O'Neills Fabrication - HO Scale - An in-depth tutorial for building SWSM kits



  • brownbr said:

    Thanks for the effort in putting this together.

    I use a slight variation on your brushing, I give a pass with a very stiff brush then a pass with a lighter brush. Not sure if the thickness of HO boards would be appropriate for the stiff brush as much though.

    That's a great idea. You would get two different grain patterns. However, you are also right when considering thin boards. They take on the grain a lot easier and it is not necessary to use a super stiff brush. Otherwise, you would tear it up or overgrain it.

    Brett, I appreciate your comment and thank you again for allowing me the opportunity to do this. Phil
  • edited October 2020
    Now that you are practically an expert on graining wood and toothpick knots, it's time to stain the wood. I remember in the old kits that this was done by putting paint in a baggie, filling it with water, putting in the wood, and then waiting about 24 hours for the results. If you wanted variance, you just pulled the wood out of the bag at different times. What a mess!! Now, Brett and I believe Karl Allison, developed a much easier and better way to stain wood. I hope you reviewed Brett's video on the website. I follow the same technique.


    Here is what you are going to need. The container at the top contains 90% rubbing alcohol.


    I work with about 5 - 6 pieces of wood at a time on the glass surface of my workbench. I take a straight-edge razor blade and scrape the chalk onto the wood. It shouldn't make a big difference, but I find that if you scrape towards you, you have better aim on where the chalk goes. When I scrape away from me, it goes everywhere. In this step, you are applying equal amounts of Rembrandt 408.3, 408.5 (both raw umber) and 234.3 (raw sienna).


    This is what it should look like when you are finished. Don't apply too much chalk!!


    Taking a brush, apply liberal amounts of alcohol to the wood and brush back and forward. I use a brush that is a bit bushy and takes on a lot of alcohol. Don't worry about my fingers, I will brush any fingerprints away.


    Take tweezers and flip the wood over. I don't reapply the chalk. There is plenty on the glass. I dip the brush in the alcohol, brush the surface to pick up the chalk and apply it to the other side.


    As a final step, I take the tweezers to hold the wood and make a final brush over both sides of the wood to remove any excess chalk and fingerprints.

    I then place the wood on two pieces of wood to dry. Once the wood dries, I look for any uneven distribution of the chalk. This can be remedy by very lightly passing the wood through my 000 steel wool. Once stained, you will clearly see your knots.

    What to do with the mess I have created????
    As you know, nothing is wasted in craftsman building. I take a razor blade and scrap the chalk into a pile.
    I then put it into a Diet Coke cap. I can use this mixture to stain the ends of wood that I have cut or to stain a small piece of wood. Handy isn't it???

    Practice Tips:

    1. Use steel wool lightly to get rid of splotchy areas.
    2. Use large tweezers to turn the wood to avoid fingerprints
    3. Scrape towards you versus away from you to get better accuracy.


    1. Go to the Sierra West website and review the video under "University" and "Videos" entitled, "Damp Brushing."

    Next time, we will do just that - damp brush all the wood we have grained and stained.
  • Here is an example of what the wood looks like after staining. As you can see, the staining really brings out the knot holes. However, don't get used to this look because a lot of it will be covered by paint in the next step.
    IMG_2196 (2)

    The next step is to locate the wood specified on page 9 of the instruction manual.


    BTW, it may be possible that the 7 1/2" wood ended up with your 8" wood. Not to worry, just locate it and set it aside. It won't be painted. Now, just follow the directions on page 9 since you're an expert at graining and staining.

    Next time, we will get to damp brushing. This ought to be fun. Phil
  • Wood is looking great Phil. Nice subtitle knot holes. It’s all In the preparation!
  • Wonderful progress. A real treat to follow along.
  • Let's learn how to damp brush. I refer to pp. 10 & 11 of the instruction manual. As Brett explains, the main building is colored with craft paint using a procedure that will give it a great peeled paint look. Brett suggests using the color ivory. I checked my vast supply of craft paint and didn't have it, but I settled on Americana's White Wash. That makes sense to me, "White Wash!!!"


    Here is what you will need.

    Let's pause now for a practice tip before proceeding ...

    Practice Tip: When you are confronted with a new technique and are just not confident in how to do it, pull out that excess wood you have and try some test batches. Go ahead and grain and stain it, put in a few knots and try the new technique. If you screw it up, no worries, it was a test batch. Get some more wood and try again. Once you feel you have the technique down, proceed to the build with your new-found confidence.

    Now, back to the build ...


    Pull out 5 - 7 strips that has been previously prepared. Inspect each piece and make sure you place the best side up to be painted. You didn't do all that beautiful work to have the best side facing down, never to be seen again!!

    I hope you watched Brett's video on damp brushing. It involves putting a glob of the craft paint on the work surface, and using a soft brush, place as much paint as you can on both sides of the brush. Brush it out a bit and then, lightly brush the paint onto the boards as you see here. As Brett says, don't overthink it, just brush it on. I found better coverage as the paint fully covered the brush. The coverage in uneven and random.


    Once you are finished painting, immediately apply a very lightly-applied coat of alcohol with a bristle brush. Don't overwork it.

    This is what it looks like after drying. If I saw a glob of paint that looked too much, I knocked it down with my Micromark wire brush with an extremely light touch.

    Practice Tip: Don't get in a hurry. Take your time and get the best look possible. This work will be very visible in your final product.

    Next time: We'll get into preparing the walls of the main building, but most important, I'm going to give you a cutting lesson for more exact and precise cuts.
  • Phil...thanks for taking the time and effort to put this thread together...question..what is the purpose of brushing the alcohol over the dry brush acrylic paint since their solvent bases are different
  • Yes, thank you Phil. This is really helping some of us noobs.
  • Terry, Thanks for your question. According to Brett's video, the alcohol homogenizes the paint. I can't explain it further than that, but I noticed that the paint "blistered" a bit when the alcohol was applied. In my opinion, it just enhances the peeled paint look.

    EmeryJ, thanks for your comment. I'm taking the approach in this blog of simulating a crafting clinic. When doing a clinic, you try to appeal to both the beginner and advanced modeler. Some of the things I say will be too basic for the advanced modeler, but perfect for the beginner who hasn't built a kit of has little crafting experience. However, I hope I provide enough nuggets even for the advanced modeler.


  • Thanks, Phil.... I’ll give it try
  • Great step-by-step with excellent results.
  • edited October 2020
    IMG_2207 (2)

    If you are following my build and also are building O'Neills yourself (I highly recommend this!), then you should be finishing the preparation of all this wood. Don't worry, your efforts will be rewarded when you start building the walls of the main building.

    By now, you should understand fully how to grain and stain, create knot holes, as well as damp brush paint onto stained and grained wood. I haven't counted, but there is at least 50 pieces of wood that you prepared.

    Here is what I found while dealing with this amount of wood:

    1. You should become more proficient and efficient in the technique in question as you go. As a result, your confidence will grow. When I started damp brushing, I was tentative because I hadn't done it before. As a result, my paint coverage was a bit on the light side. However, as I gained confidence with the method, I put on more paint and the results looked very good. I also got a better feel of the brush I was using and what it could and could not do.

    2. Pay close attention to what you are doing and its effect. You may notice if you do something a certain way, you get a real cool effect. There have been more neat crafting effects discovered purely by accident.

    3. The goal is not to produce identical boards. The variance you achieve from board to board is what makes stick construction so much superior to construction using laser cut walls. So, don't be afraid to vary things as you go. However, as with anything you do in SWSM construction, moderation is a must. Don't go wild on me!

    4. As you build, Murphy's law will come roaring in, and stuff will happen. A stick breaks, you put on too much paint, you grain and stain the wrong piece, etc. The secret to a good craftsman is the ability to effectively deal with the problem and cover up any big mistakes.

    I'll tell a story on myself. I was constructing the mine, and the instruction manual introduced me to a different peeled paint effect. The instructions call for a thin solid even coating of full strength red craft paint, which was dried for an hour and then lightly sanded to remove a majority of the paint. I thought I was following the directions, but when it came to sanding off a majority of paint, nothing came off. I had used too much paint!!! Ouch!! I thought about it and decided to use my Micromark wire brush and knock off as much paint as I could. If this didn't work, I would find more wood and start over. I was successful using this technique, but as a result, the wood was very thin and brittle. Not to worry, I continued to use it very carefully and to great results.


    I received a lot of compliments on the peeled red siding despite the fact it was a major error on my part. I came out smelling like a rose. Notwithstanding, I learned a valuable lesson that I mentioned earlier. If you are not familiar with a new technique, experiment on some spare boards.

    I hope this helps. Phil
  • That's right, try before you hit the definite piece. On the other hand, I often had great unexpected results which weren't meant but turned out beautiful.

    Mighty fine work and dito tutorial.
    Thanks for this. :wink:
  • Hello everyone. It's been a long time and I'm glad to see this thread. I started my O'Neill's three years ago, got a few weeks into the project, and wound up changing jobs to one that was about 75% travel. Not much modeling time! With the current state of affairs, business travel has slowed to a trickle and I have some time to do fun stuff again. O'Neill's has been calling my name, so I took out the box, blew the dust off of it, and have been reviewing how far I got, what I was doing at the time, and I'm re-reading the manual by way of a refresher. It takes a bit of time to re-orient yourself after a long absence, or at least it takes me a while :smile: I'll be following along!
  • If Phil doesn't mind a little kibitzing I have what I hope is a helpful suggestion: I had some issues using the correct lumber here & there. This is entirely my problem and I kind of got spoiled to color coded lumber in other kits, which didn't help. I'm not experienced enough or my eyes sharp enough to tell all of the sizes apart at a glance. I used to be able to tell a 1/2" and 9/16" nut apart just by looking. Not so much anymore! I found this little caliper on Amazon. It reads in fractions of an inch as well as in decimals and millimeters. It's carbon fiber construction, but it does help you keep your sizes straight and not grab from the wrong pile. It's not expensive. If you're so inclined:
  • Alan, welcome back. I would love for you to build your kit along with me. Good suggestion on the tool. I can see and sometimes have issues telling the lumber apart. Phil
  • Before we get into preparing the walls of the main building, we have to do one more painting job. On page 11, Brett instructs us to paint the six pieces we set aside with bluegrass green that has been brightened a bit with Antique White. Well ... darn it ... I don't have those craft paints either!! However, this will be a good time to bring out the artist in all us by mixing the craft paints we do have to get the required color. Let me show you how to do that:


    I googled it and found out what bluegrass green looks like. The name also suggests what we need to get this color - blue, green and white.


    I decided to go with a darker green and a vibrant blue and stick with White Wash, the color I used on the boards.


    I then grabbed an artist palette that you can get at Michael's or Hobby Lobby. I use this a lot in my modeling. If you notice, you have a center area which I like to use for mixing.


    I believe I captured the right color. Here's how I did it. First, I put the green paint into the center and then added the blue paint. Be sure to mix thoroughly to get the right mix. Make small changes - you can always add more paint later. When I was close to the color, I brightened it with a bit of white paint. It took more blue that I would have thought, but that's the beauty of mixing paint - you get to see the transition as you add the paint. BTW, if you overshoot and make it too blue, just add more green!!


    I then painted one side of the boards and set out to dry. I then had a dilemma. What was I going to do with the mixed paint while I was waiting for the boards to dry. I decided to put the extra paint in a Diet Coke cap and cover with parafilm. This will keep it moist until I need it for the other side.

    Next time: We'll finally get to the preparation of the walls of the main building and that cutting lesson I promised you. BTW, thank you for the interest. So far, there have been almost 800 views of this build. This amazing interest just spurs me on to do more.

  • You're welcome Ed. Happy to do it. I love teaching. Phil
  • We have finally progressed to p. 12, the preparation of the walls of the main building. Using a laser cut cardboard template, we need to measure and cut 5 headers, to be used later.


    Here is what you will need to do this. BTW, you will notice a Diet Coke bottle in most pictures. This is an essential tool for me to properly model.


    I took a picture of the instruction manual to show the location of the headers. Locate the two pieces of wood from bags 2 and 4. The thicker 3" piece will go on the left wall, and the thinner 8" piece will go on the left and right walls.

    Now, it's time for that cutting lesson. I can't over-emphasize how important it is to be able to correctly measure and cut these small pieces of wood.


    Be sure you have plenty of light and magnification. I can't imagine anyone doing this with the naked eye, but I'm getting to be an old man, so the younger ones just have better eyes. Notwithstanding, it is a lot easier to make more accurate cuts using a magnifying glass. As Mel Gibson said in the Patriot, "Aim small, miss small."

    Step #1: Take the wood in question and square up one end of it with the true sander.
    Step #2: Place the squared end of the wood on one side of the header template to be measured and using a razor blade, mark the other end of the header template. I always measure a slight bit longer, keeping in mind that I will square it up in the next step.

    Step #3: Using the mark made by the razor blade, go to the chopper and finish the cut. It is easier to do this if you find the mark with the blade of the chopper first and bring the board down to the mat, then finish the cut.
    Step #4: Square the cut end on the true sander. Don't overdo it or you may make the board too short.

    Step #5: Take the board and place it on the header template to make sure you have the right length. The magnification distorts the picture a bit, but I have correctly cut this header to length.

    You will have left over pieces of wood. I like to take these and put them in an old medicine bottle just in case I may need it later in the build.

    Once you have done all the cutting, you need to grain one side and the ends and stain. I don't have to go into this because you are already experts in graining and staining.

    IMG_2232 (2)

    These pieces need to be set aside for later. In order to not lose them, I put them in another old medicine bottle and label it.

    Next time: We are finally going to work on the main building walls. This is where the true fun begins.

    Homework: Carefully read pp. 13 - 18, which explains in detail how the pieces of wood we carefully prepared are glued to the cardboard walls.
  • Making great progress. Being this in depth is a real bonus. Thanks for the extra effort to do this....Rick
  • I'm here working with you today Phil! Nice trick on mixing the Lightened Bluegrass Green. Looks like somewhere between "close enough" and "nailed it" too me! I was lucky enough to be able to find those colors, but I've not been able to find things "on the list" more than once. I built a couple of kits by Bollinger Edgerly Scale Trains. He's a great guy too, but he had a knack for choosing colors I couldn't find anywhere! I always ended up going on a scavenger hunt before starting one of his kits, and still had to make substitutions here & there. I'm a little ahead of you for the moment, since I pulled out a kit that had been started, and today I did the cargo doors for the main building. They were where I stopped, both because of my job change, and because my doors had an error. Brett sent new parts right away, so I'm now putting those together. The new parts are good to go. I'm hoping my fresh green matches my three year old green! One comment: I have found that the resin impregnated paperboard is actually pretty forgiving when it comes to handling. You can't be ham fisted of course, but I didn't break anything. It's great stuff for doors & windows but it makes me hate my other structures built with more conventional materials! I won't post pics for a while, until we're closer together in the build, as I don't want to spoil your sequence.

    New Cargo Doors
  • Alan, I didn’t actually look for the color. I like to use what I already have. As long as you have the primary colors, you can theoretically obtain any color. I also wanted to show the followers how to mix craft paint. Phil
  • I'm weak in the craft paint department. Lots of Reaper Miniatures, Vallejo, Tru-Color, Scalecoat, and a largish stash of left over Floquil, but light on craft paint, so I'm buying it as I go. Nice technique though!
  • Nice progress. I wouldn't worry too much about paint colors. It's the color that you like the best.
  • edited October 2020
    when i was at this stage in the build i went to hoblob and bought the bluegrass green. i thought brett was nuts because it seemed so "loud", but after applying it and and weathering it, i thought brett was brilliant. i like the color so much i made it the trim color of norton's fish camp.
  • I agree that paint color should be what you like best, but at the same time I defer to Brett's choice of color because I know he has thought through it and decided the color in question was the best choice. Phil
  • If you read pp. 13 - 18, you will have a pretty good idea what we need to do to complete the framing of the door and window of the main building. Brett goes into great detail which I will not repeat here. However, here are a few point to consider:

    1. Be very careful which wood you are using. It is easy to mix up the wood and use the wrong piece. Keep everything separate (3 1/2", 7 1/2", 6" square).
    2. The 0.020 thick pieces are fairly fragile and can be snapped with little effort. Be careful in your handling of these pieces. I say this because that is exactly what I did.
    3. Brett does a fabulous job of providing lines on the cardboard to assist you in cutting the individual pieces. Don't forget to take advantage of this great feature.

    We start with removing the cardboard walls from the template using a razor blade. It's a good idea to label each piece on the back with a pencil because the labels on the template stay on the template. IMG_2237
    Once removed, sand down the tabs that connected the walls to the template.
    A word about my sanding stick. I got the idea from Ken Karns. The sanding sticks can be purchased on Amazon and they come is a variety of grits. The neat thing about these sanding sticks is that you can easily rotate the sandpaper to get fresh grit. Once you used up the sandpaper, you can put on a fresh sandpaper that comes with the sanding sticks.

    We then get an overview of the application of the siding and frames on pp. 14 & 15. A few things to remember:

    1. On a vertical row, never mix 1/16" and 5/64" wood.
    2. Work the siding in sections, as laid out on p. 17. This involves laying out the siding on the cardboard without glue to make sure everything fits well. You may have to substitute 5/64" wood to compensate for any gaps.
    3. There are lines for butting up two pieces of wood, but you have choices you can make to make it your own.

    Turning to pp. 16 & 17, we start by framing the door and window. You start at the top, then the bottom (if there is a bottom), then the sides. Remember my method for cutting that was explained in the last lesson. It is very important to get accurate and square cuts. So, just cut and glue ... cut and glue.



    When gluing, I use a tweezer with a long nose to make sure the wood is square.


    The door and window with the initial green framing.

    Installation of the frames are next with the installation of the header, followed by the shims, followed by the side pieces. This is also where you take a bit of chalk and apply to the painted wood. I tried to do this in moderation. It gives a very nice weathered look.


    Sometimes, things don't exactly work out, even if you follow the instructions and cut on the lines. In the first picture, the side boards don't exactly line up with the header. In this case, the header is too small. This bothered me, so I redid it. See the second picture. It's still not perfect, but good enough for me to continue.


    Here is the finished product. I'm now ready to apply the siding.

    Next time: Installation of the siding using sections.

  • I use the finger nail files, made of cardboard or something similar, all the time. When needed, I cut the top in any shape I want and can reach every corner, angle.
  • I use those fingernail files. There are a good variety of grits, and they're cheap at Wal-Mart or Sally's Beauty Supply. I also bought the sanding sticks from Amazon. The four pack Phil shows with all of those extra belts is pretty economical. They are good for distressing boards as was shown in Doctor Grunge's clinic.
  • Robert and Alan, thanks for the suggestions. Great ideas. Phil
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