Philosophical Q - scale vs looks right

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by MasonJar, Jun 2, 2003.

  1. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    In a number of cases, I have found it very difficult to go exactly to scale, whether it is textures - rivets, roofing, etc - or dimensions - e.g. scale lumber vs. matches.

    How many of you find that being to scale is more important than the "look and feel" (I would think that superdetailing locos is one area where it is essential to get it "just right")? On the flip side, are there instances where being to scale just doesn't look right, and/or doesn't matter? How much oversize or undersize is ok before it is really noticable?

    Any comments?


  2. interurban

    interurban Active Member

    Hi Andrew, if I worried about rivit counting I would never have the wire up.
    So if it looks good to my eye it will pass the test
    I do how ever use my scale ruler :D
    So I must be in the "Look and Feel" section
  3. Tyson Rayles

    Tyson Rayles Active Member

    Andrew I try to keep obvious things like doors and windows pretty close to scale. I model in n-scale and a 2X4 is the thickness of a sheet of paper so compromises have to be made. Do what you can and if it looks alright then it's good to go as far as I'm concerned! :D :D :D Some won't agree with me of course and that is O.K., there is plenty of room in the hobby for a wide range of views. ;) Do what suits you, cause if it don't it won't matter what other people think you will still be unhappy.
  4. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    I follow the rule of "good enough". There comes a time when you have to say, "good enough" and be done with it. You can always come back to correct, or improve or Dangit!, just pull out the sabre saw, wack it off and start over again. Like Tyson, the things that people can relate to, like doors, windows and vehicles are the only things that matter visually. I do have one or two models completed down to the rivets but I only show them to those who would appreciate that type of modeling. 90% of my audience is gonna say "Wow" or worse "Oh, how cute!" and so I model accordingly and only to please myself.
  5. Ralph

    Ralph's for fun!

    Hey Andrew,

    Unless you are specifically intending to model completely to scale for your own satisfaction or because you're entering a contest, I'd go by the "looks good" criterion. My own observation is that very large structures can be considerably shrunk down and still be believable while small structures that are too large can be noticeable right away. The rolling mill on my layout is extremely "compressed" but still looks OK. A small one story bar I once built was oversized and looked odd next to my HO rolling stock.

    I really admire folks that accurately model details like rivets, scale shingles etc . but I'm happy with my own ability to create an overall impression with a scene.

    Happy hobbying!
  6. Mike R

    Mike R Member

    Years ago, I often used the '3 foot rule'...if it looked good from 3 feet away, it was, even with bifocals, it's a '2 foot rule'.

    IMHO, the main thing about using off-scale components, [usually oversize], is to maintain a good degree of proportion, and make good use of painting and weathering techniques to disguise the look.

    An example might be the stirrup steps on an Athearn Bluebox boxcar..they are too thick, but if you don't feel like replacing them, you can 'thin them down' remarkably well by painting the inner & outer edges black.

    You can 'reduce' the impact of oversize wood in a scratchbuilt structure, [like a trestle or coal tower], by gradually 'bringing down' the adjacent components.Example, let's say you need to use scale wood posts 18" square, instead of 12"[that's 50% oversize]....when you put in crossbracing, make it only 25 or 30% oversize if at all possible.Some of the highly visible pieces [ the ones facing the viewer], can then be made even closer to scale to get the effect.

    Wood stained grayish[greyish]-black, like an india ink wash, always looks 'thinner' than raw wood, or wood painted or solid-stained.

    Chain-link fence mesh: paint it black first, even if you dip the metal stuff or dye the cloth stuff...then hit with a light coat of flat gray [grey] primer at 90 degrees straight on...the mesh looks much finer than spraying with aluminum or silver paint, because the black inner faces of the mesh become inobtrusive.

    ...good topic...excuse my strange use of both US and Canadian spellings of gray/grey...for some reason they both looked wrong today ???:confused:
    regards / Mike
  7. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    The common things, doors, windows, stairs, passenger vehicles..... These things should be close to scale, in order to have reasonably accurate proportions with their surroundings.
    Trees, are commonly viewed...looking up!, so detail really isn't as critical as placement.
    In most cases, if it will be out of scale, err on the small side.
    Most people don't know how big an airplane is, they only see them at distance. Same for ships. How many people know the exact dimension of the angle steel used for high voltage transmission towers? In this case, slightly undersize gives a more realistic appearance in model form.
    If I'm modeling a specific prototype, I tend to go with exact scale. With a freelance, or kitbash, I go for overall look, and feel.
  8. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Years ago, someone said that there are some details that have to be on your model for it to look right, but are too fragile or impractical when modelled to scale, so we make them oversize. (I think he mentioned brakewheels. and handrails). Even a scale thickness loco cab would crumple in your hand like aluminum foil. When you get to this point, model railroading becomes an art.
    Unless you live in a very small town, you couldn't model the whole thing in a standard house -- If there are 50 houses along your block, in O gauge a model of it would hang over your property line on each side. So we compromise somewhere.
  9. RailRon

    RailRon Active Member

    Andrew, I think there are two considerations:

    What are my abilities?
    How fine can I go with modeling details? This depends on my physical abilities: Eyesight (isn't what it was before :rolleyes: ) and skillfulness of my hand (should have H0 fingertips :D)

    Does it please me the way it is?
    (I'm leaving out contest modeling.) As others said before - when it pleases you, then it's ok. After all, it's YOUR layout!

    Now, if it doesn't please me, I'll try to redo it better. And when I realize that the project surpasses my abilities, then I just leave it alone and try something else. (E.g. I'm quite clumsy at soldering - so I'd never attempt to build a model of the Hell Gate Bridge.)
    Nothing worse than to pursuit a modeling task which you simply can't accomplish (anymore). You'll destroy your fun at the hobby, and that's about the worst that could happen! :eek:

    As Mike and Pete have shown, there exist some tricks to 'cheat' a bit - and that's a way to go when we're getting older and a bit stiffer. :mad: Thank you both for the hints! I noted them for me. :D

  10. farmer ron

    farmer ron Member

    I have been doing for years what Mike does with the 3 ft rule. By the way:
    who's railroad is it ??
    who see's it all the time??
    who is the person who has to be happy with it??

    I think the answer is YOU!! That is all that counts, if you have some one over that does not like what you have done then they keep their mouth shut and don't come back.
    I go for what looks good.
    As far as not being good at something, we are all human, the rest of us are not good at everything neither . As far as your sodering, practice on some scrap pieces off the layout, I am sure that will a little practice you will get better and be very proficient at what you do. I know I practice lots of things that are associated with my railroad on scrap pieces. The thing to remember is not to get mad and throw a fit when it goes wrong, l put it down and come back later and look for what went wrong or what about it that you do not like and try again.. I know it helps me to write down what I am doing do I can come back and see what went wrong so I do not make the same error again or know how to correct it, also gives me a good idea as to what worked/what I liked and can do it again. Good luck and keep us posted.
    Another Ron...
  11. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Another consideration is what the purpose of your modelling is.
    The terms "Museum quality" and "Contest quality" imdicate a fanatical devotion to scale and detailing.
    But they are not the models you want if you are running an intensive switching operation where you're always poking between the cars or rerailing after running the wrong way through a switch. You don't want a superdetailed building where your switchman has to reach over it to work the yard.
    Build a few superdetailed models, but keep them out of your way when operating. Get them in front for a photography session.
  12. RaiderCTE

    RaiderCTE Member

    Everyone has their own way. Here's a photo of a crane I got for my scrap metal yard. It came with a black string for the cable and I painted it a silver gray. Just looking at it in person you don't notice anything about it. You look at in the pic and it looks bigger than the steel beams of the extension. I also have my first scratch built anything on the end of the "cable". It is a magnet. Looking at it in person it looks "good enough". In the photo I would consider it about half the size it should be. I'm going on what I think not what have specs on. Since it will be easy enough to replace the string with thread and the magnet I can redo with some lead, wire, and solder I will see how it turns out. I have a feeling that unless I see someone post something that gives me a different idea it will end up good enough. Hopefully the camera will think so too.

    Attached Files:

  13. Drew Toner

    Drew Toner Member


    your absolutly right!!

  14. billk

    billk Active Member

    Should it look right or measure right? Are you making it to be looked at or to be measured?
  15. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    The sign on the front of my module..."If you'd like to see my trains, 'Welcome'. If you'd like to inspect my trains, make an appointment."

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