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any tips on accurately cutting out windows

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any tips on accurately cutting out windows
Posted by johnbalich on Wednesday, October 28, 2020 7:38 PM

any tips on accurately cutting out windows? working with scribed sheet and cutting  and sanding window openings is a challenge. I notice some modelers drill a pilot hole in all fur corners before scribing the window opening perimeter. Any tips appreciated


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Posted by gmpullman on Wednesday, October 28, 2020 7:42 PM

I sometimes use one of these:

If the opening is large enough a nibbler can be handy, too:

In either case, cut slightly smaller and sand to the final size. Various sanding sticks and/or fine rasp files are helpful for this.

Good Luck, Ed

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Posted by johnbalich on Wednesday, October 28, 2020 7:49 PM

i tried the micro mark corner tends to shatter the wood out side the cutline. Perhaps going slower with light taps will help. I'll try the nibler idea, too.

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Posted by mlehman on Wednesday, October 28, 2020 8:21 PM

Most of the time, I try to arrange so that my windows don't depend on fiddly fitting, but that's because I'm lazy and easy when modeling most things.Confused

For stuff that needs that sort of accuracy, get one of those self-healing cutting mats with scribed markings on in, like a grid book in scinece class. That makes it easier to see through the material and avoid slippage as you cut. Have at least two directions of good light coming in, as this helps you keep track visually as you work.

Always start with at least one square edge, obvious when you think about it, but often forgotten in practice. The grid mat will help with this, too.

Mike Lehman

Urbana, IL

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Posted by RR_Mel on Wednesday, October 28, 2020 8:32 PM

Measure twice and cut once!  New blade every project!


My Model Railroad
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I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.

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Posted by chutton01 on Wednesday, October 28, 2020 10:33 PM

Two hints that I have read about, and I did use the first one.
#1 from a Kalmbach book "222 Tips For BUilding Model Railroad Structures" (old school but still useful tips - and back in the 1990s many of those tips were cutting edge) - When cutting windows in (real) wood walls, cover the back of the wall with masking tape to help prevent splitting and splintering as you cut through - should help with the corner punch as well IMO.

#2 From the archives of the erstwhile Model Railroading on you-know-which site (actually I asked them, and they explained they had approval to archive MRG and Rail Model Journal (RMJ), but they had no rights to archive Mainline Modeler so that's why its not there), the technique was, assuming rectangular windows, you'd cut the wall in sections to fit around the windows, then piece the walls together around the windows openings. OK, that's probably unclear, so take a trival example - one square windows in a plain wall. Cut the wall that will surround the window into 4 square pieces (left, right, top, bottom), size them so when put together you get a window sized hole where you want it, and then piece the wall together leaving a nice window opening for later addition of the window.You would cut small pieces of wall the height of the window opening to place between windows if desired)  The results looked surprizingly good, and it was recommended for structural wall for buildings like factories and commercial buildings where you would have rows of windows in the wall which line up (so a custom Victorian-era mansion is probably right out). The results looked seemless, but I read the archives a year ago so I don't recall if there were overlays, what other limitations were there, or even what the technique was called so I can't help you on the index.

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Posted by hon30critter on Thursday, October 29, 2020 1:38 AM

I'll try the nibler idea, too.

Hi johnbalich,

I'll second the nibbler, but understand that some finishing of the hole will still be required. I use the nibbler to remove the wall amterial to within about 1/64" of the desired size and then finish with a file, testing the fit as I go. Wood frame windows with exterior trim are not so critical, but masonary windows have to be spot on.


I'm just a dude with a bad back having a lot of fun with model trains, and finally building a layout!

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Posted by doctorwayne on Thursday, October 29, 2020 2:03 AM

any tips on accurately cutting out windows?

Well, I can give you a tip regarding corner punches:  do not use them on Walthers styrene brick-sheets.  I tried to, and the sheet shattered into multiple shards.

For many small scratchbuilt structures, usually representing wooden structures, I use various types of Evergreen siding, and, as can be seen in the photo below, many of the components are cut so that when they are assembled, there will be openings for windows...

For some structures not using different types of siding, I do cut window and door openings, as shown below...

...and if you look closely, the battens have been trimmed-away where windows will be inserted.
Here are some of them assembled...

These pictures probably show the components better...

This structure was built using two Walthers kits for their Front Street Warehouse, and while it came with ready-to-use window openings, it also came with two complete sets of windows in two different styles....

I used the other style windows for a scratchbuilt station, pretty-much right next door to Languay's factory...

The structure of the station is mostly .060" sheet styrene, which I buy in 4'x8' sheets.

Working on the floor of the layout room (the only area available that would accommodate a 4'x8' sheet), I used a utility knife and a carpenter's framing square to cut out the walls, and the openings for the windows.  I also used a #11 blade in an X-Acto to scribe mortar lines in the "Ashlar" stone cladding of the structure...a pass or two with the blade, then a couple more passes with the back of the blade, to widen the grooves.  The walls were then sanded with fairly fine sandpaper to remove the areas raised by the passing of the blades....

For large structures or even for cutting wall and roof pieces for smaller structures, I prefer the utility knife, as it's easier to keep the blade perpendicular to the work than is the case with an X-Acto handle.  I do re-sharpen or hone the blades during cutting, and replace them when they're no longer suitable for this type of use.


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Posted by johnbalich on Thursday, October 29, 2020 10:00 AM

tanks ill try that..forgot that technique! The second technique was

championed by John Nehrich for styrene walls.

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Posted by UNCLEBUTCH on Thursday, October 29, 2020 12:27 PM

What I do ; on wood

Draw the opening with a sharp pencle, on the back side/inside. With a sharp #11,cut along the line,but not past it. Make multiple, shallow cuts. Run the blade at an angle and remove a wedge from the waste. This will give you room for the tickness of the blade, to avoid spliting. Continune shallow cuts, then with a #18 chisel blade ,finish the cornors. 

Finish up with a file/sandpaper. I use emory boards,[used for finger nails]. Check offen,you can remove a lot of mateial with one swipe. Stroke from the outside  in, to prevent tearout.

Note that however you do it will only result in a rough opening, no way around clean up.

Styrene is mutch the same,except you won't need the angle cut on tinner stock.

I have a nibbler, but foud it just as fast to do it with the knife and not so many small bits to pick up.

Never tryrd it, but don't think a nibbler would work on wood. And I,m too cheap to buy a corner punch

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Posted by ROBERT PETRICK on Thursday, October 29, 2020 12:45 PM

Use a jeweler's saw. Looks kinda like and works exactly like a coping saw. Except the blades have a much finer tooth count; on the order of 70 or 80 teeth per inch. They are used to cut intricate patterns in sheet metal.

Drill a small hole somewhere in the interior of the opening. Insert blade and tighten nubs. This is the same technique used with ordinary 24 TPI coping saws or scroll saws. Jewelers use a sacrificial spoil board under the thin work piece to keep it from flexing or bending due to the force of pulling the saw through the work.

Jeweler's saw, coping saw, X-acto saw, and spare blades. There are 5 blades in that bundle wrapped with a piece of 36 gauge gold wire.



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Posted by TheFlyingScotsman on Thursday, October 29, 2020 7:50 PM
Your work is top shelf there Wayne.
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Posted by Track fiddler on Thursday, October 29, 2020 8:17 PM

Depends on what you're cutting!

Many of times on models I have carefully scribed the window opening with a number 11 exacto blade.

And then carefully lined up the exacto death blade, wiggles and moderate pressure or light taps with a hammer.  The angle of the blade always manages to slice through the scribed made guide lines for this blade.

You just have to start the point in the corner and wiggle it back out to go back in and take another stab over foam.

Did the little cutouts on the prairie grain elevator windows with this blade, worked like a charm




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Posted by dstarr on Friday, October 30, 2020 5:35 PM

Start with an accurate drawing of the windows on the back side of the siding, with a good sharp pencil.  Pick the best and straightest edge, call that your master edge.  Make all your measurements from the master edge.  Use a tri square set against the master edge to draw the tops and bottoms of all the windows on the side.  Use the tri square to pick out the best (smoothest and squarest) secondary edge at right angles to the master edge.  Once all the windows are laid out, use a scale rule to check them against your drawing. 

  If you are working in wood, Xacto knives are you best cutting tool.  Styrene is tougher.  I don't model in styrene very often but others on this thread had recommended Xacto knives for cutting styrene.  Cut just a tad shy of the line and use sandpaper on wood and files on styrene to bring the window cutouts the last little bit toward perfection.  Check by inserting your windows into the openings. 

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