Woodcutter's Shack - HO - My First SW kit

I received my first SierraWest kit on Saturday and am anxious to start. This is my first post and I want to make sure I can properly resize pictures, upload them and have a general discussion.


But first a little about me. I am new to the model railroader hobby and I live in Spokane, Washington. I've been in the hobby for less than two years. However, I am ambitious and somewhat of a perfectionist. I've been collecting over the past months and have assimilated an acceptable work bench.


Notice the cutting matt and the glass - that's Karl's doing. I've already started a layout, but will have to unassemble it because I'm moving back to the South next year. I am modeling the Kansas City Southern in central Louisiana in the '50s (my grandfather worked for the KCS during this time). Therefore, these kits are perfect for my layout. Following is a picture of what I have done so far. I know we are not supposed to post pictures of non-SW models, but I want to give you a sense of what I have accomplished without any help. Now, I can go to the next level with your help and be even better.


I've carefully read over the start of Brett's instructions (they are really good!!) and you will see by the next picture that I have done the necessary preparations.


As I continue my build, I will post pictures and ask for your help and critiques. Since this is my first kit, I will probably stick to the directions and not venture too far. Also, with regard to the staining of the wood, I plan to use Brett's new style approach since I don't have any Polly Scale paints.

Please wish me luck. Phil.

P.S. I'm still a working stiff, so my progress will probably be spotty.


  • I only see one picture on my post. Did I do something wrong??
  • Phil,

    Wow, it is great to see you joining us. I am as new as can be new and have been fully embraced by this group of exceptional professionals. You will be very happy here. Please keep us up to date on every move you make and then hope for expert comments. Before joining, I explored the older/original posts on this forum and I have seen only positive posts and encouragements. Several of the folks here have won "First In Show" awards, not merely first prize in their category. Their comments are priceless.

    Historically, I get to Spokane twice a year on a part time retirement job. We'll stay in touch and swap lies . . . . .

    John Maguire
  • Never mind. I see them now.
  • John,

    Let me know when you are coming to town and I will show you my layout. I'll start breaking it down in January. Phil
  • Welcome Phil - great to have your build thread here. The HO Scale Wood Cutters Shack is a classic kit I originally released in 1999... Tons have been built and it is so awesome to see each unique build. This is a fantastic community here available to help and offer guidance and advice. And, as always, never hesitate to call me if you have any questions!
  • I always love it when people model prototype lines! Very nice - with the connection to a family member too. I love your work space (I have none)! Very envious. Several builds are going on right now for the Woodcutters Shack, including mine in O scale, so would be great to see it emerge in HO.
    (NB: I hear you- I'm a working stiff, and I'm old, but I have a young family. And no space (and I'm working in O and F scales - D'oh! My timing has never been good...). Luckily a tolerant spouse. Builds take forever but my attitude is - tomorrow never knows - so do it now! Who knows, I might win the lottery! (in Canada we don't pay tax on lottery winnings to boot!)
  • Great to see the beginning of your project Phil, and the enthusiasm. Your previous modeling looks great and your workspace would make many envious.

    Working on a glass base is one of the many lessons I learnt from Brett. Follow his instructions and guidance in the manual and you wont go wrong.

    There are plenty of us here who will support and enjoy seeing your progress, so, post
    often and keep us up to date on your build.

  • Wooohoo Phil.

    Great kit to start on, and if you follow Bretts instructions you are sure to turn out a beauty.

    All I can add is take your time and enjoy the ride.
  • Looking forward to the build. You are going to love these kits.
  • Welcome to the forum....looking forward to your build....follow Bretts directions and you'll do great....and to echo others.....ask if you have any questions.....I learn from each and every post on this forum...
  • Thanks for the welcome. I showed my wife some of the SW builds in this forum. Her comment was, "glad to see there are other folks with OCD (obsessive/compulsive disorder) out there!!" I told her, "attention to detail, not OCD." However, she was very impressed.

    Stay tuned!!
  • Dang! The new guy's wife is already gettin' sassy!!
    I could show you my wife's supply of THAT's OCD.

    Have fun with the build!
  • OCD -- "Overcome by Complete Detail"?
  • Great to see you here Phil, welcome. Look forward to seeing what you do with the WCS. Love your work space and layout pic. Ken
  • Yes, welcome Phil. Come on in and jump in with the rest of us rookies. I'm one and I have learned a ton from the guys on this forum. They are as helpful as anyone could be. I will be watching your build as I have the Wood Cutters Shack on my shelf to build. I would join in with you, but have just started something else and I'm not sharp enough to do two builds at one time. Luck to you and post lots of pics.

  • I finally called and met Brett. I'm glad I did. After kicking my hind side multiple times about over-thinking everything, he encouraged me to get started, so


    To distress the wood, I am going to use a number of different brushes to see if there is any noticeable difference and to get variety. I started with the brush I got from Micromark.


    Please note that these toothpicks, I mean framing lumber, are really small!!! I had to get seven of them to have something to hold on to. When distressing this wood with the Micromark brush, I found that I actually had to bear down quite a bit to get anything.

    Using the new school method, I sprinkled on some raw umber (408.3). Be sure you get it on the ends as well.


    I next washed in the powder with 91% alcohol.


    This is where I ran into my very first issue. As I washed with the alcohol, it seemed like the powder was splotchy.


    This may be caused by powder that is too coarse. I'm not sure, but I didn't like the look. I also didn't like all the fuzzies. That's when I remember either Bill or Karl suggesting using very fine steel wool. I used 0000 steel wool to get the following look.


    I liked this a lot more.

    What do you guys think? What can I do better? I would like feedback before I stain the rest of the wood in the package.

    Finally, all you newbies!!! This is my new member challenge to you. Get that kit off the shelf and start it, but more importantly, start posting pictures of your progress. We can't get better unless we let the rest of the world know what we are doing. Posting on this blog is super easy.

  • Great to see you get going on this Phil, and you offer good advice... "grab a kit and get started".

    The dark splotches you initially saw can be caused by the fuzzy wood. which is something you also noticed. End grain and fuzzies/splinters/splits will absorb more of the chalk 'solution' due to their increased porosity. this can result in a darker colouration. Sometimes we want this sometimes we don't.

    As you found out, a quick swipe with steel wool will remove fuzzies and blend the colour. Steel wool can also be overused and possibly pull out too much colour. It can also be used to get various effects. A little practice will give you a feel for it. If you do pull out too much colour just add some more chalk and wash it in.

    The techniques are very versatile and forgiving to play around with.

  • Thanks Karl. I noticed that the color dissipated a bit when I used the steel wool, but you are right, I can always add more chalk. Since these are the framing timbers, it may be less important than the siding. BTW, since I am only doing this on one side, when building, should the distressed, weathered side go down? Otherwise, it will be covered up by the siding. Phil
  • You can also try flooding it again with alcohol. Don't be shy...LOTS of alcohol. But the end result of your staining looks fine.

    I always distress and stain all 4 sides. That gives me a choice when it comes to assembling the wall or roof or whatever.
    In this step, I want to make sure if I'm following you since I don't have the manual in front of me:
    should the distressed, weathered side go down? Otherwise, it will be covered up by the siding. Phil
    I think that you board over the framing in the next step, so in that case, yes...put the best looking timbers facing down so they're exposed on the inside. However, not much of the interior is seen in this structure.

    It's not as critical on framing timbers. But again, it's a good habit to develop (distressing all four sides). The occasion where you distress ONLY the side you think is going to be exposed...that'll be the time it gets turned to face the wrong way and it'll be staring out at you.
  • Bill, another good piece of advice and another good reason to consider the old school way of staining. That way you don't have to keep flipping the boards over to stain them. I want to get this right because good wood staining and distressing techniques are common to all builds. Phil
  • Ken, I viewed your toolshed build at lunch today. This will be helpful for me in my build. Great job on it. I'm interested in knowing what Karl told you about the deck. You can send me a direct message if you don't want to post. I just noticed that the deck looked great at the end of your build. Phil
  • Hey Phil, nice to see you've started the WCS build, can't wait to see what you do with it. Thanks for the note on my Tool Shed build....Karl told me just what someone has already mentioned to you...don't over think the thing and do what you feel works for your comfort zone and how you want your build to turn out. You're getting great advise on techniques but in the end you have to like what you're doing and feel good about it. As an example...ask how to make a knot hole and you'll get numerous great ideas on the subject...but avoid asking how many knot holes each board should have as that is a personal preference choice. That's what Karl noticed I was drifting towards. Brett has many, many years of top shelf modeling experience behind him so his manuals contain tried and true innovative methods and instructions, follow them like a treasure map!
  • Ken, good advice. As you found, you just have to experience it first hand and if you don't like the result and can't figure out how to change it, then ask for help. BTW, I liked the way you described how to achieve a good knot hole. It was easy to follow.

    As I stain my wood, I'm going to try a few methods to get a feel of how each works. What's good about this approach is that I will get the variability I'm looking for at the same time. Phil
  • Phil, right you are...and glad the knot hole description worked for you. I have used it time and time again and I like the results. You are exactly right, experimenting with stain and coloring of the wood gives you a feel for what you like and works and also you'll get that "oh I like that" and you've given your own personal touch to the piece and now it's uniquely yours. Keep in touch...Ken
  • edited October 2014
    As Bill's excellent advice shows, distressing and staining all sides is beneficial. Not only does it give you a greater choice to place boards in areas where you know they will be visible, but also, if areas are visible that you never expected (a cracked or missing siding board, an open door or window... etc) everything will be finished properly and will blend. It doesn't take much extra time and can all be considered as practice or experimenting.
    Use the sides that look best in most visible areas and the rest will just blend into the big picture.

  • Looking great Phil! The more details, the better . . . . keep them coming. I am so glad you mentioned using the fiberglass pencil. I have three different sizes for my brass train kits from the UK. I never thought of using them on the wood. It is a must try. Tell us you are going to get to the convention. We are building staff for our SWSM mafia.
  • John, unfortunately Expo 2015 is at the wrong time of the year for me. Hopefully 2016 will work for me. I plan to make progress on my build this weekend. I'm staining the timbers using the new school method and staining the rest of the wood using the old school method. I will post pictures when I'm done.
  • I was busy this weekend, but I passed a few hurdles. First, after consulting with Bill, I decided to try the old school staining method. Since I don't have polly scale paint, I used a recipe developed by Mike Chambers utilizing craft acrylic paint. Since I'm building the woodcutter's shack, Mike suggested a multi-step process for getting the right look. The first step is to initially stain the wood, using the Brown/gray #2 recipe which calls for 22 ounces of water, 1 1/2 tsp. raw umber, 1 tsp. burnt umber, 1 1/2 tsp. Asphaltum (I used dark chocolate as a substitute since I couldn't find asphaltum), and 1 tsp. non-waterproof black ink. Instead of bags, I used old cold cut containers. See below.


    I poured the staining solution in each container representing each bag of wood.


    Now the baby-sitting job. Since I used craft paint, it was important to keep the solution stirred up to avoid the craft paint settling out. As Bill instructed me, it was more important to do this at the beginning and no, I didn't get up in the middle of the night to stir. My only mistake was using the cold cut trays. Although they look good, they leaked when I started sloshing the solution around. As planned, I took some of the wood out after 24 hours. I really liked the results and variability.


    I took the remainder of the wood out after 30 hours. I'll post a picture comparing the 24 hour wood with the 30 hour wood once the 30 hour wood dries. However, I'm not finished. Mike's recipe calls for distressing, a second stain using Barnwood acrylic paint and acrylic thinner, more distressing, followed by a gouache/solvaset dab. I'll post my progress. At this point, I feel like I'm on the right path. Just remember when staining, you don't have to be precise, just remember your recipe in case you really get something great and worth repeating.

    Finally, I tackled the front wall with the timbers I stained using the new school method. This was my first time using Brett's templates, wax paper, guides, and such.


    Please note that the timbers are not as dark as they appear in the picture. Also, I figured out a few things along the way. First, measure and cut each piece before you tack down the guide. Second, it's not a bad idea to cut all the pieces before you start gluing the pieces. It makes for easier measuring. Finally, if you are going to err in cutting a piece, err a bit on the long side. You can always sand it down to size.

    Now for your feedback, which I really appreciate. How did the rookie do this weekend? Also, what do you use for acrylic thinner? I've used Windex in airbrushing.

  • The rookie did good, very good. The framing is square. precise and tight, which definately makes it technically good.
    The colour is a personal and regional preference, grey, brown, reddy brown, etc, but, there are great variations within your board colours and that is what will stand out as great board-on-board modeling when you build the walls.
    Use variations and contrasting boards, but not so much as to make it 'stripey'. Personally I try to make the boards 'flow' in generic areas.

  • You really did a good job, I just tried a mike chambers mix just to see how it works.
    And it works really great, it took me a lot of time to find the right paint for the recipe here in the Netherlands.
    And that is where it comes to paint and airbrush, I only use acrylic paints from vallejo (micro mark do have the right color range) other name same brand.
    And I only use there thinner because if I use some kind of alcohol based product the paint start to clump and clogging my airbrush.

    Keep up the good work you are definitely on the good way

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