Making N Scale PCB Ties....

Sumner Jul 20, 2019

  1. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

    In my quest to lower the cost of a turnout, since if I'm around long enough I'll need 100 or so for my dream layout, I looked into lowering the cost of PCB (printed circuit board) ties for the turnouts I was building. I'd bought Fast Tracks PCB ties and really like them and if I wasn't planning on many turnouts would of stayed with them and will still probably still use some.
    I found sheets of printed circuit board material on eBay at very reasonable prices. I ordered the 4 above for $23.00 and received them a few days later. It is important that you pay attention to thickness if you want the ties to work in a Fast Tracks fixture or in conjunction with individual ties.
    I cut a strip out of one and cleaned off the protective coating.
    I'd place a mark across the sheet with a pen and ...
    ... then cut along the mark with tin snips.
    ... the ties would curl some but it was a quick job to straighten them in the vise...
    In about the time it took to listen to a couple songs on the shop radio I had enough ties for a turnout.
    I'll be able to use them in a Fast Tracks fixture or to build turnouts off of paper templates. $23.00 and a little time should give me enough PCB ties for about 100 turnouts.

    There are a few more pictures and more info here...

    Using these PCB ties along with wood ties and ME rail I should be able to make turnouts for less than $4.00 each. I'm also hoping to control them with servos and the associated switches and indicator LED's for an additional $5.00 or less. More on that when I put the parts together on a test turnout,

  2. Onizukachan

    Onizukachan TrainBoard Supporter

    Clever work, well done!
  3. Joe Lovett

    Joe Lovett TrainBoard Member

    Thank you for posting your ties work. Outstanding suggestion!!! It is amazing how we can see something that would be useful for an alternate than what it was originally intended. That's what is fun about our hobby.

  4. Tony Burzio

    Tony Burzio TrainBoard Supporter

    We always used Cloverhouse for PCB ties, since they come long lengths and leave less waste because you cut to length for switches.

    I like the idea of rolling your own, but make sure you use a magnifying glass to look for metal flash. Used to drive us crazy, one little piece would cause a short.

    You can use S Scale 2x4 wood for ties, since they are also long length to reduce waste. They are also the correct height to match PCB ties.
  5. bill pearce

    bill pearce TrainBoard Member

    When David Haines and I were both doing our layouts and scratchbuilding turnouts, we found a guy that owned a precision shear, and made ties for us. Only rub is that he could only shear about 6 inches, anything longer would curl up like a pig's tail. And no, I don't know how much the shear cost him or what he used it for otherwise.
  6. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

    I've added to my web page on making printed circuit board ties (PCB ties) and thought I'd share a couple of the new pictures here along with a link to the web page.


    Since the last post on this I found the double sided printed circuit board shown above that measures a true .031 in thickness, the same as the Fast-Tracks PCB ties and like it better than the .026 I found first. It was also very inexpensive. I cut the ties and shaped them as shown on this page with no problem. I'd look for the 'true' .031 printed circuit board. It cuts and straightens a little easier than the .026 I was using and has more strength.

    After I switched to the .031 thick PCB I also got a smaller vise to use and ….


    .. like it better for making the ties vs. my larger shop vise and the .026 PCB I was using.

    Above are cut ties ready to go into the new vise. After cutting a few batches of ties with the tin snips I've gotten better and faster at cutting them to a pretty uniform width. Give yourself a batch of ties or two to get the hang of it and you will be amazed at how fast this can go.

    Now for a few pictures using the new vise.


    Above is the new vise mounted to my work table. I like it as I can use it sitting down and can rotate the head to where I have a good view of the tie as I straighten it.


    Remove the rubber jaw covers while you are straightening the ties for a better grip on them.




    If you are making turnouts with paper templates the width of the tie isn't as critical.

    This has been a great little vise and for about $16.00 I'd recommend it. I've also use it to hold frames for milling in decoder installs and other things. The rotating head lets you get it into a comfortable position.

    A link to the web page with this info...

    MK likes this.
  7. wvgca

    wvgca TrainBoard Member

    if you are doing a lot of them, you can speed it up some with a hand shear ... it mounts with a clamp to the bench and has a three foot hand lever on it, capacity is six inch .. it also has a stop where you can easily make multiples of the same width ..
    they start around 100, and go up from there [image from ebay]

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