Brass Wire for Handrails?

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by SeriousSam, Feb 2, 2007.

  1. SeriousSam

    SeriousSam Member

    Howdy. I was looking at some brass wire at this website, but I couldnt figure out which one would be used for handrails or other small hoses in a locomotive. Which size is the smallest and which is the thickest? Thanks
  2. jbaakko

    jbaakko Active Member

    .005 would be smaller then .010, as they're measured in inches usually, so .005", .010", .015", ect...
  3. SeriousSam

    SeriousSam Member

    thanks for the info. so for grab irons and such, i should use .005?
  4. RailRon

    RailRon Active Member

    Sam, when you are modeling in N scale (seems logical since this thread is in the N/Z scale section) you can multiply the wire thickness with 160. This gives you the diameter of a rod/hose/grabiron/pipe/whatever... in the real world.

    So when you use 0.005" wire (for metric modelers: 0.13 millimeters) for grabirons on your model, this thin wire represents already a rod thickness of 0.8" (or roughly 20 mm). This isn't too far off from the original, so you can use this wire.

    Likewise you could use 0.01" (0.25 mm) wire for modelling 1-1/2" tubes and so on.

  5. cidchase

    cidchase Active Member

    Hay guys, I have no experience with N-scale grab irons, but five-thousandths wire
    seems awfully small to handle, form, and install, and to withstand handling later on.
    Just one of those opinions, ya know! Has anyone here actually done this? It might be
    one of those areas where your "Modeller's Licence" comes in handy!:D :D
  6. Shooter

    Shooter New Member

    As far as wire width, I haven't seen .005" wire readily available, the smallest I've seen is .006". Take a look at the picture below for an example:


    The handrails are .008" wire (I found .006 to seem just a little too thin). The drop grab irons on the front and side of nose are BLMA, which are pre-bent .007" wire. And, the grab irons on the top of the nose are hand bent out of .006" wire (to match the thinner appearance of the prototype).

    I bent my own drop grab irons out of .006" wire until BLMA made their grabs out of .007" wire (they used to use .009", which looked way to "chunky" for my eyes, especially when compared to other thinner details that were added).

    Here you see the same combination of .008" handrails and BLMA .007" drop grabs on a painted model.


    As far as fragility, you certainly do add some. With some careful handling, there shouldn't be a problem. And if/when there is some damage, it can be repaired or reformed without major surgery. Personally, I have found items like sunshades, antennae to be more susceptible to damage than handrails and grab irons.

  7. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Nice job on those handrails, jps.:thumb: In the photo of the unpainted unit, the wire doesn't look to be brass. Is this music wire? If so, where did you get it? Music wire, while harder to form correctly, is much more durable than brass. I've been unable to find it any smaller than .015". I model in HO, so some .010" and .012" would be very useful.

  8. COX 47

    COX 47 Member

    Shooter thats some FANTASTIC!! wire work how about some tips? Cox 47
  9. Shooter

    Shooter New Member

    Thanks for the compliments!

    For the GP16 (unpainted model), the wire on top of the nose is Detail Associates' .006" brass wire (Walthers #229-2501). The wire used for the handrails is Creative Model Associates' .008" Phosphor-Bronze wire (Walthers #363-1100), which is a little "stiffer", less "springy" than brass, and what I prefer. Durability wise, it's a wash. In some ways it's better, in some ways it's not.

    Some Tips? Practice and patience.

    Here are a few shots of an iffy JnJ GP15 shell that I practiced on. I didn't spend too much money on the detail parts, and as it started coming along successfully, I put a little more into it, and still occasionally use it to try things. With the quality of the shell, it's like "polishing a turd", but it did provide some good practice.



    Personally, I use tweezers and small smooth-jawed needlenose pliers to bend these items. But try different tools until you find the ones that feel the most comfortable to you. And practicing will help you learn to gauge where to hold the wire to make each bend (which can be tricky). The better you can handle your tools, the better your work will be. And the more practice you have, the quicker you can work.

    After each bend, I'm constantly checking it against the model and plastic handrails (if availalble) to get the angles and lengths correct. I do have to occasionally re-straighten things and rebend it, and some wire pieces need to be tossed. But as you gain experience, you will need fewer rebends and tossed wires.

    And the last tip off the top of my head for handrails is that I normally start from the cab, and work down towards the steps. It just works easier for me, but each of us has to find our own technique.


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