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Old 11th February 2006, 18:42   #1
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 5,299
Default Eugen Takács balsa Cutter

The scale lumber cutter
Eugen Takács

Many of us are using scale lumber for their models on the layout. For some of us the purchase of scale lumber can create some troubles, especially when the need is from Saturday night to Sunday morning,
I was also in similar situation building my Lucky Hell village on my Ferkel Lines RR layout. All buildings are made exclusively from wood and many from individual lumber parts. To get the right size of the lumber is not that easy anyway so I was looking for a tool how to make them. I found a device sold in Europe by Conrad ( called balsacutter. I was quite happy with it for the heavier lumber, but it was not that easy to cut a very tiny pieces from balsa or basswood (sometimes I even used many other different woods I have got in a thin form from a friend of mine working in as classic furniture renovator.
I was thinking how I could improve the tool, because the problem was to keep down the cut material on the table before the inserted knife would cut it. The thin wood tends to lift up before the knife and the result is an irregular cut.

Fig BS1:

I needed something with a rolling wheel and a spring to keep the material down in front of the cutting knife. Searching around in my workshop I found an old walkman type Cassette Player and there an excellent part the pinch roller, what is used to keep the tape in contact with the rotating capstan. The pinch roller is a wheel with a rubber surface and it is always mounted in a sprung frame what is pushed towards the capstan when the player is in PLAY and RECORD mode.

Fig BS2:

I salvaged the roller together with its frame and spring usually turned around the axle– it is quite easy you have to pull it down from the axle. The next step is the remove somehow carefully the axle from the player chassis. It depends of the material used for the chassis. From plastic chassis you have to brake out carefully the metal axle, then clean the part which was cast into the chassis. In case of metal frame you have to drill up from the rear side the remove the axle with its neck from the chassis.
The following step is to make some kind of holder to the balsacutter.

Fig BS2b:

I used a brass sheet about 0,5 thick and drilled 4 holes. The subframe will be bent into L form. On the top side I drilled 2 holes for small screws to fix the subframe to the balsacutter. Do not forget to create also some support surface for the pinch roller spring. On the vertical side I found the right position for the axle around which the pinch roller will rotate on the balsacutter. This position is quite critical as the pinch roller in the lower position must be able to push down the material, and still must give enough space also for thicker material (my unit can cut up to about 10 mm thick balsawood.). When the position is located drill a hole into the material and solder the axle with its neck into the chassis. File the solder flat from the inner side and fix the subframe to the balsa cutter. If you are lucky then the pinch roller will be exactly in the reach of your thumb so you can easily control (release or push) while you are working. I also made a small notch in the subframe where I can latch the pinch roller when not needed for the delicate work.
With this device I can easily cut material as thin as 0,8 x0,8 mm.

Fig BS3:

How to use the tool:

Fig BS4:

Some details about the construction:

Fig. BS5:

The top view:

Fig BS6:

The balsacutter in the upper latched position.

Fig BS7:

Good luck with the new tool.
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