Another O Scale Sawmill!!

edited November 9 in O Scale Builds
After not posting a construction thread for way too long I'm jumping back in, but I'm venturing out into unfamiliar territory: O scale! I've watched Karl, Joel, and others construct amazing models with stunning details that I felt were beyond my reach in HO. Add the legendary CHB machinery along with my love of logging and the O scale sawmill kit was an obvious choice for my next project.


I actually began building it in March of last year. I've been researching sawmills, stockpiling pictures, and collecting larger scale techniques and ideas for even longer. I knew I wanted to include a water feature in the diorama and that would require some considerable changes to the original model. (One change has a habit of altering 4 or 5 elements down the line!) All that being said, I need to thank Brett right off the bat. He helped me work through numerous obstacles and hurdles that I created while trying to incorporate my ideas. Also Karl, Ken, Alan and Joel have shared their insights and second opinions when my self-doubt would get the best of me. You guys are some of the most talented modelers in the hobby and I can't thank you enough for chiming in when the call went out!

This won't be a typical step-by-step construction thread for a couple reasons...
1) The O scale mill has been well documented here on the forum
2) I lost a ton of pictures when my camera's memory card crashed. Bummer!

I'll try to stitch together the pictures and document the build as best as I can. I've been experimenting along the way and I'll be sharing some pretty cool and useful techniques that worked well for me. So, here we go.

Not that it stays this way for very long, but THIS is what my workshop looks like when it's clean:


The footprint for my version is 4 feet x 2 1/2 feet. The log pond will be situated in the upper right in the next picture. The mill subfloor is complete at this stage and stands on a large collection of weathered piers. It's test fit on the diorama base along with an initial layer of dirt (sanded tile grout).





Next update, we'll take a look at the log haul machinery (which isn't part of the current kit #308).


  • I am going to enjoy this trip. Welcome back Bill.
  • Bill looks like you have gotten a great start. I'll be following along.

  • edited November 9
    Don't know if you still have it or if you've already tried this but you might Google "photo card recovery". You might have some luck (which you could then share with the rest of us). :)
  • So glad to see you posting this build Bill. What a treat we are in for to follow along with your brilliant work on the SWSM O Scale Sawmill. Anyone who had the privilege of seeing Bill's work on this piece at the EXPO can attest to the shear magnitude of this kit and the stellar detail and finish Bill has imparted. Such a great design and the execution is stunning and it's far from complete...I'm all in on following this one my friend!
  • I am looking forward to seeing how you achieved such stunning results. Following along for sure.
  • The same for me !
  • Looking forward to following along
  • This will be a lot of fun to watch Bill bring it all together!
  • edited November 13
    Great hearing from all of you and I appreciate the encouragement!

    MikeM--as far as the lost pictures, I took the card straight to a local camera shop. I was using a ProMaster Compact Flash memory card (the kind that newspaper photographers use). My camera shop has some specialized software and tools to extract files that would otherwise be lost. No luck. Unfortunately, when a card like this is "guaranteed for life" and it fails...all that means is they give you a new card--not the missing pictures!
    Such is life!

    By including the log pond and log haul, I changed the mill's order of operations. As explained in the manual, the raw timber was brought by rail to the mill and unloaded onto the rollway skid. In my model, the logs are delivered up the green chain from the pond. So I changed a major function of the rail service: Rather than delivering fresh cut trees, the trains would now haul away the rough sawn boards (product lumber). That involved moving the rails to the opposite side of the mill. At this stage of construction, that was an easy change achieved with a Sharpie!

    Here comes the real work...
    One of the first orders of business was to adapt the Log Deck and log haul to fit the structure. These two features are not part of the O scale kit. They were a couple of items that, I believe, Brett acquired along with the rest of the CHB line. So, my version will look completely different than the original rollway (pictured on pge. 26-29 of the O scale manual):


    Mine is at an angle and has 4 rails that the logs roll down. The supporting frame also needed to be condensed and allow for correct alignment with the log carriage, carriage drive, and structural elements of the mill itself. After bouncing some ideas off Brett, here's the configuration that resulted:


    In looking at the last photo, the supports have kind of a "hodge podge" appearance (that's because...well, it WAS!). However, the majority of the framework that supports the skidway will be hidden by a walkway that will give the workers a way to get from place to place . Also, you can see that there's nothing supporting the log haul machinery. That gets added later (after I determined the height of the log haul, the depth of the log pond, and changes that needed to be made to the shoreline).

    The log haul machinery is unbelievable! (In fact, the same can be said for ALL the castings and machines in the kit). The level of detail is stunning and I wanted to take full advantage of all of it. I mentioned in my Deer Creek mine build that I was experimenting with mineral spirits and chalk (rather than alcohol and chalk) on some of the metal castings. The mineral spirits can give a softer transition from weathered vs. unweathered areas. I went that route again on the log haul: the sections of the spokes show more rust near the hub as opposed to the areas toward the wheel. It seemed to me that there's a lot of metal-on-metal contact in that area, plus it gives the gears a little contrast and definition.


    After that, I added grease build-up and oil stains using dark chalk (raw umber 408.3 and some straight black in a couple spots) and MIG "Fresh Engine Oil." I'll go deeper into this process later in the build.



    Here's how it looks connected to the sub-floor:







    I realize that I'm bouncing around quite a bit and I'm documenting my progress using some lousy pictures. But hopefully, it'll make more sense as we progress. Any questions that I can answer... fire away!

    I'm going to get deeper into the machinery construction in the next update.
  • Looking great Bill, your attention and your ability to see (and model) things so often over looked has always set your work apart. Looking forward to more from you on this one.

  • Good job getting graining on the dowels. That's never easy.
  • Bill that is some excellent work and thanks for the tutorial.
    Will be interesting on how you did the grease and oil stains.

  • Karl-
    Much appreciated and glad to have you along. Your original build provided a lot of inspiration and answers as I went along.

    Thanks for the kind words. I'll get into the oil & grease very shortly.

    I referred to your model many times as well! Texturing the dowels can tear up more than a few wire brushes, for sure. To get some really deep grain and texture, I tore into them with a nail board. I clustered up a bunch of finishing nails leaving the points exposed and then give the dowels several back n forth passes:

  • This is the same technique Canyon Creek Scenics uses to make their trees and logs.
  • Bill, I will be following this build aswell, so I can profit from your expertise when I build mine.:) Thanks for posting.

  • Great progress and attention to detail as always Bill. Machinery finish is top notch.
  • I too will keep and eye on I stopped my sawmill build to do the O'Neills kit. I am also doing a log pond...and got stuck on figuring out the modifications to include it on the main building. I already had the log haul'm watching Bill....
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