Solder Fumes Disperser

I have never been happy with the fumes from lead based soldering wafting into my face. A properly fitted extractor hood would be ideal but I cannot justify the cost or space for hobby use. I know I probably should use lead free solder but I have never been happy with the finished joint in that either.

The simple device described below at least blows the fumes across the work area for dispersal, instead of up into my nose.I have recycled a computer cooling fan (12v 300mA) wired to a fan speed control which was also recycled. I notice that you can buy the simple controller on eBay at $3.40 AU from China. It is adjustable to give enough airflow to move the fumes. without being too draughty.My unit plugs into a 12v outlet on my workbench – also available for testing various MERG & other projects.
TOOL Racking and Storage will be the subject of another post.

Soldering

SOME NOTES ON SOLDERING PCBs and other things:
  • use resin core electronic solder. I use 1 to 0.7mm for fine work including PCB circuits.
  • the resin is the FLUX to help remove oxides from the surface. It is in small “veins” within the solder (60%tin 40%lead).
  • if you melt the solder onto the tip of the soldering iron, all the flux goes up in smoke!
  • to make a good electrical join, clean the surface to be soldered using a scouring pad / fine wet & dry abrasive paper/ “Ajax” or similar abrasive powder / fibre glass brush (horrible things that shed dangerous tiny pieces of fibreglass).
  • clean the tip using a wire pad (or use a damp sponge)
  • “tin” (coat) the tip of the soldering iron with a tiny bit of solder (this helps to conduct the heat to the join)
  • heat the join area with the tip of the iron and simultaneously feed in some solder to the joint.
  • Only use a liquid flux if it is non corrosive – I only use that when soldering rail or brass kits. Such a flux needs to be washed off with water.
  • In the photo below the solder has been fed briefly to the gap between the tip and the copper. In this case to prepare a spot ready to receive the leg of a component.
    This simple Circuit Board will be used to step down the 12 Volts form the main power Bus to 5 Volts to operate servos on the layout.
    A component (an electrolytic capacitor) has the two radial leads separated and cut short such that each goes to a different pad.
    The component has been held in place with self closing tweezers.
    The tip of the soldering iron is briefly cleaned – then a tiny amount of solder added to “wet” the tip – apply the tip to the join – feed in some 0.7mm solder.
    Doing it this way feeds the flux to the joint as well as the solder.
    A GOOD join should be smooth and have a nice shine to the surface.
    Same again on the second leg making sure that each leg of the component only connects to a separate pad.
    This method is like working with what are called SMDs (Surface Mount Devices) except that our discrete components are 10s or 100s of times bigger!
    The electrolytic capacitor is in position and the Voltage Regulator is being prepared on the right. On a normal PCB the legs would go through holes and be soldered to tracks on the reverse side. In this case the legs are being bent to straddle 3 pads.
    And here are all the parts in place on the PCB. To the left is a diode (passes current one way only) which serves to protect the circuit if it is accidentally connected to 12V with the wrong polarity. A larger electrolytic capacitor is behind the diode.
    Sharp eyes will make out 7805 on the IC (integrated circuit) – the “5” indicates that the output voltage is 5V. This is the voltage required to operate servos and this board provides that power to the servos.

    This is the circuit diagram for the project described above including the “pinouts” of the 3 leg 7805 voltage regulator IC. Feed it with 7-35V DC and it will deliver 5V DC.
SOLDERING BRASS / RAIL / WHITE METAL:

Coming soon

 

 

Making Simple PCBs

Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) are possibly a step too far for many railway enthusiasts. However the material lends itself to many simple possibilities.
What is PCB? There are two main types:

  • a board based on glass reinforced resin and coated with a thin layer of copper which is a good conductor and easily soldered. Some PCBs are double sided, ie. coated with copper on both sides. For our purposes, both could be used but there is not much advantage in double sided boards for these simple projects.
  • an earlier type which is based on a phenolic material, dark brown in colour and somewhat brittle. Otherwise similar to the above

The PCB we want to use is BLANK PCB which can obtained from on-line
or retailers like Jaycar® or Altronics® in Australia.

The 3 PCBs above are all based on glass fibre PCBs. The one in the middle is the focus of this article. It is a Power Supply.
The other 2 boards are produced by the MERG (Model Electronic Railway Group in the UK). Members can buy these boards either as a kit (with all parts) or just the PCB for the owner to purchase the parts and assemble. The latter is what I have done in these 2 boards.
In these complex PCBs, a series of “components” are connected by conductive “tracks”. The components are soldered to the PCB through holes in the board.
In simple terms, the one on the left operates up to 8 servos which can be controlled by the one on the right. The latter handles input from switches.

The rest of this post will focus on how to make simple PCBs even more basic than the one outlined above.

Rather than a Terminal Strip with screws:
The PCB on the right is about as simple as you can get (& cheap!)
It is divided into 2 discrete parts by making a saw cut through the copper cladding. Each half is a separate part of the circuit. One for the RIGHT rail of the DCC supply and the other for the LEFT rail.
A couple of screws hold it to wood in this case. It could have been glued (epoxy) to the wood or to the underside of a foam layout with contact cement. 2 screw holes are needed.
The copper is cleaned with fine wet & dry or a fibreglass brush. For ease of soldering under the layout, I made 10 small starter “blobs” of solder.

The pic above also appeared in the Track Feeder Post
Whilst this one looks slightly chaotic, it shows a couple of other aspects:

  • the PCB has been glued to the base of the foam with contact cement.
  • the piece of PCB is super simple – the copper has been split into 2 sections by using a modellers razor saw (see below)
  • colour coding is obvious and important
  • the 2 CBUS wires (red & white) to the far right have been held in place using a low temperature glue gun.
  • the purpose of the exercise was to feed DCC power to 4 adjacent tracks on the turntable.
    To do a simple divide on the surface of copper clad PCB you can use a home made (left) or purchased mitre box (right).
    Just make sure that both segments are electrically isolated using a test lead or a multimeter on the Ohms range.
    To make the PCB on the right, cutting with a saw, as described above, will not work.
    A cutter such as a dental burr or a “Dremel” engraving cutter such as this one is needed in a rotary tool or drill press.
    This one is a #111 engraving cutter but I think #105 or one of the
    others as shown on the Dremel Site should work.

     This is the finished product PCB.
    It converts 12V DC to 5V DC which is required in some circuits.
    The construction technique is UNUSUAL but SIMPLE to use for basic circuits. In effect a bit like modern boards which are made using SMDs (Surface Mount Devices) except that the latter are TINY, almost microscopic.

    This is the circuit diagram for the project described above including the “pinouts” of the 3 leg 7805 voltage regulator IC. Feed it with 7-35V DC and it will deliver 5V DC. The function of this board was to provide 5V to power the servos controlling my points.
How to Cut the Grooves:

The “pads” of copper will form discrete parts, or “pads”, of the circuit for this 12V to 5V converter.
Below I am using a small bench drill (or a rotary cutter like a Dremel) with a guide clamped to the left. To set the depth of the cutter, the simplest way is to adjust the cutter so that it just touches the surface of the copper, then slide the PCB away and place a piece of paper under the board which will raise it enough to route a groove. You will need to experiment with the thickness of paper but a thin piece is all that is required.

A slightly more crude approach, but one that will work, is to mark out the pattern with a pen and freehand cut the grooves. The electricity won’t mind if the edges are a bit ragged! But check that each area is not shorting to a neighbour with a meter or test lamp.
Treat the cutting tool carefully with respect to SAFETY . Wear safety glasses. If cleaning up with a fibreglass tool, vacuum up any loose material – it has an attraction to entering your skin!

The NEXT STEP of installing the components involves SOLDERING so see the Soldering Post to reproduce something like the little power supply above.

At present I will continue this post to show how to use super simple pieces of PCB as an aid to wiring layouts and panels.

The example above is the rear face of a control panel (see the Post on Control Panels). Several pieces of PCB have been attached to the back of the acrylic panel material. The long strips distribute a connection to the DCC bus. This is used to operate the LEDS, shown later, which reflect the setting of the points switches and the solenoid position. The smaller squares terminate the connections from the LEDs via 1k resistors.
The PCB here brings in the connections from the module that controls the point switches shown in the first photo. The connecting cable is called “rainbow cable” and sells from suppliers like Jaycar in 16 wire ribbons. Other suppliers have even wider cables but they all repeat in batches of 10. This cable makes figuring out which wires go where, much easier.
Strain relief on the cable is provided by clamping an additional piece of 2mm plywood. The mounting ply and the PCB are epoxied to the recycled picture frame housing the panel.
The panel shown above is now complete and ready for testing. At the back, the LH PCB connects switches to the panel. This board was made using techniques shown above.
The right hand board is a piece of commercial strip-board sometimes known as Veroboard. This board is bringing in connections to the frog from 8 points. This signal is used to set indicator LEDs showing which track is “set”.

This gives some idea of what the panel does – the LEDs indicate which road is set. The switches also indicate the road but the LED is easier to see and actually indicates that the road has power. The switch on the right is replicated on the next panel and can be controlled from either panel.

Track Feeders & Buses


No … not that sort of bus!
In our case it’s a wire, or a collection of wires that carry an electric circuit or a data circuit.

In the underside view of this little demonstration layout, the Bus wires are the RED and WHITE pair which carry the DCC Bus along the bottom.
Tapping into it at several places are DROPPERS or FEEDERS (red and black) to carry the DCC circuit to each piece of track on the top.

In this example the bus is connected to a PCB strip in 4 places to simplify connection of the droppers to the bus.

I will have a post to cover using printed circuit board PCB for various purposes.

 

See: Making Simple PCBs

This an underside view of my layout with 4 bus wires in view.

A = DCC main bus; (heavy duty stranded copper wire) Red = rear track wire
B = 12V; (H/Duty above) Blue is Positive and White is Negative
C = DCC sub bus (in this case from the main bus to the YARD bus). This allows
me to easily isolate that section.
D = MERG Can-bus which distributes the electronic data around the layout.
Note that it is very thin as it carries low current signals.
Note also that the wires carrying a data signal A,C & D are all lightly twisted to lessen interference one to the other.

Note the colour coding – there is no fixed rule but RECORD your code.

Our problem is to get the track feeders through the baseboard, in this case FOAM, to the Bus underneath. EVERY piece of track must be fed between joiners. There is a special issue with foam.

Some sources indicate that the foam can react with the plastic on electrical wiring and cause it to break down. A wooden base board can just be drilled 6mm.

So, after we have drilled the hole in the foam (as shown here with the 6mm K&S brass tube drill still in place) we need to line the hole with an inert material.

 

Note the colour coding – there is no fixed rule but RECORD your code.
See the Post on DRILLING HOLES IN FOAM for more info.

Because this section of my track was using Expanded foam (not recommended) I had to clean the hole out with something that was a loose fit to get rid of all the little white balls of plastic.

This is not needed in Extruded Polystyrene Foam. See details on foam HERE.


The 6mm hole is an exact fit for a drinking straw. My preference is for the paper straws but they seem to have disappeared on the far South Coast so plastic ones will do.

Measure it to be 5 mm longer than the total depth of foam and underlay.

 

 

Coat the straw lightly with some PVA…

 

 

 

 

… and slip it into the hole.

 

 

 

Wipe off the excess PVA …

 

 

 

 

…and do the second one.

 

Now we come to the bit where you need to solder a wire to your track, take it down the feeder hole and connect it to your Bus wiring.
Shown below are the tools you will need for the top side. I have a colour code for the droppers – RED is the Right DCC track (or in my case, the REAR track closest to the wall in an around the walls layout). My front rail is fed with GREEN (because I had heaps of that colour).

In a module you just need to be consistent making sure that no swap-overs occur.
As can be seen at the top, I have a main DCC bus which feeds 4 sections – North (Carriage Works), South (Loco), East (Yard) & West (Station – “Bolgan Road”).

Each section is fed via a STOP LIGHT BULB in series with one feed wire. If there is a SHORT CIRCUIT, the stop light bulb will carry the load and LIGHT UP.
See THIS SITE for more info. Or THIS ONE.

Strip 1cm approx.
The wire I used was from Jaycar and is sold as
Flexible Light Duty Hook Up Wire 13 x 0.12 tinned (WH-3005 green)
Twist the strands tightly together.
A typical appropriate soldering station.
Put a tiny amount of liquid flux on the bottom flange of the rail.
Pick up a tiny amount of solder and tin the bottom flange.
This is a better photo of how the tinned flange should appear.
Use a sharp blade to cut a slit in the track bed to allow the feeder to drop straight down from the rail, as in the last photo.
Tin the end of the feeder wire – ideally only the last 2mm!
This is where the self closing tweezers are handy.
Line up the end of the wire with the flange …
…and try to solder just the tip of the wire to the flange,
Then push the wire down and into the slit made earlier.

If you are working on a timber baseboad, the feeder hole can be drilled between the sleeper (tie) ends under the connection point and there is no need to line the hole.

Once the track is painted (weathered) and ballasted the feeder should be almost invisible. The feeder is shown at the end of the toothpick.

The photo above  shows some of the kit I use when working under the layout.
There is:
1. a low level seat which can slide on the floor
2. a low level 240v light (LED) which has now been replaced by a similar size rechargeable LED work light,
3. soldering station,
4. wire strippers, knife, sidecutters (not visible) for removing the insulation from about 1cm of the Bus wire.
5. and, BEST of all – a locking clamp with a roll of solder attached so that it is easily accessible.    See the post on Strain Relief to help you work under a layout.

This is the LED battery work light. It is a 10W 6000K (cool white) unit which is also useful for colour painting.

 

 

 

Control Panels

This is the method I use for control panels on my HO Australian (NSW) railway layout.
Like most things on my layout, I try to find an easy way to do things by using materials readily obtained. The panels shown below are paving the way.

This is an operating panel for “loco” on my layout. The SPDT switches control the points (US – switches, turnouts) and indicate which track is powered by a 3mm Green LED. The next panel to the right operates the turntable (below).

These panels are constructed using 3mm black acrylic plastic sheet (purchased as a pack of A4 size sheets on eBay). The panels are held in photo frames. These were a cheap 16 x 11 cm frame from a “discount” shop and were supposedly a standard item – not so … subsequent ones were different design, size and colour! The next photos show how the panels were mounted to the fascia using 2 simple wooden, angled holders.
Size “A” above is the same size as the internal height of the picture frame and needs to be a tight fit. The 2 wooden holders need to be spaced such that they are a tight fit to the internal width of the frame.
This is a panel under construction for the “yard”. This time the picture frame was an MDF cheapy. I prefer the moulded plastic ones. It looks OK when assembled (below).

And shown above mounted to the layout fascia. Switches and LEDs still to be added. The point lever to the right controls crossover points on the mainlines to the rear using wire in tube (in this case bicycle gear tubing). The manual point operation is more prototypical for 1950s operation but I will probably convert them (and did so) to servo operation.
Firstly I produce a really rough pencil sketch to replicate the physical track layout, in this case, in the yard. The point numbers need to be allocated and recorded as I am using MERG designs developed in the UK.
Their aim is “to actively promote and advance the use of electronic and computer technology for model railway operation”. In essence I am using their CANBUS model with a variety of modules connected to that BUS, a sort of fly-by-wire. For a detailed explanation – see the MERG website.
The reverse side of the acrylic sheet is shown above (right). It is plain brown self adhesive paper and makes a suitable surface to draw a pencil diagram following the design sketch but drawn accurately using basic drafting techniques (mostly a 45° set square!). Using a soft pencil you can easily make corrections to the diagram. I use a line width of 4mm.

PHOTO description of the process now follows.

Having marked it out and checked it, I carefully cut along the lines, missing the gaps with a very sharp (new) Exacto blade. Just deep enough to cut through the paper. Check that the cuts meet precisely! No gaps. When everything is cut, peel the 4mm strips slowly from the acrylic sheet.
You are left with most of the paper still there and some black 4mm strips where the tracks go. The next step is to spray paint the whole panel with a rattle can. I used a satin white enamel with about 3 light misting coats. When touch dry, peel off the remaining paper to leave your track diagram.

You are left with most of the paper still there and some black 4mm strips where the tracks go. The next step is to spray paint the whole panel with a rattle can. I used a satin white enamel with about 3 light misting coats. When touch dry, peel off the remaining paper to leave your track diagram.
One little patch-up was needed on the example below – the knife slipped and I covered the mistake with a sliver of blue painters tape.
I use a satin white rattle can in my home made spray booth (based on a kitchen exhaust fan). Separate POST done but not added yet.
Multiple light spray passes with satin white – leave to dry for 20 minutes and multiples passes again.
Careful peeling of the self adhesive backing.

This is the final version of the Loco control panel expanded to include the 2 crossovers on the adjacent main line. Things always change on a model railway layout.

An Overview of the Operator Panels

There are 4 main Panels:

  1. Brolgan Road – station area
  2. Loco and turntable (sub panel)
  3. Yard
  4. Carriage works

And one intermediate panel between the yard and the carriage works. Using the MERG Canbus system allows panels to overlap so that panels can include points in the adjacent area (with permission from that operator).

Laying Track to Foam

I chose to use foam as the baseboard of my layout. I started experimenting with this in 2008 (Photo). This actual track on the test rig was only pinned in place as it was never permanent.

  • Foam base is great to lay my Peco code 75 HO flextrack. I can easily pin it in place using ordinary dressmaking pins. But you can’t nail it down.
  • Instead, I use an adhesive, LATEX CEMENT and I buy it from carpet suppliers or carpet layers. I take a 1 or 2 litre plastic container and get it filled for say $10 or so.
  • It needs to be thinned with water to a consistency of milk. I originally thought it would need to be thicker, but the thinner it is the better it penetrated under sleepers etc.
  • What happens if you change your mind and want to move something? It is actually reasonably easy just by dissolving the dried latex – see the last photo.
For the track base I use a product from DCCconcepts (in Western Australia) called Trackbed OO/HO Scale 3mm
The company describes the product as:
“A box of 100 feet (31metres) of high quality, OO/HO Scale trackbed (3mm thick / scale 9~10” approx high).
Made from very long life EVA, closed cell foam trackbed with precut ballast shoulders and a pre-scored track centreline underneath to allow it to be easily split for laying along track centre-lines if wanted.
Based on tests and feedback each piece is 605mm / 2 feet long for easy handling. Cuts perfectly with a snap off knife.”
STEP 1 – track pieces were pinned into position according to the layout sketches. The layout plan was derived in a slightly odd way. Firstly I laid out old code 100 track, some points, paper copies of points until things were as I wanted them to be. I then took a whole series of overlapping “aerial photos” as shown above and below.
And subsequently “stitched” all the photos together on a PC so that I had a somewhat bizarre mosaic diagram of the layout:

STEP 2 – the Code 75 Peco flextrack was adjusted into position with dressmakers pins (easy in foam)
Curves were laid out with Masonite (hardboard) templates. In this case 1m radius.
Note the use of plywood alignment pieces to keep the track joins in line.
STEP 3 – once I was convinced I had the track in the right place, guidelines  were needed to allow the underlay to be glued in the correct position.
To do this I made a little mobile jig from an old loco pony truck with a ply guide screwed up from the bottom so it just cleared the rails.
  • This foam roadbed is lightly cut down the centre to make it easier to lay curves.
  • The other advantage of gluing the track to foam is that it provides an improved noise barrier.
  • That is lessened of course when the track is ballasted but I am experimenting with very dilute latex as a ballast adhesive.
STEP 4 – I ran this mobile jig along the pinned track to get a guideline for the edges of the underlay.
STEP 5 – I took no photos of this process, but the diluted latex cement was brushed along between the guidelines onto the foam (none was brushed onto the bottom of the underlay). The underlay was butted up to the end of the previous piece with a little cement brushed onto the end. No weights or clamps were necessary although some pins were used around curves.
The photo above shows the container of diluted latex glued to a block of wood to help prevent spills. The photo actually shows a point being glued to the underlay and weights ARE needed for this process.
STEP 6 – The track is held in position by long dressmaking “T” Pins.
This aligns the track but allows it to be lifted to coat the underlay lightly with latex cement.
STEP 7 – for long runs, I held the track up with paddle pop sticks which allowed me to brush on the cement.
I used a chisel shaped brush about 10mm wide and applied it sparingly down both sides.
As above but a little more latex cement was needed under the PCB sleepers which were later cut across the join. A better solution would have been to use a more powerful adhesive under the PCB sleepers eg. Liquid Nails, as this track needs to be cut and remain strongly fixed.
STEP 8 – Once the glue is in place, remove the paddle pop sticks and place weights on the track until the glue sets.
The long brown strip is paxolin – about 3mm thick and cut to fit precisely between the rails. It serves to align long straight section and can be left in place until the glue sets. It can be made from any similar rigid maerial.
I have many of these 2mm (0.080″) plywood pieces cut to be a neat fit inside the tracks.
They guarantee alignment of track especially with crossovers.
Small pieces are great for keeping curves aligned where flex track joins. In this photo Carr’s Flux has been used to get a good soldered join between rail and sleeper (tie).
Using a long straight edge on the edge of the rail and the paxolin stip between the rails to align trackwork past the future station site.

WHEN THERE IS A DISASTER:

If everything goes pear shaped, then Latex bonded track or points can be lifted. Realising an extra crossover was needed, I had to lift a section of track. Brush some water onto that section and leave it for an hour or so and a thin spatula can be worked under the sleepers to free the track/point. The old latex can be removed with a wet sponge.

Yes, yes … I know if I am flooded out, the trackwork may be in trouble. But the bloke in the house across the road will really be in strife. The peak of his roof is lower than my floor!

Drilling Holes in Foam

Since my layout uses foam sheets as a trackbed, there is a need to drill holes, often many of them, through the foam.
The drill used is made from a piece of metal tube. I use brass tube which does the job and is available in in a variety of appropriate diameters (eg. K&S). I use two main sizes:

  • 6mm for track feeders and points (turnout) wiring.
  • 12mm for mounting Servos in foam
  • + 10mm for other odds and ends

You could use aluminium tube but it doesn’t hold its edge well. Steel tube would work well if you could get the size.

This is why I needed to drill lots of holes in foam: Track feeders; Points wiring; Servo Mounting plus other odds and ends.
Prepare the cutting edge by bevelling the end of the tube on the INSIDE.
I carry out that operation on a lathe using a scraping tool but it could be done in a drill for short tube drills.
It may even be possible to use a tapered reamer to form the bevel. There may be a need to touch-up the edge from time to time.
Use a battery drill on a fast speed. This 12mm hole is through 50mm foam to fit a micro servo
(eg Tower Pro SG90 or my preference Micro 9g Metal Gear Servo). The marks on the “drill” indicate just how deep I need to go for the servos.
The result is a very clean hole
For 12mm brass tube it is necessary to reinforce the end held in the drill to prevent crushing.
I machined a small piece of aluminium in the lathe (about 20mm long) and epoxied it into the top end. But anthing will do eg. a piece of dowel or plastic can be hand filed while spinning in a power drill and have a (say) 6mm 1/4″ hole drilled through.  Or fill the end with epoxy and drill a hole.
A hole is necessary through the middle so you can use something to push the waste foam out.
Pushing the waste out… and below:

Here 4 holes have been quickly drilled to accept a servo with minor trimming.
MORE DETAILS ON MOUNTING SERVOS IN 50mm XPS FOAM – COMING SOON
In this photo a hole was drilled under a point to carry the wiring from the micro switch under the layout.
Note the use of a length of paper drinking straw to line the hole so that the chemicals in the foam don’t attack the wire insulation.
The straw is held in place with a dab of PVA woodworking glue or similar.

This is the underside of the layout showing five 6mm holes, lined with a drinking straw, to carry track feed droppers.
The centre 6mm hole carries 3 wires from the microswitch fitted to the point.
The 4 x 12mm overlapping holes have accommodated the micro servo and its connecting wire.
Working Expanded Styrofoam (EPS) can produce a SNOW STORM!!
I use a suitcase type vacuum cleaner with the nozzle directed at the work area whenever shaping EPS
The drilling process is fairly mess free but care needs to be taken when pushing the waste out of the drill.
The attachment shown above holds itself on by suction and has a hole to accept a drill to capture waste before it escapes!
Brilliant for working up under a layout. My suitcase type vacuum came from a local chain store (BigW in Australia).

Drilling Acrylic Panels

Drilling holes in acrylic sheet is easy with a small modification to the cutting edge of the drill. You should then have clean holes with no cracking in the acrylic.

Shown above is a small drill with the cutting edge suitably modified such that it has a “scraping” action, rather than digging into the plastic. The diagram below shows the effect required. Some sources indicate that the included angle of a drill for acrylics should be around 60° rather than the normal 120°
I don’t subscribe to this view as it is already difficult enough to grind the cutting edge of very small drills without having to alter the included angle as well. I use standard drills and just “blunt” the cutting edge as shown later.
Drill angles
Here is a set of modified drills I keep on the workbench with a piece of drilled acrylic so that I can test the fit of things like switches, bolts and screws etc.
This is one way to produce the “scraping” effect on the cutting edge. Use a Dremel tool mounted in a holder or in a vice with rubber jaws.
Make sure you wear eye protection and a face shield in this operation.
It is also possible to “touch” the cutting edge on a fine bench grinding wheel provided it has sharp corners but the Dremel is best for tiny drills. This photo shows a diamond impregnated disk but a normal brown abrasive disk will work (with a face shield). Do both cutting edges on the drill.
I always use a magnifier to carry out this operation.

Here is an interesting link from an Aussie Plastic Fabricator on how a pro sharpens his drills and other tools for plastic.

Strain Relief

Not actually how to fix a hernia! but more about how to ease the problem of working under a fixed layout.

With advancing age it becomes increasingly difficult to work under the layout. There are some alternatives such as tilting or fold-up layouts but they have disadvantages. I didn’t want a portable layout so my layout is screwed to the walls and supports. The layout height is 1020mm (3’4″) with a floor to head clearance of 840mm (2’9″) under the layout. Having the seat close to the floor was mandatory.

So I had to figure out a way to work with at least some comfort under the layout. I tried a very low stool on rollers but on my lino floor it was just too prone to sliding around (rocketing around might be a better explanation) and had no back support. The back support is what I need along with a stable base.

 

This is the prototype (and final product) to allow me to drag it around the floor. Made from workshop offcuts (pineboard and MDF) and some old fabric padding.
The other bit of padding on the floor looks like an offcut and it is – but I use it to kneel on while I roll (collapse) into the seat.
I just experimented with the back angle, hence the hinges plus they were also laying around the workshop. The other gadget visible in this photo is a locking clamp to which I have attached a roll of solder.
This is clamped up under the layout on some appropriate part of the frame and provides solder at a level close to the work.
When soldering under a layout DON’T have any part of your body UNDER THE SOLDERING AREA for obvious reasons.

Lifting Entry Flap/ Section

Easy Access without Crawling Under

A light weight lifting flap (entry panel) to make getting into and out of the Layout Room  easier than ducking under. Especially for an around-the-wall layout and useful for geriatrics!
The panel has an electrical interlock which cuts all power some distance
either side of the panel when it is raised a few millimetres. That still doesn’t cater for person who attempts an “underpass” but rises a little early, distributing locos etc. onto the floor.  I think a mechanical interlock is the next project!

This is a view of the completed lifting section before scenery. The hinges will be covered by a scenic “feature” (!)
The non opened clearance under is 950mm (3′ 1.5″) for tiny people and flexible adults. This has been in use for 4 years with no problems but normally opened to enter. My mechanical wire-in-tube manual point control is visible. Works well but I have been seduced by the magic of MERG (worth looking at even if you only download the EXCELLENT free “Electronics for Model Railways” book) and using electronics, DCC and computers is my thing, so all are in the process of conversion to servo control, the fitting of which is the subject of this post.
Preparation of the bench work either side is critical, as is assuring that the whole thing is level fore and aft.
This shows the basic construction using quality light timber (in this case hoop pine – Araucaria cunninghamii). The joints are all epoxied together and reinforced by using biscuit joiners.
The CRITICAL consideration is that timber shrinks and swells ACROSS THE GRAIN and there is very, very little shrinkage along the grain.
So as much longitudinal timber as possible must be used across the opening so that damp/dry weather changes have minimal effect. The next photos show other additions to further reinforce that in the other direction.
The underside showing additional cross bracing, both to support the 1″ (25mm) foam and to restrict any shrinkage or expansion at right angles to the track so that the latter remains aligned where it crosses the joins. There has been no problem with track alignment or binding of the lifting panel since July 2014 even through flooding rain periods and temperatures in the room between less than 10°C and over 32°C.
The section alongside the lift up section has been prepared to accept the 2″ foam. This photo shows a hinge rebated into the support.
The hinged side. Quality heavy duty brass hinges (3″ 75mm) were rebated into the frame and panel and the foam is being bonded to the top of the layout with PVA & weights (no, this is not a Valvoline advert!)
The “landing” side carefully fitted so the top surface aligns when shut.
A later photo showing the H/Duty micro switch interrupting the DCC feed to the section behind.  The inset shows the one on the under side.
Underneath with the wiring necessary for the track on the lifting panel.
The track feed to the lifting panel has two terminal blocks near the hinge line and a short section of flexible cable which can be replaced if necessary.

 

The joins across the lifting hatch require a little bit of care and attention.
Track is laid straight across the join substituting PCB sleepers at the join. Doing 5 sleepers would be better than 3 for more surface contact. The conductive copper is removed between the rails. I used a paper sanding disc in the Dremel before soldering them in place. Clean the copper and the bottom of the rail with a flux. “Tin” the surface of the copper PCB and you will need little if any additional solder to sweat the rail in place.
I always attach the track to the substrata with diluted Carpet Glue (latex adhesive). It is quite thin, very cheap, and only needs application to the foam / wood etc followed by weights to hold it in place until dry. The great advantage of this method is that there is no mechanical connection to the substrata AND … it can be lifted if you have a stuff-up. Just brush some water over the track or point (turnout) you want to lift, leave if for half an hour or so, then carefully slide a thin spatula under it.
After the latex adhesive has set, cut the track with a very fine blade. I had to cut a sleeper as the track was diagonal at this section.

Also see the section on “Laying Track Across the Join” Yet to be added.