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Cutting PCB Ties Manually?

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  • Andy Hunting
    Thanks for the replies. Here are my results thus far, should anyone be interested: My two PC boards arrived yesterday. They are epoxy-glass boards copper-clad
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 28, 2003
      Thanks for the replies. Here are my results thus far, should anyone
      be interested:

      My two PC boards arrived yesterday. They are epoxy-glass boards
      copper-clad on one side, and at 1/32" thick (.03125"), they are
      almost exactly 7 Z-scale inches thick -- perfect for cutting scale 7-
      by-9-inch ties. That is, provided I can cut off strips of the right
      width (.040"). I don't own a caliper yet, so I can't verify the true
      thickness of the boards. To my eye, they appear to be virtually the
      same thickness as a piece of .030" styrene. Close enough for me.

      Each 7-by-4.5-inch PC board cost me $6.75 plus shipping, and will
      yield (in theory) 1,575 half-inch ties! Let's see.... Assuming that
      one board will yield around 900 ties of the various lengths needed
      for turnouts, I could equip perhaps 150 turnouts from one board, with
      6 PC ties per turnout. Or, with one PC tie per inch, I could hand-lay
      5.5 scale miles of track! Makes me tired just thinking about it. :-)

      Since I'm on a tight budget for the time being, I'm interested in a
      cheap way to cut those ties. I agree that some sort of power tool
      such as a miter saw, mill, or ?? would be great for quick, exact
      cuts. But for the time being, I think I'll try cutting them manually.

      After a bit of experimenting, the best manual cutting method I've
      found is:

      -- Use a piece of .040" styrene strip to help place a metal
      ruler .040" from the edge of the board, then remove the styrene.

      -- Run an X-Acto blade along the ruler edge to score through the
      board's copper cladding, then repeat several times to score deeper
      into the board. I used a blade with a rounded edge to allow more
      pressure. I forget its X-Acto part #.

      -- Cut off the strip with sturdy household scissors, using the score
      to help guide the top scissor blade. I'm surprised at how easily
      scissors cut the board. With some practice, it looks like I can get
      the width just about right, and the scissors give the tie strip a
      good rectangular profile.

      -- The big disadvantage is that scissors twist the tie strip as they
      cut. I can un-twist and straighten the strip with my fingers, though.
      Sighting along the strip helps get it straight. There is no
      indication so far that the twisting and untwisting weakens the strip
      or loosens the copper.

      I'll build a turnout tonight and see if this method causes any
      problems.

      -- Andy Hunting
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