Took delivery of a Silhouette Portrait cutting machine the other day and have been getting to grips with the software and operation with a first attempt at the Lambourn goods shed. Not a traditional GWR structure as it was built by the Lambourn Valley Light Railway before the GWR took over the line, but an interesting little all timber structure.
The building is marked up using a software package, there are several suitable but this was drawn using the program that came with the machine -
A great advantage over pen/paper drafting is that once an element has been completed, such as a wall or a window frame or a roof truss, copy and paste means that multiple copies of the object can be generated with all of them completely identical. Actually this is necessary as the Silhouette is unable to cut material much thicker than 15thou, parts are then laminated up into thicker components. However, the parts used for this building were scribed by the machine onto 30thou and a second cut made on 20 thou. The 30thou took quite heavy cutting with a scalpel to complete (which it does anyway), while the 20thou just needed a blade quickly running along the scribed lines. BTW - duplicating the page just required putting a fresh sheet of styrene in the machine, adjusting some settings (mainly for experimentation purposes) and pressing "go". One of the roof trusses in the photo was cut from the 30thou - very laborious, while completing a pair in 20thou took only a few moments and then they were stuck together with perfect registration, very satisfactory.
The main advantage from my point of view is that the marking out is dimensional accurate, at least for all the components in relation to each other. Walls can be copied, allowances made for material thickness, 'handed' items such as the awning supports can be duplicated using a mirror function, and then the whole design can be scribed onto the styrene to within, it appears, 0.1mm accuracy. A lovely feature - I wanted to test the roof trusses against the end walls to check there was 30thou clearance each side for the side walls - there was, but because the truss was 60thou narrower the roof slope was all wrong - easily fixed with a single click and mouse move, but exactly the sort of thing I previously only used to discover after
cutting the parts!
You can also put a pen in the Silhouette and use it as a plotter - mine is the smaller machine so maximum width is that of an A4 sheet, but according to the manual, maximum length is 10 feet for material passing through the machine. Now I cannot vouch for its accuracy over that length of print, but the software allows it to accept standard CAD file formats - so potentially it could draw Templot diagrams of quite some length, although as noted the width is limited to 8" for the Portrait and 12" for the larger Cameo model.
The parts cut out easily and went together almost like building a kit - very enjoyable, and confidence was increased by knowing that all the angles were 90 degrees and the dimensions accurate. I have a scrapbox of failed attempts at styrene sheet buildings, I have a feeling this one will not be joining them. Although the interior planking, which was scribed by hand, demonstrates my personal reasons for getting this computerised Stanley knife.
While I'm still at the bottom of the learning curve of this machine I have to say that so far I'm completely delighted, and there are lots of plans being developed for some of the wagons in the GWR Wagons book - a few W3 small cattle trucks are definitely on the order books for the wagon works.
As regards rolling stock building plans - well, a handful of orders were placed with various suppliers for umpteen parts such as brake gear etches etc. to arrive during the half-term holiday which I had booked as leave, and indeed some of them turned up... but not the ones I particularly wanted. They have now all appeared, unfortunately after the end of the holiday week when I'm back ploughing through all the emails and cases that built up over the holiday. I'm determined not to let this get to me this time around, I shall order in good time and expect things to arrive when I see them, I have no deadlines (get plenty of them at work) and now I have my new toy all I need is a couple of sheets of styrene and a pot of glue and I can happily entertain myself for hours.
Final note - I believe the Silhouette was mentioned in the Scalefour News, and in particular the excellent thread running on RMWeb at http://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/79025-a-guide-to-using-the-silhouette-cameo-cutter/
for anyone interested in these machines I can't recommend this thread highly enough, and the work being done there is quite remarkable.