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The Merits Of Cardboard ?
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 Posted: Sun Mar 30th, 2014 02:05 am
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jtrain
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I was thinking about ways to cut the cost of my upcoming 1:20.3 railroad, and perhaps save weight as well. This has been fueled by me checking out the prices of foam board at Lowes. Traditionally, I like using foam over plaster because it is much lighter. Unfortunately, foam is expensive (my local store is selling 2" thick boards for $28). While that cost isn't an issue on a small layout, something in G or F scale requires a lot of material. Since my terrain will be mountainous, a lot of foam would be used in the layout.

There is another way of building scenery that I'm aware of, using cardboard strips and plaster cloth. This is a bit heavier, but the materials are cheaper. However, I've never been able to make decent landscapes with plaster and cardboard, so I don't use that method at all.

Both methods of making landscapes are very messy too. Either plaster will be everywhere or foam bits will be everywhere (and stick to everything!). So for this next project, foam is out and plaster is out. SO what's the next step?

Cardboard could be the answer to my problems...

Cardboard is light (within reason) and is free if you do't mind a little dumpster diving and driving around to ask for cardboard.

Even if you had to buy cardboard, the closest maker of the material is in Albert Lea, MN and sells 4x8 foot sheets of the stuff at $3.00 apiece, and would give a discount for a significant quantity. So in terms of square feet to price, cardboard has foam beat.

Cardboard can also be carved with a knife, but won't be nearly as messy as foam. So this gives me an idea:

Why not layer cardboard and glue the pieces together? The pieces could then be cut further, sanded, and filled with a material like joint compound, hydro cal, or even wood filler. Cardboard is heavy when packed tightly together, but I think the best way to build with it would be to make layers, but leave the center of the hills hollow, so the cardboard forms an arch using many layers.

I think the biggest advantage would be the savings. Being on a college campus, I just have to be let into the nearest construction area to retrieve large boxes that have been thrown into the trash. There's always construction going on somewhere. Liqour stores have plenty of smaller boxes which are usually thrown out in the back. Those 21 and over would have no problem using that source for cardboard. Not to mention Walmart and other large stores.

A final advantage I see to using cardboard as a terrain building material is that you can throw the stuff away. What I really hate is buying something like foam that you know will sit in a landfill for several hundred years so I don't like throwing it away. But I also can't burn it or toss it in a ditch which is even worse than the landfill.

Not to sound like an Environmentalist, but I think using cardboard as the primary building material for layout landscapes is a green way of thinking. Instead of going right to a landfill, the cardboard is going to a layout which could easily last several decades. Not to mention you can burn cardboard without releasing too many toxins.

So I'll have to try it out. This for now is just food for thought. I feel that perhaps an N scale layout might be coming soon to test my theory!

--James:java:



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 Posted: Sun Mar 30th, 2014 02:58 am
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Dorian Davis
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Giday James,

Have you considered paper mache? It's very low tech, environmentally friendly, a time-honored tradition in the construction of older (pre-1960s) English model railway layouts, cheap, extremely light weight and incredibly strong.

Your shapes can be built in segments off the layout, placed and then joined together with a few strips of paper and white glue. I've worked with paper mache (constructing hand puppets) for over a decade now and can vouch for its durability and strength.

Just a thought.



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 Posted: Sun Mar 30th, 2014 03:56 am
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pipopak
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If you go with cardboard use the brown cheapest one. Coated varieties (with all those fancy colours) are coated and harder to glue together. Jose.



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 Posted: Sun Mar 30th, 2014 07:56 am
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dennischee
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If you want some detail rock faces you could make some molds and make plaster casts, the results look great, just mold them in when doing your plaster strips.
Btw 2" foam here in Aust $56 a sheet

Dennis

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 Posted: Sun Mar 30th, 2014 02:46 pm
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rogerssantafe
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James
Is this for modules?
I've used paper mache, plaster, & blue/pink foam. Here are my results
PAPER MACHE [in my garage while in Jr Hi]: pros inexpensive, easy cons rodents like to eat eat
PLASTER: pros available sturdy cons messy heavy
FOAM: pros light weight sturdy cons expensive messy
I think cardboard would be lacking in strength.
Roger



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 Posted: Sun Mar 30th, 2014 04:09 pm
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Herb Kephart
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I think that stacked, corrugated, plain old box cardboard might just be a gem in the rough. If cut into contour shaped strips, the inner section that is for that moment scrap, can probably be used on one of the upper layers, depending on steepness of the terrain. When all glued, the surface presented to what ever the finishing medium is, would be a mass of cellular holes which would promote adhesion.

I would be hesitant to recommend paper-mache however. Years ago I saw a layout in San Antonio TX done with it, and the builder was lamenting that he had used it, because variations in humidity had caused a lot of large cracks.
Perhaps if white glue (Elmers) was used instead of the traditional flour/water paste, it might be OK, but considering the time that it would take for problems to appear----I would still be inclined not to try it.

Sounds like since the material source would be free, glue could be bought in larger containers to gain a savings there also. Be aware that you are going to end up with a lot of small cardboard trimmings that will be trash--and dependent on your living arrangements might cause a problem.---Or not.

Herb



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 Posted: Sun Mar 30th, 2014 04:45 pm
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chasv
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Don't forget motrcycle shops as they come in boxes that are 1/2" thick so ou et a lot in 1 box. i have built 2 modules with this and they have been ut side on the back porhand have not come apart. i used titebond 3. like your idea as the foam is not available here in a store



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 Posted: Sun Mar 30th, 2014 04:46 pm
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chasv
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have a bad key board that skips   or adds letters



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 Posted: Sun Mar 30th, 2014 05:13 pm
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Mr Stumpy
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I now do portable micro layouts now, mainly because I no longer have space for a decent 4x8 layout. Also, since retiring, money is always an issue because I'd rather eat than have nice models.

A 4x8 sheet of extruded foam in $35. here if purchased from the commercial builder's supply place, higher at the typical "big box" home improvement stores. However, in your case cardboard seems to be a better solution. To add to reasons to use it, let me add this experience:

Some years ago when I was into hopped up VW's, including dune buggies (no dunes in Eastern Ohio but plenty of reclaimed coal strip mining land begging to be used)a local guy was custom making Fibreglas bodies and used common cardboard to create some of his molds and as extra internal strength inside the Fibreglas. (In those days auto fenders and other sheet metal panels came in cardboard, so he had and unending supply!)

He would use water to just dampen sheets of cardboard enough to bend them (sometimes using a piece of home stair rail to work the curves into them)and brace them with scrap wood from shipping pallets while they dried. Once the cardboard dried, it retained it's shape. He would then layer it up using common Elmer's glue (by the gallon jug!) Once this was thoroughly dry, he would use a fibreglas "chopper gun" to spray the resin and glass fiber mix over it, usually repeating the process several times. Once set, it could be drilled, sanded, plastic body putty used on it, and then painted with either laquer or enamel.

I think the key to forming cardboard is learning just how much or how little to dampen the cardboard to form it. Joint compound could be used as a "top coat" (as the body guy used Fiberglas) and joint compound is easy to carve.

Cheap, crude, but effective. On a smaller scale, I have used 3x5 file cards similarly for years to make model parts for model airplanes and such. Once sealed well, you can even use card for model boats. It's somewhat labor intensive but VERY inexpensive, and much overlooked material in this day of plentiful specialty hobby supplies.

Stumpy in Ahia:old dude:

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 Posted: Sun Mar 30th, 2014 05:37 pm
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W C Greene
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Yep, I would use cardboard on my layout if it could withstand being outside. I watched a PBS show about a "real" artist who uses only cardboard and after seeing what his work looked like when it was discarded by the family of a dead colector, he decided to make works for outdoors and let it decay and "melt" down...part of his "process". Who knows what will work?

I used the term "real" in quotes since most painters and sculptor types tend to look at what we model railroaders do as "crafts" or "folk art". I, however, tend to think that we are real artists...with works just as viable as any painter or sculptor who get big bucks for what they do. Man, we need a union...there's an idea.
Now back to the subject of this thread...CARDBOARD

Woodie

My buddy Mopman uses his old Budweiser beer boxes cut into strips for his scenery base. Glued with hot glue and covered with a thin "hardshell", it is a fine material and he gets to drink the beer to boot!



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