Large Scale Central

Wood Working Tools & Suggestions for a Newbie

Hi everyone,

I have recently plunged into scratch building things for my trains, but I am finding that my lack of wood working experience is catching up with me. My most recent project is building a single stall engine house.

My main problem is figuring out how to properly rip wood strips. I think part of the problem is that I lack the appropriate tools. I have gotten by with a circular saw, jig saw, and a few hand saws. However, I have some lumber laying around that I would love to use and want to cut down to 1/4"x1/4" & 1/2"x1/2" at a range of lengths. I could buy the appropriate wood from the model shop, but I like the idea of doing it all my self. So far, I have the base of the engine stall completed (9.5" x 18").

I am really looking for any suggestions on tools (bandsaw or table saw) and any other suggestions/tips for someone with little wood working experience.

Other projects on the horizon: trestles, bridges, and a larger 2 engine stall.

Thanks in advance.

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Proxxon makes a fantastic benchtop table saw that works a treat for ripping lumber in our scale.

MicroMark sells a Microlux one as well that’s cheaper, but I dont have any experience with that one.

Yeah, I got the similar (VERY similar) one from Micromark many years ago. Works very well at making scale lumber - though you are guaranteed to make a LOT of sawdust in doing so.

FWIW I use a bandsaw:

More pricey than the small table saw (like almost $900).

I was led to a bandsaw by Daniel Smith who claimed that table saws make circular marks, whereas band saws don’t. Since I don’t have both of them, I can’t verify that.

The scale lumber I end up making has a quite rough texture, which works for the era and setting of my railroad but may not work for you.

Setting up a band saw takes a bit of time and YouTube/Grizzly video watching. I have to say that I get some waviness to my cuts (it tends to want to follow the wood grain) so I don’t get perfect cuts. That goes well with the rough texture. It just adds character!

I am not an expert woodworker. Most I have is junior high wood shop from 50 years ago.

One other item you may want is a nail gun. It helps hold the wood in place while the glue dries…

I have made tons of scale lumber on my Micromark mini table saw. The trick is to use a ‘zero gap’ plate at the blade - they give you 2 plexiglass ones and you basically lift the blade under it while on and cut the gap exactly. Stops the wood falling into the saw and supports it.

I cut all the scale lumber for this wooden coal hopper on it:

FMB Dec-Jan2009 022

I’ve heard this from many others. I also hear that they are creating scale lumber. Funny thing about those two statements is the contradiction of reality. Saw mills do use large circular blades to cut lumber. :sunglasses:

I have the Proxxon table saw, and I think it’s great.

However, if I really get into ripping a pile of lumber, I’m probably going to get this bandsaw from Wen, put it out in the garage, hook the shop vac to it, and letter rip.

Got one of those too Jim. Much safer then any table saw although the cuts can be a little rougher.


Ed, one of the best guides for cutting scale lumber is here on my web site. I compiled this from two threads on another forum and reprinted with the owners permission.

Personally I have a 10" table saw and a 16" band saw. I have used both and find I can cut more precise lumber on the table saw with better finish. I recently purchased one of these, but I haven’t gotten the opportunity to set it up and try it yet. Byrnes Model Machines - Thickness Sander This unit came HIGHLY recommended on one of the small scale fora and on model ship builders fora. Not cheap, but inspection on receipt, it is a stout built piece of gear.

A quick search on Youtube revealed a couple videos using this search “cutting scale lumber for models”. Watching a couple might offer some guidance.

Good luck and welcome aboard!


Ed, I think all the information given above is great advice. The only thing I will add is if I were going to buy my first stationary power tool, it would be a tablesaw. With experience, there’s simply not much you can’t do with one. Now, I have no experience with the hobby saws mentioned above but both are made by reputable companies. Like Bob, I have a fully stocked woodworking shop that includes a 10” tablesaw and 21 inch bandsaw. I make lots of scale lumber all on the tablesaw. Yes, in most instances I make more sawdust than lumber but that is a sacrifice I’m willing to make. I hope you find what you are looking for and remember, don’t hesitate to ask questions. We are all more than glad to help.

So I’ve used the following:
Full sized table saw with zero clearance insert
Micro Mark mini table saw ( the smaller of the two they sell)
Byrnes Table Saw

Hands down the Byrnes table saw is the best. But it comes at a price. I routinely slice .010" sections with ease. The kerf of the saw .020" is bigger than the piece I’m cutting!

A full sized table saw with a zero clearance plate will handle scale lumber but you’ll have a lot of waste due to the kerf of the blades.

If you don’t have space for a full sized saw, a hobby saw will do the job but I never could get the accuracy I wanted ( and the table was too small) with the Mircolux saw.

I use my 10" table saw with a zero clearance insert, feather boards and the Rockler Thin Rip Tablesaw Jig. I also usually use a thin kerf fine finish ripping blade.

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Bob, thank you so much. That PDF is exactly what I have been looking for. Thank you for sharing that with me.

Thank you Dan. The big concern I had was finding a tool that would allow me to do a variety of things and be useful for other projects around my house. Thank you for the information.

Thank you for the information Craig!

Awesome. This is great information. Thank you!

Thanks Cliff. I am going to look into these tools.

Great! Thanks for the information and some added pictures for context! Looks great!

Thank you for this information and the link Jim.

Thank you for sending me this, Bob. I really appreciate it!