Old Ties

by | Jun 29, 2020 | Detailing Track

One of the things I truly enjoy about P48 is how much presence a simple vignette may have.

As I continue to experiment with the coloring of weathered ties, I decided to create this scene near the decommissioned turnout east of the grade crossing. This pile of old, decayed and rotting ties reinforces the story of lean times. Here’s the process I used. 

I clamped a length of strip wood to my bench and textured all four sides of it with the razor saw. I typically urge folks to use restraint with texture however, this time I went at the wood with a vengeance, as I want a heavily distressed, decayed effect.

I thought I would vary the degree of texture by using the saw with fine teeth. In the end I simply used the medium toothed saw on the bottom, and varied the amount of pressure as I drew it along the wood (photo below).

After the strip wood is textured, I cut it into the individual ties and cleaned off the fuzz left from the razor saw. I textured each one with a dental pick and X-acto knife, adding shrinkage checks and further signs of decay.

I started with a wash of Tamiya XF-66 Light Gray, wetting the ties with denatured alcohol and floating the thinned wash on with a brush. I did all four sides keeping in mind that the top would be the most exposed to the sun and would weather differently.

After everything dried, I felt the overall color was too light with a lot of raw wood still showing. I went over each tie again with washes of Tamiya XF-1 Flat Black and XF-10 Flat Brown to darken and vary their tones. I paid particular attention to how the ties were oriented and reproduced the color shift on the top surface where the wood under the tieplates was protected from exposure to the elements.

To finish the vignette, I arranged the ties in a pleasing composition and glued them in place with full strength yellow glue. I made certain to bed them into the ground with the addition of more dirt along with more clumps of sisal twine grass and called it done.

I’m pleased with how the scene turned out.  I feel like I’m getting closer to capturing the coloring and character of weathered wood.

There’s nothing radically new here. These are basic modeling techniques that have stood the test of time. I could have used any kind of paint or stain and the type of saw I used is largely irrelevant. The important thing is what you do with the tools and techniques along with learning to see the opportunities they offer.