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After getting tired of spending two dollars for an ounce of styrene glue, we looked at solvents in the plumbing deopartment of the nearby Home Depot.  Turns out the PVC cleaner primer is mostly made of methyl-ethyl-ketone (MEK) which is the adhesive of choice of such reknowned model builders as Alan Armitage and Wayne Weselowski.  It works almost as well as pure MEK, which seems only to be available at very large city paint stores.  Even the smallest can represents a great savings over the hobby shop.  We decanted the solvent into the small glass containers we saved from the commercial cement.  It turned out to be good fortune we saved them becauser they seemed too good to throw away.  These solvents are deadly- be sure to ONLY use them in a well ventilated space.

At the Home Depot we also purchased some ABS solvent.  This thick glue also is basedon MEK and works well for invisible structural joints where it is difficult to achieve a tight fit- similar to gap-filling CA glue.  This thick glue also works well bonding H&R vinyl siding to styrene- much neater than Goo.

Walthers Goo and Goodyear Pliobond (sold at hardware and home center stores) are essentially the same product.  Which do you think is less expensive?

For those people using plaster cloth for scenery, the medical version is available by the case for about $25.00, and it's the same stuff as sold in the hobby shops, only cheaper. This comes in widths up to five inches by several yards long.   If
you can't find it, or just want an easy way, drop JT a line at or visit his website at if yother medical equipment.  MB, Westbrook, CT

We've also found a similar material (actually seconds from medical suplliers) sold in craft and art stores junder the trade name "Pariscraft".

Plaster can be purchased inexpensively at a masonry supply house- an eighty pound bak costs only a little more than a five pound bag at the hardware store.  You will use more of it than you think, or else you can split a bag with a friend for an even greater saving.  We've always been partial to USG Special White, a ceiling plaster which has great strength and molds and takes paint well.  Special White seems to be chip resistant, as we've yet to have a chip on any of our permanent and portable layouts.

While you are at the mason's pick up a few coffeee cans of stone dust.  Sifting the dust through appropriates screens will give ballast of an excellent color and shape for all scales, better looking than any of the much more expensive commercial products.  Apply in the usual manner.

JS- Adams, Mass

We took Jim's ballast advice one step furthur and put some cinders (available in cuts and fills along railroad rights-of-way everywhere) through our sifter and came up with an unlimited supply of great looking cinder ballaast.  As always, please be extremely careful when walking along the tracks and always obtain permission where possible.

I use a lot of cyanoacrylate in my dental laboratory as well as in my model building.  CA doesn't work well on porus materials like woods and paper. Even on some plastics it takes time to set. I use a lab chemical accelerate the set time of the adhesive. It's called Monimer, basically is one partt of a two part mixture that is used to make dental acrylics.  Dropped from a needle tipped dropper onto the glued work and SHAZAM! its set. I can build a two foot long trestle in about an hour, and the strength is very good. I build kit buildings in no time.  Monimers can be purchased from Dental supply houses.
RW -

Excellent self-stick weights for rolling stock can be obtained from any automotive shop that sells tires. The weights, sold to balance tires mounted on aluminum wheel rims, are made to break away in marked half ounce segments, similar to the weights now commercially offered. If you tell the mechanic what you want to do with them, he might even give you a handful for free- they're quite inexpensive. BW, Southbridge, Mass

Instead of expensive hobby store wire I use old guitar strings. I'm a professional musician (I have about 14 guitars) and I change strings quite often. The wound strings pass for scale model cable very nicely.. BF

We've found the inexpensive spray paint cans sold under the Wal*Mart brand name tend to clog less and cover every bit as well as the much more expensive well-known national brands. An excellent buy. We also bought a twelve pack of CA glue tubes at BJ's Club. Although the glue cost less than fifty cents each, they seem to stay liquid for every last drop and have great holding power. A much better buy than the "name" brands. One of the authors of this page worked in a caulking compound factory one summer. The same vat would supply national, store, and discount brands, the difference being the color of the can. SOMEONE made and packaged these discount store products for them.

For people looking for a large quantity of low-cost sheet styrene, go to the hardware store and by the least expensive bathtub shroud they sell. It has no details (ribs or flower patterns) and is generally the thinnest they can make it and still sell. The cost is in the $20-$30 range and you get about 40-50 square feet.- TB

Bondo automotive filler putty works very well on models. Its long shelf life until mixed, fast hardening time and easy workability make it as good a product as any filler putty sold for hobby purposes. The difference in cost is astronomical.

Excellent self stick freight car weights can be also be purchased at the auto parts store. These are quite similar to those sold for this purpose at hobby shops and cost much less when sold to the automotive trade.

Consider purchasing styrene sheet from a plastics wholesaler. These dealers have styrene available in thickness up to 3/8". Their scrap pieces are larger than the sheets sold in hobby shops and cost much, much less. Unfortunately, they do not carry scribed pieces, but they do have a wide variety of rod, tubes, and Plexiglas. They usually sell quarts and pints of plastic solvent for the cost of one or two of the tiny bottles sold at the hobby shop. Even with evaporation, the savings are significant. Look in your nearest city telephone book.

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