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Fast Tracks • View topic - Get To the Point! - Newsletter #6

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PostPosted: Sun May 09, 2004 6:44 pm 
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Get To the Point!

By Tim Warris (This newsletter was originally published on October 12, 2003)

Whether you use Fast Tracks Assembly Fixtures, or build your turnouts completely by hand, making a good looking and reliable switchpoint is a must. And it is not nearly as hard as it would seem, it just takes a little practice and patience.

There are lots of ways of making a point for a turnout, and the method that I will describe here is by no means the only way to do it; it?s just a way that seems to work best for me and might work well for you too.


The Perfect Point

The ideal point will have an angle that nicely blends with the stock rail, showing no gaps along the contact area. Achieving this level of precision simply takes practice.

Image

I've seen many turnouts with what I would call "ugly" points. Sure they will work well enough, but they just don't look very nice.


The Jaws Of Vice

The most important tool in producing a good switchpoint with ease and minimal frustration is a good solid vice with proper jaws for holding the rail.

The jaws must be smooth on the top and inside surfaces and must close tightly without any gaps between the jaws.

Image)

They should be made of soft steel, as hard steel jaws will ruin your file very quickly.

If the jaws of your vice are not smooth, file them as smooth and square as possible so that you are able to firmly hold the base of the rail with no gaps. This is so important that I have even gone so far as to make special tapered jaws to fit my vice, grinding them perfectly flat with a surface grinder so that the top edge closes tight leaving clearance at the bottom. (Being a machinist does have its advantages!)


Sanding vs. Filing

While I am a big fan of using a bench top sander for track work, I don't use it for making switchpoints. Power sanders will quickly overheat and discolor the thin end of the point, plus it is very difficult to evenly hold the point against the sanding belt resulting in an odd looking taper.

For this reason I prefer to file points using a hand file, working slowly and methodically to get the point to fit just right.

Use a good file! This is no job for a dull, wimpy under sized file. Get yourself a nice, new, sharp, flat file that is at least 10" long with a good feeling handle. To learn more about selecting and using files, check out my newsletter titled The Care & Feeding Of Files.


Making Your Point

Begin by marking the end of the taper on the point with a scribe or fine tipped marker. To make this easy, download and use the appropriate Fast Tracks tie template from our template library.

Clamp the base of the rail into the vice with the side that you have marked facing up. The end of the point should be aligned with the edge of the vice as shown here.

Image

File the point using long, slow, even strokes filing toward the tapered end of the point being sure to lift the file on the backstroke. (Files only cut on the forward stroke!)

Try to remove more material from the base side of the point. This way the point will fit flush to the head of the rail with a slight clearance at the base. Without this extra clearance at the base of the rail you will have an unsightly gap at the head of the rail.

When you are finished the point should have a nice even taper from your mark to the end of the point. Do not remove too much material so as to break through the web of the rail. Ideally you should file to half the width of the web. (Photo 4) Keep the taper short. (Note, because I am left handed I clamp the rail into the right side of the vice. If you are right handed, you might find it easier to clamp the rail on the left side.)

Remove the point from the vice and "debur" the bottom of the rail so it is smooth to the touch. To achieve a smooth point, a bit of the head of the rail on the opposite side that you just filed needs to be removed by "blending" it in.

Image

This can also be done after the point is installed.

If the point does not fit nicely against the stock rail, resist the urge to bend it a bit to make the gaps disappear! Doing this usually throws the point out of gauge. Instead throw the point away and try again.

Prior to using assembly fixtures to assemble my turnouts I would usually have a lot of trouble keeping the gauge right through the points, with most ending up being to narrow. Using a Fast Tracks Assembly Fixture completely eliminates this problem.


Fit & Finish

Finally, after I have installed the points by soldering them to the throwbar or hinging, I like to use a thin, flexible file to file the inside of the rail (on the gauge side) at the end of the point to "blend" it nicely into the stock rail, eliminating any possibility of equipment picking up the point.

Image

See, nothing to it! Your first few attempts at point making will probably be a bit rough. But keep at it, and before long you will be making perfect points in just a few minutes.

- Tim

----------------------------------------
Have a question or comment about this issue of the Fast Tracks newsletter? Then post a reply! I will be happy to respond to any posts. - Tim


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 Post subject: material for vise jaws
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Tim Warris
Fast Tracks
http://www.fast-tracks.net
service@fast-tracks.net


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_________________
Cheers!

Tim Warris
Fast Tracks
http://www.fast-tracks.net
service@fast-tracks.net
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 Post subject: Get to the point!
PostPosted: Sun Jun 27, 2004 2:34 am 
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 Post subject: Point jigs?
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 27, 2004 10:49 am 
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Cheers!

Tim Warris
Fast Tracks
http://www.fast-tracks.net
service@fast-tracks.net


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 27, 2004 10:56 am 
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Joined: Fri May 07, 2004 11:22 pm
Posts: 311
Location: Port Dover, Ontario

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Cheers!

Tim Warris
Fast Tracks
http://www.fast-tracks.net
service@fast-tracks.net


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