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  • Build a Western Scale Models O Scale Machine Shop & Radial Drill Press

    by Tom Houle

    Photos by the author

    Model Railroading - October 2005 - Page 36

    This article covers the assembly of two Western Scale Models machine tool kits and some old fashioned structural scratchbuilding. A combination I hope will appeal to those of us who model in O scale or in one of the O scale narrow gauges. This is my first exposure to Western Scale Models. Ive seen their ads in the modeling magazines, but it never occurred to me until recently that Id be building their machine shop and drill press kits.

    This project started a while back with an On30 engine shed article Id proposed to Randy Lee. Randy thought it a fine idea and asked if Id detail the interior. From there the conversation turned to what one might find in a single stall engine shed and what details might be available in O scale. Chris Lane suggested I take a look at the O scale kits of Western Scale Models. I followed his lead and was amazed at the breadth and quality of their kits. I obtained the MSc-1 Small Machine Shop Interior and M-53 Radial Drill Press kits. You really need to examine these kits close up to appreciate the level of complexity and detail. They are highly accurate copies of actual machinery that were photographed, measured and crafted in a specially formulated white-metal alloy.

    Western Scale Models manufactures these craftsman kits for use in mining, power station, blacksmith and machine shop applications. They also manufacture flatcar steam engine and stamp mill loads. Kits are available in HO, S, O, and 1:20.3 scales. This article covers construction of the O scale Machine Shop Interior and Radial Drill Press kits.

    Initially, I planned to install the machinery into the loco shed. It didn't take me long to realize these kits were not going to fit. There simply wasn't enough room. So, I opted to scratchbuild the small machine shop from the plans provided in the Machine Shop Interior kit. My machine shop will be sited on my layout near the engine shed. Its not a large structure. The footprint is only 5" x 6". I added an apron to the concrete (styrene) slab underneath the structure that would accommodate the owners truck and a customer or two.

    Building the Shop

    I began construction with the machine shop structural framing. Since the roof is removable to show off all those machine tools, Western Scale Models recommends framing out the structure with 2x6 lumber. To this end, scale full-size drawings for the four walls are provided in the instructions. If you want Grandt Line windows and a side door like mine, then you'll have to add the necessary openings. Not sure how to frame a window or door opening? Study a garage that has open framing. Its easy to do and hopefully my framing pictures will help.

    Following the Western Scale Models instructions, I stained 13 Northeastern Scale Lumber 1/16" x 1/8" x 24" strips and three 1/8" square basswood strips. You'll need this much lumber to frame out this little structure. I used AIM Products Quick-Age solution to stain my lumber. I found a quart of this stuff at Walthers. Its inexpensive and goes a long way. It can be brushed on or sprayed. I tried it both ways and had equally good results. Two brushed coats were enough to darken my wood to a silvery gray patina. If you like it darker, just add another coat or two. This chemical reminded me of alcohol mixed with india ink, though I have no idea whats actually inside the bottle.

    Framing for the four walls of the machine shop was built from Northeastern Scale Lumber.
    Model Railroading - October 2005 - Page 37

    The Western Scale Model machine shop drawings are full-size O scale drawings that include the four wall elevations plus a plan view that shows the ceiling joists where the hardware to belt-drive the machines is located. There were no windows on the drawings. I decided to add a couple of windows to admit some light. I also added a side door through which the owner could enter the building without having to roll open the big front doors. I used Grandt Line 3724 windows and a 3604 door in my structure. I narrowed the front door opening from 16' to 12'. A pair of swinging 8' doors just didn't look right to me. I also opted to set the doors on track rollers, which may not be quite as weather tight, but I thought they looked kind of neat and different. Other than that, I followed the Western Scale Models framing plan.

    I mass produced 27 1/16" x 1/8" studs and nine front wall spacers in short order with my NWSL Chopper. While I was in a chopping frame of mind, I also cut eight 1/8" square corner studs to the same length as the studs. Setting up a cutting jig on the Chopper speeds up this process and ensures consistent stud lengths.

    The four walls are built right over the plans. First, the plans were laid onto a piece of acoustic ceiling tile and then covered with waxed paper. The ceiling tile works well to accept the pins that hold the framing in place. I like to pin down all of the studs and top and bottom plates and then add a tiny drop of cyanoacrylate (CA) glue to each joint. The Quick-Age aging solution will hide any CA that may wick onto the exposed stained basswood surfaces.

    The lower plate went down first, followed by the studs and then the top plate. When the studs were aligned to my satisfaction, I carefully wicked slow-setting CA into the joints. The waxed paper peels easily from the finished wall framing. I lightly block sand my finished stud walls with 150-grit paper before I add the basswood siding. The CA'd joints are strong enough to handle a light sanding and there shouldn't be any glue filleting to cut away.

    For the peaked front and rear walls, I cut the upper angled studs on my NWSL Chopper. Any bare wood areas were touched up with a brush load of AIM Products Quick-Age. Window and door openings should be checked now against the windows and door you'll use to ensure snug fits. Now is the time to cut away or shim the openings.

    Siding, door and windows have been added to the frame. Note the sliding doors for the main entrance.
    Model Railroading - October 2005 - Page 38

    The siding is next. I used Northeastern Scale Lumber 1/32" thick horizontal 1/8" scribed sheathing for my structure. Individual boards, board and batten, clapboard, or even corrugated steel siding would be appropriate. Before I glued the basswood siding to the stud walls, I cut the sheet into oversized pieces and stained the interior faces with Quick-Age. Weight the siding while the Quick-Age cures because this solution will curl the thin siding. To prevent this - though I didn't try it - you could try coating both sides of the siding with Quick- Age and see if the curling is eliminated.

    On the side walls, I cut the siding so that it extended 3/16" beyond the 1/8" square corner studs. These siding extensions will cover the corners when you assemble the side walls between the end walls. Excess siding is easily trimmed away after the siding is glued to the walls. I coated the studs and plates with thin beads of slow-setting CA, then pressed the oversized pieces of siding into place while ensuring the boards ran at right angles to the studs and parallel to the plates. White glue would work as well for this job and will allow more time for positioning. If you do use white glue, be sure to weight the finished walls while the white glue cures. The white glue will tend to curl the thin siding away from the walls. Before I applied the siding to the peaked end walls, I edge-glued two sheets of basswood siding together so I could side each end with a single sheet.

    I cut away the siding from the window and door openings and trimmed the side-wall siding extensions to 5/32" overhangs. I brush painted the exterior walls with Delta Ceramcoat acrylic paint. This paint goes on well onto bare basswood and can be brushed on without leaving brush marks. Though I havent done it, you could try thinning it with denatured alcohol and air brushing it. As it comes out of the bottle, its too thick to spray.

    Before I installed the windows and doors, I sprayed them with Floquil Gray Primer. The windows and transom were glazed with acetate held in place with Aleenes Original Tacky Glue. I used CA to attach the windows and door to the walls. Strips of 1/32" x 1/16" basswood stained with Quick-Age can be glued to the interior wall window and door jambs to add a more finished look to the interior. I omitted this step as the trim would be hard to see, and for me it wasn't worth the extra effort.

    This close-up view of the beautifully detailed engine lathe shows the fine detailing typical of this kits components.
    Model Railroading - October 2005 - Page 39

    Next, I built a pair of front doors. As previously mentioned, the Western Scale Models drawings showed two hinged 8' doors, which I thought were a bit too long. I cut them down to a 6' width and hung them on an overhead track. I figured this way the boss could pull right up to the front of his establishment to unload new machinery and machining jobs without having to allow space for those swinging doors. The doors are constructed from 1/32" thick 1/16" scribed sheet and braced with 1/32" x 1/8" basswood strip stock. Both are from Northeastern Scale Lumber. These doors are pretty thin in O scale and possibly prone to warping. However, since they are non-functional and glued directly to the face of the front wall, warpage hasn't been a problem.

    I pre-painted my doors on both sides before I attached them to the front wall. The inside faces are stained with Quick-Age. When the doors were in place, I simulated the overhead door track with a 53/4" length of Evergreen .100 styrene angle. This angle is glued directly over the doors and extends beyond the front wall corners. On my layout its always a warm mid-summer day so my doors are left open. A Grandt Line 3510 overhead lamp and a bit of 1/32" brass wire finished off the front wall. If you're going to put up a sign on the front wall above the doors, its much easier to do it when the walls are still in the flat.

    Wall assembly is pretty easy - just be sure the side walls are located between the peaked end walls. I began by gluing the back wall to one of the side walls. This overlapping joint is quite generous and affords a lot of gluing surface. I used CA in my corners, but white glue or Aleenes Original Tacky Glue would work as well. If you use either of these, do have some masking tape on hand to hold the corners while the glue cures. I used a small square to ensure the side-to-back-wall joint was dead square. That done, I glued the peaked front wall to the other side wall and then glued the two halves together into a finished set of walls.

    The corner trim boards are Northeastern Scale Lumber 1/8" basswood angle strips. To simplify the painting of the corner trim, I prepainted them before attaching them to the corners. You could paint the trim a separate color, but I chose not to. The boss at my shop is sort of frugal. He has no time for aesthetics such as fancy trim colors.

    After the four walls were completed the joists will be added later after the machinery is installed into the building I built five rafter sets per the Western Scale Models rafter plan. These were cut on my NWSL Chopper from Quick Age pre-stained 1/16" x 1/8" basswood strips. CA holds the pieces together. The rafters and stringers are pinned and glued just like the stud walls. The plan shows the rafters on scale 48" centers or every other stud, which is probably in violation of the local building codes. Again, you have to remember the machine shop boss is pretty frugal. The good news is the removable roof is strong enough with 48" rafter spacing, and if your layout is 48" high or less, you wont be able to see the exposed rafter ends anyway. The generous eave overhangs also tend to hide the rafter ends.

    The radial drill press is powered by belts that transfer power from the ceiling-mounted pulley assembly.
    Model Railroading - October 2005 - Page 40

    I cut two roof panels from Northeastern Scale 1/32" birch plywood. Other materials to consider are Evergreen Styrene ribbed steel roofing and Plastruct corrugated steel roofing. Either one would look good on this structure. Before assembling the roof panels, I laid out reference lines for the rolled roofing I would use. The first line was drawn 3/4" up from the eave edge. The remaining lines working your way up to the ridge are spaced 5/8" apart. I also laid out the five rafter set locations on the opposites faces of the panels. Make sure they line up directly above their respective stud locations. The inside faces of the roof panels were stained with Quick Age before gluing in the rafters.

    Since the roof will be removable, I taped the outer faces of the two roof panels together and then taped one of the panels to the workbench with its inside face up. I let the other panel lay on the bench. I glued the five rafter sets to the taped-down panel, took up the tape, and then taped the other roof panel to the workbench. The unglued rafter extensions were then glued to that roof panel with CA. The 1/32" ply is pretty thin and may tend to warp a bit. But its easily straightened with a little bending. Worst case; hold it over steam from a tea kettle to remove a stubborn warp. Before adding the roll roofing, I brush painted the roof edges, exposed rafter ends and the undersides of the eaves with the same acrylic paint I used on the siding. All thats left is the application of some roll roofing.

    I use 180-grit waterproof sandpaper for my roll roofing. Any color will do as I always paint it with Floquil colors after its been applied. I cut the sandpaper into 3/4" wide strips. The lengths match the length of the roof. The strips are glued to the roof with Aleenes Original Tacky Glue. Since this glue tends to curl the sandpaper while its curing, I hold each strip down with masking tape. The sandpaper strips overlap 1/8" all the way up to the ridge. I brushed a shade of Floquil black onto my roofing and then sprayed a few coats of Testors Dullcote to really flatten the paint and seal the sandpaper. This completes the machine shop construction. Its time to begin filling that shop with machine tools.

    Shop Machines

    The Western Scale Models machine shop kit includes everything but the paint and glue to build the machines. CA is recommended to assemble the parts and thats what I used. These machines are unique in that they are not individually powered like they would be today. Rather, these machines are driven with old-fashioned overhead belts which are controlled by belt strikers, overhead pulleys and counter shafts. There are five machines (28" engine lathe, bench lathe, power hack saw, grinder and drill press) in the kit along with an oil drum heater, several workbenches and cabinets, two sets of partitioned shelving, a chain hoist that actually runs on an I-beam, tons of hand tools and a leg vise. All the components are sorted by particular machine into sealed and labeled bags. The tools and other clutter are packed in separate bags. Its easy to find your way through the kits. Just carefully follow the comprehensive instructions and drawings.

    Before I began, I three-hole punched the 67 pages of instructions Paint and drawings and loaded the sheets into a ring binder. Thats right there are 67 pages of instructions that accompany the two kits! The loose-leaf binder allowed me to easily flip back and forth between each machines written instructions and corresponding drawings. Theres a lot of work to be done to complete this project. Im a pretty fast builder, and it still took me a solid month of part-time evenings and weekends to build the machine shop and assemble and install the machinery. The overhead belting installation alone took several days. The results, however, are definitely worth the time invested.

    Rather than walk you through the construction of each machine, Im going to provide general comments. The instructions for each machine and the chain hoist are so thorough you wont have any problems if you simply follow the instructions and drawings. Western Scale Models suggests you might want to paint some of the items before attaching them to the machine. Its not a bad idea, but some of the parts are so small I found it easier to completely assemble each machine and then carefully paint it with very small brushes. A sprayed light coat of primer works well before actually applying the finish colors.

    The decorated lathes, workbenches and other details fill the machine shop.
    Model Railroading - October 2005 - Page 41

    I typically sprayed a light primer coat then brushed on an overall coat of Model Master Metalizer Lacquer Steel solvent paint. The bottle says it must be sprayed, but I was able to brush it on by keeping the contents well mixed. If you want an old unpainted steel look, this stuff works very well. I applied other colors, including solvents and acrylics, right over the Metalizer Lacquer.

    Steel wire in several diameters for shafting comes with the kit. Western Scale Models suggests cutting the wire to length with a Dremel rotary tool and cut-off wheel. I chose to use brass wire throughout. Its easier to cut than the steel wire, and the cut ends are easily filed square to represent shaft ends. Painted, you cant tell the difference.

    There is a fair amount of pin drilling required. The white-metal alloy is soft enough that a pin vise will do for all clearance drilling operations. You'll need to clean up some minimal flash. Its easily done with needle files and an X-Acto knife. I found the assembly of the machine tools was much like assembling the real tools. The spur and bevel gears actually mesh into each other. Most of the individual parts on the real machines are replicated in O scale. Its a real study into the components that go into these machines and how they are put together. So, what tools does it take to assemble these kits? Here are the tools I used to build my kits.

    • Set of needle files 
    • 8" bastard file 
    • X-Acto knife and several #11 blades 
    • Small diagonal cutters 
    • Large diagonal cutters 
    • Needle-nose pliers 
    • Tweezers 
    • 6" steel ruler 
    • No. 75, 68, 56 and 1/16" drill bits 
    • Pin vise

    The assembly of the individual machines onto the shop floor and rigging the overhead belting takes time and planning. All of the powered machines derive their power from the overhead belting, which is driven by a single motor mounted beneath the joists that drives a single shaft and several pulleys. I installed and pre-painted the belting for each machine before I glued it to the shop floor. The belt ends were left open so they could be wrapped around the overhead pulleys and finally glued in place. The thing to remember is once you have connected the belts from the machines to their respective overhead pulleys, you cannot remove the structure from its concrete floor.

    The built-up overhead drive pulley system hangs by pillow block bearing brackets just below the joists. The open ends of the belting from each machine are fished up with tweezers to the overhead pulleys and then wrapped and glued around the pulleys after the machines and structure are glued to the shop floor. Paper strip belting comes with the kits. I painted the belting with a brown acrylic. In retrospect Id have painted with a Floquil solvent instead of an acrylic.

    I used .060 styrene sheet to simulate a poured concrete floor. I painted the styrene with Delta Ceramcoat acrylic Mudstone, which I think is a close match to relatively new concrete. Some oil and grease stains can be added as time goes on.

    This is the perfect spot to do some of those odd machining chores that cant be handled in my engine shed. Now, I have to find a spot under a roof somewhere to house my new radial drill press. Its just too darn big to fit into the machine shop. By golly, the paints hardly dry and already the boss is talking about knocking out the back machine shop wall. A builders work is never done.

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