Cutting Out Etched Brass

Etched brass features in several of my model kits and has been used as a way to model tiny detailed parts for many years.  But how do you cut the parts out?

A sheet of etched parts, or fret, normally consists of a sheet of metal with all the parts attached by a half-etched tag.  This means the area around the part has been fully etched away except for a small tag which is only half as thick as the rest of the sheet.  Below is the etched brass ‘Additions’ sheet for my N scale Alco C-855B locomotive.  As well as the larger handrail section there are also several other parts, such as ladders and grab irons, which are much smaller and more delicate.

The half-etched tag serves two purposes; it marks where the part finishes and needs to be cut off, and it makes the actual cutting of it easier, as the material is only half as thick.

With thinner sheets and softer metal such as brass, the tags can be cut with a sharp knife.  I use what is commonly called a Stanley Knife as the blade is strong but sharp.

However, there’s a risk of damaging or bending the parts as the pressure needed to cut the metal is more than the force needed to bend the parts, particularly with tiny parts. Stainless steel etches are harder to cut than brass etches, because the material is harder. This is more noticeable especially on a metal or hard surface, and you may struggle to cut the etch at all. If you cut either material etch on a cutting mat the blade will drag the part down as you exert the force needed to cut through, resulting in bending the part.  The stainless etch below has some very small parts, the squares on the cutting mat are 0.5″ (12.5mm).

This stainless steel etch is from a kit by Keystone Details and zooming in you can see some of the tiny details.  Under the ladder is an electrical box that needs to be cut out and folded to make the box.

If I attempted to cut any of these parts out with a knife they would certainly get damaged.  So I use a special pair of scissors designed for doing this job.  Mine are made by Tamiya specifically for photo-etched parts.

The tips are small and curved which allows them to easily fit in the gap between the part and the fret so you can cut the tab releasing the part.

It’s not always possible to cut the tab off exactly where the part starts, so this little burr will need to be filed off.  Be sure to hold the part firmly between flat surfaces otherwise the filing action could also bend it.

Sometimes the fret is made from fairly thick metal.  The HO DT6-6-2000 etched brass Additions are made from 0.5mm thick brass compared to the N scale ones at only 0.25mm.  This was done to give the desired size of the handrail on the HO model, but it does mean the tabs are much harder to cut.

I use a much larger pair of scissors here with a strengthened set of blades for thicker metal.  These are ideal for removing sections of the fret to enable better access to the parts.

So I use a mixture of the Stanley Knife and scissors, depending on the part I’m removing.  It’s best to test cut a section of the fret that you don’t need, to gauge which tool is best.

This isn’t the only method for cutting parts from etched frets, there are also other tools for cutting photo-etch, however, I haven’t tried them yet because what I have works well for me. As modelers, we’re inventive in our use of tools and materials, but it’s helpful when we find a tool designed to get the job done, ie cut out parts that aren’t bent or burred.

A Baldwin DT6-6-2000 in HO – Etched Box Windows Part 14

Now the first three body types for the HO Baldwin DT6-6-2000 have been made available, (see the page here) I need to share with you how some of the details work.  In this post I’ll discuss the etched brass box windows that appear on the Minneapolis, Northfield, and Southern Railway no 21. (Picture from Illinois Railway Museum http://www.railroadmichigan.com/illinoisrailwaymuseum.html)

The 3D printed shell for this particular locomotive is my Baldwin DT6-6-2000 HO Type 3 and can be ordered from Shapeways using the link below.

https://www.shapeways.com/product/XUCQYADSG/baldwin-dt6-6-2000-ho-type-3

Several posts ago I shared the design for the box window and you can see the parts which need to made from brass in the image below.

I even designed them so they could be modeled in the open position if required.

To make this design work the shell has a different window configuration, with slots to receive the etched brass on all sides and nothing in the middle.

Because the test print had the standard windows, and I didn’t want to print an entire shell to test the box windows, I simply 3D printed a cropped out section of the window.

You can see the slots around the window opening.

The etched brass sheet has two sets of box window parts at the bottom of the fret.

On the left is the roof, base, and sides, and on the right are the sliding windows.

After I cut out the parts they looked like this.  I confess I rushed this a little and have bent a few parts.  Time should also be taken to file off any burs to ensure a good fit.  But for this test, a quick install is all I needed to do.

The base has two prongs that fit into the slots below the window.  There is a bar on the base that should be facing up.

The roof fits in a similar way with the bar facing down. The roof will fit at an angle because the slots for it are tilted to run at the correct angle.

The sides, when not bent, fit between the roof and base with the two prongs locating in the 3D printed slots.

 

Both sides are the same so it doesn’t matter which one is used for either side.

The square windows are the parts that slide and fit behind the fixed sections.  They’re designed to rest against the two bars on the roof and base.

Once the square window is positioned the C-shaped window can be fixed resting on top of the square window. Any glazing would ideally be fitted before they are fixed in place.  This can either be cut to fit inside the window frame or fixed to the rear.

With both windows fitted, the assembly is complete.  The left window is closed and the right is slid half-open.  With the parts carefully cut out and any burs removed the box window will be a nice snug fit.

Of course, fitting the glazing before spraying the body may cause an issue, so some careful planning will need to be done.

The windows could be glazed then masked for spaying.  Or the glazing could be fitted last.  Or the body could be sprayed before the brass is fitted and glazed.  I guess it all depends on the modeler’s preference.

A full set of instructions for the whole locomotive will be made available soon for all the parts needed and over the next few weeks’s the other shells will be made available for the different DT6-6-2000 locomotives and RT-624s.

A Baldwin DT6-6-2000 in HO – Project Update And Release

In my post, two weeks ago, I said that the HO D6-6-2000 project was just about ready and I was just waiting for the etched brass to arrive so I could do a test fit.  Then it would be released last week.  Well as you may have gathered from the last week’s absent post there was a little more work required before I could release the models.  But they’re now ready.

The etched brass arrived and looks very nice. It’s much thicker than my normal N Scale etches, and this gives it a sturdy feel.

However, because it’s thicker there was an added complication I didn’t foresee. To etch the metal, it’s done in two halves.  The front is half etched, then the back.  Any areas which are etched from both sides will form a hole.  All etching will have a rounding to the etched side, and the thicker the metal, the larger the rounding.  Normally for my thinner N Scale etches this has been insignificant, but for HO this means all the handrail and grab iron posts that fit into the 3D printed holes, didn’t fit as smoothly as designed, causing the etched parts to bend if forced in.

This is easily overcome by increasing the square hole size in the 3D printed model.  The larger hole won’t be visible once the brass is fitted, but it will make the fitting much easier.  For my test print, I’ll need to drill the holes to fit the brass parts and I haven’t gotten to that yet.

As I was making these modifications to the 3D model I also took the chance to make some other improvements.  The side handrails, as shown below, fit into a hole next to the cab door and two holes in the raised deck.  But alongside the lower deck, they were originally located by a small vertical block that represented the handrail fixing, but this didn’t set any height. So I have made the block an ‘L’ shape so the brass can be set in the correct position and ensure the handrail is level.  This will greatly improve the installation of the handrails.

Also in the image above you may have noticed I added the detail for the structural section which sits directly over the truck bolster.  This was missing on my N scale version.

Under the coupling in the pilot, there should also be a triangular-shaped section.  Looking through the photos I have of the originals it wasn’t always present.  I guess it was removable and not always replaced.  I’ve made this a separate part that can be attached to the Kadee coupling box if required.

So now I know all the parts work it’s time to let you know what you need.

To start you’re going to need a Bowser (Stewart) chassis from an Alco C628 or C-630.

The chassis looks like this:

Other chassis can be used if the mounting points and truck spacing are the same.  As shown below the chassis has a mounting point at each end.  The distance between the hole centers is 217.2mm (8.551″).

The chassis comes with different trucks depending on the loco model.

The C-628 should come with ALCo Trimout trucks which are what you need as a starting point.  The C-630 comes with ALCo Trimout trucks or High-Adhesion trucks; both have the gears required, but the base plate from the High-Adhesion trucks is shorter and won’t fit the DT6-6-2000 trucks.  But with a bit of modification, it can be made to fit.  (I’ll cover that in a later post).

Although the Baldwin RT-624 and possibly some later DT-6-6-2000 had trucks very similar to the Trimout trucks, the bulk of the DT6-6-2000s had Commonwealth trucks, so you’ll also need to get a set of the Bowser side frames.  I recommend the Bowser kit 96-603; it can also be used to upgrade an older Stewart Chassis to better pickup if that’s the one you have.  It can be found at the bottom right of Bowser page using the link below

https://www.bowser-trains.com/instructions.html

If these become hard to get let me know, I can make a 3D printed set of side frames available.

To convert the Bowser Trimout or High-Adhesion trucks to Commonwealth, you’ll need my conversion kit which contains four truck center halves and 8 gears and can be ordered from Shapeways using the link below.

https://www.shapeways.com/product/5XK97PV2H/baldwin-dt6-6-2000-ho-truck-parts

Next, I’ve made the small parts as a separate model; this was the only solution to getting them to 3D print properly.  This model contains the crew and cabs, horns, and triangular pilot blocks I spoke about earlier.  This can be ordered from Shapeways using the link below.

https://www.shapeways.com/product/EKW9D3ENC/baldwin-dt6-6-2000-ho-parts

All the brass is on one fret and is ordered directly from me at a cost of £10 GBP each plus postage.  Please contact me directly for these.  I’ll add a page to the website soon.

The couplings for this locomotive has been designed as Kadee #148 HO Scale 140-Series Whisker® Metal Couplers with Gearboxes – Universal – Medium (9/32″) Centerset Shank.

https://www.kadee.com/ho-scale-couplers-c-274_276_284/148-ho-scale-140series-whisker-metal-couplers-with-gearboxes-universal-medium-932-centerset-shank-p-298.htm

To make the couplings powered you’ll need the Precimodels kit.

https://www.precimodels.com/en/

Lastly, you’ll need the shell.  So far I have three different versions available.

Baldwin DT6-6-2000 HO Type 1 has no window shades or frames and the horns are further forward in the roof.  This is to model the Baldwin demonstrator, No, 2000. ()

ATSF 2600 before any rework. (Uncredited image – it was in a magazine but I have no idea which one, so if you know where this image originates from please drop me a message).

Elgin, Joliet, and Eastern Railway early DT6-6-2000s such as no, 104 shown below. (Uncredited image – If you know where this image originates from please drop me a message).

My Baldwin DT6-6-2000 HO Type 1 can be ordered from Shapeways using the link below.

https://www.shapeways.com/product/9PB8YPQAM/baldwin-dt6-6-2000-ho-type-1

The Baldwin DT6-6-2000 HO Type 2 has slots above the windows for the brass sunshades and the horns have been moved back closer to the cab.  This is to model the early ATSF locos such as 2601 & 2602.  I think it’ll also work for some of the EJ&ER locos.

My Baldwin DT6-6-2000 HO Type 2 can be ordered from Shapeways using the link below.

https://www.shapeways.com/product/ES5Y6AH27/baldwin-dt6-6-2000-ho-type-2

The Baldwin DT6-6-2000 HO Type 3 has slots around the windows for the brass window box and the horns have been moved back closer to the cab.  The side plates under the cab have also been removed.

This is to model The Minneapolis, Northfield, and Southern Railway no 21. (Picture from Illinois Railway Museum http://www.railroadmichigan.com/illinoisrailwaymuseum.html)

The window box looks like this, I’ll do a post later to show how it fixes together.

Because the side plates have been cut back you will be able to see the model chassis.  I’ll  look at making a fuel tank section to cover this at a later date, this will also be used for the RT-624.

My Baldwin DT6-6-2000 HO Type 3 can be ordered from Shapeways using the link below.

https://www.shapeways.com/product/XUCQYADSG/baldwin-dt6-6-2000-ho-type-3

There’ll be more shells coming over the next few weeks to cover:

The Trona Railway locomotives.

The Peabody Coal Railroad’s locomotives.

The Soo Line Railroad locomotives.

If you have a need for a DT6-6-2000 shell that I haven’t covered please get in touch via the contacts page.