I do not wish to detract from, or make major changes in the basic construction procedures as set forth by Lee Fitzgerald on the T-Trak web site www.t-trak.org . This is just my collection of notes and ideas that I have picked up in the past and I want to try to remember them in the future.
What is Baltic Birch and where can I get it? This is a cabinet grade type of plywood that is five ply as opposed to the average three ply for 1/4 inch plywood. I think it comes from Russia or one of the other Baltic countries, and it usually comes in 5 foot square sheets. I have purchased it in the past from Roddis Lumber Co.; 727 North Cherry; San Antonio, TX 78202 Tel. (210) 226-1426 My last purchase was approx. $13.50 per sheet with tax included.
Completely assembled T-Trak modules are available as well as kits for assembling your own. An accurately cut kit can be assembled with little more than a bottle of wood glue, a tape measure with metric markings and a small carpenter's square. Several C-clamps of the 3 inch and 6 inch sizes will make the job much easier. I feel that every glue joint should be thoroughly clamped in order to provide a tight and strong joint!!!
If you wish to measure and cut your own wood, I strongly suggest you obtain the
use of a good table saw as well as a combination belt and disc sander. An
acceptable error of 1/16 inch on a four foot N-Trak module would be grossly out
of tolerance on a 12 inch T-Trak module. You must measure and cut exactly!
The 1-1/2 inch square glue blocks may be cut from standard 2" X 2" stud material
but it may not be truly square. I prefer to trim two adjacent sides to get them
as square as possible. NOTE: Yes, I trim an eight foot stud before I cut it into
2 inch lengths! I then drill the glue blocks with a 19/64 inch drill bit to get
a snug fit for the "T" nut. A light coat of wood glue at the base of the "T" nut
will then insure an almost permanent joint. Before the glue dries, I run a 2
inch bolt fully into each glue block to insure the bolt turns freely within the
hole. If the bolt binds, you may have to tap the head of the bolt on one side or
the other to center the bolt in the hole of the glue block. I feel this assembly
is easier to complete before gluing the blocks to the side pieces of the module.
In my opinion, the top piece of the module requires the most accuracy in the
initial cutting phase. If it is not square, it will affect the rest of the
modules in a layout. The width (12-1/8 in.) will affect the way the rails are
connected. A standard, straight module should be 308 mm or 12-1/8 inches wide.
The Kato Unitrack will be 310 mm or 12-3/16 inches long. This difference is only
2 mm or 1/16 of an inch! The track should extend beyond the edge of the module
for 1 mm at EACH end. If the module is too narrow and the rail extends beyond 1
mm at each end, you will have a large and undesirable gap between modules, but
it will hook up and work However, if the module is too wide, you will have less
overhang and you will be unable to lock the rails together! It all boils down to
accuracy in measuring and cutting, as well as final assembly.
When all of the kit parts have been checked and the "Tee" nuts have been glued
and checked for free movement, we are ready for final assembly. First, I like to
"dry assemble" the parts to make sure of dimensions and clearances. Also, I
suggest that you have the necessary pieces of Kato Unitrack available before you
begin the assembly Remember, my notes and ideas are not intended to replace the
official T-Trak instructions, except for a very minor change or two. That means
you should print out a copy of the instructions from www.t-trak.org .
I start by gluing and clamping the wood blocks to the side pieces as shown in
the T-Trak instructions and allow them to dry. I then temporarily clamp the two
sides together and check to see that the front edges of the glue blocks that
will be attached to the front piece (12-1/8" X 2-1/2") are perfectly parallel
and flat. A power sander of some type may be useful at this time. This check is
necessary to prevent stress and eventual warp. The next step is where I make a
minor change in procedure.
I do not glue the front to the sides in the order shown by the procedure. I
prefer to glue the side pieces to the top at this time so I can double check
that 12-1/8 inch dimension. Remember that paragraph on the previous page about
module width, rail length and the slight overhang on each end! This is the time
to connect your pieces of track and visually check that overhang. And, it is
especially true if you are assembling a double wide or larger module.
A couple of my first modules were assembled on a card table that was not very
stable. The result was a slight warp! Since then, I have used a large piece of
plate glass for a working surface. That may be "overkill", but I happen to have
it, so I use it. I place the top piece of the module up-side-down on the glass
and then glue and clamp the side pieces onto the top. Be sure the side pieces
are perfectly parallel and perpendicular at this time.
My last step is to glue the front face of the module in place and this is where
the flat, plate glass surface allows me to check for a possible warp. The degree
of final sanding, filling if desired, and painting are determined by the user.