TimberSurf’s Model Railway  

Modelling Tips, Links & Guides for Model Railways

Lumsdonia Railway

A web page for my indulgence and sharing ideas and irregular updates on my Model railway

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Idea’s to make your modelling life easier or better or cheaper

   TOOLS ‘n’ GADGETS - Section 900

Tips 900

Readily available to purchase, a cheap source of mixing pot. Great for holding small amounts of glue/paint/filler etc. ideal for diluting/thinning small amounts of paint for washes, mixed colour, etc. Small batches of filler or just a handy holder of liquid decanted from a larger source for convenience

Price guide:- for as little as 40 for £2

Source:- Chain stores, Wilko, Pound shops

Tip 902

 Plastic Shot Glasses

These are usually associated with electronics but they make great clamps/holders for modelling.They can be bought cheaper "en masse" from china, available from small (very cheap) and normal, the small ones regularly sold with red/black boot over them. They can be used mainly as holding device (small clamp) to assist with gluing, assembly and painting. The small ones are easy to fit to kebab skewers and make nice long holders for fiddley bits and can be help by a cribbage board (see TIP 904) while paint dry's.

Price guide:- 20 for £3.50

Source:- Electronics shops, Maplin, Ebay, online.

Tip 903

Crocodile Clips

This useful base can be really simply made with any size of wood, and drilled with as many or few holes as you like, in any formation of matrix. Mine has about 20, in two rows of ten in 8in of 2x1 batten. Use to place sticks in while glue sets or paint dry's See TIP 903 for work holders)

Price guide:- Free

Source:- Any off cut of wood you can lay your hands on.

Tip 904

Cribbage Board

Readily available to purchase, a cheap source of clamps. Great for holding things together while the glue sets, paper, card plastic, any thing up to 1-30 mm thick or less.

Price guide:- Wilki 3/4in 75p, 1in £1.49, 2in £2.49 or multi packs for less

Source:- Chain stores, Wilko, Pound shops

Tip 905

 Plastic Clamps

Tip 901

 Wooden Clothes Pegs

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Use a toughened sheet of glass as your work surface, sound crazy, but it’s a tough as old boots. It is very flat, so is ideal for gluing things together on a flat plane, very little sticks to it and what does, can easily be cleaned off with a razor blade or flat scalpel blade or scraper. Do all your cutting out on it (it will dull your blade) and painting (all types of paint scrape off it once dry). I used to have the front of an old B&W TV (18" x 24") about 20 years ago, these days you will have to find an alternative, like glass shelves or an old glass table, anything roughly square and reasonably large that you can get your hands on. You could ask a glazier to make one up, but it won't be cheap.

Just keep your eyes peeled for an opportunety, but if you should come across one, grab it with both hands!

Price guide:- Xcut 13 x 13-inch Tempered Glass Cutting Mat for £10

Source:- Online, Craft stores

  Toughened glass worksurface

Tip 906

Make a collection of kitchen sieves, from a fine ‘flour’, to a colander with as many mesh sizes as you can find in between. They don't always specify the mesh size, so you have to look carefully. Try to get 4 sizes of mesh. They can be used to ‘grade’ standard modellers ballast, but can also clean various scenery materials that get ‘mixed’ up.

If you collect ‘dirt’ on your travels (Tip 106), first wash it under the tap, in your finest sieve to clean the mud off, then work your way up the mesh sizes to grade your gravel into various storage devices, careful to keep different (regional) colours separate.

The price of Industrial Woven Wire Mesh soil sand gravel Sieves is nuts, but if you should come across some, grab them with both hands!

Price guide:- Varies (£1-3)

Source:- Chain stores, Wilko, Pound shops

  Ballast and Gravel grading

Tip 907

A fibre glass pen is a small long bundle of glass strands, which if the constrained ends are used as a rubbing implement, it acts as very fine abrasive. Perfect for cleaning up metal (like the copper on PCB's) before soldering, or just general cleaning or removal of shininess from flat or uneven surfaces. They come in a propelling pencil like pen, that when to top is swivelled, the glass fibre protrusion is retracted or extended. They do wear out, but the tip is a replaceable item. I must give a warning, that the process does leave a fine residue of glass dust, that you must carefully remove and dispose of off. It not harmful but it is a very bad skin irritant!

Price guide:- Varies (£2 ea)

Source:- Model shops and online/Ebay

 Fibre glass pen

Tip 908

Need to keep track of your rolling stock? Do you mark them with a number on a label? Do the labels fall off?

Here is a more permanent method for marking them, use paint! No need to find a OOO size paint brush and the skill of Michael Angelo, a simple paint pen can be purchased that writes in paint, not ink and is available in a few colours including white, ideal for marking the black underside of trucks. It will never come off, but if you really need to remove it, a little scratching and a fibre pen will remove all traces. Can also be used for "line marking" on your models and layout. Jars, tubs boxes, you name it, there is nothing it wont stick to and is indelible! Edding White 0.8mm Extra Fine Tip Paint Marker Pen Paint pen white (or other)


Price guide:- Varies (£3 ea)

Source:- Arts and crafts shops and online/Ebay

Paint pen for stock number marking

Tip 909

Tip 909 is great when you can turn over a wagon to see its number, but how do you see what number an Engine or Wagon is when its on the track, without lifting it off? You can number them with a Ultra Violet (UV) marker pen, as used on bank notes. It is essentially a permanent marker pen, with (invisible) transparent ink, however, under ultra Violet light, it fluoresces and can be seen easily. Cheap UV lights can be had that will illuminate your marked wagon numbers, only when shone on the wagon and cannot be seen in normal lighting conditions. {I mark my 4 digit DCC code on my engines this way}Unwanted markings can be removed with surgical spirit, meths etc You can even buy UV pens with a UV light on the end!(You can also make secret treasure maps!)


Price guide:- Varies (£1 ea)

Source:- Arts and crafts shops and online/Ebay

Cataloguing (numbering) your stock (UV pen)

Tip 910

Struggling to find something heavy enough to hold down something while the glue dries?  Found the perfect jar/tin/bottle but there is only the one or two? Just raid the kitchen for tins, ideal size and quantity! If 'her in doors' complains, buy your own as a permanent stock of weights, £2 gets you 8 cans of cheapy beans at the supermarket!

Price guide:- Varies (25p ea)

Source:- Supermarkets

Beans tin weights

Tip 911

Readily available to purchase, a cheap source of clamps. Great for holding things together while the glue sets, paper, card plastic, any thing up to 5-8 mm thick or less.

Also available in miniature that are about 25mm long

Price guide:- 24 for £2

Source:- Chain stores, Wilko, Pound shops

Make your own plastic scribe

Tip 912

This is an old trick I learnt 30 years ago and still the cheapest and best way to cut plastics and paxolin PCB board (veroboard)

You will need access to a grinder though, a Dremel might do but will take ages!

First cut the blade in half, don’t attempt to bend it to do this! It needs to be done on a grindstone or with a hand grinder.

Any hacksaw blade will do, old or new. Grind a vee into the end as illustrated, tapering away toward the handle and near to right angles toward the tip (the exact angle is not important)

Round off the end and deburr. Do gentle grinding or file to do the final point, do not sharpen the thickness, the whole point is to make a sharp edge crosswise to the blade.

Do not use naked as built! Form a handle by any of the following:-

Wrap in insulation tape to a dozen turns up and down the length

Cover in several layers of heat shrink tube

Slit a piece of hose pipe and wrap over the top and cover with insulation tape or heat shrink

Glue pieces of wood to both sides with Araldite, shape to make comfortable

You can use pretty much anything, to widen the thin metal, as you need to press hard on the top in use.

Price guide:- Nowt

Source:- Free

Hollow punches

Tip 913

Ever wondered how to make neat round discs?

Engine discs, road signs, wheels, service grids, holes in thin sheet, etc, etc

Punch them with a light tap with a hammer, on plastic, card, paper, leather, cloth, etc.

Also available in many sizes up to 2 inches!

Great for making holes in thin material too!

26pcs set has 1mm, 1.5mm, 2mm, 3mm, 4mm, 5mm, 6mm, 7mm, 8mm, 9mm, 10mm, 11mm, 12mm, 13mm, 14mm, 15mm, 16mm, 17mm, 18mm, 19mm, 20mm, 21mm, 22mm, 23mm, 24mm, 25mm

Price guide:- Varies (£10+ per set)

Source:- Online

Clean up wipes

Tip 914

We all need a tissue or kitchen towel frequently when at the work bench. Make life easier (and one handed) by securing a tissue box (or kitchen towel) so that it can be without reaching and using two hands.

Clamp (with rubber bands) to the workbench/shelf/rack so individual sheets can be pulled from the “pop up” box one at a time. Else rubber band the box to a weight (plank of thick wood) so pulling one does not lift the box.

Kitchen towel can be help in a cheap plastic holder or strung on a wooden (or metal or plastic) bar from a shelf or below the bench

Price guide:- Varies

Source:- Home made or bought

Solder reel holder

Tip 915

IF you have your solder on a small or large plastic reel, it tends to move when you pull some more and you need a fourth hand!

Simply mount on a bar ,to allow it to rotate when you pull. Either drill a hole on a base and glue a bar to mount vertically on the bench or create a post clamped to the bench or shelf and hang the reel almost directly over your work area.

I have a pillar mounted to one side of my bench, with a paint roller handle attached, with the the 4” foam in the reel core, so it dangles directly over the soldering work area.

Price guide:- Varies

Source:- Home made or bought

Gravel pourer

Tip 916

Cut up a bleach or 4 pint milk bottle (any bottle with a hollow handle at the top) like the picture, to make a gravel pourer that acts as a large holder and funnel in one. You will be amazed how controllable the pour rate is.

Price guide:- Free

Source:- Recycled used bottle

Nut spinner

Tip 917

Hornby have just introduced a tool to fasten nuts on steam engine running gear. Own brand are available from some modelling shop. Of course you could buy a professional set for circa £20 (wiha), but a set of three, with 13 screwdrivers thrown in for free can be had for about £3! Not a quality product but for the few times it will be used, is perfectly OK.

Price guide:- Varies (£3-4 per set)

Source:- Online

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