Posts Tagged ‘Scratchbuilding’

As expected, determined procrastination has ensured little progress on the Great White Whale so the focus has returned to the Cardboard Rocket, especially as I’d already come to the fun part where I get to add all kinds of bits and pieces which somehow make it look less like a few bits of milk carton gobbed together with superglue and more like a car. At least I think it does. Don’t mess up my reality.

So far the model has cost a grand total of nothing, unless you count superglue. Even the figure is recycled from a 1:48 scale kit, after your correspondent finally realised that the difference between 1:48 and 1:55 is so small that for the most part it’s invisible. The head is nominally 1:55 and white metal, a leftover from a pack of ‘female heads’. For model railway builders I should perhaps explain that these are sold for mounting on figures to make then ‘female’ the gender being less than obvious when the figure is in a uniform. It’s handy for those of us who don’t want our female combatants to have a biologically impossible figure.

Other ‘detail parts’ consist of old guitar strings, handles from a Chinese takeaway, brass offcuts (the over large buckle on the ‘strap’ wouldn’t have worked with steel), dressmakers pins, (side and rear lights), electrical wire, a filed down nail head, (radiator cap), a cut off picture nail head (fuel cap) and an exhaust from copier paper wrapped around some metal of unknown origin that’s been kicking about the workbench for years.

The general idea is that after painting this will all somehow fit together and look like it’s made of metal and leather instead of cardboard and oddments. We shall see…


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I’m thinking of calling this loco ‘Moby Dick’: right now it looks like a great white whale and I’m not sure who will win the struggle to finish it off. I’m moving at a speed that a glacier would probably consider tardy, but I have finally managed to complete the sides and even attach them to the frame.

Appropriately, I’ve built the sides thick enough to be an ice breaker, partly for strength and partly because it made it easier to be sure the angled sides would be the same on both sides of the locomotive. I tend to think this is even more critical than getting the ends perfectly identical because it is relatively difficult to see both ends for comparison when the loco is on a model, whereas it’s quite common to see it end on.

The thick sides also made things like the steps and handrails easier to fit. I used recessed handlebars on this model, not because I’m such a model making genius but because I thought it may be easier to get them straight, or if I didn’t I could hide the fact more easily with some weathering.

It’s worked for the most part, just about. Although somehow the body has managed to twist a small amount, it isn’t noticeable if you squint…

I think I’m slow with these models because the Körschtalbahn was my ‘baby’ for many years now, with the original sketches dating from when I was in High School. Whenever I start a project I have a sudden need to think through everything half a dozen times before committing to building anything.

The current problem is a case in point. The original Henschel locomotives have a slight horizontal curve on the lower and upper parts of the nose which I’d like to repeat on the model, but I’m spending ages worrying about it instead of just getting on with the job. It would probably be more sensible to just make a straight end like the Bulgarian Railway locomotives I started with, so I can finish the model and then build the second example as a more ‘pure’ Henschel, giving me two similar but not identical locomotives with slightly different capabilities.

Either way, it’s about time I stopped messing about and got on with it…


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I still haven’t give up on the idea of having headlights on the the Henschel diesel for the Körschtalbahn. While working on the cab I realised the various essential electrical bits I’d need for this wouldn’t fit in the ends of the locomotive. Instead I’d have to put them in the relatively generous space in the body, with wires running to the LED’s in the ends.

In a rare flash of forward planning, I decided to make sure there was a route for these wire to run from the ends of the locomotive to the middle so I could put the LED’s in place, finish the locomotive, and then connect the other complex but essential components when I had the money and inclination to add them.

The only problem is that the chassis unit I’m using is rather large, and based around a block of very solid metal, so the wires have to be threaded along a gap between the motor and sides. Then the wires needed to come up in the middle of the locomotive so they could eventually be added to the other bits of electrical gubbins, and the gap was deep down below the substantial bits of plastic that would be used to glue the sides to the chassis.

Above is my solution. When the wires are pushed from the ends down the gap, they should turn along the curved plastic and poke up through a gap, right next to the space where the rest of the circuitry will be kept.

That’s the theory anyway; we shall see if it works in a few weeks…


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If I’m going to keep that Steampunk vibe going on our rather implausible steam powered tank then I need rivets, and lots of them. This is a new problem for me as I usually make models of modern(ish) trains, which are welded together.

While working out how to make putting off the rivets, I made some heavy duty doors, extra wide on the basis that anyone leaving this vehicle will likely want to do so fairly quickly, and most importantly for the younger member of the project team, made sure the ridiculously large seven-barelled gun would be appropriately hidden when not in use.

So far it seems to work. Below, gun port closed:

Sliding a cunningly placed “Pipe’ on the other end of the tank pushes the gun forwards, opening the hatch as it does:

I’d like to claim this was achieved by careful measurement and engineering, but as long term readers will already know, it was mostly guesswork, and as usual I’m not quite sure if I could make it work twice.

Having done this I couldn’t put of the rivets any longer, so I bought some short brass pins from a sewing shop, and after breaking two drill bits making holes for them, I spent a happy couple of evenings gluing them on to the tank.

With my usual speed of uptake, I also realised that the kit we’d bought for the caterpillar tracks had lots of interesting detail parts, and added as many of these I thought I could reasonably get away with.

I’m guessing the cables were carried in case a tank broke down in the field, and I decided these would be essential. On an an engineering disaster like this I think it’s a bit optimistic hanging them on the back instead of the front…

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For the last two years the focus of pretty well everything I’d been doing has been April the 19th 2018: Exam Day for my Occupational Therapists qualification.

Suddenly Exam Day has come and gone, and I have a couple of shiny new certificates, a sense of anticlimax, and huge pile of revision notes. It’s quite a shock to realise just how much I’d been focusing on this for the last eighteen months or so. It’s also a shock not to have to keep going through these every time I have five minutes to spare:

Those revision notes were extremely important until last week, and now they’re just so much notepaper. I’ve even used a couple for model making experiments.

Anyway, I’ve got a bit of time off, but I’m using a lot of it to get ready for starting work with an organisation helping people with Psychological and addiction issues. I expect that this will leave me pretty tired for the first few weeks, so until things have calmed down a bit and I’m in a routine I’ll leave the ‘serious’ model railways, and work on a stack of simpler projects based around tabletop games and other creative things I’m trying to do with my boys.

I’ll still be posting once a week, but it may look a bit different for a while…


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A big part of making the downscaled locomotive was trying out those distinctly awkward angles on the ends, where the sloping windscreen had to match up with the sloping sides at an angle hitherto unknown to geometry.

After wondering briefly why I do this sort of thing in my spare time instead of something more sensible like amateur quantum physics, I decided that instead of trying to figure the angle out mathematically and then messing about putting it right when that didn’t work, I’d go straight to the messing about stage and do it by eye: it’d save time in the long run.

So far it seems to have worked, taking ‘worked’ to mean “close enough that I could hide the problems with a fair bit of bodging.”

*The ‘Amazing Shrinking Loco‘.

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It seems to be a time of making odd projects. This is partly because I’m using most of the spare brain capacity -a resource at a premium at the best of times- for getting through exams so I was after a less challenging set of projects, and also because I’m still trying to find projects that will get my boys enthusiastic about something other than smart phones.

Hence the current crop of kits and figures found on the model making desk.

Amongst other things I persuaded Middle Son to join me on a project to go with the Younger son’s model figures by drawing a suitably over the top suggestion:

To my rather great surprise he liked the idea, so we made a start with a 1:48 tank kit from a well known online auction site.

After carefully photographing the extra cross bracing we got carried away and forgot to take any more pictures until we got to this stage:

We’re making as much of the tank as possible from ‘found things’ (ie:junk) and to start this, the main part of the ‘Boiler’ was until recently the top of a milk carton. (and then briefly a mixing cup for an acrylic wash)

After searching for a turret we found a bottle of ear wash that was the perfect shape. A small amount of violence on the bottle revealed a number of useful parts. As the ear wash was utterly useless it’s comforting to know we get something for the cost…

Meanwhile, Middle Son put forth the opinion that “We should have a seven barrelled gun, that is hidden until we want to use it”. He wanted a rotating carriage that swung out the side but I persuaded him that a sliding version will be easier to make.

Of course, at that point I didn’t actually know how I was going to make either…

Anyway, Here’s the planned ordinance, largely held on with the German version of Blu-Tak:

After this I got to work on the boiler area. I don’t think there’s any real excuse for having two chimneys unless some crazed professor has found a cunning way to improve steaming with them, but I prefer the look of a pair. This is about the level of most of my decisions, I’m afraid: engineering and realism can go hang if I think it looks about right.

In keeping with the ‘make everything from junk ethos, I found some handles from a Chinese takeaway box to make some of the pipes.

At the dangerous end (assuming we can refer to that dodgy boiler as the ‘safe’ part) the  gun in the turret is is made from a bit of tube that came from the same bottle as the ‘turret’. To strengthen it I pushed a bit of brass inside and said it was a machine gun with a coolant casing. I know machine guns from this time period would usually have had the barrel lower down in the casing, but life is far too short.

I might try and be sensible for a bit now. We’ll see…

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