Archive for the ‘Life intervenes’ Category

So, Middle Son has decided he’s into fingerboards, and wanted to buy a skateboard ramp to use his with.  It looked very expensive for a tacky bit of plastic that would travel thousands of miles on a ship towards its destiny as landfill so I suggested we make one, and to my surprise he was excited at the prospect.

So this week I made a prototype to see if such a thing is possible using card, which he is very excited about:

So there you are. far from being a pointless activity for nerds with no use in the real world, Model making can be helpful in the family, and also Very Cool, apparently.

Any one else have any examples?

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or: Further attempts to get my boys away from a computer….

I was looking through some videos on making walls for my buildings -I’ve never seen any reason not to get ideas from other modelmaking hobbies for use on the railway- and came across this one showing how to make stonework on wargaming boards. Now I’m wondering if this could be a way to get the boys interested in creative building.

At the moment they’re a bit daunted by the scope of model railways: the Eldest Son is interested in stuff like painting and weathering, but finds the whole creative building from scratch a bit overpowering, especially with electrical challenges added. The other two are strategists but could probably get interested in the creative side if the have an idea of what they are doing.

All three love playing strategy games online, and are variously interested in military things, steampunk and anime. Being boys this partly comes with the territory.

For obvious reasons, in a British/Japanese family in Germany, it seems a bit tasteless to do either of the World Wars, so I’ve cut a deal that we could try Napoleonic or Steampunk, or some kind of self-made scenario like Bavaria attacking Württemberg, or possibly something involving orcs.

I have done some wargaming in the past, and my idea was to try skirmish style wargaming using 28mm figures (so I can use them and any scenic materials for 1:55 scale railways if they lose interest) on small boards like the ones suggested towards the end of the video above. This way there’s painting and weathering but not too much, and we can quickly have strategy for the two more interested in gaming.

Now, where do we start? there seem to be books of rules and all kinds of opportunities to spend money. We’ll decline most of these as we can build them, but I’m guessing some people here know what the essentials are, or at least know the right questions to work it out.

Any thoughts welcome…

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More exams loom. This has cut into modelmaking. This week we have ‘Rechtskunde’ or law. We need to know the law for working with people with disabilities/psychological issues/refugees/young offenders et c,, what rights they have, including extra rights to protect them, and how to deal with different situations.Of course to do this we need to have a working knowledge of the law for everyone else.

It is very boring.

The picture above is my attempt at making it a bit more interesting and rearranging the information to help me remember it.

German speakers: I know “Rectskunde” should be “Rechtskunde”. Pencils don’t have a spellchecker, and by the time I noticed I’d filled in all the gaps…

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Plane Sailing. Hopefully.


I spent most of the weekend preparing for my first practical exams, which means not much modelmaking got done. In the exam I have to teach someone something for half an hour. For my first attempt I chose to do a session on how to sharpen a woodworking plane, a choice I since regretted because it means carrying both my cast iron planes into college and back, but there we go. I’ve practiced with several people so I know how to approach the session, and I spent most of the weekend preparing lots of instructions for my ‘trainee’ to refer to. I also wrote a fifteen page report, which either explains my concept in flowing German prose, or fills a lot of paper with utter gibberish. I decided not to get anyone to proofread the first example so I can see if my German is up to the standard the college needs.

The college have very kindly let me do the test with just the tutor and trainee, instead of being in front of the entire class of 20 people, which would just make me freeze up. Of course this means organising an extra session, so they shoe-horned some space into Monday morning.

The test is at 1030 tomorrow. See you on the other side…

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A while back I mentioned having a rather fun day playing with someone else’s trains at our local church. The people concerned used the FREEMO system of putting modules together which I’ve explained in a previous entry here.


The idea has stuck in my head a bit since, possibly because I realised this as the nearest I’ve been to playing on my own model railway since Westerooge became too unreliable, and partly because I’ve reached a point in my carpentry apprenticeship where I’d be able to make a baseboard complete with a box to keep it in like the FREEMO ones below.


We have no spare space in our 96m² (1000 sq ft) apartment for a railway, so the box would have to be just the right size to go in the loft or nice enough to be used as a normal piece of furniture as well as a model railway box. The second idea seems better as I’m not keen on dragging things in and out of the loft all the time. I’m not sure what sort of furniture can hide a model railway though.

I’ve got a design for ‘Spitzenwald’ that could just about fit in a box like those, if I split it in two, but Eldest Son does very much want a model we can build together as well, so I think that would be first on any list.

On the other hand, one of the things about being a carpenter is that people come with ‘suggestions’ for things to make. I’ve just finished a pine bed for Youngest Son, and Beautiful Wife has pointed out that several pieces of ‘Furniture’ are still cardboard boxes with sheets over them, so it may yet be a while before the model railway box makes it to the top of the jobs list.


Perhaps I could solve both at once: “It’s a new coffee table for the living room. What? the bit that opens into a conveniently model-railway-sized flat board? You know, I never thought of it like that, but as you mention it, I do remember some designs that may fit…”

Does anyone else have problems of needing to ‘hide’ your model railway when it isn’t in use? How do you deal with it?

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Busy, busy…

I’m a bit busy right now. Enjoying myself, but a bit busy.

Most of this week has been getting to know the college and what loud and dangerous bits of machinery do which job and how they can hurt you. To date this involved a safety talk on all the interesting ways you can maim and kill yourself and anyone within a few metres of you when using a fast spinning circle saw, before cutting a thick pine plank into little chunks, which is a remarkably satisfying and very noisy experience. Then we tried to cut straight lines in said pine using a hand saw, which was somewhat less satisfying, but after an hour of sawing I could see a definite improvement, and it was a very good workout for the arm muscles.

Eight more hours of cutting wood tomorrow, followed by theory lessons later in the week, which is all very well but it’s playing hob with my blogging…

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Long-suffering readers of this blog will have noticed that I’ve been trying to get an apprenticeship or other qualification for a couple of years now.

Well, after two years of false starts, next week I’ll start an apprenticeship as a cabinet maker/carpenter, having managed to convince a local company that I’m not too much of a liability, and filled in a small bale of forms to persuade the government that no, I’m not attempting to get money for nothing but I would like to eat. The system here is that although I’ve got an employer, I’ll spend most of the first year in college learning the basics.

Assuming I actually manage to pass the intermediate exams in a years time, I’ll be working with the company that took me on as an apprentice until 2015. Then I have to pass the final exams, including a German and Maths exam* and then make something out of wood that looks good and doesn’t collapse when the judges poke it. Unfottunately I doubt they’ll consider a model railway baseboard a worthy subject.

But that’s in three years time. This week I need to get my feet used to supporting my weight the whole day again, and then the week after I’ll start commuting to college.

I’l be going by rail.

Brace yourself for lots of pictures of red trains…

*Guess what my worst school subjects were.

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