1. Trains

    Trains TrainBoard Member

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    Need your input, going to build some modules. Was going to use good straight 1x4's for
    sides and ends. Floor under lay plywood for the top. Modules will be 16" x 4'.
    With reinforcing every 12". Trying to build them as light as possible.

    Thanks
    Don
     
  2. jpwisc

    jpwisc TrainBoard Member

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    I will try to talk you out of using dimensional lumber. I recommend using birch plywood for the frames. Even though that 1x4 you pick up at the store looks straight, it will cup, bow, and curve. Good plywood weighs about the same, but will resist movement better and it’s stronger to boot. Yes it costs more, but this is the framework for all your future fun and enjoyment.
     
  3. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

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    Using plywood for framing is over kill. It is expensive and you have to cut it to final dimensions. Lowes and Home Depot sell good quality pine 1X4's with no knots or other defects. Just ask for the quality pine lumber. To prevent warping or other maladies that affect wood apply a good quality primer/sealer to all the surfaces of the bare wood. One coat is good but two is better especially on the ends where the grain is exposed. Do the same with the plywood coating both sides. For cross bracing you can go with 1X2's to save weight. Just be sure when you build the module that you keep the corners at 90 degrees so the module is not racked.
     
  4. Carolina Northern

    Carolina Northern TrainBoard Member

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    Remember, that inside every piece of wood Lowes and Home Depot sells, there is a propeller, just waiting to get out.
     
  5. MK

    MK TrainBoard Member

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    Here's what I did for a 3.5' x 6' layout using 1x4 and 1x2. The key to prevent warping and bending, etc. is to use cross sectional reinforcements so the piece keep each other in check. And most important, seal it will well. I use two coats of Minwax Polyurethane over some stain. The pictures here are 12 years old and the frame hasn't changed dimension one bit.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

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    [​IMG]
     
  6. railnut49

    railnut49 TrainBoard Member

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    I've used 1x4 framing all my life, never had a problem. I have a 4x 8 layout that's at least 20 years old and nothing has moved since my son and I built it. Table top is 1/2" plywood. I moved the layout from AZ to NM a few years ago, absolutely no problems. Set it back up and was running trains right away.
     
  7. RBrodzinsky

    RBrodzinsky Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    The key is the title of the thread and the OP's stated purpose -- MODULES. There is a reason most modular standards call for birch plywood - you need to be able to abutt them reliably with another module. A frame is a very different beast, and only needs to have internal structural integrity.
     
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  8. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    My gosh that's FUNNY! Perfect imagery and pretty darn accurate too. :)
     
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  9. Ryan Wilkerson

    Ryan Wilkerson TrainBoard Member

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    I'd go with plywood too :) There's a reason it's in the Free-moN standard!
    Between Karl, Rick and me I believe we have close to 20 Free-moN modules.
     
  10. jhn_plsn

    jhn_plsn TrainBoard Supporter

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    Find a Ganahl's Lumber or similar that can provide cabinet grade plywood. The 1/2" should be 7 ply and the 3/4" 11 ply. It won't be liteweight but it will keep its shape. If it is liteweight from the get go it is likely easily twisted and you should walk away. If you can find a lumber yard with good wood tell them what you are doing and don't be shy. If you need it stripped to specific dimensions they can accommodate and will cut everything strait and square. The square part is very important. I have a chop saw and table saw yet even with all the tricks I have learned end up with a off cut here and there. Spend the money for them to cut it to your basic width. If you want to reduce the weight buy a hole saw or auger bit and remove some excess.

    I only reduced the cross members but can easily do the same to the side sills as they will be covered by a 1/8" hardboard fascia.
    20170513_205922 (2).jpg 20170513_205922.jpg 20170514_091729.jpg
     
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  11. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    VERY accurate. What they sell today, was considered to be kindling a few years ago. UGH.
     
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  12. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

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    I disagree. Most module construction instructions I have seen call for 1X4 dimensional lumber. This is partly because it is readily available at the 'big box' stores such as Lowes and Home Depot and is considerably cheaper than birch plywood. Also plywood must be cut with tools not usually associated with the average common man. So it comes down to this question, why pay $350+ to buy a table saw to cut a $40-50+ piece of plywood when you can buy an 8' length of premium pine, poplar or oak for about $10-12? Worried abut wood warping or contraction expansion issues? Seal it with a wood primer/sealer and save your money for what it was originally intended for - trains.
     
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  13. MK

    MK TrainBoard Member

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    ^What he said. :) I agree that a lot of the wood at the big box stores are crap BUT you get to spend as much time as you like to pick out the good ones. And if you can't find it in one store, go to the next or wait a week or two until they get new shipment. Also, those stores have regular and premium lumber. The premium stuff is very good and I've been able to get what I need with not issues of warping, expansion or contraction. I have pieces that I bought months ago sitting in my basement and they are still behaving well. :)
     
  14. jpwisc

    jpwisc TrainBoard Member

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    And I’ll disagree with your tooling comments. I’ve built a dozen plywood modules using basic tools, no table saw. So if you don’t have a table saw, don’t let that discourage you. A circular saw is a cost effective alternative. If anyone wants to learn how to make straight rip cuts with one, I’d be happy to share.

    Having worked in construction for 20 years, I’ll point out there is a reason plywood is more expensive: it’s worth it. Dimensional lumber quality has degraded heavily in the last 10-15 years. Low quality import lumber (much of it comes from overseas now), they use a lot of fast growth lumber (loose grain) and they don’t dry it enough. It doesn’t matter how much you seal or paint it, it will warp and twist. You can see this on most newer NTrak modules at shows.

    For anyone building a modules, your benchwork is the base for all future work. This is not the place to go cheap. You wouldn’t build your house on a paper foundation.
     
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  15. John Moore

    John Moore TrainBoard Supporter

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    I have done a bunch of small modules over the last few years and my material of choice has been 1/8 inch thick Masonite. It can be found in the big box home improvement stores in everything from a 2' x 4' sheet to a full 4' x 8'. The plus is a smooth side and a rough side that is great for landscaping. Does't have any warp issues or delaminating issues if it gets damp. And it is light weight where weight may be an issue. With my use the Masonite has no underframing, being set directly on the layout and tacked in place using a few wire nails or track spikes.

    Using it in a framed module you have the advantage of being thin, yet quite strong, lightweight. and the rough side takes glue easily to add foam or scenic directly on it, also no splinters or sanding needed.
     
  16. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

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    I will disagree again. So you can cut a straight line with a circular saw. With 20 years in the construction industry, I would hope so. But not everyone has twenty years experience. Second, plywood, especially birch plywood, is expensive not because it is worth it, for that is a personal judgement. Rather the plywood is expensive for purely economic reasons. Only select material is used and it requires a manufacturing process. That means time, labor and equipment is necessary to produce it. That all translates to money which is covered by the cost. Third premium pine, poplar and oak 1x4's are not your run of the mill "low quality import lumber" This is premium quality stuff that sells for a somewhat higher price than the usual stuff and it is worth it as it has no knots, cupping, warping, splintering, or any of the other maladies common to the framing lumber that you are acquainted with in construction. As for Ntrak modules, they take a lot of abuse with transportation, setting up and tear down as well as experiencing highs and lows of humidity. That is why a good primer/sealer is necessary. By the way, humidity will affect that untreated plywood also causing the outer layers to expand or contract accordingly.
     
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  17. Trains

    Trains TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks for the replies guys!
    Well to start off I'm 71 so they don't have to last to long. I have table saw, miter saw and the rest of the basic tools.
    I don't need Free-mo N standards as it is just for me, and maybe take it to a show once in awhile.
    I won't be starting till it warms up more, little cold in the garage for building.
    I'm really having a hard time getting started, guess I'm getting real lazy in my old age.
     
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  18. arbomambo

    arbomambo TrainBoard Member

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    plywood...
    much lighter WITH strength. Birch plywood. doesn't get better OR easier.
     
  19. ntbn1

    ntbn1 TrainBoard Member

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    I will not get into the dialog on ply vs dimensional. What I will add to the discussion is to consider your plans for the modules. If this is a home layout use, either method will work well. If this is for a portable layout situation, like NTrak, go for strength. Hauling modules around causes wear and tear that a home layout does not have to endure. Over-engineering for a portable layout will pay off in the life of the modules.
     
  20. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks for mentioning these options. I often use Poplar in applications where strength and affordability matter.
     

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