this aesthetically with weathering chalks later on.

Pic 3: Reverse shot showing more roof.

Pic 3: Reverse shot showing more roof.

Picture 3 shows the reverse side of the building, along with additional signage again, and also the small building outcropping I discussed in the previous post.

Next up will be the roofing paper.  If you’ll recall from my first post, the paper sheet that was included with the kit was just plain gray in color.  It was pretty non-descript.  I was tempted to add a gravel like top as I did with my Sunset Hotel build (see embedded link), but decided against it.  I could have gone with black construction paper to simulate tar paper, but I thought the contrast might be too much.  Then there was the idea of buying other textured paper, or printing out my own roofing via clipart, but ultimately decided I need to work more on my ‘sponging’.

So I went through my acrylic paints, and picked out colors from black, browns, greens, and grays and lined them up from dark (left) to light (right) as seen in Pic 4.

Pic 4: Acrylic roof paint lineup.

Pic 4: Acrylic roof paint lineup.


Using a few drops of each, I then began to randomly sponge on the paint to the side that did not have the lines.  The lines are used as guides to cut the paper into even strips, so we don’t want to cover those up.  Also, the reason I set my colors up from dark to light is that I want to apply the colors in that order.  I want to use my dark colors as the base, and work myself to the blending of lighter pigments.  Now some of you may be asking, “Why is there Stone Wedge green in there?” Well, simply put, a small dabbling of green suggests maybe a smattering of moss or mold, what ever you prefer.

Pic 5: Don't paint the side with lines.  Needed for cut indication.

Pic 5: Don’t paint the side with lines. Needed for cut indication.

Pic 6: Roof paint in progress

Pic 6: Roof paint in progress

Pic 6 shows the painting in progress.  Completely random pattern going on here, and I’m not waiting for individual colors to dry before moving on to the next.  These colors will blend more and more as I progress, and when it dries will become a bit more muted.

In the next entry in this series I’ll go ahead and attach the painted roof strips and additional eve trim.


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Structures: HO – Ron’s Lobster Shack (Part 3)

So I was thought I took more pictures than I actually did during this build, or I accidentally deleted them somehow while transferring the shots from my device to my PC.  Needless to say, there’s quite a gap of picture progression from the first two installments of this build to today’s entry.  I’ll try my best to fill you in on what I did and some lessons learned as well.

The first lesson I learned was to always, always, always test fit and re-measure your initial measurements before applying any glue.  In what seemed like a slam dunk to me, proved to be an error.  Although the effects of my error(s) are hidden to the casual observer, the problem, (being the somewhat anal person that I know that I am) is that the structural strength is slightly compromised.  I fully intended to place internal bracing within the four corners of the main structure so that the walls would square up nicely at 90 degree right angles when joined with wood glue.  However, my pencil markings were 1-2 millimeters off, and thus while the bracing does strengthen two of the four main walls, the other two don’t benefit from the corner bracing as I intended.  In short, the walls were supposed to be flush against the bracing, but they aren’t.  It took some additional care, placement, and patience for me to get the main structure walls completely square.

The other issue that is kind of bugging me right now is the window dressings/drapes.  I really struggled with finding some material to make my window shades.  I was planning to cut up some solid color magazine pages, but they either looked to shiny, or the colors too bold.  I then went to look for an old shirt or rag I could cut up like I have done in previous builds, but couldn’t find any that I liked.  Only out of sheer desperation, did I settle on cutting up plain white paper towels and glued them to the inside of the structure with white glue.  The result?  Okay to passable, but in my humble opinion (IMHO) lacks the punch and flair to be considered a truly model worthy detail.  The drapes are optional accents, and I always like to add them to my models.  They lend to the appearance, at least to me, that the building is currently in use and suggests that there has been recent activity within.  They also obscure the viewer from seeing very little of the inside of the structure like bracing, blank walls, etc.

I justified the use of the paper towels that this was a ‘free’ and somewhat simple structure and was not going to be part of my actual layout, but more so that I could practice building after taken some time off from modeling.  If I had to do it over again, I’d probably hold out for some real fabric, but as they say “The show must go on.”


Pic 1: Detail of small building wing (outside)

Pic 1: Detail of small building wing (outside)

Picture 1 (above) shows some detail of the small outcropping to be attached to the main structure.  At this point, both the larger plastic windows and smaller laser cut wooden window frames and their associated trim have all been attached via white glue.  Same goes for the door and door frames as well.

Pic 2: Inside of small wing.

Pic 2: Inside of small wing.


Picture 2 (above) shows the reverse side of the same outcropping.  Note that I used some bass wood in the corners to help brace and square up the two smaller wings attached to either side.  However, despite the bracing, note that the left side suffers from a bit of warpage, most likely from the acrylic paint.  At this scale it isn’t that bad, and we can even hide more of its overall effect with some landscaping, chalk, and debris resting up in that corner if placed on a layout or diorama.

Pic 3: 55% complete.

Pic 3: 55% complete.

In the last shot today (Pic 3), we jump forward to approximately 55% completed.  Notice that the two main buildings have been joined together and some initial signage has been applied.  There is plenty more signage to adhere, as well as the roof and it’s detailing, the small building outcropping (as shown in Pics 1 & 2 earlier), and of course the weathering and additional trim.

To be continued….


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Structures: HO – Ron’s Lobster Shack (Part 2)

For me, one of the hardest parts of any model build is deciding on the color scheme.

I tend to naturally gravitate to the same color palette in my personal life, but I understand that it unrealistic in the modeling world.  If all my structures took on the same look or theme, it would indeed look very artificial and ‘too’ planned.  Sometimes, one has to select colors that you normally wouldn’t, only to provide world diversity and please the tastes of others.

For the fictional town of Willoughby Junction, I try to imagine all the various inhabitants or characters of the town.  The buildings they work in, the places where they dwell should reflect ‘their’ tastes and personalities, not just mine.  I have a rough draft, if you will, of many of the inhabitants of Willoughby and have thus created loose backstories for them all.  In doing so, I imagine myself as them, and choose colors that would best fit them or the structures purpose.

Sometimes, for inspiration I look at country magazines or catalogs.  Just flipping through the pages will often spark an idea, especially if the shots background has a lot of foliage.  I ponder if this building would be found in Willoughby Junction, and if so this often leads me down a color path.

In the case of Ron’s Lobster Shack, a lot of combinations started to fill my head.  There was the very dark and natural wood structure with deep orange trim, there was the canary yellow building with red trim.  I briefly toyed with the idea of an all blue building, but then couldn’t think of the color for the trim.  But no matter how many color combinations I came up with, the vision of white building with blue trim kept popping back up.

I didn’t want stark white, so I opted to go with a color that looked aged.  Stark white would be too bright for me and I couldn’t picture the owner of Ron’s maintaining it every year with a fresh coat of paint.  To me, the shack is near a water source, close to daily fresh lobster catches and probably not close to the owners home.  He get’s up early, has to drive to work, deals with the local fisherman, starts the coffee and begins prepping for the day.  He doesn’t have time or the gumption to repaint every year, so the elements do a number on the building.  On his days off, he’s relaxing at home, putzing around the garage, playing with the dog, or out BBQ’ing with the neighbors.

Pic 1: Color test.

Pic 1: Color test.

So what I have here in the above picture is a sampling of two colors I have ‘sponged’ on my clapboard sidings.  From the previous post, you know I have applied a base of 5% India Ink & Alcohol wash and let dry.  Next, comes a uniform sponged coat of Americana ‘Antique White’ acrylic paint.  By sponging this on, I allow for the natural wood and staining to peek out.  Once that is dry, I then apply highlights of Polly Scale ‘Aged White’ with the same sponge.  I do this by getting some paint on the same sponge and then blot most of the paint off on a paper towel so that there is only a residual amount still left.  I then randomly dab this over the original coat to simulate the highlights.  Personally, I really liked how this turned out as it lends to the look of additional texture on the sidings.

Next was the trim.  You saw a sneak peek of it yesterday in the first post, but officially I decided upon ‘True Blue’ (acrylic) also by Americana.  Using the same technique described above, I sponged on my blue on all the trim, accent pieces, doors, and primed plastic windows.

To be continued….

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Structures: HO – Ron’s Lobster Shack (Part I)

Wow, it’s been a whopping nine months since I last posted here.  I never stopped building my structures or lost interest in model railroading at all, it has just been a very busy year for me.

Well, the good news is that I have actually been working on a small HO structure the last month or so, and have been taking pictures along the way.  It’s currently about 80% done right now and I hope to wrap it up in the next week or two so that I can start on yet another N scale structure here at the end of the month.  See, my regular day job shuts down for about two weeks at the end of the December (oh, and in case you are wondering, no I don’t get a lot of time off during the rest of the year), so I will have twelve (12) days off in a row before I report back on January 5th, 2015.

Anyway, let me give some background on this series.  The structure in question was a ‘freebie’ from FOS Scale Models entitled “Ron’s in the Rough Lobster Shack” and was only available if you had purchased another one of Dave’s kits during a certain time frame.  The additional caveat to these ‘freebies’ is that they ship with absolutely no instructions.  All you are given is a small picture to work from, and it’s generally only a one angle shot.  So, as the modeler, you really need to take the time and study the picture and identify all the parts before you begin your build.  Additionally, since you are only given one reference picture to work from, you’ll also need to figure out what the backside looks like on your own.

While these models might not have a lot to them and are on the smaller side of his kits, I tend to think they fall somewhere between the beginner and intermediate skill level.  You’ll need to understand the concepts of internal support bracing, and how models are put together (sometimes the modules are linear in nature) before you proceed.  Personally, I’m not sure why Dave chooses not to include any instructions on these, (I can’t imagine the cost of one sheet of color paper is financially detrimental to his business) but it’s his call, and they are in fact, free.  Beggars can’t be chooses I guess.

So let’s get to the parts layout:

Pic 1: Ron's parts laid out

Pic 1: Ron’s parts laid out

Starting from the top, and moving in a clockwise direction: 1 sheet of roofing paper, 1 laser cut clapboard sheet of main structure, 1 paper sheet of color signage (incl. thumbnail picture of completed structure), 1 laser cut clapboard sheet of structure wing, 4 plastic windows on sprue, 1 sheet of cardboard for roofs, various basswood used for trim and bracing, 1 small laser cut clapboard for small structure wing, and finally a sheet of laser cut door, window, and various other dressings and accents.

One thing not included is any acetate for window/door glazing.  I know Dave is general a fan of clear liquid glue glazing’s, so that doesn’t surprise me.  It’s a good thing I save any left over scraps from other builds.  I should have just enough of my own clear acetate to cut out and use for the various windows and doors here.

I’ll end today’s entry with my first progress point.

Pic 2: Prelim painting.

Pic 2: Prelim painting.

I’ll talk more about the color scheme and theme more in the next post in this series, but suffice to say for this picture you can see I started to paint the trim blue using a sponging technique.  However, before I even did that, I applied a single coat of 5% India Ink & Alcohol wash to all clapboard surfaces before I remove them from their laser cut sheets.  On the large structure piece that will form the core of the building, note that I applied bass wood bracing (to strengthen and prevent warpage) first, then spray painted the backside with a coat of flat black.

The flat black will help reduce any light leakage from any seams in case I want to add any interior lighting or details some time down the line.  Chances are I probably will not, but it’s a habit I’ve gotten in to and doesn’t hurt.

Oh, and prior to the sponging of the plastic windows (upper left within pic), I removed them from their sprue, sanded down any excess plastic flashing, arranged on blue painters tape (so they won’t stick), and sprayed a coat of gray automotive primer and let dry thoroughly.

To be continued….


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Structures: HO – Building A Diorama (Part III)

If you’ll recall from the previous post (Part II) in this series, I had just finished putting on a coat of Woodland Scenics ‘Earth’ pigment to my plaster cloth base, and had a small berm that I had attached a few hydrocal rock castings too.

Now it’s time to move on ahead and begin to add our first layer of landscaping.


Pic 1: Masking the berm

In Pic 1, I have used some tacky, but not too sticky, blue painter’s tape to mask off areas in which I did not want landscaping turf to adhere to.  First off, I masked off the sides of the diorama by placing the tape as flush as I could to the upper corners of where our surface edges meets the unpainted plaster edges.  Because the plaster is a bit porous and uneven, don’t expect it to be perfect…that’s okay.  Next I masked off the cork roadbed and rail that is on a diagonal.  Finally, knowing that I’d be spraying my glue mixture from above , I masked off my rock castings were they protruded from the berm as well…you don’t want your freshly painted rocks covered in turf do you?


Pic 2: First pass at fine turf.

In Pic 2, you can see I’ve already went ahead and masked the other side of the roadbed and track and have made my first pass using 60/40 blend of Woodland Scenics fine green turf and fine earth cover turf.  The earth cover turf helps tone down the fine green turf and make for a more natural look in my opinion.  I applied this using a shaker in small sections at a time to help control both the evenness of the application and to avoid making to much of a mess.  The fine turf is very light and very susceptible to static electricity and can get all over the place like sawdust or drywall dust if not careful.

Since my spray bottle was not working correctly, I actually applied the glue-like-wash with a paintbrush (pictured left).  The wash is a simple mixture of about 3 parts water to 1 part white all-purpose white glue that was mixed thoroughly before hand.  If you find that the wash is *too* thin, you can mix in a bit of more glue, but try not to exceed more than 1/3rd glue.  I then painted the wash on in 3″ x 3″ sections, and promptly added the turf before moving on to the next section.

During cleanup, make sure you wash out your paintbrush completely of any glue and you can use the brush over and over again.

In today’s post, you’ll note that I only covered 1/3rd of my base.  This is by design.  I really want to work on adding the ballast to the track, and I haven’t made a commitment to where I am going to place my actual structure yet, so I’m leaving the rest of the base unmolested for now.  As I continue, I will ‘paint’ on the glue wash for the remainder of the exposed base, but only for this first coat of turf.  In subsequent passes, I will indeed buy a new spray bottle to ‘mist’ the areas I will be adding additional turf colors and ground cover.


Pic 3: Adding ballast (inside tracks)

In Pic 3, you can see that I have removed my mask from the roadbed, but placed two strips of blue painters tape on the edges where my cut track meet the edges.  This is solely to keep the ballast from spilling over as I add it between the tracks and glue it in place (think of it as a dam).

However, before I even began to add the ballast, I decided to tone down (i.e. weather) the bright brass rails by using a solvent based paint entitled ‘mud’ made by Testor’s.  I should have done this prior to hot gluing the track to the roadbed as it would have been much easier to handle, but this is one of those lessons you learn during a build that you’ll be sure to remember the next time around.

The Woodland Scenics ballast is also very fine, and a small bit goes a very long way, so be careful when pouring straight out of the bag.  Using the same brush (now dry) that I painted on my glue-wash, I *slowly* brushed the ballast into place between the railroad ties an inch at a time.  Again, because the ballast is very fne, very light weight, and susceptible to static take your time.  I used a tweezer to move and relocate some stubborn pieces.  When I was satisfied with my work, I ‘misted’ the track and ballast with a solution of ‘wet-water’.

‘Wet-water’ is basically a mixture of regular water with a drop or two of dish washing soap added in.  It’s purpose is to lower the surface tension level of other water based solutions so that droplets can be administered and flow easily between cracks, nooks, and crannies.


Pic 4: Inside rail ballast.

Using an eye dropper, I then placed approx. 3 drops of my glue wash to each ballast section between the ties and allowed to set and dry.  This last picture shows my progress thus far.  Note that I obviously did not do the ballast on the outside of the rails.  I’ll admit, I’m a bit stymied on how I am going to do to this with the 45 degree angle on the edge of the roadbed.  In my mind, I know how I could do this without making it look like too much ballast, but the process will be long involving me tilting my diorama at 45 degree’s at least twice (once for each edge) and waiting it out.  Another person I showed this to made the recommendation that I should sand down corner, and while this would indeed work, it will also take time (there’s not a lot of room) and be potentially messy as I will then need to clean up the cork before the ballast can be applied.  Decisions…decisions.  Anyone have advice?

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