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. I read every comment and respond to most. n.b. There is a list of my first 800 posts in my post of 17 June 2021, titled "800 Posts"

Tag: Book review

A Book Review. And Consequences.

In common with many other males, (whoops. Possibly females as well, although I know of none.), I have long had a fascination with battleships. Of all eras from the ancient Greeks and Romans, Nelson’s, dreadnoughts, WW1 and WW2. Read the novels, made models from kits and from scratch. I have quite a library of books.

Recently, I purchased this book…

It was not cheap. But absolutely worth every cent. Available from various vendors. I got mine from Amazon.

336 pages. 350 colour views, including some original photographs, and lots of details. 1020 scale drawings of excellent quality. 43 pages of history and specifications. The bulk of the book is superb quality pictures and drawings.

These battleships, at 72,000 tons, were the largest ever constructed. And they mounted the biggest guns ever used on a battleship at 18.1″. Each of the 3 gun turrets weighed as much as a heavy destroyer, 2500 tons. They were 250 meters long, and 50 meters from keel to the top of the superstructure. Their 4 turbine engines drove the ships at 30knots/50kph. Each ship had 25,000 tons of armour, up to 560mm thick!!

“Awesome”, seems insufficient.

The Imperial Japanese Navy had them built to outgun the most powerful battleships of the US Navy and western powers. However they were dinosaurs, and both were sunk by aircraft. Neither fulfilled their intended role of fighting other battleships.

The book is divided into 4 sections….

Section 1: Introduction, Superbattleships and Summary of Service. 43pp.

Section 2: Primary Views. 25pp.

I cannot overstate the quality of the drawings. Just magnificent.

Section 3: The Drawings. Subdivded into general arrangements, Hull structure, Superstructure, Rig, Armaments, Fire Control, Fittings, Aircraft, Boats, Author’s Model. 252pp

18 pages are devoted to the 18.1″ guns.

Section 4: Yamato and Musashi at sea, Remains of Yamato and Musashi 12pp. The pictures “at sea” are computer constructions, using the author’s model, and incredibly convincing. Initially I took the pictures to be of the originals.

Both ships were sunk by massive US air power, with the loss in Yamato’s case of 90% of its crew of 3,300 sailors. Almost as sad, almost all of the original construction plans and details were destroyed by the IJN after the Japanese surrender.

So, if you have any interest in battleships, massive marine engineering, WW2 naval history, or ship modelling, this book is an absolute must.


After reading the text, and going through the pictures multiple times, and being captivated by the wonderful lines of the ships, I decided to make a model of Yamato. Kits vary from 1:1000, to 1:100, with the larger scales being in the thousands of dollars.

I made plastic assembly models when I was a kid, and once as an adult when I was laid up for 6 weeks after an injury (see later photo). In this case I settled on this kit. Tamiya is a well respected brand. The kit is 1:350 scale. Cost about $AUD150. I hope to interest a grandson to get involved.
The paints required cost almost as much as the Tamiya kit!
The ABS plastic components look excellent, with hardly any flashing, detailed instruction booklet. There is provision for batteries and remote controls, but I doubt that I will go that far. The hull is big! 751.5mm long.

The following is the only surviving plastic model of mine. Another ship with wonderful lines.

Cutty Sark. Even after blowing off most of the dust, it looks more like Shackleton’s “Endurance”. And needs some TLC.

A question to my readers….. would the progress of making the model Yamato be of any interest?


The 6th Victorian Covid lockdown was the shortest, but seemed to hit me the hardest. It was unexpectedly relaxed after only 5 days in regional Victoria, where I live. With escalating numbers in Melbourne, and Sydney, and NSW reacting by putting its collective heads in the sand we expected the be in lockdown for weeks or months, and frankly it was quite depressing. For the first 3-4 days I did a bit of garden tidying (with a chainsaw, much to SWMBO’s horror), and time on YouTube, Ebay, Banggood and Amazon. A fair bit of impulse buying, as follows.

Paragraph deleted. My political and religious views have predictably caused offense to some of my readers. While I do not resile from any of those views I accept that others have different views, and me having a rant is unlikely to be at all persuasive. So I have removed the paragraph. For those who agree with my views, my apology. Any further conversation about Trump, Liberal and labor politics in Oz, and religion, will have to be in private. (I still consider Trump to be a lying, ignorant, con man, and a disaster for USA and western democracies.)

So, having offended and lost 3/4 of my readers I will get back to my little buying spree…..

Firstly, a book.

I read some good reviews about this book, and since I have had considerable frustration with my 3D printing of late, I decided to buy it. 3D PRINTING FAILURES by SEAN ARANDA.

Paper back, 298 pages, large format, large print font size, 2020 edition. Under $AUD30 including postage from Amazon.Australia.

And it looks excellent. Clearly laid out and written, lots of pictures and diagrams, and the author even gives his email address and offers expert help if there should be a problem not covered in the book.

Some of the pictures admittedly are not great quality, but the author has a service which astounded me. If proof of purchase is emailed to him he will send high definition colour photographs for download. He sent me all of the photographs within 24 hours of my request. AND, a pdf version of the entire book. AND, a promise to send me free of charge a PDF version of the 2022 edition which will be published near the end of this year!

I have cherry picked some of the chapters and I am VERY impressed. They are VERY helpful. Some random pages follow….

This book should be included with every 3D filament printer purchased. Note that it does not cover liquid 3D printers.

In my previous post I showed a photograph of the enclosure which I cobbled together from cartons and a blanket to try and avoid printing problems arising from overnight temperature drops, and draughts. I intended to make an enclosure from MDF and perspex, but while browsing Ebay came across this one.

As you can see it was not a trivial cost. But when I factored in the difficulty in obtaining the materials during the lockdown, and the fact that the commercial one claimed some fire resistance, I bought it.

It came today, and with some levering of the cover on the frame, it assembled quite neatly, tightly, and well. Here it is with my printer.

As you can see the electronic control box is outside the enclosure. There is a flap on top for those who prefer the filament reel on top.

The front and top zip open. And there is some spare room for bits and pieces. It does look slightly neater than the previously used cardboard boxes. The printer is fully enclosed, even with a build in floor. The price seems to have risen a bit since I paid for this one. Time will tell if the print quality improves. I am predicting that the print quality will improve. After reading the chapter on fire safety and 3D printing in the book above I will feel more comfortable about leaving the printer unattended with this “Fire proof” enclosure. I suggest interpret that as “fire resistant”. I will be watching temperatures closely for the first few runs.

Still on the subject of retail therapy, a couple more purchases….

This is a woodworker’s gauge from Banggood. I bought it after watching a YouTube video about its uses. Nicely made, and reasonably accurate by wood working standards. I will do a separate post about it when I have more fully explored its applications. (it is for making perfect grooves and lap joints on a table saw).

And finally, this one was a splurge, impulse buy. But something that I had wished I had on quite a few occasions when making models.

As you can see it is a pin gauge set. It is Imperial because it was a fraction of the cost of a metric set. 190 pieces of ground and laser labelled cylinders, up to 1/4″. They seem to be as accurate as my Mitutoyo micrometer can assess. It does mean that I will be committed to a moment of calculation to metric when in use. Cost? About 50 cents per piece, including the case and postage.

Fortunately for my credit card, the lockdown ended 2 days ago. I have spent a couple of short sessions in the workshop, tidying up and doing some machine repairs and maintenance. Nothing really to show. But it is nice to be back.

Book Review. “Mortal Wounds”. Not for the faint hearted.




By Martin Smith

Hardcover.  £25 RRP.  Pen-and -Sword. UK.


This book was not a relaxing read.

The author, Dr Martin Smith, is a Biological Anthropologist with particular interests in prehistoric populations.  He examines human remains, taking a forensic approach, to try to determine whether violence was the cause of death.  Since ancient remains rarely consist of more than skeletons, soft tissue injuries are not evident.  So, the violent causes of death where bones were not injured are not assessable, and the incidence of violent deaths is certainly underestimated.

Crushed skulls, decapitations, cut wounds in bone, shattered bones, remains of weapons such as arrow heads and or spear heads inside skeletal remains are all assessed as violent deaths.  Evidence of bone healing is also taken into account.

The book is divided into eras, from the deep past, the Mesolithic, the Neolithic, the bronze age, the Romans, Medieval England, the high Middle Ages-Renaissance.  It does not deal in detail with the twentieth century.

Although the descriptions are often shocking, some fascinating conclusions are reached.  Human history, it appears, has always been violent.  At least 10% of all deaths in the “stone age” were violent, usually as evidenced by skull fractures, and contradicting the traditional “peaceful primitives” view of the era.  The incidence of violent deaths is highest in the lowest, worst nourished classes, in all societies.  Wounds resulting from black powder firearms were often more severe than from modern guns.  (to mention just a few examples.)

There are many illustrations, line drawings and maps in the 290 pages.  The text is a pleasure to read, although, I confess, I had to take it in small doses.

Another really fascinating read from Pen and Sword.



Naval Gunnery. A Book Review.

Naval Gunnery.  A Description.  by Captain H. Garbett.  R.N.  360 pages.


Was originally published in 1897, and is a book which has been considered by academicians and scholars as being of great significance and value to literature.  As such, it has been reproduced by Alpha Editions in an inexpensive, facsimile, paper back edition.

I came across an article about rifled muzzle loading cannons which referenced the book, and led me to purchase it from the Book Depository for $AUD20.

It, the book, is fascinating.  1897 English, is beautiful to read, non ambiguous, and unusually, does not provoke the grammar Nazi in me.

And the book has answered my questions about cannon construction.  Not completely, mind you.  I still do not know how they managed blind rifling.  But most of the first 78 pages are about muzzle loaders, particularly Armstrong muzzle loaders.  With diagrams.


One question which was answered was about the “recoil tube” located below the barrel of the Port Fairy 80 lb RML’s.  I wondered whether it was like a gas shock absorber.  The book explains that these long cylinders had a piston, and were filled with “Rangoon Oil”, (look it up.  It is in Wikipedia), and they were indeed designed to moderate the rate of recoil of the cannon.

Another fact about rifled cannons…   the rifling causes the projectile to emerge from the cannon slightly to the left or the right of the cannon axis, depending on whether the rifling is clockwise or anti-clockwise.

The book has chapters on breech loaders, naval mountings, quick firing guns, magazines, shell rooms, loading arrangements, sights, powder, cordite, projectiles fuzes, battleship development (up to 1897), battleship organisation and manning.

360 pages, 12 plates (black and white), 113 text illustrations.

If you have an interest in pre-dreadnought naval guns, this book is highly recommended.


Bucket List. A Book Review leading to..




Emily Malcolm and Michael R Harrison

Large format, hardcover.  £35 RRP


Doesn’t sound particularly interesting?  That was my thought when I read that this book is a catalogue.  After all, who reads a catalogue?


However, the artwork on the covers is attractive and interesting, and I do have an interest in ships, models, modelling and history, so I opened a few pages at random.   And was transfixed!  This book is glorious!   Back to page one, read a few pages, then worked through every one of the 373 pages.


The photographs of the models are beautiful and expert.  Most are laterals, but some are of smaller details.  There are many historical photographs, pictures of modelers in action, previous exhibitions.  To describe the pictures as “lavish” would be an understatement.


Glasgow and the River Clyde was (and is?) famous for ship building.  Most of the 676 models in the Glasgow Museum’s collection are of ships built or owned in this region, over the past 150 years.  So this book includes models from the age of clippers and steam dredges, through the age of steam and dreadnoughts, to Queens Mary and Elizabeth, and later.  A wonderful historical tour.


Chapter 1.  Models in Shipbuilding (the whys and wherefores of making model ships)

Chapter 2. Professional Model Making (there were companies which made models for ship builders and owners for industrial and marketing reasons)

Chapter 3.  Amateur Models.  (including models made by French prisoners of the Napoleonic wars)

Chapter 4.  Ship Models and Exhibitions

Chapter 5. Building the Collection

The Catalogue  (220 pages)


Glasgow is now on my bucket list.

A few random pages to tempt you.



Yes, I do find dredgers interesting.  Note who bought this one.


Book Review. Battleship Bismarck. A Design and Operational History.

No hesitation about this one.  It is magnificent.  A big, expensive, superb book.  Very detailed.  Lots of photographs, maps, diagrams, plans, tables.  And written by people who really know their subject.  All naval architects.  Very readable, but probably not in one session.  In fact, I have read it, selecting sections almost at random, then finding it very difficult to put down.

Here is my official review.


BATTLESHIP BISMARCK-  A Design and Operational History

By William Garzke, Robert Dulin and William Jurens.


This superb book, IMO, is destined to become THE authoritative account of conception, design, building, brief naval history and destruction of one of the most famous ships ever.  Written by expert naval architects, the 610 pages of double column text are illustrated by many original photographs, maps, and diagrams.


I suppose that some people will read it cover to cover, but I found myself being drawn initially into the design and building of the massive battleship.  In a later reading session, I read the incredibly moving accounts of the German survivors.  And in another session, the sinking of the Hood.   Then, not necessarily sequentially, the chapters leading to the discovery of Bismarck, the disabling of the rudders, and the final, fatal confrontation with the vengeful Royal Navy.


Recently we have been treated to magnificent Seaforth publications of books of plans of warships Helgoland, the Repulse and others.  I confess that I was slightly disappointed that similar detailed plans of the Bismarck were not included in this publication, but I understand that there are limits.  Perhaps a separate book?


Congratulations to the authors and publishers of this magnificent work, which I am delighted to add to my library.

Some pics of the book.




At £55 it IS expensive.  But in this case you get what you pay for.

Seaforth Publishing.







The Boer War. A Book Review. Excellent!



After reading this book, cover to cover, in 2 days, I felt that I had a real grasp of the reality of the 1899-1902 war which so shaped South Africa’s history. I now realise that my previous knowledge of the war was very sketchy.


The 100 iconic objects which are held in the War Museum of the Boer Republics, and 200 other objects, maps, and many photographs, are beautifully presented in this high quality book of 260 pages.  The story of each object is told in short essay style by gifted, expert writers.


The many subjects include battles, weapons, military personalities, politicians, places, civilians, equipment, prisoners of war, concentration camps, costs of the war, and longer term outcomes.


The book does not glorify the Anglo-Boer War.  If anything, it is an anti-war treatise.  It certainly has had a major impact on this reviewer.


Thoroughly recommended.





German Battleship Helgoland – book review.

Seaforth Publishing, in association withThe National Maritime Museum Greenwich, is publishing a series of books of plans and history of famous warships, in this case the Helgoland.


Detailed in the original builders’ plans

By Aidan Dodson



I opened this large format, hardcover book of ship plans at midnight, expecting a quick flip through, and was able put it down 3 hours later.   But I will be returning.

The first 20 pages outline the development of German dreadnaughts and their wartime careers and fates, and a fascinating history it is.  The ship structure, armament, machinery (including engines), protection, pumping systems and damage control, and fire control are described in a degree of detail which was satisfying and not overwhelming to this non expert but interested reader-reviewer.

Then, all but 20 of its 144 pages are reproductions of the original builders’ plans of the WW1 German battleship Helgoland.   The plans are detailed, and beautiful and fascinating.  With original annotations in German, translated and explained in the margins.    The 940 x 290mm centre fold of the longitudinal section is just stunning!

Modelers, historians, ship aficionados, and anyone with a vague interest in battleships will love this book.  I certainly do, and eagerly await further volumes in the series.


Front jacket




The German navy used triple expansion reciprocating engines rather than pay royalties to Parsons to use turbine engines.

Large Scale Warship Models (a book review)


From Kits to Scratch Building  by Kerry Jang



This 110 page, hard cover book is aimed squarely at the model ship builder.  The title is slightly misleading because the book is more about methods of modelling, rather than models, per se.

The author, an expert and award winning modeller, describes the methods he uses to make superb, large scale ship models.  The methods include up to date techniques including 3d part printing, rubber mold making,  and use of modern adhesives, paints, materials etc.  There is a very interesting section on the why’s and wherefores of large scale ship modelling, including intriguing references to Zen and Nirvana.

The book is lavishly illustrated with many photographs of works in progress and techniques.  The text is clear and concise.

Although I am entranced by ship models in museums, my own interest in modelling is with stationary steam engines.  I found much of the advice and techniques in the book to be of interest and relevant to my own modelling efforts, particularly the sections on assembly, painting and finishing.

A handsome, useful book, which I am pleased to add to my library.



“parts that don’t fit”. Now that will be useful.


A handy painting technique which had never occurred to me.



A lavish, quality production. £25.




Cover.  Looking down on the modern remains of the Roman camp from the Masada plateau.

MASADA by Phil Carradice

Mass Suicide in the First Jewish-Roman War, c. AD73

This is another title from Pen & Sword in the “History of Terror” series.  128 pages, soft cover.

Masada, in case you are unaware, was a mountain top fortress in Judea, where Jewish men, women and children fought off veteran Roman legions for 2 years.  The traditional story is that facing defeat, the 960 defenders committed mass suicide.

There is only one source for the story, and that was Josephus Flavius, a contemporary Jewish general who was captured by, then joined the Romans.  His information, veracity, motives and biases are therefore suspect; however, some aspects of the story have been validated by modern archeological evidence.

The account of the siege, the defences, the huge ramp which was constructed by the Romans, and the details of the ultimate Roman victory, is compelling, riveting reading. The dissection of the available evidence is thorough, and various alternative possible scenarios are weighed.

Modern use of the Masada story by the nation of Israel is also discussed.

Australia’s worst military defeat (Gallipoli) is our national Remembrance Day. It is telling that Masada, also a defeat, has become the source of national pride for Israel.

An excellent read.

Dr  John Viggers.


Rear cover photo. Modern remains of the Roman ramp.




And just for some perspective of the site, watch this superb video

A New Hobby for Metalworkers (a book review)

You guys could consider a new hobby, to balance your personalities, and develop the artistic side of your brains.  (can’t remember which side of the brain that is, but here is my suggestion…)


Hard cover, 120pp, from Pen and Sword Publishers.


This book was surprising.

I was expecting wonderful pictures of Islamic art from Bukhara, Tashkent, Samarkand and other central Asian cities of the Silk Road.  And indeed, every second page is a full page colour picture of the amazing tile work, mosaics, ornaments, paintings and fabrics from Uzbekistan.

Every other page is a fine line drawing of the corresponding colour page.  What was most surprising to me, is that this is actually a COLOURING BOOK.   The drawing pages are there to be coloured in.

SWMBO tells me this is a common adult hobby, used for relaxation and stress relief, and making beautiful artistic pictures.  Well I don’t see myself swapping steam engine making for colouring-in exercises, but horses for courses.

Whatever, this is a beautiful, large format book, and will be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys the superb, stylistic, Islamic decorative arts.  If stress relieving colouring-in is your thing, well, so much the better.

Dr  John Viggers.


The right hand page is for colouring-in, probably after scanning to art paper.  (might make interesting patterns to CNC engrave too.)



ps.   No luck finding spare gears for the big lathe, but lots of suggestions from my readers.  Thanks bloggers.  I will let you know what happens.


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



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.


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.



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.



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.



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










The Battleship Builders (another book review)

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


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!




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