Tips using common items

Discussion in 'Tips & Tricks' started by Woodie, Apr 24, 2001.

  1. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member

    Hand Household Hints

    I'm learning rapidly [​IMG]
    I have found lots of little things around the house that are quite useful for modelling. I'm not talking screwdrivers, hammers, or commercially available materials etc. I thought I would start a thread on what useful things and purposes they can serve that you can find round the house. Here are a few: Any others to add?

    for finishing off ballast work and removing gunk from under the railhead.

    Spray your trees heavily, then sprinkle fine colour flock on them to add that extra bit of realism. sticks real well, without the gunk of glue.
  2. George

    George Member

    Woodie, chew on these!

    Astroturf Doormat:
    Cut to desired size, thin into rows, and VOILA! A cornfield that even Khrushchev would be envious of!

    Gray Plastic Window Screen:
    Cut, glue to small pipes and you get instant "HO" gauge chain link fence! Why pay? What do you think a struggling student at Plastruct did with 30 cents of screen and sold you for US$3.99??

    Plastic Chinese Soup Containers:
    Chuck the lid, turn upside down, a little off white paint, a cut logo from a road map, affix and TADAAAAA! An oil tank! Season to modellers taste! That trick will save you US$34.95 on a KIBRI kit!

    A Dentist's Pick:
    Universal tool for picking alien crud and fuzz out of strange places, retrieving small screws and Kadee springs from tiny crevices. Truly an indespensible item!

    Don't chew on that last one! [​IMG]

    Who's next?

    George. [​IMG]
  3. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member


    YES! A dentist pick.. Been trying to find something that will do that sorta job. But I don't have one laying round the house! Looks like a trip to the dentist for a checkup and "Hey, Mr Dentist... what's that out the window?" and **swipe** hehehehe

  4. shamus

    shamus Registered Member

    Tooth picks by the dozen, I use these cut into 1/4" pieces - Painted - then make loads of firewood for my Shays to breath fire and to make the kitchen staff happy so they can go on cooking food for my loggers.
    You can just see the logs on the back of the shay, right above the work "creek"
  5. kf4jqd

    kf4jqd Active Member

    Thanks George:

    I like your idea on the chain link fence. I was going to add one to my layout. Now I know how I am going to do it! [​IMG] Since I work in a window factory, getting "bad" screen will be no problem.....ops "Did I let my air driver tear a little of the screen?" [​IMG] :p

  6. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member


    Wire coat hangers.

    Your fence idea. For the posts... what do you reckon about wire coathangers cut up? Or the wire is too think? Could then bend the tops over at 45 degrees and run barbed wire along. Good security fence? Any ideas for barbed wire?

  7. Biggerhammer

    Biggerhammer Member

    The suggestions about window screen are going to be helpful- thank you! I hadn't liked the idea of forking over $$$ for the fence but I will need it soon.

    Drinking straws (painted of course) make good culverts. Also pretty good as pipe loads for flatcars.

    That old, broken mechanical watch of mine is going to make a really nice junkpile once it's properly weathered. Gears galore!

    Aquarium gravel is lining my mountain stream- looks quite nice that way. Why waste it on fish who would just float over it?

    I love sushi- and whenever I order it, the restaurant throws in 4-5 pairs of cheap chopsticks. I plan to nick them up a bit, stain them and have the nicest, straightest sawlogs my loggers could hope to find.

    An old grape-juice can turned out to be an excellent form for scratchbuilding a watertower.

    Q-tips work well as disposable brushes for stain. They don't last long but they're fine for getting a few dabs done when I don't want to fool around with paint thinner et al.

    [This message has been edited by Biggerhammer (edited 04-25-2001).]
  8. George

    George Member

    Shamus, your toothpick idea "ignited" this old idea I used to do. Take spent wooden matches and cut the burned end off. They make pretty good 8"X8"'s in "HO", but the problem is getting them all the same length. OUCH!

    I've always used toothpicks for spreading glue on plastic kit joints, etc. As well as small woodpiles. I'd be lost without them. Got stuck having to use some cocktail toothpicks from a party which were multi-coloured. The glue made the colour run onto the plastic! Last time we didn't buy plain wooden toothpicks!

    Woodie, you can get a dentists pick at any apothecary. If they don't have it, they probably can order it for you. I happened to get mine at a Chinese hardware store.

    As for wire hangers, depending on how they make them down under, the ones I get from the dry cleaner are too thick, but cut up could make for a pile of steel bars, good scrap at the very least. Depending on the shape of your toothpicks and length, you might find your chain link fence poles there.

    NAIL FILES. I used to drive my mother nuts taking all of hers for sanding sprue flash. First time I bought a package in the drug store, they looked at me as if I was a puff or something! They used to make you feel as uncomfortable as if you were purchasing condoms. Years later, it's not a problem anymore.

    FRAYED THREAD. Now this one's a matter of taste, and I don't quite taste this one, but others do. Here's an offering for the solution to making barbed wire. Some people think it looks OK. Actually if you think about it, in "HO", you would never see the barbs. Perhaps running fine thread and painting the tips of the poles to look as if it's an insulator could give the illusion of an electrified fence? ZAP!

    MODELLERS PAINT BRUSH. Forget the paint, these are the best things for getting dust out of crevices of models without damaging fine details. Q-Tips are pretty good as well. Have to credit Revell with that tip!

    OLD WATCHES. Drill a hole over the door for the bank, and there's that clock you always wanted. Battery driven and still works? All the better! You're always thankful for one in the room during a power failure! Find the cheapo victorian face that ladies hang around their necks on a pendant chain. This face and it's size are perfect for that watch to grace the inside of your waiting room with a little work.


    George [​IMG]
  9. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member

    THis thread is coming up really well, and keeping all these ideas I one spot. I like being inovative with all sorts of things. I gathered some things that I think could be used in someway.

    used PC printer 3 colour ink cartriges. Could be kitbashed into a substation transformer?

    Hair brush prongs?

    And what can you do with a bag of wine bottle corks?

    Used Humbrol paint tins?

    35mm platic film containers?

    get the imagination ticking! [​IMG]


    PS. luv the watch idea for a town clock!
  10. George

    George Member

    I like the printer cartridge idea for a transformer.

    As for the wine corks, put them on their sides on a flat car and tell people it's a shipment from France headed to a winery in Texas! [​IMG]

    Hair brush prongs? Paint and use for weeds?

    PAPER CLIP! AAAHAA! Straighten out and there's your fence post pipe for the chain link fence! I knew we'd get a solution for that one sooner or later.

  11. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member

    This one is courtesy of Shamus.

    Dead leaves in the blender as final scatter material under tress.
  12. Sir_Prize

    Sir_Prize Member

    Here's a few:

    Calculator Tape Roll:
    Hollowed out-Large sewer piping.
    Hollowed out, cut lengthwise- Installed sewer pipe.
    Cut across it's diameter- Spools for ????

    Inkjet Cartridge:
    Top- Cab of Engine (OK lots of work, but think about it).
    Bottom upside down- Stoplight control box, Telco Switch box (Neighborhoods, it's flat here in FL, no underground; or it's underwater).

    Battery Operated Pencil Shapener (Cylinder shape):
    Clear top upside down and cut shallow: city fountain (with mosiac bottom), put rice bulbs under it...OOoHHH! AAAaHHHH!

    Hmmmm.... I'll think of more funky stuff.
  13. Shay2

    Shay2 Member

    For Split logs I use a piece of white oak, 1x8 cut cross-grain in 1/4 inch strips. You end up with a piece 1x8x1/4. Then I "split" my logs, going with the grain in tiny random size pieces for my campfires and wood burning engines. The sides will tear away and look like you split them with a wedge. To make some of them look like the bark side of the tree paint one edge with grimy black and use light gray to highlight.

    For rock bolders I use Limestone from my neighbors driveway and randomly dry brush some of the stone with a medium tan paint. Instant rocks! These things actually look more real than the original!


    Rush Run River Logging Co.
  14. George

    George Member

    SMALL CRAFT BEADS. Telegraph pole insulators. big and small. For catenary, stack on a nail and glue to a crossarm. VOILA! Long high voltage insulators.

    PLASTIC PIZZA PROTECTOR. That thing they put in the centre so the box lid doesn't get squashed into the pie. Large scale patio tables.

    REAL BALLAST. Boulders for the layout. Curiosity items to point out, as the ballast came from the actual prototype of your favourite railroad. I always come home with a small bag from a trip. I like watching my CN trains go by real CN granite!

    BUSINESS CARDS. Store signs and billboards. With minor trimming, they fit with ease in the frames of the Life Like lighted billboards for "HO".


  15. Dave Harris

    Dave Harris Member

    Fabric softener sheets (Downey or others) Used of course, make great tar roofs ,glued down & painted . Also glued to a form & painted gray to simulate concrete, give it a nice texture.

    Bamboo skewer sticks make good cord wood, peeled log fences, wharf pilings, & more.

    Cigarette ashes are good to weather with, coffee is a good wood stain , weathers all sorts of things , pour your cold cup around on the ballast or ground cover instead of down the drain, you will be surprised at the results.Cream is ok, avoid dumping sugared coffee.

    Mascara is a great thing to use for dirty ,blackish , grease globs or stains on machinery .


    L V Dave
  16. Dave Harris

    Dave Harris Member

    What, was it something I said? Post quit after I listed a few items. Well here's one I forgot, liquid paper ( whiteout) makes great chaulky , peelig white paint on fences,buildig trim & the like. Very effective if wood is stained to look old & weatherd first ,then apply white out splotchy.------Dave

    L V Dave
  17. Biggerhammer

    Biggerhammer Member

    If nobody's mentioned it yet, an obvios addition to this list is thread. Plus fishing line, fine wire, etc.

    I've found plastic butterknives to be fine tools for mixing envirotex, spreading plaster, pushing pebbles around in my riverbed, etc.

    Dixie cups work well for mixing envirotex in. I just mark one cup at about the level that I think would hold half as much 'tex as I need, then put the marked cup inside another dixie cup, hold it up to the light and trace the marking- thus an even ratio of A and B, without ever facing the wife's wrath for using measuring cups that I would probably forget to clean out until far too late. [​IMG]

    Dave, I like the liquid-paper idea. Sounds ideal for my little-used MOW shacks and the like. The prototypes seldom saw paint, why should mine look pristine?
    (and I think that the sudden silence was coincidental [​IMG] )
  18. George

    George Member

    DUCT TAPE ! ! ! ! How could we have forgotten that one? Forget the chicken wire. Use duct tape over a wooden frame with newspaper stuffed underneath for countours and support. Make it solid without any gaps and cover with Mountians in Minutes. Remove the paper after having set and it's strong enough that the cat won't fall through! [​IMG]

    MIRRORS. Never became a Picasso? Don't know a Rembrandt? Think the backdrops you see resemble a Looney Tune set? Want to double the size of the scene? Use a MIRROR. Just forget about the familiar giant staring at you once in a while [​IMG]


  19. Bill Stone

    Bill Stone Member

    Nobody's mentioned clothes pins. They are terrific clamps. I like the wooden ones with metal springs that are still available here in the States at least. You can sand the jaws to various shapes to hold odd things, and just toss them when you're through.

    I've found that the little "tablets" of fine sandpaper mounted on a wood handle --- intended for draftspersons to use for sharpening pencils --- are handier than other forms of sandpaper for some jobs.

    For my woodburning locos, I harvest a few branches off of each year's Christmas tree, saw them to 2' (scale) lengths, and split them. Don't have to simulate bark. It's already there. And they look just about perfect.

    I asked my dentist about his source of tools. He gave me a catalog from a dental supply place, in which I found a whole lot of (a little pricey, but) fascinating hand tools.

  20. Conrail

    Conrail Member

    I use a set of small picks I got off of the Snap On truck at work. I'm sure Craftsman makes a set as well. The 5 piece set has different angled tips that are great for all kinds of things.

    Green scotchbrite pads are great for all kinds of things. I use them to scuff items that need a little rougher look. I might tear a chunk off and dap it in some paint for a nice random effect, and if you tear a piece off and just mull it around a bit it makes a decent shrub with a little trimming.

    I used some card stock paper to make roof shingles. I whipped up a patteren with Photoshop, printed it off on the card stock paper, roughed the paper up just a tad with 120 grit (on the opposite side of the printed patteren), then trimmed the shingles out. Printing the patteren first made the trimming a snap. Then I soaked them in a wash of alcohol and ink and they look great. Add weathering to taste.

    An idea on the barb wire the was mentioned earlier in the thread could be done easily by just tying a few knots in the line and scuffing them up to create a barbed look. I havent tried it but its the best I could think of.

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