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Kit Finishing Tips

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This page is under construction. It is for your convenience. Suggestions are greatly appreciated!

Glues, paints and products we use on this page we have no association with other than using them. We suggest you use what works for you as these products might not be available in your area. The important thing to remember when finishing a real wood kit is to treat it as you would a real wood structure except, seal it inside and out. The reason is it is in closer contact with the ground and hence closer to ground moisture.

Before painting, we recommend making sure you got things glued solid to the framing or whatever you put under our lumber if you aren't building one of our kits. In this case we put the glue nozzle on a tube of testors wood glue and ran a small bead where we thought it was needed.

Glue Suggestions. We like Testors for wood models as it sets in a few minutes so you can continue. It has done well in our tests and is available in tube at many stores in our area. Many of our kits only take 1 5/8 fl oz. tube to complete. (update 10/10/10) Cost in our area on the Testors has went up and is no longer available at Walmart which is where we were getting for around a buck a tube. Walmart now carries the generic labeled in this photo. It has many of the characteristics of the testors and sells in the walmart hardware department glue section for $1.00 for a .5 ounce tube. Our tests have turned out well. As with the Testors the quick set time is the advantage to building. It also for a quick set glue gets into the wood fiber so it has good hold.

Having used this type of glue since childhood (building model cars) I like to get the most from the tube. If you glue a cap to a scrap of wood or anything for that matter and keep it upside down (glue due to gravity at the tip end) you will do better than trying to squeeze that soft tube but hard funnel top to get the last drops. When the glue is gone you will start getting bubbles or just air out of the tube. Clean the cap with a scrap of lumber, toothpick or anything small that will get in there to reuse for the next tube. For years I used laid the tube down and ended up trying to squeeze that soft tube up into the hard funnel and wasted glue you couldn't squish out.

We have had very good results with all glues tested that were for exterior use. The Polyurethane glues soak into wood real good, but set slow. The water based ( Elmers for exterior use) were good as well but take a while to set up but cost less than most. Epoxy, has some quick set ( 5-8 minutes ). It works great as well, but can be messy and requires mixing. Bottom line is that most exterior glues will work, but read the set up time and use characteristics. We have tested many, and have settled on what works for us in the time frame allowed. If you want to build adding a few pieces at a time and walking away then use the less costly Elmers exterior wood glue or brands like that available in your area. There are so many brands, and types it is important to find what is available to you and make sure it is exterior.

Paint Tips. Before you start painting, just a couple quick notes. The difference between Cedar and Pressure Treated lumber. Cedar soaks up paint more than treated. If you want a more washed out or weathered look due to paint not soaking in much, seal your cedar before painting with a clear sealer (see sealing tips below). That will keep the paint from soaking in making it easier to do a wash technique as used to make a weathered look.

Paint. Shown here is what we use. Exterior grade latex. A couple brands shown but available at local building supply places. You can go to hobby shops, but will end up paying much more. We buy a few basic colors. White, Black, and of course the primary colors, Red, Yellow & Blue. From this we can mix almost any color we want. We also have a few variations to the basics like a different shade of the primary colors and a dark brown and a light color like tan or beige. Again find what is available in your area. Mix them in a small container and make sure not to get your base colors mixed up. Extra can be kept if you have small resealable containers. Think outside the box and you will find what you need!

Brushes you see laid out are a combo of artist brushes. You don't need to buy high buck ones from an artist supply, we get them from discount stores. Get a variety of sizes and make sure to have some with fine soft bristle and stiff for different effects. Trim wild hairs as needed to keep them from getting paint in unwanted areas with a scissors. If you use latex (water based paint ) you will clean with water. Then you can reshape brushes by smoothing them into shape with your fingers or wrap them in plastic wrap in the shape you want until they dry. Just like you would with a full size brush for painting your house.

Main body of a Bubbas' Gas Station was painted with an off white color. White with a little brown added to take the starkness out of the white we have. The red was colonial red ( a off red primary we found ) looked well. In this case we left the window dividers same as the body color for contrast. You can get as detailed as you want with paint. One suggestion, paint the main body and cover the edges of the trim well then just paint the front most showing edges of the trim ( corner boards, window trim, etc. ) or paint the edges to the siding, your choice.

The back roof section was painted a dark brown, and the front pump island roof black.

Trim of the pump island painted red as well as the base of the posts. More of this particular kit can be seen at its tip page /tips/bgs/bgstips.html.

Signs. Since cutting wood is our specialty, our signs are done with real wood. Thin veneer like pieces of wood we run through one of our inkjet printers. I cut about 3 x 5 pieces about .015 ( 15 thousandths of an inch thick ) and print on them just like card stock. If I want a background other than the natural wood color, I paint it with exterior latex paint. When dry I print on it. Just make sure to use UV resistant ink. Seal signs just like the whole building. This might not be recommended, but if my printer says it will handle card stock, then I consider it to handle this. I do have to on our Lexmark Z32 put my finger on top of the slab of wood and give it a slight push to start the feed process because of the the stiffness of the wood. The grain is oriented side to side. This works well for us, but We won't be responsible for problems you experience because of this. This method was something we discovered while thinking out of the box! We use it, but if it damages your equipment we aren't responsible.

For this kit we wanted a round sign with a rim around it. Here we soaked a piece of cedar 1x12 in hot water for 15 minutes. Then it was pliable enough to wrap and clamp around a 1 pint paint can that happened to be smaller than the finished sign we wanted to make. Left it until it looked dry, in our case overnight.

The slab was painted before we ran it through the printer. Test printings was done on plain paper to get the font and size right. Then the slab was cut into a circle. We did two as this was a double sided sign. Then they were glued to a piece of wood about 1/4" thick. The bent rim glued on the outside and a base of sorts sawn out of 1/4" thick cedar. Typical of old round signs it looked. A four sided base made of the same material. The sign top got a 1/8" hole drilled up into it and a piece of 1/8" OD brass tube with the top end soldered shut was pushed in place. The tube goes over half way into the sign. The base was drilled 1/16" and a piece of 1/16" wire was pushed in and the top ground to a point so it would pivot easily on the solder blob at the top of the tube. The length adjusted so the top part of the sign could pivot easily.

Here the finish sign. Because of the rim, it should pivot in the wind and add a nice touch to this great kit.

When finishing any structure, look for appropriate items.

The pumps are 1/25 scale from Gearbox Collectible. Great detail.

Sealing. All wood kits should be sealed inside and out. Below is how we do it. You might have a better way, but this is works for us. We have been using Thompson's clear wood sealer. It is readily available in our area and doesn't cost much. A gallon will do a lot of buildings. This sealer we recommend being redone every year. There are many brands available so pick what works well in your area for real wood exterior applications. Experiment with sealing cedar on scraps before painting to get different weathering effects.

We like to place the structure over in this case a low cost roller pan.

We start by pouring some sealer right out of the can.

You can see here it has pooled up inside in the truss area of this building. Slosh it around so it gets into all nooks and crannies.

Then I use a plastic cup ( Graduations party beer cup ) to scoop up sealer to pour over other parts of the building.

Turn the building every direction possible and pour it on.

Again same thing.

Make sure to get all underneath areas covered.

Here you can see we filled up the bottom side of the framing to make sure it gets into every crevice.

On the top sides also. Pour it on!

Make sure to get it into all areas.

Building shown draining. After it is done ( a couple of hours ) dripping off the worst, we pour the leftovers back into the can for future use. Then the building is placed on several layers of newspaper for a few days. Make sure to do all this sealing with common sense on a bench that the sealer won't harm. Then wipe excess off with a soft cloth.

A shot of the building sitting in an old photo developing tray (a previous hobby). It is larger than the paint tray. Trays can be made of many things. As simple as a shallow cardboard box lined with polyethylene plastic. It might not last for long, but probably long enough for a few hours then throw it away. Always make sure to follow manufacturers recommendations for use and disposal.

Building can be glued to a scrap of pressure treated board (not supplied) for burial in the ground or any substantial material. We recommend buildings be taken in over the winter months, after you might want to make changes anyway!


Good Luck and Happy Railroading!


Let us know if you have any suggestions or inputs for this tips page!


Mark & Sue Smith
Smith Pond Junctions Railroad Products

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