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Build An Electric Junction

Undoubtedly, most structures look much better with a lighted interior. Unless you use a battery, a lighted interior will require some kind of external wire connection to a source of power. You could connect your wires straight to the source, but what if you want to remove the building later to replace or repair it? It would be nice to have some kind of reusable connection between your structure and the power source. You could just leave your power wires dangling freely in the breeze, or put crimp connectors on them, but that’s not very tidy. Here is a clean, elegant and inexpensive solution to connect your hand-made structure to electrical power.

Goal

The goal of this project is to make a simple and inexpensive yet durable power junction for connecting and disconnecting wire leads between lighted accessories and the power source. This project takes a few hours or less and requires minimum skill.

What You’ll Need

  • thick styrene strips about 3/4″ wide
  • drill and drill bit, same diameter as bolts
  • (2) small stainless steel bolts
  • (2) small stainless steel washers
  • (4) small stainless steel nuts
  • 18-gauge stranded hook-up wire
  • 2 crimp rings and crimper (optional)
  • wire strippers
  • cyanoacrylate glue (super glue)
  • soldering iron and solder

Construction

Cut the styrene into strips 1 ½” to 2″ long. Drill two holes centered vertically. Cut the hook-up wire into a manageable length do ONE of the following:

  • Option 1: Strip 1/4″ of insulation from the end of the wire. Feed the wire into the crimp ring and crimp it down. Repeat to make two.
  • Option 2: Strip 1″ of insulation from the end of the wire. Fashion the wire into a loop and solder it. Repeat to make two.
Exploded view

Install a washer on each bolt and push them through the holes in the styrene. Add a nut and tighten it down. Slip one crimp ring OR one wire loop over each bolt and add a second nut as shown in the diagram. (Note: You may want to add a lock-washer here) Glue the nuts in place with cyanoacrylate. When the glue dries, the nuts should hold fast, but the bolts should move freely inside the nuts. Loosen the bolts to allow for external wire connections and then tighten them back down. Do not over-tighten the bolts, or the nut will break free. Glue the junction assembly to the back of your project and connect the lead wires from the crimp ring or wire loop to the lights inside your project.

Projects-admin

Build a Barbed Wire Fence

Barbed wire fence

Barbed wire fences are typically used on farms and ranches to contain large animals on the property. Barbed wire fences typically have three or four runs of twisted metal wires with sharp barbs evenly spaced along the length of the wire. Steel fence posts are driven into the ground, and the barbed wire is stretched tightly between the posts, evenly spaced from top to bottom. Barbed wire fences are a little more difficult to model than chain link fence, and they take a little more work.

Goal

The Goal is to provide an easy way make a reasonable representation of a three- or four-strand barbed wire fence in that can be accomplished in less than a day.

What You’ll Need

  • Square toothpicks
  • Red or green and white paint
  • Wire screen mesh materials
  • Tacky glue
  • grass-colored finely ground foam
  • Small drill bits (the same diameter as your toothpicks)
  • Diagonal cutters, a sharp knife, or a hobby saw

Measurement and Post Installation

The installation procedure follows real-world fence construction. First, you need to determine the number of p The installation procedure follows real-world fence construction. First, you need to determine the number of posts you will use. Measure the total distance you need your fence to cover. Measure each section of straight run from corner post to corner post separately. Divide the total distance by your intended separation of you fence posts (I recommend 2, 2.5 or 3 inches). Round up to the next whole number. For example: You want to build a fence run of fourteen inches with a post spacing of approximately three inches apart. To determine he number of posts, divide the 14” run by the 3” spacing to get 4.666. Round up to 5 posts. If you decide to space the posts closer to two inches apart, you will need a total of eight posts (14” divided by 2” equals 7, rounded up to 8). Equally space the posts by dividing the run distance by the number of posts, (for this example, 14″ divided by 5 posts equals 2.8″ or approximately 2 3/4″ spacing) Mark the corners and place a mark every 2 3/4″ to show where each post will go. Adjust if necessary to make each section the same length.

For barbed wire fence posts, you will need square toothpicks instead of round. Paint them either glossy green or red. The top 1/8″ of each fence post is painted white if you want to simulate the reflective coating on the top of some manufactured posts. Drill holes and set the toothpicks with a drop of Tacky Glue. Doo not wipe away any excess glue, but embed a bit of grass-colored finely ground foam in the glue for a more natural look.

Stretch the Fence

You can use either single strands of wires unraveled from screen mesh material, or a small-gauge uninsulted wire. To begin, unravel an edge of the screen mesh producing three or four long strands of wire. I like to use wire pulled from screen mesh instead of regular straight wire because it has a kinkiness that simulates the stranding of real barbed wire.

Put a drop of tacky glue near the bottom of the end post, and wrap the wire around twice, twisting the loose end around itself to secure it. Then run the wire from post to post giving each post a double wrap of wire and a dot of glue. Secure the wire to the final post just like the first post. Repeat each run a little higher on the post for three- or four-line fencing.

Variations:

INstead of steel, use wood posts. Before steel posts, farmers used hardwoods like locust or oak to build line fences. You could build your fence with wood colored-posts. It was also not uncommon for fences to be strung from tee to tree in a line fence, and especially for a tree to be used as a corner since old deeds defined the property from this tree to that tree. Use trees in your line fence. Sometimes a metal post will be used to replace a broken or rotted wooden post in a lline fence. Put a random steel post in a wood-post fence line. Finally, it is really hard to keep a fence line clean. Glue plenty of weeds along the fence.

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Build a Split-Rail Fence

a split-rail fence at a campground

Split-rail fencing is one of the oldest and simplest fences to build. It was very prevalent in the 1800’s along farmlands to keep animals contained. Years later, the rustic beauty was used for home landscaping. Today, you kind find split-rail fencing in parks, campgrounds and historic sites.

The rails of the fence were split from the trunk of a tree and cut to length, usually 8 feet. The split rails were laid on top of each other at a little more than a 90 degree angle. The rails alternated back and forth for stability and no posts were required. Because the bottom rails lay directly on the ground, no holes had to be dug, The fence was quick to put up, especially in rocky terrain where digging post holes was out of the question. however this also meant the fences did not usually last long.

GOal

The goal of this project is to build a simple historic and decorative fence. The project is super easy and takes less than a day.

What You’ll Need

  • long fireplace matches
  • hobby saw or knife
  • aging wash (see instructions)
  • tacky glue

Building the Fence

To build split rail fences in O scale, long fireplace matches are the way to go. Simply cut the heads off and cut them into scale six-foot or eight-foot pieces. The more imperfections the matchsticks have, the better the final product will look. You can leave them natural color for new fences. For older fences, scrape a serrated hobby saw along the face of the stick to texture the surface, then paint with a traditional grey ink wash, or with a weathering product I recommend: Age-It Easy liquid wash.

Grey Ink Wash

Make a grey ink wash by diluting india ink or black acrylic paint with water and a drop of dish washing detergent or isopropyl alcohol. Stain each stick individually before stacking and gluing. The weathering wash will not penetrate most glues.

Here is a good article by Harold Minkwitz on weathering wood on the Pacific Coast Air Line Model Railway.

Build It

Stack the sticks with between a forty-five and a ninety degree angle between rails, using a drop of tacky glue to secure them. For older fences, you may break a rail or two, have some rails fallen over, or even glue foliage climbing over the neglected rails.

So there you go, good friend. A super simple method for building historic fences on your layout.

Projects-admin

Build a Chain Link Fence

Chain link fencing protects people, animals, and property

The chain link fence is one of the most common types of fence. It is used around commercial businesses as a barrier to protect property from vandalism and inventory from theft. It is used around schools and public buildings to limit people’s access and to keep children safely away from traffic, water, or electrical dangers. It is used around homes to keep pets from running away or biting the neighbors. I’m sure there is some place on your layout that could use some chain link fence.

Goal

Chain link fences are made by stretching a woven wire material between aluminum posts. We will duplicate that in O-scale using screen wire mesh. This project is very simple, but may take a few days, depending on how much fencing you want to install.

What You’ll Need

  • Round toothpicks
  • Silver paint
  • Wire screen mesh material
  • Tacky glue
  • grass-colored finely ground foam
  • Small drill bits (the same diameter as your toothpicks)
  • Diagonal cutters, a sharp knife, or a hobby saw

Chain link fencing is easy to make with screen wire and toothpicks. You’ll need round toothpicks to be the posts. Be sure to use wire screen mesh and not the fiberglass mesh; the fiberglass is flat, not woven, and it doesn’t give the right “look.” When I built the chain link fence in the picture above, I simply cut a long strip of mesh along the edge of the material. Perfectionists and those who model high rail will realize that the mesh pattern is off by 45 degrees. That’s okay for me. Admittedly, the mesh material looks more realistic if you cut it on the diagonal verses parallel with the pattern. There will be a lot of wasted material cutting on the diagonal, but if you want the appearance to be the most realistic, you should cut your screen material on the diagonal.

comparison of cutting the wire mesh parallel to the edge versus cutting it on the diagonal

Residential chain link mesh is four feet high. Commercial applications are six foot or higher. For a standard four-foot high fence, cut a strip of screen material from 1″ inch to 1 1/8″ inch wide. The reason for the range of values is to account for variations of what “O scale” is. The ranges I give allows for a variation in the scale between 1:43 and 1:48 ratios. For a six foot high fence, cut a strip of screen wire 1 ½ to 1 9/16 inches wide. For an eight foot high fence, cut a strip between 2 inches and 2 ¼ inch wide.

Cut your screen mesh material to the actual height.

Measurement and Installation

The installation procedure follows real-world fence construction. First, you need to determine the number of posts you will use. Measure the total distance you need your fence to cover. Measure each section of straight run from corner post to corner post separately. Divide the total distance by your intended separation of you fence posts (I recommend 2, 2.5 or 3 inches). Round up to the next whole number. For example: You want to build a fence run of fourteen inches with a post spacing of approximately three inches apart. To determine he number of posts, divide the 14” run by the 3” spacing to get 4.666. Round up to 5 posts. If you decide to space the posts closer to two inches apart, you will need a total of eight posts (14” divided by 2” equals 7, rounded up to 8). Equally space the posts by dividing the run distance by the number of posts, (for this example, 14″ divided by 5 posts equals 2.8″ or approximately 2 3/4″ spacing) Mark the corners and place a mark every 2 3/4″ to show where each post will go. Adjust if necessary to make each section the same length.

Select toothpicks that are round, not square. Do not cut them yet. Paint them silver. Using a drill bit slightly smaller than the diameter of the toothpick, drill holes where you marked for the posts. Glue the toothpicks in the holes with tacky glue. Instead of wiping away any excess glue around the base, embed a little grass-colored ground foam in the glue for a more natural look.

When the glue has dried, stretch the screen material out and tie it to the top of each post by threading a short piece of wire through the material and twisting it around the toothpick like a bread-tie. Once tied to the post, put a drop of tacky glue to secure it. You may prefer to run a bead of tacky glue down the length of the post to secure the mesh to. Wire tie and glue the mesh at the bottom also. Proceed to tie the material to the top and bottom of each fence post using a dot of tacky glue to hold it securely. Cut off the excess post above the fence material with diagonal cutters, a sharp knife, or a hobby saw. Touch up the top of the posts with paint if needed.

There you have it. A quick way to make chain link fence for your model railroad.