.010 Guitar String – 1.6” N Scale Handrails....

Sumner Aug 29, 2021

  1. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

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    Using guitar strings for N scale handrails came up on one of the forums and got my attention so thought I'd try it. They are cheap at $10 for 6 (.010 “) strings and those will do quite a few locos. I was thinking I'd solder the handrails together but couldn't get solder to stick to the wire using my favorite rosin flux and rosin core solder. As a result I used super glue to build the left side handrails. It worked pretty well and I'd recommend this for anyone who hasn't done a fair amount of soldering. It also was surprisingly strong.

    Then someone mentioned using an acid flux to tin the wires and to solder the joints together. I realized that the flux I'd gotten from Fast Tracks was an acid flux so tried it. Spread the flux on the wire and it is easy to tin the wires and to solder the joints, well easy to tin the wire and relatively easy as far as soldering the joints.

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    The guitar string I used is Ernie Ball Custom Gauge 10 (1010). There are a lot of different types/brands out there if you want to try something different.

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    I can't stress enough the importance of keeping the tip clean and tinned while making these small solder joints. I keep the iron on the highest setting and get in and out of soldering the joint in less than a second. More soldering tips and the iron I use ( HERE ).

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    I built these handrails over two days and probably have at least 4 hours in them total but a fair amount of that was experimenting, learning and the two steps forward and one back deal. I also used about twice as much wire as needed with some of the mistakes and it shooting across the room when I cut it. I could probably do them again in say 1 ½ hours total start to finish after developing a method.

    For the most part I like working with the guitar strings. They are easy to bend with needle nose pliers and your hand and hold any shape you shape them to once bent. Once I started using the acid flux the soldering went smoothly.

    For tools I'd recommend small pliers and a small cutter. The pliers need to be smooth on the inside faces. If they have the grooves that help hold something the .010 wire will slip out of them laying in those grooves. A small needle nose with smooth inside faces is good along with a small rounded tip needle nose that will be better for doing the rounded bend at the front of the side rail and front/rear handrails. If you have an old pair of rail cutters or equivalent wire cutters you might try them but I found mine wouldn't cut the wire. I used a small pair of diagonal cutters that are beefier in the cutting face area. I just ordered a set of tools ( HERE ) that I think will be pretty much what I have now with the addition of the rounded needle nose and a smooth face wider plier. You can find cheaper sets and might already have what you need like I did to the most part but if you are like me an excuse for more tools is always good.

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    You can find the decoder install starting ( HERE ) and a YouTube with the engine running ( HERE ).

    You can also save a link to the info for the handrails on my site ( HERE ).

    Sumner
     
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2021
  2. logging loco

    logging loco TrainBoard Supporter

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    Excellent "how to", Sumner.
    Thanks for taking the time to write it up.
    I've a couple of these locos I would like to upgrade in the future.
    This technique will also be useful for railings on buildings and cat walks.

    I never needed an excuse! The older the better!
     
    Shortround and Martin Station like this.
  3. Grey One

    Grey One TrainBoard Supporter

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    Not something I woulsd ever do but I really admire the presentation.
    It was everything I would want in a 'How To'.
    Nicely done!
     
    Shortround likes this.
  4. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Great how-to! Even in you don't want to dive into handrails, the fact that guitar strings can be used as modeling parts is a win! I would use them for hand grabs for rolling stock and superdetailng locos as well. The price is right, and for the quantity of material in a pack, you'd be hard-pressed to exhaust it!
     
  5. 7dmack

    7dmack TrainBoard Member

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    Handrails are hard enough in HO, those look really good. If you can't get the strings for free, I would pick up some music wire. For the price quoted above, McMaster can get you 100 1ft pieces or, for $2 more, a coil with 900 ft. It comes in sizes from .006" to .187"
     
  6. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks for bringing that up. I did get 100 1 ft. pieces of .037 from MSCdirect for about $8.00 to use with my 'Gravity Switcher' switch machines. With freight and tax it was about $22 but still cheap at 22 cents a foot. The smallest that I see that they have is .020 so I'll keep McMaster-Carr in mind if I need smaller.

    I'm using the .037 for...

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    ... my 'Gravity Switcher' switch machine for the weight hangers and also for use on the machine itself to throw the throwbar (you can see both uses above.

    Sumner
     

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