Useage of Homasote (advanced techniques?)


I am looking for experience with the use of homasote.  Has anyone used a router to create roadbed elevation? I currently have hand laid track on homosote. I would like to create a beveled edge to look like the track is elevated that is without removing the track.  In fact I would like to use the track as the router guide by creating a fixture to attach on the router.  Maybe there are others who have thought about this similarly and or even given it a try.  Before I get started.  I have to ask has anyone ever tried using a router for this.  If so what did you learn?  Would you share your successful ideas and any information on setting up fixtures for the process?

Thanks Joe

Scarpia's picture

From the mess factor alone

From the mess factor alone, I shudder at the thought of running a router along homasote in the layout area. 

Secondly, I have a hard time imagining that you can get a smooth cut with a router using the track as an edge - unless you make a jig that actually rolls on the track and doesn't bounce against the ties.

I'm not saying it's not possible, in fact I'd be interested to see someone else's success or failure just to see how it would work. I'm suspicious though that those kinds of cuts should go in first.

HO, early transition era local time GMT +4
On30, circa 1900    


Artarms's picture

router on homasote

A router on homasote would be he worst of all combinations.  Homasote is notorious for the dust and particles created in sawing.  A router would magnify this beyond your tolerance.

I have cut homasote with a saber saw using a knife type blade.  This virtually melts the homosote along the cut so dust is minimized.  Balancing this is the fact that the whole thing gets very hot and conceivably could catch fire.

Using a hand-held portable saw along laid track is problematic also.  You might try a section to see how it works but experiment on a place where access is good (for driving the saw) and potential damage is small.

Please report on your experience.  It will be useful to others.


Try it out...

I have never run across this idea before.  I would try a test away from the layout first.

I second the mess cautions, also wear a mask to protect your lungs, unless your router has a dust collector connected to it that is.

I doubt the router will acheive a machined edge on the homosote but I could be wrong.  I think it might tend to dull the bits rather quickly but I could be wrong about that as well.

I am interested to hear how this works for you.  Please post the story and pictures, ( if possible) of your success or failure, whichever the case may be.

Good luck!

Dull router bits

I haven't tried it, but since Homosote is a compressed paper product, and paper is one of the worst things ever made for dulling cutting tools, I would expect that cutting it with a router would dull the router bits rather quickly just like BlueHillsCPR said.

joef's picture

Hindsight ...

I've used homasote a few times and I hate the stuff. (Tell us what you really think, Joe ...)

I've developed layout construction techniques that don't use homasote anywhere, and I'm one happy camper. I think homasote is oversold - and the building products industry has learned model railroaders come looking for the stuff, so they price it accordingly (in other words, jack the price).

That doesn't really help you now, this is more hindsight. How much track do you need to cut in this way? I'd suggest a saber saw with a knife blade as has been recommended, to minimize the mess. Go slow and allow the blade to cool often.

Hopefully you only have a few feet that needs this treatment. If you have a whole layout, then all I can say is "oops" ... so much for "planning ahead" (not that I haven't done stuff like that) ...

Joe Fugate
Publisher, Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine

Joe Fugate's HO Siskiyou Line

  Joe None of what I have


Joe None of what I have done so far is hindsight. Experimental yes but not hindsight.   As a mater of fact that is why I brought it to discuss on your Model Railroad enthusiast sight. Even though the track I have laid so far is down it can easily be removed because it is hand laid in a sectional format (a couple of turnouts and a diamond).   I am trying to find a way to create grade effects without being limited to the commercially available road bed products.  I did not want to limit the responses to my post by providing too much information.  I am interested in discussing a concept that may have been tried or discussed at one time.  It may be an invalid concept but I hope to gather more information and finding before I give it up or go off and try it myself.  I hope the subject will stay alive long enough to get more responses.   The responses so far have validity dulling bits fast the mess factor a jig that actually rolls on the track and doesn't bounce against the ties.  I hope the post causes others to give consideration to the idea and chime in with expereince or expansion of the concept.  You mentioned that you did not like Homasote what is it that you use?   




Scarpia's picture

The best site I've seen so far

The best site I've seen so far about using Homasote is from Craig Bisgeier's great site. No need to duplicate his explanation, just see his instructions on how to make your own Homasote roadbed.

I followed his instructions, and was successful with the results. Cutting homasote is a messy, messy, messy afaire, so it makes sense like he says and do as much as you can while you're doing it.

HO, early transition era local time GMT +4
On30, circa 1900    


ChrisNH's picture

Reverse a table saw

From the Homasote website (seriously..)

All Homasote products may be cut with a circular saw, jig saw or hand saw. Do not use a fine-tooth blade; fiber build-up will reduce cutting efficiencies. The half-inch panels may also be cut with a razor or utility knife.


“If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older.”           My modest progress Blog

If it's movable, easiest to move it

Even though the track I have laid so far is down it can easily be removed because it is hand laid in a sectional format (a couple of turnouts and a diamond).

Then the best advice would seem to be to pick up the track, put down some roadbed (Homabed, cork, vinylbed, whatever), and re-lay the track. Much easier than milling out all of the surrounding layout surface, I would think.

LayoutVision Custom Layout Design and Ops Planning
Model RR Blog

joef's picture

Homasote alternatives

I prefer masonite hardboard spline for roadbed. The hard part is getting it cut into uniform splines (we can discuss options there) - once you've done that, building masonite spline roadbed is a pure pleasure. I use flex track or jig-built turnouts that I make at the workbench, so I put the track down directly on the masonite hardboard with gray latex caulk.

For large flat areas like yards, I use 1/2" plaster wallboard - it's inexpensive, readily available, and works fine when backed with 1/2" plywood. In towns where I needed to have a little more variation in the contours, I just laid the track on spline and made paper cutout patterns for the plywood/wallboard sandwich to be inserted between the splines. Yes that's a little more work, but it's not that hard.

I'd also recommend a plywood/foam sheet sandwich if you need to cut some contours like a small stream into the scene.

Homasote is pricey and very suseptible to moisture - both from scenery work and from humidity. Plaster wall board is actually more dimensionally stable than homasote, and will not be as affected by either humidity or moisture from scenery work.

Joe Fugate
Publisher, Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine

Joe Fugate's HO Siskiyou Line

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