Removing Roadblocks – March 2023

Modelling should be a pleasing and pleasant time. When my workspace doesn’t work, the pleasure evaporates and I don’t want to model. Recently, Dan Cecil shared his ‘portable’ modelling workspace on the HO Scale Shelf Modelers group on Facebook. The photo below shows it set out on his dining room table. I want to talk about why his idea works for me.

Limitation leads to innovation

I have tried to live by the maxim that limitation leads to innovation. Since we never have enough time, money or good looks, we must work with our limitations to achieve. That is the core of building resilience (and here endeth today’s life lesson). A recent post on the HO Scale Shelf Modelers group (link below) by Dan Cecil of his workstation drove this home. And made some profound learning happen along the way.

Having a roadmap

Knowing that I needed to reach a new place for my modelling wasn’t making it happen. Dan’s photo, which is used with permission (below), has helped me focus on that. His action in creating that smaller zone, that ideal creative workspace, resonates and came along at just the right moment.

Dan Cecil's portable workspace. Simple and functional Image courtesy of Dan Cecil.

I’d hit a creative wall with modelling recently, something akin to writer’s block, meaning that while I’ve wanted to model I just couldn’t find a way through that block. A part of that was environmental where being at the end of a long summer (in Australia) my upstairs modelling lair is just too hot for modelling.

I didn’t want to move everything modelling downstairs for a season and then back up again in the cooler months (which are becoming shorter and shorter it seems in Australia). Having the room is good for when I want intense focus as it allows me to do deep work in that state. Plus I have a mobile whiteboard for idea generation, drawing and holding kit instructions and so on. The closet is used for kit storage and I have my parts drawers there too. My glass table allows me to scratchbuild directly on its flat surface without worrying about glue stains and sticking parts to a regular wood top.

Focusing on what matters

I realised while writing this post that only a few years ago I did all my modelling work on our kitchen table, albeit with stuff spread all over the place. And I was happy being around the family while being at my creative best. For some reason, I forgot that and wanted only a dedicated modelling room. When I am not in need of a deep work session it is nice to be able to do a 5-20-5 work session on a kit. That is a 5-minute setup, a 20-minute work session, and a 5-minute teardown or cleanup.

About a month ago I began distilling my tool collection down to those in the garage, and those in the modelling room as a means to find what really mattered. This weekend I’ll continue to define those modelling tools to only those I really need. I’ll be measuring my favourite cutting mat, laying out my tools in a way that works for me, and then I’ll build my own mobile workspace and organiser.


I thought that my modelling would be better spent in isolation, instead, I’ve come full circle in understanding that there are times when I need to isolate to enable that deep work to happen. Most times I’m happy just being around others when I create. Personal growth and realisation at the same time all because of Dan’s photo. It reminds me of a saying I heard long ago and obviously needed a reminder of.

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear

Thank you sensei.


If you are on Facebook, and a railroad modeller, may I suggest joining the group?

There is a lot more than just trains there, lots of modelling tips too.

Staying in Contact

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