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Random thoughts on building a laser-cut structure kit

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  • Member since
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  • From: Milwaukee WI (Fox Point)
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Random thoughts on building a laser-cut structure kit
Posted by dknelson on Wednesday, December 4, 2019 6:31 PM

I picked up a laser cut kit at Walthers around Thanksgiving.  I had built a few some years ago and was not totally delighted with my results, but I know so many guys who get great results from them plus I knew deep down that I had not done my best work on those kits.  So it was back in the saddle again ....

Laser kits really are amazing.  The fineness and delicacy of the detail that the laser cutting process can do with micro-plywood, card, and paper is astounding.  The parts all fit correctly, at least on this kit from the LaserKit brand.  

I know it is a cliche and hardly a secret but really reading the kit instructions and really familiarizing yourself with each piece before starting assembly pays big dividends with any kit, and more particularly with a brand or type of kit you are not super familiar with from experience.  I made the instruction sheet my bedside reading rather than a book or magazine for a few nights.  Eventually I could visualize the entire sequence of assembly and which parts should be painted while still attached to the sheet, and which painted afterwards.  I wrote thorough notes on the instructions themselves and while I had my doubts about some of the instructions and thought I could improve them (perhaps a bad habit I carry over from plastic kits which I am much more familiar with) I resolved to really follow the instructions to the letter.  I would say the instructions to this kit were really clear and well written.  Not all kits can boast of good instruction sheets.  Some are bewildering.  Writing a technical manual (and kit instructions are really just that) is something not all technical wizards can do.  Sometimes the more they are wizards the less they can put themselves in the shoes of the customer.  

I used a fresh new single edged razor blade to separate parts from the sheets of wood or card or paper they come on -- another cliche piece of advice which I know I should always follow but do not always do.  I did this time.  Funny how wise these pieces of cliche advice are, isn't it?

In the past I have used ACC for laser kits but I like the Zap a Gap "thick" ACC for wood and all I had around was the very liquidy stuff which I happen to think is not ideal for working with wood.  It seems to mostly absorb into the wood before I can bring the mating piece to it, making the joint weak in my opinion.  So I switched to yellow carpenter's wood glue and this slowed the project down into more evenings than I had anticipated, which had the inadvertent advantage that I was not losing patience over it and getting too hasty, or getting eye fatigue.  This is important when you are dealing with a very sharp razor blade, particularly when you are a guy on blood thinners who is using that blade to lift up a corner of the backing on the peel and stick pieces.    

The roof on this particular model was supposed to be rolled tar paper using strips of fairly stiff paper and I did not like the first color I painted it so I ended up painting it twice.  This seemed to weaken the "peel and stick" adhesive so I added two sided transfer tape to the sub-roof so the actual mating was adhesive to adhesive.  You only have one chance to get that right with transfer tape but I was fully prepared to start the whole roof over with other materials if need be.  It worked out fine fortunately.  I suspect I will be using transfer tape to "belt and suspenders" the peel and stick parts on future kits as well.  

When I was all done I got to thinking about various changes I would have liked to have made in the kit.  More modern doors and windows for example.  It seems like most people do not regard laser cut kits as kitbashing fodder the way they regard styrene plastic kits, in some cases for very obvious reasons having to do with unique properties of styrene and solvent adhesives.  It did seem to me that the people who design laser cut kits tend to get carried away with the medium itself and what can be done with it rather than aiming at the best possible finished product.  I happen to think some aspects about the kit I built would have been far better as a casting than as a built up layering of laser cut pieces.  But again my goal this time was to build a kit "pure" and for once be satisfied with my results.  I might actually buy another of the same kit and experiment with some of the changes in parts and sequence that occured to me during construction.  My copious notes on the instruction sheet would help alot particularly if I get right to it and do not let too much time elapse.  Right now I know what all of my little comments and arrows and "No!" markings mean.  

There is no real point to this posting and it is anything but a tutorial on how to build a laser cut kit.  I suspect I will remain a "styrene" guy for my kit and scratch building, but now that I am happy with the results from this one laser cut kit, it does expand the available choices for me when I look through the Walthers catalog or browse the offerings at a hobby shop or train show.

Dave Nelson

  • Member since
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Posted by gmpullman on Wednesday, December 4, 2019 9:49 PM

Hi, Dave

I pretty much followed your path into the laser-cut jungle. I started with a few smaller kits from AMB, Bar Mills and a few others. I agree about the instructions on some of them, though. Another time consuming chore is the fact that you have to "hunt" for the right part using the map they provide and sometimes the parts look nearly identical, such as window mullions and trims, and they have to be assembled in a specific sequence.

Still it is a rewarding experience. Rather than ACC to secure the thin-section peel-n-stick parts I like to use the thin Faller "Laser Expert" PVA which seems to wick into the fibers of the substrate.

One of the more "involved" kits I built was this DL&W signal tower:

 DLW_tower1 by Edmund, on Flickr

 DLW_tower5 by Edmund, on Flickr

It is made of some kind of "laser-board" which is not very dense. Kind of like a MDF board. I used plain caulk to fill the edge gaps then painted everything to simulate concrete.

 DLnW_tower by Edmund, on Flickr

I have another tower that will be this winter's project:

 PRR_Harris2 by Edmund, on Flickr

Fun Stuff!

This little yard office makes a good starter kit for those so inclined:

 Yard_office by Edmund, on Flickr

Or the two-story farm house:

 Farmhouse by Edmund, on Flickr

Or this little PRR "Watch House":

 Burger_Crossing_A2 by Edmund, on Flickr

Yes, the laser kits seem to have a little more individual character than the usual styrene variety. I suggest them to anyone wanting to take their kit building up a notch.

Regards, Ed

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Thursday, December 5, 2019 6:36 AM

I am currently building my first laser kit since I left N scale.

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I believe this is Ed's fault. I think it was him that posted the picture of the AMB generator load (7 large alternators) on a 50 foot flat car. I had to have one.

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This kit is very delicate and hard to assemble. The parts break if you breathe on them. The kit orginally had only four major parts, but it turned into twenty parts very quickly.

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The end result will be amazing, but some laser kits can be a real pain.

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In N scale I built only structures as laser kits, and they were easy. Walls are much more sturdy than lattice crate bracing.

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-Kevin

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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 RR_Mel on Thursday, December 5, 2019 9:04 AM

It was an Laser Art Kit, HO LaSalle House Kit that got me into scratch building.
 
 
 
The Laser Art instructions and the way the sections were laid out gave me idea of how to draw up HO scale templates on my CAD.
 
After assembling that kit I went into scratch building Catalog Homes of the 30s and 40s.
 
 
The Arduino Random Lighting Controllers makes them look lived in.
 
 
 
Mel
 
 
My Model Railroad   
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
 
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Posted by gmpullman on Thursday, December 5, 2019 2:09 PM

SeeYou190
I believe this is Ed's fault.

Guilty as charged Embarrassed

 IMG_6707_fix by Edmund, on Flickr

I don't recall any particular assembly problems. I learned from the beginning to give all the wood parts a light coat of primer to help them stay in one piece. Maybe your kit was dropped or mishandled at some time?

Regards, Ed

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Thursday, December 5, 2019 2:48 PM

gmpullman
Maybe your kit was dropped or mishandled at some time?

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Mishandled by me. When I tried to install the first side piece it was not lined up properly, so I gave it a little nudge, and it broke into four pieces.

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Nothing is beyond repair, and it should look similar to yours when it is done.

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If it were more durable, it would not be near as nice a kit.

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-Kevin

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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.

  • Member since
    March 2002
  • From: Milwaukee WI (Fox Point)
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Posted by dknelson on Friday, December 6, 2019 9:49 AM

gmpullman
Rather than ACC to secure the thin-section peel-n-stick parts I like to use the thin Faller "Laser Expert" PVA which seems to wick into the fibers of the substrate.

Nice, neat work on those structures Ed, and I particularly admire the DL&W tower.  I do like and use Faller's super expert cement for plastics so I will give their laser expert product a try.

Dave Nelson 

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Friday, December 6, 2019 9:01 PM

I've done a couple of Laser kits, Weimer's Mill and a Depot kit I turned into a Railway Express building.  I had a lot of fear and insecurities about building one of these, but I worked carefully and took my time and the buildings came out very well.  For anyone else thinking of these, they are really not that hard.  Reserve a good block of time and maintain a clear workspace and you will be rewarded.

 

 

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Friday, December 6, 2019 10:27 PM

MisterBeasley
I've done a couple of Laser kits, Weimer's Mill

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Weimer's Mill is a beautiful structure with a very small footprint.

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It is on the "Must Have" list for my next layout.

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Very nice!

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-Kevin

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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 BATMAN on Saturday, December 7, 2019 1:12 AM

I remembered the first time I soloed in an airplane, it really was a none event. I think we just get a little uneasy sometimes doing things we have not done before. I built my first laser kit and like flying a plane there is a process you go through to get from start to finish. I got a great deal of enjoyment out of my first laser kit but like that first time in an airplane by myself, there were no surprises and when it was done I just added another notch in my belt.

I built some pretty big R/C airplanes that had a lot of parts to them, the room for error was much less than a MRR structure as they had to fly without falling to pieces mid-flight. No one should be intimidated by a laser structure or anything else in life. Just follow the steps and use the checklist and you will end up with a smile on your face.Cowboy

Brent

It's not the age honey, it's the mileage.

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Posted by gmpullman on Saturday, December 7, 2019 2:51 AM

dknelson
I do like and use Faller's super expert cement for plastics so I will give their laser expert product a try.

Thank you, Dave Yes

You will need to keep the thin wire handy for cleaning out the applicator tube with the Faller cement. A minor chore and after a while you learn tricks such as squeezing the bottle while upright every now-and-then to keep the tube clear between applications.

The cap comes off, left hand thread, and you can rinse it out in warm water. It is not the only glue I use for a laser kit but it is what I use for the smaller stick-on parts to keep them from "delaminating".

My other favorite, heavier, PVA is Weldbond. I use that for the thicker pieces of structural members. Excellent tackiness and adhesion.

https://www.weldbond.com/

Thanks again, Ed

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Posted by Santa Fe all the way! on Sunday, December 8, 2019 1:22 AM
Funny I ran across this thread as I just received my first laser cut kits. A 20ft boxcar and reefer in HOn30.
Come on CMW, make a '41-'46 Chevy school bus!
  • Member since
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Posted by SeeYou190 on Sunday, December 8, 2019 6:39 AM

Santa Fe all the way!
Funny I ran across this thread as I just received my first laser cut kits. A 20ft boxcar and reefer in HOn30

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Laser cut kits of freight cars, and cabooses, are beautiful. I have one for a SOUTHERN RAILROAD center cupola caboose I need to assemble.

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Thank you for reminding me.

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-Kevin

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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.

  • Member since
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Posted by csmincemoyer on Sunday, December 8, 2019 6:07 PM

 https://flic.kr/p/2hWMXBG

Not sure why preview not showing

 

 

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Monday, December 9, 2019 11:44 AM

While reading this thread, I realized that most of my Transition Era structures are brick.  I have a few small plastic kits and scratchbuilds of clapboard.  My only laser kits are signature pieces.  Like going with Tortoises and Code 83 track, I really think that laser kits are the way I will go for the future, but right now I have more structures than I can use on the next incarnation of my layout.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by BigDaddy on Monday, December 9, 2019 3:05 PM

csmincemoyer

 https://flic.kr/p/2hWMXBG

Not sure why preview not showing

It needs to end in a .jpg to use the picture icon.

Henry

COB Potomac & Northern

By the Chesapeake Bay

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Posted by csmincemoyer on Wednesday, December 11, 2019 4:19 PM

Ah thanks!

 

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