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Securing flextrack with no nail holes

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Securing flextrack with no nail holes
Posted by ChrisVA on Thursday, September 24, 2020 8:16 AM

I'm getting back into the hobby and had a newbie question. I got some Atlas Flextrack (seems to be among the best?).

It does not have any nail holes in it to secure to roadbed. What are the best practices for securing it to cork roadbed? Drilling a hole into the ties myself and using a brad/nail? Gluing it to roadbed (with ?)?  Other?


Thanks in advance!

 

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Posted by RR_Mel on Thursday, September 24, 2020 8:24 AM

There are pilot holes on the bottom of the ties, a simple track nail pushed from the bottom leaves the hole ready from the top.


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Posted by rrinker on Thursday, September 24, 2020 8:26 AM

 For two layouts now, I have just used caulk. Fast, easy, and cheap. No hammer required.

                               --Randy

 


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Posted by BigDaddy on Thursday, September 24, 2020 8:36 AM

I use push pins to hold the track while the caulk dries.

Henry

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Posted by Lastspikemike on Thursday, September 24, 2020 8:46 AM

Track nails are coated and work better than ordinary tacks might.

DAP makes a "translucent" latex or acrylic type low strength caulk which works very well instead of nails.  

Water cleanup and it allows removal of track and underlay without damage to either. It sets up in a few hours but takes a few days to cure under foam roadbed.

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Posted by Overmod on Thursday, September 24, 2020 8:49 AM

There have been a number of posts recently that cover this and other alternatives for 'track fixation' in detail.  Now that the search-the-community feature works again you can find them; hopefully someone here with a better computer will post some links.

What I'd use is clear adhesive caulk -- acrylic, not silicone-based, and perhaps a 'cheaper' brand if you want to make reuse in the future less of an agony.  (If you can't find clear, use dark colored and not white, as it will simplify subsequent ballast coverage...)  Use it thin, but spread it so it 'beds' every bit of the contact area the full depth of any voids in the cork.  Use good track gages (like Ribbonrail or the ones Peco recommends) to get the track aligned and then pushpins as mentioned to hold lining laterally - and weight the hell out of it to ensure good surface, net of any superelevation and transition spiraling or equivalent you use.  Be sure to let the caulk cure COMPLETELY before taking off either the weight or the fixation pinning...

This is not 'my' advice but some best practices of modelers with decades of firsthand experience on whose shoulders I can momentarily perch while pecking keys.

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Posted by doctorwayne on Thursday, September 24, 2020 9:31 AM

I've never had to use a hammer for track nails, either...simply push them in using pliers - works on cork, wood, and plywood.

Wayne

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Thursday, September 24, 2020 11:40 AM

So far I prefer track nails to hold flextrack down.  No wait for caulk to cure, I can tweak it as I go, and if I need to adjust or relay, simply pull the nail out and relay.  I like that flexibilty and "instant-down" method of track nails and ME spikes so much I don't see myself jumping on the caulk bandwagon.

doctorwayne

I've never had to use a hammer for track nails, either...simply push them in using pliers - works on cork, wood, and plywood.

Wayne

You must be a good deal stronger than me - and most others complain that the nails bend when they try to hammer them into plywood.  I've had similar experience using plywood and/or OSB, and bend some nails but keep going and get the job done.  Cork is soft so can push through that NP.   My yard is all Homasote and I can push track nails in with a nail set just fine. That's my experience.

This has been going down past few weeks old school.

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Posted by Mark R. on Thursday, September 24, 2020 12:02 PM

I still prefer track nails myself. Even after 25+ years of having my layout, I'm still tweaking some locations of trackwork. I just feel it would be a more miserable job to pull up track that has been glued down.

After I finish all my ballasting, I go back and pull out all the nails anyway, leaving the ballast itself to hold the track in place .... so, I guess you could say my track is ultimately "glued down".

Mark.

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Posted by jjdamnit on Thursday, September 24, 2020 12:33 PM

Hello All,

ChrisVA
I got some Atlas Flextrack (seems to be among the best?). It does not have any nail holes in it to secure to roadbed.

How old is the track and what code; 100 or 83?

I have a new pack of HO code 100 Atlas super flex-track and each 36-inch section has 3 holes drilled (like 9-inch sectional) then four ties and then another set of holes. 

There are 4 sets of these factory drilled holes per section.

If your particular track doesn't have the starter holes on the underside there are a few options that haven't been posted.

You can use a pin vise with a 1/16-inch drill bit to make your own holes.

You didn't mention what your sub-roadbed is; foam, plywood, MDF, etc.

Cork roadbed is definitely more substantial than foam.

If you choose mechanical fasteners through the holes; track nails, track spikes, or brads, I would recommend brads.

These are more readily available at hardware and big-box stores, usually cheaper than the "specialty" fasteners, and available in a number of lengths to suit your particular needs.

I use #19 x 5/8-inch wire brads to hold the track in place after securing the roadbed to the sub-roadbed with an adhesive.

Then I ballast the track and remove the brads. The ballast is sufficient to hold the track to the roadbed (I use Woodland Scenics foam- -add snarky comments here).

Another option would be to use an adhesive (I prefer silicone caulk) and 2-inch "T" pins to hold the track in place while the adhesive cures.

For this method, you don't necessarily need to drill holes in the ties.

You can simply use the "T" pins on the gage (inside) or field (outside) of the rails to hold the section in place while the adhesive dries.

  • Pro tip: To prevent lifting of the track while drying place weights on the track- -soda or canned goods make cheap and easily available weights.

Once the adhesive has dried you can remove the pins and move onto the next section.

Track spikes, used for hand-laying track, are available.

You can spike the track on the gage and field sides about every other 5- or 6th ties for straight or "slightly" curved sections. 

For tighter curves, you might need spike every second or third tie.

You could also use an adhesive, along with the spikes for a "suspenders & belt" solution.

Hope this helps.

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Thursday, September 24, 2020 12:36 PM

Hi Chris: You will get a lot of different answers. I will share what I do, but there are many ways to skin this cat.

I use mostly Atlas tracks components and Walthers/Shinohara turnouts.

The photos below illustrate my technique. They show a piece of sectional track, but the procedure for flex track is the same, there is just not a hole in the center of the tie to be filled in later.

I drill holes in the tie outside the rail, and spike the track in place there. When the nails and track are painted, it all looks fine. I do not like the nail head in the center of the tie.

For sectional track, I fill in the tie-center hole with green Kneadatite putty.

Then I paint all the ties.

I hope this helps.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by Doughless on Thursday, September 24, 2020 12:41 PM

Mark R.

I still prefer track nails myself. Even after 25+ years of having my layout, I'm still tweaking some locations of trackwork. I just feel it would be a more miserable job to pull up track that has been glued down.

After I finish all my ballasting, I go back and pull out all the nails anyway, leaving the ballast itself to hold the track in place .... so, I guess you could say my track is ultimately "glued down".

Mark.

 

Pretty much after ballast has been glued and dried, taking up track tends to be a mess no matter method was used.

 

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Posted by richhotrain on Thursday, September 24, 2020 1:37 PM

Mark R.

I still prefer track nails myself. Even after 25+ years of having my layout, I'm still tweaking some locations of trackwork. I just feel it would be a more miserable job to pull up track that has been glued down.

After I finish all my ballasting, I go back and pull out all the nails anyway, leaving the ballast itself to hold the track in place .... so, I guess you could say my track is ultimately "glued down".

Mark. 

I do what Mark does but with a slight variation. Instead of using track nails in the center of the ties between the rails, I used track nails through the ties outside the rails.

I did this on my new layout to avoid the appearance of the nails when using a train mounted mini-camera. With the nails in place outside the rails, the camera does not pick the nails up through the lens.

Once the glue mix has dried, it is fairly easy to remove the nails if you so desire.

Rich

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Posted by peahrens on Thursday, September 24, 2020 2:12 PM

In 2012 I laid my Atlas flex (code 83) secured by a thin spread of Alex Plus clear caulk, on typical cork roadbed.  I placed books on a section as it was laid, then continued with the next piece, being sure not to disturb the piece just laid. 

I used temporary push pins against the ties at any area that might want to stray before cured, as on curves or where a straight piece needed a bit of help to be perfect.

Be sure you research how to make flex joints on curves, without kinks.  If you are soldering the rail joiners (on curves) this is basically done by soldering the prior and next piece rail joiners with the track at the joint held straight.  (Remove some ties to provide the room needed; replace them later.)  When cooled, the pieces can be curved and the end of the prior piece, the joint and the new piece will be a smooth curve, ready to be secured. 

I left the books on overnight.  It worked well for me.  

Paul

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Posted by Lastspikemike on Thursday, September 24, 2020 3:30 PM

I really like the idea of using spikes instead of track nails and installing them where real spikes would go. I bought a pack of spikes by accident thinking they were track nails. Now I know just where to use them. They make lousy track nails if used in the predrilled tie holes in the centre of the ties. 

Peco shows drilling holes in the ends of ties outside the gauge and using track pins there. Bad idea, very bad idea. Peco ties are not even close to strong enough. They are hollow backed and softer plastic than the American brands. 

However, if you drill the holes in the tie plate and fasten the RAIL down and through the tie then the weakness of the tie is not relevant.  The photo is very helpful for that.

Pinning plastic ties down with nails driven through the centre or either end of the tie is tricky, especially on foam roadbed. The problem is that you risk bending or even breaking  the tie unless you are very exact about how far in the track nail goes. Much better to nail down the rail as it is much stiffer and stronger than the plastic tie.

Spiking the rail close to the joiners should also help align the gauge preventing kinks especially in curves and where using plastic insulating joiners.

Some apparently simple ideas just aren't that obvious. I'm pretty pleased with this new information. I have one particular troublesome kink that is going to get fixed right away now.

Thanks so much for that really useful picture and description. 

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Friday, September 25, 2020 7:37 AM

Doughless

Mark R.

I still prefer track nails myself. Even after 25+ years of having my layout, I'm still tweaking some locations of trackwork. I just feel it would be a more miserable job to pull up track that has been glued down.

After I finish all my ballasting, I go back and pull out all the nails anyway, leaving the ballast itself to hold the track in place .... so, I guess you could say my track is ultimately "glued down".

Mark.

 

Pretty much after ballast has been glued and dried, taking up track tends to be a mess no matter method was used.

Of course, but my rebuttal to that is I still prefer Marks method of getting the track down in the first place.  There are no "Pro tip:" cans to obscure the track preventing me from siting down the rails and check for geometry or smoothness while that caulk cures.

By the time I'm ready to ballast, I've settled on the track being laid how I want it.  It's the track laying phase and being sure it's how I want it phase, that I much prefer not to use adhesives.  Tweaking is not so easy with cured adhesives.

I did this on my new layout to avoid the appearance of the nails when using a train mounted mini-camera. With the nails in place outside the rails, the camera does not pick the nails up through the lens.

Once the glue mix has dried, it is fairly easy to remove the nails if you so desire.

Rich

That last sentence is the key.  If you don't like the appearance of track nails in the center of ties, after the ballast is secured, you can pull the nails and use a bit of putty to patch the holes.  Paint the track as most do, and no trace of it will be visible.

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Posted by rrebell on Friday, September 25, 2020 9:45 AM

peahrens

In 2012 I laid my Atlas flex (code 83) secured by a thin spread of Alex Plus clear caulk, on typical cork roadbed.  I placed books on a section as it was laid, then continued with the next piece, being sure not to disturb the piece just laid. 

I used temporary push pins against the ties at any area that might want to stray before cured, as on curves or where a straight piece needed a bit of help to be perfect.

Be sure you research how to make flex joints on curves, without kinks.  If you are soldering the rail joiners (on curves) this is basically done by soldering the prior and next piece rail joiners with the track at the joint held straight.  (Remove some ties to provide the room needed; replace them later.)  When cooled, the pieces can be curved and the end of the prior piece, the joint and the new piece will be a smooth curve, ready to be secured. 

I left the books on overnight.  It worked well for me.  

 

Have to disagree on soldering straight track before a curve. Found out it works better to curve the track some before, then solder and then finish making the curve.  Example I will do a rough curve of 26" or more for a  final curve of 18.

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Posted by rrebell on Friday, September 25, 2020 9:48 AM

riogrande5761

 

 
Doughless

Mark R.

I still prefer track nails myself. Even after 25+ years of having my layout, I'm still tweaking some locations of trackwork. I just feel it would be a more miserable job to pull up track that has been glued down.

After I finish all my ballasting, I go back and pull out all the nails anyway, leaving the ballast itself to hold the track in place .... so, I guess you could say my track is ultimately "glued down".

Mark.

 

Pretty much after ballast has been glued and dried, taking up track tends to be a mess no matter method was used.

 

Of course, but my rebuttal to that is I still prefer Marks method of getting the track down in the first place.  There are no "Pro tip:" cans to obscure the track preventing me from siting down the rails and check for geometry or smoothness while that caulk cures.

By the time I'm ready to ballast, I've settled on the track being laid how I want it.  It's the track laying phase and being sure it's how I want it phase, that I much prefer not to use adhesives.  Tweaking is not so easy with cured adhesives.

 

 
I did this on my new layout to avoid the appearance of the nails when using a train mounted mini-camera. With the nails in place outside the rails, the camera does not pick the nails up through the lens.

Once the glue mix has dried, it is fairly easy to remove the nails if you so desire.

Rich

 

That last sentence is the key.  If you don't like the appearance of track nails in the center of ties, after the ballast is secured, you can pull the nails and use a bit of putty to patch the holes.  Paint the track as most do, and no trace of it will be visible.

 

You can also T-pin the outside ties and run a test train with caulk.

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Posted by Lastspikemike on Friday, September 25, 2020 6:03 PM

Using a track spike rather than a track nail and seating it so the head sits down on the base of the rail as for handlaid or prototype works really well.  Really, really well but you need a bit of skill drilling the hole right next to the rail and then setting the spike. If a hammer is needed into plywood I recommend using a nail set on the spike head unless you can push it in with pliers*. You're not going to seat that spike with a hammer alone, even the tiny model shipbuilder hammer I have. 

I now intend to spike all joints on curves at a minimum. That's whether I decide to glue any track down or not.

* this is basically very similar to setting spikes for hand lay so whatever works for that would work on flex track. 

Alyth Yard

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Posted by IRONROOSTER on Saturday, September 26, 2020 4:42 PM

I use track nails and predrill the hole through the tie/roadbed/plywood.  I use a big enough drill bit so the nails are a snug fit requiring only gentle tapping with hobby hammer and nailset. I tap the nails down close to but not tight to the tie in the middle.

My experience has been that I don't really see the nails.  In fact I have had trouble finding them when I need to adjust/redo the track.  But at 73 my eyesight isn't what it used to be.

Paul

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Posted by DR DENNIS GORDAN on Thursday, October 1, 2020 8:34 AM

Years ago MR had an article about using Mycor 300, a US Gypsum product, in place of plywood or other roadbed. It is apparently stable through any humidity changes; very easily accepts spikes or nails, but holds them firmly; has a very smooth surface; and is quieter. Only problem was cost.

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Posted by Lastspikemike on Thursday, October 1, 2020 8:49 AM

DR DENNIS GORDAN

Years ago MR had an article about using Mycor 300, a US Gypsum product, in place of plywood or other roadbed. It is apparently stable through any humidity changes; very easily accepts spikes or nails, but holds them firmly; has a very smooth surface; and is quieter. Only problem was cost.

 

 

https://www.usg.com/content/dam/USG_Marketing_Communications/united_states/product_promotional_materials/finished_assets/micore-mineral-fiber-board-300-submittal-en-IW803.pdf

 

50% lighter than particle board. Plywood weight, maybe lighter than that even?

They make a lighter version known as Micore 160 which is less dense and maybe more suitable for our use.

Plasterboard reinforced with "inorganic" fibre. Also described as "mineral fiber"

https://www.usg.com/content/dam/USG_Marketing_Communications/united_states/sds/usg-micore-160-300-mineral-fiber-boards-sds-en-41263510001.pdf

Probably needs benchwork framing to keep it flat.

TM name is Micore.

Alyth Yard

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Posted by Overmod on Thursday, October 1, 2020 12:32 PM

Lastspikemike
Plasterboard reinforced with "inorganic" fibre. Also described as "mineral fiber"

I'd want to be very sure this stuff did not cause accelerated wear to saw blading or router bits due to the 'mineral' content, or that fine-cutting dust didn't have the equivalent of fine fiberglass dust, short little inorganic fibers to cause persistent itching or worse.

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Posted by darrel480 on Thursday, October 1, 2020 8:04 PM

I am building my second n scale layout. Have layed the track and am ballasting now. I used caulk to fasten the track down on my first layout and I did not like that. It was messy, difficult to get the track positioned, took a long time to dry, did not always stay in place and hard to get the track up if a repair needed to be made. So on my second (current) layout I decided to temporarily nail the track down using a tiny drill and small nails.  This allowed me to make sure the track work was where I wanted it and was working.  After ballasting I am pulling the nails out and painting overthe holes. The ballast and white glue hold the track in place nicely. Don't waste your money on caulk.

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Friday, October 2, 2020 10:36 AM

darrel480

I am building my second n scale layout. Have layed the track and am ballasting now. I used caulk to fasten the track down on my first layout and I did not like that. It was messy, difficult to get the track positioned, took a long time to dry, did not always stay in place and hard to get the track up if a repair needed to be made. So on my second (current) layout I decided to temporarily nail the track down using a tiny drill and small nails.  This allowed me to make sure the track work was where I wanted it and was working.  After ballasting I am pulling the nails out and painting overthe holes. The ballast and white glue hold the track in place nicely. Don't waste your money on caulk.

I'm in agreement with your comments.  It seems some have the right skills to make caulk work, but the nail/spike method has worked so well for me, I prefer not to go throught the learning curve like you did and end up back with something that always worked well.

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Friday, October 2, 2020 11:13 AM

I am also a spike/nail then glue ballast guy.

I have never used caulk on a layout. Caulk on a wire armature can make for very nice tree bark.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by rrinker on Saturday, October 3, 2020 1:47 PM

 I think the reason anyone finds caulk "messy" is that they cut open the tube like they are caulking a bathtub - ie, one of the rings marked on most tubes of caulk as to where to open it up. Not one video I've seen illustrating the use of caulk for track and/or roadbed has showed this, but the very first time I tried using caulk after a lifetime of building layouts with track nails, it was pretty obvious to me that allowing that much caulk to come out would most definitely make a mess.

 I used my rail nippers to nip off the tip just far enough so that there is a hole visible. Smaller than a #18 wire. To puncture the inner foil, since the opening is goign to be too small to use a large nail or a screwdriver, a piece of solid wire works.

 Now the caulk comes out in just a VERY thin line. Not so much that when you smooth it out with a putty knife (or the edge of those fake credit cards they send with credit card offers), there's not so much that it builds up and oozes out around the tool, getting on everything.

 ANd that SUPER thin layer, really just a shiny spot on the plywood, foam, or roadbed, is PLENTY to stick the track down. No muss, no fuss. ANd until you add ballast, it is easily lifted off without damage (foam roadbed on extruded foam tabletops, not so much - even a thin bead of caulk sticks those two together VERY well - so don't expect to reuse that piece of foam roadbed - but it will come off). Track pieces can easily be reused, if applicable (if part of what is changing involves removing a 3" piece of flex - do yourself a favor and don't try reusing that tiny bit. But if you remove a greater portion of a whole stick - go ahead and reuse. Also turnouts, they are too expensive NOT to reuse if you make a change in the track plan)

                                      --Randy

 


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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, October 3, 2020 8:09 PM

rrinker
I used my rail nippers to nip off the tip just far enough so that there is a hole visible. Smaller than a #18 wire. To puncture the inner foil, since the opening is goign to be too small to use a large nail or a screwdriver, a piece of solid wire works.  Now the caulk comes out in just a VERY thin line.

Just for the people who might not know this, the purpose of that little locking toggle on the caulking-gun shaft is to be a quick-release for trigger pressure.      It is essential to relieve pressure quickly in large tubes with small apertures; a surprising amount will keep spooling out unless the pressure is explicitly relieved...

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Posted by rrinker on Saturday, October 3, 2020 9:26 PM

 Yes, that too - it is important to relieve the pressure after laying a bead, or indeed a whole lot of excess will continue to squirt out in a thing little line.

 When done for the session, I also pull the plunger back a bit instead of just allowing it to pop back automatically. And of course cap the end. 

                            --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

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Posted by Lastspikemike on Sunday, October 4, 2020 10:31 AM

Overmod

 

 
rrinker
I used my rail nippers to nip off the tip just far enough so that there is a hole visible. Smaller than a #18 wire. To puncture the inner foil, since the opening is goign to be too small to use a large nail or a screwdriver, a piece of solid wire works.  Now the caulk comes out in just a VERY thin line.

 

Just for the people who might not know this, the purpose of that little locking toggle on the caulking-gun shaft is to be a quick-release for trigger pressure.      It is essential to relieve pressure quickly in large tubes with small apertures; a surprising amount will keep spooling out unless the pressure is explicitly relieved...

 

 

Also, don't pull that trigger until you're good and ready. Aim, ready, fire is best for caulking guns.  A little practice gets you the skill to apply just enough pressure to start your bead and complete it without adding more pressure. Most track laying requires pretty short beads of very little caulk. Just barely squeezing the trigger is usually best, then pop the ratchet right as you approach the end of your bead. Same technique for household use.

2" putty knife is handy for spreading water clean up caulk if you don't think just pressing down on the track underlay is enough. You want the caulk to spread out as thinly as possible to avoid bumps in your track. 2" putty knife is exactiy the right size to achieve that.

Also, a utility knife to cut an angled tip can help a lot. You then rotate the caulk container in the gun so as to orient the angled opening to the most useful angle to lay a flat bead onto the benchwork.  

Alyth Yard

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