About the blog
In common with a lot of people, I like to make things. In recent years it has been miniature steam engines. Before that it was farm machinery. And there has been an ongoing passion for making furniture. And a few years ago I made a farm shed, more of a factory really, because it was designed and set up to be an olive oil processing building. But that is another story.
I have found the internet to be a fantastic resource for information about occasional projects, and I decided to document some of my own projects. Maybe something of mine will be of use to others.
Me. I am a semi retired medical specialist. (fully retired from Jan 2015). I live in southern Australia. A blacksmith friend taught me how to use an arc welder when I was in my 20’s (thanks Tony). When I was a kid my Dad taught me that with with some books and a few basic skills and tools, you can fix or make anything.
I thought that my Dad was amazing. He was a public servant, checking workers wages and working conditions. But in his spare time he would tackle any repair job after reading up about it… repair a TV, a car automatic transmission. Build a boat. He built his own house from scratch 60 years ago, and it is still there, almost unchanged. I guess that I inherited his ‘can do’ attitude. Of course that means that many skills are acquired by the ‘not repeating mistakes too many times’ method. ie: you make a mistake. That is fine, you learn from it, and try not to do it again. Make the same mistake again? That’s when you call yourself a dumb bum. Make it a third time?? Maybe you should pay an expert to do it for you.
So, a few years ago I bought myself a lathe and a milling machine and an auto feed bandsaw, and I jumped into metalworking. I was building the farm shed at the time and I needed to make many structural steel items. That was when I really caught the bug for metal working, and the blogs on this site document that disease.
Re the blog. I am still getting the hang of blogging, and making many mistakes, so bear with me….
Congratulations John on some fantastic work. Always a great pleasure to see our designs and castings being built.
Thanks Kelly. I couldn’t do it without your excellent advice, castings and plans
Just wanted to say that I find your blog very interesting! I don’t know anything about the machines you’re building, but I’m always looking to learn new things, so I’m excited about following your projects 🙂 Also, you’ve got some beautiful pictures here!
Thank you Emilie
I hope that my ramblings continue to be interesting for you.
I did the ego thing and googled my name and clicked on your blog and it blew me away.
First, thanks for the kind words about my Tiger tank at Bendigo – it was a great show – very enjoyable – in fact, it is the best model engineering show in Australia.
Secondly, I too was blown away by a test drive in the Tesla. KPMG, who do some work for me, invited me to drive the Tesla knowing I am a Holden V8 man. I told them the Tesla would be rubbish and I would have to wear a mask in case anyone who knew me, saw me. But, it was great – it only took about 5 k of driving to get comfortable and it went nearly as hard as my HSV GTS.
Thirdly, you have given me heart by showing medical specialists can have another life. Our daughter has just been accepted on to the vascular surgery program which is wonderful, however I would like to have grandchildren one day and feared she might forget to have them for us. You have proven it is possible to have both, a medical career and a family and a great hobby.
and thanks for your thought provoking response.
It is much harder for women doing medicine. The childbearing bite out of the career path is a massive challenge, and I admire women who manage to do both. It was hard enough for me, a not too bright male to mix career, family and hobby. It is much tougher for women.
All the best to your daughter. And to you.
i follow your blog a long time for the Triple engine.
An other quistion, are you Dutch? Or did you have Dutch parents? I ask that becouse your treat named. KOFFIEKOP, thats a real dutch word.
Greetings from the Netherlands
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Hello Huib, no not Dutch. Australian. The engine was designed by Jan Ridders who I am fairly certain, is Dutch. The word Koffiekop has such a nice sound that I like to use it, and it does sound very much like the English “coffee cup”, but sounds much more romantic.
John (from Oz)
ps. I am back on the triple now. I will post an update in a day or two. Thanks for following)
I had the good fortune to stumble across your excellent blog while killing time waiting for my anaesthetist.
I am also making a bolton triple and am interested in machinery so found much of interest.
Thanks for making such a nice resource
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I hope that you make fewer mistakes than I have.
I strongly recommend that you get copies of the articles on making the Bolton triple which were published in 1985 in Model Engineer. I have found them very useful. Unfortunately I saw them only after I had completed much of the build. The articles show the mistakes in the Bolton plans, fill in the deficiencies, and suggest machining methods for the difficult bits.
Do you have any photos which I could see or even publish on my blog?
Fat chance of making fewer mistakes! I do, however, have the Bertinat articles from ME.
I did some machining at school (made a “Sirius”) and have got my eye back in with a 10V. I shocked myself with how many mistakes I made with that smaller job but have ended up with a good outcome and have turned back to the Triple with more enthusiasm. That said – am distracted by making a boiler for the 10V right now.
As you will appreciate, prioritising model engineering amongst work, family, farming and other projects means that it goes in stops and spurts.
I will go through my photos to see if I have any of interest (and will start to take some prospectively) but I suspect that most of my engineering photos are of the remembering-how-it-goes-together variety rather than for visual entertainment. I would need to consider how ashamed to be of mess and chaos in any backgrounds!
That said- lots of my interests match yours and there could well be some worthwhile images. I have a Lister CS generator project, a 1930 Ransomes mower (250cc motorbike engine no less), a handful of old cars and tractors et hoc genus omnae. I do have a few less ambitious projects too – a few “tilley” type lamps- stuff like that.
I reckon that I’ll have to live to 300 to finish all my projects!
Anyway – the anaesthetist has the spinal in. Better not keep him waiting eh?
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Ah. The joys of waiting for the anaesthetist. I am soo glad that I have retired from all of that.
Hello John! Great blog.
I am at the other end of my career, been seriously toolmaking for about 4 years.
How have you found your 24K spindle? I have done the same thing and attached it to the side of my mill (which I also plan on CNC’ing soon). I have found mine to be wonderful – accurate too, there is very, very little runout inside the nose of the spindle, maybe 1 or 2 microns at most. Having up to 24K on the mill is sooo, useful, I use it more than the original spindle now, maybe 3 to 1.
I also wanted to ask you about the S&B lathes. I just bought a S&B Model L and it looks pretty much identical to your 3 phase Model L. I have not been able to get it down into the cellar yet though so as yet it is unused. I hear they are good lathes, is this right?
The other thing was the capstan that you refurbished. I have this capstan too and I only found out that it auto-indexes (turns on its own) as I was fixing mine last night. The worm-thread-driver-thing was pretty gnarly though, it needed smoothing down or it would have crunched into nothingness in time. Do you know what threads the long adjustable stops are on the back of it? I could do with replacing mine and I am only now being forced to finally acknowledge imperial threads.
Keep up the good work!
Hi Matt and thanks for the nice feedback.
In answer to your points, I find the 24k spindle is essential for some tasks, and I use it maybe 50/50. One issue I had was centering the tool, in that the centering devices were all 16mm shafts or greater, all too big for the ER spindle. So I installed a magnifying camera in the spindle to locate the centre the spindle. I will write a blog about it soon. I also pinned the 24k spindle so it reinstalls to the same position pretty closely each time.
Re: S&B lathes, they are very vice! Check out lathes.co.uk (in the unlikely event that you have not already done so..) . The headstocks are almost indestructible according to Tony. I am probably going to sell my S&B’s because my lathe obsession has now reached 11 and SWMBO is getting a bit tetchy about them! I will check the threads. As I remember, they are a common one and I was able to buy some threaded rod to replace the damaged ones.
Stay in touch! Regards John V.
here again a quistion from the Netherlands.
I am even building the T.E. with the castings from AJ Reeves. On one off your photos I see the castings off the CONNECTING RODS. I am curious where do they come from, I have asked at AJREEVES but they say the don’t have them. Maybe you can tell me.
With greetings from the Netherlands
I purchased my castings from EJ Winter, Sydney. Kelly Mayberry is the person to contact there.
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firstly let me compliment you having a wonderful name! I do hope that it is real!
I have looked at your website, and I am excited by the titles which I see there. If nothing else eventuates, I expect that I will be making some purchases from you.
I will contact you as suggested.
ps. thankyou for the compliment.
Good afternoon, your work is incredible. I am an architect and fan of miniatures, mainly objects and old machines. I wonder where you get the projects with the details of the objects that you build?
thank you and congratulations on your work, it’s fantastic. I like to make realistic miniatures as a hobby, I’m starting now so I’m asking you this question
Hi Marcos, and thank you for the very kind comments. In answer to your question, I search the web for suppliers of plans and castings, and talk to other members of my model engineering club. My first three engines plans and castings were sourced from EJ Winter (Sydney based), but lately I have used plans found by searching Google images. I am about to start a Trevithic Dredger Engine , the plans which are fully published on Google Images by Julius DeWaal. It has some difficult aspects however, and would not be recommended as a first build. Stay in touch! John.
I am not sure why I have received the below however it does give me the opportunity to introduce myself. My name is Ben De Gabriel and I purchased E and J Winter 18 months ago and have followed your blog with keen interest.
We have relocated the business to Bathurst NSW and we are working hard to continue the traditions of O B Bolton.
Your modelling is exceptional and if there is anything we can ever do to assist please don’t hesitate to let me know.
Kind regards Ben E and J Winter – Bolton Scale Models
Hi Ben, I am pleased and flattered to have your response to my blog. We have actually spoken a couple of times on the phone and you have a standing order for some 5 or 6″ copper pipe in my personal name. Next time I ring I will mention this blog. In the meantime, I am happy to recommend the castings and plans which EJ Winter sells. regards John.
je suis a la retraite et fan de miniature principalement de moteur a vapeur
je recherche actuellement les plans de construction d’un moteur a vapeur a triple expansion similaire ou identique a votre réalisation.
Félicitation pour votre travail
Merci Daniel. je comprends votre mots. Mais desole re mon Francais terrible! John
Hi John, I’m glad i found you blog and info about your 125TCL Boxford lathe. I am about to embark on the upgrade of my 125 TCL I would really appreciate being able to ask you a few questions regarding this machine. Please let me know if you are able to help , Thanks and please keep up the blog – fascinating stuff! Regards Nick
ask away Nick. If I can help I will. I could not find replacement ballscrews the same size as the originals, so I bought the next size up, and machined the Boxford tp accept them. From memory I found the screws and blocks on ebay.us.
But be sure to look at all of my posts regarding the Boxford. Most of the information is in them somewhere.
Thanks John, much appreciated 🙂 Ok first question is : – Do you know what thread pitch the old ball screws are/were?
Nick, I think that I still have the old ball screws. In retrospect I did not need to change them. They were in good condition, and the problem was elsewhere. I will check the specs when I next visit the workshop, and let you know the specs. If you have trouble sourcing new ones (you will), you might want to consider these second hand ones. John
Thanks John, I appreciate any input you can give me. I think my ball screws are ok but I’ll certainly bear that in mind. I’ve deceided to go servo on the X and Z axis (SDSK Clearpath) , but I’ll keep a stepper on the auto tool changer for now. I’ll be running it all via a Teknic Clearcore controller linked with ethernet to a PC. Nick
that sounds like a step up from what I did
There’s not that much price difference really but ive heard good things about Clearpath servos. I’d really like a servo drive for the spindle like you have done but that will have to wait for now so Im hoping i can feed the encoder pulses into the Clearcore/Mach3 and use the existing set up for now. Cheers Nick
I “found” you via one of the hobbyist’s Facebook pages and was very interested to see your model cannons. I would like to add my name to the list of admirers of your work.
I also echo your concern (on FB) with regard to the amendments to the firearms legislation. I’m a gun owner (in NSW), and it may seem a little odd, but I am not all that interested in shooting per se, however, I am interested in firearms of all types. I would like to make models like yours one day, but find myself feeling a little unsettled by the proposed changes to the law.
Some years ago I watched my father struggle to get together the tooling to build a model loco. He is a Fitter and Turner and Apprentice Master, and ended up building his own lathe. He got some way into his loco, however time was against him, and now, at 87, he has been diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimers.
I determined back then to plan ahead and acquire the tools to pursue the hobby when I retired. Back then I had a few things I really wanted to build. Now, at 58 years of age, I’m on track with the tooling, but find I struggle with motivation to start anything – an inverse of my position years ago.
Anyhow, perhaps one day when the working life is behind me, I’ll find the motivation amongst my tools.
Looking forward to viewing more of your work, here and on your YouTube channel.
Thanks for the very kind feedback Michael. I started machining in my mid fifties when I was hobby farming olives. Building and repairing equipment. Joined a local model engineering club for the engineering contacts. Only started making model steam engines when the farming stopped. The cannons were an exercise in CNC’ing initially, but then I became interested in the technology and the history. The rest you can see.
I think that joining GSMEE was the best step after buying some basic equipment. Do you have a local model engineering club? Worth considering. John
Yes, there is a local model engineering club, however it is 40+ kms away from my home, which isn’t too far away. It is a live steam club; they have a 5″ line running around around one side of a golf course. I visited it once when I moved to this region and enjoyed the ride on the little loco.
I agree that joining a club would be a good idea, and I toy on doing that occasionally. However, I’m an introvert and a little socially awkward, so it doesn’t take much to go off the idea. I don’t mind rail models but it doesn’t float my boat greatly, in fact I think I’m more interested in the infrastructure items like cranes and bridges and so-on. A track side crane has been on my mind.
Regarding the cannons, I watched your video on cutting the rifling. I don’t have anything like your equipment, so I had thought about how I would do that myself if I were to make a model of a 10″ RML, in particularly cutting the rifling. Thus far though, I’ve only made a 3D drawing of the gun in Solidworks. I don’t know if you are aware of the mount that those guns used when they were on the Cerberus, but it is quite interesting as well. The trunnions were made to go up and down to allow for higher elevation through the gun slots in the turret face.
On tooling…I’d love a CNC mill to make repetitive parts. One of my interests is tracked vehicles. A CNC mill would be good for making the scores of link needed for that. Yours looks good, but way out of my league 🙂
As a point of interest; I was an electrical linesman when I was young, then took up work in an aluminium smelter as an operator. That was driving me made with boredom, so I did a Fitting and Turning apprenticeship in my mid 30’s. The work after that on tools was mostly hammer and shifter stuff on maintenance of the casting equipment. I left that behind for a redundancy and tree change 8 years ago. Now I’ve work at a dam for the last 5 years – very peaceful – but it feels like I’ve forgotten what skills I had, so my confidence is down. Seeing work like yours is inspiring however, so, we’ll see.
Michael, Most hobby machinists, IMO, are socially awkward, including myself. The shared interest in machining is the common topic of conversation, and smooths all. You should try it. Just watch for the first meetings, but you will gradually be drawn in.
CNC. I was lucky to find an expert in our club, who has guided me, and been my mentor. It has been a fascinating journey.
The 10″ Cerberus cannon also interests me, and could well be the subject of a future model. That, or a disappearing gun, like the one at Queenscliff, close to me.
Most of my CNCing is for one off, awkward shapes. And I make frequent use of water jet, and laser cutting of shapes. I would strongly recommend finding an expert advisor however. It is a steep learning curve, and expertise in 3D drawing is essential.
For tracked vehicles I would be more inclined to look at making castings of the grousers. Or getting someone else to make them for you, to your design. Full size grousers are cast.
Anyway, stay in touch. Great to have your feedback. John
Where did you find the telescoping ball screw covers? I’ve looked at several sources but I like the ones you are showing.
Sorry to have taken so long to reply. I bought my covers from a South Korean used equipment dealer, but I know that I got his last 2. They were not easy to find, so I understand your quandry. John.
Hi John. So glad I came across your site, a world of engineering delights. I got the bug myself some years ago but my interests wavered some what, until now. Going through your builds has rekindled my interest. Time to blow the dust of my triple and get it finished. 80% completed just need to hunt down the plans, moved house a few times so may be a task. Cheers, Mike
Hi John, great blog and so much in common with my model making. Hope you don’t mind me adding a link to your blog from my gallery page: https://www.glue-it.com/wp/gallery/ Best regards and happy creating, Nigel
Hi Nigel, delighted to be listed on your blog. I had a quick look, and was very impressed. Will subscribe. And hopefully to communicate. John.
Hi John, yes, that’s great. Looks like we have a lot in common wrt models and machining. Although the Burrell traction engine that is absorbing my time at the moment is much smaller at 1/20th scale, I need to use the word scale carefully as I’m having to change a few things to make it work at this size. Best regards, Nigel
Nigel, we do make compromises in the name of scale. Let’s face it, 1:10 scale is linear. Surface area that becomes 1:100, and volume/power 1:1000. If it looks realistic, and works, IMO, that is fine. John