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Murder on the Tracks!

Assembling the Jigsaw!

The day has finally come, and the laser cut baseboard has arrived. After starting work on the layout it soon became clear that to get the finish I wanted, that laser cutting would be an ideal solution. Not only does it create a precise fit and finish, but the layout of the railway (as well as marking the numerous Agatha Christie locations) could be etched into the surface of the wood.

The cut wood arrives from the suppliers with masking tape holding all the parts together. For the most part the laser had cut cleanly through the wood, although there were a two or three small sections where the wood hadn’t quite cut all the way though. This problem is easily remedied with a sharp scalpel, or razor saw.

The quality of the laser cutting is excellent. Other methods of cutting shapes from wood have some disadvantages. CNC routing, for example, uses a computer guided spinning cutting tool. Because of this cutting tool, even if you make it as small as possible (and therefore the cutting slower), you cannot cut square internal corners. You will always be left with the round shape of the cutting tool. A laser, on the other hand, is very thin and is able to cut these sharp corners.

Laser cutting works by melting, burning or vaporising the material. The dark edges you can see on the pictures is where the laser has burnt through the wood. Compressed air is used during cutting to reduce flaming or scorching on the surface, although some slight discolouration will be visible on the cutting side. On the reverse side protective tape is used to prevent burn marks caused when the laser meets the cutting bed.

The laser cutting process is intricate enough to cut out the tiny holes required to pass through the cables for the track wiring (complete with labels!)

All the pieces fitted perfectly, thanks to the small test model I made to check the design for errors. Using my favourite glue (“Gorilla Glue”) the whole baseboard was joined together and left clamped up whilst the glue set.

The completed baseboard is actually very strong. The strengtheners in the four corners hold everything solidly square. Unfortunately it is possible to twist the board a little, but this is easily resolved by adding some additional cross pieces. To fix this board I will cut them in a more traditional fashion – by hand! However, when constructing the other baseboards I will be able to add these extra pieces into the design and get them laser cut with the rest of the board.

My intention is to get most of the main modelling work, such as the track laying and basic landscaping, complete on this board before getting the next baseboard cut.

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