Lauan ply framework construction

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by ocalicreek, Jun 27, 2005.

  1. ocalicreek

    ocalicreek Member

    Hello All,

    I'm looking for advice/tips/ideas on working with 1/4" lauan ply to construct the framework for my next layout. Here's my plan:

    It's basically a 4'x4' area with a 1'x1' extension on one corner/side, which I plan to subdivide into a 2'x4' section and a 2'x5' section...sorry, I don't have a drawing scanned in yet. The bulk of the layout rests on a 4'x4' tabletop, built for an N scale layout originally. The small 1'x1' extension leads to a 1'x3' staging area for aluminum angle cassettes. SO in the end it occupies a 4'x8' space. Think the shape of Oklahoma, just flipped horizontally.

    I currently have 2 sheets of 4'x8', 1/4" lauan ply. I plan to beg or borrow a table saw to rip one sheet down into strips (3", 4", not sure yet...) to construct a box frame with girders for stability. What's left of the first and all of the other will be used to make the subroadbed cookie cutter style and risers/scenic formers. I haven't decided how to increase the rigidity of the subroadbed yet, to prevent warping.

    Pieces will be assembled with wood glue and staple gun brads, and if necessary, corner blocks. Check the other discussion thread on backdrops for more info regarding that process.

    So what do you think? Any comments or suggestions?


  2. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    I have tried making a 2x4 module from the stuff, and from a weight point-of-view, you do not gain anything by the time it is all said and done. The bracing and so on that is required adds extra "engineering" time, and generally makes things more complicated.

    However, having said that, Michael Tylick had an interesting article in MR some time ago about creating modules with the stuff. He basically laminated layers together to get strength, but liked the thin ply for its flexibility - he had a curved front module. Rather than using the 1/4" ply for the subroadbed, he used layers of extruded foam to get different elevations.

    Firing brads into 1/4" ply requires very precise aim ;) :D

    Check the link in my signature for more ideas on a modular approach to layout building.


    PS - any chance of a drawing of that track/benchwork plan?
  3. SAL Comet

    SAL Comet Member

    Ha oc, Speaking as a carpenter and builder, 1/4 plywood of any type won't hold a fastener in the end grain and is way to flexable for the frame of such a layout. might be ok for subroadbed but I'd use 1/2 min. As for your frame, 3/4" plywood ripped to 3 1/2" would be my first choise or 1x4 lumber would be my min. for frame. If you used cabinet grade plywood then 1/2" would probable be ok. IMHO
  4. ocalicreek

    ocalicreek Member

    Iain Rice has some ideas on building small layouts with the 1/4" ply in his book, "Small, Smart & Practical Track Plans", but these are just suggestions. I've trolled through many British sites, as he claims the practice is more popular over there, but come up empty as for any descriptions of construction.

    I have seen the Tylick article (series of articles, I think) on a pair of O scale modules and I roughly remember the facade being curved and laminated thin material. I'll have to look it up and see.

    Another reason I'm going with the lauan is the lack of easily obtainable extruded polystyrene foam sheets in SoCal. Not impossible to get, just not that easy or convenient. Perhaps the wait/cost is a worthwhile investment for the time/effort saved, but I love to do things the hard way. (Ask me sometime later about the chimney I detailed with tiny strips of styrene, brick by brick by brick....)

    Oh, and another reason is the suggestion I've read a couple other places about ripping down ply into strips to obtain a more true, straight beam than knotty pine or other less-expensive dimensional lumber.

    If foam were more readily available I'd love to try a "stressed skin panel" of 1" foam and 1/4" ply. Basically a sandwich approach but the physics behind it make it an extremely strong panel. Not sure how small it could be cut down before losing the properties gained, but I'd love to find out. Do a google search for "stressed skin panels" to learn more. I'm surprised nobody in the hobby has used this approach yet. It may answer many of the questions regarding using foam with or without a frame or on plywood or not, etc.

    Thanks for the comments so far!

  5. ocalicreek

    ocalicreek Member

    Attached should be an image of the available space. It's deceiving, however, because the 4'x4' table is 6-3/8" lower than it will be in order to match the height of the shelving. I have 4 2"x2" legs with leveling bolts left from a previous small layout that I plan on attaching to the existing table legs in order to raise and level it. The shelving is surprisingly level but the table slopes slightly...go figure.

    Also note the lighting, just purchased today at Home Depot. The tubes are Phillips 40W Full Spectrum. Should be ample for the setting. I also have a couple floods available if I need to warm up the scene, or for special effects.


    Attached Files:

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