johnsmachines

machines which I have made, am making, or intend to make, and some other stuff. If you find this site interesting, please leave a comment.

Back in the workshop, a Lathe Problem…

I have a problem with my big Chinese lathe.  I was hearing a KNOCK-KNOCK-KNOCK as the main spindle was revolving at low speeds with one setting of the gears.

It is a GBC 1000-400 lathe, meaning that it has a maximum of 1000mm between centres, and it will turn a 400 mm disk.  It weighs 2 tons.  Has been quite useful when turning flywheels, big lumps of metal, large pieces of wood and so on.

So today I removed the cover from the headstock and had a look.   The cause of the knock was quickly obvious.

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The headstock of the GBC 1000-400

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The big gear on the main spindle at bottom.   See the broken tooth?  The meshing gear is intact.

So, what do I do about this?   I need some suggestions, people.

Thoughts so far….

  1. remove the spindle, remove the gear and bronze braze a replacement piece of steel or bronze, then machine a new tooth.
  2. same as 1, except use silver solder.
  3. same as 1 or 2, except do the job insitu (after draining all of the gearbox oil, and screening off the other headstock parts).  Unfortunately the missing tooth is close to the headstock case, so filing or grinding a new tooth would be tricky.
  4. leave it as is, and just avoid using that gear.  I can do that.  It removes 3 of the 9 gear ratios, including the slowest speed (40 rpm), and is not an elegant, or desired solution.

So what do you think?   The gear is most likely made of steel rather than cast iron, from its appearance.  The base of the break is shiny, smooth and not porous.

Here are some pics of the ends of the main spindle.   It does not look too complicated to remove the main spindle, but what would I know.

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The main spindle is the one in the centre.

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And the other end, with a self centering 4 jaw in place.

I imagine that the main spindle bearings will be pre-loaded, tapered, roller bearings.  I certainly do not want to damage them.  And how difficult will it be to reinstall the bearings and main spindle?   I imagine that it will involve some careful and precise work.   Am I taking on a job which is way beyond my abilities?   If anyone has experience of this task I would be delighted to hear your views.   I have no drawings or plans of the headstock to assist.

(In parentheses, when I was a teenager, I remember my father pulling a Toyota Crown automatic gearbox to bits, identifying a fault, and fixing it.  There were bits of the gearbox everywhere.  But he fixed the problem.  He was not a mechanic, but he had a go at things, and usually managed the task, as in that case.  Similarly, I dont mind having a go at this lathe job, but I would prefer not to risk destroying the lathe, so any expert opinions will be welcome.   Option 4 above remains a possibility.)

 

The Trafalgar Chronicle

Another terrific read from Pen and Sword!  Particularly relevant for me, as I will be visiting “Victory” at Portsmouth, UK, in a few weeks.

TRAFALGAR CHRONICLE edited by Peter Hore

This is the first volume of articles on the subject of the Georgian period navy, ie. The epoch of Trafalgar, Nelson, Napoleon, 1812 war etc.    The volume contains 17 individually authored articles, maps, quality black and white and colour plates, notes and contributors’ biographies.

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For this general reader, most of the articles were very interesting, but some contained a level of detail which would be more of interest to researchers.

I particularly enjoyed the articles about  the American in The Royal Navy, Frederic Rolette, and Nelson as a junior officer.   I am certain that “Victory” modelers will find invaluable, the analysis in “What Did HMS Victory Actually Look Like?”

The crucial role of James Cook in the conquest of the French in Quebec was fascinating to this antipodean, who was not previously  aware of this period of Cook’s career.

I look forward to further volumes in this series which are intended to be published annually.  (This review covers Book 1 of the new series.  Since I wrote this review Books 2 and 3 have been published.  I hope to review 2 and 3 soon.)

Dr John Viggers

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My readers might be wondering why most of the books which I am reviewing in johnsmachines.com are “highly recommended”.  The reason is simple.  The books which I read and decide are crap do not get reviewed by me at all.  The ones which you will see in the blog also exclude those which I have decided are just OK.  The ones which you will read about here are those which I have really enjoyed, like “The Trafalgar Chronicle”.

 

How the world’s greatest navy was defeated by beginners. A book review.

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ROME SEIZES THE TRIDENT by Marc G. DeSantis

This oddly titled book is a most interesting retelling of the three Punic wars, with an emphasis on the contest for naval supremacy.

Carthage was the naval superpower of the Mediterranean, and Rome had almost no seafaring history or capability.  Yet Rome won the naval contest.  This book explains how.  It also explains how the destruction of Carthage was the single most important event in the forging of the Roman empire, yet also planted the seeds for Rome’s eventual fall.

The author includes fascinating information about the design and construction of  galleys, and the financial and manpower implications of the massive undertaking of building a navy from scratch.

I particularly enjoyed chapter 4 which explained the technology,  capabilities and limitations of galleys, and the implications and risks of various strategies such as ramming.  Rome’s use of the corvus, which permitted the use of its famed infantry in sea battles, provided a technological edge for a few years but was ultimately discontinued, probably due to a resulting reduction in seaworthiness of the galleys caused by the heavy corvus.

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The book includes a few maps (too few in my opinion, and not all locations in the text are on the maps) , and diagrams of the likely appearance of the corvus.  It is well written, and appealed to this general reader. It should particularly appeal to students of ancient history, military history, naval history, and ship construction.

Hardback, 253 pages, including notes and references, bibliography, index.  Pen & Sword.

Highly recommended.    Dr  John Viggers.

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Early Railways…A Guide for the Modeller (a book review)

When I saw this title from Pen and Sword, I thought “wonderful”.  Anticipating information about the Pen-y-darren railway, for which Richard Trevithick designed the world’s first useable steam locomotive.  I will be staying at Pen-y-darren near Merthyr Tidfil, Wales,  in a few weeks.  I know that little of the coal mine railway remains, but I just want to soak up the ambience of the area.

But to my disappointment, there is no mention of Trevithick or Pen-y-darren in the book.  An astounding oversight IMO.

Otherwise, the book is excellent, although I do feel unqualified to comment about model railways.

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It is hard cover, 120 pages, richly illustrated with photos, diagrams, and plans of railway locomotives, carriages, tracks, signals, uniforms, tunnels, stations etc etc from 1830-1880.

The chapters are:   Introduction (which should not be skipped) 1. Mike Sharman – pioneer modeller of early railways, 2. Infrastructure, 3. Locomotives 4. Carriages  5. Waggons  6. Layouts and models  Appendix of sources of supply for modellers, and a brief index.

This book is a quality production.  Carefully and articulately written, and beautifully illustrated.

I have had no previous particular interest in model railways, but after reading this book, I do wonder what I have been missing.

Here are a few pages chosen at random.

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The illustrations are profuse, well chosen, high quality and interesting.

This book will be enjoyed by anyone who is interested in railways 1830-80, and especially modellers.

Dr John Viggers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trevithick Engine by Lumix, and an Ottoman cannon.

Some more photos with the Panasonic Lumix LX100M2.

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The Trevithick dredger engine, still lacking lagging and paint.  The chimney has a chimney extension connector, sitting a bit crooked.

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I am very impressed by the quality of these photos.

And some shots of the 1:10 model Ottoman Dardanelles cannon, which I made a few years ago.  It was intended as a practice run in wood, before making it in bronze.  The wooden model is 600mm (2′) long, and since finishing it I have not felt the need to make a bronze example.  I plan to visit the original at Fort Nelson, Portsmouth, in a few weeks. Watch out for a video/photographs on johnsmachines.com

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I think that you will agree that the quality of these photos is excellent.  The photographer is still learning.

Travel

Hi bloggers!

Sorry about the intervals between posts lately.  I have been busy with other stuff.  Mainly to do with planning my trip to UK in May.  But also doing jobs for SWMBO as she requires (part of the price for going on my own to UK).

Also, my CNC mill is not working.  The Y axis suddenly stopped functioning.  I pulled out the servo motor, a heavy, awkward job, and Stuart discovered a broken wire leading to the encoder.  That was fixed.  Reinstalled the servo and the mill seemed fine.  Then the same fault recurred.   So later today I will pull out the servo again, and take another look.

This post will be mainly about a new camera which I have bought, instigated by my forthcoming trip.

 

It is a Panasonic Lumix LX100M2.  And although small, its capabilities are astounding (at least to me, who has not bought a camera for almost 10 years- except for the iphone camera, which is also astounding.)

And this the reason I bought it.

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The Nikon D300 is still a great camera, and I have some excellent lenses and other gear for it, but it is just so big and heavy.

The Lumix does not quite fit into a pocket, but the cameras which are that bit smaller,  have other limitations… like controls which are too close together for my older, fatter and clumsier fingers.

It is also a video camera, and Panasonic do excellent video cameras.  One major minus is the absence of a microphone jack.  The built in mike is ‘OK’.

I am still learning how to use this technological marvel.  It has a few surprises.  One was a feature which takes multiple photos of single object at different focus points.  This allows picking the frame which has the best part in focus.

It has Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi, but I have been unable to get them to connect with my iphone or computer, despite following the instructions.  Need some help on that one.

I wont list all the features.  Look it up if you are interested.  Instead, I will show you some of the first shots which I have taken.  These are all taken at 8 megapixels rather than the maximum 17-20, to reduce uploads and storage space.

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This is a shot where I chose the focus point after shooting.  I could also have amalgamated all of the shots so every point was in focus.

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I am very pleased with the picture quality, but wish that it did not show the machining mistakes.  Must get around to bogging and painting.  It has a fixed  zoom lens, 17-20 megapixel, mirrorless.  This is 3:2 format.  The previous picture was 1:1 format.

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Bronze statue in Geelong’s Botanic Gardens.  One of only a few of these of Queen Victoria in existence.  The Lumix does not have a cropping facility (that I have found), so this was cropped after loading onto the computer.  (21/4/19- found the cropping facility, and heaps of other options buried in menus.   My admiration for this camera grows as I am becoming familiar with it.)

The video capability also seems very good, and you will see evidence of that as I post stuff on my trip.

 

Sir Ding Dong.

Not much happening in the workshop.  Visited by my middle daughter and family this weekend.

The boys are now 3, and responsive enough to not touch hot or moving parts and to watch out for wriggly pets.  I have seen 3 so far this season.

So we decided to give the boys some exposure to live steam.  They were intrigued by lighting the fire in the boiler, then adding wood and coal, and building up steam.  Nervously then enthusiastically operating the whistle.

Then the fun bit.

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Sir Ding Dong is a 3″ scale 2 cylinder compound steam traction engine.  It will tow this load easily.

We have had virtually no autumn rain yet, and the ground cover is very dry.  But it was a sunny and windless day, so it seemed safe enough to operate the steam engine.  No problems.  The kids, aged 3 to 69, loved it.

Oh, and by the way, the Trevithick dredger engine boiler passed its final inspection!  WooHoo!

 

Video of the gas burner which works

The first 6 minutes of the video  is getting up to 40psi.  Then a couple of minutes of the engine working.   Big file, so be patient.

At Last, a burner which does the job!

You are probably fed up with my burner trials.  I certainly was.

Fundamentally, I was trying to get enough heat into the Trevithick model dredger engine boiler, and just not managing it.  My boiler is a scaled down version of the original, in copper.  It takes a lot more heat than the 6″ vertical boiler which I made last year and I think that the reasons are…

  1.  The Trevithick design, although revolutionary for 1800 was and is a very simple, primitive, relatively inefficient design by later standards.   No water tubes and only one fire tube (the flue).
  2. The linear dimension is scaled down 1:8.  The surface areas (heat exchange surfaces) are scaled down 1:64.  The volumes, representing power output, are scaled down 1:512.  So the scale is a major factor.
  3. The firebox is 60mm diameter.  I had no success burning coal or wood, although I gave up on that one quickly after one attempt.
  4. Absence of lagging.  Reproductions of Trevithick’s engines have wooden lagging, but there was no indication of lagging on the LSM engine, or in the 1819 drawing.  I do intend to install wooden lagging, in fact I have cut and prepared the strips ready to install.

So my colleague Stuart suggested that I try his Sievert burner…

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This is a Sievert 2954.  Stuart tells me that at full blast it puts out over 40kW!   The ring is steel, machined to fit the firebox, and a close fit to prevent cold air being sucked around the edges.

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Fitted into the firebox.  It coped reasonably well with the back pressure at about 1/2 strength. 

This unit raised steam from 2500cc of cold water in 10 minutes, and got to 20psi in 14 minutes.  The target of 40psi was reached in 18 minutes.

At 40psi the safety valve operated, and despite continuing to pour in the heat, the pressure did not rise above 40psi.  So I am expecting that the boiler inspector will be happy with the safety valve.

I then ran the engine for 45 minutes, turning the boiler feed pump on and off to keep the boiler water level up.  All went well.  I have made a video of the event, but the upload failed last night, so I will try again later.

Next, to contact the boiler inspector for the final (I hope) inspection.

 

Travel Appeal

Relax.  this appeal is not asking for money.

I have been wanting to see  1. the Trevithick dredger engine in the London Science Museum  2. The Dardanelles cannon at Southampton  3. The Musee des Artes Et Metiers (Paris)   4. The York train museum   …. for ages.   And waiting for months and months for SWMBO to agree to set aside the time to do so.  Finally, today, I had a frank discussion with her.

And she has agreed!  I am going alone.   Considering my aims, that suits both of us.

There is a price to pay (of course), but more about that some other time.

The appeal is for recommendations of what to see.  I lived in UK for almost 2 years, 1979-80.  But I was working hard, and sightseeing was brief and of the traditional tourist variety…  stately homes and countryside mostly.  Beautiful and interesting.

But this trip will be for me only.  And I daresay that my readers will get some reports too.  I want to see industrial England.   Probably wont get to Wales, Scotland or Ireland this trip.     Going early May to early June.  Will probably be mainly London, Southampton, Cornwall, Manchester, Birmingham, York areas.

So, if you know of a particular engine, museum, ship, or industrial history site, or other industrial/scientific “must see” in England or Paris, please leave a comment.

I am also considering a new camera.  I dont fancy carting around my excellent and reliable, but large and heavy Nikon with lenses and flash guns, but I want something a bit more versatile than the iPhone, and something that will take videos.   I have not looked at cameras for a couple of decades, and suspect that the options might have changed somewhat.  Recommendations welcome, please.

Another Good Read. “The Mongol Art of War”

I will not be in the workshop for a few days, so I will post some more reviews of books which I have really enjoyed.  (you don’t want to hear about the ones which I thought were crap do you?)

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Paperback, 211pp, Pen & Sword Military.

THE MONGOL ART OF WAR  by Timothy May

In the thirteenth century the Mongol armies, led by Chinggis Khan and his successors, swept out of the depths of central Asia to conquer China, most of Asia, and much of  Eastern Europe to form the largest contiguous empire which has ever existed.

It was probably only the death of the Khan which prevented the Mongols from conquering all of Europe, in their quest to rule the entire world.

The Mongols rarely lost a battle. 

Dr Timothy May is an expert in Mongol history , and in this eminently  readable book he analyses the available evidence to explain how armies of horse archers took walled cities and defeated heavily armored European knights.   Much of the history of the Mongol conquests is described, but the book is more about how and why the Mongol armies were so successful.

As usual with successful warlords, the Mongol characteristics described are intelligent and ruthless leadership, terror, adoption of new technologies, effective organization, and disciplined soldiers. 

There is finally a most interesting description of the legacy of the Mongol “art of war”, including how the tactics and high degree of mobility of the horse archer armies has been studied and copied by more modern armies, including the panzer forces of the Germans in WW2.

As expected in a book written by a respected academic, there is an extensive glossary, and extra notes for each chapter, select bibliography, and index.

This book will appeal to the general reader, as well as students of the era.

Another excellent read from Pen and Sword.  Highly recommended.

Dr JCL Viggers.

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Some basic, but quite useful line drawn maps

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More Gas Burner Experimenting

First I tried the Sievert 2943.  I tried different gas settings, and different positions of the burner in the fire box.  I quickly discovered that an opening had to be present next to the supporting flange.  Despite that, steam was produced in 10 minutes, and 20psi was achieved in 15 minutes.  My aim is to obtain 40psi, and maintain 40psi during engine operation.

Unfortunately this burner does not work if there is any significant back pressure in the system.  Stuart has advised me to try the Sievert 2954 which he says will cope better with back pressure.  The Sievert 2954 has a similar appearance to the 2943, so I have not photographed it.

I have borrowed a Sievert 2954, but it needs some setting up, so I thought that meanwhile I would try a burner style which had been mentioned earlier.  It is a tube with multiple transverse slots.  Despite being constructed rather roughly and quickly, it produced a good hot flame.  Perhaps a bit small, but promising.

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If the next Sievert is not satisfactory I will come back to this style, and experiment with different slot numbers and sizes.

If you are becoming a bit bored with all of these gas burner experiments, I understand.  When the burner is finally sorted I will be delighted and relieved.

I have machined some wood to be used for lagging.  It is West Australian Jarrah.  A dark coloured wood which is often used for exterior flooring.  I will apply it to the boiler soon.

 

Experiment Failure

Sometimes information derived from a failed experiment is just as useful as a successful experiment.  Several readers predicted that burning coal would not not work in my dredger engine boiler, but I had to be convinced.

So, I removed the gas burner.

I have 3 types of coal.  One is Welsh steaming coal in 25-30mm lumps.  It has an attractive shiny appearance.  The other is coal lumps which were picked up next to a local railway line and are probably from Newcastle NSW.  I also have some brown coal, but it is in the form of briquettes, and I did not attempt to use them.

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Welsh steaming coal top, railway line droppings bottom.  All too big. 

Both black coal types were too big for the ~60x40mm diameter firebox in the dredger engine.  How to make them smaller?

Smash them up with a hammer and pass them through a sieve?  That would leave a lot of unusable tiny fragments as well as bigger bits.  And be very messy.  And require making a sieve.   If my experiment was successful that is what I would do in future.  Did not happen.

Meanwhile, I tried a hammer with a splitter edge.  The Welsh coal had definite layers, and split fairly predictably, with not too much dust or tiny fragments.   The Australian coal crumbled unpredictably into many fragments with a much lower usability fraction.

I started the fire with newspaper, then pine and hardwood kindling.  I should have paid more attention to the wood sizing, because it was problematic getting the wood alight.  Also, I had not set up a blower for the chimney.  I was relying on a really long chimney extension to provide enough draught.

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Chimney extension.  worked well.  Now what is that black circular patch on the ceiling?

Got the fire going with the assistance of a gas torch.  When the fire got going the draught seemed adequate.

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The wood fire at its best

Tried to add coal lumps, but they would not fit the firebox while the wood lengths were in place.  Firebox is just too small.  So I persisted with wood.  Soaked some in mineral turps.

I was not impressed with the appearance of the fire, but surprisingly, eventually, steam was produced, but never enough pressure to run the engine.  And the fire did require constant attention.  The front of the boiler was quite dirty after all of this.  I am glad that I have not yet painted it.

I will give the wood + coal fire another attempt, but size the pieces better (smaller).  The Sievert type burner is looking more likely.

Later in the day…..

…after a further discussion with Stuart I have decided to try the Sievert burner.   Made some steel rings which are a press fit on the burner, and an easy sliding fit inside the firebox.

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This is the new burner inside the firebox.  Not exactly @Trevithick, but I bet that he would have used it if it had been an option.

I still need to make a fitting to hook up a valve and the propane hose.  And try it out maybe tomorrow.  Another experiment.  I hope to not see flames shooting out of the chimney.

 

 

A Coal Grate. And Monster Emperors of Rome.

Firstly, the book review.  It is short, because I did not enjoy it.  Not that it is badly written, or poorly researched.  But it is really shocking.

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EMPERORS OF ROME.  THE MONSTERS.  by PAUL CHRYSTAL

From Tiberius to Theodora.  AD 145-548

This book is one of the series published by Pen & Sword on the architects of terror. Other volumes include Al-Qaeda, The Armenian Genocide, Bloody Mary, Einsatzgruppen, to give you an idea of the scope of the series.

Now that I have finished with the book, I am examining my own motives in choosing it.  I have read many books about ancient Rome, and find the era fascinating; the personalities, the reasons for the rise and fall of the empire, why the military was so spectacularly successful etc etc.

But to be truthful, I did not actually finish the book.  I had a similar reaction when I read about the Nazis and the concentration camps.  Just too horrible to contemplate.  And I closed it after reading about half.  And will not reopen it.

Paul Chrystal is a well-respected author who has written many books about ancient Rome. He states an aim to use primary sources, and to balance the horror with the mitigating aspects of the monsters. The book is 127 pages long, and it covers 10 emperors, so there is not a lot of space to give a balanced view. Mostly, despite its aims, the book is about rape, murder, treachery, nasty and insane men and women with absolute power doing whatever they felt like doing.

And to be realistic, even the “good” emperors started wars, executed rivals, instigated massacres and mass maimings.  That was the way things happened in ancient Rome. And twentieth century Germany, China, Cambodia etc etc.

So, if you enjoy seemingly endless descriptions of sadistic torture, rape and mass murders, with many illustrations, this book might be for you.

Not for this this reviewer though.

John V.

Now, back to getting enough heat into the 1:8 Trevithick Dredger Engine.

I have made a grate to place into the firebox, and which will replace the gas burner, which has proved to be inadequate, despite many, many experiments with improving it.  So here is the grate.

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Putting a rather unpleasant book to good use.

The holes in the grate are tapered, with the smallest part of the holes uppermost.  The fold at the back is to prevent coal being pushed off.  The taper is to prevent clogging the holes with clinker, and possibly to improve the velocity of air flow through the fire.

And how did I drill so many small holes so neatly?

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CNC of course.  Took about 45 minutes.

But after that I had a conversation with Stuart Tankard.  He reckons that I will do no better with coal than I have with propane to date.   Hmmm.   Might give it a go anyway.

Stuart’s suggestion is to try one of these….

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It is 50mm diameter, has a large jet (0.81mm diameter) and has a fearsome flame.  Looks more like a silver soldering torch.  If I use it I might get a flame coming out of the chimney.  Hope that it does not melt the silver solder.

 

 

Trevithick Dredger Engine. Gas or Coal?

Despite my best efforts, and good advice from experienced modellers, I have not been successful with using propane as fuel.  The engine runs, but I cannot get the boiler pressure over 20-22 psi, and that is not adequate.  Partly the problem is that the Trevithick boiler is the FIRST high pressure boiler ever, and is rather simple and primitive.  I do have alternative propane solutions, but they involve redesigning and remaking the burner.  I might end up doing just that, but meanwhile I am going to try coal.

I use coal to fire my 3″ scale traction engine.  It is messy, dirty, and a bit of a pain to get fired up.   But once going it is HOT.  And smells good.  But needs constant attention, observation, and skill.  Not just a matter of adjusting a gas knob.

But, the original Trevithick dredger engines used coal.  Or wood.  Or dried alpaca dung.

So I intend to build a coal grate.  The firebox is only 65mm diameter, so the coal lumps will need to be small, about 1cm diameter I guess.  I will make some sort of crusher to reduce the size of the traction engine coal.

I have made a start on the grate.    Again, it is all experimental.  And I will need a blower of some sort.  Maybe a small computer fan on the chimney.   All fun.   Wait and see.

No book review today!   And Antarctica and moon not mentioned!  I do have  a review in the wings about the Roman emperors who were monsters.  But another day for that one.

Not Another Book Review!

Yup!

I am still experimenting with the gas burner on the Trevithick, and frankly, totally over it.  So much so that I am considering scrapping the gas burner, and seeing if coal will get better steam pressures.

But nothing to show yet.   So another book review.

This one is another ripper!  I bet that most of you have never heard of Mithridates The Great!  That is because of our Rome-centric ancient history.  Everyone knows a bit about Julius Caesar.  And maybe even heard of Spartacus, Hannibal, and Attila.

But Mithridates has been described as Rome’s deadliest enemy, with good reason.   Here is the book review….

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MITHRIDATES THE GREAT by Philip Matyszak 

 

(or GAME OF THRONES minus dragons and nightwalkers).

Why bother with fiction when real history is as dramatic and complex and shocking as this story?

Mithridates the Great was arguably the greatest threat to republican Rome in its pre common era history, even taking into account Hannibal,  Spartacus etc.  That he did not finally succeed was not due to lack of resources, military skill, wealth or intelligence.  He faced the awesome might of the best infantry in the ancient world, and some of the best generals that Rome ever produced.  As the king of Pontus, a small country on the Black Sea between Rome, Parthia (Persia), and the barbarian tribes of central Asia, he fought Rome intermittently for over 50 years.  And, according to this book, he came very close to winning.

Matyszak describes a man of intelligence, imposing stature, commanding personality. Generous and loyal to his friends, utterly ruthless to his enemies, and guilty of treachery, mass murder, fratricide, matricide, filicide and every other “cide” in the dictionary.  He arranged the murder in one day of 80,000 civilian Romans, to bind certain cities to his cause.  He ordered his entire harem to suicide rather than let it fall into the hands of his enemy.

He returned from hopeless situations many times, but as an old man, following treachery by a son, he took his own life, and his kingdom was added to the Roman empire.  The reader knows that it will not end well for Mithridates, but I found myself hoping against hope that it could somehow be different.

This book is a terrific read.  Even though it is only 180 pages long, (plus references, maps, picture section etc), I found it richly rewarding.  It is not quick reading.  It kept me going for almost 2 weeks, where I normally devour a book in 2-3 days.  I often needed to re-read sections, to adequately grasp the details.  The language is mostly precise and articulate, peppered with humorous but appropriate modern jargon.  (e.g. p155 “Mithridates had left several juicy castles stuffed with treasure” )

Incidents which are based on less reliable sources are identified, and the author offers personal interpretations which seem quite believable.   The summing up of the epilogue was particularly useful. 

One aspect, which I found annoying, was the paucity of place names and total absence of scale on any of the maps.  Many places are mentioned in the text which do not appear on the maps.  

The book is intended for the general reader rather than the academic but I suspect that it might be confusing if the reader does not have some familiarity with the history of late republican Rome. Eg. It would be an advantage if the reader knows something of characters such as Sulla, Pompey and Sertorius.  The 13 page introduction is an excellent summary of the situation of the Mediterranean world in the first century BC and should not be skipped over.

J. V.

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Good maps, except no scale.

 

The Battleship Builders (another book review)

This one is just to demonstrate to reader Stan that some of my book reviews are positive.

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Hard Cover,

UK £30.00 Seaforth Publishing,  available at Pen and Sword Military.

 

THE BATTLESHIP BUILDERS  Constructing and Arming British Capital Ships

By Ian Johnston and Ian Buxton

I am writing this review less than 24 hours after opening this book.  It is a gem!  I admit to so far reading only 5 of the 13 chapters, and those almost at random, in preference to a night’s sleep, and I am greatly anticipating devouring the remainder.

The subject is the making of battleships 1863-1945.  320 pages, triple columns, and a cornucopia of photographs, tables, plans, diagrams and maps. 

I like history, engineering awes me, and I appreciate thoroughness and detail.  This book has it all. 

Despite the mass of detail, the writing style is clear and articulate and easy to read.

At this time I have read the chapters on armament, armour, money, and the introduction and conclusions.  I will soon go back to the powering, the facilities, the building, etc.  I was wondering just how they did make, shape, and attach steel armour up to 12 inches thick to the sides of ships*.  And how did they make those huge guns?  It is all there, including detailed descriptions and photographs of the manufacturing processes, the factories, the work forces, the costs, the materials, the physical handling of the huge pieces, the testing.  And the corruption, and the cost to the national economy. 

A fascinating story.   Absolutely, thoroughly recommended.

*spoiler alert!  The armour plates were bolted from the inside, into threaded holes, using bolts 3-4 inches diameter.  The holes were made and threaded before the plates were hardened.  The plates had tongue and groove edges.

After writing this I read the remaining chapters, and I confirm that this is an awesome book.  Well written, plenty of pictures diagrams and tables, and thorough.   So there Stan!

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If you have ANY interest in battleships and their construction, buy this one!

 

 

 

M1 ABRAMS TANK (a book review)

One of my interests is history, particularly military history, and I have been writing book reviews for an English Publisher, Pen and Sword Military, for several years.

Activity in my workshop is not particularly photogenic at present, so my posts have become less frequent.   I wonder if my readers might be interested some book reviews to fill the gaps.

So here is a review of a recent read.  I will be interested in any feedback, positive or negative.   Please be assured that my primary interest on this blog remains making and using machines, and any book reviews will only be used to plug gaps.  Might make a change from my obsession with Antarctica?

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UK. £14.99    US $24.95   Paperback, with a quality texture.  Glossy paper, 184 pages.

M1 ABRAMS TANK  by Michael Green

As an uninformed but curious reader, I was interested to find out about this, the world’s best known Main Battle Tank (MBT).

 “MBT” is one of the many, many, acronyms used in tank parlance.  Indeed, at times I felt that that the main purpose for the text of the book was to list and explain the meaning of the acronyms.  But that is a bit unfair.   The Abrams tank has been in use for almost 40 years, and is projected to be in use until 2050, so it is not surprising that it has seen multiple versions and revisions, and those do need to be explained.

The history of the development of the tank is well explained.

At the end of the book I found myself unsatisfied however, and felt the need for some perspective.  Of just how the M1 Abrams compares with other modern tanks.  Of how much it costs.  Of how governments finance it.  And how it will be used in future conflicts with increasing use of unmanned weapons. I got answers to those questions from Internet searches.  I suppose that the author is to be congratulated for being the stimulus to such searches, but I feel a little disappointed that the information was not included in the book.  I was also rather disappointed that there was no recounting of battle tales and experiences. Just what was it like to be a tanker, in the desert wars in an Abrams tank?

The 184 pages are crammed with excellent, large, colour photographs, and some diagrams. Perhaps the excellent photographs are the main justification for the book.

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So that is the review.  What is your reaction?

 

 

 

 

A Visit to The Boiler Inspector

My colleague and friend Swen is building a 1″ scale traction engine, and he is about to commence the boiler.  He wanted to discuss some issues regarding the plans with the club boiler inspector.  I had some questions regarding the Trevithick Dredger Engine final inspection, so I tagged along.

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Swen (purple T shirt) and Adrian discussing the traction engine boiler plans.

The boiler inspector is a marine engineer, currently working on tug boats, but with a lifetime of experience in ocean going ships.  His personal interest is mainly with steam and other trains.  But he is very happy to watch the progress of older, more historic models, like the Trevithick.  But always the emphasis is on safety.   Safety over historicity, authenticity, etc.   As it should be.

I was interested to note that Australia’s model steam regulations are widely used as the bench mark in other countries.

My current obstacles to final boiler certification are

  1.  The boiler feed pump is not working.  When I described the situation to Adrian he diagnosed the problem as the suction ball valve.  So afterwards I was working on that.  I have attached a sacrificial ball to a brass rod, and given it a firm whack to the seat.
  2. The difficulty getting the boiler pressure up to the pressure to demonstrate that the safety valve is working. Using propane, I can get the pressure up to 22psi, which is adequate to run the engine, but not high enough to make the safety valve release.  Adrian suggested that I reduce the mass of the lead weight, so it releases at 35psi rather than the current 40-45psi.  And to consider lagging the boiler.   The picture from 1819 shows the dredger engine boiler unlagged.  But the Pen-y-darren engine and the “Catch-Me-Who-Can”  and the Cambourne Road loco are all lagged.   So I suspect that Trevithick would have approved if the dredger engines were lagged.   So guess what?   I am going to lag my dredger engine, and I hope that if Richard Trevithick is watching that he will approve.   I will use Australian hardwood, and paint or stain it black.  Or maybe some English oak, if I can find some in my workshop.   The lead ball in my model is much bigger than shown in the 1819 drawings, so I will have no hesitation in making a smaller one.
  3. What is the water volume of the boiler?  I knew that I had to use 2000ml to get the water half way up the water gauge, but I did not know the actual volume of the boiler.  So today I measured it.   Surprisingly, it was 2750ml.   Almost 3 litres!   No wonder it takes 20 minutes to get it steaming!

So, very close to the final inspection.

Meanwhile, there is very little of pictorial interest for this blog.   So I decided to show some of my workshop(s).

Next, in response to reader Tim, I will show my silver soldering and brazing setup.   Then maybe some of my lathes.  Please note that I am not claiming any expertise.  Just interested amateur stuff.  Might be a change from Antarctica hey?

 

Somebody is responding to my Antarctica Posts

Look at the blocking graphics today, over the area of my interest in Antarctica.  The blocking pattern has changed, but it still extends 1985 through all years to 2016.  The sea ice changes every year, but the blocking pattern, and the clouds, stay unchanged.

Some of the odd shapes in 2006 are visible again.

And the big black rectangle is visible again.

This is not cloud, not natural features.  It is deliberate blocking.  The co-ordinates are at the bottom of the screenshot if you want to check it for yourself.  Use the timeline in Google Earth Pro to check out 2006.

Why has the area of blocking changed?  No idea.  Maybe whoever is responsible is embarrassed to have been called out.

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P.S.   appointment with the boiler inspector next Monday.

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