Resin ladders

Summer projects and tasks have kept me away from the workbench but I found time to make progress on a Westerfield Models HO scale Baltimore & Ohio M-15b box car kit. There are four ladders to install and they are cast onto a resin sheet with other details. Here’s my preparation process.

I cut the parts away from the other details. Each of these will be carefully sanded to remove most of the excess flash. This is also a great moment to identify which ladders are for the ends of the car and which are for the sides. This model has two slightly different length ladders.

Resin ladders are fragile. Take your time in sanding these parts. With practice, you will be able to sand the part so the excess pieces flake away. That’s what is seen in the photo above.

While I often use a figure-eight pattern when sanding to remove the excess material evenly, the ladder castings may not survive the circular movements. I sanded these ladders by pressing down and pulling the part towards me on the sandpaper. I do this a couple of times then turn it 180 degrees and pull it across a few more times. Check your work. You can see the flash is thinning away.

Here’s a video I made demonstrating the technique I use with other parts. Again, ladders are fragile and this much circular motion may damage the part. I post the video so you can see the basic technique.

I finish cleaning up the ladder castings with a sharp hobby knife. I use the point to cut through any resin flash remaining on the castings. Then I’ll use the blade to scrape the rungs and stiles smooth. Use magnification in order to see the rough areas that need additional scraping. Small sanding sticks may also work, but you need to hold the ladder so it doesn’t flex and break.

Once the castings are clean, it’s time to install them. This model has small, raised attachment points. I dabbed a toothpick with some canopy glue onto those points then placed the ladder. I keep a prototype photo as a handy reference when installing any freight car kit details. The canopy glue gives you some time to nudge the ladder into the proper location. Rungs may line up with other details. This is the moment to ensure the ladder is in the proper vertical location.

Once the ladder is where you want it, focus on another task for a few minutes to allow the canopy glue to set. Then apply a small amount of cyanoacrylate glue (CA) to the attachment points using a small diameter wire or a pin.

After the side ladder is set, it’s time to install the end ladder. The process is the same but make sure the rungs on the side and end ladders are at the same level. This is part of the safety requirements that the Master Car Builders Association established around 1912.

When the end ladder is set, then you can install the other two ladders on the opposite corner of the car. Careful parts prep and patience in this process will produce a great model.

I shared the last photo with another modeling friend and he asked why I didn’t use etched metal ladders. Those parts are a great option and I have some in the stash. But I wanted to use the kit supplied parts for this B&O box car. Maybe next time I’ll use etched metal ladders.

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13 thoughts on “Resin ladders”

    1. Thank you, Fenton! After working on the first couple, the task is more tedious than it is difficult. This is what I’ve found with most of the resin kit building steps. Few assembly steps are difficult. Most are tedious. – Eric H.

  1. The video is helpful, thanks! What do you do when the part and flash aren’t even, where one side of the flash/casting is MUCH thicker than the other? (That’s a common problem with kits whose name I won’t mention, but initials are F&C šŸ™‚

    I like attaching sandpaper to a stone (not ceramic) tile for stuff like this. Stone is honed flat, like glass, so you don’t have to worry about imperfections in the surface.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Dave! For those castings that have more flash on one end than the other, I just tackle the thicker end for a longer time. I’ll put pressure mainly on that thicker end and draw it across the sandpaper a few times. I’ll clear the dust and check the thickness. If it’s still thick, I’ll repeat the process. It can take time but you end up with a proper part. – Eric H.

  2. Thanks for these great resin tips! I’ve been holding off working on a Westerfield cattle car because I’ve never built a resin kit before.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Ray! I recommend tackling a stock car after you have assembled a few other resin kits. The Westerfield Southern Pacific B-50-15 box car has a once piece body and is a good one for a first time kit. As a stock car is a flat kit, build a box car flat kit to understand the basic assembly. The stock car will have lots of flash to clear out from between the slats. You will be sanding quite a bit, and scraping away the excess flash from the sanded side. – Eric H.

  3. Eric, that is an interesting way to remove the flash associated with resin kit detail parts. I will have to try this on my next kit. In the past, I would have used a sharp blade and cut the flash away and then filed in between each piece. This is a much better way to get a clean part without the chance of the knife cutting into the part itself.
    Very cool tip Thanks,
    Jim L

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