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Track Braiding Overview

Copyright (c) 2008 by Dickie Pearson, Steve Sawtelle - All Rights Reserved.

Copyright (c) 2008 by Slot Car Corner LLC - All Rights Reserved.

 

Introduction

Here in the northeastern United States and southern Quebec, we are very fortunate to have a wide variety of 1/32 tracks to race on. Ask any racer which are their favorites and you'll get a variety of responses; however, there are a handful of tracks that nearly everyone seems to enjoy. Once such track is Marc Gosselin's 4 lane routed track in southern New Hampshire. Built in April, 2006, this is a challenging 78' layout which includes some interesting elevation changes including a "corkscrew" section similar to Laguna Seca. Marc has also done a great job landscaping the layout. When I recently asked Marc if he still enjoyed the layout, he replied, "I love this track! The comments from people that have never seen a setup like mine make it all worth while. Wood is the only way to go." I remember racing on Marc's track for the first time - the first few laps were very intimidating but with a little practice, the track was a blast to race on!

The track is located in a spacious heated basement; however, after a couple of years of regular use the copper tape was ready for replacement. The copper tape also required frequent repairs - particularly where supporting table sections met and expanded / contracted depending on the time of year. Dickie Pearson, who races regularly with Marc, had suggested braiding the layout instead of replacing the copper tape. Marc's initial reaction was like most other track owners when braiding a track is discussed - very difficult ("I don't have the tools or skills...") and a time-consuming project ("I don't want to be without my track any longer than I have to be..."). Over the past several months, Slot Car Corner has worked closely with several northeast track owners to braid their layouts - both new tracks and existing tracks which originally used copper tape. While braiding a track does involve some additional effort, it is NOT difficult. Rest assured, if you can route a track and tape it you can also braid it. In the end, Marc agreed to braid his layout - this article briefly describes the steps involved.

To Braid or Not to Braid...
Before we get into a description of the steps involved with braiding a layout, let's take a minute to review several factors to consider when deciding between tape and braid. Note there are always exceptions and the lists are not exhaustive.
 
When Copper Tape May Be The Way to Go...
  • You're uncertain about the layout design
  • This is a "test" track or the first routed track you have ever routed/built
  • You plan to change your layout frequently
  • Cost is an overriding concern
  • You run 1/32 cars with stock (or nearly stock...) motors
  • You don't plan to run magnet cars
  • You do not plan to transport the track
  • The track sees limited use
 
When Braid May Be The Way to Go...
  • The layout is not likely to change
  • You run 1/32 or 1/24 cars with "hotter" (higher current draw) motors
  • You want to run (or have the option to run...) magnet cars
  • You expect the track to see a lot of use (e.g. club track)
  • You want to ensure the best possible electrical connectivity
  • You want to minimize maintenance (e.g. tape pulling up, tape breaks, etc.)
  • You plan to transport the track
 
Braiding Marc's Track - An Overview

*** Warning *** Working with hand and power tools can be dangerous. Be sure to read and follow all tool manufacturer usage and safety guidelines. Always wear safety glasses when working with tools.

*** Note *** The high-quality track braiding supplies shown in this article (tinned copper braid, special router bits to route the "gain" or 3M two-sided tape), are available for purchase at the end of this article or by visting the "Track Braiding" section of the online store.
 

Disassembling the existing layout to route the gains was not an option so Marc setup some temporary plastic walls to help contain MDF dust to the immediate track area.

 

One of the most important tools for this project is a shop vacuum. It is very important to keep the track surface as clean as possible - particularly when routing. MDF dust on the track surface will prevent the router base from sitting perfectly flush which in turn will affect the depth of the gain. The MDF dust will also build-up on most vacuum's filters so periodically clean the filter to ensure the vacuum is working efficiently.

Some routers have built-in ports or connections to connect a vacuum to. For this project, a compact router was used (more on this later). One person would route while a second person would keep the vacuum hose positioned at the base of the router as shown. While not very high-tech or elaborate, it did a very good job of capturing the MDF dust generated by the routing operation.

These pictures show Marc (dark shirt) and Dickie working together to route the gains. Marc is using the compact router to route the gain which will accept the braid. Dickie is positioning the hose from the vacuum to catch the MDF dust. Again, this setup worked very well - most MDF dust was captured by the vacuum.