Avoiding counterfeit baseball cards

Several times now, I’ve seen people like me, who used to collect baseball cards, went on hiatus, then came back, ask how to avoid counterfeit baseball cards, or at least detect them before it’s too late.

There’s a surprisingly simple answer that often works really well.

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The best glue for paper models

If you’re looking for the best glue for paper models, you’ve come to the right place. To build a paper model that lasts, use a pH-neutral PVA bookbinder’s glue. My wife, who has a master’s degree in art education, specifically recommended Books by Hand PVA Adhesive. Although it looks and smells and feels like regular white glue, I find it does a better job of not warping the paper and not bubbling. And for longevity’s sake, you want something that doesn’t change the pH balance of your paper. Books by Hand glue is pH neutral.

I started building model structures with Books by Hand glue in 2004. Those miniature buildings still look like I built them yesterday. Read more

The Skyline mystery solved

In the 1940s and 1950s, Skyline of Philadelphia manufactured and marketed a line of toy train-oriented building kits. Actually, there were two lines: One was a line of building kits made of cardstock and wood, and one was a smaller line of lithographed tin buildings, similar to the inexpensive toys made by the likes of Louis Marx, Wyandotte, and countless others in the days before ubiquitous plastics.

I’ve long suspected the two product lines came from the same company, but had no evidence to prove it. Until now: Ed “Ice” Berg produced scans of a Skyline catalog containing both paper/wood and tin litho buildings, side by side.

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Fixing old Lionel tubular track

It’s that time of year again. Time to get that old Lionel (or Marx or American Flyer) electric train running before the winter holidays sneak up. More often than not, the track isn’t in the best of shape. Fortunately, fixing old Lionel tubular track is easy. Read more

A cheap and lazy way to make insulated track sections

An old trick for automating a Lionel or Marx train layout is to power accessories off an insulated rail section. Run one wire to the center rail, then run the other wire to a rail that’s been insulated from the other rail and the two adjoining track sections. A passing train completes the circuit, causing the accessory to activate.

You can buy insulated O27 and O31 straight tubular sections. If you want a curved insulated section, or if you just want to save some money, you’re better off making your own.

The usual way is to take a piece of track, pry up the pair of tabs holding the rail on one side of each tie, and then insert some kind of nonconducting material–a piece of electrical tape or a piece of cardstock are popular options–and then mash the tabs back down onto the tie. Then you insert a Lionel o27 insulating pin or o31 insulating pin into each end of the rail you just insulated. I’ve also made my own O27 insulating pins out of bamboo skewers from the grocery store. (I don’t know about anyone else’s schedule, but most hobby shops aren’t open at 9 PM, which is usually when I get time to work on my layout.)

But there’s another way that you might like better. Pry up all of the tabs on the metal ties and set them aside. Cut similar-sized ties from a piece of wood. Popsicle sticks are close enough for O27 track ties, or you might want to buy a strip or two of basswood of appropriate size from a hobby shop. Nothing stops you from cutting extra ties, if you like your track to have more than the usual three. Stain or paint the ties the color you want, and then glue the ties right to the rails. Cyanoacrylate (superglue) or epoxy is best. Insert insulating pins (store bought or homemade) and you have an insulated track section.

What to do with the extra metal ties you just removed? If they’re in reasonably good shape, you can put them on other pieces of track to improve their appearance a bit. If you don’t like that idea, save them and once you get a decent quantity, sell them on Ebay so someone else can put them on other pieces of track to improve their appearance a bit.