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PostPosted: Sun Aug 19, 2012 8:40 am 

Joined: Fri Oct 07, 2011 6:24 pm
Posts: 33
I found a reasonable alternative to using the zona jewelers saw to cut the frog gaps.

I know it's probably just me, but I am CONSTANTLY breaking the very thin saw blades, and it's nearly impossible to get the blade real tight in the saw after you get the blade in between the rail to initiate the cuts. (The blade would cut bettter if it's tight with no "bow" in it)

Dremel cutoff wheels are really wide. (even the better diamond ones) I have found a reasonable alternative cut off wheel from Micro Mark. They are called "Ultra Thin Cut-Off Wheels, Ferrous (1-1/2 Inch Dia., Set of 2)" They are .033 thick (just do a search on the site. I'm not going to/cant direct link it)

The diameter of the wheel is quite is large however, this is why it's not practical for scales smaller than HO (in fact cutting the gap on the closure rail side of the turnout is tight, but it will work if you are careful) Use a variable speed cutting tool and keep the speed low, 2 or 3 and go slowly and dont let the tool stray. Let the tool do the work, dont press and force it thru. This can do two things: One, it will possibly heat the rail up too much (possibly remelting the solder) and two, the gap can be much wider.

Note also I do the cutting from the bottom side of the turnout. The gap will be a tad wider on the cutting side as there will be a slight angle as you cant get 100% perpendicular to the rail. This way the narrow part will be at the railhead as its at the bottom of the cut itself. (and if your hands wobble a bit like mine the wider part where it wobbled will be underneath)

Is this method better than the saw? Not by a longshot. The saw gap is razor thin and looks great, even up close. But this method is far faster (and I do a lot of turnouts for others) and the gap is still better than the other "normal" width cutoff wheels, so it's a compromise.

Just wanted to pass it along.

Last edited by SLI_Fallen on Fri Aug 24, 2012 10:08 am, edited 1 time in total.

PostPosted: Sun Aug 19, 2012 4:59 pm 

Joined: Thu Feb 23, 2006 4:51 pm
Posts: 84
Hello SLI_Fallen,

It's always encouraging to see new ideas from Fast Tracks customers and we appreciate the feedback. We also acknowledge the downside of the large gap left when cutting isolation gaps with a cut-off disc in a rotary tool and that's why we introduced the approach using a jeweler's saw.

Agreed, it can be a frustrating exercise when cutting rail, especially the smaller sizes, with the jeweler's saw. However, one of the members in our club happens to be a jeweler and he shared some tips with us about how to use a jeweler's saw properly. Here's how:

  • Install the blade so that it will cut on the push stroke.
  • Make sure the blade, once it's clamped in the saw, is piano wire tight and this is done with tensioning knob on top of the saw's backbone. When you "plink" the blade with your finger you can tell it's properly adjusted.
  • Before beginning a cut run the blade over a small candle to add a bit of lubrication.
  • Place the blade where you plan to cut and draw it backwards a few times in the same spot before pushing it on the cut stroke.
  • Don't apply unnecessary pressure when pushing and let the blade do the cutting.
  • When reaching the end of the cut and the blade begins to jam on the push stroke finish the cut by drawing the blade backwards as is done at the beginning of the cut.

I have personally built numerous turnouts, 3-ways, slip switches, double crossovers, dual gauge turnouts and crossings using different sizes or rail and in different scales and just recently opened my second package of jeweler saw blades. Sometimes they seem to last forever and other times I'll use more than one to build just one turnout! Not sure why.

- Terry -
Customer Service - Fast Tracks HobbyWorks Inc.

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