Installing The Styrofoam - Part 4 - Finalizing A Masterpiece

In a previous episode, we finally installed the Styrofoam deck using polyurethane glue.  The glue set up nice and fast and we're now ready to finish things off.  It may take us several months (or even several years!) before we get every square inch of our modules scenicked and structured. 

IMHO, there's nothing worse than seeing the pink (or blue or green) of the top deck of a module with huge gaps between the wooden frame and the Styrofoam.  It completely detracts from any scenicking we may have done - and we certainly don't want that to happen. A few easy steps will make sure that our visitors focus, focus, focus on our nice scenicked vignettes.  

Trimming The Beaded Polyurethane Glue
In less than 12 hours the polyurethane glue has set nice and hard.  If you've taken the option of taping the interior underside of the module, we only have a few beads of polyurethane glue to pull off the underside of the module. 

However, if you haven't used the masking tape, we've got a bit of work to do.  OR, you can leave the beads where they are as you're the only one who's going to be spending any time looking at the underside of your modules.

In this latter case, I take a utility (or other kind) of knife and slice these beads off simply to make the underside look a little neater.  An Atlas snap saw or a razor saw will also nicely trim the beads.  You can leave them on if you want to.  (You might not see the difference between the photo below and the photo above but the glue bead has been cut off, making quite a difference. 

We've put on two or three coats of paint plus glue so we want to make sure the threads in the T-nuts are clear.  Take a 5/16" bolt and screw it into the T-nut with your fingers.  If the bolt sticks, gently use a wrench to tighten the T-nut.  Make sure you don't strip the threads!  The black paint has covered over the red paint I had on the blind T-nuts so I've freshened up this paint.  (You may have to use a "tap" to clear the threads.)

Finishing The Top Of The Deck
Turn the module over so that we're looking at the top.  Here's the tools and supplies we'll need to finish off the deck of the module.

 I first sand the glue off the wooden edge of the module frame.  DON'T sand the Styrofoam! (Yet.)

I next cut off any dried beads of polyurethane glue with the utility knife, making sure that the Styrofoam is flush with the edge of the module frame.

We next have to deal with holes, scars, scratches and scrapes on the top of the Styrofoam.  We also have some large gaps between the module frame and the Styrofoam.  I use spackling compound on all of my module work because it is much lighter than any other plaster product.  I also have several hours before it starts to set compared to the 5-10 minutes for hydrocal or plaster.

When you first open the pail from the store, the spackling compound will be very dry-looking.  It needs to be revitalized.  I spray some water into the top of the pail and stir it all up with a paint stir stick.  With the spray bottle, I add a small amount of water at a time and stir the paint stick until it resembles Cool Whip dessert topping - light and fluffy but very spreadable (the technical term is "plastic").  It only takes a few squirts to go from "plastic" to "soupy" so watch how you add the water.  

I fill all of the imperfections and gaps with the spackling compound using a wide putty knife to produce a smooth surface.  This first coat usually takes 24 hours to dry. 

Once the first coat is dry, a light sanding gets rid of any ridges left by the spackling compound.  Make sure you vacuum or brush off any crumbs from the sanding as they will mar the surface of the Styrofoam in subsequent sandings.  A few more coats of spackling compound (with light sanding in between) and we can produce a top deck that looks almost like one continuous sheet. 

Painting The Module Deck (Getting Rid Of The "Pink")
While I might be able to put some railway track on the module in quick order (and get the modules included in next setup), it will be several months before I have a completely scenicked module.  The pink (or blue or green) Styrofoam deck will detract from the other modules in the setup.  A couple of coats of flat brown or grey latex paint gets rid of the pink.  Make sure that it's latex and and not alkyd (oil) paint!!!  Alkyd paint will turn the Styrofoam into a sticky mess.

After the first coat of paint, other scars and scratches may become apparent.  It's a simple matter of applying a bit more spackling compound and covering up the white with some paint.

And voila!  One completed module.  Not bad, eh!?.

Jusr for the heck of it, I put the module on the bathroom scales.  It weighed in at 8lbs (3.2kg).  Now that's what I call "very lite", eh!?

In our next blog, we install the track power buss.  After that, we install the telco jacks (UP3/5 panels).

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