Ply Or Chipboard

Discussion of model railway baseboard design and construction
IAN1955
Posts: 101
Joined: Mon Nov 16, 2015 7:27 pm

Ply Or Chipboard

Postby IAN1955 » Sat May 09, 2020 7:06 pm

Hi All, This will probably divide opinion so here goes.

What are the members views regarding a base board, would you use plywood or chipboard (moisture resistant), also what is the ideal thickness, last time I used ply but I got what I paid for, lets say it twisted after few months.

Thanks in advance

MOD NOTE: Topic moved to Baseboard forum section as its more appropriate and is likely to get more views .

Dad-1
Posts: 6496
Joined: Sun Aug 24, 2008 8:05 pm
Location: Dorset - A mile from West Bay.

Re: Ply Or Chipboard

Postby Dad-1 » Sat May 09, 2020 9:53 pm

Tried both.
In either case you need a supporting frame, this in my opinion being more important than the thickness
of sheet material used. There are so many factors "It depends on".
Thin ply usually needs more, but lighter supports. Thicker ply, or chip board needs a heavier frame.
Then there is the size factor how big an area do you require ?

Always a vague answer I'm afraid.

Geoff T.
Remember ... I know nothing about railways.
viewtopic.php?f=22&t=32187 and Another on viewtopic.php?f=22&t=28436&start=60&st=0&sk=t&sd=a

User avatar
GeraldH
Posts: 1002
Joined: Fri Aug 13, 2010 6:10 pm
Location: Isle of Ballybongle
Contact:

Re: Ply Or Chipboard

Postby GeraldH » Sat May 09, 2020 11:10 pm

I've used both and MDF (avoid MDF at all costs). Ply enables you to build lighter boards being stronger than chipboard for a given thickness. I think ply is more expensive and both need decent framing. You have to be careful cutting ply as it can splinter, so it's best to use a fine cut blade. My latest boards use 6mm ply. MDF creates unhealthy dust, doesn't take track pins well and is more likely to sag.
Last edited by GeraldH on Sun May 10, 2020 11:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
Gerald H - BNR Correspondent :)

My layout: http://www.newrailwaymodellers.co.uk/Fo ... hp?t=28854

User avatar
Bufferstop
Posts: 12857
Joined: Thu Mar 11, 2010 12:06 pm
Location: Bottom end of N. Warks line

Re: Ply Or Chipboard

Postby Bufferstop » Sat May 09, 2020 11:25 pm

I see a lot of photographs where a single sheet (usually about half an inch/12mm thick) has been loose laid across battens. It just doesn't work. The test I apply is, if I stuck down some track and then lifted the board by one corner would it flex enough to rip the rails from their fixings. Unfortunately if its a sheet of ply or chipboard it will. Even when stiffened by the proverbial 2" x 1" battens it still will. The answer doesn't lie in thicker board, what's needed is rigidity. 6mm ply will produce a rigid board up to a size of about 4ft by 18" provided it has a frame work of the same material about 4" deep. Well glued and with strengthening blocks in the internal corners that are both screwed and glued into place. If bolts and dowels are needed for joining adjacent boards then a second thickness needs to be glued in place for extra strength.
There's an alternative, if you don't mind having to hide point motors above board. Rigid foam insulation 100mm thick, face the edges with 4mm ply, it's light and remarkably rigid but needs careful support in use, (a table's better than a trestle). Excuse my mixture of units, like many of my age group I had to learn in metric and imperial with no rules about which to use when.
Growing old, can't avoid it. Growing up, forget it!
My Layout, My Workbench Blog and My Opinions

User avatar
Bigglesof266
Posts: 928
Joined: Tue Feb 10, 2009 9:59 am
Location: Australia

Re: Ply Or Chipboard

Postby Bigglesof266 » Sun May 10, 2020 2:27 am

My experience.

1. Support on frame always. Used Meranti #1, Meranti & Pine #2 & Pine #3 (no Meranti left)
2. Lightly undercoat bare wood working surface after assembly.

#1 Used 12mm Chipboard. Worked OK. Too heavy. Would use chipboard sheet again ONLY if necessary, but 9mm in sheet sections and tightly framed to avoid warping. Inexpensive.

#2 Used 9mm Wall Ply cut to proprietary sheet size. Poor quality, warps easily, heavy & unpleasant to work with. Inexpensive. Would not use again other than no other choice desperation.

#3 current Used 6mm high grade ply sheets. Light, doesn't warp mounted on decent frame, easy to work with. Dearer but worth it. Cost insignificant amortized into cumulative cost of layout. Perfect. Frame a must of course.

MDF used for disposable working benchtops. e.g. test bench,assembly etc.Porous. Cheap. Heavy. Would never use for layout.

User avatar
Ironduke
Posts: 1170
Joined: Mon Sep 26, 2005 12:04 am
Location: Ballarat Victoria Australia
Contact:

Re: Ply Or Chipboard

Postby Ironduke » Sun May 10, 2020 6:36 am

Bigglesof266 wrote:#3 current Used 6mm high grade ply sheets. Light, doesn't warp mounted on decent frame, easy to work with. Dearer but worth it. Cost insignificant amortized into cumulative cost of layout. Perfect. Frame a must of course.


+1 on good quality, 6mm ply from me.
Regards
Rob

Ex-Pat
Posts: 2086
Joined: Tue Feb 08, 2011 10:51 pm
Location: Dundalk Ireland

Re: Ply Or Chipboard

Postby Ex-Pat » Sun May 10, 2020 8:52 am

I would not consider anything other than well-braced 3.6mm ply.

User avatar
GeraldH
Posts: 1002
Joined: Fri Aug 13, 2010 6:10 pm
Location: Isle of Ballybongle
Contact:

Re: Ply Or Chipboard

Postby GeraldH » Sun May 10, 2020 9:48 am

I've found that using any sheet material thinner than about 9mm means that the track pins go right through and stick out on the underside. The pins consequently don't grip very well. I'm guessing that those of you using thinner materials are using something other than track pins to hold the track down?

EDIT whoops I meant 6mm, not 9mm
Last edited by GeraldH on Sun May 10, 2020 11:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
Gerald H - BNR Correspondent :)

My layout: http://www.newrailwaymodellers.co.uk/Fo ... hp?t=28854

Ex-Pat
Posts: 2086
Joined: Tue Feb 08, 2011 10:51 pm
Location: Dundalk Ireland

Re: Ply Or Chipboard

Postby Ex-Pat » Sun May 10, 2020 10:20 am

GeraldH wrote: I'm guessing that those of you using thinner materials are using something other than track pins to hold the track down?


For me it's PVA on closed cell foam

User avatar
Flashbang
Posts: 3820
Joined: Thu Oct 18, 2007 1:07 pm
Location: SE United Kingdom
Contact:

Re: Ply Or Chipboard

Postby Flashbang » Sun May 10, 2020 10:29 am

Anyone used OSB3 for baseboards? I'm thinking of experimenting with 11mm thick OSB3 on my new layout build, braced with 18mm x 69mm side framing all round and internal cross bracing of 21mm x 44mm at 350 to 400mm spacing.
[Image << Click the Icon to go to my website
Broken? It was working correctly when I left it.

Dad-1
Posts: 6496
Joined: Sun Aug 24, 2008 8:05 pm
Location: Dorset - A mile from West Bay.

Re: Ply Or Chipboard

Postby Dad-1 » Sun May 10, 2020 2:20 pm

Hi Flashbang,

My first concern with Sterling Board is that the surface is not smooth. It has a general thickness, but the flakes used in making it up
can't be compressed to a smooth finish. It's tough, weatherproof and affordable all good qualities. I suppose this could be a material
that would benefit from a cork underlay ? The alternative that would suit me is having all the track bed raised up several inches on
risers, the track bed from a smooth surfaced material, ply probably being the best option for that.

Certainly an interesting option.

Geoff T.
Remember ... I know nothing about railways.
viewtopic.php?f=22&t=32187 and Another on viewtopic.php?f=22&t=28436&start=60&st=0&sk=t&sd=a

User avatar
Bufferstop
Posts: 12857
Joined: Thu Mar 11, 2010 12:06 pm
Location: Bottom end of N. Warks line

Re: Ply Or Chipboard

Postby Bufferstop » Sun May 10, 2020 4:02 pm

Sterling Board or OSB had to look it up, always wondered what the stuff with the big chips was called. I was watching some shop fitters cutting it up, from the noise their sawbench was making I presume it varies in hardness depending what the chips are.
Growing old, can't avoid it. Growing up, forget it!
My Layout, My Workbench Blog and My Opinions

User avatar
Flashbang
Posts: 3820
Joined: Thu Oct 18, 2007 1:07 pm
Location: SE United Kingdom
Contact:

Re: Ply Or Chipboard

Postby Flashbang » Sun May 10, 2020 5:02 pm

Well, I've taken the proverbial Bull by Horns and ordered 2 x 8ft x 4ft OSB3 sheets plus PSE bracing timber is various sizes and an assortment of other bits needed all from Wickes. Disappointing side is they can't deliver the whole order until 29th May! Oh well, it will give me time to set and sharpen my saws teeth :D
Will let you know how it goes.
[Image << Click the Icon to go to my website
Broken? It was working correctly when I left it.

Bigmet
Posts: 8234
Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2007 2:19 pm

Re: Ply Or Chipboard

Postby Bigmet » Mon May 11, 2020 9:38 am

The next question is 'and what sort of arrangement will those two 8x4 sheets be cut up to make?'. All the best with it, and the construction report is awaited with interest.


Dad-1 wrote:My first concern with Sterling Board is that the surface is not smooth. It has a general thickness, but the flakes used in making it up
can't be compressed to a smooth finish...

Though a little texture rather than the unnatural plane of most baseboards might be an advantage. Any cut edges adjacent the layout operator are going to need some finishing in a smooth material, it's a little 'savage' to brush against. (I helped some years ago in lining an old shed with this material to make a weathertight storage, and was very glad of my heavy chrome leather gloves and eye protection.

Dad-1 wrote:... The alternative that would suit me is having all the track bed raised up several inches on risers, the track bed from a smooth surfaced material, ply probably being the best option for that...

Ply for me too: certainly needs something stiff enough to ride the peaks of the sterling board and provide a level surface for the track. A modest grade will suffice if laid directly on the board, as it will have no great structural work to perform. Raising the track bed further begs the question that if this is to happen, why not go the whole hog of open frame construction? Still a technique that doesn't get as much used in the UK as it might.

User avatar
Mountain
Posts: 4739
Joined: Mon Oct 24, 2016 3:43 pm
Location: Somewhere in Wales, UK.

Re: Ply Or Chipboard

Postby Mountain » Mon May 11, 2020 5:27 pm

The material to use depends on what one is using it for. Permanent layouts... Wrll. I have used inch thick chipboard in the past with success. May seem like overkill, and yes. My Dad (A carpenter) built a suitable supporting frame. He believed that if it would not support the weight of both of us on top of it, it wasn't strong enough. He made some lovely triangular wall brackets and the whole layout was screwed to the wallboards of the house walls. There were no legs. It worked fine. The two of us were on the structure at the same time when we were screwing the top sheets on.
Now if I was to build a portable layout, I would not use chipboard. Ply or something like that. I am currently using MDF. If using MDF then the always cut it outdoors as the fibres are very similar to aspestos in that they are very fie and can enter the lungs. It is only an issue when one is sawing the boards (Or hammering etc).
So far I have had no issues. The only issue I had was in the heat a couple of years ago due to me finding some of the wood to use for the frame on the beach, and the wood slightly adjusting in shape as it fully dried out. At the time of building I had no money, so I made do with what I could find that did not have woodworm or rot. (Amazing what can be found if one has the patience. I only paid for the sheets of 4' x 2' MDF).
My boards are slightly flimsy at the moment as I have cut holes on them for scenic effects, and have not yet added the lower levels of wood needed which will firm the structure up. It is ok though. But will get firmer as I add to it.


Return to “Baseboard Design and Construction”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest