Avram & Bartholow

I started my project of building Avram and Bartholow into one large diorama.

I have no idea how the structures will be placed so I need to get them all built before I can do anything.

I decided to begin with the main Avram building. I'm not a big fan of scribed, plank siding so I made all the walls board-by-board....sure used a lot of stripwood.

So, here is where I'm at. I should be able to get the windows and doors in tonight and assemble the walls tomorrow.

Comments, Structures and Photography by Karl Osolinski

The building will not have interior detail so I just covered the kit walls with the stripwood. There are no studs on the back of the walls - just a ton of bracing

I used the kit walls and covered them with the stripwood....no wall detail on the back.

I'm real fussy about getting tight framing on the doors and windows. I sand every piece to fit with my Fourmost sander. It takes a lot longer than simply cutting the wood but I think the results are worth it.

Spring clamps I cobbled up a few months ago. Well, I used them to glue this building together (along with two bar clamps) and they are the berries. I've never glued a structure together so quickly and easily. They grab the inside bracing and outside part of the wall and nothing moves or drifts. I placed the building on graph paper and it was perfectly square. I'm really glad I took the time and made the little clamps....

I was looking for some motorcycles for this thing I'm doing here and wasn't real happy with most of them.

I've got the Busch but it's pretty slick and the Woodland Scenics are so-so....I was stumped.

Then I recalled about 15 years ago someone gave me a Harley-Davidson Monopoly game as a gift....I never did open the thing. So, yesterday I cracked it open and checked it out. Well, there are three H-D bikes in the bag of tokens. I measured them and they are near perfect HO scale bikes!!! Once I remove the clunky windshields and bases and put on some paint I think they will be just what I'm looking for.

You never know where you'll find stuff!! Here they are next to the HO Busch bike.

I got a little more done on my project but it's been brutal. This is the story of the little diner building in the Avram kit.

First, I glued the end walls to the long walls to the same end....had to take them apart and do over. I reglued the end walls to the long walls and then assembled the building only to find that when I put the flat roof on I glued the higher wall on the wrong long wall. So, now I had to take the entire building apart, remove and swap the two end walls and then glue the stinking thing back together.

The next thing was the roof. I believe this kind of roof is a modified hip roof. The kit roof is printed on .020 chipboard and is of the scribe and fold type to achieve the shape - not my favorite thing. Well, I made it, glued it to the ceiling and put it on the building and spent about 2 hours trying to straighten it and attempting to get it perfectly square....wasn't going to happen. I took it all apart and decided to build the roof from .030 styrene....that was 3 days ago.

Today, I finally came up with a way to make a perfectly square hip roof. Here's what I did.

I made templates from the torn off roof and cut the 4 new pieces out of styrene.....the old roof is on the right. Then I made a simple stripwood frame the size the roof would cover. I put the two side pieces in the frame and glued them where they meet.....perfect!!

Sure haven't shown much progress on this but I'm back at it. The Avram buildings are near complete other than gluing them down, adding the various assemblies and final weathering. The Bartholow coal bunker is also moving along.

I did get sidetracked a little this past week. I've read some discussions on which India ink to use for our weathering wash and decided to experiment with some. So, I gathered six different inks and two dyes. I mixed them the same and then adjusted the densities to one that I would use for a wash. The Staedtler Mars ink is really strong - it needed four times more dilution than any of the others.

Well, this is what I came up with. The Higgins 46030, Fiebing USMC Black and the Fiebing Black all have a blue-black tint to them and all the rest look pretty much the same. It didn't make any difference if the ink was waterproof or non-waterproof ink - they all mixed up fine in 70% rubbing alcohol. I did notice with 91% or 99% alcohol the washes left a black speckled look on the wood when dry.

Boy, what a waste of time....they all look fine to me and I now have a lifetime supply of India ink.

I know how much we all like to glue on rafter tails but I had a bit of an epiphany this morning.

Most of you probably know what I learned this morning but I thought I'd share it with you anyway.

The coal bunker in the Bartholow kit has a loft that requires 46 rafter tails. Flipping the building on its side and trying to glue them on is near impossible....you can't see the pencil lines on the underside of the roof and you just can't get in there to get the buggers on the side with the large lower roof section. So, I struggled, tried every tweezer I own and finally walked away.

Then it hit me like a brick....why not work from above? I cut out the rafter spacing template off the roof card and spot glued it to the roof. Holy cow, why didn't this ever occur to me before? No turning, flipping, fiddling, swearing....no nothing. The tails went on straight and evenly spaced without a hitch. It took about 45 minutes to glue on all 46 of them with the building just sitting in front of me......I was giddy.

I also had yet another discovery. I got this little bottle with a stainless steel tip that has a pinpoint nozzle with a .020 opening. I filled it with Elmers and gave it a try. This thing can put down a line of glue like you wouldn't believe - no overflow, no mess and a line 1/32" thick or less is no problem. The days of using toothpicks is over at Chez Karl O. I used it to glue the fascia boards on the coal bunker and it worked beautifully. Can I say....I had a very good morning.

I'm moving along on the coal company and built the coal receiving pit today. You need to slot the inside of the side walls to put the grates into four separate slots. I did find a way to get them all the same depth and width...here's what I did.

Here's what we should end up with....

I needed a way to cut the four grate slots. The wood is only 1/16" thick so the wood between the notches is pretty flimsy. I didn't want to do it with a blade since it might chip out the wood so I decided to use my saw. First, I put a blade with a 1/32" kerf and tried it out on some scrap....worked great. Next, I needed a stop on the bed so the cut would be only 1/32" deep. I clamped a square against the bed with the end of the ruler blade 1/16" away from the saw blade. I then moved the square back until I got the 1/32" depth for the cut and duct taped it to the saw bed. I lightly glued together the two boards so they would be cut exactly the same.

The only glue I use to put a building together is regular Elmers. If something goes wrong and I need to take it apart a simple soak of the joint with alcohol or water releases the bond.

Believe me....I have a lot of glues but I always go back to Elmers. I was once told by a shop teacher that Elmers made a joint stronger than the wood itself....

The only thing I use Weldbond for is the interior bracing - it sets up quicker and makes bracing go a lot faster. I weight the wall down and within 15 minutes the glue is dry enough that I can move on. I could use Elmers and it would work fine...Weldbond simply dries faster on a step that is never even seen.

If I had to choose only one glue from all the glues I have, to do what I do, it would be Elmers..

....but, that's just me

I've got all the little buildings built for the coal company and just need to finish them off.

Two of the buildings are made from cardstock and after putting them together I felt they were a bit flimsy so I cut some 1" gatorboard blocks to fit inside both of them....now they are nice and sturdy

I got some more done on the coal bunker...the roofs are on and I built the 8 walls required for the roof chutes. I've been trying to see how other structures might fit into my plan but haven't had much luck....we'll see.

I also found another way to save a little money. I've been wasting way too much paint and glue because I'm a bit too generous with the big blobs I work off. So, I remembered back to my years in the tattoo parlors and recalled the neat little cups that they dispensed the ink into when they worked on you. I checked the Micro Mark catalog and they sell 20 of them for $2.15 (called glue dispensers).....ouch. I looked up this place I knew called Superior Tattoo Supply and found them at $12.15 for 1000. I can put CA glue or paints in them and waste has gone down to near zero!!

My little glue bottle that I'm using for Elmers was too fine a tip for Weldbond so I went to a bottle with a .028 nozzle and now I can use my Weldbond the same as Elmers. Life is good.

I found a couple things that may be of some interest to a few folks. On the left is another liquid that I'm trying for windows. It dries very clear and glossy and, best of all, DullCote doesn't melt it.

Another thing that bothers me are the nozzles failing on rattle can paint. I do everything you're told to keep them open but they always seem to crud up and stop working. I tried all the hardwares around here to get replacement valves but nobody had them and I was told you can't just buy the valve. Well, I was breezing through the Walther's Catalog and found these. I already used one and it saved a $4 can of paint.


I chose to replace some parts and that takes a little more time but it's coming along.

Instead of using the metal stair castings I made new stairways for all the buildings using Rusty Stump basswood stringers and some 2x8 strip wood for the treads.

Building the loft for the coal bunker was a bit tricky. The instructions say that the peaked end wall that accepts the conveyor comes out short at the bottom so put a trim piece at the bottom to make up the space. I didn't like the way it looked so I made a new end wall. Also, getting the loft roof level from end to end was a little pesky. I set up a surface height gauge to make sure the end walls were exactly the same height and that did the trick -a few adjustments and the roof leveled right out.

So, the whole thing is sitting on a 34"x15" piece of 1" thick gatorboard....it's pretty big.

The coal company buildings are glued down and the first plaster road is in but not painted.

 I'm still not sure about setting up the other buildings but I'm at least making some progress.

Got most of the coal company part of this done. Built the fences, finished the scenery and got all the FSM castings painted and placed down. I got some beautiful resin castings from Brett at Sierra West and I'm painting some of them to use around the coal bunker. The detail in them is just amazing.

I built 8 Jordans yesterday and a Dyna-Models 1908 Buick that will be turned into a junker behind the coal company....I'll start painting them all tonight. I think I built too many...I wanted a little fleet of Mack dump trucks but there's no way they will all fit in and look good. I also have some of the Athearn Model A Fords but I don't like the solid wire wheels on them so I took one apart and replaced the wheels with some nice Jordan wires - it's the blue Ford sitting on the track.

After all this stuff is done it's on to painting people..

Well, I finally finished it

regards  KarlO