Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Round and round, the sound...

On my shelf, I have a line up of old model aircraft engines. Starting with my beloved old ED Racer and working through a PAW 1.5, Merco 61s and ending with a brand new Leo from a weekly parts deal with a coupe of oddballs here and there.

Now, what do I do with them?  Model aircraft are too expensive, with the cost of belonging to a club, mad costs of insurance, etc.  I gave up the idea of doing some nice model aircraft because of it.

Model boats? No, because almost every damned pisspot little pond that has model boats has banned IC engines on totally spurious "environmental" grounds, usually because we're forced to share the unsuitable puddle with those odd persons who are happy to sit and stare at a bit of coloured stick all day in the vain hope of hooking some feckless fish for the tenth time in a year and putting the poor thing back so they can re-catch it next time they need to escape the nagging wife.

There is only one thing left to me.  And then only because I am within travelling distance of the only example of a place where I can run a tether car.  Yup, tether cars.  A wonderfully English group of old farts, (and my God they're old!) have formed a collective under the guiding hand of Peter Hill (who goes under the pseudonym of R.T.Pole, geddit?)and in Peter's garden in Lincolnshire he has built a suitable circle of concrete with a pole in the middle allowing tether cars of a certain age to trundle round, purely for fun as he doesn't really want super fast things there. I think it's stop-watch only currently.  There's a youtube of a car going round on leaves, rain, bits of muck and having a good old time.  I figure what I can't afford to buy I can make except tyres.  A very reasonable membership fee opens up a quarterly magazine and an archive of plans and articles which I can use in conjunction with my collection of Model Car News magazines from the 40s, which I have carried with me from move to move for the last 40 years!  Back then there were not more but actually fewer circles to run on, Peter's being a relatively recent construction. The hobby in Britain died out in about 1960.

It is from rather earlier that I am going for inspiration. Being a Romford lad, I remember going to the shop of J. S. Wreford in North Street on a Saturday morning and watching him run diesels INSIDE on the counter!  I have loved that smell ever since.  It turns out that he made a series of tether cars called the Half Pint and the Pint.  I can reproduce a Half Pint using my metal bashing abilities and thereby run a car to which I have an historical connection.  I have gathered Pinterest pictures of the Half Pint and reckon it's well within my skills to re-pop. I have joined the Retro Racing Club for a sensible 16 quid and await my first bundle of goodies from Arty Pole.

Mine's Half a Pint.......

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Knobs, chair legs and pump handles...

OK, so I don't have any knobs or pump handles, but I did have chair legs.  My daughter still has a beautiful mahogany dining table, which my Granddad made. It came with 4 chairs, which had had a much harder life than the table and had succumbed to the life they'd led quite separately from the table.  That life had seen the Scotch glue joints fail and the loss of the cabrioles from the elegant legs.
It had also seen some parts of the chairs split, which would have been difficult to repair.  In all honesty, they were never the most comfortable chairs to spend long sitting on and would also raise one's legs to a level that felt like premature thrombosis when shuffled close enough to said table to eat a meal.

The upshot of it all was,despite carting the bits around from pillar to post ever since the first one broke, leaving me stuck through the seat hole like a man too keen on his toilet for his own good, I finally made the decision that Granddad would approve of my re-using the mahogany of which the chairs were lovingly fashioned, for other purposes, such as my latest model boat, which, at the point of the Big Rip on my son's table saw, was a model of Vanity, a Victorian C class racing yacht that I once lived on.  The resultant stock of wood was in the form of sticks, rather like slats, of a suitable thickness for making a yacht's hull, but also, it has transpired, a deck for a model power boat which has been on the stocks for ages.  Now, people will know that I don't like to use real mahogany to represent mahogany in scale.  BUT...I don't have enough of my favoured steamed pear in solid form to deck the boat, although I would have ripped up my one chunk of solid pear, BUT, I noticed that my slats of mahogany were not like other peoples' mahogany. It was, of course, being very old, Cuban Mahogany, a wood now only available in veneer form. It was close grained and free of the tell tale dark flecks that gave the game away on the stuff everybody else had to use.  SO....I decided that the deck planking on the "Greavette" look alike would be in this wonderful wood, as I had several shorter slats which wouldn't have been of use on the yacht, Vanity.

A few planks cut to width, a scale 3" wide, ripped up on my absolute life saver of a wee saw.  I always bought Mini/Maxicraft power tools. I used to have one of their transformers, but seem to have lost it, so I now use a Proxxon that I got in a deal. I wouldn't pay their prices without a good deal, believe me!  The great beauty of Mini/Maxicraft power tools was that they were all about 25 quid each, so I'd occasionally treat myself to one to make life easier.  The drill has long gone to that broken drill in the sky place, but I still have and really value the table saw, the disc sander and the hand held orbital sander I have. The motor from the drill is in a special mill/drill attachment I made from an old fax machine for use on the lathe.  I waste almost nothing!
Old, dirty, needing some oil on the motor bearings and prone to the fence wandering if it isn't clamped up with something more than its own knob. All things it has just reminded me of as I haven't used it since I last built a Riva for some rich git.  The knob, by the way (there I mentioned a knob, but still no pump handles) was so big that it would not allow any wood to pass flat on the table!  An oversight in design so typical of German stuff (don't get me started, now), so I simply chewed off the poking out bits, till a piece of wood could pass unmolested through the saw, in a way surely originally intended for it.

For them as likes a bit of wood to look at (Rich!) here's a closer view of the slats that were made from the seat stretchers of the chairs. I have quite a few of them for other boats.  Note the lack of any obvious, flecky grain that afflicts the current "Bleed'n' pink shit", as my Grandad would have described what masquerades as Mahogany these days.  Phillipine mahogany..."What the bloody 'ell's that, boy?", he would say, dismissively.  Sorry, Messrs. Chris-Craft, Ditchburn, Greavette, etc., but Grandad knew best.

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...