Working with basswood

Discussion in 'Scratchin' & Bashin'' started by Muddy Creek, Sep 3, 2004.

  1. Muddy Creek

    Muddy Creek Member

    Just got a load of basswood scribed as board & batten in the mail and I've cut out the walls for my new N scale sawmill. Even though the material is only 1/16", cutting the first window hole was much harder than I expected (to get square and clean.) Though the prototype from the early 1900's was rough cut boards and there seemed to be no trim to speak of around the windows, my first attempt was much too crude. I probably don't have to add that these windows, though large in nominal dimensions are quite small in N scale. Somehow, irregularities in an opening seem magnified in inverse proportion to the scale.

    This current project has over 100 openings to cut and is just one structure for the complex. A mining/ furnace project is next and that will also require hundreds of similar openings to be cut in basswood so I need to learn the magic to working with this material. It almost seems cleaner to build it board by board from stripwood. I think I should have started with the outhouse for my first project.

    Any tips for cutting crisp, clean openings in basswood? My available tools are an Exacto knife and a Dremel tool with the usual assortment of cutting disks, etc. that I admit I haven't had much experience with. I've been wondering if making a punch out of sharpened piece of rectangular brass tubing would be an efficient way of doing it. (Not having a hobby shop anywhere near the area makes it hard to get a hold of items like a short piece of tubing, etc. to play with.)

    Thanks for any help.

  2. Glen Haasdyk

    Glen Haasdyk Active Member

    The way I've learned to do it (it takes time though) Is to drill a small hole in each corner of the window opening then , using a straight edge, connect the holes using your x-acto knife (new blade). Place the straight edge over the piece that you want to keep so that if the knife wanders, it will wander into the part of wood you are going to throw out anyway. Don't try to cut through the basswood in a single cut either, use several light strokes and it will give a better finished cut.
  3. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    Punches probably will make the edges pinched, but maybe not if you use a thin enough material and have the angled/sharpened edge towards the scrap. I've tried punching plastic and wood with standard hollow punches with poor results.

    Glen has the best method for cutting windows described. For your other cuts, you can use his method with razar and straight edge, but also you can use very sharp sheers. I use Fiskers gardening pruners and they produce a very good, clean cut.

    Myself, I do the strips. Not much slower than scribing.
  4. Muddy Creek

    Muddy Creek Member

    Well, thanks both for the advice. I'll start drilling the corners and put a new blade in the knife as Glen described. (I have a feeling there isn't going to be instant gratification, here!) If I can order a single piece of 3/16 x 3/8 brass tubing from somewhere, I'm going to grind the inside edges of one end sharp to make a punch to try and streamline the process. I have lots of buildings to make for this new layout.

    Thanks again.

  5. Fred_M

    Fred_M Guest

    Yeah, I too use the 4 hole knife method. Only things I would like to add: 1. use sharp blades, don't get cheap, snap blade knives work good too. 2. thin blades cut better than thick blades. 3. when cutting with the grain look at your piece and cut it so the lean in the grain pulls it into the straight edge, same if you are scribing it yourself. 4. a small triangle file works good for cleaning up the corners. 5. If you are scratch building look at the basswood sheets and get the ones with the straightest finest grain you can find. Avoid the one that look like plywood as they are hard to cut a straight line in.

    I have tried the square tube thing, don't work. Brass won't take and hold an edge. and the tool needs to be sharpened from the inside to get a split free cut. If you could find high carbon thin wall tube it would work. If you do find a source let me know where you found it. In plastic a wood chisel works fairly well to cut openings, but in wood it is hard to control and mashes and can split the wood, and one slip, well you know, you don't get 1 slip. Hope that helps.

    And with that many opening I would build it a board at a time. Fred
  6. jim currie

    jim currie Active Member

    look on the web for scaples they are thin and price is not bad i think a place called widget has them.
  7. Tileguy

    Tileguy Member

    Wayne, hows the sawmill coming?? :wave:
  8. shortliner

    shortliner Member

    Micromark do right-angle corner punches in steel!
    Shortliner(Jack)away up here in the Highlands

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