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Archive for the ‘Creating the Space’ Category

Curving The Sky

This has been a long and arduous process full of trial and error and compromise.   I had originally figured out a way to curve the junction of the wall and the ceiling by gluing and screwing one inch strips of masonite to the wall and ceiling, and then pressing two foot by four foot untempered masonite panels in between the strips, which caused them to adopt a nice curved shape.

The problem was always what to do in the corners where the two walls and the ceiling met. This was one solution that put a curve on the two vertical walls, but left the ceiling with a hard line. By the way, that upper line on this piece of masonite was not a straight line, but some kind of lopsided parabola that I arrived at through trial and error.

I had my drywall expert, Eric, come over for a visit, and we discussed how we could “mud” over the one-eighth inch joints between the masonite and the wall to create a smooth seamless curve from top to bottom.  At this point I was still undecided about the corners.

One possible solution I tried was to join the two horizontal curves in this fashion, but this still left a curving vertical seam.

My workbench constantly begged me to return to the less physically demanding task of creating O scale structure and rolling stock models, but I have decided to discipline myself to spend some time each day working on the actual layout, or I’ll never get it going!  Besides, I need the exercise that I get from building to keep my various medical conditions in check.

I called on another friend, Tim, who is a genius with styrofoam carving, and I told him I thought we could just fill the corners with styrofoam, and carve out the complex curve.  I estimated that this might only take about an hour per corner, and he agreed to donate his time.  We actually spent the better part of a day just glueing the styrofoam in place in the corners, and then we tried every tool we could think of to carve out the curve, and it just started to look like it was going to take way more time than I could ask him to donate.  This still might have worked if we had had blocks of foam large enough to do the whole corner in one piece.

At this point I was pretty discouraged in my efforts to fix those corners, so I pulled all the styrofoam out (leaving an ugly mess on the wall), and decided to just curve the two long walls, and live with the short wall/ceiling joints at 90 degrees.  My mountain ground-form will curve the corner and arrest the eye visually before it gets to the 90 degree corner, anyway.

Eric came back, and we went to work on the mudding process. At this point things started to look up. Even if I couldn’t have my complex curves in the corners, I was going to have a nice curve at the top edges of the two long walls.

The first day of mudding produced this result.  Eric does beautiful work!

A second day of mudding, a third day of sanding, and a day of priming got us to this point.

Because of the sloping ceiling, the curve on the taller wall was a little tighter, but it worked.

It took three more days of paint work, but the results are very nice.

To blend the two colors in the curve I first painted them in with a horizontal separation about midway through the curve. The next day I came back and re-wetted the two colors at the separation, using separate brushes in each color.  I worked in areas about 18 inches wide, and as quickly as I could I came back with a third brush and “wet-worked” the two shades of blue together to create a gradual blend.  Since the third brush had touches of each shade of blue in it, I never let it come in contact with the two original paint cans.

I used an old round brush that I had for the blending, which helped to avoid hard edge marks. It was the perfect tool for the job!

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When I started work on these, a couple of days ago, I wasn't intending to use them for photography, but I kind of like the way the light works here. I will definitely have to get a new background sheet. This one is just too wrinkled up for photo work. I just stuck it up there because it had been lying around for years.

From a higher angle, you can see the track ballast, which is half commercial Woodland Scenics medium beige ballast, and half some of my sifted paver base. The granules are about the same size, and when it dries, the colors are fairly close.

The trees are from my old N-scale layout. Mature trees in N-scale; young trees in On30-scale. Trees are trees and rocks are rocks.

This dead tree is a root structure turned upside down. The car is my scratch-built coal car.

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After more than a month away from actual modeling, I am finally getting things organized, so I can build again. I redesigned and reassembled my work-bench. The whole thing is now on heavy casters, so I can roll it around as I build the layout.

On the top shelf on each of the corner units on my workbench I'm going to create a little storage/display area for rolling stock works in progress. I can't remember where I got the background poster; I've had it for years. I bought it to video my old Christmas layout, and cut it in half here so I've got one piece for each side.

Another item I build for roll-around storage is a two sided pegboard arrangement that is six feet tall by two feet wide. This side has all kinds of modeling supplies....

.....and this side has tools for working on the room.

So, back to the storage/display tracks. I also had a 1 x 6 left over from my Christmas layout that had a double tracked storage arrangement, Peco code 100 track on cork roadbed. There was enough length to make a piece for the top of each shelf unit. I used a chisel to get the glued on Christmas snow-cloth off of it.

To get rid of the white paint on the track, I took it outside and sprayed it with four different shades of Model Master paint. I wiped the rail heads with mineral spirits right after painting, although I won't ever have to run electricity through these tracks.

Back inside, and after the tracks dried, I built and test-fit eight little end of track wooden bumpers.

I dry brushed the ties and end bumpers with some gray acrylic. When I had wiped the rail heads, some of the paint came off of the molded plastic spikes, turning them white again, so I went back and touched them all up with black acrylic. Painting all the spike heads on my railroad is probably not something I'm going to actually do, but you never know what you'll get carried away with when you've been deprived of modeling for over a month!

Two inch wide masking tape is perfect for covering the tracks and the cork roadbed for the ground cover process.

My buddy is just an armchair modeler.

The taping and mudding of the sheet-rock is finished now, and the preliminary painting is done. I chose two different sky blue tones from the same paint sample card. The one for the ceiling is a little darker, because the sky is a darker blue right overhead than at the horizon. I haven’t bothered to finish the painting in the corners, because they will all be covered by the coving process.

Here is the way I’m going to do this. I’ve glued and screwed two one inch by four foot strips of 1/8th inch tempered masonite to the wall. The lower strip is 12 inches from the corner between the wall and the ceiling. The upper strip is 15 inches from that same corner.

After a sufficient time for the glue behind the hard masonite strips to set up, I’ve taken a 2 foot by 4 foot sheet of untempered masonite, and popped it into place between the other two strips. I’ve used the untempered masonite for this because it is softer, and bends better. This forms a nice curve, and needs no other form of support. Next I’ll take some sheet rock mud and create a smooth joint in the area of the one inch strips.

After several days of hard work, the drywall is in place. Eric Danielson of Stillwater, MN was my drywall installer, and he did a great job. Tomorrow and Tuesday we tape and mud, and Wednesday we sand. By Thursday I’ll be ready to paint. I’m going with a sky blue on the walls and ceiling.  The floor will stay the way it is.  The original loft floor was particle board, and I put one-eighth inch tempered masonite over that with a layer of material that Menard’s sells for sound dampening under laminated flooring in between.  This stuff is a light blue color, about 1/16th of an inch thick, and kind of spongy.  I put this in to give the floor a softer feel when walking on it, because I don’t want to carpet.  Carpeting is too dusty for a layout room, and it would make my “roll-under” feature harder to use.

This is the most open this room will ever be, so I’m enjoying all the space while I can! After painting sky blue, I’ll start installing the untempered masonite backdrop. I’ll use the untempered material because is it is easier to bend into the corners. This coving hides the corner of the room, and gives the layout more depth. I’m also going to cove the background on the short wall as it runs up to the first row of lights on the ceiling. This horizontal curve will help to hide the fact that the north wall is so short. I’m not sure what I’m going to do where this curve meets the vertical curve at the northeast and northwest corners. Ideally, I would like to create some kind of compound curve. I guess I’ll just play that one as I come to it.

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This was the scene in the Fall of 2010. When we moved here in 1992, I built a loft in the back of our two-story garage for storage. The floor area is approximately 23 feet by 10 feet. In the top of this photo, the board for my Christmas layout is stored, suspended on pulley-lines from the ceiling. I currently have a large tarp attached to the beam at the front of the loft, which allows me to isolate the area under the loft as a somewhat climate-controlled workshop. This tarp will be rigged like a theatrical roll-drop in the first phase of the loft re-modeling, so we can park our cars in the winter. A short wall will be built above this to connect the edge of the loft beam to the garage ceiling, thereby enclosing the loft space for heating and air conditioning purposes.
Model railroads must be kept at a relatively constant temperature and humidity to prevent track expansion or contraction. When I started, the only access to the loft was from a stairway that I had put in along the east wall when I built the loft. This will remain, but a more convenient door from the inside of the house will be added. This stairway will then become an emergency escape stair, with a door at the top of it. As you can see here, looking at the east wall, we will have a lot of insulation and wall-board work to convert the garage to a comfortable four season environment.
This photo shows the (2010) state of the loft area…..lots of storage, but not much else. As we work to insulate and wall-board the walls in the lower part of the garage, we will be putting in shelves on those new walls to accommodate the parts of this storage that we want to save.
The ceiling in the loft slopes from about eight feet at the back to about four and a half feet at the front. My head hits ceiling at appx. 42″ from the lower wall. My working reach over benchwork is appx. 24″. Sitting in a rolling office chair, at its lowest setting, I would would clear the center “roll-under” section of the track plan at 45″.
Now fast-forward to February of 2012. At this point the hip wall is finished, with an escape door (visible in the distant center of the picture). The insulation is done, and the floor has been covered with 1/8″ tempered masonite, which makes an easy surface to clean, and will work well for the future “roll-under”. There is sound padding under the masonite, which softens the walking surface, and also helps a little with insulation. There will eventually be two layers of R-19 insulation under this floor, as well as a wall-board ceiling. The doorway into the bedroom has been cut and framed, and the door installed, and the electrician is due out in a week or so to start the circuiting and lighting work (see article on Lighting). Looking to the East end of the room, my 4′ x 8′ test, display and photography board is on the left, and my small project work space is on the right.
This is the view looking South, through the new doorway, into the master bedroom. My work area is on the left.
This view looks East. I currently have it covered with a piece of insulation, but there is an exhaust fan in the East wall, to the left of the clock, which is an antique clock from my father’s collection. The “Regulator” brand clock was used in many railroad stations, and I hope to rig this one as a fast clock for operating sessions.
This is the view into the layout loft when the new door in the bedroom is open. When it is closed, it blends nicely with the other woodwork in the room.
One of the biggest surprises I got when we opened the wall to the bedroom was that there was a 23″ floor height differential! Years ago when the loft was built as a storage area, the only concern was to make the ceiling under the loft floor high enough for my garage work bench. I hunted around, and came up with this folding set of steel steps that are made for camper trailers. The height was perfect, and with a couple of grab-irons inside the door, the feel of the entrance is very “railroady”.

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The taping and mudding of the sheet-rock is finished now, and the preliminary painting is done. I chose two different sky blue tones from the same paint sample card. The one for the ceiling is a little darker, because the sky is a darker blue right overhead than at the horizon. I haven't bothered to finish the painting in the corners, because they will all be covered by the coving process.

Here is the way I'm going to do this. I've glued and screwed two one inch by four foot strips of 1/8th inch tempered masonite to the wall. The lower strip is 12 inches from the corner between the wall and the ceiling. The upper strip is 15 inches from that same corner.

After a sufficient time for the glue behind the hard masonite strips to set up, I've taken a 2 foot by 4 foot sheet of untempered masonite, and popped it into place between the other two strips. I've used the untempered masonite for this because it is softer, and bends better. This forms a nice curve, and needs no other form of support. Next I'll take some sheet rock mud and create a smooth joint in the area of the one inch strips.

 

After several days of hard work, the drywall is in place. Eric Danielson of Stillwater, MN was my drywall installer, and he did a great job. Tomorrow and Tuesday we tape and mud, and Wednesday we sand. By Thursday I’ll be ready to paint. I’m going with a sky blue on the walls and ceiling.  The floor will stay the way it is.  The original loft floor was particle board, and I put one-eighth inch tempered masonite over that with a layer of material that Menard’s sells for sound dampening under laminated flooring in between.  This stuff is a light blue color, about 1/16th of an inch thick, and kind of spongy.  I put this in to give the floor a softer feel when walking on it, because I don’t want to carpet.  Carpeting is too dusty for a layout room, and it would make my “roll-under” feature harder to use.

This is the most open this room will ever be, so I'm enjoying all the space while I can! After painting sky blue, I'll start installing the untempered masonite backdrop. I'll use the untempered material because is it is easier to bend into the corners. This coving hides the corner of the room, and gives the layout more depth. I'm also going to cove the background on the short wall as it runs up to the first row of lights on the ceiling. This horizontal curve will help to hide the fact that the north wall is so short. I'm not sure what I'm going to do where this curve meets the vertical curve at the northeast and northwest corners. Ideally, I would like to create some kind of compound curve. I guess I'll just play that one as I come to it.

I'll have to remove this fixture tomorrow for the taping/mudding process, but this is what the finished lighting will look like. This neat little appliance allows the light bulb to swivel and tilt, giving me a range of opportunities to highlight different areas of the layout.

I have a special challenge that basement layouts generally don’t have to deal with.  My overhead space is extremely limited.  Any lighting or valances that would descend from an already low ceiling would be a real obstacle for operators.  When I met with my electrician, we decided to go with recessed can-type fixtures.  There are some that will allow the bulb to aimed in a variety of directions.  I want to be able to highlight scenes around the layout.  I also want to be able to dim the lighting for night time operation.  Since incandescent bulbs are being phased out nationwide, I am looking at dimmable flourescents or dimmable LED bulbs.  I’ll have more to write later when I get into installing my backdrops, but I have plans to use colored rope lights behind the mountains to simulate horizon sky color.  In the theatre, we use red, green and blue (the primaries in light) to light sky backdrops.  By mixing the intensities of these three primary colors, any color in the rainbow can be achieved.

East end of the layout.  The orange lines indicate the location of the ceiling joists. There is room between these to install the can lighting fixtures, which are represented by the red circles.
Central section of the layout.  I’ve located the cans (red circles) directly over areas that I want to highlight, so that I am not depending on the bulbs being able to swivel too far.
West end of the layout.
Update: Progress on the lighting. Last Sunday I worked with the electricians, and we got a lot of the wiring done. This photo shows the can fixtures on the West end of the room for 11 of the 21 layout lights. I’ll be using dimmable flourescents in these. They have about a 2:1 ratio on the beam spread (width of beam: distance from bulb).  I considered using the newer, and brighter, LED bulbs, but aside from their nearly $40. apiece cost, their beam spread is only about 1:1, and some of my throws are as short as two to three feet.
Here are the other 10 fixtures on the East end of the room.  We are wiring the room with two 20 Amp circuits for the DCC train control, and two 15 Amp circuits for the lighting. There will also be a separate circuit for a small baseboard heater along the south wall (under the mining area).  Things are coming together quickly now.  The electricians will finish March 4th.  Another layer of R-19 insulation will be installed in the ceiling, and under the floor (making two layers in each area) on March 6th.  Between March 7th and March 10th, the drywall work will be completed.  Then I’ll be ready to paint and start installing the backdrop.

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