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Welcome, I recently shared images of etches I drew up for my Yurakucho Layout. Following some discussion on that thread I decided I would have a go at making a small etch sheet available for sale. At this stage it is really just dipping my toe in the water to see if there is a market for some small detailing parts. I decided to start with is a set of Tactile paving as these are commonly found throughout Japan and elsewhere. 


These are the etches I had made for Yurakucho. 



This is an image of the etch I have drawn up for sale. 



It will be a slow process as I am certainly not in a position to bulk order lots of items and I want to try to make something that is good quality but also value for money. Going forward I have a few ideas of things to work on, mostly items I already have drawn up or have enough information on to be able to draw up accurately. I would really like to hear your thoughts on each little project as they come along to try and make sure I offer what people need for their own layouts.



Direct Links (Updated):

N Scale

Tactiles: https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/1269260923

Detailing Pack 1: https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/1290971215

Detailing Pack 2:https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/1411329526

Animal Barriers: https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/1277143858

Lanterns Medium Long (White): https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing

Lanterns Medium Long (Warm White): https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/1457111053

Lanterns Medium Round (White): https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/1442913348

Lanterns Medium Round (Warm White): https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/1524519374

Lanterns Small Long (White): https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/1442903778

Lanterns Small Long (Warm White): https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/1457111269

Lanterns Small Round (Warm White): https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/1538695771

Crossing Prevention Fences: https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/1472140876

Crossing Prevention Fence Series 2: https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing

Crossing Prevention Fence Series 3: https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing

Crossing Prevention Fence Series 4: https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/1553021645

Guard Rail Fence Series 1: https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/1504780321

Tree Grates: https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/1538765161

NEW Bus Mirrors:https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/1607901525


HO Scale

Animal Barriers: https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/1472976881

Tactiles: https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/1524516118


OO Gauge

1:76 Tactiles [UK] 3 Styles: https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/1524550282


Multiple Scales

NEW Scale Rulers: https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/1553032265


Edited by Kamome442
  • Like 7
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This is great Joe! Your work is impeccable! I’m sure I’ll be one of your first customers.



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I'm glad you're getting this together as I also would love to get my hands on some of these. I definitely like the idea of a lot of common details for dioramas/layouts. Manhole covers and signs (for both streets and railways) would be my top requests, from what I've seen of your work. Though I'm sure there's lot of other stuff I hadn't considered.

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maihama eki

I would love to have some of your various manhole covers, grates, misc. street/sidewalk details bits. Japan has some amazing manhole cover designs.


Fences, railings, and similar are also very useful.

Edited by maihama eki
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Street Signs


Thank you @arkh, this project is one  you suggested and will likely be the next one to be etched. Basically it is shapes for the different street signs with a half etch detail to represent the attachment points so the back is not just flat. Here is a picture of one I have already had etched:



I have drawn up some the shapes already, using product catalogs to try and ensure the rails are in the correct position and dimensions. This is what I have so far:



I want to make sure that I get the ratio shapes roughly correct. Looking at Yurakucho the circular signs are by far the most common so I would personally want lots of those on an etch. The big sign on the right is for information boards so is not going to used a frequently. I may not even include it if there is no need as it would take up space that could filled with something more useful. 


What I don't want is someone to run out of a shape they need while having a bunch of others that are useless. I figure circles and diamonds would be useful as well as the inverted triangle (stop sign) and triangle (crossing sign). If I include plenty of these and a few of the other shapes (which are mostly for expressways) would this be useful. Additionally are there any shapes I have missed?



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Thanks @maihama eki, manhole covers is going be coming up shortly, I hopefully have some fun ideas. 

I am more than happy to look at fencing, I have some to make up for Yurakucho. I am aware that Tekkon Model make fences so I want to be careful not to push in on their business with a straight up copy. They also make manhole covers so I will talk more about them shortly.


I forgot to mention I can also make up the fire hydrant signs: 



These will need to be on a separate sheet on their own as they are so fine they need to etched in 0.1mm Stainless Steel.


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Checker Plate Sheets


So this just a general building material, but seeing as I have already drawn it up I wonder if it would be of any use. It took me a while find the name of this stuff and it seems to have many, essentially it is the textured surface used for industrial flooring. Here is a picture of the catwalk on the side of my bridge to show you how it etches:



I could make up strips of this various sizes and scales if anyone could make use of it.

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Entering the World of Japanese Manhole Covers


This is hopefully going to be a big project, with a range that expands over time. Like @maihama eki said 'Japan has some amazing manhole cover designs.' and I really enjoy trying to scale them down to N-scale. Even with the fine level detail available from etching there is lot of detail that just cannot be scaled. The challenge is trying to keep the overall feel of the original while loosing a lot of its form.

To give an example of this here is my take on the classic Sakura blossom:


In real life it has a bunch of circular recesses around the edge and along the petals, Initially I tried including these however I had to model them larger than they would be in real life. I decided to remove them altogether to keep the design clean. It does mean that not all the manhole covers will be easy or even possible to recreate as an etch.



I mentioned Tekkon Models before they do offer a set of manhole covers and they look to be beautifully made. I am aware there are other companies with similar etches. Ordinarily I wouldn't want to put up a rival product however most of the other offerings are limited the standard 600mm lid (4mm at 1:150) and I feel that my range can sit alongside expanding the range of styles. 

As I am creating copies of every manhole cover in the area I am modelling, I have built up a range of alternate shapes and sizes (the three coloured blue are to be redrawn slightly):



I have a couple of designs I drew up this week (but not yet test etched) One on the right for Yurakucho and a couple just taken from pictures online:



I also have a couple of drain covers that I could add:



There is one big issue with most of these designs and that is that they are all from a tiny corner of Central Tokyo and doesn't really represent the expansive range of covers across Japan. It will be a long project to draw up a few at a time and test them. I may try an create an etch to cover certain regions over time.


I also want to try and create some the coloured lids however my current feeling is that in N-scale an etch might not be the easiest thing to paint. I will try to create a set of waterslide transfers at a later date to represent some of the more popular designs. 


Finally I don't want to limit what I make to 1:150, I will create some designs in 1:80 once the first batch in N is complete. I am also planning to create some of my favourite designs in larger scales so I can have a go at painting them.



If anyone has any ideas of how to separate etches by area or prefecture I would love to hear your ideas and if you have a particular design you like I am more than happy to give it a go (it does need to be quite blocky to scale well).


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I think you're mindset for approaching this is pretty spot-on with regards to the signs. You're right about including a lot of the more basic, small shapes. For me, I think I would want an equal amount of circles, squares, and diamonds, just based on what I would be modeling. I would, however still like the other stuff like the triangles and the larger boards. It might bring it out of the scope for a first run, but maybe you could eventually do two sets - one with lots of the basic sign shapes and then an extra one with some more uncommon ones so that you can fit enough of both. If, for the first run, you just included a bit of everything, I honestly wouldn't mind. I would still love to get the big sign, for example. Maybe, from there, people can give feedback on what they actually ended up using more of once they got their hands on it. 

For the "checker plate" sheets, I personally would find more use for the "mesh"-style with holes, though I do realize there's already things like that available.

As for the manholes, I love the designs you've shown already, so I would definitely try yours out regardless of Tekkon Model having their own version. I think, as long as you're making your own set and it's not meant to be a rip-off of what's already out there, there's no harm in it, but maybe there's a different point-of-view I haven't thought of. For the issue of only modeling manholes from certain areas, I personally haven't yet tried to make something hyper accurate to a certain region yet so I would find your designs useful regardless. Though I won't say no if you did some Hokkaido-specific designs as that's my favorite region and what I tend to look at when thinking up diorama/layout designs. 

EDIT: I forgot to say that I think the mention of doing fencing is also great. Again, you can get something similar from other places, but I don't mind having alternate options. 

Edited by arkh
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Gieve Manhole covers nao


*Makes grabby hands*


Seriously, I tried 3D printing Manhole covers, but I think especially in N-Scale Etching/Laser is vastly Superior there in every aspect.


I absolutely would take any sort of Manhole cover and Drain you will make with no second thought.

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Thanks @arkh I was trying to be logical but it is always good to hear other opinions, your comments are very reassuring. 

@Wolf, thank you for commenting, I am pleased to hear that you would be interested. I haven't tried printing any but I can imagine it would be difficult to get a good finish.

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I managed to get a few things done today. Firstly I started working out how many road signs I could fit on a sheet. I started with a frame the same size as I used for the Tactiles. I managed to get around 170 items on this sheet, my feeling is that this is a little excessive, I decided to make a medium and small sheet. For the medium I got around 130 signs and roughly 100 on the small sheet.



The price would be small: £6 (≈$7.22, ¥982.26), medium: £7 (≈$8.42, ¥1145.97), large: £8 (≈$9.62, ¥1309.67). The largest would be the best value for money however would anyone have a need for 150+ road signs? Would the medium or even the small actually be better value to save on having lots of unused parts?


I added two more manhole covers to the collection:



I want to get as many made up as I can in the next week. Then I can order a test etch to see how well they work, it is sometimes difficult to tell. Using the fish as an example most of the details are below recommended dimensions however I will create multiple versions reducing the detail in each. Once I get them I can see which version works best. Below is a version with the most detail and the least.



Finally I have been building up some artwork for the front of the street signs, I stumbled upon a sign that baffled me. I drew it up anyway, just because it was cute, but I have no idea what it is meant to be or even if it is real! 


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Warning evolution ahead!


for the small increase in price it would probably be better to have a few more as little pieces like this easily go PING!, get lost or screw up so having extras is helpful. Also nice to have a few to share with a friend to get them into more intricate parts. Love the fish and bugs manhole cover.



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10 hours ago, Kamome442 said:

The price would be small: £6 (≈$7.22, ¥982.26), medium: £7 (≈$8.42, ¥1145.97), large: £8 (≈$9.62, ¥1309.67). The largest would be the best value for money however would anyone have a need for 150+ road signs? Would the medium or even the small actually be better value to save on having lots of unused parts?

You could also think of making smaller assortments of different things. Signs and manhole covers on a single sheet, and/or other road related items.

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I would happily buy the large one. I prefer to buy things once and then not have to buy them again for a long time, haha. But I can see how the other sizes would be beneficial also.

I do like the idea that @disturbman brings up with having different types of stuff on one sheet. That could also be useful if you did one large sheet and felt that you have too much of one type of thing on it that might not be worth it. 

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That is a good point @cteno4 they are pretty small and I am sure some run away when be cut from the frame. Like you say they can always be shared with other modellers or used in future projects, it's not like they have a sell by date.


@disturbman that is such a good idea to combine the items. It will make life a lot easier for anyone wanting more than one item. I have drawn this up to get an idea of what would fit. I think there are plenty of pieces here for most models.



Ran out of space for the Tactiles so I might have to scale back some of the parts that are less common. Other than that these are all parts I have previously had etched so I know that they etch well. I would be confident to place an order for this design to be made up.


Thank you @arkh I will keep with the larger sheet for now. It will actually keep things simple if everything is the same size. I may do smaller cheaper sheets of one or two items in the future such as regional manhole cover designs.


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I have been pottering away with the latest etch, mostly trying to reduce the gaps as much as I can to maximise what will fit on a sheet. I have offset some parts so that I can overlap them a little. This has allowed me to get an extra row of drain covers and 1 extra road sign. I decided not to add the tactiles, fitting enough of them on to be any real use would have limited the space for other parts. This is what the design looks like at the m moment, I manage to get 249 parts on the sheet.


There are 8 designs of roadsigns, with 75 in total:



And 11 different manhole/drain covers totalling 174 separate items:



I am pretty happy with this arrangement, if anyone has any thoughts or comments I would very much welcome them.

The first large 1:12 scale manhole is finished. I just need to check the Japanese characters on the lower half of the cover, the reference image I used was pretty pixelated so I was hard to see the lettering clearly.


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Martijn Meerts

I'm still quite amazed by the kind of detail you can get with etching, even though I've built enough brass kits, or parts of brass kits to know what's possible 😄


In your designs, black won't be etched at all, grey is partial etch, and white is full etch / removal of material right? Can you have multiple greys as well to do like multiple depths of partial etch?


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Thanks @chadbag glad you like them.


@Martijn Meerts yeah, it still amazes me what can be achieved. You are totally right, black is not etched, grey is half and white will etch all the way through. The company I use doesn't offer stepped layers as far as I am aware. I certainly don't claim to be any kind of expert on the process beyond knowing that they apply ink to a film. Where there is ink it delays the acid, whether there are different inks that could control the timing I am unsure.

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Martijn Meerts

I used to do a bit of etching way back at school, but that was removing material complete, no partial etching.


Now that I think about it though, the grey is probably just applied halfway through the process, so they black out the bits that shouldn't get any etching at all, then put the thing in the etching solution. Halfway through they take it out, black out the 'grey' parts, and then put the thing back in the etching solution. Multiple steps should be possible that way, but cost would go up quite a bit.


Either way, I'd definitely be interested in some of these if I ever get around to building scenery 😄


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@Martijn Meerts your school sounds way more exciting than mine, we just had a wood shop 😒


I see now I caused some confusion, I was using grey to help visualise the artwork. When I send drawings over it is just black or white, one set of drawings for the front and another (mirrored) for the back, which I had coloured grey for the pictures. This is how it would actually look front and back:


Black areas are not etched and white areas are. They will place the artwork on either side of the metal, white areas will half etch from either side. The writing and details of the manhole will etch halfway from the front, the white areas on the back will half etch from the other side and meet to full etch where there is white on both sides.

This image from PPD's artwork guide shows the film on both sides of the metal and how they will meet in the middle:


Source: http://ppdltd.com/images/2020/Etching_Diagram_of_Within_Recommended_Dimensions.pdf


It also shows the undercut, where the etching medium 'curls' back under the film slightly, a characteristic of photo etching and probably the reason for setting minimum detail levels lower than what can actually be achieved. I go under the minimum stated by the company to try and get finer details but it is risky. It is where designing becomes more art than science and something I am slowly get better at. 


I have found when working on very fine detail that if I etch a circle and a square with the same diameter the square will likely work while circle will not. In the image below the squares in the middle of the manhole cover (right) were drawn at roughly the same size small circles on the bridge supports (left). When etched the squares look very crisp while the circles have suffered from the undercut eroding them away.



I could just follow the recommended dimensions but lets be honest where is the fun in that. When I draw up an etch there is nearly always a few little gaps that you can add a small part or two that way I can keep trying to push the limits, if it doesn't work out it's not costing me anything as rest of the etch is usable. 


I have been working a manhole cover with Osaka Castle for last few days. Nearly all the detail is too small but I know there's a possibility some of it will actually work. I can then go back to the areas that didn't work and try again slowly reducing the detail until I get a crisp etch. From left to right is the process I used to draw up the design:



I started by blocking in the 'must have' parts in the design (the castles rooflines and the cherry blossom). Then I step by step add and refine details until I get to the look I am after. I will say right now the finished design will have a lot less detail than seen here, this etch is going to take lots of prototypes and design revisions. As it stands around 60% of the detail is too fine. In the last revision on the right the castles eyes are pretty much the minimum at 0.24mm, so the outline around its head in theory should be impossible. However I have learnt from past experiences that as a continuous line of several mm it might actually work.



  • Like 4
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Martijn Meerts

Ah, right, now I get it 🙂


Good info for when I finally get around to trying to get some things etched. For now, the main issue is actually getting the correct dimensions. The fish plates for example will need to sit inside the rail, but I have no way of measuring what the exact height should be. I should be able to approximate it using some plastic strips, or maybe try to take a picture of the profile and measure from there, or possibly use the Cricut to cut some card stock in thin strips and see what fits. But as always, too many projects, not enough time.


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