Saturday, October 8, 2011

Building Gator Foam part 2

Sorry for the long delay in posting.  Here is the continuation of the Gator Foam Benchwork discussion.

My friend Ted Pamperin uses Gator Foam for all his sub-roadbed and I was able to play with a piece of it at his place and thought that it should work in sectional bench work built similarly to how Sam built his modules.

Ted had leftover Gator Foam and he graciously let me have it to use and experiment with.  We cut down the Gator Foam into 2’X4’ pieces so I can fit them into my car.  (Four 2’X4’ sections would equal a 4’X8’ sheet)  When I got home I divided each 2’X4’ section into 1X3 stripes with a ruler and T-square and then brought them to my friend Dave Ramos’s house where we ripped the sheets down into the marked 1X3’s.  Out of one 2’X4’ sheet of Gator Foam I was able to get eight 1”X3” pieces of Gator Foam which were enough to build two 2’X4’ sections of the layout or in other words, 8’ of layout.  Translate this into a 4’X8’ sheet, and you get enough sections to build 32’ of layout, if you’re building 2’X4’ sections.  If you build your bench work narrower in spots you can maybe get a little more layout out of the sheet.  This works for plywood too if you decide to use that instead.  With all the Gator Foam Ted gave me I was able to have enough to build 56’ of layout which was more than enough to build Phase 1 of my plan, the York PA yard and surrounding industries on the Ma&Pa RR, with sections left over to start the top deck. 
Putting together Gator Foam bench work is a little different than wood  bench work.  The ends and cross bracing are glued with Liquid Nails for projects (make sure you use the foam safe kind.  The other kind will melt the foam if it touches it).  I was using nails and screws to temporarily pin everything together while the glue dries, but have since adopted a suggestion that Craig Bisgeier made and now use bamboo skewers driven into the joints and cut flush. I also adopted using some inexpensive corner braces to clamp all 4 corners together which helps speed up construction of each of the sections.  When I was using the the nail or screw methods I could only put together the 2 separate halves of each section, one end and one cross section glued together on each side and then only after the glue cured (about a day) I glued the two separate halves together.
The finished sections turned out extremely light weight and surprisingly strong.  Each section weighs, including the extruded foam, around 2 lbs. 10 oz.!  If you had a chance to stop by the LDSIG display in the SIG room at the Hartford CT. NMRA convention you probably saw one of my test sections there.  I had it attached to a stand with only to small Quick Grip clamps.  Being that each section weighs very little I feel confident that I can attach them to what I call adjustable wall studs without straining them with a lot of weight.  The adjustable wall studs will be comprised of 88” long 2X4 with a felt pad on top, and T-nut on the bottom.  A carriage bolt attached to a wood block will be screwed into the T-nut to adjust the stud and make snug tight in place.  The ceiling is 92” from the floor.  L brackets from the stud will hold up the layout sections.  Remember, I’m using these adjustable wall studs because I do not want to screw into the finished walls of our basement.
The following pictures will show you how we put Gator Foam bench work together:

This picture shows one 2’X4’ section worth of Gator Foam cut to 1”X3” strips, along with 2 pieces of 1/4" luan cut 2' long and plywood triangle braces. 
You can build 8 sections out of one 4’X8’ sheet of Gator Foam.

Using Liquid Nails for projects (the foam safe kind) glue the ends and sides together.  Make sure ends are square using some kind of square (Machinist square, carpenter’s square etc.) Using corner clamps, clamp the sides together and poke pilot holes into the corners then insert the bamboo skewers to pin everything together and let the whole assembly dry for a least 4 hours.
Also, Two triangle braces were glued to one on each cross of the braces at this time..  This will help keep everything square and makes the whole section stronger and resistant to racking.

Here is the finished section.  In order to be able to attach each section to one another, cut out 2 pieces of either 1/4” plywood or luan plywood which are 3” wide by 2’ long to fit inside the frame attached to the ends.  This will give you a solid base in which to use carriage bolts with washers and nuts to connect each section together.  I drilled holes 6” in from each end of the 1/4” plywood and after gluing on the plywood to the inside of the ends of the sections, drill holes using the holes in the plywood as a guide to accept the carriage bolts.

These pictures show the luan being secured with Liquid Nails to the inside of each section.  Notice the carriage bolt holes.  These are drilled 6" in from each side of the section.
This pictures shows a finished section of Gator Foam bench work.  Each section weighs about 2 lbs 10ozs!
In the next installment I'll talk about my removable/portable/adjustable wall studs used to hold the layout sections up without drilling fasteners into the finished walls of my basement.

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