Material vs. Virtual

To the great delight to the app. 2 readers of this blog, here comes the firs update of 2015. Fortunately, there is much more going on in the workshop than this blog reflects.

My modelling interest follow two main tangents, one is the Thamshavn railway in 0m and the other is NSB (Norwegian State Railway) in H0 scale at the local model railroad club.Lately, I am spending more and more time on the TB models. Thats just the way it is, and the reasons are proably not that interesting.

Just before christmas I received the etches for a chassis for a mineal wagon. A long time ago I ordered a batch of custom made wheels for these cars, so In time for the holiday season with the possibility of all nighters in the workshop I had a decent kit for this wagon. It might be a complicated kit with poor instructions, but it is very far from scratchbuilding. I think the difference between building a home made kit and scratchbuilding is quite big.

Underframe for mineral wagon. Etches by PPD ltd, custom made wheels by Erik Olsen

After spending countless evenings making the artwork for the etches is was nice to switch from the keyboard to the soldering iron. Suddenly all the theory is transfered into metallic reality. As on almost all etchings there are some errors, but on th whole the design have proven solid. It is extremly satisfying to erect a working chassis in a couple of evenings.

Underframe for Om wagon

I dont enjoy working on the computer that much, and the virtual models are totally uninteresting in themselves. It is only their potential for manifestating themselves in the material world that makes them interesting to me. I also like that even if the CAD drawings are essential for the etchings, there are very few traces of this digital heritage in the actual model. My modelling skills are sort of an analogue converter that adds quite a bit of “noise” to the finished result.

I dont want my models to be perfect. I want them to look like like they have been made by a craftsman (albeit maybe not a very good one).

But make no mistake, digital production techniques are essential to my modelling. I have already mentioned CAD artwork for etchings. 3D printing is another technique that are at the core of my models. But after a lot of testing I have focused much more on printing individual parts, and not entire models or even subassemblies. I also like to use the prints as masters for casting. Introducing extra stages in production and manually preparing and assemling castings removes the traces of the digital process. And I think it is interesting to use 21th century wax printing technology to make master for lost wax casting, a technique that is over 5000 years old.

Brass casting made from Solidcape wax masters.

Yes, you loose some prescision compared to printing resin parts directly, but in a way, thats the point. The prototypes for my rolling stock were built pre WWII when computers were still only a glimpse in Alan Turings eye. A high-tech feel to the models would not sit right with me.

In the same spirit, I want my models to reflect the materials of the prototype. Nickel-silver and brass to represent steel and cast iron. wood for wood when possible.

Wood & Metal: Test piece for wooden wagon body

As much as I admire the skills of plastic modellers, I still can not shake the feeling that even the best plastic model is 3D painting. Beauty is only skin deep. If the paint is chipped or scratched, the illusion is shattered.

My hope is that my models will not be ruined by a little wear and tear. Maybe you cold call it meta-weathering? Quasi-philosophy, I know. But what would a blog be without it?

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