Scratchbuilding a car in styrene

Andy Carlson

Lumber used for freight car sides is milled from logs which have many concentric rings, with inter-spaced softer wood between these rings.

Mill workers will call the rings "Summer wood", wood which grows very slowly, at least in the West. The wood between these summer wood rings is often called "Spring Wood", and as the name implies, grows during the periods of fast growth for the trees.

Since this wood is totally cylindrical, cut slabs of lumber will have very different ring compositions. What is called "Flat grain" are lumber slabs which have layers running of many parallel summer wood planes. At the surface of these pieces of lumber, the surface of the wood is high in spring wood with the the rings exposed from the cut often in oval and circular appearances. This lumber is of lower value, as the opposite boards called "vertical grain" are more desireable. Vertical grain lumber is milled about 90 degrees from the spot of the log which gave us the flat grain pieces. Flat grain boards are the boards which we usually see as very silvery gray on car sides as much of the paint has dissapeared. The softer spring wood will react more to moisture than the summer wood. This is seen often in aged single sheathed cars where the missing paint seems random but close inspection will reveal the different wood surfaces I mention.

In the 1970s I worked on a Victorian house in Eureka, CA for the state. Before the attic area was insulated, I asked the Cal Trans project engineer what to do with all of the rough sawn one-by boards used for attic flooring. He said remove it and trash it. I was given permission to keep it for myself. Every piece was flat grain, much cheaper in the time where quality wood work was a craft, and probably a mill worker was given the planks for cheap, or free.

As I have posted before to this list, I have noted that pictures of even well weathered car sides of single sheathed cars were problematic in counting the number of horizontal rows of boards to determine board width for scale drawings. I often had to jump from panel to panel to maintain an accurate count. Contrast this with how easy it is to count the boards on almost all resin single sheathed cars. I have often thought that the best modeled single sheathed car would actually be smooth sides, and all of the markings of the boards would be from paint, or decals printed from actual photos.

Years ago, a builder of a resin kit purchased from me complemented me on the quality of the car's kit, but was critical of how the single sheathed car looked to be of steel inner sheathing replacement. He had used generous amounts of Floquil paint, and my very subtle board separations was lost with the thick paint. I prefer auto lacquers and AccuPaint, which does much less hiding of details.

Happy modeling, everyone,
-Andy Carlson
Ojai CA

On Sunday, March 3, 2019, 8:01:19 PM PST, Dennis Storzek <destorzek@...> wrote:

I've always been a proponent of some wire brush or scratch brush work on some of the boards, although others do not agree. I have toned it down over the years, however. I have heard the argument that the sheathing was never that weather beaten in service, and I agree. However, it was very common for flat sawn boards to lose paint in a characteristic pattern caused by the band's of hard grain, an effect we cannot duplicate. I feel the overly deep graining yields a shadow effect that comes close. One nice thing about doing the side with separate strip is the effect is visible while the strip are still loose, so they can be rearranged or even some replaced before they are finally cemented in.

Dennis Storzek

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