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SubwayHypes

What are you MUST HAVE tools for building your layout?

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Hey guys, I'm planning on hitting home depot and buying some power tools to help build my new mega layout.  I'm wondering what are your favorite must have items for building a layout.

My main purchase will be a small wood cutting saw, I want a smaller non commercial saw for cutting thin 1/2in boards for my modules.  I want the saw to be able to cut angles and tight cutouts.  What is your go to wood cutting saw?  I have several larger woodsaws for cutting the 2x4s for my table frames, but I need a good handy saw for small detailed cuts.

Any other must haves?  I'm also thinking a good dremel for sanding edges of boards?

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Personally i prefer non powered tools as i can hurt myself less with them. But one thing i do use a lot is an old column drill (slow but strong). I get my wood mostly cut to size by the wood shop with a cutting table, so i just have to glue, sand and paint them. A good powered handheld drill/screwdriver could also come handy.

For a layout base, i would suggest you to go with as many off the self parts as possible (like table legs or whole tables). For strength, if you can stand on it comfortably, it's stable enough. Also make sure it's transportable, since if it isn't, you will have to move it when it's almost finished.

For scenery, you will need glue (like synthetic white wood glue, both water soluble and water resistant). Chisels, rasps, files and a dozen of small hand tools and some weights and clamps to hold things until the glue dries. Once you get the layout bases done (essentially just a bunch of tables and some wood shelfs for elevated stuff), things will be small enought that you won't need many power tools, but lots of jeweler's hand tools.

For working with platic parts, a dremel with flex extension and a small modellers table saw might come handy, mostly for kitbashing. Just get protective clothing (and eye protection!) and be very careful as even a tiny 3 cm saw blade can be more dangerous than it looks like.

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Subway,

 

when you say 1/2" material, do you mean plywood for the top of the layout?

What kind of cuts do you need to make? 

What is the design of your layout legs frames and top?

 

the answers help in directing you.

 

dremels only work for small bits of sanding, not for layout sized pieces of wood. For most finishing sanding past a couple of inches you would want a hand orbital sander. These are handy to sooth large flat surfaces and smaller edges. Simplemones just take a 1/4 sheet of any sand paper you clamp into them. Others are round or have a point to get into nooks (for things like furniture refinishing) but those you have to buy special precut sandpaper that gets expensive. Regular old 1/4 sheet palm sander will do 98% of what you need for $20-75 depending on how good a quality one you want.

 

http://www.homedepot.com/p/Skil-2-Amp-Corded-Electric-1-4-in-Sheet-Palm-Sander-with-Pressure-Control-and-Micro-Filtration-Kit-7292-02/202691014

 

for power saws there are a few different types for different uses. I'll do the beginners overview as it may be useful to others as well, know many of you know all this.

 

Table saw

probably the most useful and versatile saw for doing most woodworking. These are the guys with a fixed circular blade mounted in the table. Very handy to cut parallel edge strips of wood off sheets or boards against the long fence or do cross cuts at right angles or other angles with a sliding miter gauge. Let's you do just about any straight cut you need to do. Upside is accurate straight cutting and a lot of control of your wood. Downsize is space needs, they require a little bit of space, but a smaller one is not huge and can be w.o legs and just be stored vertically to save space and set up in a workbench or saw horses.

 

Circular Saw

A handy portable saw that has a circular blade you move over your piece of wood. Used for straight cuts. Upside is portable and small to store. Downside is it's harder to do a straight cut freehand following a line. You can use guide attachments and long straight edges you clamp onto your material to guide the saw along tomget a straighter cut. It can get fiddle to hold your wood, clamped guides and have the right clearance in what you are supporting your stock on for the blade to pass. In a pinch you can do most any cut a table saw can do, but usually never as smooth, straight or easy. These are also are a little dangerous as you have a spinning blade in your hand, they do have good blade guards, but of course they retract when cutting and are then you have an exposed blade.

 

Chop Saw

this is a dedicated Saw to mainly just chop off sticks and narrow boards (usually 8-9" max wide on a smaller one). Basically a circular saw on a base that just hinges down onto your wood put against a fence. Great for fast chopping off at 90 degrees or other angles. Great fast way to whack off 2x4s. Easier to chop off longer boards on the chop Saw than the table saw as you don't have to try move the wood along the table against the miter gauge as thic can cause the wood to wobble side to side as it's slid, espically when hanging way off the Saw. Chop Saw is also easy to set a stop block to chop pieces of wood the same length repeatedly (you can do this on a table saw but a bit more work). You can also get models that slide as well as hinge so you can cut wider boards, like up to 16" wide. these do take up a bit more room. also they can also usually tilt as well as swing to an angle so you can do compound angle cuts (ie 45 degrees in one direction and 30 in another at the same time).

 

Saber Saw (also called a jig Saw)

these are hand held saws a single thing vertical blade that goes up and down fast. With this you can cut curves. You just move the Saw along your piece of wood. Thin skinny blades let you do tight curves, thicker blades let you cut straighter. These are not the best at straight cuts as they don't work well with guides, you have to just go slow and try to keep them on the line. Usually used to cut curved pieces but things like cutting a square opening in a piece of ply they are usually used (drill a hole to slip the blade in to start the cut out).

Band Saw -- these are fixed machines (they make hand held ones but for no real use on model trains) with a long band blade. You move the wood thru the vertical blade on a table. You can set up a fence to do decent parallel cuts, but the blade can wander a little. Best for careful curve and smaller cut offs. Speciality saw, but handy at times with model train stuff.

 

Scroll saw

Basically a fixed saber Saw with a very fine (many times round in cross section) thin vertical straight  blade that is attached at the top and bottom and moves up and down fast. Works like a band Saw but it's main purpose is to cut very fine curved bits as with a round cross section blade you can cut in all directions. Again a speciality saw that's useful once and a while on small train stuff.

 

Panel Saw

This is a specialty Saw you will see at the lumbar yard. Very handy in chopping up big sheets of ply that can be hard to do on a table saw or with a circular Saw. It's basically a vertical frame you can slide a sheet of plywood thru that had a circular Saw attached to a vertical slide. This let's you either cut long strips off the ply by sliding the sheet thru or flipping the Saw blade 90 degrees and pulling the Saw down the slide to chop off a piece of the stationary sheet of wood. Not usually a home tool unless you have a big shop! But useful to know about as this is what they will use at the limber yard to wack up a sheet of ply for you!

 

ALL POWER SAWS CAN BE VERY DANGEROUS. This is obvious with fast spinning and jabbing blades that will cut thru flesh and bone in the blink of an eye. That being said, with proper training and care when using they can be very safe. I've gone 50 years now using them and have never ever gotten close to hurting flesh with one of them and I've used them all A LOT. If you get one see if there are any local adult courses to learn how to use them safely or if you have a professional or advanced hobbist or woodworker show you how to use them or watch YouTube videos, there are many on safe uses of them. Take it slow, take care and practice on scrap wood until you get use to them before diving into your project.

 

Even with potential issues if not used properly, the correct power tool used in the right way can give you fantastic results and be very speedy. Hand tools can do this as well, but they take a whole lot more time and to use them well they take a lot of practice and nice hand tools. Yes if you just need s few cuts you can use a hand Saw and with a little care and practice get ok cuts, but they  won't be super flat and square cuts if that is needed (that takes practice and good tools). Things like a miter box or miter Saw cna help make nicer square and flusher hand cuts to do cross cut chop offs. Usually with a hand Saw then you hand plane to get things flat and square along your cut and that's a whole mother world of learning.

 

If you have not done much of any woodworking before I highly recommend folks take a small woodworking course of some sort. Adult classes are rarer these days and can cost a little money, but a little instruction on the basics and also the tools and safety can go a super long way on getting on a good path. YouTube and videos at the library can also do this, just don't have a live presentation working with you there, but again gets the basics across.

 

Also let your local lumber yard or big big box store do big cuts for you. Usually they do a few free for you and small charge for more. 4'x8' Plywood sheets almost always need to get cut down just to get home in your vehicle unless you have a pickup truck! Also they use a panel Saw to do this and it's the safest and cleanest way to usually get these done. I usually have them whack things up to 1/2" of what I need then cut it exactly at home as they ar never super accurate in measuring and Canberra rushed in cutting and be a little rough with the cuts.

 

your project design can also help determine what tools are needed or visa versa. You can do support structures with pretty rough cuts and the cover up anything that's visible along the edges with some veneer or surfacing material! There are ways to cheat some but they require some thought and planning.

 

cheers

 

jeff

Edited by cteno4
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Subway,

 

If you haven't done much woodworking and are mainly just tackling this layout project then you can probably just get away with a simple hand circular Saw. Big box stores sell ones that are 18-24v rechargeable ones with an drill (a must have for a project like this and all around handy), 7.25" circular Saw (fine for cutting 1/2" ply and 2x4s), battery and charger. While you won't get hundreds of cuts from a charge it should give you a couple dozen and the new lithium ion batteries charge fast and you can charge them up at any point. You can pick the ryobi sets up at home despot for $99. I've had these for years as basic drills to use anywhere (not $200 gone if it gets wet or stolen) and the circular Saw is handy to work with outside or on smaller stuff as it's lighter than my monster corded circular saw. Then get a few addons to help like these

 

Straight edge clamp - you can use a piece of wood and some clamps to do the same thing to make a long guide for the circular Saw on long cuts, but these are much easier to deal with.

 

https://smile.amazon.com/Bora-543050-Locking-Straight-Precise/dp/B00PQP12NI/ref=sr_1_5?s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1504461807&sr=1-5&keywords=Circular+Saw+guide

 

cross cut guide - helps make good square cuttoffs

 

https://smile.amazon.com/Bench-Dog-10-019-Portable-Circular/dp/B0007VO0GM/ref=sr_1_13?s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1504461910&sr=1-13&keywords=Circular+Saw+guide

 

also get a finer plywood blade for the circular Saw for cleaner cuts.

 

if you find yourself needing to cut curves then a cheap ($25-50) corded saber saw will do the trick and are pretty versatile

 

dremel tool of some sort is always handy for all sorts of little things on a layout. you dont have to get an expensive one or a name brand if you just are starting out and dong just a few things. an inexpensive one with a set of bits can be as low as $20. if you find you use it a lot then more expensive ones are very nice.

 

How much quality and performance you need to pay for a tool is a really variable question. I use them a lot and for the most part have pretty nice ones now. But starting out I usually got cheaper ones as budget was a consideration, how much i will use it, and how much is the expensive one really worth it. I have several cheap power tools that i use maybe once a year. quality and features are good enough for the tasks i ask of them and at that rate of use they will last a very long time! I also have some very cheap power tools that have been thru hell and back and keep on ticking. Ive also had cheap tools die quickly or do lousy jobs. I of course try to read reviews to see if there are gotcha or consistent problems in any tool to see if it will be an issue for me. If its a tool i use a lot i usually then end up upgrading to a nice one eventually, but usually only if the old one is dying, not doing as good a quality job as i want or the new one has some feature that i really could use. Also it all in how you use them. ive had friends buy very nice tools and then not take care of them or abuse them and destroy them very fast. they are mad that a quality tool fell apart, but hey if you dont take care of your tools...

 

jeff

Edited by cteno4
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I use a chop saw (mine's on a rail, so I can chop wider boards with it as well) and jig saw mainly, and some hand saws for simple things. For sanding I have a small electric sander for fine sanding, and a larger variable speed electric sander for the more heavy duty work. Other than that, I have a Dremel with some accessories and of course some drills.

I have to say though, the 1 tool that's made the most difference to me for building a layout, is a high quality soldering station. I used to absolutely hate soldering even simple things like adding feeders to track, but these days I can even solder N-scale brass kits quite well. Definitely worth the investment in my case.

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Martijn is spot on, good soldering iron helps that has a temperature control and a variety of tips.

 

Ane other thing you can try with many tools is to see what your local thrift shop or habitat reuse store has. many times you can pick up an odd tool you need to do a single job for $10 or less. might be old and a little beat up but many times they still have a lot of life in them and great bang for the buck for the not used much tool! i got a really heavy duty 1/2" corded drill (big monster for drilling really heavy stuff like big bolt holes in construction) for $12. Ive used it for 20 years now probably a couple of times a year and it goes on and on and on. new one would have been over $100... Also a way to find some of the older very solid tools that today are made much more flimsy for the more inexpensive models.

 

funny Martijn should mention the sliding chop saw, I am about to upgrade my straight chopsaw (inexpensive one that ive used the hell out of for 20 years and still going strong) for a sliding one as i want one with a bigger blade and the slide to do wider pieces i need to do now and then. So im upgrading in quality too at the same time and this one should last the rest of my life!

 

jeff

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Chop Saw is a fast go to for cut off. Can do it on the table Saw but chop Saw is much faster. It's also better for longer stuff. Takes up sooo much less room than a table saw as well!

 

btw I did not mention radial arm saws above as they are not around much anymore as chop saws kind of took over that market and they are probably the most dangerous Saw there is in a shop (and up there with chain saws!)

 

jeff

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I've looked sideways a few times at the ryobi 18g nailer, but I have a good compressor and air nailers are lighter. If I had to do more nailing out of the shop I'd do the ryobi. But for someone w.o a shop it's great to not have to have a compressor as well (but theys useful thingies too!) to use a nailer. brad nailers are super useful for layout construction!

 

jeff

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I bought the stapler to compensate for my lack of carpentry skills.  I was building bench work and breaking too many screws.  Got frustrated pre-drilling, counter-sinking, and then driving.  Used it to build a temporary layout table for a 12'x2' L with a 6'x2' dogleg.  

 

Also bought four of these clamps:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000LJNJNU/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o08_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

 

Only problem, I ended up gluing part of my table to the rug .......................

 

 

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DOH! wax paper is your friend!

 

Staplers are great as they do give a stronger connections, and are super fast and sturdy for working on 1 by material. They dont work as well in the 1/2" baltic birch ply i use as its a bit thin for it, so i use brad nailer instead and either rabit or dado joints or support blocks, but those take more woodworking effort!

 

corner clamps are great 3rd hand!

 

jeff

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thanks for the advice guys, yeah I'm fairly handy with woodwork, but usually just use the circular saws to cut 2x4s and boards etc.   I wanted something more fine tune that I could cut curved angles on.

 

Looks like a jigsaw is my best bet.  I already run the Dewalt 20v batteries for my other tools so I think I will be adding a couple Dewalt saws into the collection.   I have a corded circular saw but its kind of overkill for anything layout related.   I am mostly looking to make small cuts to square off turnouts, tunnel entrances, curved elevated track, etc.

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I have a kickass chop saw that I use special blades on to cut metal unistrut with for work, that I can easily swap blades on for 2x4s.   I have the 2x4 bases pretty much ready.   The layout is kind of big, at 5ftx12ft long with another 5x5 section attached in an L shape. 

 

I want to break the table up into 3-4 smaller pieces for easier movement, with 1/2' base board, on which the first level is the subway underground and I build the above ground layout section by section using 1/2 or even 1/4in boards in 2x4 sections on risers.   I used PVC couplers as my layout risers last time, debating on going with that or maybe using thin cuts of 2x4s as support beams. 

Edited by SubwayHypes

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Subway,

 

smart to chop up your table, big ones get hard to deal with and get heavy fast. I've done a number of our club layouts and member layouts in smaller sections that just use bolts, screws, or brackets to hold them together. These then can sit on other tables or Saw horses or just screw a few L girders under them and put $4 IKEA legs on them (great as they have leveler feet) or make your own legs (always a pain though I find and usually end up costing more in materials let alone time than the IKEA legs). IKEA has some height adjusting legs as well to go taller but those get more expensive, but is really nice if you want to be able to fiddle with height later. Take a look at this set of table modules we just did for one of our club members. It's just 3/16" luan with a simple frame of 1/2" x 1 3/4" Baltic birch frame and supports (unfortunately you need a table Saw to slice this up but you can use 1x2 or 1x3 stock easily). Theses rest in 2 long L girders under the layout that have 6 IKEA legs for each 4'x8' tables. They are all mosules of 2'x4' and 3'x4' so he could change around the layouts if he wanted to later. We got fancy and ironed on some cherry veneer strips (just use the clothes iron with the heat activated glue on them) to make them pretty as it shares a red room with his wife's stuff and pool visitors changing room so made it to look like furniture! Few bucks extra really can make it pop!

 

 

Yes if you have the batteries then stick with the same system! Dewalts are good quality, bit more in price but you have to pay for quality! Batteries tend to be the biggest price and issue in the long run on cordless these days so standardizing is better and better battery exercise.

 

Take a look at the various types of wood in your big box store. 1x2 or 1x3 makes good riser stock. A cheap trim router (handy tool now and then for this sort of stuff and a little one can do a lot, bigger ones tend to take more setup and handling than it's worth for little stuff) will round the edges evenly if you want. I've had one of the harbor freight ones for years and super handy for doing quick little jobs and not monkeying with the big router and table.

 

https://t.harborfreight.com/14-in-24-amp-trim-router-62659.html

https://smile.amazon.com/Professional-Woodworker-46662-Router-Collect/dp/B01FTWMR8Q/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1506788234&sr=8-1&keywords=Trim+router

 

Use a guide bit and it's super fool proof, just get the depth set right. Round all the edges on your stock and then chop off at the lengths (heights) needed.

 

https://t.harborfreight.com/14-in-carbide-tip-roundover-beading-router-bit-68873.html

 

if your chopping off small bits in the chop Saw and want the small bits to be clean, screw a piece of sacrifice wood to the back guide rail so that the little piece won't get flung up into the angle void next to the blade and nicked up by the blade. It will also help the tearing on the edge of the wood that chop saws can do.

 

Cheers

 

jeff

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Thanks a million for those links Jeff, the actual wood work of the legs and table have been baffling me for months, seriously have had insomnia just wondering how to best go about the legs.

 

I have a lot of c470 adjustable saw horses from a work project, I was thinking I could use those, braced with 2x4s and just set the plywood on top with some kind of brackets.

 

One thing I really want, is to have 2x4 at the edge points of the layout because I want to install a U bracket and have a 1/4in metal rod on the edges, from which I will be wrapping a plastic wrap around the entire layout for downtime, and because my three cats will probably go haywire on the layout if its uncovered.  Also to keep dust off the layout.

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On ‎9‎/‎30‎/‎2017 at 9:36 AM, cteno4 said:

Subway,

 

 Take a look at this set of table modules we just did for one of our club members. It's just 3/16" luan with a simple frame of 1/2" x 1 3/4" Baltic birch frame and supports (unfortunately you need a table Saw to slice this up but you can use 1x2 or 1x3 stock easily). Theses rest in 2 long L girders under the layout that have 6 IKEA legs for each 4'x8' tables. They are all mosules of 2'x4' and 3'x4' so he could change around the layouts if he wanted to later. We got fancy and ironed on some cherry veneer strips (just use the clothes iron with the heat activated glue on them) to make them pretty as it shares a red room with his wife's stuff and pool visitors changing room so made it to look like furniture! Few bucks extra really can make it pop!

 

 

 

Cheers

 

jeff

Hey jeff can you repost the link to this layout modules?  I clickedon the link and it took me to page 1 of 746.  Thanks.

 

I am very interested in seeing everyones setup for tables.  Do we have a "Post your table and support system" thread of some kind?

 

My last 4x8 layout have a very cool plastic bracket system in which you stick sections of 2x4 into and it creates a perfect flat plane with solid joints.  I then just sat my 4x8 board on top of that and the supports took up very minimal space.  

 

This would just different from my next layout because like I mentioned earlier, I want to have 2x4s at the edge to mount my cover tarp supports into.  

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You can find the pictures of the legs attached to Jeff's excellent layout basework on page 20 of the topic.  The new search function works pretty well, much better than the old forum software! 

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Posted (edited)

Click on the "cteno4 replied to this topic" and it will take you to the post, sorry the new forum software wants to embed everything and it can be confusing st points. Sorry.

 

2x4 is a bit over kill for 4x8 table really, I would go for 1x4. But there are some interesting connector systems for 2x4 to make things simple! With Renato's it was only 2" x 1/2" frames of Baltic birch (but requires a table Saw to use this material) and that was fine on the smaller modules that just clipped together on top of the Simple frame that the legs were mounted to. As I've gotten older I've tried to make things lighter and better engineered rather than heavy.! 

 

Look up the thread from the link before and you will see some of the details in the construction.

 

in the last 15 years I've built over a dozen layouts like this for club members and the club so slowly zeroing into the minimal necessary and the best parts and materials to be sturdy while being as inexpensive a possible bit still look as nice as possible. I just look at it as practice for my own eventual basement layout! 

 

Jeff

Edited by cteno4

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