Finishing & Staining Wood Ties

I’ve already glued my ties to the roadbed. I used Kappler 8′ 6″ wood cross ties (KP00SS86-HO) I purchased from Proto87 Stores.

I sand my wood ties to flatten them all to the same level. I used a sharpening stone to good effect. I also use a small emery board to hit individual ties that are a little too high.

I distress the ties using a wire brush and Exacto knife. The wire brush helps leave the impression of a grain. I Scribe damage lines and marks into the ties with an Exacto blade.

Finally, I stain the ties using a mixture of sepia colored India ink mixed with isopropyl alcohol. I don’t have an exact mixture ratio, but If the stain coloring dries too light, I usually go over with a second coat; if it dries too dark I lightly sand it off and re-stain.

Staining Wood Ties

Staining Wood Ties

Sep 252013

I’ve tried a new two step method to staining my ties.

  1. Paint the ties with Humbrol #98 Enamel Paint. It’s not a thick coat, more like a wash. My goal is to get a nice warm base wood color.
  2. Wash with shoe dye & alcohol mix. I do this to fill in the crevices and bring out the highlights.

The results:

I’m very happy with this color. The only problem is that the glues I’m using to adhere the tie plates cause the black shoe dye to run. I might paint first, apply tie plates, then wash with the shoe dye/alcohol.


What little time I had this summer for model railroading was pretty much devoted to making another Proto:87 Stores #10 “Ultimate” Turnout. This time I decided to heavily modify it from the original. These are some of the modifications and the lessons I learned along the way.

  1. I substituted Heavy Duty tie plates for the standard Medium Duty Tie plates.The heavy duty tie plates don’t fit the Proto:87 Stores Switch-Works tie-plate jig I’ve been using. So in order to lay the Heavy duty tie plates, I used tie plate jig to lay a few reference tie plates and then used a piece of rail to site the rest of the tie plates. I glued them in place using Barge/MEK. Somehow, I misplaced about every tie plate, causing me to have to lift them up and reapply them several times to get the correct position. In the future, I will use several more reference tie plates.
  2. I substituted tie plates around the points, guard rails and frog.Some of this had to be done somewhat freehand, so I didn’t get a perfect job, but the tie plates around the guard rails turned out pretty good. In the future I’ll be much more careful with these and I will need to develop a better way to site the frog first, then slip tie plates beneath.
  3. I added Details West Adjustable Rail Braces.These look OK, they all needed some degree of filing to make them fit. I don’t think they turned out that great, they don’t all look to be the same size and they don’t all seat the same. I was tempted to use the Central Valley rail braces, but I think I had a hard time cutting them off the sprue and threw them out.
  4. I tried Humbrol Enamels for Painting the TrackMatt 113 and Matt 98 looked good going on, but turned out to be more like a gloss than a matte. I had to strip the paint off and go back to my old friend Vallejo Cam Medium Brown. The Vallejo paint looks great.
  5. I Abandoned the Proto:87 Stores Point Hinges for Micro Engineering Rail JoinersI didn’t like the Proto:87 Stores point hinges, it leaves too much vertical slop in the points. I’m much happier with the rail joiners.
  6. I’m not Satisfied with the Turnout ThrowI’ve built six turnouts and probably experimented with 15 different points. I don’t like how the Proto:87 Stores throw bars work. The best interim solution I’ve found is to shim them, but this leaves them extremely stiff and hard to throw.
  7. Glue (Ewwww!)As you can see in the photos, I really ended up with some glue globs. Not what I want at all!

I started another turnout last week. This time using CA to glue the ties to the plastic base, and inadvertently to the Switch-Works fixture. I destroyed the tie base and thought I had destroyed the fixture also, but was able to reshape it and clean it up. I’ve ordered more supplies and hopefully will be making more turnouts soon.


I’ve been mercilessly abusing this Proto:87 Superfine #8 turnout. I’m trying to get as much experience as I can with this one turnout before I start building the Ultimate turnouts I recently ordered. I wasn’t happy with the throw-bars because they kept dropping out, so I tried a hybrid version with the leading throw-bar soldered to the points. I’m considering using carbon fiber strips for the throw bars.

I’ve also done a little track weathering experimentation. I really like the Polly Scale “Dirt” paint for the rails, but think I also need to pre-weather the track with Blacken-It or ME Rail Weathering before painting so I don’t end up with bright silver shiny rail heads.


Proto:87 #8 Turnout

Proto:87 #8 - Used and abused.


Stealth Jet

In my quest for colors, I thought I’d found the ultimate in Behr “Starless Night” however it turned out to be too blue. I wanted something more dark gray. I found “Stealth Jet” Ultra Flat Enamel. This will be the color for the underside of the layout and the fascias.

Feb 232012

Behr UL230-1 Starless NightBehr UL230-1 Starless Night

Fascia Paint

I bought one gallon of Behr Starless Night UL230-1 Satin. I’ll paint the fascias and underside of the layout this color. I bought satin, hoping it’ll be more durable. I’m questioning that decision because I tend to like a flatter finish.

I wanted a dark blueish gray and the color sample looks like what I want. I hope this color comes out the way it looks on the sample card. I painted it on a few boards tonight but it looked a lot blue and very little dark gray. We’ll see how it turns out when dry.

I’m going to try to paint the bench-work before installing it.

Going with 2×4′s

I went shopping for 1×4′s and decided to buy 2×4′s. I know they’re thick and heavy and big, but they are also only $1.92 for kiln dried straight 8′ 2x4s; crappy and crooked 1x4s are $5.62 a board, the slightly better but still crappy premium pine is $7.48 a board.  Is it really that hard to make a quality board and charge a decent price for it? I was also considering ripping some plywood, but I’m going to need to screw into the ends to much for that to be a good solution.

Starless Night Update 2/23/2012

I painted up several boards with the Behr Starless Night paint and I really don’t like the way it looks. Here is a photo sitting on top of my black tool chest for comparison. To me it looks all blue and not really gray. I’m going to get a different color. Perhaps just a black or Behr Stealth Jet 780F-7 (which I already have a little of.)

Paint Sample Behr Starless Night

Paint Sample Behr Starless Night

Paint Comparison Stealth Jet vs Starless Night
Paint Comparison Stealth Jet vs Starless Night

The Stealth Jet color sample is very similar to the gray on this website.

Behr UL203 Stealth Jet

Behr UL203 Stealth Jet

Feb 172012


Painting the walls and ceilings. I’ve had really good one coat experiences with Behr Ultra, but this light color is taking 2-3 coats. Eventually I’ll remove everthing from the closet, including the work desk, repaint and build a more sturdy work bench.

Feb 142012
Behr 730E-1 Polar White

Behr 730E-1 Polar White

To reflect the wet and cold Seattle skies I want a color that looks muted and grayish. I chose Behr Polar White #730E-1. I bought one gallon of Behr Ultra Interior Ceiling paint for the ceiling, walls and sky boards this color. I like to spend the extra $10 bucks for the Ultra because it’s usually a one affair. I’ve learned my lesson with cheap paints that can take several coats to get a good even finish.

I went to home depot to choose a color, but Behr also has an online color picker.

I also picked up some spackle to work on a little hole filling before I start dinging the wall up again.



© 2012 Greg Amer
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