BRAIDING A SLOT CAR TRACK
A time-consuming, but exciting time, because you’re almost ready to begin playing on your new track! Should you decide you’re NEVER going to move the track (until the building falls down) it doesn’t matter how you do this.
A word of caution…Track braid tends to wear in the flat corners more readily than anywhere else on the track and you should most certainly separate the braid in the corners from that used on the straight-aways. You will virtually NEVER wear out the braid on the straight sections and only rarely in high banks. Should you, at anytime, wish to move the track, sell and replace it with a different design, the wisest move is to braid each section separately. (See Illustration #13.) For many years, track builders have used an "overlap" method (see Illustration #14) but this is counter-productive and makes a mess when you do need to rebraid. (See section on track rebraiding.)
Should you elect to lay the long strips of braid the full length of your main and secondary straight-aways, your next task is to roll it off the spool, stretching it the length it needs to be, and, leaving at least an extra 12" to 24" on either end. Cut it with a sharp knife, diagonal side cuts, tin snips or an old pair of scissors you won’t need later for other tasks. ALWAYS leave enough on each end to go down through the pre-drilled holes, through the thickness of the track, and still have enough to work with to make your sub-surface electrical connections. If you’re building an 8-lane track and the slots for the straight sections are all the same length, cut 16 pieces of braid at least two feet longer.
There are a couple of different ways to apply the glue to one side of the track braid. Two (or more) strips at a time can be carefully rolled around old (6" to 8" diameter) cardboard carpet tubes and held in place with masking tape. If you have the room (and enough tables, cover them with plastic sheeting. Lay out all 16 strips, taping them every two or three feet with a strip of masking tape. Pour a quart of contact cement into a paint pan and thin with one-half pint of lacquer thinner. Stir until thoroughly mixed - it should be about the consistency of light pancake syrup - and using a paint roller, apply the cement to the braid.
While this is getting tacky, either you, or a helper, apply full-strength contact cement to both sides of the braid recess, but do not recommend prepping more than two lanes at a time. The full-strength glue is applied to the braid recesses by using a clean, plastic mustard or honey dispenser, which has a small spout. Again… VERY IMPORTANT - try not to allow any glue getting down into the slots. Keep the tip of the plastic dispenser toward the outside lip of the braid recess and away from the slot. If you slip, wipe up immediately with a rag, but don’t use any cleaner (Coleman fuel, Naptha, lighter fluid, etc.) until you’ve completed laying the braid on that lane.
While the contact cement in the braid recess is setting up and getting tacky, go back and re-coat the braid with the thinned stuff and the roller. By the time the braid glue is "tacky" - almost dry - peel up two strips at a time. Being careful to keep them apart, lay them well away from each other on the track. Even new braid can sometimes get slightly frayed. If you have tender fingers you might want to put on a pair of gloves for protection.
Start with one strip at a time, and put a bend about six inches from the end. Feed the end down through the pre-drilled hole and press down onto the recess glue. Guide the strip of braid with one hand and press with the other, pushing it to the outside of the routed recess and as far away from the slot as possible. Be very careful to keep the braid from making contact with the glue in the recess until you’re ready to press it into place.
If contact is made between the two pre-glued pieces (or the other strip of braid), it will pull the glue up and off the recess and you might have to reapply new glue to that spot, holding up your operation. By the time you reach the other end of the straight you should have over a foot or two of excess braid. Trim off all but a foot or so and discard, then insert end through the hole and pull it down through until flush. Do the other side of the same slot before proceeding with the next lane.
Once all eight lanes are braided, use a heavy braid roller or the edge of a yardstick and press vigorously in the direction of travel until it is all smooth and flat. Repeat this operation in the turns and banks. Naturally, the outside turn braid needs to be longer than those on the inside, so carefully measure before you cut any strips. In the banks and turns, I would only do one lane at a time.
There’s no need to be in a reckless hurry now, so take your time. Once all the braid is laid and pressed, now starts the really fun stuff…making all your electrical connections under the track!