Not bad, just rusty

Big’O Machinery (O-Scale, that is)

I have totes and totes of HO scale kits. It’s the best scale to build my future layout in as I am looking for it to be fairly sizable and well-populated. I’m never leaving HO. Never. That said, O-Scale holds a special place in my heart because it’s nearer the 1/35 scale I started in.

For O-Scale, I think, there’s no better place to go than Sierra West Scale Models. Brett’s famous board-by-board designs lend so beautifully to O-Scale that’s nigh-on impossible to out beat. If you don’t believe me, head over to his website (link below) and check out the pilot models. Better yet, head over to his dedicated forum and look at the many modelers producing breathtaking O-Scale dioramas with his kits.

But, board-by-board will only take you so far.

“It’s all in the details”, and just another reason I like O-Scale — the details are even more detailed! One of the many reasons I go back to Sierra West time and time again is the amount of detail castings that are included. Fine Scale Miniatures pulled me into the HO world, no doubt about it. It was George’s quirky, well-engineered designs that caught my eye but it was really the amount of castings that he included in each kit that made them so addicting. With George’s retirement, however, FSM is gone now and the only manufacturer that fills that casting addiction void is Sierra West — a statement doubled when you see how he incorporates CHB Models into his kits.

CHB Models was a small New Jersey based company started by a brilliant modeler named Charlie H Brommer. Sadly, Charlie died some moons ago but some time before that he retired and sold the his complete line-up to Brett, handing over the torch to Sierra West. During his time, though, Charlie produced several kits ranging from vehicles (check out the CAT D8!), to machinery, and even scale people. Those original kits are well sought after and when they crop up on eBay that demand a fair penny. Fortunately, Brett keeps a lot of CHB’s line available, most predominantly the Sawmill Machinery to compliment his award-winning “O-Scale Sawmill Project”.

Producing details like CHB’s is a full-time job. They are incredibly time consuming and tricky to cast and that is the only reason some of CHB’s line-up at Sierra West are, unfortunately, out-of-production. So, based off a phone call with Brett, I had an idea. We live in a world of 3D-printing now. What if we could produce high-end, complex details like those from CHB on these printers? All you’d need to do is separate the parts with enough experience to know they would not only print well but also construct well. Not forgetting, of course, access to a talented 3D artist. Well, i had both so I commissioned a friend to prototype, in 3D, the original Brown & Sharpe Universal Miller machine that CHB produced.

After a few short days of back and forth, sculpting and cutting, we landed here:

Detailed as this 3D model is, some parts are easier to source than print. Like feed belts and coolant pipes (paper and brass rod). We broke down the machine into almost 25 separate pieces and then I scaled the machine for O-Scale and printed it using my custom high-res print settings on my brand new Elegoo Saturn. Everything printed extremely well.

In the construction, tiny details like the handles were the difficult to deal with but not impossible. In O-Scale a single handle measures around 2mm. Whilst the resin was stable, working with these small details takes time and a magnifier — but it’s all about the details and things like this make the machine POP with life so they are worth the effort.

In painting, I used a machine-green base, dark silver highlights, silver leaf “Rub N’ Buff” on top of that, and then weathered with AK Interactive enamels and oils including Engine Grime, Engine Oil and Axle Grease.

Apart from the the hydraulic hose (wire cable), the coolant pipe (.015 brass rod), the over-arm (.072 brass rod) and the feed belt (brown construction paper) everything you see here was 3D printed. Essentially, the entire machine.

I know the paint job isn’t the best, but the quality of the machine speaks for itself. Even those tiny handles came out looking perfect.

3D printing is changing this hobby. No doubt. And it’s changing my approach to most everything. As I know it is for Brett and Sierra West, too.

My colleague and I are already working on more machines — and yes, they will all eventually find their way into an O-Scale Machine Shop I’m planning on building at some point.

by Rusty on May 5, 2021