Dueling Shacks

edited July 2017 in O Scale Builds
With Brett's encouragement, I'm going to venture into my first build and first build thread. I suspect that I share some of the same circumstances as others reading this forum: looking to start my first SWSM build and concerned about making a mistake, especially compared with the craftsmanship shown throughout the threads.

I model in HO scale and have acquired a good number of SWSM kits all with a planned place on my layout. See the photo below.

The top three unmarked boxes are a couple of tool sheds and one lineside shed. The other unmarked box is Duluth Plumbing Co.

I considered starting with one of the sheds, but have plans for them on my layout, so didn't want to mess one up in a learning experience. I've also felt some concern about starting my first outing on the HO scale details given my eyes are not getting better as my youth is appearing more distant in the rear-view mirror. The O Scale Dueling Shacks seemed to really be a good kit to start with. As Brett notes, "The Dueling Shacks are Not About Scale. They're About Learning New Methods and Techniques." I've included this bit of narrative so that if there is someone else in a similar position, you might consider jumping in also.

So I'm starting this thread at the point we are with every one of Brett's kits, anticipation of the arrival of the box. That for me should be day after tomorrow.

One of the elements Brett mentions is that his kits are designed to tell a story. I want to practice that as well and want to add a story to this kit. At this point, my intent is to have each shed on either side of a pull out on the side of a dirt road, with a 1930's pickup pulled in with a man standing between the sheds, holding a tool, looking as if he is deciding which shed to walk to. Growing up on a ranch, there was always a handmade tool box somewhere. I plan to have such a tool box opened in the back bed of the pickup.

Thanks for all your support so far. I'm looking forward to the journey.

I'm frankly in awe of the craftsmanship, and more significantly, camaraderie that everyone shows here. I really would appreciate any ideas or suggestions along the way.



  • Look forward to your first build.
  • Mark! So happy to see you here and starting your build thread. We will be following along and ready to offer encouragement and comments.
  • Like you, I was hesitant.... my solution was to get my hands on the manuals to discover the "secrets," then use those processes on "off topic" sets. Now I am eager to set off on my sets.... looking forward to seeing yours come together!
  • Thanks Brian, Brett, and Mike for the encouragement.
  • Looking forward to following your build Mark.
    You have quite the collection of Brett's kits, hundreds of hours of enjoyment all boxed up and waiting.

    The Dueling Shacks is going to be a great place for you to jump into your SW journey. You'll learn and get comfortable with many great techniques on many different aspects, from tarpaper to corrugated and siding to details.

    Jump in and enjoy the ride !!


  • Mark, I think that all of us were nervous about showing off are skills or lack of, but these guys are here to help. If you are good at following instructions, your kits will turn out just great. Then after a couple of them you will have learned some of Brett's techniques which will boost your confidence and try something on your own. From my own experience after a couple of kits, I tried a very detailed scratch built structure of the Sturgeon Sawmill and it turned out phenomenal.
  • All right Mark! Gald to hear you're in the preparation stages of a great SWSM build. The Dueling Shacks, as Karl mentioned, is a great place to start. Will be following along closely...
  • edited July 2017
    Thanks Ken, I will say that reading through the manual as you are getting ready to build one of Brett's kits is an order of magnitude more exciting than when you are just reading through it for info.
    I took pictures last night and intend to post them this evening.
    You really do a great job with photos of your builds. Do you use a special camera? I was surprised it seems the best photos came from my cell phone. Just wondering?
  • You are so right Mark. I have a ritual of sorts when I begin one of Brett's builds. It all starts, with many additional quirky kind of things, with a lot of thought and that wonderful manual.

    I appreciate your thoughts on my pictures and once again you're right, I take almost all my pictures with my iPhone 6s. Some really close shots I'll use my digital camera but that's it.

    I'm really enjoying this thread already and it's all because of the enthusiasm you convey, it's me anyway and I love it! That's the whole deal with fine scale modeling to me is the excitement and gratification of creating something you can be proud of and sharing that passion with fellow modelers. Well done...
  • Mark, Lighting is the one of the keys to picture taking. Outdoor lighting I think makes a difference. New cell phones are quite amazing. I have a Samsung Galaxy S8. Pictures come close to my Nikon.
    Mark, you post them we will enjoy them.
  • Ken, your last paragraph is 'almost' as great as your modelling..... It conveys the 'feeling'.

  • Mark, I'm glad you are jumping in. That's the only way. Just remember that you are among friends. I've been tied up with the build of my layout that I haven't been able to model. That too should soon end. Just remember to enjoy. Phil
  • edited July 2017
    Thanks everyone. I had a late night last night and was challenged getting the photos offloaded.

    Ken, Ed, & Karl, I really appreciate the kind words. Phil, I'm building structures before the layout. I have a 12x30 room to get floored before I do layout work. I've seen the work you are doing and am impressed all around.

    Ken, I pulled off last night and took pictures of a Dr. Grunge barn. I will post photos shortly. It looks like you needed practice in 1/1 scale before working on Bluesky.

    I'll post more later tonight. Thanks again.
  • edited July 2017
    Well I finally got my pictures ready. It was with a lot of anticipation that I opened the box I received from Texas yesterday. I took some pictures as I opened it. I hope you enjoy seeing how cool this simple kit is.

    Does anyone else cherish the idea of opening that little green box?

    Ah, but first look at the bags.

    I really love the laser-cut framing.

    The chipboard templates are really well done.

    As well as a good number of templates.

    The manual looks pretty simple on the outside...

    But then again the quality is in the details and care taken in these kits.

    I took a look at the metal castings first. The detail and crispness of the castings is really phenomenal.

    There have got to be way more than the 50+ castings advertised. I think they call that Under promise and over deliver. Thank you, Brett.

    And look at the detail on the raw casting. Wow.

    And then it comes time for the adventure to begin. These kit really do offer so much more than others you run across.

    As a bonus on the way home from work I saw something that could only have come from Dr. Grunge. I hope you enjoy and can see how this barn applies to the shacks.




    For anyone following along, thank you for joining in. What a great supportive group this SWSM clan is.

  • I love the wood on that barn. Enjoy the build.
  • Exciting times ahead Mark. Look forward to seeing what you do with this.

    You live in a very beautiful part of the world judging by your barn pics.
  • Well done on the preliminary work so far Mark. Crucial work before the chalk dust flies!

    Love the barn pics, and that gray siding color is what many of us try to emulate. Thanks for posting.
  • Since this is my first one of Brett's kits I'm walking through the construction manual pretty much step by step. There are some items I'm discovering that may be of help to someone else getting ready to cross the threshold to dive into one of the SWSM kits.

    As I follow the directions, I want to check out a deviation from the instructions. I am going to try a variant and not fog the windows with dull coat. As I have looked at most of the windows I've seen, there may be some light hazing, but they are not cloudy. So I thought of experimenting at this stage to see what effect I like. I am looking at using either real glass or acetate using dusting for the dirty windows. I can always install the glass per the instructions but for now I'm holding off on that.

    This photo shows the tarpaper prepped per the directions along with the laser cut doors and windows having a light even coat of dull coat on the front side. BTW those are the SWSM/Reaper Miniature paint set on the rack in the rear.
    Prep work1

    I mixed my AI solution per instructions. I also have some more diluted mixtures per Dr Grunge's commentary. You can always add more ink if not dark enough so i have a bit of time to experiment.

    I have looked to the final pages and looked to see what tools I might need, along with some of the supplies. Here is a picture of the craft paints I picked up as they were missing from my arsenal.

    If you find yourself in a similar position as I am having the common tools like the chopper, sander, and some knives, I was a bit surprised by what I needed to get. For the record, I'm investing in around $150-$200 in tools to fill the list Brett list in the back of the construction manual. i'm not debating it, as I'm looking to build other SWSM kits, it seems prudent to get tools ordered and on the way so they are on hand when I need them.

    I have my chalk and it is now in boxes similar to what Brett showed. I found some good quality boxes at Hobby Lobby, but suspect you can get them at any similar craft shop.

    I am posting this before I actually jump into the fun part of the kit, the texturing of the wood. If you have not already investigated Ken Karns' Dr. Grunge's Advanced Wood Clinic is a must read. I want to incorporate some of those techniques into this build as well.

    This picture shows the brushes and implements I have ready for the texturing and modelling the wood.

    I'll do my best to keep a record of my experiences with the next steps. Thanks for following along.

  • Such a great introduction to your build Mark, and wise insight. Now that you have the tools I'm looking forward to following along as you use them and create something to be proud of.

    After building many of Bretts kits and learning so much from each one I still follow the instructions to the letter every time I build the next one.
    Not only is there something new every time, but you will see how all the parts come together and the reasons behind them as you build.

    Looking forward to the next set of progress pics.


  • Thanks for the kind words Karl. I am following your O Scale Loco and Service Shops and am quite amazed at your techniques in adding levels of detail. So many skilled modelers to learn from here. This really is a great vehicle to collaborate and learn.

  • Tonight I added the initial texture to the strip wood for the wood shack. I've been following the instructions to the letter. Once I was done with the initial instructions, I remembered a couple of things from the Dr Grunge forum and reviewed it. What you see below is my combination of the two.

    First I started texturing the strip wood as per the manual. The strip wood and brush are what is prescribed for the first step.

    This photo shows some untouched wood on the left compared to wood that has been initially textured on the right.

    Once I was done with this, there was in fact a good pile of sawdust left on the glass.

    One of the things that Ken pointed out was that he used a smaller brush and only textured three strips at a time. I tried this and agree that there is a better feel for how the brush is working the wood. I apologize for the poor quality of the picture, but is shows the relative position of the brush when working the wood. (I have not yet figured out how to take a picture with my cell phone while holding the brush.)

    One of the other things that Ken talks about is using steel wool to remove the fuzzies. This photo shows the steel wool I use. You take about a golf size piece of wool and wrap it around the strip. If you apply a little pressure, you will clean up the fuzzies. If you clean pulling the wood through with the grain it pulls smoothly and doesn't tend to snag the steel wool fibers as much. It pulls easier with the gran as opposes to be harder against the grain.

    It may be a little hard to see, but the pieces on the left have not been touched while the strips on the right have been worked with the steel wool.

    Here is a photo of the finished pieces as needed for this part of the kit.

    I also textured some strip wood I am going to use for a fence. This is to be used for testing colors before applying them to the structure material.

    I am looking for grayer tint underlying the wood. I would appreciate any suggestions as to how to accomplish this with chalk. Ken mentions using AI in conjunction with chalk so I will be doing some experimentation. I certainly would appreciate any comments or suggestions on what people have found works best.

    Finally, as I was cleaning up through the evening, it dawned on me that with a good number of the kits, especially the Wood Cutters Shack, and Twin Mills that having a good supply of sawdust around will be helpful. So I'm collecting the residue from the texturing and saving it for future use.

  • Mark you definitely setting a solid foundation for a wonderful build by following Bretts instructions. Keep at it.
  • Great start!
  • Mark, thanks for the tutorial on the basics of building a kit. We can all stand a refresher course. If you are going for a grayer tint, why don't you just start with AI and see what you get. You can always darken it with powder. Phil
  • Thanks Brett and Phil.

    Brett, I am coming to appreciate your construction manual more as I refer to it during the build. I appreciate all the hard work you put into all aspects of your kits.

    Phil, if I am able to get to this tonight I thought I would take some of the 'fence' material and run a test to see what the results are. I know the pallet mentioned uses mostly the umber shades, where as most of the weathering in Wyoming, and Colorado tend to the gray shades.

    I really do appreciate this forum and the amazing amount of skill, information, and friendship.

  • Really nice Mark the way you are taking us through the start of this kit. You get a nice feel for the pre-start preparation that goes into a good quality SWSM build. Your attention to detail here will no doubt carry over to the entire project. Your wood is looking terrific and anxious to see where you take it from here...well done.
  • i'm still picking my chin up off the floor from gawking at your stack of swsm kits.
    this kit was my first swsm build, and i'm so glad that's where i started. it's a great kit, enjoy!
  • edited July 2017
    Well, I'll post progress so far. As I've looked at actual buildings around as can be seen in the barn pictures and reviewed Dr. Grunge's techniques I decided I wanted to come to a base gray with AI that would serve as a good basis for the chalks.

    I tried a number of AI recipes. The one that finally proved just right was the formula Brett lists in his instructions: 1 tsp Higgins non-waterproof ink to one pint of alcohol.

    I experimented with the grays. as can be seen below. The first picture shows one coat on the bottom, and two coats on the top.

    This picture shows the wood with three coats.

    I liked the results after four coats. One thing of note, I got some wood from a reputable supplier that I got at the hobby shop for testing. The grain simply did not come out nearly as clearly as with the wood Brett supplies with the kit.

    This picture shows the overall look of the wood.

    This is a closer view of the ends.

    As I look at the colors on the last two photos, they are much more vivid than they do naturally appear naturally.

    Hopefully, I'll post pictures tomorrow of the chalk. I'm planning on using gray and umber to arrive at the next stage in coloration.

  • You are going to be having too much fun!
  • Great looking boards Mark. Now the "grunging" starts! I'd loose the "barber pole" board in the middle or use only the ends...just a thought.
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