The Aluminum Benchwork Project

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by 2-8-2, Oct 24, 2006.

  1. 2-8-2

    2-8-2 Member

    Yes, you read that right.

    My first attempt at building benchwork for my 4x6 N scale layout had mixed results. I am no Bob Vila, but I figured I could nail a few boards together to make a home for my layout. I purchased the needed supplies from Lowe's and went to work. I'm just not happy with the finished product. The layout needs to be moveable, and in order for that to happen, it must be lightweight.

    I work in a machine/assembly shop, and have access to some extruded aluminum tubing. We have some out of date stuff that isn't used, and I'm able to buy it for $.50/linear ft. This stuff has grooves in the side that can accomodate the hardware needed to hold it all together. When I cut a piece in comparable length to a piece of wood, it weighs a lot less, and will be more durable.

    I'm drawing up the plans now, which aren't too complicated. Hopefully I can have it cut and assembled by the weekend and be able to post some pics for you guys!
  2. N Gauger

    N Gauger 1:20.3 Train Addict

    You BETTER post pics!!!!! :D :D :D

    I have got to see this!!!!!!

    And..... get ready to do an article on this for the E-mag :) :) :)
  3. 2-8-2

    2-8-2 Member

    This isn't the actual product I'll be using, but it's very similar. The extrusion we use at work is imported from Italy for our metric line of conveyor systems, and measures 40mm (roughly 1 1/2 inches) square.


    The grooved channels will hold threaded square nuts that accomodate gussets in order to build the framework. On the pieces I'll use for legs, the large hole in the center of this extrusion (ours is slightly larger) will be machined to hold either rolling casters or leveling pads...I haven't decided on that part yet.

  4. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    One of my friends used the metal 2x4 studs for part of his benchwork.
  5. CCT70

    CCT70 Member

    If I may offer a suggestion, use casters. You'll be glad when it comes time to move it around a bit.

    I think this is a great idea and look forward to the results. A racer buddy of mine was always scavenging for steel tubing tubing from our race car shop and since he was a fellow racer, we just gave it to him. I figured he was building a go-kart or using it to fix his racecar. No way man! He built the framework for a 12' x 20' HO Slotcar track with it! He used scavenged foam stacked and formed on sheets of Dupont 2" extruded foam siding. It turned out very nice actually, kind of tricky using round chromoly tubing I suppose. When my crew chief asked why he didn't just use lumber, he told us it was because he wanted to use pieces of real race cars for his race car track. He had painted the tubing in bright red and pinstriped it out and it looked great. So I think your idea is a great one and I KNOW it'll work well.
  6. 2-8-2

    2-8-2 Member


    The shipping dept. parked some of their stuff right in front of the racks I need to get to in order to use the extrusion. So, this project may be temporarily put on hold until next week.

  7. galt904

    galt904 Member

    Hmm, can't remember the company name for Italian source for this & yellow catalogue? Parker makes similar stuff in 40 x 40 mm, and Bosch has 30 x 30 and 45 x 45 profiles. Awesome stuff to use, quick to build things, but not cheap.

    My advice for cutting it (from experience): use a carbide tipped blade with lots of teeth, and make sure your saw is set up as square as possible, makes alignment much easier when it comes to assembly.

    Great strong lightweight stuff to work with. :)
  8. 2-8-2

    2-8-2 Member

    Another update...

    Being the impatient person that I am, I moved the shipping dept.'s junk out of my way myself after work today. I already had measurements converted to millimeters (since that's what the saw fence is set for), so all my pieces are cut.

    We have a table saw equipped with carbide blades, and a coolant dispenser (ie: me standing there with a squirt bottle). It took probably half an hour to get everything cut to size, mocked up, and measured for accuracy. I used a framing square to set my gussets in place, so all I need to do now is some final assembly.

    I did keep the legs at work for now. I need to use a 10mm tap for the casters I want to use. They're nice...ball bearing casters w/ locking levers.

    Pics coming soon!
  9. FiatFan

    FiatFan Member

    We're looking forward to pictures when this is all done!

  10. 2-8-2

    2-8-2 Member

    I'm not really sure who makes it to be honest. It comes from a supplier, and has been repackaged by the time I see it. I've heard that it's a company that also builds robotics, as this material was intended to be used for cages around them.
  11. zedob

    zedob Member

    This stuff is quite popular with automated machine manufacturers as safety barriers.

    Here's a link.

    Not as cheap as wood, but it would be fun to play with to build a layout.
  12. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    My experience with locking casters on tool boxes is that they generally don't lock very well. I would build the benchwork and test them to see if they lock good enough for you before building the layout. Also keep in mind that the locks on the casters will get looser over time, not tighter. What I would do is use nonswiveling castors on one end, and leveling pads on the other end. Then to move it, you just pick up the end with the leveling pads, and push it around like a wheel barrow. You could even install a handle on that end. When in operation, the leveling pads will securely lock the layout in place by gravity.
  13. 2-8-2

    2-8-2 Member

    Here is an image of the extrusion. As mentioned, it measures 40mm square (approx. 1 1/2 inches) and is aluminum. This is commonly referred to as "T-Groove" because of its shape. Not all T-Groove looks like this, however...and it comes in many different sizes.

    Also pictured is the attaching hardware. The square nuts slide into the grooved channels, and are locked down using these triangle shaped gussets. I'm using M8 x 20mm bolts and lock washers to complete each joint. When used with Loc-Tite, the corners will be rock solid.

  14. 2-8-2

    2-8-2 Member

    Here I have attached casters to the legs. The center hole of the extrusion (pictured in the post above) has been drilled and tapped to accept the bolt on the end of these casters.

    I had originally planned to use different casters. The ones I had picked out were much nicer looking and had a better lock. However, the center hole of the extrusion was too large for the threads on that type of caster. I opted to just use different ones instead.

  15. 2-8-2

    2-8-2 Member

    Here are detail pics showing the front and back of what a corner joint looks like. I used a framing square and got the corners as straight as I could.


  16. 2-8-2

    2-8-2 Member

    Here is the completed frame. Measuring 4 x 6, with two support braces. As rigid as this thing is, I could've gotten away with using only one...but better safe than sorry. In the background, you can see the bottom of my original wood benchwork, complete with blue foamboard.

  17. Rusty Spike

    Rusty Spike Member

    Darn, that looks like fun! It has a bit of an erector set feel to it!

    It is funny, over the years I've found buddies who either think in metal or in wood depending on their experience. Look out when the machinist tries to make something with wood - no calipers please!
  18. N Gauger

    N Gauger 1:20.3 Train Addict

    Oh man - - that's neat!!!! :D :D :D :D
  19. 2-8-2

    2-8-2 Member

    Yeah, look out is right. My wood benchwork attempt wouldn't win any awards for being pretty, that's for sure.

    Oh, I should probably also mention that to date, The Aluminum Benchwork Project has cost me $23.10 and maybe an hour and a half construction time.

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