Newbie with an unusual router application - Router Forums
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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 10-31-2007, 02:05 PM Thread Starter
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Default Newbie with an unusual router application

Hi! I'm Bill, and I have a router (two actually), and I (kinda) know how to use them.

I use my routers to build slot tracks -- remember those? Yes, those little electric racing cars of the mid-60s to the 70s are still around (or back again, depending upon how you look at things.)

While the plastic slot track of our youth is still around, a routed slot track is still the best way to go. I've build two tracks already using MDF (the preferred material for tracks, but oh, the dust!), using what I call the 'trammel and straight edge' approch. Curves are routed with the router mounted on a trammel, and straights are routed using a straight edge guiding the router base.

However, my next track is going to be more of a challenge. My previous tracks were for larger scale cars (1/43 and 1/32 scale) that did not require particularly tight routing tolerances. The slot was 1/8" wide, and a hair over 1/4" deep. There were 3 or 4 slots in the tracks I built.

My next track, however, is going to be for 'HO scale' which is roughly 1/64 scale. The cars are about 3" long, and about 1.25" wide. The 'slot' for an HO car's guide is only 1/16" wide, and I will need 4 of them. The trickier part is that on either side of each of the guide slots there needs to be a slot for a power conductor -- either 'rail' (annealed wire .015"w x .080"d) or 'braid' (magnetic wire braid .125"w x .020"d'). The rail - or braid - needs to installed so that as close to .012" above the surface of the track as possible when all is done. One builder of premium HO scale tracks claims to be able to hold the rail height between .009"-.015". Varying rail/braid height causes problems with the handling of the cars, and must be minimized.

So... how do I skin this cat? Having spent waaaay too much time on the web researching this issue, it looks like the best way to cut the guide slots is to build a template for the inside of the track, and to use it as a router guide. Thanks to this forum, I learned about router bushings, and Tom O'Donnell's 'support your router' article. That information answered several of my questions.

The remaining guide slots will be cut by the router using a jig that has pins that ride in an existing guide slot. The jig will cut the next guide slot at a precise distance from the 'master' slot. This type of jig has been used in slot racing for years, and it's something that I will need to make on my own.

A very similar approach will be used to cut the two power slots on either side of the guide slot.

I had been using a laminate trimmer as my router for my previous tracks, but for this track, I wanted something heavy and precise, and something that has an available dust extraction capability. Thus, my new PC router. You *don't* want the router to make shallow cuts because a layer of dust has built up under the jig, and in this case, a heavy router is good. And dust control is very good to have.

Well, welcome to my world, I've already learned something from you guys. Thanks!

-- Bill

I found out the hard way that this site does not allow links to the outside. I was going to post a link to a site that shows tracks people have made -- some good, some bad. If anyone asks, I might just let you know where you could find it.

Last edited by wm_brant; 10-31-2007 at 03:53 PM. Reason: Misc wording issues
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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 10-31-2007, 02:12 PM
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Welcome to the RouterForums Bill. Your project sounds interesting. Keep us posted on your progress.

the "Doctor"

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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 10-31-2007, 02:36 PM
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Welcome to the forum Bil. I can already tell that you are going to be fun to have around. I used to love slots back in the day. Let us know where we can find that link that you can't post. That restriction is lifted after about the 10th post so if you want to just say hello to 9 other intro threads or something, you will be free of the ball and chain imposed to keep spammers away.
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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 10-31-2007, 03:11 PM Thread Starter
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Bob --

Thanx for the suggestion -- I'll contribute a bit here... somewhere...

-- Bill
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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 10-31-2007, 03:40 PM
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You can also try setting up your 'signature' with a website address.

If you're going to be doing a lot of routing of MDF, I recommend an ambient air cleaner as well. I used a Rigid portable one when I had a single car garage, now I have a 3 speed JET air cleaner. That MDF dust gets everywhere.

One other suggestion, a 60 degree sign bit may be what you want to use for your power rail slots. The fine point cuts a narrow groove, but the beefier body of the bit might hold up to abuse better than a real narrow bit.

1 John 1:9
Fredericksburg, VA
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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 10-31-2007, 04:01 PM Thread Starter
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KP --

Thanks for the suggestion. I'll see how well the dust extraction works before I get into buying anything more fancy. I don't think I will be creating a lot of dust this time around -- one advantage of the small slots, I hope.

I have heard from others who have routed HO scale tracks that breaking the 1/16" bits is not an issue. One person who builds these tracks commercially reported that he has routed -- I think he said 5 or 15 miles of slot -- and has broken only one bit (he did not use the same bit for all that, he's just saying that only one bit broke).

I think I can live with that.

Let's see if my signature come up this time... Yup it did.

OldSlotRacer is the site you want to check out to see lots of routed tracks.

Bill Brant

Last edited by wm_brant; 10-31-2007 at 04:12 PM.
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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 10-31-2007, 04:16 PM
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Hi Bill

Here's just a thought

Use the pair of G2537 Flexible Curve - 18"

to put in the master slot and then make and use a jig like the one below that will drop in the master slot and let you put in the other slots...


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