Thursday, July 5, 2012

Layout Work Sessions - Beneficial or Too much like, well, work?

I've had several local modelers volunteer to come over and help with various aspects of the layout. Several have indicated they would be willing to stop by and help next time I have a "work session." 
While I appreciate the gesture, and have certainly accepted help on the railroad from time to time from friends, I've been a little hesitant to declare "Every other Tuesday night" or whatever is a work session and invite a half dozen people over to work on the railroad. I seem to do okay with one or two folks at a time.  I also do okay when it's a group project - something like building benchwork comes to mind. Or it's something where I know the results will meet my vision (Bernie's backdrop painting, like that shown HERE, jumps to mind.)
My main hesitation stems from the fact that the few times I've had more than one person over to work on the layout I get really stressed out looking for tools, materials, and the like, answering the "is this what you wanted?" type questions, and all the rest. Frankly, it brings the hobby dangerously close to the kind of stuff I deal with all day at the office. And that doesn't sound like fun. 
But the whole process is fraught with peril of another sort. Someone might be the nicest guy in the world, but he's all thumbs when it comes to modeling - or certain aspects of modeling. Such things can easily lead to hurt feelings - "Gee, Bill, thanks for taking the time to make all those trees last work session. They looked like garbage . . . which is where you'll find them if you want them . . ." 
Hardly seems friendly. 
But I do know some modelers who manage to host what amounts to a private club in their homes - and they seem to get a fair amount accomplished. I'm not sure, but my guess is they know to play to each person's strength - and in some cases may find that honesty, even brutal honesty, is the best policy. And there's a clear understanding that "This is my layout, and if something doesn't meet my expectations I reserve the right to change it." 
Another key would be to have the "work assignments" in mind before everyone shows up at the door - and tell them what they will be working on and ask they bring their own tools. That would cut down a little on the need to spend an entire evening or afternoon rushing around the basement looking for all the tools and materials needed. 
Any thoughts for people who host, or attend work sessions? No need to mention specific names. 


Geof Smith said...

I've found scheduling a work session to be like scheduling an open house or operating session: it's a motivation to get things done that I might otherwise let slip. Regular work sessions are nice, as long as they don't dissolve into drinks and chat sessions.

Ted DiIorio said...

Hi Marty,

If you have clear stated objectives and expectations and make sure you are ready with tools and supplies before hand work sessions can be beneficial, especially for those times you might feel you've hit a wall on certain projects and need a lift past that point. Unfortunately what I've seen all to often in group when we had defined nights for each layout owner's work session was just like you described above: owner scrambling to find tools/material, very loose objectives for the night which results in the participants either getting frustrated, and in our case hitting the bar (mini fridge) and starting the BS session.

I've been reluctant to put my layout back into the Wed. night rotation because I know I was guilty of this in the past on my old N-Scale layout. Now on most projects, I find it's easier for me to do it on my own. There are projects though that you may need multiple hands to help (like backdrop/fascia/Valance installation for my layout) and that's where good planning ahead helps. Also, your observation on less people equals more progress is true. Maybe if you have just a few core people you trust to understand and follow your vision, could be a workable scenario for regular work sessions.