(working title...)"Things for what else they are" is a phrase often used by abstract artists to describe their manipulation of reality. Model making is much like this, with modelers grabbing bits and pieces from a wide variety of sources.
When one lives far from hobby shops, as I do, this process becomes even more important. I find that I never really stop looking for "stuff" that might come in handy-and it turns up the the darndest places!
I thought to share this "Scroungers Supply" experience with a few examples that might get you started in this rich enterprise.
1. Your local small cabinet shop: Perhaps the most important source in this list, a friend who runs a small cabinate shop will be of great value. The various types of scrap generated in such a shop are just what we need.
a. Plywood scrap: "Cabinet Grade" plywood is generally flatter, more stable and has more plies than standard construction grade material. Cabinet shops go through sheets of Birch ply like scratch paper and the small scraps left over are perfect for work boards, jig bases, structure bases, control panel boxes and dozens of similar projects. Most shops will be pleased to have you take some of this. In my own wood shop I have bemoaned the total square footage of plywood that has gone away as 6" x 9" scrap.
b. Counter top materials: Again, the variety of plastic counter top material used in a small shop is considerable and the scrap is very useful. I use plastic laminate (Formica, Wilsonart, Micarta are some major brands) for insulated tie bars on turnouts, no stick jig surfaces, sliding surfaces for table saw jigs, and I used large pieces to make the curved corners of my backdrop. The "solid" materials such as Corian and Nevamar are wonderful as the base for turnout building or general soldering jigs. Though they do mark from soldering it takes a lot of heat and you will get a goodly number of assemblies off one jig before it is too beat up to use. These materials come from 1/4" to 3/4" in thickness and can be sawn, sanded, routed and glued to make a wide variety of clamps and jigs. White glue will not stick and even MEK doesn't make much of a bond. The material can be drilled and tapped for hold-downs, making it an ideal base for soldering jigs. I have put a piece of high-temp gasket material under the workpiece and then clamped it in place, resulting in a surface that can take the heat from a small torch for a brief period. Once again, the pieces we want are so small as to end up in the trash in the cabinet shop. Just ask nicely!
"Scrounger's Supply Co"
to accomplish the desired end resultfor twenty five years Tman made
Sawdust: We all know that the right sawdust can be a great landscape material, but if you don't have a shop how are you go get some? Unfortunately, my study of sawdust (yes, I know that is a bit odd...but isn't this whole hobby a bit odd?) indicates that what we want are the short fibres produced by a fine cross cut blade on what the cabinet makers call a "chop box". These are the crosscut saws that are one of the basic bench mounted units in such a shop.
Most of these have a dust collection bag at the back and the sawdust from those bags is what we are after. Now, this process will require that you have made friends with the guy who runs the shop so that you can know what kind of material they are cutting and can arrange for them to dump the bag before they start. Leave off a few large coffee cans with plastic lids and ask them to empty their bag into your cans. Bingo! You will have nearly "pure" sawdust of your chosen wood type. GAZETTE columnist Jim Vail uses uncolored Oak sawdust for his golden California hills. I use Doug Fir sawdust and dye it various colors with painters tinting color.u go get some? M and a friend uses Pine, feeling it takes the colors better
d. Stripwood stock: The large table saw in a cabinet shop is used largely to rip material to width, often resulting in "off-fal" that is the perfect starting point for making your own stripwood. The scrap bin in a small shop will be overflowing with very thin strips that can be "ripped" with a razor knife and straight edge to make a few special pieces. If you have a Dremel or Microlux table saw, these strips provide a basis for cutting quality stripwood to the sizes you need and from the material you want. I use Pine, Doug Fir and Redwood so as to be able to represent the actual material of the prototype I am modeling. When I am making "stock" for stripwood I use my 10" table saw to cut thin pieces which are the thickness of the largest dimension of my finished stock. Therefore a piece .125 x .080 would be cut on the large saw to a sheet .125 in thickness.
This is then run through the modeler's saw to cut the smaller dimension, in this case the .080. By selecting scrap that is the right thickness for your larger dimension, the cutting of the other dimension is quite easy.
2. The Appliance Store: The packing materials used to ship large appliances are often the source of a number of great products.
a. Large pieces of corrugated cardboard. This is great for full size layout of trackboards and roadbed, creating profiles for landscaping, and making the webbing for hardshell scenery techniques.
b. Foam blocks: The styrene foam material cast into blocks to secure items in the crates is very useful for scenery forms and work bases for making trees.
Though not the best ( it is usually bead styrofoam) this stuff is free.
3. Household rubbish: No, I am not suggesting we re-cycle trash to make roadbed material...though it is a thought! Rather, I am suggesting that you start to keep your eyes open since modern packaging seems to involve a lot of great stuff for our purposes.
A few examples:
a. Wine bottle cork seals: This thin metal (aluminum on domestic wine, often lead on imported) is wonderful for a wide variety of modeling needs. The thin material is about .018 and can be formed easily for tank wrappers, bands, straps, plates and other similar uses. The thicker material (usually the lead) is about .025 and is equally valuable. Both take rivet impressions beautifully and are easily formed into complex shapes. Be sure to wash your hands after working with any of this metal that you suspect might be lead.
b. Plastic tops: By this I speak of the wide variety of little plastic covers (often clear) on detergent bottles, window spritzers, and similar containers. I have found wonderful shapes that can be of great value. Some of these are made of a rather flexible plastic, but many are rigid styrene which can be glued with MEK.
I have a whole box full of these and it is surprising when just the right "tank" or "boiler" or "dome" may turn up!
c. Packaging: Recently my wife brought home a gormet cookie product that was the shape of a finger and packaged in a neat plastic tray with a long, thin compartment for each cookie. I use these to sort out parts for various projects such as trestle bents, turnout parts and the like.
Cream cheese containers have become the backbone of my landscape texture material storage system. I used cartons from a water product as a "tray", cutting them so as to make small handles at each end. Eight of the cheese containers fit perfectly and provide a "pallet" of colors and textures. Each tray is a particular group of materials-dyed foam, various sizes of gravel, dirt, forest trash and the like. The trays nest for storage and the lids of the containers keep the contents clean. All for free!
The bottle from a pump type hair spray dispenser provides a far finer spray than the bottles from window cleaner, or those sold as empties. You do have to be very careful to thoroughly clean up after using matte medium or white glue, however, as the orifice is very small and clogs easily.
I recently noticed that the small "juice boxes" sold for kids come with a neat straw that has a section of "flex" in it. Painted, this looks like all manner of industrial ducting and piping. The straws are about 3/16" diameter and have a nice thin wall. A regulart soda straw can be slit lengthwise to make guttering in large scales. I have even used it for small air tanks by cutting plugs for the ends.
The trash list could not be complete without the mention of the usual bottles and jars that we can make such good use of. Lately I have favored the new plastic jars with screw tops (like peanut butter jars) since breakage can create a heck of a mess.
5. Music Store: If you have a music store near you that sells guitars you have a great source of music wire for free! Often these shops will put new strings on a used guitar they take in, or change strings for a customer. In a typical set there will be four "wound" strings and two plain ones, though some have three wound and three plain. The wound strings look just like brake hoses, armored hose, or wrapped pipe. The unwound strings are a great source of small diameter music wire and come in sizes like .016, .012, .010. Also, at the end of the string is a tiny bearing designed to keep the string from slipping off the "tail block" of the instrument. These are brass and are good for all sorts of small fittings or the starting point to build up small industrial assemblies. I used two of them to make a fairleader for my two drum skidder.
6. The Hospital Emergency Room: Wow! That doesn't sound like a good place to find onself, let along model materials. But, seriously, I have a good friend who is an ER Doc and he introduced me to the "sutcher pack" that they use. Normally these are "one time" units, opened only to treat the patient and all items disguarded whether they are used or not. Seems it's cheaper to throw them away than sterilize them! At any rate, these contain (among other things) a pretty nice pair of locking forceps (the kind we see for sale at $4.95) and a good scalpel. My friend says that in a typical shift they will go through a dozen of these and in many cases the scalpel and forceps will not be used. I now have more than a dozen forceps, many modified for special uses.
I will have to leave the development of a connection at your local ER up to you.
I am sure that a bull session with half a dozen modelers would turn up many more such sources and materials, but perhaps this listing will get you started on a whole new 'hunting ground" for your model projects. Enjoy!!
by Boone Morrisonn c 1997