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Yeah jigsaw & saber saw are the same thing. And technically they are reciprocating saws but that term is usually associated with a different design like a Sawzall which is not what I used.
Ok lol. Just clarifying, because the sabre saw (jig saw) and the reciprocating saw, like the Sawzall are wildly missed labeled in terminology.
Even among retail stores.

I was a finishing carpenter in my younger days and I am very familiar with each type of saw 馃槈.

Just wanted you to clarify this for those that might not know exactly what you used.
Because it is a very good idea in how you did yours!

Thanks,
SideTrack Hobo
 

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Yeah jigsaw & saber saw are the same thing. And technically they are reciprocating saws but that term is usually associated with a different design like a Sawzall which is not what I used.
I thought you might be referring to a band saw, which is both not in any way reciprocating, and IMHO makes the finest cuts of all (since the band, which does not have to maintain its form on the "push" stroke, is much thinner than any other saw). The only down side I've discovered is that the blade cut tends to drift a bit if I'm not careful -- don't know whether I just haven't adjusted it properly, or whether it's just a characteristic of this type of saw.
 

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It slices with a thin sharp knife quite easily, and if you can't slice all the way through it, you can snap it along the line you did slice. It snaps cleanly.

I used a cheap utility knife that had one of those long razor blades with the tips that are sacrificial. It was stiff but bendy... And sharp. Did my whole layout with that one one knife.

I imagine a filet knife would work great.

I did 99% of my shaping with that cheap knife.

I tried the hot wire thing... Nah, I liked the knife better. A lot better.

I did use a rasp a bit though, and that was the only real mess I ever made the whole time.
 

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I used one of those oscillating multi tools , like the fine, and a razor knife. For me it looks good. It still hasn't been worked on in about a year. So, slow going. Cut less add some paint, then carve out more if you dont like it. Likewise, its pretty easy to glue peices and add if needed. If all else fails, as mentioned above, struto mold stuff or plaster draping can help. Just keep at it untill you get the results you want.

And The saber saw and jigsaw are simmiler but diffrent. A saber saw is a type of jigsaw, but the head turns in more directions, a jigsaw has a fixed head. At least thats what my 10 grade shop teacher made me learn. And it was that way when buying tools when I grew up. The more expensive ones were saber saws as it had the better features. People use the terms interchangeable now. But their was a difference.
 

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I'm trying to decide on foam board or not for the whole table or just piece it in in different areas for uneven terrain. I have an 8 by 16 table and the center is for scenery/buildings etc. I have 1 sheet and have been using it for the mountains in both corners. Actually, its my next step once I get the tunnel portals in place. The plywood is trimmed out nice on the edges with 1 by 2. Not sure I want to see a foam edge on top of that all the way around the table, or have to re-trim the edges again to hide the foam. I have to make up my mind soon. Advantages of foam? disadvantage's?
 

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You could either paint the edge, or attach a facia to dress it up. I just left the edges of mine pink for now. It doesn't bother me at all.

I really liked that I could use T-Pins to hold things in place while the glue dries. I used T-Pins to hold down the cork roadbed until the Elmers Glue-All dried. Elmers seems to work great for gluing down the cork. Just enough grab to keep things in place, but it also pops up off the foam with little effort if you ever want to rearrange things.

Then, I just used straight pins to hold my flex track and other pieces of track in place. Super simple. I originally just used the straight pins to test everything before gluing the track down. That was almost a year ago now, and those straight pins are still working great. They work so well, I doubt I'll ever use glue. I'm N scale, though... not sure if straight pins would work as well on larger gauge track.

I can't think of a good reason NOT to use foam. Although, there are a few things where foam wouldn't be a good choice. I don't see a good way to use foam for a helix. It's just not able to made thin enough, nor is it as flexible as plywood. Or, better put.... In order for foam to be as flexible as plywood, the foam would be too thin to provide adequate support.

I'm not sure I would use foam without good benchwork under it. All my foam is sitting on top of old workstations (basically desks without drawers... just work surfaces). Had I not used the foam, I would have had to use glue and nails or screws for everything. Nowhere near as simple, in my opinion.
 

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I'm trying to decide on foam board or not for the whole table or just piece it in in different areas for uneven terrain. I have an 8 by 16 table and the center is for scenery/buildings etc. I have 1 sheet and have been using it for the mountains in both corners. Actually, its my next step once I get the tunnel portals in place. The plywood is trimmed out nice on the edges with 1 by 2. Not sure I want to see a foam edge on top of that all the way around the table, or have to re-trim the edges again to hide the foam. I have to make up my mind soon. Advantages of foam? disadvantage's?
I'm a great believer in foam toppers. It offers some sound deadening, and is generally cheaper and less messy to work with than the usual alternative, homosote. IME it adequately holds track nails in place, and permits both installation and removal of track sections without the need for tools. It can also be easily carved and/or added to in order to create surface features, and with a few exceptions plays well with other landscaping materials (paint, sculptamold, etc.).

As to the edge, I found that the relatively inexpensive foam pipe insulation makes a good, inexpensive and visually acceptable bumper around the edge. I have half-inch pink foam board over half-inch OSB, and the pre-split foam insulation pieces easily fit over the edges and hold themselves in place:

Plant Road surface Rolling stock Wood Asphalt
 

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so there's problems with the hot wire. firstly -- you kinda need to make your own because you need big, medium, say little spans. then you need the wire -- it turns out that stuff doesn't last long at least for me, so you need to have some spare wires. then the stuff stinks up a storm and well, honestly its true the rasp makes powdered parmesan cheese like foam all over the place... but it's still a pile of slivers everywhere.
I did make my own hot wire tool. I used steel music wire a bit less than 1/16" thick. It lasts quite long, and can be replaced cheaply. A yard long piece costs about 20 cents.

SAFETY NOTE: Hot wire cutters, or a hot knife, (available at Harbor Freight), should only be used in well ventilated areas. The fumes emitted don't just stink, they're dangerous. Burning or melted plastic fumes are one of the reasons fire fighters wear breathing apparatus. I have a friend who is a retired fire captain. He told me that, years ago, some of the "super-macho smoke eaters" in his group resisted wearing the breathing gear when it was first introduced. He made them wear it, since he knew they weren't just dealing with "safe"? wood smoke, but a potentially lethal cocktail of chemical fumes from burning plastic foam-filled furniture, plus whatever other nasty-burning stuff happened to be in the building. I guess there's brave, and then there's foolhardy, and sometimes they overlap. o_O
The amount of fumes emitted by cutting foam with hot tools is obviously going to be a lot less than what fire fighters have to deal with, but how much toxic fumes do you really want to inhale?

However, I find I do most of my foam shaping with a small "Japanese woodcutter's saw" from Harbor Freight ,* followed by a Home Depot Surefoam rasp (see photo) with a shop vac hose taped to the handle, right behind the blade. This eliminates a lot of the "Smurf dandruff" from the blue foam I use. Final shaping is done with course, then medium, sandpaper. I then paint the finished shape with a baby poop brown that sort of matches the finely ground real dirt I use.
coat the finished shape with full strength Elmer's glue and sift on the dirt followed by ground foam grass.

Traction Fan

* Just about any small saw, like an X-acto saw, can be used.
BTW, if you have a bandsaw, it makes very smooth cuts through foam, with minimal mess.
 

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I know this is reviving an older post but are there any foam boards to stay away from?
Tigger;

Yes. Don't use the white Styrofoam "bead board." Its too weak, and flexible to use as a layout base. At the beginning of this old post, the OP posted a link to another type of bead board, this one has a sheet of silver foil glued to one side. It also has all the same deficiencies as plain bead board, and is just as unsuitable.
For a layout base, use the Extruded Foam boards, which are Pink, purple, green, or blue. They are very strong and rigid.

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Tigger;

Yes. Don't use the white Styrofoam "bead board." Its too weak, and flexible to use as a layout base. At the beginning of this old post, the OP posted a link to another type of bead board, this one has a sheet of silver foil glued to one side. It also has all the same deficiencies as plain bead board, and is just as unsuitable.
For a layout base, use the Extruded Foam boards, which are Pink, purple, green, or blue. They are very strong and rigid.

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So, I am taking away from all this that the extruded foam boards can be laid on benchwork. I think I would feel safer using a 1/4" plywood on the benchwork and a 2" exrtruded foam over that, because I can see myself leaniing on the layout and breaking the foam. Does this seem sensible? I had thought of just using the thickest foam I could get and maybe bonding 2 sheets if necessary, but putting thin plywood down first seems more prudent. I am thinking of building this in three 2.5' by 4' sections so it can be moved when we sell the hiouse.
 

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Thanks for all the input. I can still lay down foam board right now. If I take one more step it would be almost impossible or basically alot tougher to do. I understand the toxic fumes emitted from foam/plastics/ etc. I am a retired fire fighter from Grand Rapids, Mi. 31 years ( full time/ 24 hour shifts) Loved the job, very interesting. Foam cutting with electric should be done outside and hopefully in a windy condition. I'll stick to the saws for most of it. I can open a window next to the layout and cut small pieces outside with a fan blowing out at the same time if I need to use the hot wire. I looked at the layout and can add the foam and then rip some 1 by 3 to the same height as the foam and air nail it in place on top of the 1 by 2 trim piece thats already in place. I can make it look nice. A belt sander and router will help as well. I have a ton of wood working equipment. I was looking thru the past posts on this topic. In 2016 people were paying 12 to 13 bucks a sheet. That same sheet today is $29.99.
 

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Thanks for all the input. I can still lay down foam board right now. If I take one more step it would be almost impossible or basically alot tougher to do. I understand the toxic fumes emitted from foam/plastics/ etc. I am a retired fire fighter from Grand Rapids, Mi. 31 years ( full time/ 24 hour shifts) Loved the job, very interesting. Foam cutting with electric should be done outside and hopefully in a windy condition. I'll stick to the saws for most of it. I can open a window next to the layout and cut small pieces outside with a fan blowing out at the same time if I need to use the hot wire. I looked at the layout and can add the foam and then rip some 1 by 3 to the same height as the foam and air nail it in place on top of the 1 by 2 trim piece thats already in place. I can make it look nice. A belt sander and router will help as well. I have a ton of wood working equipment. I was looking thru the past posts on this topic. In 2016 people were paying 12 to 13 bucks a sheet. That same sheet today is $29.99.
Well, I'm all in favor of ventilation, and I can't speak to what DIY foam cutters are doing or are capable of, but IME the commercial hot wire cutter I bought does not burn or vaporize the foam, it just melts it, so I personally don't think there's a whole lot of toxic material being released. I suppose if you're cutting a whole lot of foam under poor conditions, there might be some concern, but I don't recall seeing any strident warnings in the box, and so far I haven't observed anything I'd classify as worrisome, either in smell, appearance or volume, nor have I had any adverse reactions, and I tend to be somewhat sensitive to noxious smells. None of which is proof of anything, of course, but until I see something more definitive, I'll continue to use the hot wire cutter as and where needed.
 

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one thing to do with your hot wire cutter is to reduce the heat ...the cutter should not vaporize the foam, just gently melt a channel to allow the wire to slowly slide through that channel ....
if you can reduce the heat then yes, it will take a bit longer to go through, but the chances of emitting toxic fumes are greatly reduced .. your lungs will thank you, :)
 

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So, I am taking away from all this that the extruded foam boards can be laid on benchwork. I think I would feel safer using a 1/4" plywood on the benchwork and a 2" exrtruded foam over that, because I can see myself leaniing on the layout and breaking the foam. Does this seem sensible? I had thought of just using the thickest foam I could get and maybe bonding 2 sheets if necessary, but putting thin plywood down first seems more prudent. I am thinking of building this in three 2.5' by 4' sections so it can be moved when we sell the hiouse.
pmcgurin;

There's no harm in putting 1/4" plywood under 2" foam. If nothing else, it will give you a surface to attach switch machines, & wiring, to the bottom of your layout.
However, depending on the framework under the layout, you won't need the plywood, or need to worry about breaking the foam. With the common grid frame of 1x3 stringers every 16"-18" you could lay the foam directly on top of the frame, with no plywood, and be able to climb on top of the foam & crawl across your layout without breaking the foam.
It is possible to slightly dent the surface of the foam by leaning an elbow on it really hard. But the "damage" is superficial at most, and having plywood under the foam wouldn't prevent this anyway.

Building your layout in sections is a very sensible idea. Not only does it make it easier to move into a new home, but it also lets you work on the "bottom stuff" switch machines & wiring, without crawling under the layout. :(
Any traditionally "under-the-table" job is ten times easier if you can take a section to your workbench, or table, flip it upside down, sit in a chair, and work in comfort. Try it. You'll like it.

If you build your layout in sections, make the frame in sections too. Glue 1 x 3 planks, or better yet, 1 x 3 & 1x 2 L'-girders, (see photos) around the sides of each section. The frames can be bolted together.
Wiring should pass through terminal strips, or plugs, at each joint between sections. I don't recommend the commonly suggested trick of drilling large holes in each frame member and then threading all your wiring through these holes. You may need to disconnect the sections, and a wire "umbilical cord" between them might not be easy to separate. Instead, use cable clamps, cup hooks, tie wraps, or any of the other wire holders that can be undone without sawing into your layout, or cutting the wiring harness. The attached files have more information on benchwork.

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So, I am taking away from all this that the extruded foam boards can be laid on benchwork. I think I would feel safer using a 1/4" plywood on the benchwork and a 2" exrtruded foam over that, because I can see myself leaniing on the layout and breaking the foam. Does this seem sensible? I had thought of just using the thickest foam I could get and maybe bonding 2 sheets if necessary, but putting thin plywood down first seems more prudent. I am thinking of building this in three 2.5' by 4' sections so it can be moved when we sell the hiouse.
First of all, understand that there is no WRONG way to do it. But as Traction Fan said, your concerns about strength are unfounded. You don't need plywood for strength with the foam, nor do you need a super-thick layer underneath, unless the terrain on your layout calls for it. For myself, I would avoid the overkill of both plywood and foam for the sake of spending my money on other things.
 
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