Tuesday, September 30, 2008

On the job- dumps

Back in 1907, my grandfather P.Russell Fesmire and his brother started a contracting business in S.E. Pennsylvania. Most of my uncles and my father all entered the business eventually as did I. It wasn't unusual for me to spend my Saturdays and summers even as a little kid, on the job sites. What could be more entertaining to a 10 year old boy than to watch a backhoe fill dump trucks and watch dozers grade a site? So trucks on the job hold a familiarity that goes way back. We are fortunate that in the scale, there are an abundance of construction related vehicles and equipment available to us. For this section on construction vehicles, I'd like to focus on dump trucks. And with little text this time, I'm just going to load up a bunch of photos of dumps I've built. The shiny new looking dump above is the Mack Granite with a dump body given to me by the great modeler Joe Enriquez that he built from scratch and made a resin copy of. The Granite cab is from Masterbilt Models.

This next one is also a Mack Granite, the SBA (set back axle) again a Masterbilt cab, with a resin dump body from Ralph Ratcliffe. The paint is a transparent green over silver.

Stepping back a few years and going off road now is a quarry truck. This round belly dump is a cast metal kit from Alloy Forms of the Autocar Constructor. I've left the sides of the hood off here to expose the engine compartment and put some high flotation tires on the front.

Another off road dump is this Autocar DC 102 with rock bed and planetary rims on the rear. The cab is a solid resin piece from Sheepscot Scale.

Of course not all dumps are monstrous high volume machines. Many residential contractors have been using smaller dumpers like this '56 Chevy above for years. This model is from the German company Wiking and has been out of production for many years. Some might think that I'm a bit crazy for taking a rather valuable collectors piece and changing it from it's original condition, ruining it's value. I suppose they are right and had I known it's value when I modeled this I might not have. I have seen these fetch as much as $100 on Ebay in good condition. This particular model holds a great deal of meaning for me in that it's the first true 1/87 scale model I ever owned. I received it on my eighth birthday making it almost 50 years old. I have had several resin copies made of it since.

Up until now I've shown construction type dumps but not all dumps are intended for building purposes. This Oshkosh has had a plow frame put on it and represents a municipal snow removal truck. This solid resin cab is a Sheepscot product.

A few years ago, Busch came out with this really nice model of a Dodge Power Wagon. What could be more suitable for use as a plow truck? The plow unit here is scratch built and the dump bed is from a cheap toy.

Another use for dumps is not seen often anymore. Coal delivery seems to be a chore of the past. This Autocar cabover U90 from Sheepscot has been fitted with a dump body from Lifelike.

We'll make this Mack BX the last for this time around. A slight departure from solid resin here for Sheepscot. This model is a cast metal and brass and I used another of the cheap Lifelike dump beds here also.

Well again, just a few examples of a type of vehicle I have modeled and I'm sure others will crop up from time to time. I hope to show more construction related vehicles soon and who knows what else.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

getting the shot

Odd how this electronic world of ours has changed so much of our life. I lived for years in isolation as a modeler, not knowing what was happening outside of my workbench. Now with this magnificent window on the rest of the world of modeling available to us all, it behooves us to share all that we've done with each other. I am truly amazed and inspired by what I see accomplished by modelers from around the world. Photographing our models has become an art in itself and there exists true artists at the craft. I myself am totally ignorant of such things as composition and lighting and photography itself is as alien to me as fine wine (I prefer a cold beer). But I manage with my ancient Sony along with a 60W incandescent bulb to convey the images of my modeling in what I think are accurate renditions of the work. The digital thing certainly helps since one can take literally hundreds of photos and we are bound to get at least a few that are acceptable. Above is an example (as are most here) of a stroke of luck with the camera. The small cast metal racer with a few minor alterations from the Innovative Designs kit, caught the light just right and I couldn't have done better had I planned it. The workshop interior here is one of my first attempts at a diorama. You may have noticed many of the photos on these pages taken both in front of and inside of the garage that I have called "Junior's" (I am Junior by the way). It was the purpose of the diorama to take photos of my models in a scale environment as I believe it adds credibility to them as I have mentioned before.

The photo above shows just how well used and abused Junior's Garage gets with the bent metal roof. It also gives a good impression of this International R230 heavy haul tractor offered by Sheepscot Scale in a solid resin kit. The chassis is scratch built and I have added many extras including the knobby off road tires. Taking photos outside offers someone like me the opportunity for the best kind of lighting since as I stated before, I have no knowledge of this sort of thing. This was taken in full midday sun.

It's been said that taking photos in direct sunlight isn't particularly the best method of displaying a model. The shot to the left above is one taken just as the sun is dipping down over the horizon and I really like the light here on this pattern shop I built out of Manila cardstock. The photo above right is the opposite of the previous in that the sun is just starting it's day. The shadows presented by this low sun whether starting or ending the day present a good way to distract the eye slightly to the fact that these are models and I believe give a bit more realism to the photo.

This late afternoon photo of the water side of my boathouse allows the details to pop out pretty well. The water gives a nice reflection here. Staying with the boathouse for a moment, I gave a shot of the interior a try and came up with this shadow box type effect you see below. This was taken indoors and I now wish I had placed a better backdrop on the other side of the window.

Having an inexpensive camera does have quite a few limitations. I get a terrible field of focus and can really only give an accurate image of what's directly in focus in front of the camera. This is only a problem when trying to portray a large scene and if I'm trying to present just a vehicle is acceptable. I should point out that in addition to not knowing much about photography, my skills with photo manipulation with software like Photoshop are equally devoid. I do however bump the brightness up on some shots to compensate for the problems I face when using the camera settings. I have also learned how to crop an image to eleviate unwanted surroundings. The photo below was done at a distance of about 8 inches under a 60W incadescent bulb as are most of my indoor shots of vehicles. This one of the Jordan Miniatures Model T touring car with family of Preiser figures.

The parting shot here is of a Mack B875 which is from a resin kit of Don Mills Models. The trailer is a beam lowboy kit from Sheepscot Scale and the dozer is the terrific diecast First Gear International TD25. This model was part of a vehicle feature of Model Railroading Magazine before it's demise. The shot was taken in midday sun on a diorama base.

Breifly I'd like to thank all that have visited here for the kind words and encouragement. Presenting this material to everyone and spreading the news of the hobby is much of what it is all about to me. I am often asked how I could possibly part with my models as I sell many of them but I am truly gratified to know that I am promoting the hobby and that my work is ending up on layouts and in collections around the world. So thank you for visiting and I do hope you all are enjoying.

Monday, September 22, 2008

the structure part 2

It's kind of funny that I should enjoy building structures since I work on them everyday for my living. I suppose it may be that there's no heavy work to be done to a building in 1/87. I guess the other reason is that I get to build whatever I want and not what someone else has in mind. Whatever the reasons, I have a few more to show you.
OK, I've shown you some scratch built paper and wooden structures so here are some experiments I made with styrene. Both Plastruct and Evergreen make clapboard siding in styrene sheets. After I've drawn my building and printed out the Manila patterns, I can easily transfer these to the styrene for cutting. I have been using the Tichy windows and doors as well as some scratch built doors for these structures. I like the delicateness of the Tichy and Grandt Line pieces as well as the fact that they are styrene and I can use a solvent glue to fasten them into this type of structure. After all of my walls are cut out, I glue .060" square styrene rod to the corners and rake on the gable ends. This gives me something to butt the next wall to as well as serving as the corner board for the siding. It's then a simple matter of gluing the walls together as seen below.

The door opening here was made by constructing the jamb and trim out of a piece of 90° styrene angle that makes up both the jamb and the trim. And here's a view of the finished structure which is a boathouse that exists on Mooselukmeguntic Lake in western Maine. You might recognize the standing seam roof here again as I said you would earlier. The '37 Chevy pick up is a resin kit from Sylvan Scale and the boat motor is a cast metal piece from Innovative Designs.

The municipal pier workshop at the very top of this posting is also a styrene scratch built structure built in an identical manner to the boathouse. I've added some wood doors to the jambs built as explained earlier and a small wooden office to one end as well as a small lean to shed on the other. Here are a few more of this diorama.

I was very fortunate recently to have Rick at Comstock Carshops send me one of his newer releases. It is a tractor barn kit of cast resin and I had a lot of fun assembling and finishing the building and setting it on a small diorama. The fit was good and there were some very nice cast metal details that came with it. I can only recommend that any resin parts, or cast metal for that matter too, be washed thoroughly before assembly and painting.

You might notice the bales of hay inside the front doors. These are simply correct sized blocks of wood that have been covered in white glue and rolled in hemp shavings from an old rope. I took the liberty of adding my own wood doors to the kit only because I wanted to leave one open and the kit doors weren't finished on both sides. Here's one last photo with the barn in the background that has nothing to do with structures but I just wanted to show this little cast metal kit wheelbarrow from Banta Model Works.

The last structure I'd like to feature here takes us back full circle to a plastic bought building. This was sold as Shultz's Garage by DPM originally that I turned into an abandoned truck sales and service center. There's not much happening here anymore and the place has been boarded up and posted. Notable in my changes to the kit are a shingled roof, the boarded windows and a section of wall that is supposed to appear as if a window had been bricked over.

And with that, I'll say goodnight and thanks.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

the structure, part 1

I'm going to begin this session by stating that this whole blog thing is by no means a how-to. I have gone into some descriptions of the techniques I use but they are not very comprehensive or complete. This is more a random rambling on my part about a hobby that I love and as such is merely a bunch of thoughts that I've tried to organize about my approach to modeling in 1/87 scale. I have no idea how many folks will be reading these rants nor does it matter to me. Suffice it to say that if you are reading this and have gleaned anything at all from it, I am gratified.

And on to the subject matter, that of structures. When I first began, I bought a few plastic kits and finished them just as they were intended by the manufacturer. They were from Design Preservation and Railway Design and actually are quite nice right from the box. Above you will notice a Railway Design Associates plastic structure that I have turned into a wharf side cannery. All I have done to it is paint and weather the kit. I imagine the dock workers mumbling obscenities under their breath at the rather assertive truck driver here. The Hydrocal loading dock came with it and the small coal bin I added.
On this same diorama, you'll find a boathouse that has been transformed over the years to hold all manner of junk. This is a scratch built board on board structure that I half lapped all the joints of the clear pine frame. I mill most of my own wood materials in my shop. My occupation as a woodworker has afforded me the tools to do so rather than have to buy my wood for modeling. The basic coloring of the wood for almost all of my scratch built structures is just a dark colored acrylic paint thinned and all painting is done after the structure is built. The sign and license plates hung here are decals on small pieces of brass sheeting. The Model T is from Jordan and the canoe is a resin piece from Sylvan Scale. I've been using 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper for tar paper roofing but my results have not been consistent and I will be trying something new in the future.

Another RDA plastic structure, this time altered greatly from it's original intention. This brick building was twice as long at first and was all brick. A slathering of thinned drywall compound was done and then it was chipped away in places to reveal the brickwork under. The loading dock here was built using cut linoleum for the foundation walls. The platform is poured plaster into a wooden mold with stiff steel wire to reinforce it. The expansion joints and cracks were carved into it when dry and it was colored with artists chalks dissolved in alcohol. The small set of steps are wood. The rusted standing seam roof is so easy. I use a thin brass sheet, only a bit heavier than a heavy aluminum foil. On the reverse (under) side. I scribe with the back of an exacto blade the ridge and the seams. Carefully folded to the roof pitch and glued, it is painted with an acrylic brown and rust color combined followed by a wash of raw umber. While still wet, I sprinkle some rust powder in critical areas and then follow that with a wash of burnt umber and yellow ochre. You will see several of this type of roof on my structures.

I again combined a scratch built structure with a plastic RDA one on this track side diorama with this small fuel tank cover. The construction is the same as the boat storage shed but I used a milk paint finish over the darkly stained wood this time. The effect given, after the paint has dried and been slightly buffed with steel wool is that of a faded, peeling paint. Hitting this all with some chalks in olive green and black give the discoloration to the bottom edge of the boards.

Something I'd always done was to use a computer drafting program to draw anything I wanted to build and print it out on a Manila card stock. I always print two copies, one to use as a mock up to position the structure on a diorama and the second for use as a template to cut whatever medium I have chosen to model it in. In 'Dyar's Garage' above, I more carefully assembled my mock up copy and then built a wooden frame inside for support bracing. I then covered the structure in a horizontal board siding made of the same Manila card stock, trimmed it out and added the windows to make an almost completely paper structure. This building actually exists in the western mountain area of Maine albeit only slightly different.

With the reasonable success of Dyar's I have since tried another paper building. The main portion of the barn above is built primarily the same with the exception being that I applied the siding in a clapboard configuration. The small shed portion on the right is wood with shake roof done also in card stock. The paint on both of these structures is the above mentioned milk paint over a dark gray base color.
If it hasn't become evident yet, I model primarily rural scenes. I suppose it's my country upbringing or the fact that I just don't like cities much. But whatever the reason, I have plenty of subject matter here on the coast of Maine to pick from. I'm not often without my camera and have irked many a driver by stopping short to get a photo of an old delapidated barn or rusting truck out in a field.

I'd like to do a part 2 to this structure business soon and have quite a few more structures left to show so please check back again.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The motor head in me

Way back in the days of my youth, automobiles held a first place on my list of what is important in life. I was fortunate to be able to have at my disposal an old barn that was perfect for a bunch of teenage boys to pursue their mechanical dreams in. What emerged from that barn was a lot of dirty fingernails and bruised knuckles but on occasion a vehicle that any young man of the day would be proud to cruise in. Today time, money and space limit what I would like to be able to do with an old car or truck but my modeling enables me to fulfill at least a part of my dreams. What I will be presenting here in this session is my take on a few old rigs that I came up with in 1/87. A favorite in the scale is the 1937 Chevy coupe pictured above. It comes from Sylvan Scale Models and is a resin kit that I did a rather conservative build of here. A last wipe of the windshield and this fellow is about to take his dream ride out on the road.

The movie "American Graffiti" has been attributed with the rebirth of the hot rod phenomena in the U.S. by many and it definitely had an influence on me I'm sure. Witness the yellow 'duece' above which is a plastic kit from Jordan that I decided to do as a replica of the one featured in the movie. The red one on the right is another take on the same '32 Ford coupe from Jordan.

Staying with the '32 Ford, this time a tudor coupe in a cast metal model. I began to experiment here with painting a transparent paint over a solid color. The base coat of gold was done over the entire model and then the fenders were sprayed in transparent green from Duplicolor that I decant from the rattle can into my airbrush cup. The engine here is scratch built.

I then began to experiment with other techniques involving the transparent paints and in the case of this 1935 Pontiac, another Sylvan offering, oversprayed the top of the gold base with red for a quite unusual effect almost as if it had a red light shining down on it.

Considering my efforts a success with this, I continued further. I chopped and lowered this '50 Chevy pickup from Busch and gave it a coat of bright orange, and just oversprayed the front clip with the red transparent and added some custom painted wheels from Herpa and a tonneau cover.

I waited for a long time for Clare Gilbert at Sylvan Scale to come through with his promise of a Willy's coupe but he didn't disappoint when it finally was released. I found a box of nail polish when my youngest daughter moved out of the house that I used for the paint here. The wheels are from a Fresh Cherries Pinto wagon that were cheap 1/87 scale offerings available at Walmarts.

Being impatient as I am, I couldn't wait for Clare to come up with the panel truck version of his '37 Chevy so I kitbashed an old plaster model back end of a Ford to come up with what you see in red and black on the left. It was only shortly after that Sylvan released the accurate Chevy panel truck that you see in need of restoration on the right. I would like to point out the chrome work on this model done with a soft lead pencil that I found was pretty effective.

Well I hope you have enjoyed this offering which has featured only a few of the hot rods that I would dream of doing in real life. There are many more sitting on the shelves of my office here and pehaps I'll get a chance to show more soon.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Whether to weather

Whenever I build a model, I reach the point when I think it is finished. Sitting there all shiny and new looking, I somehow feel that something is missing. It simply doesn't look quite......real. Of course it obviously isn't but there are so many little touches that can push it just a little closer to real. Just when and where to stop is the key. I often get carried away with weathering I guess because it's one of the facets of modeling I enjoy most. There is however the times that I start out with every intention of building a beater as was the case with the '40 Ford above from Jordan Miniatures. I used the technique of painting the model with a rust colored base and when dry, wet the model with water and sprinkle salt on it in particular spots and again let dry. Then I painted it with the blue color. When this coat is dry I flicked away the salt that had stuck to the wet spots to reveal the rust color under. To this I added a wash of Windex and raw umber acrylic paint and finished with some colored chalk powders. I have no idea what caliber the bullet hole in the driver side glass is.I showed this Ford AA stakebody in my welcome and it is a favorite model of mine. Also a Jordan kit, I simply added the stakebody from a Busch model and left the hood sides off to expose the old flathead engine that came from a different Jordan kit. Most of this weathering was done with a series of washes and chalk powders.

Here you can see a stakebed similar to the one I mentioned on the Ford AA. This is the Busch model 1949 Chevy. Different colored hood and doors seem to be some clues that a vehicle has been well used (and abused). I thought this would be a good example of rust streaking. I use an artists acrylic in burnt umber for this by putting a dab where I want the rust to start. Then wet my brush thoroughly and drag the still wet dab of paint straight down the side all the way to the bottom of the model. A busted headlight with wires hanging out is an easy detail for a beater too.
OK so far I've shown some pretty trashed vehicles. Weathering isn't exclusively for junkers though. Construction equipment gets intense wear and is a good bunch of subjects for weathering. Above is the International Emeryville cabover that has only been moderately weathered but the end dump trailer is what really gets the brunt of activity. Notice the tires have been dusted with some chalks to bring out the tread detail and add a sense of realism here.

Another example here of the business end of a vehicle getting severe weathering but the truck itself is rather well maintained. This scrap metal refuse container truck is a Mack RD 899. The cab is a solid resin casting from one of the most outstanding modelers I know of by the name of Ralph Ratcliffe. The refuse container sides were bulged using a soldering iron placed along side of a small sheet of brass inside the plastic. The rusting was done by painting a rust color first and then while still wet, sprinkling rust powder followed by a series of washes after the paint dried.
Here's a look you may want to replicate. The model is a diecast 1950's International TD25 dozer from First Gear. The tracks, blade and ripper bars have been painted a dark gray first. Then a wash of raw umber was put on. Allowed all to dry completely and then I used a flat clear acrylic painted in specific areas and while still wet sprinkled a "coffee with cream" colored chalk to these wet areas. Lastly I use a very short bristle brush and dab it into a product called RubnBuff in a silver color and dry brush the high spots and edges that would get the most wear. I should note the heat discoloration at the base of the muffler done with red and yellow transparent paint.The last example in this session I'd like to present is a military model in the form of the famous deuce and a half GMC from WW2. This model is an injected molded plastic from Roco Minitanks. Military modelers have probably given me the most and most valuable techniques when it comes to weathering and they need to be paid close attention to if you're interested in learning anything about weathering. In this model I tried a technique of fading paint by hitting it with a dull coat finish and when dry, brushed the model lightly with alcohol which gives it the whitish look of a faded paint. This is probably one of my first attempts at weathering.
I'd like to make mention of another group that has helped me immensely, they, the folks over at modeltrainsweathered.com. who generously and cordially take the time to give advice to even the most novice.
Well thanks again for taking the time to peruse the site and hopefully I'll have more soon.