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Constructing Benchwork <- Benchwork & Track <- Home

 Constructing Benchwork

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Benchwork from afar.

Benchwork is something which needs to be constructed properly the first time around; there is little margain for error, since your entire railroad will rest its weight upon the structure you create. No matter what sort of benchwork you have chosen to build, rest assured that even an inexperienced non-carpenter can create something to marvel at if they remember to take things slow and measure twice and cut once.

Materials and tools

For lumber, use 2x4 or 2x3 wall studs if you plan to go table top. If you're looking at something more advanced such as open-grid or L-girder, use 1x4 or 1x3 pine or douglas fir. You can use nails on the studs, but screws are usually more secure and suitable. If you use the 1-by lumber, it is almost imperative that you use screws- and pre-drill your holes to avoid splits. Some modelers like to use carpenter's glue to seal joints, while you're at it. For tools, you'll need a pencil, screwdriver, hammer, drill and bits, framing square, tape measure and hand or power saw.

Table-top / Open grid

For the beginnner, I recommend using a simple frame beneath a sheet of plywood. That is, build the frame in an open-grid fashion and attach a piece of plywood on top to use as a railroading surface. If you are using a single sheet of plywood, then use either 2 by 4s or 2 by 3s. Here's how it works:

Close-up of corner
  • 1: Cut 2 pieces the length of the plywood's longest side. These are usually 8 feet long.
  • 2: Nail these on the underside of the plywood (The underside is the side with the least suitable railroading surface.)
  • 3: Then, cut 2 pieces the width of the layout, minus double the width of the outer piece of wood (you just put there in step 1). If it's 48 inches wide, minus 1.5" per side, makes it roughly 45 inches long. Remember to measure, though.
  • 4: After nailing these in place, there should be a frame under the layout, around the perimeter. Like a box.
  • 5: Next, cut more pieces like you did in step 3. Measure even if it looks similar.
  • 6: These should go in the middle, about equal distances in from the edges.
  • 7: After nailing these in place, the layout should be equally braced from underneath.
  • 8: For legs, use 2x4's. Secure these in the four corners using lag screws, washers, and bolts. Don't overtighten. Brace the legs to ensure they'll remain plumb.

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