Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Grass IS Greener!

After I finally got back to the layout, I decided I'd keep the hills for a little while at least, even though I wasn't happy with them.  Every video I saw showed people making nice smooth hills and having no problems getting their Hydrocal-soaked paper towels to lie flat and fairly smooth.  That's not what happened to me.  They looked too craggy and paper folds had created odd shapes, and my attempts to smooth the plaster had only left me with whipped cream-like points that hardened far too quickly.

But instead of tearing them out I made a wash out of Woodland Scenics stone gray coloring and brushed the hills with it.  Immediately, the hills took on a new look and a new life.  They weren't perfect: some areas were lighter than others; some got too dark.  But overall it left me with something to work with.

I started by using earth tone chalks, applying to certain areas that I thought would color nicely. Using a short, stiff brush, I worked in several colors in a number of areas before I realized I could spend a week on just chalking the module, and then when I added ground cover the chalked areas would get covered up..

You may notice something in the photos in this posting.  It being the middle of summer with temperatures in the high 80s, low 90s, I switched out my extremely warm halogen lights with two huge curlicue CFL bulbs.  They throw a yellowish light, but they do have a large 4200 lumens each (when compared to other CFL bulbs).  And they throw off very little heat.  Much easier to work in the garage during the summer with those bulbs.  I'll save the halogen for the winter.

So I switched to ground foam.  I used the standard method of spraying Scenic Cement and sprinkling green ground foam onto the hills.  I used a couple of colors, then added bushes a couple of places.  You can see a fair amount of detail in this shot.

In this image (above) you can see the multiple colors of grass.  One section of the hills (the right side) was too steep to take any grass.  This I colored with a couple of chalks.  You also can see the cardboard cutout of the base of a gravel road I'll be adding a little later.  It is crossed by a track (placed only for visualization) that will hold stock cars.

This next photo shows two tunnels: a two-track concrete and stone and a concrete two-lane automobile tunnel.  I used old concrete acrylic for the top portion of the train tunnel and several layers of various colored chalks for the stone portion.  I used concrete acrylic for the auto tunnel.  You can see some areas that need fixing.  There is also a concrete road along the right edge of the photo that crosses the entire width of the module.

This shot shows the other side of the module.  You can see a lot of detail here: the grass, bushes on top of the portal, chalked portions of the hill.  Much more to do, but it's a real good start.

But before I can go any further I have to build a stock yard, which will be on the other side of the switch that you see in the foreground.  It's a complex laser-cut kit that I have to kitbash to get it to look like the stock yard I envision.  So it's going to take some time before my next posting.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Hydrocal Ain't As Easy As I Remembered!

So, I have my cardboard webbing set up to build a geographic feature. I mix up some Hydrocal per instruction.  I dip paper towels.  And I place the paper towels on the cardboard webbing.  It's a little frustrating; the Hydrocal is too thick and it's seizing up very quickly.  When I'm done I leave it alone for a few hours.  Returning I find that the paper towels are still wet and the Hydrocal is crumbly and sandy.

Angry with myself I tore out the whole wall, mushy cardboard webbing and all.  I built a new web and tried again, this time making the mixture less thick to start with.  Still, it seized up very quickly, wouldn't harden, and became crumbly.  Luckily, I had put only a few Hydrocal-soaked towels onto the webbing as a test of the new batch, not wanting to risk losing more time and cardboard.

A visit to my friendly hobby store cleared up my confusion.  Hydrocal goes bad.  Well .. duh!  Should have figured that out myself.

By the way, don't use those tri-fold industrial paper towels I mentioned in an earlier entry.  These just fell apart on me.  I quickly grabbed a roll of kitchen paper towels and these were a lot stronger.

The next problem I ran up against is making it generally smooth.  My hills are somewhat steep, but I didn't think that would cause much of a problem.  Regardless, what I ended up with were very craggy hills.

You can tell in this shot (above) how steep I made the hills, wanting to conserve as much space as I could for the cattle ranch I plan for this module.  You also may be able to see some of the relief in the photo.

This shot shows how I turned the corner (background) and you can see some of the cardboard lattice work.  The piece of cardboard in the foreground is coated with wax paper so that the Hydrocal will not stick to the cardboard.  When finished, I'll remove the staples holding that section and pull it away.  This will expose the inside of the hill, but that should not be a problem since the modules on each side will have similar hills of that will create the appearance of a complete hill.  Of course the hill actually will be split so that the modules can .....

...... lift up or down to make access easier during the build, and store away up high if necessary (note module 3 four feet further up the rails than the other modules).

You also can see in the previous photo on the right a section of articulated styrofoam.  This is where the mainline will go, unseen for much of the journey, around the entire layout.  I had glued the tracks down but had screwed up with the wiring so I had to tear up the tracks and re-string the wires.

To be honest, I didn't think the hills looked that great, and so I put the project aside for a month while I did other things.  When I got back to it, I decided that I would color the hills first just to see if I could make them work.  Didn't want to tear out the entire thing, after all.  That's when things began to change.

More next time.