These pages originally developed in July, 2004 and Updated as noted.

These pages describe, the construction of (2) four-foot corner modules, and (1) 2x4 straight module.  These modules are being constructed using the ‘instructions’ in The NTrak Module “How-to” Book”.  I would strongly suggest you obtain or borrow a copy of this, as the smaller NTrak Module Manual pamphlet is somewhat vague due to its brevity… but that could just be me.  The big book is $12 $16 from, and well worth it.  It is worthwhile to study the diagrams closely, especially if you are going to be building corner modules.


The modules I am constructing here have frames constructed of 1x4 pine, and topped with 3/8 inch BC grade plywood.  The glue blocks are made from 2x2 studs.  Everything is held together with 2” deck screws and Elmer’s Carpenter’s Wood Glue (I used the outdoor variety, not because I will be modeling an underwater scene, but because of the wonderful humidity here in Pennsylvania).  The books also mention constructing modules solely from plywood.  I didn’t try this for several reasons.  1) lack of a table saw, 2) a deficiency at cutting straight lines with a circular saw (even without the use of adult beverages) and 3) it has been my experience that even ¾ inch plywood in 4x8 sleets is anything but flat.  Squaring up the assembly is that much easier if the framing material is straight to begin with.


So, on to photo number one.  Here we have cut all of the parts to make the frames for the three modules.  Mind you, this was only after making a big pile of kindling, thus my recommendation that you get the big book, and read it…. Really.  The bucket has the glue blocks in it.




Photo number two shows starting to install some of the glue blocks.  Since pine likes to split, do drill pilot holes first.  Lesson learned: don’t tighten any of the screws all the way (leave them out about ¼ inch) until you attach the top so that you can square the whole assembly up.  Also, the NTrak manuals mention countersinking your screw holes.  I don’t think this is really necessary with pine framing and decking screws.   A variable speed drill or driver for screwing is a must so as not to drive them in too far…. And to think 20+ years ago I assembled benchwork with a screw driver.  A Nobel Prize should be awarded to the man who invented the screw driver bit.




Continuing on, in photo number three, I have test fit the parts to construct the two ~ 2 foot ‘boxes’ that comprise the corner modules.  Note that I used the ‘notch’ method for joining the two boxes at the center (the X).  I felt this was easier and more flexible than using a butt joint at this location.  Big note here:  the notch is not in the center of the cross pieces.  The NTrak manuals are vague on this point.  If you are using 1x4’s, the cross pieces are 47 ¼ inches.  The edges of the notches are 22 ½ inches from one end and 24 inches from the other.  Knowing this ahead of time will reduce you kindling pile in the end.  (120.015 cm, 57.15 cm, and 60.96 cm respectively.  Boy I’d hate to see that ruler.)




At this point I installed the rest of the glue blocks as shown in NTrak’s diagrams.  Glue blocks at the center are optional when using the notch method, but I added one later for additional rigidity after I installed the top and the assembly was square.  I should note that my local Home Depot does not carry un-treated pine 2x2’s, so I just trimmed down some 2x3 pieces, or 2x3’s would have been fine.  The legs will be made from 2x3’s.


In photo number four, I’ve laid a bead of glue around the edge of the 2x4 module in order to install the top.  Again, leave the corner screws backed out a bit until the top is on and the assembly is square.




Next the top is installed.  I used small 1 ½ inch finishing nails to secure the top, making sure things were square as I went.  It must have been a good day because I managed to nail down the tops on all of these modules without smashing any digits!.


In photo number five, after the top was secured, I installed the center brace.  Use of the center brace precludes the use of folding leg schemes, but I decided to go with simple bolt on legs for my first go at this.




Moving back to the corner modules now, in photo number six, I’ve secured the tops to them.  The tops are 4x4 pieces of plywood that have been trimmed (2 corners cut off) with a circular saw.  Note that I have not yet installed the center braces.  I felt that it would be easier to make these after the top was installed and the assembly was square (it was).





Photo number seven shows a corner module with the ‘end’(for lack of a better term) pieces installed.  The NTrak manuals are extremely vague as far as the dimensions of these pieces, stating something to the effect: ‘approx. 3’, cut to fit’.  Well, actually, these pieces are just a hair shy of 33 inches on the one side and 34 inches on the other.  I think I had to trim about 1/8 of an inch from each end to get them to fit well.  Each end is a 45 degree angle.




Photo number eight shows the 3 frames assembled and test fit together.



Next, Installing the Legs...