Saturday, 4 March 2017

Spring, it seems, is nearly sprung....

In my household, the most reliable harbinger of Spring, a big thing for a nation kept in 4 months of dismal Winter, is that I start looking at pictures of wooden speedboats on the 'Net.   I have just joined a Facebook group called, wittily, Mahogany Hot Rods.  And so it seems to be. Lots of lovely wooden boats, some classic, some modern, but all beautifully crafted by real craftsmen and women.  Not a bunch of lacky mechanics, like you get overcharging in the old car world, but people who can fashion hardwoods into the most beautiful shapes.  People who know how to varnish, upholster in the finest leathers, metal polishers, for you only get the plated finish you put on the piece by hand.

And, of course, the more I look at real ones, the more I want to get back to the models of them that sit on my shelves all Winter.  I have made the current ones to be motorised, but I hate all that battery charging faff. The chances are the damned batteries are all dead as dodos anyway and can't be revived. I don't do LiPos, because they also die if not used and are potentially dangerous.  I have a shelf full of lead acids which no doubt are as useless as my car battery was recently when left with the side lights on.  I can't charge them because the special charger I bought has instructions in Cino-English that I can't begin to decypher.  So the chances are that my working models probably won't work at all.  But that's irrelevant really. They exist as much as a seasonal prognostigator than a fine running example of man's fascination with miniatures.  And anyway, the old farts at the pondside (if I was ever to find a pond) are only interested in tugs and lifeboats or overblown renditions of nondescript commercial craft and NO interest whatever in the beautiful mahogany speedboats of the Golden Age.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

The want of money is the root of all.....rudeness.

A few days ago I contacted the office of a well known dealer in and restorer of Frazer-Nash cars. I was told to e-mail them with "what you want, who you are and that sort of thing"  and someone from the workshop would e-mail me back.  Now call me an impatient sod if you like, but I think that stinks.  Why couldn't she just patch me through to the workshop or give me their number?  I am still awaiting the courtesy of a reply. I am prepared to travel a good distance to photograph and measure a chain drive 'Nash, but of course, they will know that I am not about to cross their palms with any of my cupro-nickel, so I am completely unimportant to them.  Well, sod them. I found 2 reliable looking drawings to work from yesterday in my stash of paperwork and whilst I would have liked to crawl over one in the skin, I can make a perfectly good model from the drawings.

I also sent an enquiry to Winston Teague, Registrar of the 'Nash club asking if anyone near my area might have a car to measure, but, once again, no answer.  I always thought the members of the Frazer-Nash Car Club were supposed to be gentlemen, but clearly I was mistaken.

I love the silly old cars, but it seems that unless I want to wave my ability to pay over 50 grand for a bundle of sticks that any half decent mechanic could make in his shed about, I am not part of the "right crowd".  If I won the Lottery, I am really no longer certain I would want to become one of their number.  Money ruined the Austin 7 hobby for me. Ex Bank Managers and headmasters got hold of them on their fat pensions and completely ruined the raggy arsed enthusiasts' hobby for me. I sold off my Special parts with no great regret when I lost my storage thanks to a halfwit Landlady.

It seems that the once staunchly enthusiastic Chain Gang have gone the same way, where even their lackies in the garage have got the money disease, where the want of it makes them unforgivably rude.

Sod the lot of 'em!

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Fork off, get outa here!.....

Whilst I have never been able to see what keeps a motorcycle up and have therefore never been tempted to ride one, I do like them as machines, in much the same pure way as I like pieces of craftsmanship.

So, a recent request for me to make masters of 2 early machines came as an interesting notion.  These were to be used as scenic accessories on a model railway layout which was to have a model airfield on it.
A Triumph Model H and a Douglas 4HP and sidecar.

I drew up the Triumph first, but left the steering head area as I couldn't follow what was happening on the photos I had.  I could see no conventional means of support for the Girder forks.  Only a horizontal spring, oddly and a mess of bits and pieces and more often than not a leather belt wound tightly round the business area.

I have spent most of the afternoon hunting for photos of this area and finally found out what I thought must be the answer, but wouldn't allow myself to believe.

But, sure enough, I was right in the first place.  A horizontal spring decrees a horizontal movement.

The 1916 Triumph Model H motorcycle is not so much suspended, but isolated, from the worst exigencies of horizontal forces.  Pretty much we're talking a method, in that early, rarely metalled roads era, of stopping the flimsy forks from simply snapping off after a few miles!

The forks, showing the only two pivots on the front "suspension". One for the horizontal spring which, by the way, just as oddly, works in tension and the main pivot for the whole forks assembly, allowing the front wheel to jiggle fore and aft.  Your backside relies upon the two large springs on the Brooks saddle!  Pure bicycle.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Bend it, like Shelsley...

Come Winter, I go very much for the indoor pursuits.  Model railways and cars, Model scenery.
In order to show the model cars I have been amassing for years in the best light, should I  wish to flog them orff, I resolved to make a diorama.  NOT, you will note, my usual set-piece, but a proper diorama. A scene with false perspective (why DO people say "forced"?). Viewed from one place for best effect.
My chosen spot was the Start line at Shelsley Walsh Hillclimb, the world's oldest motor sports venue.
The place has changed a bit over the last 110 odd years, but I figured the most interest could be shown if I did it as it has been for the last 30 years or so.

As it happens I had made the commentators' box already in 1/43rd scale for my son's hillclimb track in that scale.  This got me to considering the false perspective notion.  In the view from behind the Start line, Vox Villa,as this structure is wittily known, would be at the far end, so ideally scaled for a bit of occular trickery, as the foreground would be in 1/32nd scale, that of the bulk of the cars that would be photographed.
This left the buildings in the mid ground having to be made a very strange shape indeed. 1/32nd scale this end and 1/43rd 'tother.  Being shiplap construction, this was accentuated by the ostensibly parallel lines of shiplap, but which now were engraved with a degree of perspective, to an imaginary vanishing point.

The track too, which rises slightly at the very beginning as it curves first right then left was reduced in width substantially, so that anything disappearing round it would probably have to be about 1/50th scale at most.  Of course any lines of mad keen spectators standing above the track behind the hedge and fence would have to be made/bought in several different scales, but I am considering photographic figures that far away.  It could just work, as I hope will a photographic backdrop to the whole thing.

These are obviously just plonked on the board, hence the tilt to the Starter's hut.
Vox Villa actually stands on 6 brick pillars around a foot square in section and has a stair case externally to access it, so will be a fair bit higher.

Monday, 19 December 2016

It had to happen...

Not good 3D printing...that was obvious.  But my ready acceptance of it when I finally saw good stuff, done by a hobbyist, affordably.

I went to the Christmas bash of KLOGGIES, the King's Lynn O Gauge Group people, only to collect an old book from Bob Pearman, who was selling a lot of books for the widow of an ex member.  The list had been published and I spotted Miniature Landscape Construction by John H. Aherne.  I have his other two minimum opii, Building and Locomotive, but had missed out on the third all these years.

So I get to the Social Club at Runcton Holme and the place is jumping. I got the last space in the car park.  I knew they were having a dinner later, but I didn't expect a mini exhibition!  There were dealers, shops, various emporia and displays.   One display had a couple of Wisbech & Upwell tram engine bodies on the table.  I looked at the 7mm, guessing this would be 3D printing and sure enough, though the detailing was excellent and very complete, the finish was the usual spotty, dotty powdery rubbish demanding so much clean up you could scratchbuild it from nickel silver just as quick.  Shame, it really was nicely modelled.  But then the friendly young chap showed me the 4mm version.
To say I was blown clean away is an understatement.  It was done by the original system of resin, laser hardened, layer by layer.  This technique was demonstrated to me years ago, decades in fact, on the very machine that the BBC used on their programme, Tommorrow's World.  Stereo Lithography they called it.  Before 3D printing was even dreamed of and here it was, (isn't justice wonderful?), being used to superb effect in a rigid Acrylic material with every rivet on every hinge of every inspection hatch on the side skirts. In 4mm scale, smooth as a baby's bum showing up conventional 3D printing for the messy con that it still is uness you re-mortgage your house.

"Of course", said I to the chap, "you were trained by your company in CAD".  No, he said, got it off Youtube.  What!!  I can't bear to listen to all the boring turds telling the world how it works on that channel, but he learned how to use something called Blender to the extent that here were models missing absolutely nothing, better than any I've ever seen AND needing no more clean up than you could do in 5 minutes with a thumb of wet'n'dry, in a lovely hard, smooth material.  Clearly this was not a young man who would consider for one moment paying more than necessary for his hobby, so here was the confirmation that time was short for conventional modelmaking.  If the 7mm had been done by the same method as the 4mm, I'd have bought it from him straight away.

I might have a few customers left, but if just one young blade like this one decides to do cars, I am finished and so is every other modelmaker.

It had to happen...

Friday, 9 December 2016

Fancy Tools?....come on, guys...

A recent post on a blog I look at was going on about sanding sticks.  Now, I have seen these mentioned so often on forums, especially those where plastic kits are the main subject matter.  People sanding back new shapes from gouts of fillers, usually entirely unsuitable fillers, too.
Now come on chaps, man up a bit, eh?  Use files!  For Heaven's sake that's what they're for. Removing stuff you don't want. And the main thing is that being hard and generally flat they are completely controllable.  THEN, if you've cocked up a bit and who doesn't, sand the scratches off with a bit of wet'n'dry held in your thumb and forefinger (very controllable) or if you must be a bit finicky, stick some to a bit of styrene, cut to a shape to suit you.  It costs nothing, rather than a Fiver a pack from Albion Alloys!  If you don't want to invest in files, get some of those file shaped things with diamond dust all over them from Lidl's for a few quid a pack. They're very good on plastic as there's no pattern of toothing for the plastic to steer where you don't want it, which can happen to files, even fine ones if you're not concentrating like you should be.

And if you need to fill anything, get some Milliput in there if it's a biggish gaff.  Otherwise use a filler in a tube which is similar to cellulose putty. Perfect for all scratches.  I nicked some from Volkswagen's when I worked there in 1997 and I still use it. And please, don't use that ghastly white stuff. Yellow-Green Milli is all you'll ever need. It polishes to a glass-like finish for vac-form patterns so why do you want to pay more for the stuff that never goes off properly and chalks in your fingers?

And for plastic kits, guys, that is all you'll ever need. No fancy, pricey, trendy, forum led tosh, just good honest stuff you can either get for pennies or make yourself. The only other thing you need is a bit of acquired skill, experience (always helps) and common sense.  Not even patience. I have none whatsoever, which is why I don't torture myself with kits.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016


I can't remember who it was had the album of that name but it always rolled nicely off the tongue.
I also was and still am a huge fan of the band Caravan AND I've lived in three over the years, so I have a bit of a soft spot for them.
So when the idea of using a caravan as an extension to the rather small cafe I've made for Lantern Yard I was keen. I started to have a look online at suitable styles, then recalled making a really old fashioned style job for a "critter" in O9.  Never finished it though, but I liked it. It had an Austin 7 Ruby grille on the front and a verticle exhaust.
  Easily pried off, the auto bits are now elsewhere and the marks repaired and repainted, although I liked the buff shade of nothing muchness that it was before and the matt finish. Caravans do that if you don't polish them.  Especially old ones which were probably painted in early cellulose.  I liked the clerestory I'd worked into the thing originally, too.  Faded elegance everywhere.

I cleared a space for it at right angles to the caff and made a rectangle of Foamex to represent a new concrete pad on which the 'van, sans its wheels which were shot to hell anyway will sit.

Apparently an old showman had originally given the 'van to a friend who was told that he could use it on a preserved Colonel Stevens Heritage line, what was to be one of the first, following on from L.T.C. Rolt's efforts on the Talyllyn.  Work had begun using matey's old Austin 7 Ruby, but then he was informed that it wouldn't "do" for the railway to have such a thing   This was one of many duff choices on the part of the committee of old farts who ran the thing and it soon folded for ever.  Tom Rolt heard of its fate and offered storage for it, which seems to have saved it, for, a few years later when it came up for sale, the blacksmith bought it as a project.  His wife was not best amused at news of its imminent arrival, but took one look and just knew what she had to do.  The Austin bits were knackered and partly robbed anyway, so the blacksmith took them all off, re-skinned the front, ripped the insides out and fitted it with simple bench seats.  The concrete pad was cast and wide of the mark to allow a small sitting area.  The addition to Lantern Yard's vernacular collection was an immediate success with all concerned, although the Saturday morning meet-ups with the local biker boys proved an especially popular event.  They had nowhere much to go and here was a pleasant ride out, no Police, good grub and and endless tea and coffee.  Now there was no squeezing into the hot, steaming caff space.  You got your grub and your mugs of tea and carried them off to the 'Van for a peaceful session of chat with the lads or a corner with the new bird.  You could leave your bike outside with no fear of anyone messing with it.  If they tried it they'd go for a swim in very short order!

Realising the caff was a bit too close to the railway, they permanently closed the side door and instead opened up a new door in the end.

The lock gates have been shortened, although they will be sitting on top of a 3mm sheet of Perspex.  Here you can see that I've laminated sheets of Foamex to the tops of the lock sides as I needed it to be firmer and carvable without the filler falling to bits.  This is a big improvement.

I went to town to buy a micro-pot of Humbrol's worst matt black for the roof of the workshop and the lock gates and whilst there, noticed they had weathering powders.  I laughed at the silliness of having pots of stuff you can make yourself for pennies and said as much to the woman.  She informed me that the pots of powders were no less than £4-40!!!  Yet across the shop was a packet of chalk pastels for 45p!  She had no idea that any of those and a spare bit of old sandpaper was all you need to make the stuff in the hugely overpriced tubs of weathering powders.  
I have a pack of oil pastels bought in error thinking they were chalk, so I wondered if they would respond to white spirit.  They did, very subtly and so I lightly weathered the caravan by drawing a few lines of pastel on a spare bit of styrene, then softening it with a very fine brush dipped into a very small amount of white spirit.  I am well pleased with the results.  Weathering can be very overdone and usually is in my view.