CP Executive train in Albany

CP Executive train in Albany

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Open Grid Benchwork: corner sections

I took a week off from work and part of the time I decided would be used for my layout. I knew I was going to need to build some corner sections for my layout... four specifically. They wouldn't have to be super fancy, but the framing would definitely not be like what I had built for the main sections. Since I have a tendency to not only over-think things but also make careless mistakes when I rush, I decided to combine these two impulses together by drawing a full-size plan of the corner sections on some poster board I had.

Not only could I identify each piece and where it fit into the plan, I could also take measurements directly from it and double-check my numbers to ensure that everything added up. And, since it didn't sound like it was going to be a lot of fun to build I also decided to make all four at the same time. That meant I needed to cut four of each piece, pre-drill all of the required holes for the wood screws and any wiring clearance holes, and label them to keep them from getting mixed up. It was an enjoyable 4-5 hours spread out over two days.

Then, I built them up in an assembly-line fashion and discovered that for the most part things went exactly as they were supposed two. A couple of wrinkles did come up though. First, one of the boards I bought from the store was too bowed to use and so I laid out everything else to make it all fit on the remaining 7 good boards and some scrap 1"x4" I had on hand. Second, I cut all the pieces correctly but one didn't look like it fit right so I assumed I messed up on measuring it and I cut all eight small boards a 1/4" shorter. I then tried them and discovered they were 1/4" too short. I don't know how I made that mistake, but I suddenly again found myself short on lumber. So, I used one piece of 2"x4" in each corner section instead of two 1x4" pieces. I labeled it "UP" to keep track of which side of the corner module is supposed to be oriented up.

I had the lumber yard cut more 15/32" plywood for the corner tops. I discovered I could get three 30" square pieces from a standard sheet, and hopefully the remaining pieces can be used to make the fourth. I may need to add additional bracing for that one to support any extra joints. Before I attached the plywood, I needed to cut and install the diagonal piece on the front of the corner sections. I discovered that some of the plywood was cut a little short in length (they apparently did not factor in the width of the saw blade), and some of my joints weren't perfectly square. Since I own a right-angle clamp, I should probably use it! So, I had to do some judicious sanding with a sheet sander I borrowed and some 40 grit paper.

Total cost for the four corner sections: $85 for the 1"x4" lumber, and $19 for the plywood, for a running total of $586. I have often wondered if I should have bought pre-made Sievers benchwork. For each of the 7-foot modules the cost would have been about $106 (a 48" long piece and a 36" long piece) and I would have needed four sides for a total of $425. Four 30" corner modules would have been $225 total. Shipping would have been $130 (20% of order). So, about $780 and that doesn't include the plywood top, or the legs, or the L-girders. I would also need to adjust cross-brace spacing and angle the corner sections. But, the benchwork would be perfectly square. Did I make the right decision? I don't know. Quality benchwork is an investment, and it isn't all about dollars and sense. Because I am making mine sectional, there are a lot more joints and plenty of room for error. But, I wanted to be able to say I built it myself. Before I lay any track I will finish all the benchwork and take stock at whether it is to a high enough standard to proceed. If not, Sievers it is.

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