Scratch Building

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andrew1996 Train Controller

Location: Fremantle

How do you scratch build a model?

 
R703 Locomotive Driver

Location: ...At the desk building something...

Pfft! I do it all the time, I have a big collection of the things that I have scratchbuilt.

First of all, get plans of what ever, work out what unit of measurement is used, find out the scale of what you prefer, convert the units so it is up to scale, draw the parts on some sheet plastic or metal, cut it all out and put it together. You may also need to purchase many parts from various brands. So get out there and do it  Very Happy  I also wish you luck in this  Razz

R703

 
Roachie Chief Commissioner

Location: Kadina SA (formerly NSW)

Gee....how long is a piece of string? hahahaha

Scratch building a model is almost a dying art.

Most modellers of do/did scratch-build a model use varying amounts/numbers of commercially available parts. I only ever built one locomotive from scratch....a NSWGR 53 class. However, I did buy and use proprietary wheels (Romford) as well as a white metal headlight, smokebox door, funnel, dome, whistle, valves, cylinders and running gear, as well as a motor and gearing.

So, what I really built was the chassis, front bogie, footplate, boiler/firebox, cab sides and roof. It was a reasonable resemblence of the model I wanted at the time (early 70's), but once the brass stuff started to come through, as well as white metal kits, then my 53 class was initially relegated to the back of the engine shed and eventually fell victim to Sims Scrap Metal Merchants.

Some blokes would say it's not REALLY scratchbuilt unless you do everything from scratch (ie: even turn your own wheels on a lathe etc)/.

Roachie

 
appleby Deputy Commissioner

Location: South of the Tweed - In Canberra.

Suppose its up there with how longs a piece of string.

What are you wanting to build? A wagon, loco, structure, track? All these are different.

 
andrew1996 Train Controller

Location: Fremantle

Suppose its up there with how longs a piece of string.

What are you wanting to build? A wagon, loco, structure, track? All these are different.

- appleby

I was planning on building a loco, but I have no expertise in modelling, how hard is it to scratch build a loco?

 
JGS - Moderator Chief Commissioner

Location: Junee NSW

First thing you'll want to do is decide how much you're going to build and how much you'll get from commercial sources. Are you going to make all of your own parts or use available components. Wheelsets?

Next step is to decide how you'll power it. (I'm assuming that you're talking about scratch building an operating model rather than a static display item). If you're building a steam locomotive, you'll need to decide whether you want to use the frame, motor, coupled wheels, motion and leading/trailing trucks from a proprietary model. That can be a good way to save time. It also saves the hassles of ensuring the dimensions of the motion are correct and it all works smoothly. If not, be ready for a complicated process of making all of the motion.

Get good three-view drawings, with dimensions marked and listed, both prototype and scale. Get photos and decide whether you're modelling a particular loco at a particular point in time; or a generic example of the type. Are you going for absolute scale accuracy or is 'near enough' fine for you?

Decide what you'll build the 'bodywork' from. I worked in Plasticard and various other types of plastic. Again, you may be able to use a commercially-available model on which to base your scratchbuilt loco. If you're going to work in plastic or metal, you'd better be proficient in working with the particular stock.

Work out in your head and on paper (or on computer) the process required to build the model, in stages. Go through it all, try and work out what may go wrong, how you'll work around problems and what level of detail you're willing to aim for.

Take it slowly, always measure twice and cut once, breathe deeply and DON"T rush anything. It isn't a race. Make practice parts if you're not comfortable.

My way was to get an inexpensive overseas model to work with. My VR steamers were based on 'near enough' US and European locos, which I picked up as cheap second-hand models from the Trading Post. (Remember that particular publication? It was before the inter-tubes, kids!) I'd then strip the loco to a wheeled and motorised frame. I'd make sure that the motion and cylinders represented the loco I was going for. I'd then build up the frame, then boiler/smokebox/firebox, then cab, then domes/stack, then running-board detail, then small details like buffers, smoke deflectors, generator, compressor, handrails, cab details and the like. Again, don't rush. Start with what the loco needs in order to work, and add what makes it look right later.

At each stage, test the model for running ability. You don't want to build a fancy and detailed locomotive which won't negotiate curves because of insufficient clearance.

Decide whether you'll build then paint or paint it in stages as you finish the physical detail.

My modelling was done in the days before fancy electronics, so I can't comment about decoders, speakers and the like. I'll leave that to those in the know.

Ask questions, be prepared to change your plan of attack and be open to suggestions and constructive critical review.

That's how I scratchbuilt my HO VR loco models and SEC/M&MTB/P&MTT/VR/MTT trams.  I just wish I'd kept them! Mind you, I could do it again...

As with anything subjective; your mileage may vary.

Cheers,

Matt

 
andrew1996 Train Controller

Location: Fremantle

I take it I would use a soldering iron to join metal, what about joining plastic? Which of the two is cheaper/easier?

 
David Peters Dr Beeching

Location: Inspector 71

The best advice about scratch building anything is to start on something small and preferably static and slowly work your way up to a locomotive steam or diesel. Doing this will also allow you to try out different material to use as well and if it does not work out properly then it can simply be consigned to the junk box or hidden at the back of something on the layout.

Essentially you have to make your own kit and then put it together, not quite but almost here. You just make the sections as you need them though, unless you are good enough to work it all out before hand and make or buy all the parts needed and then assemble it when you have them all. to hand.

I would start with a small building, then a larger building then progress to a small piece of rollingstock and then larger again and then a diesel locomotive and finally a Steam locomotive.

This way you get the skills needed to make the locomotive. It can take years to get these skills though, you cannot pick it up overnight unless you are very skilful in the first place. It is sort of like art, your first model is going to look terrible in a couple of years time, because you skill is a lot better. Don't fret though we are all in this boat.

Soldering if done right can be just as quick and easy as gluing plastic together. MEK or better still Tetra can be used to glue styrene together, you dip a small brush in it and paint it on.

 
ARKits Train Controller

Location: Warwick, Qld

andrew1996

I wish you were a little closer so I could take you through the process. From my experience everyone who can draw a straight line with a rule can scratch build. The skill of scratch building just has to be brought out and honed.

I still have the first WHX I scratch built way back in the late 70s. I can say the enjoyment you can get out of scratch building is great.

The first thing to scratch build is your garden shed if you have one. Why. Because it is simple and it is there for you to measure and you are starting to hone your skills. From there take simple but clear steps in complexity until you can take on anything.  

There are some articles in some of the earlier AMRMs on scratch building locos. If you want more clues PM me through AR Kits and I may be able to dig up some articles on building in styrene.

Regards

 
Roachie Chief Commissioner

Location: Kadina SA (formerly NSW)

I take it I would use a soldering iron to join metal, what about joining plastic? Which of the two is cheaper/easier?

- andrew1996

Andrew,

Soldering would be used when joining 2 metal pieces together (usually brass, but NOT cast metal). If using whitemetal parts, you can either solder (using special low-melt solder/flux and a temperature-adjustable soldering station), or you can use a good quality superglue.

Joining styrene (the other popular building material) should be done with an appropriate styrene glue/cement.

Honestly, if you're just starting out, I think you need to buy a couple of cheap  plastic kits (whether they be model aeroplanes or rolling stock kits etc) and practice the art of using the appropriate amount of glue, strategically placed to form the joint.

You will also be well served by gathering together all manner of day to day items to assist you. Things like rubber bands and wooden clothes pegs (to hold parts in place while glue dries etc), as well as various pieces of timber and heavy steel sections. You'll also need a range of modelling tools....minatures of what a normal workshop might have. EG: small drill bits and a pin vice, Dremel tool (or similar), jewellers screwdrives, rat-tail files and flat variants......the list is far too long to publish here in reality.

In short, I believe you need to crawl before you can walk and then run when it comes to this sort of thing.

Roachie

 
Trainoholic Beginner

My advice is to buy yourself a kit or two to see how the parts are related. First try your hand at a wagon kit or airplane models to build your skills and to learn how to plan and where to start and where to finish. There are also plenty of cheap European loco kits available on Ebay as well (Dapol and more expensive Revell). They'll show you how everything is related, cab + boiler etc. Its like the other people here suggested, first start with baby steps and work your way up.

If you already have the skill to build a kit, its best to have a scale drawing to guide you because you will have all the measurements to seek out your materials e.g. plastic/brass pipe of the proper or near diameter from the hardware shop for your boiler, plastic card or brass sheet from your hobby shop etc etc. After you gathered your materials, its time to decide how to join them together.

In my case I'm planning at the moment to scratchbuilt my first steam loco after building many kits and adapting available models to my needs. I call this my reconnaissance stage. I am already looking at an underframe from a commercial source (Bachmann) for the loco and gathered my bogies for the tender according to information of measurements on the internet. I have decided that my loco will be brass construction. The next stage is to obtain the engineer drawings and make my own drawings in 1/87 scale. Then only can I start construction. It will involve a lot of bending, cutting, filing metal as well as soldering the pieces together.

So all in all it may be a 2- 3 year project.

 
Railnthusiast Chief Commissioner

Location: by a railway line %90 of time

Honestly, if you're just starting out, I think you need to buy a couple of cheap  plastic kits (whether they be model aeroplanes or rolling stock kits etc) and practice the art of using the appropriate amount of glue, strategically placed to form the joint.

- Roachie



For me I was pretty pleased with an excuse to build a model spitfire. I am yet to build it but I have been honing my "garden shed" building skills. I have built three. I like to raid the make up shelf (with out any premission of course) and use some paints as well. I also want to experiment with chalk. I have experimented with bits of sand paper as well for peeling bits of that board stuff and the lumpy concrete stuff on walls.

 
ARKits Train Controller

Location: Warwick, Qld

this is just like being in  the ARMY, everything goes great until an officer comes along and it all gets stuffed up. Lieutenant, could never trust them.

Regards

 
anzac1959 Chief Commissioner

I take it I would use a soldering iron to join metal, what about joining plastic? Which of the two is cheaper/easier?

- andrew1996

Just because you may decide to scratch build, a loco doesnt mean it will be cheaper than a kit, as sometimes you may need to buy "as an example" a packet of wire say and only need 1 piece well that packet alone could be 6 to 8 dollars ea and so on and so on and soon it mounts up.A mashima motor is already $50 and gearbox could be another $50 kit suppliers get bulk discounts.I am persuming you want to build a steam loco.It will cost big money for a one off.

 
R703 Locomotive Driver

Location: ...At the desk building something...

I take it I would use a soldering iron to join metal, what about joining plastic? Which of the two is cheaper/easier?

- andrew1996

Just because you may decide to scratch build, a loco doesnt mean it will be cheaper than a kit, as sometimes you may need to buy "as an example" a packet of wire say and only need 1 piece well that packet alone could be 6 to 8 dollars ea and so on and so on and soon it mounts up.A mashima motor is already $50 and gearbox could be another $50 kit suppliers get bulk discounts.I am persuming you want to build a steam loco.It will cost big money for a one off.

- anzac1959

Not necessarily, It all depends on what you are putting into it. You could make a loco that may not have a motor, yet it can move if it is still in a consist with a working loco. Yes, it will mean that you would have to use the same loco(s) all the time to make the consist move, but you are not purchasing too expensive materials or products.

I have a T class flat top that doesn't have a motor but does have wheels that spin. But that is becuase I don't have enough money as a kid to purchase expensive parts. You could also use this loco that may not move but to show that you have skills in scratchbuilding or creating scenes which I find interesting.

It also means that you can show off your work, not someone elses.

R703

 
ARKits Train Controller

Location: Warwick, Qld

It also means that you can show off your work, not someone elses.

- A user

I think you have nearly hit the nail on the head with your statement. I would put it more like "The amount of self satisfaction you get from what you have done. I well remember the first C Class Loco I Kit Bashed/Scratch built. I was so proud of what I had done and it really portrayed a C Class. Warts and all grunt. There was a group of us a Glen Waverley. This was the project. Then with my first ever paint job in Blue and Gold I stuffed it up. I still have the body there to remind me to try something not so important when doing your first spray job.

We joke about the garden shed but it is the first cab off the rank.

Scratch building is a skill and it can give you so much pleasure.

Regards

 
wongm GEEWONG

Location: Geelong, Victoria

When I scratch build I start with the biggest bit of the model and then keep on adding bits to it.

For example, with wagons I start with the deck or body in styrene, then add the underframe, side detail, roof detail, and so on. The same applies to structures - start with the biggest 'box' then keep on adding smaller boxes until you have the rough shape, then add the details.

My favourite wagons to run on exhibition layouts are the ones I have scratch built myself - it's nice to say to people "I built that" when they ask where it came from. Smile

 
Railnthusiast Chief Commissioner

Location: by a railway line %90 of time



We joke about the garden shed but it is the first cab off the rank.

- ARKits



Why is it a joke? I think it is quite sensible advice because I made models of garden sheds to get some skills. Especially the ones with basic windows. I still build simple models but I hope to advance with the introduction of airfix models. Very Happy

 
ARKits Train Controller

Location: Warwick, Qld

My favourite wagons to run on exhibition layouts are the ones I have scratch built myself - it's nice to say to people "I built that" when they ask where it came from.

wongm,

can understand what you are saying. There are some model that you will only ever see as a scratch built model.

Keep up the good work.

Regards

- A user

 

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