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    • #20390

      Constructing The Ring


      Prior to routing and after contemplating layout alternatives I decided to stick to the past features of tracks that I believed worked best for all forms of 1:32 scale racing with some compromise to facilitate the scenic element I desired.

      Some of the DO’s and DON’Ts I followed:


      • Cram too much track into your space – less is more
      • Use mechanical lane switchers or other ‘gimmicks’ that more often than not fail at some point during an event
      • Use lane cross-overs
      • Try NASCAR style banked turns with corners having an outside diameter of 6 feet or less
      • Have ANY ‘humps’ (depressions or compressions are fantastic and achieve the same drama) or any abrupt elevation change
      • Incorporate any very tight fixed radius ‘kink’ in the middle of any long straight
      • Have ‘shortcuts’ that dramatically favour any lane
      • Place corners or brake zones in obstructed areas
      • Place corners in unreachable spaces
      • Have more than one squeeze zone
      • Have any lane with a diameter less than 10″ (10″ is already a hairpin) unless this absolutely cannot be avoided
      • Have lane spacing less than 3″ anywhere but for a squeeze – 3.5″ spacing is ideal
      • Have outside gutters less than 6″ away from any outside lane in or after any corner
      • Place any scenic element (ie. guardrails, tire stacks, hay bales, trees) closer than 6″ on the outside of any corner or the exit of any corner
      • Make straights perfectly straight


      • Have an odd number of track overpasses
      • Endeavour to make your lanes as equal in length as possible (if you space your lanes the same distance apart throughout without shortcuts they will be the same length provided you have an odd number of overpasses)
      • Place all driver stations along the same vantage ‘area’ (ie. same side of track) but not too close together (alternate driver hookups spread around any track are great for practice or those times that just a few of you are having some fun) otherwise the home track advantage is too hard for many guest racers to overcome
      • Ensure the last corner before your main timing straight is either an ‘easy’ corner to drive or a hairpin to minimize the frequency of ‘riders’
      • Incorporate at least one high speed corner, one hairpin, one long straight and one squeeze zone (Since preparing this article I’ve changed my mind and moved away from placing a squeeze in my newer tracks)
      • Have lane spacing of at least 3.5″ or 4″ in the area directly in front of driver stations.
      • Remember that the higher speed corners require greater lane spacing than just 3″ otherwise cars will constantly make contact which is a big problem for open wheel models, especially wider Grand Prix models

      Routing & Support Structure

      For efficiency I used three routers, one mounted to an adjustable radial arm to cut the outside track edge, one set up with a jig using two adjustable bearings to cut the outside lane and one with a stepped base (3″, 3 1/2″, 4″ spacing) for center and inside lane routes as well as edges and ditches. I had Luf’s flexible strip on hand, some 8′ strips of 1/8″ hardboard plus the most warped piece of strapping I could find, and from scrap mdf I also made an ‘S’ shaped template to route each lane for the squeeze so that all three lanes would be identical.

      If you are an experienced and capable woodworker with the necessary tools and wish to try to route your own track there are no shortage of tutorials elsewhere if you need them. But I will assume that no one with little routing experience would take on this critical component of such a large project…

      The frame supporting this track is nothing special. It uses a combination of pine (1x4s & 1x2s) and spruce (2x4s) which is hidden by a cloth skirt. A shelf was made underneath for storage.


      Now that you’ve completed or purchased your routed sections and built your open grid support it is time to give your race room a track! Adhering to the ‘measure twice’ ‘cut once’ adage means that this portion of the build should come together quickly and with no surprises.

      Individual pieces were laid over the grid and glued together with white glue using scrap mdf underneath each joint, a section at a time. Proper alignment and clamping ensured a smooth transition. Patience is a virtue!

      Of course, with more clamps the quicker things go. By the time I clamped the second last joint what was clamped first was already dry… Clamp the last joint to complete the track after all other pieces have dried first. Here the last joint was set and clamped. Perfect joints do not require any fill for smooth performance. If necessary, I use Bondo. But remember, even the most ‘perfect’ joint will show after painting unless it is filled and sanded. If you do not want a joint to show at all you must fill and carefully sand each one. Now we have a single floating track. Time to add cross members. Strips of pine were laid out in the locations shown and glued and clamped in place underneath the track. These provide additional support and a place to fasten our uprights and later our hardboard borders. Since we didn’t use screws there was nothing else to fill or sand on the track surface.

      Next decide where you want the track elevated. Keep in mind that overpasses should be no less than 3″ high – I went with 3 3/4″ to be safe. Camber can also be introduced and will have a dramatic impact on how your models perform in the corners. I used 1×4″ pieces of pine cut in various lengths as uprights joining the cross members to the frame. Once the uprights are screwed to both the cross members and the frame they can be adjusted later without compromising the track surface. (You may want to tweak camber or the height of any track areas after your uprights are all screwed in place which is easy enough to do – just back out screws from the frame, adjust and then re-screw…) Don’t forget you can use your clamps to help add camber, but don’t be aggressive – otherwise the mdf will separate – and if this happens you tried to do too much. With 3/8″ mdf if you can bend it without breaking it then as a general rule it should be fine for racing on…Elevation together with camber changes are now complete and the track is fully supported. Be conservative with any elevation change, especially rises. Off camber corners are challenging but do not over use them. BE CONSERVATIVE! Lightly sand the slots now.


      A single coat of flat latex mid grade paint was applied using a standard roller. (Now I recommend using a small foam roller (4″ wide) such as the ones you can buy at your local dollar store – this will give you the smoothest finish which will enhance the grip level.) Care was taken to ensure even coverage. Two coats should be perfect – if you need to do yet another coat then you’ve done something wrong.Areas for concrete patches were masked and painted using the same technique. Concrete sections, asphalt patches and lines were masked and dollar store acrylic paint was applied – for the patches using a small foam roller and for the lines using a small brush and ‘dry brush’ technique.Cutting uniform lines was made easy using two box cutter blades affixed to each side of a 1/8″ scrap of hardboard. Curbs made from the halves of N gauge cork rail bed were also painted white and glued in place. The inside of the slot is not painted.

      Those that know me understand that I try to make things consistently imperfect to reflect the era of a 1950’s or 1960’s track… so perfectly solid white lines, curbs colours, etc. must be avoided… For a modern circuit – sure, but that’s not my goal here… For the curbs I painted the entire curb white (two coats) and then used a rectangular stamp I fashioned from some solid foam to paint the black checks. As you can see they came out just the way I like them – far from perfect! Cracks in the concrete pads were cut using a fine Xacto knife. Applying a wash brings out the detail nicely. Lane marking ‘dots’ were applied where needed. Ensure all power tap slots are painted as well as routed ditches. You can mask and paint your skid marks at this point. I did not.

      Copper Foil

      Allow paint to dry for several days before applying the copper foil (copper tape). Do not attempt to tape your track in high humidity – this will have a number of adverse consequences down the road and you’ll be unhappy with the results. The tape and the mdf have different expansion characteristics, not to mention that mdf absorbs humidity as well and will expand more in a damp environment.Make sure to take your time doing this. Use a single piece for each run trying not to break the tape. Start and stop each run from one of your power tap slots, this way the solder will ensure conductivity both ways. Luf makes a handy tape application tool if you’ve never done this. I find that applying by hand allows me to stretch the tape carefully around tighter corners for smoother corner transitions. Use a smooth rounded edge to burnish the tape after application, such as the side of a BIC lighter – but make sure not scratch the paint with the metal top! Burnishing the tape is VERY important and I cannot stress this enough.

      Edging and Facades

      Overpass facades fashioned after a bunker style poured concrete look were glued and clamped in place. Walls were also added. Ensure sufficient clearance for classes you race. 3 3/4″ will accommodate Fly trucks. 1/8″ hardboard was cut into 4″ wide strips and applied to the outside edges of the track, fixed against those cross members we previously glued in place. Although it varies, border height averages just 1 1/4″ above the surface of the track, sufficient to keep a 1:32 scale closed wheel racer on the table.Additional scrap pieces of wood 1″ thick were added where more support for the hardboard was needed. Additional hardboard was used to fill in gaps between the border and track. DAP paintable caulk was applied to fill cracks. A hardboard back was also added to support the small hill.Now that outside edging is in place driver’s stations were added. I used a minimalist approach but mounted the stations so that the controller hookups were upright.


      I use a central harness from 18 gauge wire for each lane which joins the driver’s stations to each of the power taps located throughout the track. Trackmate driver stations together with all of the Trackmate timing, gantry and power relay hardware are easy to hook up when you follow the instructions.Make sure to get your polarity right when soldering your power taps though… otherwise you’ll drive yourself crazy figuring out what went wrong. Adding a shelf underneath your table for both the power supply and computer is time well spent too. Make sure you test everything thoroughly before attempting any scenery.


      After proper wiring and testing it was time to start the scenery. Notice that where appropriate, track edges were routed to accommodate a smooth and realistic hard shell scenery transition to the mdf track surface.Cereal box or other similar thickness cardboard strips were glued to the underside of the track surface and to one another in a ‘grid’ to provide lightweight yet sturdy support for the wet hardshell to come. Wherever possible I always use white glue rather than other adhesives or fasteners. This part is fun for the kids too! After carefully masking the track surface and covering the rest with plastic wherever necessary it was time for the hydrocal. Small batches of hydrocal were mixed in a large plastic wash bowl and strips of shop rags were dunked in the mixture then quickly applied over the cardboard grid. If a rock casting was to be applied in an area I waited till the mix set and then ‘glued’ a cured casting in place using more mix, carefully filling gaps and cracks with more of the hydrocal mix and sculpting the surrounding areas as the mix dried. Where smooth or grassy areas were desired I simply brushed on several coats of hydrocal. Until cured, the colour of the drying hydrocal mix is darker and clearly reveals the castings. Woodland scenics water soluble liquid pigments were used to colour the rock formations, applied in several light washes, using just a large brush. Let gravity do the work for you. Soak up excess. A tan base coat of flat latex was brushed on to cover up the rest of the snowy landscape. I let this dry.After masking each area to be worked on a 30/70 white glue/water mixture with a drop of dishwashing liquid was brushed wherever grass was to grow. A liberal sprinkle of a mixture of fine Woodland scenics foam ground cover was applied, using several shakers. After spraying another coat of the glue mixture more ground cover was applied. After the third application of ground cover the grass was done.

      Adding Man Made Features

      Custom built structures and other man made elements were then installed. Urethane tire stacks were weathered and glued into place using Gorilla Glue. Scalextric guardrails were cut, painted, weathered and ‘nailed’ into place. Other details were installed, including an army of urethane straw bales, painted first, then glued into place at several locations around the track.It was a start and although far from finished the track was now ready to host its first race. – Art

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