Missenden Abbey Spring Weekend

Last weekend of March 6-8th was my second experience at Missenden Abbey modellers weekend.  Last year at the Autumn weekend I’d registered on the 3D Printing course led by Bob Gledhill, an experience which played a large part in my decision to go self employed in 2015 and start Modelu.  This time round however I was there to learn about loco building, in particular chassis building.  I’d bought a High Level 57xx chassis at Scaleforum North last year which I’d not had the courage to start, so that seemed like a good project for Missenden.  There are probably simpler first kits to attempt – I’d also purchased the Comet Dean Goods, but as the instructions were so comprehensive I opted for the HL Pannier, backed up by the knowledge that help would be on hand if I got into difficulties.

Missenden Abbey Loco and Kit Construction Course

With guidance and sound advice from Paul Willis and tutors Tony Gee and Tim Watson I got as far as constructing the frames, laminating the articulated connecting rods and constructing the horn blocks.  Having never constructed a chassis before I needed some assistance interpreting some of the instructions, where experienced builders would already know which stage for example to solder the spaces and frames.  Other than that, the build went well without any major malfunctions!  So far so good and I’m aiming to finish the chassis for Scaleforum North in April.

High Level Pannier Chassis build

For anyone thinking about going to a Missenden weekend I can highly recommend them, not just for the modelling and skills, but for the people you meet, the friends you make and the banter you have.  It’s worked well for me saving a complex kit or a particular new skill for a Missenden weekend where so much help is on hand, not just from the experienced tutors but from other modellers as well.  I’ve learnt much about tools, techniques and tips, all which should help further my modelling skills now I’m back home.  What also makes the weekends so enjoyable is the time spent at dinner and in the bar, where you get to find out what others have been working on, maybe track building, weathering, lining, DCC, sounds etc or just having a chinwag and a laugh – so much is going on that the weekends fly by.  Looking back at the first post on this blog, I’d just come back from the Autumn Missenden.  That weekend gave me a big modelling boost as I’m sure the Spring one will.

As well as tackling the Pannier, David Brandreth and Tim Shackleton kindly invited me to demonstrate 3D scanning on the Saturday evening, in particular scanning people.  This is something I’ve been researching and experimenting with for producing highly detailed and highly realistic figures.  Attendees on the course were invited to bring along props and clothing suitable for the 1930’s-1950’s period, to be scanned in various poses

Missenden Abbey 3D Scanning Demonstration

A good number of people rose to the challenge, three people bringing boiler suits, firing shovels and grease tops (two of which were volunteer drivers on preservation lines), another bringing a pick axe to be depicted as his grandfather who worked in a permanent way gang.  Tim Shackleton donned a cloth cap and was scanned in a ‘waiting for the pub to open on a cold morning’ pose.  It was great fun and I learnt a lot about the process and where it needs streamlining.

The scanning setup uses a Cubify Sense scanner, which is a handheld laser scanner for the consumer market. Retailing around £300 it is usable for low resolution scanning of people or mid-large size household objects.  Anything requiring greater fidelity or accuracy requires a more advanced scanner, with quite a hike in cost, such as the Artec Eva (approx £10,000) or for smaller subjects the NextEngine desktop scanner (around £3000).   Using the Sense scanner does have some operational drawbacks – the scanner is wired to a laptop/pc, which means extension cables must be used.  Care has to taken not to get tangled up in cables!

The scanner captures 1 metre cubed in 3D space, so any background outside of this box is ignored.  In some cases areas of the floor or ceiling maybe captured but these can be easily removed later in a 3D package such as Netfabb or Meshlab.  Other issues can occur if the scanner is moved too fast, or if the laptop/PC isn’t powerful enough.  For trouble-free scanning a powerful computer with a dedicated graphics card such as a high-end Nvidia is needed.  With a steady hand and a patient person being scanned, acceptable results can be produced with the Sense scanner once they have been scaled down to the required scale.   I’ve experimented so far with 2mm, 4mm and 7mm figures.

Modelu Test Scans

It’s still early days but I’ll be offering this as a service in the future, for modellers who’d like to feature themselves in their layouts, driving a loco, spotting on the end of a platform, or watching the world go by in some sleepy corner of the layout – the possibilities are seemingly endless! The immediate priority though is to push on with converting the garage into a workshop with proper lighting and enough power sockets for all the paraphernalia associated with 3D printing.   Then I’ll have a proper working environment to see where this new adventure leads.