Sunday, August 30, 2015

Scenery Test Module, Part 4

A few years ago there was a hot topic on the Yahoo Proto-Layouts group about something called a Pot Topper. Someone had found in the aisles containing stuff to make potted fake floral arrangements at a Michaels craft store a curious disk of static grass. It was supposed to look like a mossy planting top, hence "Pot Topper", but to us modelers it looked like something that could be cut up to look like weedy or grassy patches.

Intrigued by the online conversation, I went to a Michaels and found one for probably 5 or 6 bucks. It looked promising but I had no reason to use it at the time so it sat on my shelf until now. At some point in time Michaels stopped stocking them in my area but I wonder what they thought of the sudden uptick in pot topper sales that month, or maybe they were happy to finally get rid of them.

With pot toppers gone, another cheap alternative to store bought static grass patches is with a static grass applicator. You can make your own with a baking pan and some spots of glue.

Pot Topper chunk

Anyways years later my pot topper finally meets it's destiny on my scenery test module.

The Pot Topper is a disk of white fluffy poly fiber stuffing material coated in a brown dirt/sawdust material with the bright green static grass applied on top. Using scissors I cut off the bottom then trimmed as much of the stuffing off the bottom of the grassy side as possible. I then cut it up into several organic looking shapes and placed a few pieces in the low area in the module front and a couple on the hill tops in the back.

Trimming a Pot Topper piece
Pot Topper placement

I thought about using white glue or matte medium to attach the pot topper pieces, but they were to springy and would need to be weighted down. Also I really wanted to keep moving on this part of the project so out came the glue gun. This ended up being a great decision and really helped over come the springiness of the pot topper and sped things along.

After using the glue gun on the pot toppers and especially on gluing the chunks of foam together, I learned my cheap little model is barely adequate. A few squeezes of the trigger and the heating element can hardly keep up with the demand. It's come in handy a couple times so far, but when I get into major layout construction a bigger model will be a good upgrade.

Years ago I bought probably the cheapest glue gun I could find. Sometimes it's a good idea to spend a little more to get something better.

With the pot topper pieces glued in place it was time to move on to using coarser ground foams on the rest of the scene.

Woodland Scenics Coarse Turf foam selection

I collected a variety of Woodland Scenics ground foams for this project. For the most part I found it better to dump them out into sandwich bags for easier handling.

These were the ground foams I used.
  • Earth Coarse Turf
  • Burnt Grass Coarse Turf
  • Light Green Coarse Turf
  • Medium Green Coarse Turf
  • Dark Green Coarse Turf
  • Medium Green Underbrush
  • Olive Green Bushes
  • Light Green Bushes
  • Medium Green Foliage Net

I tried to keep changing foam colors and not let one dominate an area too much. I piled coarse foams along the pot topper edges to help blend them into the scenery better using colors that matched. Along the edge of the ballast I used the earth and burnt grass for the look of dead or dying grass.

When I was happy with the look for the area I was working on, I fixed the ground foam cover in place. I used the same alcohol mist for wetting and the 4:1 diluted white glue for the ground foams as I did for the ballast. I used a lot of my glue mixture doing the ballast, so during this phase of scenery I started pouring it into a yellow lid top to make it easier to fill my eyedropper. Also while things were still wet I sprinkled a little bit of Noch leaves on the pot topper pieces.

I noticed any wet water spray or glue floods that happened along the ballast softened the glue binding the sand/aquarium gravel to the point that it could be disturbed if touched. A few times I had to pat the ballast back to shape but once dry again it turned rock hard.

Front of module finished and glue soaked
With the front of the module done I continued on to the backside.

Here on the tops of the hills I wanted to thicken things a bit by using Woodland Scenics Bushes and Underbrush foams. I knew that these would be difficult to get to stay in place so I coated the area with brushed on matte medium. Again I tried to blend in the edges of the pot toppers and vary the colors used while also including the small coarse foams like the module front.

Work begins on the back track side hills.
Applying underbrush foam to the brow of an undercut.

Getting the bushy undergrowth foam to stick the top brow of the eroded hillsides was probably the most trouble I ran across during this phase of scenery. Letting the Modge Podge set for a bit before applying the underbrush helped. I thought about cheating and tilting the whole module so that spot was horizontal, but I knew I might not have those options when working on the future layout. That's what this project is for, learning how to solve issues and learn from any mistakes.

One thing I learned from this part of the project was to use full strength white glue on the bushy stuff. The matte medium did its job eventually but the white glue was thicker and would probably do better to hold scenery materials on a steep hillside right from the start.
Back of module finished and glue soaked.

Once I was done with the ground foams and I looked the module over I realized I still wasn't happy with the bare earth patches on the hillsides. So I redid them by misting the area first with wet water and then tapping a spoon of more dirt on those areas adding some dirt piles to the bottom of the patches. I then misted again with the wet water and flowed diluted glue on the dirt spots.

Afterward they seemed to stand out more and I think it looked a lot better.

While I had the mesh screen out to sift dirt for the hillside, I decided to tackle the road right afterwards. I wanted the look of a gravel road, but I hadn't really done any research on how to do one.
Luckily I had an idea before I even thought to walk over to the computer. I think it worked out pretty well.

Fresh dirt along the back hill and wet cement that will hopefully look like a gravel road.

Using Quikcrete Hydraulic Cement in a yellow bucket I had on hand, I sifted it through a fine mesh over the road area. Then I gently misted water from high over top until the whole road was wet.

At this point I let the module sit overnight for everything to dry.

Glues and cement are dry. I couldn't help but to add some hoppers to set the scene.
By morning all the glue was pretty much dried and the road looked better than I thought for a spur of the moment idea.The road is not rock solid like concrete and is a bit dusty but it seems to be holding up well. We'll see what happens over time with it.

Major scenery work complete.

Putting down the coarse ground foams and bushes over the whole module and adding the gravel road took about 2 1/2 hours. The time went by really fast and I really enjoyed myself while doing it. I now feel that any fear I had of doing scenery is mostly gone and replaced with a want to do more.

Next up, trying out real static grass.

Quick links to the rest of this Series

Scenery Test Module Part 5
Scenery Test Module Part 5a

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Scenery Test Module, Part 3

Anytime I look at a completed scene on someone's layout one of the first things I wonder is, what did they use for ballast? Modelers have so many options to recreate the rock or cinders that real railroads use, it's a question that will always have different answers.

For my yard scene I wanted to get the look of track which sat on a bed of cinders and decades of spilt coal from passing hoppers. An example of this is a photo of the Jensie Mine on the New York Central's Southern Ohio LEA&W Branch. The photo is found in a link near the bottom of a great story of a mine run by Penn Central/Conrail/Norfolk Southern engineer Chip Syme. At that mine's yard the coal comes practically to the top of the rail in most areas. While somewhat extreme it shows what I had in mind.

I had on hand several potential candidates of material collected over the past few years for my cinder/coal ballast.

My cinder ballast options.
  • Este's Black Art Sand from the local craft store Pat Catans.
  • Scenic Express Dark Grey Ballast.
  • Woodland Scenics Fine and Medium Cinder Ballast.
  • Decorative Black Sand from Dollar Tree.
  • Aqua Terra Black Aquarium Sand from Pet Supplies Plus.

Este's Black Art Sand

The Black Art Sand from Pat Catan's Craft stores had a nice fine texture and a two pound bag was only a $1.97!  Others have used black art sand for a yard cinder ballast like Tony Koester's large Frankfort yard on his large Nickel Plate Road St. Louis Division layout. It looks pretty good on video and in magazines.

Scenic Express's #50 Dark Grey Ballast

While at the 2014 NMRA Cleveland Convention I picked up a bottle of Scenic Express's Dark Grey Ballast. Being a natural rock material ground to a fine texture and the right color it seemed like a sure thing to use for my yard. However when I threw a small high powered magnet in the bottle it came out looking like a science experiment with iron particles. This is bad for model locomotives with magnetic motors. A good soaking in diluted glue would hopefully seal the ballast and prevent rogue particles from harming engines.

Woodland Scenic's Medium Cinder Ballast

The Woodland Scenic's ballasts are made from ground walnut shells so there's no magnetic danger here. I've used these before on a different project long ago and can't say I'm a big fan. For me they have a tendency to float around when applying wet water or diluted glue. The final result wasn't what I had hoped for at the time. However I've seen some very good looking use of WS ballast when various types are blended together. This is the medium cinder ballast, I did try the fine type and it looked a little better.

Dollar Tree Decorative Accents Black Sand.
I give credit to Ted Dilorio and his Ma & Pa RR 1943 Blog for this craft sand material. After reading about his use of the Dollar Tree black sand on his blog I also started using it for coal loads, coating the plastic load inserts from Accurail and other manufacturers that come with hopper cars. The black sand seems to have just enough sparkle and color shifting to look like chunky fist sized coal. I don't intend use this sand as ballast but instead as "spills" around the tracks.

Aqua Terra Black Sand
While buying cat food one day at my local Pet Supplies Plus I noticed a bag of Aqua Terra Black Sand on their clearance table near the registers. I'd read about the possibility of using aquarium substrate as ballast and with the 5 pound bag marked down to a dollar due to a hole, how could I go wrong? Right away I felt this material gave me the coal yard look I wanted. It has a nice mix of fine and larger material, it wasn't magnetic and my only concern was easily finding more. Plus it might also look good as coal load material for hoppers or steam tenders.

A better view of the Aqua Terra black sand.
To achieve what I wanted, I thought the Este's sand or the Aqua Terra sand or a blend of both were my best bets.  For a quick second opinion I called my wife down to take a look and see which she thought looked realistic. Having been constantly shown photos of other people's fantastic scenery from the Yahoo Proto-Layouts Group, like Jason Klocke's Chicago Great Western, she has an idea of what I'm trying to achieve.

It was a tough choice but we both agreed a blend of both would be worth a try.

I did a 50/50 mix of both sand types and quickly got into "the zone" again doing the whole area in one shot while forgetting to take photos until I was done...

I can at least describe some of what I did.

Working in about 8" x 8" areas, using a spoon I applied the ballast down the middle and sides of the tracks, then spreading and shaping the ballast with a cheap 1" foam brush. It took some practice but soon I was quickly laying down my mix. Keeping the sandy bits off the ties was much harder than I imagined, luckily I'm doing a yard where I want a little of that but when it comes to doing mainline track that should look better maintained I'll need to figure something out.

By now I was just using straight Isopropyl Alcohol and a couple drops of dish soap as my "Wet Water". Starting at the back track of the module, I misted two tracks at a time with the alcohol until the ballast was pretty wet. Then doing one whole track at a time from end to end, I spread a 4:1 mix of water to Elmer's Glue(and a drop of dish soap to be safe) with an eyedropper. I flowed the glue along each side of the tie ends and down the middle between the rails. Capillarity action pulled the glue through out the ballast ensuring full coverage.

Only a couple times did I get heavy handed with the eye dropper and make some craters or small washed out areas. This was easy to fix by sprinkling some more ballast mix in the affected area and rewetting.

One thing to note, it wasn't long before I was rushing to open some basement windows due to using the alcohol wetting agent. If you can't get good ventilation in your layout area, just use water with the dish soap to wet scenery materials.

I let it dry over night and by morning everything was rock hard, barely any ballast fell off when I tipped the module up to check for loose material.

Ballasting finished and yep those hoppers need some weathering.

With that part done I still need to clean off some of the sandy ballast that migrated up the sides of the rail, but since its supposed to be a coal yard cleaing off the tie tops isn't that big a deal.

After my first real big experience ballasting yard track, I think I can say it went pretty good. I'm really happy with how it turned out. I don't know how much other people do, but it seems like a 36" x 12" stretch of yard is enough to ballast in one sitting.

Next bushes, grass and ground foam.

Quick links to the rest of this Series

Scenery Test Module Part 4
Scenery Test Module Part 5
Scenery Test Module Part 5a

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Scenery Test Module, Part 2

After I set the module out in the sun to completely dry out the Sculptamold, I decided to continue my work outside. Since I wasn't happy with how the tinted Sculptamold ended up a light brown, I used the same raw umber acrylic craft paint at full strength to paint the ground.

Too dark?

Of course now it seemed way too dark. While in the end the ground color worked out fine, however in the future I think I'll use something a little lighter than raw umber. Working outside the paint dried pretty fast so I was able to keep working and moved on to the next step, adding some green.

I really got into "the zone" laying down some real dirt and a coating of turf ground foam and forgot to take photos, but the process was pretty simple.

I wanted to have some areas of bare earth showing through the grass and brush on the hill side through erosion or some of the hill being scooped away like in the blog's title photo above. I brushed full strength Modge Podge matt medium on spots on the hillside and along the edges of what will become a gravel road. Using a light colored fine dirt collected from a road construction site near my house, I sprinkled it on the glue. Then using an old housecleaner bottle I misted some "wet water" on to the dirt to saturate it and the glue beneath. 

The "wet water" is misted or applied with a pipette to a dry loose material that you want to remain undisturbed when you then soak it with a diluted glue or matt medium. Pre-wetting helps pull the glue through the area you want secured, and the dish soap breaks the surface tension preventing material movement such as small craters forming from fat droplets out of a pipette or misting bottle.

My wet water formula at the start of the project was 3 parts isopropyl alcohol to 1 part water with a drop of dish soap. Just to see how different mixtures would soak, I changed my wet water formula by adding more or less water until by the end I was using straight isopropyl alcohol and the drop of dish soap. I really didn't notice too much of a difference aside from the purer alcohol mixes dried faster and required a couple of open windows when working indoors.

Using a small misting bottle I wanted to try misting matt medium diluted with water on to the dirt. This worked pretty well until the nozzle finally clogged at the end of the work session fixing the ground turf in place. After ruining the nozzle I used a large eyedropper to apply any future glue mixtures.

To give the module a base coat of ground cover I used Woodland Scenics Fine Turf in three colors
  • Earth
  • Burnt Grass
  • Green Grass

I first misted the areas to receive the fine turf with the diluted matt medium. The Earth Fine Turf was sprinkled over much of the module except the areas of real dirt, the future gravel road and the rubber track road bed. Along the sides of the rubber sheet where the yard would be I dusted some Burnt Grass Fine Turf and then randomly around the module. Finally I added the Green Grass Fine Turf more moderately around the module then some more Burnt Grass was spotted over top to add some variance. After I was happy I misted the whole thing with the wet water then more diluted matt medium to fix it all in place.

Ground foam turf and dirt done. 

I thought I was happy with my work, but taking a step back I wasn't so sure. The real dirt patches didn't look how I'd pictured but the dirt along the road looked good. After a moment I realized the module was far from being done and hopefully the coarser ground foams, bushes and grass would tie everything together.

I need a layout to put all this stuff on while I work on scenery.

Also I found out making scenery also seems to make a huge mess as supplies sprout up around you as you work. I'm not sure where all this stuff came from but as the project moved back to the basement it would only get worse.

The threat of thunderstorms that later that day quickly moved things back to the basement where I started laying the flex track for the yard.

I plan on using Micro Engineering code 70 flex track for my layout and like other people I've found it to be tricky to work with and curve compared to other brands of flex track. The detail of the ME track is worth putting up with any difficulties. The planned yard has no curves but I still had to get the stiff and slightly wavy ME track in line. To loosen up the track and to help it look like lesser maintained yard tracks I cut out every 6th or 7th tie by slicing the webs of the plastic ties with a X-acto chisel blade and popping the ties out. I then went back over the webs and cut almost 75% of them to allow the ties to be spread out to fill the gaps from the missing ties. After readjusting the spacing on all the ties for each of the five pieces of flex track, I made them as straight as possible using two 48" measuring sticks. I gently slapped and squeezed the sides of the flex track between the rulers making the flex track very straight.

I like the look of the spread out ties compared to out of the box "mainline" track. It was a lot of work however. I later looked though my photos of Adena and Pine Valley yards to find there wasn't much difference in tie spacing compared to the mainline. In the future maybe I'll do it for just for industrial and mine sidings.

After all that work I added some Details West code 70 Joint Bars that I had been eager to try out. These are molded in styrene plastic, come 36 to a package and represent 6 bolt joint bars. To make them look like the 4 bolt joint bars used on the my prototype track, I chopped off the last 2 bolts with a Xuron sprue cutter. I then applied them with a tweezers and dab of CA glue (super glue) every 39 HO scale feet, the length of the prototype sections of rail. Unfortunately I only had enough to do the first track at the front of the module on both visible sides of the rail, the other four tracks only got joint bars on the front rail.

I sometimes found the ME track spike detail would prevent a joint bar from setting flush inside the rail web. A little extra pressure would pop the joint bar over the spike nub  I didn't realize this at first and discovered it when testing a metal wheeled hopper over the track to see if the joint bars on the inside of the flex track would interfere with flanges on the wheels. The occasional bump uncovered this issue and show how important it is to test track work of any kind as you work.

Somehow I didn't have one joint bar escape my tweezers and jump into another dimension.

Once the joint bars were applied the track was ready to paint. I masked off the scenic areas with painters tape and newspaper. For painting the track I went with the popular Rust-o-leum Camouflage Brown spray can paint. One coat of this paint from all four sides covered everything just great. Right when I was done painting I grabbed a small piece of scrap plywood and wiped it across the rail tops. Unfortunately when wiping off the paint some of it was still gummy and would get balled up then coat a few joint bars with a thick brown goo. Maybe next time letting the paint dry longer or perhaps getting it off quicker?

Not too bad so far but the joint bars are hard to spot.

I'm not sure if it's worth adding joint bar detail to track. It's real easy to not see at all, but then again once you do notice it does seem pretty cool.  Doing several hundred feet of track would be insane, but doing only signature scenes or eye level track might be alright.  Maybe when I highlight the rail sides with some rust powders they will pop and change my mind about them.

There are also laser cut joint bars available from Precision Design Co. that look really good and are more economical than the Details West joint bars I used. I look forward to ordering some of this new product to try out.

Next I wanted to give the ties a weathered look since ties in yard tracks weren't replaced as frequently as other ties like mainline tracks. I mixed up a light grey wash using a 10:1 ratio of isopropyl alcohol to black and white acrylic craft paint. I covered the ties with one coat and went back to dab more wash on some random single ties to highlight a few as even older weather worn ties.

Greying the brown out, also something that's starting to happen to my hair...

All weathered and ready for ballast.

Next up ballast.

Quick links to the rest of this Series

Scenery Test Module Part 3
Scenery Test Module Part 4
Scenery Test Module Part 5
Scenery Test Module Part 5a

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Scenery Test Module, Part 1

A while back I had this crazy dream where my Adena layout was in full swing and I had started to lay down some scenery. Apparently my efforts were terrible because I can recall heading up from the basement being full of despair and explaining to my wife I wasn't any good at this scenery thing.

While it was all just a dream, it goes to show how scary and intimidating the idea of applying scenery can be to some people.  I know I'm not alone as a few members of the Proto-Layouts Yahoo Group have spoken about their fear of scenery in the past. However these same people and others who have never built a layout before went on to create beautiful realistic landscapes.

If they can do it, then so can I.

I don't have a layout to scenic yet, but I've wanted to make a small module for model photography and to display models on at future Railroad Protoype Modeler (RPM) events I hope to attend.  This would also be a perfect way to to test scenery techniques I've read about. It's also a great way to make the inevitable mistakes and apply the lessons learned when it comes time to build the real thing.

For some people the scenery techniques I used to make this photography module won't be groundbreaking, but for everybody else here's how someone with hardly any experience used what he learned in magazines, Youtube and online forums.  If you're nervous at all about doing scenery I hope a scenery newbie can show how easy it can be over the next few posts.

I chose lightweight pink insulating foam as it would be easy to carry around and I've been curious about working with it as a base for track work and scenery, much like Bill Darnaby's Maumee Route layout. The plan is to build a 5 track yard much like the yards found at Adena or Pine Valley where the track sat on a bed of cinders and decades of spilt coal from passing hoppers.

1 1/2" Pink Insulating Foam for the base, cut to 36" long the same as a piece of flex track.

I also wanted to try out a 1/8" thick black rubber sheet material as a roadbed for the track. This stuff was used to prevent loads from sliding on the floor during transit in the semi-trailers we would receive at work. I collected quite a lot before the deliveries stopped thinking it could be used under large areas of track like yards or even roadbed for single track.

The floors of semi-trailers are pretty dirty so I had to wash the rubber sheet and let it hang dry over night.

Widely recommended on forums and in magazines, a small squeeze tube of DAP clear adhesive caulk was purchased to glue the rubber sheet that I cut to fit 5 tracks on 2" centers, and later on the pieces of flex track. To make sure it glued flat as possible I "borrowed" a rolling pin which I wisely protected with saran wrap as some of the caulk oozed up between some holes in the rubber. I piled some books on it and let it sit overnight.

I bought a small bottle for testing the much hyped DAP Kitchen & Bath Adhesive Caulk.

Spread it out thin to avoid glue bumps when using a thin sheet material for roadbed.

Flattening the rubber sheet with the kitchen rolling pin, I suppose I should go get my own.

Getting more value out of all those college books I couldn't return.

The next day the rubber was perfectly glued to the foam, all the magazines and online forums were right about this adhesive caulk stuff!

I wanted the land contours to resemble the the hillside behind the Adena yard as seen in my large blog title photo, so I used my hot gun gun to quickly attach a couple lengths of foam to the back of the module and some small pieces in the front. No need to use any fancy foam glues, the hot glue held everything just fine, even during rough handling when carving.

I used a Stanley Surform tool (the yellow handled tool) which works like a cheese grater, I also used a utility knife to terraform the foam sheet. Anything that's sharp will work, I've seen some people use long steak knives, keyhole saws or even electric hot wire cutting tools.

Carving pink foam is a mess!

Carving foam is really messy, lucky I had some help.

Putting Brendan to work.

With the foam module contoured we moved outside to enjoy the sun and limit the potential mess of the next step.

Carving foam can leave a rough surface so smoothing this out makes a more natural looking surface for the next steps of making scenery. A variety of materials can be used to coat the surface including plaster, spackle, something called "Ground Goop" and others I can't remember. But on this project I wanted to try a popular product called Sculptamold.

3 lb bag of Sculptamold + Raw Umber Acrylic Craft Paint
Sculptamold is a cellulose material mixed with a white powdery binder. When mixed with water it turns into something not unlike a bowl of cold oatmeal. I decided to add some acrylic brown (Raw Umber) craft paint to tint the sculptamold a earthen color to avoid painting it later. It turned out not to be as dark as I hoped so I ended painting it later anyways. 

Spreads like wet newspaper?

It spread a little differently than I thought, more like ground up newspaper than the oatmeal it looks like. Once I got used to working with it I quickly covered everything in two batches.

Basic scenery layer completed!

I'd read that Sculptamold has a longer set up time than plaster, allowing you to smooth out any lumps or small peaks. The back of a spoon was mentioned on a website but I just used my fingers about a hour later. My Sculptamold took a really long time to dry, perhaps I used too much water or the acrylic paint retarded the drying process. Even 12+ hours later the next day I had a few wet spots, so I set the module out in the sun for a hour or two.

So far so good, it's almost like I know what I'm doing. Next up the start of some greenery, track work and ballast.

Quick links to the rest of this Series

Scenery Test Module Part 2
Scenery Test Module Part 3
Scenery Test Module Part 4
Scenery Test Module Part 5
Scenery Test Module Part 5a

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Not So Wordless Wednesday #37

Wordless Wednesday's are supposed to only be just a photo but I like to include a short description to save interested people the trouble of asking.

However today I'm far away from my photo archive and nothing in my cloud storage seems compelling enough to post. However a trip to a museum yesterday involved something with a surprising relation to trains and in a stretch to the Nickel Plate Road. So for today I'll extend the Wordless Wednesday format a bit.

At the fantastic USS Alabama Battleship Park in Mobile, Alabama is of course the WWII BB-60 USS Alabama but it also contains the WWII submarine USS Drum. On our tour of the sub in the engine room my son quickly recognized the maker of the 1600hp diesel engines, Fairbanks-Morse. 

Fairbanks-Morse produced diesel engines for marine use and was a favorite of the US Navy for many years. To railroad historians and modelers Fairbanks-Morse was also a producer of diesel locomotives from the 1940's until the mid 1950's.

The Nickel Plate Road favored their yard diesel model the H-10-44 and H-12-44, rostering a total of 31. These engines were distinctive due having a tall roofline atypical of most switchers, this was a result of the tall and unusual opposed piston design of the engine itself. The NKP FM engines could be found working on the old Wheeling at the Huron docks or Zanesville, but as far as I know none wandered down to the Adena area.

Although the tour did not descend into the lowest deck of the sub where the engines rested, the main deck at the middle top of the engine provided a gap to look down on these huge unique engines.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Construction Report August 16, 2015

While much of the work was completed a couple of weeks ago, I've finally found the time to give an update on the deteriorating wall and new shelves.

Owning a house seems to force you to either throw money at contractors or throw money at Home Depot learning to fix any problems yourself. Repairing the mortar of a few layers of brick seemed like something I could definitely do myself.

After removing all the root remnants and as much rotten mortar as possible, I was left with some pretty deep cavities. There was one where I could almost stick my whole finger in between the bricks.

Doing mortar work for the first time required new tools added to my collection. I already had a couple trowels but to do things right I needed to get a narrow trowel to get mortar in those deep recesses, a striker to get those nice concave mortar lines and something like a giant cake icing squeeze cloth but for concrete.

In all it went really smoothly and I think it turned out great. While I don't think I'll pursue a career in brickwork I enjoyed the process and love looking at a project completed with new skills.

After the mortar cured, the whole wall got a couple coats of a Drylock cement wall paint and then a couple coats of a white Behr basement wall paint. This was the last section of the basement walls to get a fresh coat of paint to help make the space bright and clean looking. The exposed floor was scrubbed clean then painted with Behr's 1 Part Epoxy grey floor paint to match the rest of the basement floor.

Sparkling! Having an inviting environment for your layout helps keep your interest and guests coming back downstairs.
Like the previous wall to the left of the current project, 2x4 studs were screwed to the floor joists in the ceiling and carriage bolts were added at the bottom to tension them to the floor.

Closetmaid shelf tracks were used to bring storage space back to this spot in the basement.

As a bonus the Closetmaid track system can be used to support a part of the layout shelf and since the shelf brackets can be adjusted, it's a great way to test various layout heights before building

That's a module I've been working on to test scenery techniques and use for photography. It's similar to what the Adena or Pine Valley yards will look like so it adds an exciting window into the potential future look of the room. I'll have more on building the scenery module in the next few days.