I sent my helix segment design to be laser cut this past Monday, and the local company made them pretty quick, having completed the job in only couple of days, awesome! And what a beauty they are, I am so happy that I did not go with my own materials (which were not marine grade), or god forbid cut the segments myself with a jigsaw.
These segments were laser cut to my design from a 1/4″ marine grade Baltic Birch (5 plies). My intention is to overlap them half-way, forming a 1/2″ surface. Inner track is planned 25.5″ and outer 28″ radius, though there might be room to add another 1/2″ to those.
The only thing I would’ve done differently (better) was to spend just a little more time on the actual design drawing to ensure everything is perfectly overlapping. Turns out my inner/outer edges don’t overlap in some spots and there’s a difference of 3 mm or so. Not a biggy as it does not affect functionality or operations of the trains – it’s mostly a cosmetic issue. Lesson learned: next time use a real CAD program to do the design.
Next thing to do is get 1/2″ threaded rods, and some CPVC piping to cut spacers between the loops. I’m opting not to use 200 nuts and deal with screwing them on and adjusting each individually. Instead, I’ll cut the 1/2″ CPVC pipe to the calculated height between the loops and insert it between the plywood sub-roadbed. Will still need 70 or so pieces but 95% of them will be the same length, and the only critical ones are in the first loop.
I have also been thinking of ways to laminate these together. Looking at these segments I don’t feel like gluing them together will do them justice, and will not let me easily disassemble the helix, if I need to. I think I’ll also run the feeder wires to the side instead of drilling holes through…
Finally, if I can dispense a simple advice from this experience: don’t be cheap and waste your time with a jigsaw and B or C grade plywood. The amount of time and resources you will spend on doing it yourself will definitely not save you anything in the long run. Have your helix segments professionally cut and made. Do it once and do it right.