I recently become very interested in building T-Trak modules. As it’s winter and I lack workshop space I need to be able to build the modules inside the house with simple tools using a strong, light material.
Using foamcore board seemed like the ideal solution. I’ve built experimental modules/layouts in the past using the kind of foamcore that can be found in the average hobby or art store but I’ve never been completely satisfied with the results. They tended to warp when damp/wet and the material never seemed as strong as advocates of the method made out.
Then I got my hands on some Gatorboard…
Gator Board is a heavy-duty foam board. The surface of Gator Board is made from wood pulp mixed with a fibreglass plastic and is advertised as being much tougher than regular foam board.
Although not mentioned on the Gator Board website the foam used between the surfaces also seemed to be denser than regular foam board.
Having built a module I can confirm that Gator Board is definitely much tougher than regular foam board!
In the past I’ve cut foam board cleanly with a couple of passes of a scalpel but a scalpel barely scratched the surface of Gator Board. Using a mount board cutter was a complete failure and I ended up using a Stanley knife.
Pieces Needed To Build A T-Trak Single Module With Gator Board
Let’s start by reviewing the basic dimensions of a T-Trak single module.
The module should be 70mm high. The Gator Board I’m using is 10mm thick so sides are 60mm high and the deck adds 10mm to this to arrive at 70mm high.
The modules are 308mm wide and 355mm deep. Front and back faces are fixed inside the side faces so are actually cut 288mm wide.
To create a module I needed:
- Two side faces that were 355mm x 60mm.
- Two front/back faces that were 288mm x 60mm.
- One deck (or top surface) that was 355mm x 308mm.
Measuring & Marking The Required Cuts
I measured and marked my cuts from the factory cut side of the Gator Board using another small piece to keep my ruler right on the edge of the board. It’s hard to visualise so here is a picture:
When using this method I tried to keep a factory edge where the small piece of board meets the cutting mat and where the piece being marked meets the small guide piece.
Cutting The Gator Board
I cut the pieces using multiple passes of a Stanley knife (with a fresh blade) using the long ruler that came with my Jakar mountboard cutting kit to guide the blade. As the board is tough even with the rulers rubber backing I needed to apply quite a bit of pressure to keep the ruler in place and the blade cutting straight.
Now I may have been trying to force the knife to cut to quickly (probably) but I struggled to end up with a square cuts. Thankfully, this is where the toughness of the Gator Board helped. I was actually able to gently sand any not-quite-square cut edges with sandpaper!
To keep my sanding efforts square I wrapped the sandpaper around another piece of Gator Board and tried to keep this flat as possible. It actually worked very well.
It was only when putting this post together that I remembered the facing contains glass fibres so sanding without a mask really isn’t a good idea. Don’t do what I did, wear a mask if you sand the boards.
Gluing It All Together
I glued the pieces together with PVA glue (the bottle no longer has a label but I think it’s some kind of Tacky glue). I started by attaching one of the long side pieces to the top deck, then an end, then the other side and finally the other end piece.
Once the glue started to setup I flipped the module over and put it under some weight to finish drying.
It’s not easy getting everything into position correctly and keeping it there. Trying to do it all in one go did lead to some swearing. There has to be an easier way of doing this and I’ll have a think about this before I build another module.
While gluing everything together it also became clear that one of my cuts wasn’t quite as good as it should have been and there was a small gap where one of the end pieces touched a side piece. It was too late to re-shape the cut so I had to inject a little bit of superglue gel into the gap.
Those of you with eagle eyes will have noticed a dink in the bottom corner of the module already. That’s actually from cutting where the knife drops off the edge of the board but it shows that even though Gator Board is much tougher than foam board you still have to be careful.
However the final construction feels quite robust, certainly much stronger than regular foamboard and the new module should be able to take quite a bit of weight.
That’s about it. A quick, easy and relatively cheap way to create a T-Trak module now all I have to do is decide what to build.