The turning of the year marks a change in my attitude to being surrounded by daft creations, so far two engines have been condemned to becoming rusting garden features allowing them to slowly return to nature. After all who would want a very heavy assembly of junk metal that is not of antique interest? Hardly house ornaments!
Having decided to do this I looked at the collection to see which others were best suited to a rusting decline and the original big vertical steamer I made way back now covered in dust and oil looked suitable. It’s really too heavy for me to lift nowadays and I struggled to get it into the rainy cold garden but when I tried to put it down some spikey bits clung on to my coat with a vengeance, wouldn’t let go …….. It was telling me something and I took the old friend back into the workshop.
My junk assemblies never benefit from design, I simply cobble together whatever random items I come across that might be adapted to perform some vague engine function. Chuffing Jenny is the latest arrival – from brass candlesticks to a chuffing little engine that lights its own way…
It seems every model maker wants a Myford lathe. I have no time for those prissy excuses for a machine tool but then you may have noticed I don’t make models and anyway I needed something a bit bigger to satisfy my aspirations. A Myford is a 3.5 inch lathe which means the maximum diameter you can turn is 7 inches (150mm!) and that’s really beyond its capability.
For my general purpose projects I looked round for something with a decent capacity even if a bit weak and came across a Chester Centurion lathe/milling machine combination. I didn’t trust this obvious cheap import, it looked a bit ridiculous in fact and I dismissed it as a non-starter until I spoke to Ian, a fine craftsman from the past. He had one and reckoned it was OK providing you don’t expect too much… and he was right. It has a centre height of over 8 inches!! – I could turn a 16 inch flywheel. Oh yeah?
The slowest speed on the Centurion lathe is far too fast to turn anywhere near 16 inches, in fact when I needed to machine this sort of diameter I resorted to pulling the chuck round by hand. A bit of a fag but I got there. The lathe comes with a 3 jaw self centering chuck. They never run true after a bit of use and can’t hold rectangular materials (remind me to tell you about Tank Lee 🙂) and do not have a really tight grip. Instead I opted for a good size 4 jaw independent chuck and have used it successfully for all my work regardless of the need to ‘clock up’ every time. It holds tight and perfectly true. Model makers use 3 jaws!
Opting to use compressed air in place of steam has freed me from safety concerns but it’s painting with water colour rather than oils. Although it’s less dramatic lacking the heat and smell, all the engines still have full steam propulsion capability. Tin Pan Ali has a fake boiler and I don’t mind, in fact it’s closer to my original thinking of assembling interesting junk with a common theme. The advent of CNC around 1980 heralded big changes in the design and construction of machine tools and one important improvement was the incorporation of ball screws and linear ball tracks, practically eliminating the backlash present in all leadscrews and vastly reducing the friction in close fitting slideways. They are amazing and I just had to somehow work a couple of ball tracks into the ‘Tin Pan Ali’ engine. Note the sliding bar…
Moving on into 2021… I’ve found a vintage hand drill with an interesting gearbox in my collection of old tools. It’s crying out to become the heart of a great 2021 project!