Monday, 7 May 2018

The sea was angry


To quote the character George Costanza off one of my all-time favourite TV shows, Seinfeld; "the sea was angry that day my friend!" Or at least I was. After my last post Rocks and rolling waves, had been posted, and another project had been ticked off my list of things to do, I'd accidentally bumped the clear silicone caulk I had used for the water scene, and discovered it had failed to set properly beneath the surface.

The reason it looked so wet after a week of my finishing it, was because it was still wet beneath the spongy skin of the surface. Not only that, the rolling heavy sets of waves approaching the shoreline had sagged-out, and my interesting school of jellyfish (the air bubbles that for once I was prepared to say were not worth worrying about), had noticeably grown in size to the proportion of giant squid! To once-more quote a line from that famous episode of Seinfeld, someone shouted out from the shoreline; "quick, does anyone know a marine-biologist?" And with that, out came the scalpel and on went the rubber gloves. This was going to get messy.

The scene with the non-hardened clear silicone caulk removed, after being careful not to damage the painted base.

I soon worked out where the problem area began, and used a new sharp tipped hobby knife to cut through the surface of the silicone skin from the 3rd wave back from the shoreline to about 5 mm in from the rock edges and concrete harbour wall. Fortunately I didn't have to disturb any other scenery, and I made a clean slice along the front perspex channel. Then using a narrow flat tipped screwdriver, I began working in opposite lines to the direction of the waves to remove the non-hardened caulk using a method of long, shallow scoops so as not to disturb the painted base. It came away in big, goopy blobs, leaving only the clear silicone that you can see in the above photo that had already bonded to the painted timber base.

Second time around, and this time I applied single beads for each wave before shaping them individually.

For the second time around, I once more consulted my copy of the July 1996 Model Railroader Magazine to see where I'd gone wrong. Ken Patterson's method for modelling surf and sand showed him applying long beads of clear silicone that he then smeared back to represent the trailing wake of broken waves, and you guessed it, he'd applied it nowhere-near as thick as I had.

With the tacky residue of non-hardened clear silicone still damp on my painted surface, I brushed a smear of mineral turpentine over the surface to be re-worked, before applying thin beads of the Selleys all-clear in the shape of the wave lines I wanted to create, working on one wave at a time. Being sure to feather the waves out at varying points, I dipped a flat brush into some mineral turpentine, and just as I did last time, brushed the waves up into crests at the front and down into trailing wakes of whitewater at the back. This time I made sure there were no areas where the silicone was sitting up any higher than a bead of sealant you would find around any shower screen.

The Selleys all-clear joined invisibly with the cut lines I had made to remove the original section.

Fixing the scene from this point on was a breeze, and if anything, the gouge-marks from removing the non-hardened silicone with the screwdriver only enhanced the scene greatly. It gave each wave a distinctive series of ripples running in the opposite direction to the wave, much like a strong rip or undertow forming behind it. Best of all, applying a much thinner coat of the Selleys all-clear meant that the product dried quicker, and each wave set and stayed in its upright position.

Late afternoon light makes the re-surfaced water area appear softer and more realistic.

By afternoon, the product had skinned and I was able to paint the crests of the waves in the exact same manner as my last post. And as the sun set, I opened the blinds to let the last rays of sunlight hit the water for the photo above. Just like real water, the sunlight effects the surface colour. At night under artificial lighting, the water appears dark and cold. With natural afternoon light coming through the window, the water looks softer and more inviting.

Before: The original water surface showing the blobbed-out, saggy effect that developed over 7 days.

After: the less-thicker approach yielded waves that actually sat up higher and didn't sag or bubble.

Finally by midday Sunday, the above scene was dry to touch and looking a lot more angry than my first attempt. While it only takes up a small corner of the new extension, it was important to get this right as it will be the most dominant feature on this end of my layout. I'm happy with it, real happy with it, as the rough sea also appears to have swept all the jellyfish out to sea. As Kramer said after hearing George's story in that episode of Seinfeld; "well how about that? A hole in one!"

Well, less than a week out from the 2018 Brisbane Model Train Show, its hard to stop work and prepare to pack the layout for an exhibition weekend. Starting out with one idea in mind and seeing the project steer itself in a new direction at each turn can be one of the more rewarding points of building a freelanced layout, but also the reason why I don't model prototype settings. Thoughts now turn to the 3D backdrop that will be necessary on account of the narrow space between the rear line and the blue sky. How otherwise do you fit a station scene into a space that tapers down to just 6 mm wide? I have a great photo that I've taken that is sized just right, angled correctly and well lit, but there is an element within it that is going to send this extension in yet another new direction.

With two full weekends between the Brisbane and Toowoomba model train shows, if I can get the backdrop scene finished and the overpass completed, the beach extension may even be ready to reveal at Toowoomba on June 2nd & 3rd. But as usual, I'll let that be a story for another day.

See also; Rocks and rolling waves

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Thanks for taking the time to visit Philden. I hope you'll book a return ticket soon. Cheers, Phil