Helpful hints on how to
paint & build laser cut wood structures.

Listed below are some helpful hints and tricks I have learned over the past 15 years of laser cut wood structure building. I have built nearly 300 laser cut wood structures in that time, mostly test kits for my company, Blair Line, but also several other kits for my personal layout too. I have also learned from many other builders that have built Blair Line kits and shared their secrets with us--Dale Rush.

SHARP HOBBY KNIFE WITH NO. 11 BLADE (emphasis on sharp here)
TWEEZERS (optional, I prefer the squeeze open type to the squeeze closed type)
SQUARES (optional, you may also use laser cut parts or scrap as a square)
STEEL RULER (optional, but will help with cutting parts from sheets)
WEATHERING MATERIALS such as chalk, India Ink mix, etc. (optional)

Toothpicks and rubber bands are cheap modeling tools and I use both. I like to apply all my wood glue using a round toothpick with a nice sharp point. I don't have a cheaper tool in my toolbox than toothpicks. You can cut them to length and use them for bracing walls too.

Use rubber bands for holding walls together and securing roofs to walls while waiting on the glue to dry. Speaking from experience, be careful with the rubber bands as you put them on or take them off, so that you don't break any small detail parts

I spent a lot of time on them, so please take a moment to look at the instructions. Seriously, get familiar with where the parts go and the construction sequence. You may not follow the instructions word for word, but I guarantee you will have better experience if you at least follow the constructions sequence.  I take a lot of pride in my instructions, having learned how to write and illustrate instructions while working for Butler Mfg. designing full scale metal buildings.

I like to paint all of the parts before I begin assembly. Personally I use Wal Mart's equipment gray primer in a rattle can. It seals the wood well, it is inexpensive and final colors cover it well. I have found gray primer actually works better than white primer for maintaining final paint colors.

When possible I paint final paint colors with paint from a can too. When using rattle can colors for the final color I do not use a primer. No primer coat is necessary if using an airbrush either.

I have brush painted with both Floquil and Polly S successfully. The key to brush painting is prime the parts with equipment gray primer from a can. My preference for brush painting is Polly S or any acrylic paint for the easy cleanup and lack of irritating fumes.

I have also used a wood stain and India Ink/Alcohol mix for staining instead of painting. You will get some warping when using stain or India Ink, so please read the next section.

If you saturate the wood with paint or stain from a brush, I guarantee it will warp.  Sometimes the wood warps when you are careful too. Don't panic and be patient. If the wood warps, let the paint or stain dry for a few hours, then cover the parts with wax paper or plastic wrap and press with a heavy object for about 24 hours. The parts should be much straighter after doing this. The drying process will take longer in a high humidity climate.

It is common to have a little warp in the larger wall pieces until they are assembled.  The walls will straighten as you are building the kit. Gluing the walls to one another and adding bracing helps in straightening the walls. Many of our kits have interior walls that will stiffen the exterior walls.

If you break a part, chances are very good that you may glue it back together, allow it to dry and proceed with assembly. If you damage a part so bad that it cannot be glued together, we will replace it.

Use a
SHARP hobby knife when remove parts from the carrier sheets. Cutting parts from the carrier sheets is definitely not the time to skimp on blades. I cannot stress enough how important it is to use a sharp knife. My favorite blade is the very common No. 11 knife. One of the best investments I make in this hobby is to buy the 100 pack of these blades. Typically I will use 2-3 blades while building a kit.

Much like cutting styrene, it is best to make a few light cuts instead busting through like a lumberjack with one deep cut, using a lot of pressure and damaging parts. Unlike styrene you cannot bend and snap the parts. You must cut completely through the wood to remove the parts.

One last tip. If you are having trouble finding the tabs for removing the parts, turn the sheet over. You can see the tabs much better on the back of a laser cut sheet then on the front of the sheet.

Use the proper glue. I personally like to use Elmer's yellow carpenters glue when gluing wood to wood. It is strong, works well on wood and gives me time to adjust the parts. I have on occasion used a thick, gap filling CA when I am in a hurry and always use CA when I am gluing metal or plastic to wood. Many people also like Aileen's Craft Glue from Michaels, much for the same reason I like Elmer's. I don't recommend white glue (except for gluing paper signs to buildings) and especially do not recommend white school glue or glue sticks.

Use a light coating of glue for joining walls to each other. I go a little heavier with the glue on hidden tabs and slots. After the walls are positioned and square I like to add lots of glue to the unseen interior corners. This will make your structure strong enough to drop on the concrete floor from a 52" high layout. Want to guess how I know this?

Many of the parts have a peel-n-stick adhesive which has a very aggressive adhesive so no gluing is required with these parts. I would caution you to be careful with placement of the parts, because they are difficult to remove and re-stick. Window frames have a peel-n-stick adhesive for attaching the window glazing so you don't have to have a special adhesive for this process.

If you are having difficulty removing a misplaced peel-n-stick part try heating the misplaced part with a hair dryer. This will loosen the adhesive and you should then be able to remove the part.

I prefer to paint the paper shingles before applying to the structure, with paint from a can. I use inexpensive Wal-Mart paints which are available in flat black and primer gray, both are good shingle colors. The shingles are peel-n-stick, so after painting, peel off the backing and stick it to the wood sub-roof. Burnish them with your finger to make sure they stick well. If you have a corner of shingle coming loose, simply apply a little Elmer's white or carpenters glue and restick the shingle.

I prefer to wait until the structure is assembled before applying weathering. I like to use pastel chalks, India Ink/Alcohol or light wash of some sort of grimy color. I use darker colors to weather light colored objects and lighter colors for weathering dark objects.

Consider the environment of your model railroad when weathering. Example: if you are weathering structures placed near a coal mine they would be covered with black coal dust. If you are modeling a viable operating business don't overdo the weathering. An operating business is more than likely going to have a waterproof roof and at least a little paint on the walls and trim.

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This page last updated July 31, 2017.
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