New Base Board

Discussion of model railway baseboard design and construction
carljohnson1983
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New Base Board

Postby carljohnson1983 » Sat Jul 12, 2014 12:21 pm

Good Afternoon Everyone,

I am about to embark on my first Baseboard construction and new model layout, and I have a few questions. I will be hoping to construct a baseboard size of 8ft by 4ft.

Questions I have are please,

1, Is there a way that I can construct 2 x 4x4 boards and stick them together, ideally I would like the board to be able to be moved/sperated once the track is in place, is there a way to do this so that I can keep the track on the baseboard without demoing it before moving it?
2, Plywood seems to be the choice here I have noticed, but what thickness? I was thinking of a 9mm thickness, but anything thinner then the track pins would go thoruhg the overside???
3, What wood sizing would be for for the frame? i was thinking 2"x1"??

Many thanks, I wouldn't be surpassed if I had more questions but these are the first ones,

Regards,
Carl

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Bufferstop
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Re: New Base Board

Postby Bufferstop » Sat Jul 12, 2014 1:11 pm

Hi Carl
Welcome to NRM, you've obviously been doing some research, 4 foot square boards are just about manageable, preferably with someone to help carry them and as long as you don't want to put them in the loft. Bear in mind that if you have to carry it alone 4 x 4 is difficult to carry through doorways and just won't go in a car. so you may be better off with four 4 x 2 boards laid two in the centre long edges together one on each end long edge to two short edges. Joining the boards is fairly easy using coachbolts washers and nuts, aligning them with cabinet makers dowels, at least two per join. For structural strength 6mm ply is ok, the pins wont come right through if you lay the track on cork sheet or even thick card well stuck down. If you are doubtful about 6mm have a look online at how glider and light aircraft wings are built, they go down to 4mm in places. If you intend to use loose ballast glued down the pins are only really needed to hold points in place the ballast and glue will hold the track in place. Where track crosses board joints it's usual to solder the rails to brass pins either side or a strip of copperclad board with insulation gaps in the surface, then cut through the rails with a fine hacksaw blade or a slitting disk in a Dremel tool or one of its imitators. 2" x 1" battens are a bit of an old favourite, but if you are having 6mm ply cut up strips of ply 80-100mm deep stood on edge make very strong bearers where the joins are reinforced with small softwood blocks every 200mm or so. Some modellers will use 2 strips of 4mm about 150mm deep glued to and separated by 20mm square strips every 100mm or so. It makes an extremely strong girder. Strong enough for some clubs to ues as crush barriers at exhibitions. Ian Morton's book "Baseboards for Model Railways" published by Ian Allan in the Aspects of Modelling series is a good guide and reference.
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Emettman
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Re: New Base Board

Postby Emettman » Sat Jul 12, 2014 3:26 pm

Hello and welcome, Carl

I'm not going to disagree with anything Bufferstop has said, as good ideas.
2" x 1" framing, while formerly pretty standard, is not used much on modern baseboards, except for something unusual.
It often turns out either unnecessarily heavy in some cases, or not rigid enough in others.

I tend to be a little unconventional in my baseboard building these days, trying to find something light and rigid for portable layouts.
(also simple, so this isn't necessary a "don't touch if you are a beginner" alert.)

Your questions...
"1, Is there a way that I can construct 2 x 4x4 boards and stick them together, "
Yes, if you are absolutely certain that's what you want to do.
There are better ways of dividing things up to get an 8 x 4 area that is portable. Four 4 x 2 is a much better plan in almost all circumstances, arranged exactly as Bufferstop has it.
"... is there a way to do this so that I can keep the track on the baseboard."
Yes, there are several ways to manage track joins across the baseboards

Now, why 8 x 4, given it's not going to be just one big sheet of plywood that size?
I ask because:
unless you have somewhere that size to put it on, you are going to need access room to be able to get to both long edges, so the overall area used will much larger than 8 x4, and thinking about *that* size, something better might be done with a central operating "hole" which needed little or no outside access.

Simplest, badly drawn, here:

board shift.jpg
board shift.jpg (10.53 KiB) Viewed 2545 times


If the two boards placed longwise are each shifted out a foot, an operating space of 4 x 2 opens up and although there is no more actual baseboard area a quick sketch will show the possibilities for larger curves for an oval track have been considerable increased. The overlap area of a foot at each board is quite enough to run several tracks across.
Just one idea: a lot hangs on what space you have and what sort of trains and train operation you want to run.

"Plywood seems to be the choice here I have noticed, but what thickness? "
Bufferstop's measurements are what I would basically give, but if you already know roughly what the scenery is gong to be on the layout, there is no reason at all to cut the plywood girders to produce a flat surface. Taking the upper surface of the plywood strips to the approximate height and shape of the hills and levels wanted would add considerable rigidity and strength, and ease the scenery building.
The best image I could quickly find to convey this concept this comes from a kit with a set of cardboard formers with half-slits in them, aiming to let you "grow your own chair"
Image

Another approach to a light rigid baseboard is to use a foam/plywood sandwich, but this might be too unconventional for a first-time so I won't describe unless requested. Depending on scale and size, it would be my likely way to go in future, though I have built little layouts up to 4 x2 just on urethane insulation board, with the exposed edges sealed with duct tape. The substantial metal foil on each surface of the board gives it surprising strength. as a "spaced structure."

One real tip: whatever baseboards you are building, build the joints first, not the boards.
Take the timbers which are going to be in contact, clamp them together in alignment and drill through the pair together, to give perfectly matched holes which can take brass locating pins and sockets. This is far, far easier, and more precise, than trying to arrange the joints with pre-assembled boards.

Chris.
"It's his madness that keeps him sane."

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Bufferstop
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Re: New Base Board

Postby Bufferstop » Sat Jul 12, 2014 5:41 pm

I agree there on the joints Chris. When I was making the boards for my current layout I had some offcuts of 9mm ply which were just right to make the matching ends, so that's what I used. I paired them up, drilled through the pairs for the coach bolts, clamped them up with the bolts, then drilled through them again to take the dowels and sockets, just before I split them apart I filled the holes behind the dowels with hot glue from a gun. Then I started with the end boards then built the rest. I've only had to split them once in six years but they went back together a treat and I hid the join just by brushing the surfaces either side and fluffing up the vegetation that covers most of the joint.
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Emettman
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Re: New Base Board

Postby Emettman » Sat Jul 12, 2014 6:32 pm

Bufferstop wrote:I agree there on the joints Chris.


Thank you, but is that a gentle way of saying the rest is madness?
My last exhibition layout was built to be legless, and the four 4 x 2 baseboards were (and are) a double thickness of twin-wall polycarbonate sheet.
4ft by 2ft by 2cm thick.

I've only used the plywood L girder and space girder construction once, and that in a layout that didn't come to fruition. The baseboards were fine, though, and used the 3D terrain profile idea, as I had the trackplan already sorted.

Chris.
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Bufferstop
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Re: New Base Board

Postby Bufferstop » Sat Jul 12, 2014 9:28 pm

Nothing to disagree with there Chris, my previous layout was built from rigid poly foam clad in 4mm ply. Joined with modified furniture joiners. In the loft there are two mini layouts, one built on a combination of high density poly foam packaging from replacement car panels and edged with foam boaard. The second one is built on a 4 x 2 block of Kingspan insulation with a foam core board backscene hiding the rear loops. I'm all for using lightweight materials but until you know what you can "get away with" I think it's best to stick to over engineered timber.
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Emettman
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Re: New Base Board

Postby Emettman » Sun Jul 13, 2014 12:06 am

Bufferstop wrote:Nothing to disagree with there Chris... ,
... my previous layout was built from rigid poly foam clad in 4mm ply. Joined with modified furniture joiners. In the loft there are two mini layouts, one built on a I'm all for using lightweight materials but until you know what you can "get away with" I think it's best to stick to over engineered timber.


We have a high degree of consensus, then!
If I was to build a new exhibition layout on two or three boards, foam clad in thin ply would be the way I'd go, too.
A long way removed from my first chipboard-topped boards braced with 2 x 1!
But that was back in the elder days, when the dwarf kings ruled, before the iron hills fell.
(OK, late 60's)

Ah well, we've given Carl a good range of options, even if we can't give a definitive answer.

Chris.
"It's his madness that keeps him sane."

ParkeNd
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Re: New Base Board

Postby ParkeNd » Sun Jul 13, 2014 8:16 am

As a newbie I found that what you already have and what you can realistically obtain and transport home is the greatest influence on materials for baseboard construction. I already had 3" by 3/4" side frames ready glazed but disassembled from the disastrous "collection of bare rails on a board" from 15 years ago. I would have liked to have used 9mm marine birch ply for the top but couldn't find anything but lower grades in 8 x 6 sheets at eye watering prices. So it inevitably came down to MDF cut by B & Q with what was surplus above 7 ft 6 in x 2 ft 4 in being left in the shop as offcuts. That just about went in the Golf with no passenger. Legs were 2 x 2 because I could get some good long screws into it. The top was braced with more 3 x 3/4 every foot - and no - I forgot to drill it for wiring.

So for me choice didn't come into it - availability dictated.

jakengaugerailway
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Re: New Base Board

Postby jakengaugerailway » Sun Jul 20, 2014 9:21 pm

What Is The Best Wood For A Baseboard?

Would Someone Help Me Please Because I Am Getting Confused On What Wood To Use.

I Have a List Of Woods: MDF, Plywood Or Chipboard.

Thanks

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pete12345
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Re: New Base Board

Postby pete12345 » Sun Jul 20, 2014 9:47 pm

I've used 12mm MDF in the past and it makes good strong boards when framed with 2"x1" timber at around 500mm intervals. It does however produce a lot of fine dust so cut it outdoors and use some sort of mask. It also requires sealing if used in a damp environment (e.g the garage). Chipboard can be used but it is heavy- less of a problem on permanent layouts but can be an issue on portable setups. It is a bit more self-supporting that MDF so might be of some use as an upper level on a more complex layout with multiple track levels.

Most people will recommend plywood of various thicknesses. 9mm plywood tends to be used as a top surface, either with the traditional timber frame underneath, or cut to create the contours of the landscape. With this 'open frame' type of board the only solid surface is the trackbed- the voids between the plywood profiles being filled in with polystyrene to produce the scenery. This allows a lot of freedom to design scenery, but is a more advanced construction.

Plywood used with a timber frame underneath gives a good strong base for a layout and is what I'd recommend for starters.

For some reason, Peco and a few others always recommend using sundeala board. Do not use this- in practice, it tends to sag and warp, soaks up moisture like a sponge and is generally unsuitable for model railways. There are the lucky few who use it without problems, but I'd rather not gamble the entire layout on a dubious baseboard material.
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Emettman
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Re: New Base Board

Postby Emettman » Sun Jul 20, 2014 10:54 pm

I support what pete12345 said.

"The best" is also going to vary with how big the board or boards are going to be, and whether they are going to be permanently in place or must be portable.
Also on how happy you are doing woodwork.

There's always the ready-made lightweight flush door. Instant baseboard for the right locations: quick, rigid, very cheap, the main problem is a little thought about hiding the wiring which runs along the surface.

Chris.
"It's his madness that keeps him sane."

ParkeNd
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Re: New Base Board

Postby ParkeNd » Sun Jul 20, 2014 11:27 pm

Whilst normally agreeing with Emettman I fell that the last questioner needs some clarity to help him make a choice that is easy to implement rather than giving him the biggest list of options anyone can think of. Hardboard and doors are pretty extreme options.

Pete was on the right tack. So building on what Pete has said I would trim this down to a list of two materials both supported by about 2.5" by 3/4" wood framing at 18" intervals :-

1. For ease of finding and reasonable cost - 12mm MDF cut by say B&Q

2. At greater expense but even better but harder to find - 6mm birch ply

abenn
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Re: New Base Board

Postby abenn » Wed Jan 21, 2015 11:15 am

pete12345 wrote:. . . For some reason, Peco and a few others always recommend using sundeala board. Do not use this- in practice, it tends to sag and warp, soaks up moisture like a sponge and is generally unsuitable for model railways. There are the lucky few who use it without problems, but I'd rather not gamble the entire layout on a dubious baseboard material.

I've come here looking for advice on baseboard material for my forthcoming N-gauge layout, and looks like I've found a great thread :)

I already have an OO-gauge layout, which I'm dismantling, and will be rebuilding the baseboard using original support framing topped with plywood after reading this. At present my material is Sundeala which, as you suggest, is less than optimum -- I might go as far as saying it's disastrous. I used it because my local model shop at the time suggested it, and it's certainly easy to fix to, but it's got dips and bumps all over the place after several years in my garage. In fact it sagged between frames right from the start.

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Re: New Base Board

Postby b308 » Thu Jan 22, 2015 9:54 am

There's lots of other threads (and lots on Google) worth reading on baseboard construction, Abenn, many of which go into a lot of detail. The trouble is, baseboards is a very "marmite" subject and everyone has their own favourite methods, personally I wouldn't touch MDF or chipboard with the proverbial barge-pole, my preference is Plywood, though plenty of people would disagree!

Just do plenty of research before you start as a badly made baseboard WILL result in badly performing trains!!

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Re: New Base Board

Postby luckymucklebackit » Thu Jan 22, 2015 9:59 am

Emettman wrote:
There's always the ready-made lightweight flush door. Instant baseboard for the right locations: quick, rigid, very cheap, the main problem is a little thought about hiding the wiring which runs along the surface.

Chris.


I would avoid this option, doors are not very rigid and tend to come with a varnished finish to which PVA does not bond. I was involved with a quickie "N" gauge layout at a club which used a door for the baseboard - it ended up being scrapped before it was finished due to the door just not being suitable.

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