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"


GSMEE Meeting 23 June 2021

I made them promise to not make me laugh or cough or do any heavy lifting. And it was a pleasure to attend another face to face GSMEE meeting after a few weeks of Zooming.

John Bernoth has made his Kant Twist clamps from the laser cut arms. He used countersunk screws to hold the pins, instead of peening the ends, so he could easily disassemble the tool if required, and because he had the screws already. Used aluminium jaws. These are the small clamp version.

And Swen Pettig brought along his Grasshopper beam engine for a progress assessment.

It is looking very interesting. Not finished, but is apparently running on compressed air. The flywheel is made from assembled machined pieces which are screwed and silver soldered and peened together. Double acting cylinder has 3″ stroke 1.5″ bore. I am really looking forward to seeing it running on steam.

Swen has also recently made this sphere making lathe attachment. The cutter is a 6mm diameter TC disk. He showed us an example of a job, which has a lovely finish and excellent shape, but a rather thick neck. Swen plans to make another cutting tool with a sharper point to make thinner necks on the spheres. Chatter has not been a problem with this tool.

I am not quite ready to show the Armstrong RML gun, because it is still waiting for me to get back into the workshop for some finishing touches, so I brought some goodies to show which I recently bought from Banggood.

A pair of hold downs for the mill or mill drill. These are really nicely made and finished. $aud25 each.
A smallish square with an extra face, which should be useful for set ups on the mill. I had previously bought the smallest size, so adding to the set. Cost was around $aud15 from memory. Again, well made and seems accurate.

And this one is a woodworking tool, which I have wanted for some time, but the US version is about x4 the cost , and postage is an extra deal killer. The costs mentioned all included postage.

It is a marking gauge, 0-200mm, with 0.2mm divisions. About $aud20.
Made in You Know Where, but the fact is, that this stuff from Banggood is really nice. Whatever we think of their government, the goods are usually excellent.

Today I picked up the laser cut metal plate which will become the small drill sharpening jig. For drills bits up to 3mm. You might ask why bother? Well, I can see the jig being used where I want a really sharp tiny drill, on a critical job. I would touch up the cutting edges on even a new bit.

The crosses at the drilling points are a bit of a nuisance. I had asked for a mark only. The full thickness crosses will have to be drilled very carefully to avoid breaking the drill bit. If they prove to be a big problem I will have to get the parts remade.

The drill bits to be resharpened will be held in a small collet chuck, purchased commercially for about $10, including 3 collets. The lasering cost about $5 each.


Today is the 40th successive day that Victoria has had NO new covid cases. It seems worth the prolongued horrendous lockdowns experienced earlier this year. Full marks to our public health officials, health workers in hospitals, and politicians. (yes, even the politicians. They had a steep learning curve, and made mistakes, but I believe that they tried very hard to make correct decisions.)

The result is that we had our first face to face GSMEE meeting since January. And with Christmas just a couple of weeks away, it was our annual Xmas BBQ. I hasten to add that the vegetarians in our group were well catered, as well as the omnivores.

There were 5 entries in the club competition for making a small engine, and it was convincingly won by Neil McMeekin. Neil’s engine was beautifully finished and it ran smoothly without any mechanical noises. Frank Mullins 2 entries both ran well, and he was awarded the second prize.

Judging the competition engines. checking the finish, and running on compressed air. To the right is Rudi vanderelst’s “Britannia” which is taking shape with Rudi’s expert attention and knowledge. Rudi was a marine engineer, originally on steam ships, and what he does not know about triple expansion engines ………… Hanging on the staircase rail is a one meter micrometer, brought in by Chris Tywonek, our resident gun expert.

The “models on the table” included my still not finished scale model Armstrong cannon. It is now painted, and clear lacquered.

In the foreground is Stuart Tankard’s model of an Otto D2 gas engine, originally made in 1895. As usual with Stuart’s work it is perfection in motion. Not quite finished, but when it is, I will post a more detailed description and photos.

To the right of that is a bronze cannon cypher off an Ottoman cannon which was captured in Mesopotamia in WW1. The wooden mounting plaque is from a British Spitfire propellor. Owned by Laurie Braybrook, at 95 our most senior member, and raconteur extraordinaire. Laurie fought in WW2 in the Pacific islands, and he has many wonderful stories.

Ottoman cannon cypher. I love the Arabic (I think) calligraphy, and the symbol of the horn of plenty. It is quite a thick and heavy object.

Behind Stuart’s Otto is a Bolton 7 horizontal mill engine, made by Neil Ellis. Again, not quite finished, but it is displaying an incredibly high standard of machining and finish. This is Neil’s FIRST model engine. Again, I will feature it in a future post with more details. Neil comes from a boatbuilding occupation, so he is no stranger to precision and machining, but this level of model engineering in a metal working beginner is amazing.

Then my cannon, which is probably suffering from some overexposure in this blog, so I will add just one more photo, since it has now been painted and laquered.

Still a few pieces to be added to the Armstrong. Our member Neville, who used to fire the original full size Armstrong at Port Fairy, saw the model for the first time today, and he was interested to see the hand wheels and other bits, which are missing from the Port Fairy original. I think that he was a bit disgusted that I have not made a vent/touch hole.

At the rear are Swen Pettig’s “Minnie” 1″ traction engine which is looking great, and his therapeutic Grasshopper Beam engine. I say “therapeutic”, because the Grasshopper is Swen’s escape from working on the Minnie. His size 13 hands have been a serious handicap to assembling the Minnie, and I gather that there has been much stress and frustration. (But he is talking about making a triple expansion engine like mine, so he is clearly a glutton for punishment. The barring slots in the flywheel of the grasshopper are an interesting feature, and I hope to get post from talking to Swen about those.

I think that everyone was excited and delighted to be face to face again, and looking forward to normal GSMEE meetings in 2021. Zooming has been a good “stop gap” but I think we are all ready to resume normality. Hopefully with no further lock downs.

Gears. Modularity Counts!

Making the big spur gear which pushes the gun carriage up and down the inclined chassis has been a bit of a saga.

For a start, I decided that fabricating it with lathe and mill was going to be very difficult, and it was an obvious candidate for casting. In bronze. After making a model with 3D printing in PLA.

So, I drew up a 3D model, saved it as an STL file, and printed it. But did not take into account shrinkage of the PLA part. Or shrinkage of the cast bronze part. So instead of 58mm diameter, the blank gear was only 57.4mm diameter. By reducing the number of module 1 teeth to 57, I could get a reasonable gear, and the teeth were duly cut.

But, module 1 teeth looked skinny and pointy and not correct. Plus, 3 of the cast gears were total casting failures and were discarded (remelted).

So, I machined off the module 1 teeth, made some bronze disks, and silver soldered them onto the cast central hubs and spokes, and machined the blanks to 60mm diameter. By this stage I had decided that the big gear teeth should be module 1.25. Chunkier. Looked the part.

But I did not have 1.25 module gear cutters. And no-one in our club had them for loan. So I ordered a set from China. Delivery any time up to the end of November!! Then I found 2 of the set from an Australian dealer, but they were priced almost as much as the full set of 8 cutters from China. But, thinking that they would arrive more quickly I bought them. They were Chinese. It is a seller’s market.

Then today, at our GSMEE meeting Swen P said that he had a set! And I could borrow them! So, gratefully, I did. And I cut the teeth this afternoon.

The module 1.25 gears at bottom. The module 1 gear top. Please tell me that you can see a difference.

While the teeth were being cut, I tidied up another bronze T rex.

Two of them now face off on my Trevithick engine. They should amuse the kids.

Next to cut the M1.25 rack. Should be straightforward.

Melbourne Society of Model and Experimental Engineers. Xmas meeting.

The December meeting includes the competition for best model, best workshop tooling, and best engine.  The 3 happy winners were all from Geelong.


Stuart Tankard, John Viggers, Swen Pettig


Trevithick dredger engine model by John



CNC lathe tools, toolholders and toolpost milling attachment by Stuart.

Following is a video of Stuart’s toolpost milling attachment in action.  It has been posted before, but is worth watching again.  It is quite remarkable.

(Photo of the flame gulper to be added.)

But, the best part of the meeting was this demo of a model aeroplane which was made by Don.  The plane weighs 2.5 grams!!!   The wing material is mylar which is 1 micron thick!!!  The flight was cut short by hitting a ceiling projector, but apparently the world record for a flight by a similar plane lasted for over an hour!  This YouTube video has had 360,000+ views in 5 days!



Model Engines on Steam

It is Geelong Show time again.  It is actually titled the Royal Geelong Show, but having had more than a gutful of royal non-entities visitors being adored by unthinking cringers, flocking around Harry and Meaghan Kardashian, Windsor, and being a committed republican, I refuse to bother with the “Royal” handle.  (they are probably very nice people, I just cannot stomach the hoo-ha).

More importantly, it gives us steam junkies a chance to run our small engines on real hot steam.

For a treat, I am sharing four short clips taken today.

The first is a small beam engine, made by Swen Pettig.

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The next two engines you have probably seen before.  My beam engine, and the triple expansion engine.

The small engine to the right is a Stirling engine which is running on the heat from the exhausted steam from the beam engine.

The triple is leaking a bit more than it should, although it is running amazingly smoothly on 25-30 psi.  The valve glands need repacking.

And finally, a model IC engine, the really odd Atkinson.  A 100+ year old design.  2 stroke. Made by Rudi vanderElst



VR-18-18 Stands for Victoria, Geelong Society of Model and Experimental Engineers, 2018, 18th registered boiler for the club.

So this morning I fired up the boiler with the boiler inspector closely watching.  The gas was turned to maximum, and the water was showing full.

Steam appeared about 10 minutes later and the Sandberg safety valve started popping at 100 psi. Every couple of minutes the safety valve released and the pressure remained in the 97-100 psi range.  This went on for about 20-30 minutes.  All to the satisfaction of the inspector.

He was happy with the standard of the build, the pressure test, the accumulation test, and that all requirements had been met.

The boiler is now certified for 4 years.  There has been a change in protocol about which I was unaware.  The previous certification rule was for 12 months only, and retesting was required for a further 3 years.  So this new rule is much less time consuming for me and the inspector.  He is happy that before the next testing I will have a steam pump and a steam injector installed.


I was so delighted with the result that I treated myself to a trip to the non ferrous metal supplier, and bought a selection of hex brass stock for the workshop.  When I returned to the workshop there were still a few hours of daylight, so I spent the time making the new inspection hatch for the Trevithick dredger engine.  Not quite finished, so no pics yet.

The next step for the boiler is to make and attach the wood lagging and to put on some paint.

A steam driven water pump, and a whistle.

Boilers, whether full size or model, get through substantial volumes of water.  When my 6″ vertical boiler is working hard, so is the water pump, to replenish the water which is turned to steam.

At present, the water pump is a manual pump, and it needs to be operated almost continually when the boiler is steaming hard.


I am not sure whether operating the hand pump (lower right), or the propane burner, consumes more energy.

So it was with great interest that I viewed the steam pump in operation which was built by Stuart Tankard, at last night’s meeting of GSMEE.  I have plans and castings for the same unit, and expect to make it later this year.  It is a Worthington type pump, and the castings and plans were supplied by Southworth Engines.


Stuart’s latest.


In this video, for the demonstration, the pump is running on very low pressure compressed air.  The larger cylinders are the steam powered driving cylinders, and the smaller ones are the water pumps.  So whatever the pressure of the steam, the water pressure will be greater, and able to be pumped into the boiler.

And finally, I bought a steam whistle.  It was supplied by Microcosm.engine from China and it was very reasonably priced. ($US39).  I have not tested it yet, but it came highly recommended by Keith Appleton.  It is certainly very nicely made.  I screwed it onto the boiler as a bit of bling because I showed my boiler progress at last night’s meeting of GSMEE.


Steam Driven Water Pump for Vertical Boiler

Unfortunately I did not make this pump.  It was made by Stuart Tankard.  I have the castings and plans, and intend to make one for my 6″ vertical boiler but I have too much on the go at present and will finish the vertical boiler and the Trevithick engine first.

Enjoy the pics.  Stuart sets the machining standard for the rest of us to aspire to.






We did not see it running today, but it does work.

It is a 6” Duplex pump from Southworth Engines.

A New (to me) Tool

One aspect of our weekly GSMEE meetings (Geelong Society of Model and Experimental Engineers) is that I learn something new at every meeeting.  The exposure to new information is not too surprising considering that our group has members who are or were a machinery designer, mechanical engineer, CNC operator, marine engineer, aircraft mechanic, a quarry operator, gun enthusiasts, a fireman and various other areas of expertise.  Even a bee keeper.  And even a retired gynaecologist.

Recently Neil brought in a boiler which was assembled but not yet soldered.  And it was held together with spring loaded clamps the like of which I had never before seen.  Some other members were also very interested in the clamps, which are, apparently, extensively used in aircraft panel assembly and repair, and also in car body work repairs.

boiler clecos


Neil’s boiler end plates, clamped together.

The clamps are called CLEKOS or CLECOS.  They are easily applied and removed and are reusable.  They are used for temporary joining of materials to facilitate marking, drilling, riveting, soldering, welding or gluing.  Exciting to me because I can see many applications in model engineering and wooden toy making.

The Clecos come in a variety of sizes and configurations.


This Cleco requires a 1/8″ hole, and will join materials up to 1/2″ total thickness.  This type joins 2 or more pieces of material which have a hole drilled as small as 2.5mm up to 5mm.  The range of hole sizes may be larger than I am aware.   Only one face of the materials needs to be accessible, so the Cleco can be used to fasten material to a closed container such as a boiler.   It is spring loaded and requires a tool to apply and remove it.  Application and removal is very quick.  Any materials which will accept a drilled hole can be used-  metal, wood, cardboard.  It would not work with easily compressed material such as foam rubber.  The application pliers are available on Ebay and are inexpensive.


This spring loaded Cleco looks particularly interesting.  The clamps are small, have clamping thickness of 20mm and a reach of 1/2″ to 1″.  Again, they are not expensive ($AUD7-11), and very quick to apply and remove.  Surprisingly powerful grip would be quite adequate for gluing or riveting or soldering.


Some Clecos do not require the application pliers but use a wing nut.


And others use a hex nut.  Anyone know why there is a copper surface coating?

The Clecos are surpisingly inexpensive.  On Ebay I have seen the spring loaded fasteners as cheap as $AUD1 each, and the pliers at $AUD15.    I bought a kit comprising pliers and 20 fasteners for $AUD49.  Ebay UK has the best selection and many have free postage.  The range on US sites is good, but postage costs assigned by Ebay are astronomical.

(A reader has commented……

The Clecos and other skin pins are colour coded, silver 3/32, copper colour 1/8; Black 5/32′ gold 3/16 brown 1/4…..     thankyou “someone”.)




The following short videos show some of the engines on display by GSMEE in the Vintage Machinery Shed at the recent Geelong Show.  GSMEE is Geelong Society of Model and Experimental Engineers.  All engines are running on steam, except of course the Stirling engine,  the Farmboy, and the Atkinson engine.

These engines will be running again at the GSMEE exhibition 25-26 Nov 2017, at The Lifestyle Pavillion, The Geelong Showgrounds.  Several scale model traction engines, trade exhibits, outside entries, and the engines in the Vintage Machinery Shed will also be on show.  The Hatherly Challenge competition will be judged.  This year the challenge is to make a reversing horizontal mill engine.  Entry is free (gold coin donation accepted with gratitude).

Stirling Engine, running on heat from exhausted steam,  spinning a CD with spiral image, made by John V.



Stuart Victoria Twin, made by Malcom W



Bolton12 Beam Engine made by John V



Farmboy internal combustion engine, running on propane, made by Stuart T


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Horizontal Mill Engine running on steam, reconditioned by John V,  (GSMEE exhibit)



Atkinson Engine, running on petrol, made by Rudi V.  FIRST PRIZE.


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Stuart 5, running on steam.  Reconditioned by Rudi V.  GSMEE exhibit.


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Beam Engine “Mary”, completed by Stuart T.  THIRD PRIZE.



Mill Engine, running on steam GSMEE exhibit.


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Mill Engine running on steam.  GSMEE exhibit.


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Mill Engine, running on steam, made by Malcolm W.


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Triple expansion marine steam engine by John V.  Almost completed.  SECOND PRIZE.


Triple Expansion Engine Update

Well, almost another whole year has elapsed, and still the triple is not finished.  Come December, and that will be 3 years that this project has occupied my thoughts and workbench.  With a few other projects in between.

Last week I assembled the components, in preparation for the Geelong Show.  GSMEE is a bit light on for new models, and it was suggested that the triple might fill some shelf space, despite being unfinished.

So I bolted it together.  All 429 fasteners!  And stood back and admired it.  It really is quite impressive, complex, and interesting.  So I took some pics.


This is the condenser side, and the Edwards pump


The other side is a bit lessy fussy, showing the steam inlet valve, the Stephenson’s links, weigh shaft  and controls.


And the top, showing some of those 429 fasteners,


The high pressure valve chest cover.  I will fill those holes where bolts cannot go.


And the low pressure end, and links for the pump.


And a close up of the steam valve and weigh shaft.

Not quite ready to run it yet.

It needs side covers for the cylinder block, drain cocks for the cylinders, and general freeing up.  It is still very tight.

Not to mention painting.  I expect that I will paint this one.   No idea of colours yet.

Another Diversion from The Triple

My model engineering club (GSMEE) has an annual competition build.  This year it is a small horizontal reversing steam engine.


So I have taken another break from the triple to build the HME.  I have redrawn the plans to make my model 40% bigger, and also to accept metric fasteners.


The HME blanks for the base, the cylinder block, the flywheel pillar and the flywheel.  The only stainless steel I had in my junkbox, er storage facility, had a  big hole in the middle, so I filled that with brass.

All was going well, and I spent almost a day making the piston head guide. Then finished off by making the guide rod and block.   I decided to take another thou off the guide block, and set the lathe going.

And heard an ominous bang.


I had forgotten to remove the piston head guide from the from the piston before I restarted the lathe.  Destruction.  The lump at the bottom is another piece of brass, ready to be turned into another head guide.  I had run out of suitably sized brass, so I silver soldered a length of rod to some square section.  A day later and the new piston head guide is now made.  

At least I know from this (and other crashes), that the second part is always made much faster than the first.

And on a different subject, I recently bought on Fleabay a self centering 4 jaw chuck.


It does not replace the independent jaw 4 jaw chuck for accurate work, but will be useful for turning small square stock.  Also, I plan to make a backing plate for it to fit into the tailstock, so it will hold taps.

Metalworking for a cabinet maker

Our model engineering club has been locked out of our club rooms because MOULD has been detected in the building.   Apparently a lengthy process to reduce the mould to acceptable levels.  (note to self…. make sure that the inspectors never set foot in our house).

So our meetings have been held in various locations, including a sports centre and a basketball building.   I feel quite virtuous when I enter these buildings, but for some reason I do not feel any fitter when I exit.

A recent day meeting was held at my farm workshop.  Not my farm anymore, just the buildings.


Not that one….   the other one.

And one of our more senior members requested a display of CNC machining, from design to product.

So, I drew up a finial which was required to complete a bookcase which I had built 30 years ago.  Then imported the DXF drawing file into “Ezilathe”.

Ezilathe on screen.JPG

Showing Stuart Tankard, the author of Ezilathe, scrutinizing my drawing ….  and offering excellent suggestions for improvement using Ezilathe.

Then used Ezilathe to generate the G codes…..

Then to the CNC lathe…..

turning the finial.JPG

CNC turning the finial in 51mm brass rod.  1600rpm, 100mm/min.  Controlled by Mach 3 Turn.  I removed the tailstock shortly after this photo was taken, to permit completion of the ball.


Some GSMEE members watching the CNC turning.  I spent 3 days clearing up the workshop so the 16 members could fit in.   Amazing how much space was revealed in the workshop.   This is the Taiwanese lathe which I converted to CNC.  See old posts for details of the conversion.

I watched anxiously as the part was gradually revealed.  Admittedly, I had had a test run in wood to check the parameters, but this was the first run in metal.

finial in hand.JPG

The finial.  The bar stock was parted later.

finial on bookcase

Bookcase finally finished, after 30 years.

If you are interested in CNC lathe work, you should take a look at “Ezilathe”.  It is superb.

If you are on Facebook, (of course you are if you are reading this), you might like to take a look at the GSMEE Facebook site.



Hero of Alexandria, in Roman Egypt, described a steam engine 2000 years ago.  He is credited with inventing the first steam engine, although it is very likely that he was just describing something already in existence as previously described by another Roman, Vitellius, a hundred or so years earlier.

Today I saw a working example of a Hero type engine, and it was much more impressive than I expected.  One of our club members has built 2 Hero engines, and the following video  shows one of them working.

I think that I will have to make one to show the grandchildren.

Click on the arrow to see another grossly amateurish video.

Incidentally, Emperor Nero, who hated his mother, put her in a ship which, as planned, fell apart when afloat with mummy dearest on board.  Unfortunately for Nero she could swim.  What is really interesting is that the ship is described as having some sort of mechanical propulsion system.  Maybe steam??



About 3 years ago I decided that I wanted to see what CNC was about.  I had read some beginners guides to CNC, and CNC programming, but it was obvious that I would need to buy a CNC machine and actually start machining if I was to make any real progress.

Initially I bought a second hand lathe which had been converted to CNC.  It was a Seig C3, and stepper motors had been installed on the lead screw and cross slide screw.  Some low end electronics connected to a PC, and the setup was controlled with Mach3.

Needless to say, this machine gave poor results.  Poor finish, and poor reproducibility of dimensions.  The lathe was low quality to start with, and the CNC components were low end.  I was inclined to blame the lack of ball screws, but in retrospect, that was only one of the many problems.  It did however give me a taste of the process of CNC programming, and finishing with a CNC turned item.  I also developed some familiarity with Mach 3, and became a licensed user of the excellent software.


Seig C3 converted to CNC. Not up to scratch.



Then I saw a Boxford CNC lathe, owned by a friend in my engineering club (GSMEE).  It was 30 years old, and had started life as a technical school teaching lathe.  The original electronics and operating system were based on a CPM computer, pre-dating Windows, even pre-dating DOS.  It ran on software which was loaded each session from a 5.25″ floppy disk, with a capacity of 180 kilobytes.

My friend had changed the operating system to  Windows and Mach 3.  That involved changing many of the electronic components in the lathe, and hooking up a PC.

The lathe was an English Boxford TCL 125.  The swing is only 125mm (62.5mm above the bed), and the maximum length which can be machined is also 125mm. The spindle is belt driven, and spindle speeds range up to 3000 rpm.  The tool post is a very nice quick change Dickson.  The spindle bore is 19mm.  The whole machine has a quality appearance and feel.   My friend was producing work with fine finishes, and consistent dimensions.

It was clearly a quality lathe, and I asked him if he was willing to sell.  The answer, not surprisingly, was no.  However, he did know of an identical machine which might be for sale.  To get on with this story, I did buy the second machine.  It had also been a training lathe in a technical school, and was 30 years old.  It was not running, but the owner said that it had been in use until recently.  Since I planned to replace most of the electronics I was not too concerned that it was not working.  My friend, Stuart, had indicated a willingness to manage the upgrade-conversion, which was just as well, because it really did require a level of expertise with electronics which I do not possess.  Stuart had been through the process, knew exactly what was required, and is indeed, an expert.


Boxford 125 TCL.  The yellow item is the tailstock which swings up into position. 80mm Pratt Burnerd chuck.  The control panel lower right was removed and replaced with a wireless pendant control.


It cost $AUD1500, which was a bit much, but the seller probably realised that I really wanted it, and priced it accordingly.  I took the lathe, and the computer, and the 5.25″ floppy drive, and 6 tool holders home.  I immediately put the computer and floppy drive on Ebay, and amazingly they sold for $AUD150 (to a  collector of obsolete computers I presume).


This old CPM computer with a tiny memory originally ran the Boxford CNC lathe.

We collected the various new electronic components over the next few weeks.  I will list the components in the next post for your interest.  Total cost of these was approximately $AUD800.

Under Stuart’s direction I removed the obsolete electronics, then in two half day sessions he installed the new ones. After some adjustments in the electronics, and in Mach 3, it was up and running.

In the subsequent 2-3 years I have replaced the ball screws (probably unnecessarily), and increased the number of tool holders to 30, and installed an ER32 collet chuck, and soft jaws on the 3 jaw Pratt Burnerd.

I have made many items and become increasingly comfortable with Mach3.  I also use a very useful program called Ezilathe, which I will describe in a later post.




One of the tool displays at our exhibition last weekend (see previous post) was by ECCENTRIC ENGINEERING.  Eccentric Engineering is well known for the Diamond Tool Holder, which is a favourite lathe tool holder for most of us who use metal working lathes.

However I was more interested in Gary Sneezby’s (Owner-engineer of Eccentric) new tool, which is a tool sharpening system for use with a bench grinder, named “The Acute Tool Sharpening System”.


Gary demonstrating the Acute Tool Sharpening System at the GSMEE exhibition.



The Plans and assembly diagrams, in a bound booklet.

The system is available as a complete working unit, or a kit of semi machined parts and plans, or plans only.

See the Eccentric Engineering Website for a complete description of the system and prices.

I bought the kit of semi machined parts, and the booklet of plans.  Cost (show price, no postage) $AUD250.  This is an excellent price for the 50 or so laser cut parts, quality die cast handles, all fasteners, Allen keys, detailed plans.



2 of the 33 pages of plans and diagrams.

The plans are excellent.  They are clear, easily read, and large.  There are no instructions, but a DVD is planned.  Gary is contactable by phone for construction advice, if needed.

After 4 half day workshop sessions I am well into the construction.  The laser cut parts are accurate within 1mm, and drilling points are accurately centre drilled.  Gary pointed out that the drilling points are more accurately positioned than the laser cut part perimeters.  That necessitates drilling centre holes (and the other holes) and using a mandrel to enable accurate turning of circular components.  He also advised that HSS cutters be used in preference to carbide tipped tools.

I found the parts to be very closely dimensioned to the finished parts.  The table top measures 150x150mm, and I found the flat hardened steel to be mildly bowed, to the extent of 0.38mm.  That is probably due to heat distortion from the laser cutter.      Some attention on the press straightened out the plate to less than 0.05mm bowing.   I might touch it up on the surface grinder, but that is probably unnecessary, given the way the system functions.

I had a machining accident with one part.  It is useable, but will need to be replaced.  I rang Gary, and the new part is in the mail.  Now that is service.

Progress to date….


The sharpening system is starting to look serious.  It consists of a base, top plate which is adjustable for tilt and height, parallelogram arm, slide and toolholder.



It looks interesting. Not sure how it works yet (Much clearer since watching the YouTube video at the end of this blog). Still some parts to be made-machined. The notch at the top is where the grinding wheel fits.



The underside. Nice use of O rings to lock the adjustments into position. The cast handles are good quality.


Another session or two in the workshop should see this project completed.  I will report on how it performs  in a week or two.  I expect that it will be a lot quicker and simpler to use than the Quorn.

Watch the YouTube video by Gary to see how it works.

Der Tiger at Geelong Model Engineers

GSMEE (Geelong Society of Model and Experimental Engineers) had its annual exhibition at Osborne House, North Geelong last weekend.

Osborne House used to be Australia’s submarine headquarters, and it still houses a superb maritime museum.  It is also home to the Vietnam Veteran’s Association.  And other clubs such as GSMEE and The Camera Club.

We could not have asked for better weather.  Two glorious spring days.  With Corio Bay sparkling in the background.

And guarding the entrance of our exhibition was a WW2 German Tiger Tank.


At 1/5 scale, weighing 1/4 tonne, powered by a 12 cylinder gasoline engine.

I have featured this machine before (see Bendigo exhibition).  It is still fascinating and awesome.


Gerard Dean operating the controls, which are a close copy of the original, even down to the warning in German that “the enemy is listening”.

Gerard explained that the original was prone to engine overheating, gearbox grenading, transmission failure and track jamming.  His demonstration on Sunday was terminated by sudden graunching in the gearbox.  An authentic demonstration indeed.

Normally Gerard drives the tank up ramps onto his ute.   On this occasion we pushed it up.


Do you imagine that he would get the odd double take as he drives home on the freeway?

Another outstanding exhibitor was John Ramm, with his scale Merlin engine, Volkswagen engine, and 7 cylinder radial aero engine.


John Ramm’s Spitfire Merlin engine.  1/4 scale, 75cc.  Unfortunately I missed seeing it running.


John Ramm’s 7 cylinder radial aero engine.


John Ramms scale VW engine.  Said to be 75cc, but with VW who knows?

There were many other wonderful engines, model ships, planes, and workshop tools.  And an excellent trade display (thanks Ausee Tools).


Peter Bodman’s self made 3D printer was busy making parts all weekend.  Many of the components of this printer were made on his previous Mark 1 printer.


Willi Van Leeuwen had a lovely display of model ships and boats including this steam powered boat.

Last, and least, the Norm Hatherly Stirling Engine prize was won by yours Truly.

Prize Winning Hit and Miss Engine

This Hit and miss engine by Stuart won first prize at the Royal Geelong Show Model Engineering section.

Second prize to yours truly.

Model Bolton Beam Engine.

Model Bolton Beam Engine.

Beam Engine, First Run on Live Steam

My Bolton 12 Beam engine is being exhibited at The Geelong Show in the next few days, along with other model engines from The Geelong Society of Experimental and Model Engineers (GSMEE), and many other full size antique engines.

I am particularly excited by this event, because it is an opportunity to run my beam engine for the first time on live steam.  Plus it is a really great event generally, (see blog from this time in 2014).

We set up our model engines today, in preparation.

The video below, is of my beam engine’s first run on steam.  The Vintage Machinery Society has a full size boiler to run a full size marine triple expansion marine engine, and many other steam engines, including the models in our “cage”.


The Cage in the Vintage Machinery Shed.  Not sure whether it is to keep the hordes out or the old blokes in.  (Actually, the machines become very hot when running on steam, so the cage is to keep small hands out).

The steam is at 25-30psi.  Enough to turn over the engines, which are just ticking over, not under working loads.

Click on the arrow in the video box, to see the video.

Model Marine Boiler and another Koffiekop.

At the recent Geelong Society of Experimental and Model Engineers (GSMEE) meeting, several interesting models were presented, including my Koffiekop engine.   And another Koffiekop, this one by Stuart T.


Stuart T is an expert engineer and machinist. He CNC’d most of the components in his engine, and has enough spare parts to make another 6 of them. He says each part takes a couple of hours to draw and program, then 5 minutes of machining to spit out half a dozen.

Another most interesting model is the marine boiler by Rudy pictured below.  Rudy was a marine engineer, and some of his ships were steam powered.  This model is made from his memory of one of those.  The odd external shape is to conform with the ship’s hull, starboard (right hand) side.

Model ship's boiler. it is approx 300-400mm high. The fire box is stainless steel. The copper boiler and water tank and superheater were TIG welded. The water tubes are silver soldered.

Model ship’s boiler. it is approx 300-400mm high. The fire box is stainless steel. The copper boiler and water tank and superheater were TIG welded. The water tubes are silver soldered.

The water tubes, super heater and boiler.

The water tank, water tubes, super heater and boiler.

The water gauge was scratch built by Rudy. The pressure gauge was bought.

The water gauge was scratch built by Rudy. The pressure gauge was bought.

Not sure what these attachment points are called, but they look interesting coming off the hemispherical ends of the boiler.

Not sure what these attachment points are called, but they look interesting coming off the almost hemispherical ends of the boiler.

Rudy made the nameplate on an engraving machine, then formed the domed shape.

Rudy made the nameplate on an engraving machine, then formed the domed shape.

Rudy has pressure tested the boiler to 100psi.  He reckons that it would be good for 200psi.  He tested it with compressed air, submerged in a barrel of water.  That would show any leaks.  And if it did happen to blow, the force would be diffused by the water.


Stuart of gave a most interesting talk at last nights GSMEE meeting.

GSMEE, in case you are not familiar, stands for Geelong Society of Model and Experimental Engineers.  A select group of people who are interested in things mechanical, electrical, steam, internal combustion, boats, etc.   Mainly metal working, but sometimes involving woodworking.

Stuart generously gave his time, and drove several hours to show us some of his projects, and tools which were new and unusual to most of us.

He explained how when he was a very small boy, an uncle disappeared into his workshop, and a short time later reappeared with a simple wooden puppet toy which he had quickly made, and presented to Stuart.  Stuart says that event made a lasting impression, and was influential in his decision to make things for himself, have his own workshop, and eventually to study mechanical engineering and have a career in engineering.  And ultimately to start the hugely successful blog, stusshed, which to date has had 2.6 million hits!

He showed the puppet, which he keeps as a memento in his workshop.


To be honest, I had totally forgotten that I had made this, almost 40 years ago. The controlling strings did not survive.

Stuart then spoke briefly about his time in the navy, as an engine room engineer, running diesels, steam turbines, and gas turbines on frigates.  All too brief, and hopefully the subject of a more detailed presentation in future.


He then showed some of his recent projects, some of which I snapped.  Especially noteworthy was the Sopwith Camel, with a discussion about the origin of the roundels, the through propellor firing machine guns, and the huge torque which the radial engine produced causing the plane turn more easily to the right than the left (or vice versa- I cannot remember)..


Stuart recently acquired a CNC router, which he used to produce the inlayed roundels, and the engine details.

Quite a few other woodworking projects, mainly toys, but also some interesting furniture, including a chair made of interlocking strips of wood in the form of a tambour, as in a roll top desk tambour.  No photo unfortunately.

Then a small selection of tools from his incredibly well equipped workshop.  A few photos following.  I dont remember many of the brands and details, but most of these tools have been reviewed on Stuart’s blog, so check out if you need more info.

The Incra guides and measuring devices were particularly attractive


Saw guide, with one degree stops, and microadjustment within the saw bench slot.


An Incra ruler. Flexible enough to measure around a cylinder. The tiny holes accurately accept a 0.5mm pencil.


I really liked this Incra protractor. 150mm wide, and also accepts a 0.5mm pencil for accurate angular marking out.


Yet another Incra ruler. Sells for $22 in the USA. More like $50-60 here.


One of Stuarts favourites.. a dovetailing jig, made in Australia, compares more than favourably with a Leigh jig he says.


A really intriguing device for measuring saw blade kerf very accurately. Costs about $100.


Another of Stuart’s favourites, and an Australian invention, Superjaws. I think that this one will go onto quite a few buying lists after this demo.


Another Australian invention. This one for carrying panels.


A really neat device for supporting cables, and small round garments.


Another view of the kerf measuring device.

These are just a few of the many tools which Stuart had to show us.  2 hours went very quickly.  Thanks Stuart!

A JIG for Machining the columns of the triple expansion marine engine

At last!

A day on the steam engine.  SWMBO went to Melbourne to choose marble so I was free!!

After discussing my problems with machining the triple  expansion engine columns with the senior members of the GSMEE (Geelong Society of Model and Experimental Engineers),  I have machined a JIG to assist with this issue.

The JIG thickness is precisely the width between the columns (30.05mm).  It is made in 2 halves so I can bolt the columns from their critical surfaces which are the con rod slides.

I will use the CNC mill to drill the holes in the jig, and the matching columns, then finish milling the columns which are attached to the JIG.


The jig for machining the columns. Not yet finished.



Bottom left is X=0, Y=0.  The photo shows the 4 countersunk M4 screws.

The holes will be centre drilled then through drilled 4mm. The columns will be drilled 3.3mm then m4 tapped.
Hopefully that will happen tomorrow if the workshop is not too hot.

You will see what I am intending with the next post.


Wimshurst Electrostatic Generator, made by Peter Bodman.  Creates sparks up to 100mm long, which drill minute holes in interposed paper sheets.  No-one volunteered to ry it with a hand.

Wimshurst Electrostatic Generator, made by Peter Bodman. Creates sparks up to 100mm long, which drill minute holes in interposed paper sheets. No-one volunteered to try it with their own hand.


Vacuum engine made by Peter Bodman.


Awesome model of pre-dreadnaught ship circa 1902 “Preussen” made by Walter. It is approx 1 meter long, weighs 16kg, and is radio controlled. The 28cm gun turrets are also radio controlled, but do not (as far as I know) actually fire.  To the right is a model of Columbus’s “Santa Maria”.


The detail in the model has to be seen to be believed.  Every plank of the decking is individually made and fitted.


Walter showed us the inside construction, engines, and electronics. The model was made from a few old photographs, and simple side and top elevations.


Hull with the superstructure removed


A very old pressure gauge, restored so that the workings are displayed, to reveal how it works. By Stuart.


This model boat was made by 8 year old Niall, with some supervision from his Dad, William. The gun is actually a radio controlled water cannon which fires up to 3 meters, to the wet surprise of some spectators. Niall and William both had a fantastic experience with this project.


William with some of the wonderful boat and ship models which he (and Niall) have made in recent years.


A model working ship steam engine and boiler, by Walter. Twin cylinder, double acting cylinders. This should be jewellery, worn around the neck of a beautiful woman.  OK, that is a little over the top, but you get the idea



Close up of the marine engine by Walter


Les Madden with his partly completed Atkinson Differential Engine Model, originally patented in 1887. The wooden model on the left was built by Les in attempt to figure out how it worked! He made the wooden parts to have aluminium castings made.


Les Madden’s Differential engine.

18 radial cylinder aero engine, by John Ramm.  The hand carved propeller is approx 600mm long.

18 radial cylinder aero engine, by John Ramm. The hand carved propeller is approx 600mm long.


Detail of the aero engine. John showed 3 aero engines. He is currently making a 12 cylinder Spitfire Merlin engine which he will have finished by the time of the 2015 exhibition.


Stuart Tankard’s prize winning hit and miss engine, was running throughout the exhibition. 17.7cc, 4 stroke, 4:1 compression, running on gas.


Close up detail of the hit and miss engine. A standard the rest of us can aim for.


A vertical boiler made by Stuart Tankard

Thomas Lord in the cabin of his steam truck, giving some driving tips to Niall

Thomas Lord in the cabin of his steam truck, giving some driving tips to Niall

These photos are just a small fraction of the many model engines, ships, trains, tools and other projects created and displayed by members and friends of GSMEE.