Lumber Stacks: Inexpensive & Easy 


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How many times have you had the need for a lumber stack at a sawmill, lumber yard, on a delivery truck, sitting on a ramp ready to be shipped, on a flatcar, or in a boxcar?Your first thought is, of course, "That would sure take up a lot of expensive scale wood." Here is the answer to that problem!  Look around at the coffee shops you frequent and find one that uses the wooden sticks to stir the coffee.  Somehow convince them that you need a box of sticks and you'll have enough rough-cut lumber to satisfy all your lumbering requirements from now on.

A picture of the stirring sticks is depicted here, but the finished product appears in photos I took of the sawmill modeling I did at the Texas Western Model Railroad Club in Fort Worth Texas. 

Your first job is to cut these sticks to scale length.  Cut each stick in half, making a rough board approximately 20 feet long.  In HO scale, my stirring sticks ended up being about 18 inches wide and 3 to 4 inches thick.  Since sawmills cut boards as big and as long as they can, this wood will look good and represent the prototype.  Next, I take some 1/32" x 1/32" basswood (or balsa wood) and cut it into scale lengths of 8 feet.  These would be my layer separators to help with the stacking and drying.  I use 3 or 4 of the separators per layer.  I am not sure if there is a rule to this or not but 4 looks great.

Now that you have all the wood cut, get some white glue (school glue) and start the stacking.  Start off with 4 equally spaced separators that set on the ground and then add a row of boards.  Try and keep a little space between each board as you place it next to the other board so that they are not tight together.  This adds to the realism.  After that layer is complete, put on another set of 4 separators using the last set of separators as a guide so they all line up vertically.  Now, add the next row of boards keeping the ends of your boards almost even.  Let some boards stick out or get pushed in a little so it doesn't look like a solid block. 

Build your stacks up that way until you reach about 4 to 5 feet high.  Cap the stack with a row of rough-cut boards. Let it dry completely, and then start placing them where you want them.  You can glue some short separators or even full length ones on top at random angles like they were just tossed on the top of the stack by the yard workers.  That adds more variety.

Adding Bark

Since most lumber at a mill is still rough-cut by the head saws, it needs bark on the edges, Remember we are working in a small scale, which is to our advantage here.  Just take a brown and black felt tip marker and color the long edge of these boards before you make the stacks.  This will add variety to your stacks and give it a purpose for being in the drying area prior to going to the planner's shed for finishing.

Grading Colors

These colors will vary but are generally green, blue, red, orange, and sometimes yellow.  I am not sure what each grade color is.  You can color code the ends of the lumber stacks with a felt tip pen once the glue is dry.  If you really want to get fancy, you can add some black markings like spray-painted or stenciled labels or markings.

Sierra Scale Models also offers pre-assembled wood stacks (see below) for $9.99.

Stack of Rough Lumber - $9.99. Click ARTICLES to read other techniques for model railroading.

 Sierra Scale Models is owned and operated by Dave Barron, an NMRA Master Model Railroader. If you have questions about the products, send a message to David Barron or call 813-907-3343.