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Newt's Page

This page is dedicated to good friend Kelly Newton and his contributions to the UCW and model railroading.

When the UCW underwent a major rebuild in the mid 90's Kelly was instrumental in the re-design of the railroad and also volunteered to help with the scenery. Once he started it became obvious that he would end up doing all the scenery both for consistency and because without a doubt he's one of the best at turning raw plaster into a work of art. Recently he built several N scale modules which he took to San Deigo for the National N scale meet (Aug 2005). The scenery was constructed with his own unique method of using cheesecloth as a scenery base to which plaster is applied to complete his land forms and rock carving. Below are a few photos he took which demonstrate the process.

I hope you enjoy what he has done.

Comments are welcome:

Kelly Newton email

Cheesecloth Scenery

Part One

Added 8-26-2005

The best place to buy cheesecloth is at the fabric store. It will be somewhere around 80 cents to a $1.20 a yard. Buy the finest weave they carry. DON'T get it from places like Home Depot. Depending on the fabric store it'll either be 30" or 36" wide. I glue down the cheesecloth along the front fascia and backdrop with yellow glue. Ted York likes to use hot glue. Both work just fine. Although I've never received a nasty glue burn from yellow carpenters glue. You can use staples to hold the cheesecloth in place but you still have to glue it down. DON'T just use staples. The pictures I'm going to post are from the two 6 ft modules that I built to take to the N-Scale convention in San Diego. These modules are open grid L-girder with spline sub roadbed, free flowing masonite fascias, masonite skyboard and 30" to 36" wide. The only difference between these and a home layout is these have folding legs and aren't stationary. So these techniques with cheesecloth apply to any form of layout ya'll are building.

Your layout needs to be in this state of completion before you can start your scenery. I put base hardshell in first before the track. Track can go on first but it takes more time to do your hardshell.
Anything like the flat base for any rivers or specific types of landforms need to be in before the cheesecloth also.
Just doing a little terra forming with my trusty rasp. Note also the sub- roadbed where the bridges over the river go has been removed also.
Run a bead of yellow glue along the edge. Overlap the cheesecloth an inch or two and smooth glue with wet brush. Trim off excess after glue dries. On the back drop use either the scrap pieces off of the fascia or a small strip of wood to glue cloth to back drop. Cloth will fold over the glue strip. We're now ready to start building the base for hills and mountains and cover everything over with the cheesecloth.

Part Two

Added 8-27-2005

Well all the sub supports for some specific scenery are in. Things like river bottoms, tunnel liner, river banks and a pile of blue foam that will be a red sandstone butte are all in. Now we need to put in the supports for our generic mountains and hills. I like to use plastic grocery bags filled with crumpled newspapers. For large real tall areas plastic garbage bags work real good. The bags work great plus they keep the news paper from getting all wet and soggy. You can reuse them over and over again. Then when you're done with them just carry them out and throw them in the trash. The newspaper is already bagged up for you. Roby and Ted like to use cardboard webbing instead. That's another good way to set your landforms before covering everything with the cheesecloth. All I can say is experiment to see which you prefer. Now it's time to start covering everything with the cheesecloth. As you start pulling your cheesecloth over the layout spray some water in places to hold it down. Like on the sub roadbed, any Styrofoam, you can also use push pins to hold the cheesecloth where there is foam clued down. Just remember cloth on the front gets pulled and stretched toward the rear of the bench work and cloth in the back gets pulled toward the front. Try to get the cloth stretched as tight as possible before starting with the plaster part. If all the bench work doesn't get covered just cut some more cloth and lay it over the hole. Also if you are using a coarse weave cloth you may have to double up your layers. Do one side then the other but make sure the cloth is tacked down in spots with thinned plaster ( I'll cover the plaster in part 3 ) on the first cloth layer before you start working and stretching the second one.

Make sure all things like river bottoms, tunnel liners, specific shaped landforms ect. ect. ect. are all in before you start putting down cheesecloth. Start placing your plastic bags to support your generic hills and mountains. Cardboard webbing can also be used instead of foam and plastic bags. Here's a good shot that shows everything in place. We're now ready to start putting our first layer of cheesecloth down.Loading...
Start pulling and stretching the first layer of cloth into position. Spraying water on areas like the sub roadbed or foam will help hold the cloth down. Using the water and push pins to hold the cloth in place paint stripes of thin plaster along edges, joints and flat areas. This locks down the first layer. Fold over the second layer and set in place doing the same thing. All the white stripes you see is painted on thinned plaster. Notice the silver push pins.
After all the stretching, pushing and shaping is done and the painted plaster stripes have set up. It should look like this. The first plaster layer is next.

Part Three

Added 8-29-2005

Well we're down to brushing on the plaster coats. You need plaster of paris and a bag of a product called "Fix All". Dap has a new product out called "Presto Patch" get it instead of the Fix All if you can. The difference in the two is Fix All when mixed up by itself takes a long time to set up. So you have to mix it 50/50 with plaster of paris. Whereas Presto Patch sets up by itself just like the 50/50 blend so there is no need to add any plaster of paris to it. On the final color coat I do add plaster of paris to the presto patch to help water proof it ( 50/50 blend ). I buy my plaster, Fix All or Presto Patch from Lowes or Home Depot in 25 lb. bags in the paint department.While you're there also buy a good 2 and/or 3 inch soft bristle paint brush. Don't buy on the cheap end get one of the higher end brushes.

We're now ready to start with the first coat. Have a big bucket of water on hand to clean your brush in and the bowl ya'll mix your plaster in. ALWAYS clean your tools before the plaster starts to set. Also don't mix your plaster up using a stick of some kind. Go to the kitchen section at the store and buy a good whisk (a handle with loops of wire coming out the end ). A couple of swoops through the water bucket right after you're done mixing keeps it good and clean. Also for safety reasons (your little rear end) DON'T steal the whisk out of the kitchen.

Mist the cheesecloth down with a little water, damp not soaked. Pour a 1/3 cup of water into your mixing bowl and mix in 1/2 cup of the 50/50 blend or Presto patch.You want it mixed up like thick pancake batter. Add more water or plaster to get it to that consistency. Also mix the plaster up don't whip it up with the whisk, you're not making whipped cream. You don't want a lot of air mixed in.

Dip your brush in the water bucket and squeeze it out so it's just damp. Now you just start gently brushing on the plaster mix to the cheesecloth. The first coat is the hardest because the cheesecloth will move around a little on you. Paint it on at a good pace you only have about 3 to 4 minutes before it will start setting up in the mixing bowl. That's plenty of time so don't worry about it. Just work at a good and easy pace. Use the brush to clean out the mixing bowl in the water bucket and then clean out the brush in the bucket using your hand to get all the plaster out of the bristles. Mix up another batch and keep going until all the area you're doing has a first coat on it. Let that first plaster coat dry till the next day.

Brush on the second coat of plaster. Mist - Mix - Brush on.You can put the third coat on in about 30 minutes only don't mist with water as the second coat is still damp. You'll notice when you start the second coat how stiff the cheesecloth has become and you can really speed up the bushing on process for the rest of the plaster coats. When the third coat has set up pretty good you can then reach up from under and pull the bags of crumpled up newspaper out.

Seeing how I put my base hard-shell on before I put down my track. Before I brush on the last coat of plaster, I call it the color coat, I need to make any cuts through the scenery shell where things like tunnel portals or cuts for the track through the landscape go. After all that's been done I brush on the color coat. It's a 50/50 blend of either fix-all or Presto Patch with plaster of paris and also a table spoon or two of dry Tempra paints mixed in with it. Depending on what color you want for your base hard-shell to be. Here's a sample formula. 1 cup Presto Patch or Fix All - 1 cup plaster of paris - 1 table spoon of brown dry tempra paint - 1/2 teaspoon of black. Shake it all up in a container with a lid to mix it all up. For pinker color add white instead of black. For grayer less brown and more black with some white. The color formula isn't critical at all so play around with it. You might find you like 2 tablespoons of brown.You should now have a very strong base hard-shell on your layout with a color that will give more of a finished look to it.

I've started brushing on the plaster mix and I'll just keep going until the whole thing is covered. You can stop and come back anytime and continue.

Here's my two modules. The color coat is ready for me to put my tunnels in. I still have to make a cut on the right one before I can brush on color coat. The cut I have to make is on the ridge to the right upper center of this picture.
What I really like about using cheesecloth is how easy it is to make changes. Here I've cut out the hard-shell for the cut for my mainline. I then just splice in a piece of cheesecloth and brush on a couple of layers of the plaster mix. I'll then add the color coat after all changes are done. You can see my double track mainline and single main sub roadbed plus the river and where the tunnels will be in this shot.

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What's New Kelly's Scenery