using real water (sealing river bottom)

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by hephaest, Dec 3, 2003.

  1. hephaest

    hephaest New Member

    I am building a large river (20 foot long) in my layout.
    the river gorge is 12 inches deep and the river depth will be about 3 or 4 inches. The river bed and sides will be made of plaster molded to look like cliffs/mountains. It will be painted
    and then sealed with multiple layers of some sealer.

    does anyone know whats a good sealer to use that will not
    deteriorate over time and will be completely clear and matte.
    non shiny. The reason it has to be non shiny is because i have
    to coat a few inches above the water line and i dont want there to be a noticeable difference between the coated plaster and non coated plaster.

    Please don't tell me that using water is a bad idea. I heard that before. Plastic water may look like real water but its not moving and thats not fun at all. I want motion in my layout. Humidity and mold growth can easily be handled by removing the water into a storage container when not using the railroad, and using a dehumidifier. Making water look real is also not as hard as one may think. One can create turbulance in water by pumping it through nets . This gives a bubbling effect as in a faucet. And looks great for waterfalls and turbulant water when it goes through rocks and turns in a raging river.
  2. Ralph

    Ralph's for fun!

    I'm intrigued! As a kid I remember a real water (complete with waterfall scene) on the layout operated by the club in Kingston,NY. Your question might be a good one for an experienced clerk at the hardware store. I'm looking forward to hearing how it turns out!
  3. billk

    billk Active Member

    First question - What scale?
    Next question - Where do you get water in that scale?
  4. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I would think an outdoor polyurethane in satin would do the trick for you.
  5. CN1

    CN1 Active Member

    Get an aquarium pump, filter and assorted plumbing.

    Go to Home Depot and get that "Plastic Paint". Once dry, paint it with a flat color.

    To seal it use automotive clearcoat (flat) in spray.

    You may want to insert a glass panel about 1/6-or-1/8 of an inch underneath the water. The water will flow more smoothly that way.

    ;) :wave: :wave:
  6. Lighthorseman

    Lighthorseman Active Member

    Real Water...

    I recall that the late Lee Van de Visse of Model Railroader did a series about his On3 Crown Mountain Division. In that series of articles, he showed how he incorporated real water in his layout. He actually used clear plastic water type stuff to seal the bottom and sides of where the real water would go. Then, when the water was flowing, it was impossible to notice anything but the water.

    I know I have that article, but have absolutely no idea where that issue is, or which one it was. Someone out there in Gaugeland might know...
  7. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    My first thot upon reading your post was somewhat in line with CN1's thinking:

    Seal first ask questions later.

    I would seal it well, disregarding the shinyness, mattness, hmmmm :confused: you know what I mean. That seal is all important. Seal it up good, tight as a drum. Silly-cone? Basement sealer for concrete? Somethin good! Then re-scenic the areas above the waterline. Re-rescenicing may become routine with such live performances with water in a plaster based setting.

    You may also consider seeking more natural materials for the scenicing. Real sand and rocks in nature get along with water well. I say seal it up, get a layer of natural stone, sand and maybe morter on it, and let the algae, moss and whatever grows work to your benefit. Perhaps a giant orange seamonter (goldfish) or some montser bass (guppies) :D :D :D then leave the water in 24/7!

    Love to see how it turns out!
  8. hephaest

    hephaest New Member

    why do you need the "plastic paint" ?
    if you use the automotive clearcoat (flat) as the sealer
    then why not use regular stone colored hobby paint to paint the plaster?

    >Go to Home Depot and get that "Plastic Paint". Once dry, paint it >with a flat color.

    >To seal it use automotive clearcoat (flat) in spray.
  9. Grassweed

    Grassweed New Member

    Using real water in any scale but the prototype would look wrong. For a waterfall, it would fall very fast.
  10. CN1

    CN1 Active Member


    Just to make absolutely sure there will be no leaks.
  11. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I was just thinking "outside the box" for a minute. The rpoblem with water is that most of our conventional methods of scenery making are water soluable. If you were to make your scenery base for the riverbed with fiberglass reinforced resin instead of plaster, your sealing problems are already reduced, if designed right, eliminated. For texture, use materials and adhesives designed for outdoors such as nonskid surfaces, etc. As was mentioned earlier, use real dirt, gravel, and rocks to keep things more waterproof. Any paint will tend to be washed off by water eventually, so use natural materials as much as possible. If water will move too fast to look natural in scale, modify things. My wife likes fountains. The two that we bought were completely ready to go. Just plug and play, but check out craft stores in your area. We have replaced pumps in both of our fountains at one time or another. I think craft stores may have kits, and materials to make fountains. We have one fountain that started as a bonzai planter, but the tree died due to too much water. It is now just a decorative fountain. It has a nice porous rock with a hole inside to feed a tube that the pump pushes the water up through and then the water runs down the surface of the rock through the various nooks and cranies. If you put something like that at the back of the river, and leave the river as more of a long narrow pond, you will have a little movement like a lazy river. You can experiment with effects. I think the main thing is to control the grade to slow down the water's movement until it looks right. If you get too much grade so the water moves too fast. You can reduce the grade, or you can install baffles and fill the bottom with gravel to slow the flow. I would stay away from trying to model a waterfall since you can't do anything to reduce the speed of water making a vertical drop. On the other hand, the speed of the drop may not be as apparant when looking at it as we think since water is pretty much clear.
  12. hephaest

    hephaest New Member

    realistic waterfall

    To Russ and Grassweed:
    If you look at real waterfalls, they are not clear. They are a wall
    of white. And you cant really tell how fast the water is dropping
    in a waterfall because it looks like a solid white wall. If you ever
    looked at your sink faucets, it creates the same foamy white solid
    stream of water. It looks very much like a waterfall. I intend to recreate that effect by pumping the water through a faucet attachment. I want my waterfall to be a wild drop of writhing water. Not a peaceful clear gurgle. I want my river to be raging. Water crashing against jagged rocks. Foamy wild rapids. Not a gentle brook. The gorge that will hold my raging river is 12 inches deep. And i am building in HO scale.
  13. hephaest

    hephaest New Member

    using fiberglass resin for river bed

    To Russ:
    I read somewhere that using fiberglass is not a good idea. a guy tried it and it deteriorated over time. He said in his article to use a sealer (multiple coats) over regular scenery.

    Another option is to use 2 part pourable liquid foam. It forms plastic solid and is paintable. But the problem with that is that you still have to seal the paint and the liquid foam is expensive
    and not to mention toxic to smell.
  14. hephaest

    hephaest New Member

    automotive sealer

    The automotive sealer clearcoat spray (flat), is that sold in auto stores
    or can one get it in home depot?
  15. guppyman

    guppyman Member

    I just had a thought.....

    I have no idea if this would work, but have you thought about using Great Stuff (expanding foam) as your scenery base? It is supposed to be waterproof, it is carvable and paintable.
  16. hephaest

    hephaest New Member

    expandable foam "great stuff"

    The foam is waterproof true but i want a very realistic look. And that can only be achieved by using mold castings. There is the 2 part liquid pourable foam that i mentioned earlier. It turns into a hardened plastic and is good with pouring into molds as long as you use a releasing agent on the mold. But the problem is that its expensive.
    and then after all that, you still have to paint it and the paint will deteriorate if not sealed. so you still have to use a waterproof sealer that has a matte finish
  17. hephaest

    hephaest New Member

    real waterfalls part2

    about the water being too fast
    my opinion on that is that a fast moving water
    is much more realistic looking than still plastic water. Its ok to use poured plastic in lakes because lakes are still when there is no wind. but on turbulant rivers with rapids and on waterfalls, you have to simulate water movement and i feel that "frozen in time" water looks more fake than too-fast moving water.
  18. CN1

    CN1 Active Member

    Yes, the Flat Clear-Coat in spray can is available at auto-store.

    Look in the paint dept. at Home Depot. There must be something similar. How about some Varnish?

    For your waterfall, why not use a sheet of plexiglass (standing up) and have water flowing over it? Just like at the mall. You could paint the plexiglass white or represent the foaming of water.

    :D :wave:
  19. Bill Stone

    Bill Stone Member

    I cannot speak from experience, but can pass along what I heard in the past from a couple of modelers who had real water on layouts.

    They gave it up very quickly for one reason only --- they could not deal with the extra humidity introduced into the layout room.

    (Now if this was large scale, outside, it wouldn't, of course, be a problem.)

  20. TrainClown

    TrainClown Member

    My Thoughts on This

    Personally, I would not use an automotive clear coat or any type of paint to seal it. The problem with this could turn out to be that the actual sealing surface would be too thin and too brittle and it could crack and then you would have a leak.

    If you wanted to use fibreglass, then fibreglass matt and resin is not the way to go. You would be better off to use short strand fibreglass autobody filler. This stuff is a lot like bondo except it has short strands of fibreglass in the mix and is much stronger when it is set up. But this is still not the way I would go.

    There is a liquid vinyl tool dip I have used quite a bit. The product I buy is called PlastiDip and I buy it from my plexiglass shop. This stuff comes in about 8 different colors including clear. It dries to a flexible vinyl surface. You can put on multiple layers, although 2 layers would probably be enough. It thins out with lacquer thinner and can be applied with a brush over anything that lacquer thinner won't dissolve. It dries to a shiny surface but you could create a dull surface by dusting it with baby powder before it is completely dry. Using this product you could build your river bottom with plaster, coat it with the PlastiDip, and the flexible surface would never crack or leak.

    I sealed up an old rain barrel in my yard and it has never leaked, even though it's been frozen and thawed a few times. This product is also good for sealing electrical wires in areas where it would be difficult to use other means.

    I highly recommend it.


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