The New Layout - Baseboard


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As explained in the introduction, the layout is 1050mm by 250mm.  A single self-contained baseboard of this size doesn't have to be too high-tech. The main requirement is that it will stay rigid. With this in mind, I opted to use a sheet of 6mm thick MDF (medium density fibreboard) for the baseboard surface.  MDF is a good material for this as it has no grain, is easy to cut and is reasonably rigid.  It has a disadvantage of being heavy, but in 6mm thickness, this is less of an issue. The outer surfaces of  MDF sheet are very hard, making the use of things like trackpins quite tricky if commercial track is being used. However, I have a cunning plan to avoid this and in any case, I build my own track.

Time to go shopping for wood.  In my locality (SW London, UK) there are a horde of DIY (home improvement) stores, who all sell MDF, but I wanted a 2400mm by 1200mm MDF sheet cut into 250mm wide strips for two reasons, to avoid a tedious session with a jigsaw and to get a straight, accurate cut - not easy with a hand-held jigsaw. Finding somewhere to do this was easier said than done, my usual supplier had become part of a large UK wide chain (Travis Perkins) and their former helpful free while-you-wait cutting service had been dropped in favour of a "we'll charge you for each cut and we'll do it in our own time" policy.  Well, thanks, but no thanks.  I eventually found a store that would do the cutting, but had to pay over the odds for the MDF. Such is life. At the same time as I got the MDF, I also bought some 45mm by 15mm planed pine for the framing and 12mm by 12mm pine for corner glue blocks, taking care to sort through the available stocks selecting lengths which were straight and knot free.
Click on the pictures to get a larger image in a new window
Click on the image to get a larger view (opens in a new window) Here is the basic board amid the usual clutter of my workbench, with the top sheet of 6mm MDF and  framing from the 45mm by 15mm pine. Everything is glued and pinned. I use a UK brand of white PVA glue called Unibond. This is good stuff and can also be used as a surface sealer.
Click on the image to get a larger view (opens in a new window) Same view, but with the board inverted to show the framing. No fancy joints are used, just a simple butt joint, which in this case is amply strong enough.  Before glueing the joints, the end grain of the wood is sealed with Unibond. This stops the woodgrain from "wicking" the glue away from the joint.  I use plenty of glue on each joint, wiping away the excess with a damp cloth.

The framing is on 3 sides of the board, as the rear frame will be cut from MDF sheet to make an integral backscene.

Click on the image to get a larger view (opens in a new window) Here is a closer view of the framing.  Always remember to cut some access holes for wiring before installing the internal framing.

To make a clean saw cut in stripwood, break the grain by scoring all around the cut with a sharp knife. This will guide the saw and prevent whiskers of wood being left on the underside of the cut. I like to use a fine dovetail saw for this work. Ordinary tenon saws will cut more quickly, but make a coarser cut.

Back on top again, but this time an extra layer has been added.  This is cut from Sundeala board - a brand of soft insulation board sold in the UK for model railway baseboards. On its own, it's subject to sagging between frames, but backed up with a firm surface, it's excellent. The consistency of the board is similar to the material used for noticeboards, so it takes and grips pins, while being resilient. The material is not as crumbly as true insulation boards.  The glossy areas have been painted with Unibond to seal them.  If you refer to this sketch, you can see how the layout is beginning to take shape.
Click on the image to get a larger view (opens in a new window) Here's a side on view of the baseboard showing the 3 layers.  Sundeala is easy carved with a sharp knife or chisel, so ditches and other features can be cut directly into the surface.

The Sundeala I used was reclaimed from a previous project and had developed somewhat of a warp, so it was glued and screwed firmly down to the MDF.

Click on the image to get a larger view (opens in a new window) When glueing sheet material, you have to be a bit bold with the glue, as Unibond dries quickly, so I like to use a decent size brush and not to skimp the glue. Any excess is easily cleaned up with a damp cloth, as mentioned earlier.

The carved edges of the Sundeala and the trackbed are sealed with Unibond, to stabilise the surface.

Click on the image to get a larger view (opens in a new window) Here the top surface has been carved away to make room for the point tiebar (throwbar) and holes drilled for the point operating mechanism and also the uncoupling electromagnet.

Note the screws dotted about apparently haphazardly.  All I did was to glue the Sundeala down and put a screw in at any point where it looked like warping upwards.

Click on the image to get a larger view (opens in a new window) The trestle bridge crossing the stream is also installed as this stage, because it needs to be considered as part of the trackbed. The footings for the bridge are cut into the Sundeala, so the trackbed remains level and the bridge will become part of the scenery.
So now we can turn to the backscene and the sidescenes.  The backscene is cut from MDF sheet and where it makes a joint with the baseboard and side scenes, 12mm by 12mm pine strip is added to reinforce the join. The backscene is screwed to the rest of the baseboard for now, as it may need to be removed from time to time during the next few stages.  Same with the side scenes which form the break between the staging area and the scenic area. These are left loose so they can be removed for track laying.
Now it's starting to look like a layout. Compare this with the sketch.

Go on to the next instalment


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