We received our benchwork for the Waterfront Project this past week from Ondrew Hartigan at modelrailroadbenchwork.com and could not be happier with their work. I’d like to talk about benchwork, bases and Z scale stability for just a minute. Not stability as in the State Of The Scale, nothing that dramatic. Instead, I mean basic structural integrity.
If you’re building anything larger than just a very small diorama… scratch that, even if you are building something as small as a very small diorama, I have always been a proponent of building it on a rock-solid foundation. Z scale scenes can be painstaking to build well and I believe it’s important to build them on a platform that has as much physical integrity as possible, on something that will last.
I like to use custom bases for my dioramas and desktop layouts using interesting hardwoods and profiles to complement the scenes. For the Waterfront Project layout, I also wanted to use a high quality base. For this project, I turned to a relatively new benchwork company based in Illinois, Model Railroad Benchwork.
Here’s a short description of their work from their own website:
The first ingredient in the modelrailroadbenchwork.com recipe is quality “cabinet grade” plywood. Plywood is much more dimensionally stable than regular lumber. The second ingredient is pocket hole screws for assembly. Pocket hold screws do two things; they make joints stronger by putting the screw thread into the side grain of the plywood instead of the end grain. They open a new world of flexibility to model railroad benchwork by allowing a user to move individual boards within the benchwork even after track work has started without the need for a saw or hours of disassembly.
I liked what they had to say. I spoke to the owner, Ondrew Hartigan, and told him what I was looking for; I’m happy to say he’s a very easy guy to work with. One custom detail I wanted was a base height of 2-1/2”. Ordinarily benchwork is in the 4” range in height, but since this is a shelf layout, I felt 4” would be too high; it could visually overwhelm the scene. The other custom detail I wanted was the ability to have my 1” foam base sit inside the benchwork, or base and be flush with the top of the wood. Again, no problem as they just moved the location of their pocket screw holes.
The cost of having this base made for me was, I felt, very reasonable at just around $60.00 including shipping to New York. I look at this as the cost of 2 or 3 pieces of Z scale freight for a base that’s built right and will last for years. A bargain! I can do basic woodworking myself, but like many of us I often end up measuring twice but still cutting 3 or 4 times!
The platforms, bases or benchwork I build my scenes on are important to me, so for the few dollars this project cost, it was well worth it for the peace of mind of having it done right. In addition, whenever I find a company that likes to work with Z scalers, I want to support them. We’ll be doing a follow-up interview with Ondrew in the near future.
Category: Z Scale Basics