Track Construction Notes

Track Construction Notes

How do you construct the base for the track?

If the track is never going to be moved, - use whatever timber you have at hand, and make a solid base. If you want to be able to lift the track, rotate it to store against a wall, or hoist it into a ceiling space, I recommend using 70 x 20mm or 90 x 20mm kiln dried pine. This gives a good strength to weight ratio, is easy to work with, and generally pretty straight.

What thickness MDF do you use?

I used 9mm MDF, some guys use 12mm (1/2 inch), it just depends upon how you decide to frame up. Once framed you can cut 9mm nearly all the way through, but I built mine by routing it while laid flat on the ground. I only cut a 6.5mm slot depth, so that the sheets could be moved easily without breaking. For 1/24th cars, or to make use of the deep "wood guide" you need an 8mm depth slot. We seldom use those deeper guides even at club now, so that is not too much of an issue if you are just starting out and only planning to run 1/32nd scale cars.

Do you route the boards before or after fixing them to the frame?

I find it easier to have the board flat on the ground so I can work securely above it when routing. It also ensures the board is flat, giving an even slot depth as you route.

What do you paint your tracks with?

At our club, we prefer to race on smooth surfaces using silicon or stock rubber - or urethane tyres. Some guys just use acrylic (water-based) paint and give it a light sand. A couple of locals used high gloss. One person used high gloss enamel (solvent based paint), and has a great smooth, durable finish, but you do need a little more skill than when using water based paints.
I used water based paint for both my tracks, then I went over it with a water-based “clear coat” called "Cabot's Floor Clear". This is usually put over natural wood floors to seal and protect them. It is
impervious to nearly all solvents, and harder than normal paint. 

The common factor is that we rely upon “smooth tyre on smooth surface” for grip. Silicon tyres provide amazing traction on clean, smooth tracks. Urethane tyres provide less, but usable traction, and work where the surface is a little dusty. The tyres fitted to cars from new vary immensely. As a rule Ninco and Scalextric tyres are usable on most of our tracks. SCX, Carrera, Revell, and most FLY car tyres are useless. But FLY cars come fitted with at least 4 different compounds of tyre, and some work very well. With a smooth surface, dust is our enemy, it reduces traction for all tyres on smooth tracks, especially for silicon tyres.

In Australia, most tracks are in dusty environments, and they almost universally use a textured paint called "Ferrodor" by Dulux. I have not been able to find that paint in NZ, but you could use a gritty paving paint to similar effect, or experiment with making your own by adding sand to waterbased paint. This means you get a textured surface. The advantage is that you do not need to be as fussy with track "hygiene" since the tyres get their adhesion from the rougher surface. It does mean that you cannot utilise the silicon tyres which come free with all cars, nor do the stock tyres on those cars work very well with a textrued surface. You will also suffer some scratching of cars when they roll during de-slots. Each type of surface has some plus and some minus points.

What is the advantage of using braid instead of copper tape?

The amount of benefit is related to your circumstances. How important each factor is to you will be determined by your track length, the "environment" of your track, the type of cars you run, and of course, your personal balance between time/cost to build, versus ease and reliability of use.

Firstly, the tinned copper braid is a little less subject to oxidation/tarnishing than straight copper.
It also copes better than copper tape does with rubbing it with rags covered in fluid to remove oxidation.

Copper Tape has a tendency to expand with heat, then contract with cold.
This causes it to bubble up/lift in heat, then in cold, it contracts and often splits. Braid naturally expands and contracts within it's weave.

Copper tape is also easily broken by car tyres or bodies running across it, the maintenance can become an increasing "pain".

The braid can be set fractionally below “flush” of the track surface, we usually allow for 0.2mm, and just “break the sharp edge” of the outside of the recess onto the main surface, by a light rub of the MDF with some 240/300 grit sandpaper. This makes it easier for paint to stick, and also prevents cars breaking the edge with their tyres at a later date. For light and well tuned cars, this avoids a bit of bumping and de-slotting, as cars cope better with having the wheels pass over the slot, than they do with lifting off the main surface when encountering copper tape.

Lastly, depending upon track length, you will get a measure of voltage drop with copper tape, as it has a fairly small cross-sectional area.
Braid has a MUCH larger cross-sectional area, so for any track less than say maybe 80 feet; running hard body cars, or basic 16D and Falcon motor powered brass chassis cars, you get no discernable voltage drop, and do away with any need to wire in any "power taps".

How hard is it to cut that T shaped slot for laying braid?

People have one common fear which has put many off braiding a track – cutting the recess slot for the braid……..

My personal experience was that I imported a “side-cut bit” for this from a guy in Canada. The morning I came to use it, I SHOULD have cut a test piece in some spare MDF sheet with the main slot cut. Being an impatient sort of guy I thought, “I figure my depth is set about right, I can always bog it, I’ll just make a short cut” . . .  it looked okay, so I laid a section of braid in the recess, which looked about right, so I thought “ah, I’ll make a longer cut, and see how I go”

1 hour, and 185 feet later . . . recess done . . . I just kept going, apart from stopping between lanes to stretch my back and vacuum up the dust.
The guide pin for the recess side cutter just guarantees an accurate cut., as long as you don’t go FORCING the router forward too hard and cause it to tilt, it is so easy it makes you feel like a master carpenter.

I now make and sell those side-cut bits, and can custom make the guide pin width to suit an existing slot. For new slots we recommend 3.2mm (1/8th) - 3mm is a bit narrow for some longer guides on tight corners; whereas 4mm is a bit too sloppy. The 1/24th Jet flags seem to work fine at 3.2mm as well.

The HBMRC club website shows a number of routed tracks laid with braid. All the newer member tracks are laid with braid.  Look under “member’s tracks”

All are home made except Chris W.‘s 4 laner which was built in a CNC routing shop and furniture factory, and the older 4 lane owned by a member, which is the former club track from Motueka. I think this was hand made many years ago, and still has copper tape, but this requires regular maintenance.

Should I use contact glue or the industrial grade double sided tape you sell to stick down the braid?

All but one of the home tracks shown on our local club site have now been laid using the tape to stick down the braid.  Everyone has decided it is worth the extra cost, even one guy who had done his main track with glue, and was extending it 15 feet. I have a really good tutorial available for customers, on laying braid using contact adhesive like F2 to glue it down. That’s how I did mine, it’s the cheapest way, just a slow, backbreaking task for someone like me who DOES have a dodgy back. Tape is quicker and less messy.

How do you paint your surface?

I use a "speedbrush"  - those flat plate things with the foam pad that you rub along the surface. Faster than a roller, easy to get an even coat, and good finish.

How do you mark the lanes?

I prefer to paint the inside of the lanes, and my method is to put the paint into small squirt bottles of about 150ml, squirt it into the slot, and use a strip of cardboard or MDF say 50mm high by 100mm long, and rub that backward and forward, forcing paint along the sides  and bottom of the slot. Once you have done a  metre or so, you get a feel for how much paint to squirt, and the pushing motion with the strip. Pretty easy actually. Hardly any over-spill, and that can be easily wiped away with a rag while wet. I do this after I paint the main surface.