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  • Some general newbie questions

    I have only been involved in this hobby for a few months. I have routed my own MDF track and purchased a variety of cars from different makers. Along the way, I have spent a lot of money on crappy cars and found out what is wrong with my track and design. I have a pretty good idea of what I want to do moving forward. But I have some questions:

    1. Has anyone tried routing a track from melamine? The surface seems like it would work well for a slot car track.

    2. Is there some alternative race management software for my Trakmate system? I am looking for something that shows lap time, medium lap time, average lap time, gap time between cars and false start detection. Race Coordinator seems to offer much of want, but my security software will not allow it to be downloaded from the web site.

    3. I think I would like to go to digital, but I want 3 lanes. Scorpius seems to be the best option for this, especially lane changes. However, I find little reference to Scorpius in recent years. Most info I see on the internet is 8 or 9 years old. It makes me wonder if this is a bad idea?

    4. Is there race management software that displays things I want for digital?

  • #2
    I can't answer the digital questions, but I did route a track out of a melamine countertop. Yes, it worked fine. But...it was a flat track. Not sure how the adhesive would respond to fast elevation changes. As long as the change is gentle I am sure it would be fine.
    Note also that I run silicone tires, which prefer a clean surface. I don't know how melamine would hold rubber/urethane if you want to run those tires.
    I use SlotTrak for timing, but it's not written for digital.
    Come Race at The Trace!
    Timberline Trace International Raceway - SW of Mpls, MN

    Comment


    • #3
      For more info on Scorpius digital try the Slotcarillustrated forum [SCI]. There is a Scorpius digital forum on that board. The most recent post in the Scorpius forum is 2020 I think.
      However he has been posting in the Digital forum on SCI about new developments as recently as a couple days ago. The latest project is a tiny digital chip that mounts on the guide. Looks to be coming along nicely and is really cool.
      I have Carrera digital and don't know much about Scorpius myself.
      Randy

      Comment


      • #4
        Or you could contact Scorpius directly.
        https://www.scorpiuswireless.com/
        Scott.....War Eagle River......Tampa, Florida, USA
        Facebook-
        https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100018917899105
        YouTube-
        https://youtube.com/channel/UCB2327w8u_O8RjKeY4kFonQ

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        • #5
          Originally posted by War Eagle River View Post
          Or you could contact Scorpius directly.
          https://www.scorpiuswireless.com/
          I am in the "discovery process" now, trying to learn everything I can, before contacting the vendor. That it hasn't generated much discussion, compared to Scalextric and Carrera digital, is somewhat concerning, as it appears to be a superior system... on the surface.

          Comment


          • #6
            I can only offer input regarding routing a track. I got Brad from Brad's Tracks (established track builder) to create the program for me to have my 3 lane oval CNC routed. That cost around $100. Then I contacted a woman at the state university who manages the theater department's CNC router and got the track routed from 2 sheets of MDF for about $120. It was well worth it to have it done professionally with smooth corners and none of the errors I've made by hand. Not having to deal with the dust, broken router bits, and patching made it the right choice.

            My track design even included some crossovers which came out nice and smooth.

            Comment


            • #7
              If you have already routed one track, you should have no trouble with another track design that fits your needs. Melamine should be a great surface for silicone or urethane tires. Probably routing it may require high router speed and slow movement to keep it from chipping, much like a kitchen counter top. MDF has a pretty smooth surface and with a coat of most any gloss finish the surface is about as smooth as melamine. It is easy to rout and bend.

              After you rout the 1/8 slot , it's pretty easy to switch over to the special bit Slot Car Corner offers to cut recess's for the braids. This recess is also referred to as "gains". SCC has a bit with a 1/8 pilot that cuts 3/4 wide and is guided by the slot. It is easy to do with a trim router and by hand. The pre-taped braid they sell is very easy to apply. If you prefer tape, I would use the tape with conductive adhesive. Tape works great and guys on here can direct you to a source.

              I don't know much about digital, but guys do rout tracks and use the switches from Carrera recessed into their routed tracks. If you want digital, I would say you are probably better off to stick with Carrera or Scalex . Those designs will probably be around for a few more years. Digital has not been the end all of slot racing. There is no standard like the train manufacturers have. After a few years of being marketed it is still only a small part of the home slot racing scene.

              If you rout a 3 lane analog, you may be able to design a plan that includes tight corners and chicanes that satisfy the need for cars to be close and crash each other!!
              Matt B
              So. In
              Crashers

              Comment


              • slothead
                slothead commented
                Editing a comment
                Matt is absolutely right, routing a track isn't difficult. But, you will never be able to have the slots be as smooth and flawless as you can get with CNC routing for a few hundred bucks. Crossovers need to be spot-on. The sections will fit together nicely and the slots will line up perfectly. Plus, no cleanup.

            • #8
              I already routed one track in MDF. I made a few mistakes, but I learned a lot. Here's what I did wrong, if anyone is interested:

              1. The material I used for a routing guide had too much give and the router was too big. I didn't notice how much the guide material was deforming, so I ended up with waves in some lanes. I have changed to a smaller finish router and bought a lexan guide with holes every 2" for finish nails. I tested it and there is no give or distortion.

              2. I under-estimated how much room the tails of the cars need on turns. I gave 3", it should be at least 5".

              3. My overpass is too flat. I should have given it a little pitch. Preferably after routing.

              4. I have some places where the lanes pinch together, but I made some of the curves with very uneven radius. My thought was it would require more driver skill. It didn't work out the way I planned. Especially when you factor in the distortion I got due to the guide material. The curves have to have a more consistent radius.

              5. I put the copper tape too close to the slot. I should have put it about 1/32" from the edge.

              On the plus side, I managed to create all three lanes with the same length (44') and very close to the same level of difficulty in either direction. I can't show you the track as it is in a state of disrepair as I attempt short-term fixes to some of the issues. But I do have a pretty accurate layout drawing. Unfortunately, it doesn't show the lanes. Click image for larger version  Name:	trackdesign8xx.jpg Views:	15 Size:	108.2 KB ID:	94285
              Attached Files
              Last edited by Bal r 14; April 18, 2021, 11:47 PM.

              Comment


              • #9
                Plenty of resources on the internet and this site to show how to use various guides to keep slots consistent. I used a router base I made that uses the first slot as the guide.

                Luft use to sell a flexible plexiglass guide and that is an easy guide to copy. Sounds like you have something like this. That type of guide allows a slot cut at any varying curve you may want.

                There are router bases guys have made that follow the outside edge of the track. Each successive lane is cut using the previously routed slot as the guide. Sounds like this may be what you used. I made a base like that. I cut the first slot with a compass arm and 48 inch ruler and a guide and used that slot to rout the next one. Pretty simple way to do it.

                Many tracks are routed with some type of compass arm and a straight edge.

                Having the complete track setup and routing each lane in one complete pass is probably the best.

                A lot of the guys here have built routed tracks using these methods and can answer any questions.

                Last edited by mattb; April 18, 2021, 10:03 PM.
                Matt B
                So. In
                Crashers

                Comment


                • #10
                  Originally posted by slothead View Post
                  I can only offer input regarding routing a track. I got Brad from Brad's Tracks (established track builder) to create the program for me to have my 3 lane oval CNC routed. That cost around $100. Then I contacted a woman at the state university who manages the theater department's CNC router and got the track routed from 2 sheets of MDF for about $120. It was well worth it to have it done professionally with smooth corners and none of the errors I've made by hand. Not having to deal with the dust, broken router bits, and patching made it the right choice.

                  My track design even included some crossovers which came out nice and smooth.
                  I have investigated having it CNC routed. I haven't found anyone who showed a great deal of interest in a "one off" project around here. I am in the Milwaukee area. If anyone knows a good place, I'd appreciate it. I don't mind doing the routing myself. I just don't like the mess.

                  Comment


                  • slothead
                    slothead commented
                    Editing a comment
                    I thought I couldn't find a CNC shop to do mine too, before finding the woman at the state university campus about 50 miles away. I thought I had to have a CNC with a big (4'x8') table which is what she has, but Brad Bowman (Brad's Tracks) said most tracks he designs are routed on smaller machines (2'x4' or 4'x4') w problems. There are sign shops in my area with 2'x4' CNC's, but I didn't know I could use them. A good CNC designer will create files that will work with whatever size CNC you tell them you'll be using. The fewer joints the better, but the CNC table size isn't a limiting factor.

                    Call local sign and cabinet shops and nearby colleges with a theater department. The small college I retired from has a 2'x4' CNC I could have used for free if I'd known it would work.

                • #11
                  Bal r 14,

                  I had six 4-lane banked oval HO tracks CNC routed in 3/8" thick MDF topped with white melamine. The laminating and the routing were all done by a cabinet shop in New Jersey. All the tracks came out fine. Despite banking to 20 degrees there were no issues with the melamine delaminating. The tracks measured 4 x 12 feet overall. The racing surface was 10-1/2 inches wide. The melamine surface is great for silicone tires.

                  The power conductors were 1/8" wide tinned copper braid 0.020 inches thick. The braid reliefs were cut 1/8 inch wide by 0.017 +/- 0.002 inches deep. The braids were spaced 1/8 inch from the slots. The braids were glued in place using Elmer's Wood Glue diluted 10% by weight. The braids were pressed into their reliefs with a medium-hot clothes iron which achieved instant adhesion by boiling off the water in the glue.

                  I have built dozens of HO tracks since the 1990's. Most were hand-routed using custom-made MDF templates to guide the router. I set up routers with different diameter bases, starting with a 3-1/2" diameter, then 7", 10-1/2", and 14". This produced slots spaced 1-3/4" apart. I have a separate router set up to rout the braid reliefs using the slots as guides.

                  Using a template allows you to make -- and correct -- all your mistakes on the template. Ugly templates can still make beautiful tracks. Better yet, once you have a finished routing template and the four router bases you can pump out perfect, identical tracks on an industrial scale. Since I have four laminate-trimmer routers set up with the different size guide disks and a fifth set up for routing braid reliefs I can rout a 4 x 8 HO track in about an hour.

                  The trick with creating the template is you have to make outside radius curves perfect, with a radius tool. Any errors get magnified as you step inward. Inside radius curves, however, can be cut freehand. The slots get smoother as you step outward. If the inside radius curves on the template look nice all the slots will be fine. And you can create some artistic curves. Especially if you have a hand-held belt sander to do the smoothing.

                  When hand-routing a track don't ignore the dust issue. I have routed tracks outdoors in my driveway to address the dust issue. I have also set up a shop-vac to do dust collection inside my garage, hooking up a double-length hose directly to my routers. I suspended the hose from the ceiling of my garage, over the work, along with the router's extension cord, so everything could move freely.

                  I wrapped an old T-shirt around the filter of the shop-vac to keep it from becoming quickly blinded by the MDF dust. Otherwise MDF dust gets packed between the pleats of the filter, and is nearly impossible to remove.

                  Using my shop-vac setup I've had no dust problems whatever when routing in my garage. All the dust gets sucked up before it has a chance to become airborne.

                  Two last bits of advice on hand-routing. Keep an eye on your power cord. Don't let it snag on anything or you could mess up a slot. And keep checking the tightness of your depth adjustment. It can vibrate loose over time and then your slot depth will go out of control.

                  The advantages of CNC routing are obvious. You don't need to invest time and money in tooling and you don't have to deal with the mess. While hand-routing tracks can be cheaper if you use a template and make multiple tracks with it, CNC routing is probably cheaper if you are only ever going to make one track. You do have to have access to CAD software. If you can't do your own CAD drawings then you need to figure in the cost of having that done for you, possibly by the CNC shop.

                  I am in the process of making my own 1/32nd scale track, and I had the pieces CNC routed by a shop in Annapolis Maryland. A 1/32nd scale track has 4 times the area of an HO track. And since this track is intended to be a one-off I decided having it CNC'd for me made sense. I did the CAD design myself. The finished pieces came out beautiful and fit together perfectly. I've painted the track sections and am getting ready to cut the braid reliefs and install braid.

                  Ed Bianchi
                  Last edited by HO RacePro; April 19, 2021, 02:32 AM.

                  Comment


                  • noddaz
                    noddaz commented
                    Editing a comment
                    "and I had the pieces CNC routed by a shop in Annapolis Maryland."
                    Quite a trip for you Ed! What is the name of the shop? I am about 10 minuets from Annapolis.

                    Scott, near Annapolis

                • #12
                  i have a routed wood digital track, using Carrera hard ware, Basically i just routed the circuit, then cut out with a jigsaw for the lane changers.
                  Unless you have 6 plus racers you really dont need three lanes.... my track is about 55 feet ...average 4 . 4 lap times , 2 lanes , at most i have 5 racers , usually 4 .
                  just my 2 cents

                  john

                  Comment


                  • #13
                    All excellent advice, Ed. We need some pix of that new track. If you can find a helper to handle the vacuum, he can follow the router and pick up the sawdust. You should wear a mask, everybody has them now! I've never had a helper that would put up with me, so I duct taped the vac hose to the router. Worked fine. Do be aware of the cord when you start and make sure it won't hang up on you. Once you start routing, best to not stop in the curves, but make the cut in one movement.

                    Easy to do it all and great to learn these skills.
                    Matt B
                    So. In
                    Crashers

                    Comment


                    • #14
                      Originally posted by tracyridge View Post
                      i have a routed wood digital track, using Carrera hard ware, Basically i just routed the circuit, then cut out with a jigsaw for the lane changers.
                      Unless you have 6 plus racers you really dont need three lanes.... my track is about 55 feet ...average 4 . 4 lap times , 2 lanes , at most i have 5 racers , usually 4 .
                      just my 2 cents

                      john
                      I have 3 lanes now and like it a lot. I want to keep 3 lanes because digital would be a possible future consideration. I saw a video that had a 3 lane shuffle and I really like that concept.
                      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YcZonfjHM2w
                      Last edited by Bal r 14; April 19, 2021, 11:39 AM.

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                      • #15
                        Back in the 60's when we were kids we used Masonite (shiny side up) on half inch plywood to route our tracks.
                        That's how I routed the oval I'm using now..........(I hadn't discovered HRW yet) I used copper tape so I didn't
                        need to route gains. I painted with enamel rattle cans, then taped. It will give a VERY grippy surface.......
                        Too much sometimes. The tape adheres to this surface SUPER. I've been running on it maybe 10 or 12 years now
                        with no repairs.

                        Click image for larger version

Name:	20171205_121806.jpg
Views:	103
Size:	3.77 MB
ID:	94422
                        P.S.........................You'll need a carbide or comparable router bit if you do it this way..................
                        Attached Files
                        Last edited by strangebrew; April 19, 2021, 12:35 PM.

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