IF a new laser kit company were to start up...

bremner Dec 7, 2019

  1. Thomas Davis

    Thomas Davis TrainBoard Member

    84
    26
    13
    I will second on the row houses, downtown structures and 20s era-WWII housing (keep in mind that many of us still live in those homes- so still usable even on a modern layout). One particular opportunity that I am surprised no one has taken advantage of would be to make building fronts to fit the Walthers "tenement" structures- which while intended as background structures- well, once again they forgot that this is N scale, and we often have enough scenery space for more than a backdrop behind the tracks. Would also love to see Chicago 3-flats, and some urban brick apartment buildings.
    Also a fan of modulars- but if you do go that route, please make each "kit" big enough to build something- its really annoying to need to buy multiple kits in order to get 4 walls and a roof.
    Tom D
     
  2. Thomas Davis

    Thomas Davis TrainBoard Member

    84
    26
    13
    One other consideration (for what its worth, but remember, this is free advice, so may be worth 0). And maybe it is just me, but....
    One of the issues I have with some laser cut kits is that the maker is so enamored of his or her laser that they insist on making EVERY part with the laser. Personally, if stripwood or a metal casting or an injection molded window frame works better, I would rather have such included in the kit, rather than every last single bit sliced out of a piece of board. I did one recently that had stair railings cut via laser. Much too delicate (I was amazed that the laser could cut so fine) for the board material- brass etching would have worked much better. Frankly, I never succeeded in getting the parts cut from the sheet without having them just fall apart. Replaced them with some plastruct parts I had left over from another project.

    Tom D
     
    BoxcabE50, mtntrainman and bremner like this.
  3. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    60,432
    5,055
    651
    No. It is not just you. I have encountered the same failings. Frustration is the word. And, sometimes that word gets around, which leads to reduced sales- which leads to deciding, errantly, that people won't build, or won't buy or other mistaken conclusions such as modelers are lazy, only want RTR, etc.

    Also, too often, the parts aren't well identified or the photos provided are too sparse. Guessing intent of a designer wastes our time and again, frustrates.
     
    mtntrainman and Hardcoaler like this.
  4. John Moore

    John Moore TrainBoard Supporter

    9,316
    3,674
    139
    Now I consider myself to be a fairly experienced builder of Laser kits and have dealt with those danged muiti-part windows and frames and peeling them off the paper for the self stick which do not self stick very well if at all some times. And only seem to have been made worse when painted. And sometimes the trim can be just as bad. Fortunately being a scratch builder anyhow I had collected a fairly large variety and assortment of windows and doors of either plastic or metal and ended up substituting those for the laser cut assembled ones. Well identified parts and photos of the finished products, all four sides, go a long way toward a satisfying build.
     
    Hardcoaler likes this.
  5. rray

    rray Staff Member

    6,665
    1,718
    105
    To be fair, I am one of those laser kit guys that actually tried to get acess to bulk windows, doors, and details for my kits. I have absolutely no skills at injection molding, or lost wax casting, and my resin skills are sub standard also.

    So I tried to buy those windows and doors, chimny's, water spouts, etc. for, my kits and was plagued by high costs. An example, I was making a water tower kit for MTL, and I needed a spout. I contacted the manufacturer of detail parts about buying in bulk for the project. He gave me 25 cents off the retail price for each spout. The bag was the size of a tic tac container full, and cost hundreds of dollars. It literally cut my margin by 50% to honor the price MTL had budgeted.

    On another kit I was selling wholesale to hobby shops for $12 was for a CN Wood Caboose kit, however I had to pay $1.50 each for the CN style smoke jacks, where using the MTL plastic smokejacks available in bulk at retail from MTL costs .15 cents each. Most detail suppliers won't cut their price much for bulk, often the price is what they sell wholesale to hobby shops for a dozen peghook pieces, and I would be looking for 500-1000 pieces.

    To be fair, there are some good people out there, like Tichy, who sold me bulk sprues of HO Scale caboose details, brake gear, etc for 10% of their retail price when purching a few hundred sprues. And then, there are some parts just not available, that you have to make yourself... which is pretty much everything in Z Scale. So I can understand up to this point trying to make everything on the laser you can. You can always squeeze the part into an unused portion of the material sheet, and it only adds seconds to the cut time to include that detail.

    Here's where things should start getting different going forward... Laser kit guys have to learn to draw vector graphics to do their work, but now super affordable 3D printerd are now available. For $300 you can purchase a machine capable of making your doors, windows, smokejacks, freight packages, and other details. I suspect that many laser guys are expertimenting with those machines right now, and will soon be including better details in their kits.
     
    Hardcoaler likes this.
  6. bremner

    bremner Staff Member

    5,294
    3,061
    92
    I get the parts thing, but I also get the fact that nobody makes the windows that I needed for my substation...
     
    mtntrainman likes this.
  7. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

    7,300
    1,490
    98
    When I built my "Barn and 4 Out Buildings Kit by Laser Art Structures' I found a lot of pieces and parts that where a pita to cut out let alone use without breaking them.

    [​IMG]

    The worst where the horse stalls that where supposed to go IN the barn !! They where the same width as the thickness of the wood they where laser cut from ! They almost all broke ! :mad: I ended up just cutting them to length to make hay bales that went up in the loft...lol. The width was dang near perfect for a 3 wire bale !(y)

    The barn door trim and corner trim were almost as bad. The peel off 'sticky' back stuff wouldnt hold....but superglue came to the rescue !:whistle:

    The n scale 'Blair Line LLC laser cut Sunset Motel' almost drove me to take up drinking again ! :censored:

    :mad:All the window and door trim was agonizing to cut out and install !!:mad:


    [​IMG]

    The 2 wooden poles for the motel sign have broken off so many times...just from LOOKING at them !!!!:mad::mad: I have a red spray nozzle extension from a can of WD 40 that is going to make a really nice solid one piece metal pole that will just go up the middle of that sign...:censored::censored::censored::censored:

    I like the laser cut kits. But as others have said...We NEED plastic windows and doors to make them viable ! PLEASE. :cautious:
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2019
    BNSF FAN likes this.
  8. gregamer

    gregamer TrainBoard Supporter

    1,250
    271
    28
    Modular buildings. Tools for modeling.
     
  9. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

    7,300
    1,490
    98
    IMHO..I think the wood they are using is too 'soft'...allowing for way to much warpage....and breakage on smaller pieces. :whistle:
     
  10. bremner

    bremner Staff Member

    5,294
    3,061
    92
    So....the wife asked me if I think that I can make money making kits, if so, how long would it take to pay for the laser....so, I kind of have her blessing.

    I am thinking about starting off with a couple of my scratch built structures to make them better...

    [​IMG]

    And my interlocking tower
    [​IMG]

    Whatcha think?
     
    SP-Wolf likes this.
  11. rray

    rray Staff Member

    6,665
    1,718
    105
    I got my laser in 2003. I had bought the laser to startup a home business, because my day job had been outsourced to China during the 9/11 fallout. They gave me a years pay to stay till the end and decomission the factory, while everyone else laid off grabbed what post 9/11 jobs they could find. I had originally thought I would cut architectural models as a business, but I only got 2 contracts, and one of the guys asked me if I could make a model railroad caboose. I was into N Scale and said, I had intended to make buildings for my layout as practice for my business. This architect from San Francisco was also a model railroader, and he told me "The closer to the tracks, the more you will sell".

    I made a bunch of caboose kits, and although they sold well, it was not high volume due to cabooses being road specific. After 10 months on my own, I finally got a day job earning 40 cents on the dollar what I used to make, so I really needed to develop my side hustle. Then I made some centerbeam cars. I shipped 50 of them to a shop one morning before work, and told them they were on the way. At 10am I got a call saying they were sold out and needed 100 more. As soon as I got home, I got a call asking for another hundred. Over the next 2 years I sold over 2000 of them, and my laser was paid off. $15K back then for a laser.

    So I got into the structures game after that. None ever sold in the volumes the centerbeam cars did, but it was OK cause I always had orders for centerbeam cars. I made flatcars, bulkhead flats, Nn3 ventilated boxcars, and covered hoppers, all from designs I found in a Car Builders Cyclopedia I got off ebay. Those all sold better than the cabooses and structures did.

    Nowadays with lasers costing much less, you can probably get away with selling structure kits, but "The closer to the tracks, the more you will sell" still applies. As far as interlocking towers, how many are on an average guy's layout. How many tool sheds and section houses are on his layout. How many main street storefronts are his layout? So ask yourself questions like that.

    Also, there is always room for another laser kit company! More selection is always better than less.

    My best selling structure kits were a Sawmill, and a team track loading ramp of all things! Slowest sellers were train depots for some reason, yet I really like to make them.
     
    JMaurer1, MK, Kez and 1 other person like this.
  12. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    60,432
    5,055
    651
    I can understand why depots might sell more slowly. In this instance, they are like the cabooses- railroad specific. They can even be era or regional, much as with freight cars. So many today model times after a large number of stations have been removed from company property.
     
  13. silentargus

    silentargus TrainBoard Member

    153
    75
    11
    Adding a big +1 to the small structure requests. Most of us don't have the room for basement empires, even though that's what always gets the press attention because the owners of such (rightly!) show off their layouts. The only kits I've been buying in the last few years have been houses, sheds, and small businesses. No room for city scenes, row houses, big industry, skyscrapers, and whatnot- just a handful of rural houses, one or two stories tops, single or twin stall engine house, maybe a little warehouse in a converted barn served by a spur. Layout centerpieces are in abundance; humble workaday shacks, not as much. I think the big companies like selling the idea of a layout more than actually helping build one.

    Also: kits that are more... kitbasher-friendly. Fewer "part goes here" markings than plastic kits tend to have. Walls and roofs that can easily be repurposed, mixed and matched without major alterations. Things like that, which let even someone with minimal modeling skills add something unique to their pike. It's much easier to have grand ambitions when the building blocks don't fight back.
     
    BoxcabE50 and mtntrainman like this.

Share This Page