Model Railroad Scale Rule

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by sumpter250, Aug 17, 2002.

  1. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    I'm going to walk out on some thin ice here, with no intent to offend.
    There have been, since I joined this forum, many questions which, while not immediately connected, seem to indicate that maybe I need to raise the point about scale rulers. The Questions I refer to range from requests for building plans in a specific scale, to generic "how big" questions.
    The fact is, that most building plans, published in the magazines of the hobby, are drawn with actual measurements, regardless of the scale they're drawn in. This also includes rolling stock, locos, etc.. Even if they aren't, with a scale rule,you can measure the plan, to determine the size, and then use the rule for your scale to cut the part. Same applies for detail parts, you can use the ruler of the scale the plan is drawn in to measure from any scale drawing, to determine the size, then use the ruler of your scale to build it, or see if a commercial part will work.
    I currently have three scale rules, two from "General" #1251 is a 12" stainless steel rule that has O,S,HO,and N scales + 6" in 64ths, and 6" in mm's,+ decimal equivalents for number drills, and fractional drills. The #351 is a 6", with only O, and HO scale.
    The "Mascot" is a 12" with O,S, HO, and N scales and has a tap drill chart for 00-90 through 6-32 screws.
    I have even had some luck with making scale rules in almost any other scale. They're on card stock, so don't last forever, but serve the purpose well.
    The other "measuring device" I wouldn't be without is a set of proportional dividers. These are vital in building from only a photograph. All you need is one "known" dimension, to set the dividers, and the rest can be taken directly from the photo.
    Hope this is of some help.
  2. Vic

    Vic Active Member

    Hi Pete, BINGO!!! At least one scale ruler is an absolute must for building. I like the #351 from General the best as its not so awkward to work with. Also have a clear flexible one from C.T.T. that comes in real handy at times.

    Something else that might ought be be pointed out is that drawings or plans are not always accurate due to heat or humidity which can cause the paper to shrink or expand. For example: if a plan calls for you to cut a piece of 2x4 6ft 6in long, measure your 2x4 stock with the scale ruler and don't just lay the stock on the drawing and cut it. I've seen plans/drawings be off by 3-4 scale inches because of this. Its especially true with those that are printed in magazines or have been photocopied rather than printed.

    The old rule of thumb....measure twice...cut once...always applies.
  3. Catt

    Catt Guest

    Anybody attempting to scratchbuild with out a scale rule has been sniffin' the glue -n- paint fumes to long.

    Any time I use published plans I tend to scan them into my puter and size and resize to a given measurement(both horozontally and vertically) before printing them out and using them
  4. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    I'm glad you took the initiative & posted this thread, Pete!
    I, too, keep seeing these same questions come up too.
    I feel like I've said this so many times, but I guess I need to keep in mind that we were all newbies once...
    If you're going to do ANY kind of scale modeling, there are just a few tools you MUST have, no if's, &'s, or buts...

    1.) X-acto Knife, & a generous supply of #11 blades.
    2.) Scale CANNOT do any decent modeling without at least one of addition to giving you accurate scale measurements, it also acts as a straight edge, & cutting guide for your x-acto knife.
    3.) Razor Saw...sometimes these are refered to as "jewelers saws"...X-acto makes a good one, with interchangeable blades...these are good for making smooth, straight cuts through wood, plastic, & light metal pieces. you will always find a need for one of these if you are doing any kind of kit-bashing, or scratch building.
    4.) Flush-Cutting Pliers, &/or Sprue Cutters...these are good for removing kit parts from sprues, smoothing off edges, & making course cuts through plastic, metal, wood, etc...
    5.) Various Sets Of Files...I use everything from a heavy wood rasp, down to a tiny set of needle files...these are ESSENTIAL for removing flash, cleaning up openings, dressing up rough edges, & corner seams...
    6.) Paint some good ones, & buy some cheap ones...not only are they good for applying paint, but come in handy for applying glue to those hard to reach places, dusting on weathering chalks, & removing dust & dirt.

    There are probably hundreds of other gizmos which are really nice to have, but in my humble opinion, the half dozen I've listed here, are simply must-haves... whatever funds you spend on these will be paid back to you in the quality of work they will enable you to accomplish.
  5. billk

    billk Active Member

    I'm going to play the devil's advocate here and claim the only time a scale ruler is of much use is when you are modeling an exact replica of something. Otherwise work it out to the nearest 1/32" or whatever.
  6. Blake

    Blake Member

    work bench

    You only really need 1 or 2 tools for modeling. Ooops, I forgot the zeros (hmmm, was that 2 zeros or three?). Anyway, here are some photos of the bench that I designed and had built. A good spacious well lit place to work is essential.

  7. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    That's a great looking workbench! When are you going to get some tools??:D :D :D :D :D

    What loco is that in your signature?? The pilot(pump shrouds) make me think NY Central.
  8. Blake

    Blake Member

    Tell me about it!:D I am always lookin' fer tools! :eek:I buy and sell antiques for a living and man do I find tools. I probably have more files than hairs on my head (no, I'm not bald). It's not something that can be controlled, I'm just a tool hound. That loco is an Erie Berkshire.
  9. Vic mentioned CTT scale rulers. These can be quite handy at times because they're made from clear plastic and they're flexible. They are available in 10 scales, ranging from 1:22.5 to 1:160, and are a full 12" in length. One of the best things about them is that they are not expensive: $2.99 + $2.00 s/h each if ordered direct from CTT. They are available in LHS's and Walthers lists them in the catalog for $3.25 each.
  10. t. alexander

    t. alexander Member

    Blake, thats an awsome bench. Looks cozy too. :D

    Speaking of tools, When my Foredum flex shaft finally died of old age (sad day for sure) and started using a dremel it took awhile to get used to not having the precision of a foot operated throttle.

    My tools, paint and building materials are kept in one of those craftsman type roll-away mechanics chest. My work table is 5' x 7' of open area, but I also need all that space for ship building too.

    Thanks for pic's I enjoy seeing other folk's workspace's.

    The Top tools at my bench are light, light and more Light.
    Jewelers saw, Dremel and of course scale rules.

  11. t. alexander

    t. alexander Member

    I use the C.T.T. clear one that Vic and Casey mentioned but switch to a metal straight edge as a cutting giude.

  12. t. alexander

    t. alexander Member

    Since I mentioned I like seeing where other folks did thier magic, I thought I would let you see my corner.
    All this will soon be moved to the other side of the room because the Lorac RR has just purchased this area for thier right of way.


    Attached Files:

  13. Bill Stone

    Bill Stone Member

    Blake..... Beautiful work bench. A bit similar to mine, but I never got around to painting mine. If I ever get my digital camera talking to my dumbputer, I'll post a picture of my work space. I agree with T. that it's sort of fun seeing where you other guys do your deeds (As important to me as seeing layouts, I guess.)

    Getting back to scale rules. I have to admit that I have a couple of them, but find I seldom use them any more. Two reasons:

    First: I use my dial calipers, after quick conversion math on a calculator. It's a whole lot easier taking good measurements from, or transfering good measurements to, anything that way. Similarly, it's easy to take dimensions off any drawing, even one not particularly reproduced to any reasonable scale. If you know the size of just one feature on the drawing --- driver diameter, wheel diameter, door height, whatever --- it's easy to come up with a multiplier with which to convert the dimensions you take from the drawing.

    Second: Using a fairly high level CAD system, I predraw most things I build, figuring out assembly as I go. I draw full (1:1) scale, and then with a couple of clicks I can reduce the thing down to any scale I want (in my case, 87.082728, NOT 87, and not 87.1 I know, that sounds like nit picking, but if you put the long number into the calculator memory, it's no hassle at all. Even though I often build to "practical" dimensions, using "available" material thicknesses, I figure it doesn't hurt to start out "correct.") I output my CAD drawings to a pen plotter (can handle up to "D" size, 24x36 drawings) which is likely much more accurate than a printer.

    I've often wondered if I could replace my plotter pen with a scriber and "scratch" images right on blued brass. That would be wonderful, but I've been afraid to try. If it screwed up the plotter, that would be an expensive mistake!

    Bill S
  14. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    I was a little nervous opening this thread, but you guys picked up the ball and ran with it, in the intended spirit of providing information, and explanation. Thanks to all of you for your comments.

    Thanks, the berk is, in my opinon, the best looking rigid frame locomotive.
  15. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member

    I couldn't live without my Dremel.:cool: :eek: :D
  16. eightyeightfan1

    eightyeightfan1 Now I'm AMP'd

    I'm Late....I know

    I have the General scale rule. I mostly use it for scratch building buildings. I don't usually go by plans, I see something that looks interesting and guesstamate.

    Since everyone was showing their work area, heres a picture of mine. I was lucky. The workbench and peg-board were already there when I bought the house, Alls I had to do was add my stuff and get right to work.

    Attached Files:

  17. TinGoat

    TinGoat Ignorant know it all

    Workspace and scale rulers....

    My "workbench" consists of a small briefcase, clutter under and on the kitchen table, and the end of the dining room table.

    "Honest, Honey, I'll clean that up before Sunday dinner...." (uh, what month?) :D

    Got a shiny new scale ruler just a couple of weeks ago with all the popular scales and 100ths too.
    An Idea just occured to me....

    With a set of calipers, or a scale rule to double check, you could use a photo negative in a photo developer to project the image onto styrene or brass sheet.

    Assuming that photography is your other hobby and you have access to a dark room.

    A set of proportional dividers would be nice to have, but if you are going to be a real rivit counter, you have to make sure that the prototype image is fully squared up.


    I thought my picture was nice and square until I started cropping it....

    With a side view, the set of proportional dividers may be accurate at one end of the image, but become off by an inch or more at the other end of the image.

    Thank goodness I'm not a rivit counter myself.... :D

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