Thursday, January 1, 2015


Creating things with my own two hands is one of my favorite parts of model railroading. Not only is it fulfilling, it can be the only viable way to model certain items. Plus, it is often cheaper than buying a kit or ready to use item. Win-win-win.

In order to create, your own two hands work better when augmented with the proper tools. I learned about one of these tools recently, when I stumbled across this thread discussing the use of what is called a Silhouette Camea craft cutter in the making of components of models. There is some fantastic work illustrated on that page. It inspired me enough to want one of these machines.

Fast forward to the day after Christmas, when Mrs. L4T thought it a good idea to check for Christmas merchandise markdowns at the local Hobby Lobby. Turns out one of the great deals was a Cameo for $160, which is the cheapest I found it anywhere. Result: an impulse purchase. Yours truly became the owner of one of these machines.

The immediate question became what to try making with it. I've always admired the spindly towers that are often found in industrial settings, supporting things like pipe racks, conveyors, or other machinery transporting material to and fro around the plant. I know Walthers has marketed an etched brass version of these towers (I think I even have a kit around here somewhere) but this seemed a good candidate for testing the capability of the Cameo. I fired up the included software and quickly drew what I thought such a tower should look like for the machine to cut the parts.

I posted a photo of my first attempt on Facebook, reposted below.

It was pretty crude, but a worthy first try I thought. Before I forget, I thought I would also share an "under the hood" photo of the device as well.

Anyway, today I decided to try and improve on my first try. I cut a finer set of sides, an example of which is shown below. This is cut from .010" styrene sheet. Note that there is a fair amount of work with the xacto knife to free the "hanging chads" from the triangular spaces in the part. And yes, that is a dime in the photo to illustrate scale. Those cross pieces are really, really fine.

The resulting framework is extremely lacy and airy. It is quite amazing the level of precision this simple machine can acheive. I am sure that as I learn to operate it the results will only get better.

With four of these sides cut out, I rummaged around in my styrene box and found some angle. For this attempt, I glued the framework sides to the inside of the angles with MEK. The resulting structure is surprisingly robust yet still retains the fragile look that I am going for.

So far I am quite happy with the machine. I am sure it will be useful for producing a wide range of model railroad related items, limited only by my imagination. Visions of steam and pulp lines criss-crossing my paper mill are already dancing in my head. I can also see that it will be useful for producing a custom-designed conveyor support when I expand the storage capacity of my grain elevator and need to provide access to both sides of the tracks.

Wish me luck as I experiment with the Cameo. I will need it.

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