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Member postings for Iain Downs

Here is a list of all the postings Iain Downs has made in our forums. Click on a thread name to jump to the thread.

Thread: 3D drawing mainly Onshape
20/06/2022 18:42:55

I've been using OnShape for a couple of years now. I agree that the learning curve is steep (and I'm still on it), but I found it easier to get to grips with than a few others I tried at the same time.

I expect I'm not using it as an engineer would, but it does enough for all the things I want to do.

I actually really like it and I would certainly recommend it as an option. Especially as it is free if you don't mind exposing your jottings to the universe. If anyone is mad enough to steal my models, they deserve everything that happens to them!

I think there are a few other users and it does pop up from time to time, but I agree it's not as popular as many. Perhaps because it's the new kid on the block...


Thread: Diary of a watch breaker
29/05/2022 20:58:41

Derek - thanks for the reminder on BHI. Sadly, all their published courses (to the end of 2022) are fully booked. The other options seem to need a fairly full time commitment and or are at the other end of the country from me .

I mentioned, 'the art of losing very small parts'. below is an example. the watch (one of the bulk purchase mentioned earlier) is about 15mm in diameter and has been something of a challenge to deal with.

small parts.jpg

Also in the picture - and no it's not a scratch on the ruler is a rather small screw from the Seiko. It's just below the 3mm marker. By contrast the sprint is almost massive! Try dropping one of those on a modern flecked carpet and see what your chances of finding it are!

Below is the main spring winder. For those who don't know of this instrument of torture, it winds the spring into a cylinder that's just a tad smaller in external diameter than the internal diameter of the mainspring barrel.

mainspring winder 01.jpg

Here is the spring loaded on the arbor. It then gets put into the barrel at the end of the handle (you have to have different barrels and arbors for different watch sizes). Wind the spring in through in through the gap in the barrel..

mainspring winder 02.jpg

see the mainspring barrel just to the right of the spring. It's about 7mm across and 1.3mm deep.

mainspring winder 03.jpg

once the arbor is removed you put the tool end into the mainspring barrel and eject it with the rod that goes through the middle.

Oh - one thing I meant to mention is YouTube inspirations.

Wristwatch revival is an amateur who shows dozens of repairs in a particularly clear and well photographed way.

There's also the almost unnaturally happy Kalle from Chronoglide in Holland. Prolific with some very clear tutorials and live streams. I do wonder what sort of coffee shop he frequents, though!


28/05/2022 20:41:53

My First Fumblings

Clearly starting with a valuable watch is a terrible idea. Even my my standards.

I bought a cheap Chinese watch (that worked) with the idea that I could take it apart and then put it back together.

Note the subtitle.

Yes a number over very small parts transported themselves to the 5th dimension. So I bought another very cheap Chinese watch. I was fortunate in that the parts that went missing this time were not the same as those of the first watch.

I got something back together and it ticks and tocks. Not particularly rythmicaly, but I decided to quit whilst I was ahead. I will go back and try and get this running better, but not right now.

Next mistake was ordering a batch of watch mechanisms 'for repair' from eBay. These watches (I think about 20) mainly have broken balances, but there are 3 which are not broken. However, the watches are slightly smaller than my thumbnail and very difficult to work on After spending an hour trying to get a click spring (1.3 mm in diameter and 0.3 dia wire) back into the barrel bridge (don't I sound professional!) with a 3.5x magnifier I gave up and decided I needed a microscope (ordered at some expense, but nowhere near a professional's - I'm hoping it's OK).

next a bunch of visibly larger broken watches (so I thought) from eBay.

Next a Seiko - much recommended as a nice mechanism. And it is, though the mechanism (2119B for aficianados) is much smaller than the watch.

I hate to tempt fate, but I've not (yet) lost any bits. I stripped it and cleaned it (ultrasonic bath) then found that my manual mainspring replacement technique didn't work with this one (it did on the tiny ones, mind you).

So I made a mainspring winder which (surprisingly) wound back the mainspring into the barrel. Once there I found that (somehow) the centre curl had expanded so the arbor wouldn't grip. Attempting to hamfistedly fix this quite naturally broke it. SO that ones on hold until a new '2119B for repair) turns up (hopefully with a working mainspring).

That's enough for tonight. I'll try and post some watch and other pictures in the next post.


28/05/2022 20:27:15

How it begins

I'd no intention of looking at watches for a while. My next project (more or less in the planning stage) was to be a clock. And maybe, just maybe, I would one day try my hand at a watch.

But then my son got interested in watches. Probably because of heirlooms. I have my dad's WWII Vertex watch (radium and all), we've been given my father-in-law's Rolco (cheap Rolex, sort of) and I have a 19th century gold hunter which I used to wear when my waistcoats still fitted - and I got invited to parties...

We looked at getting the watches serviced, which resulted in various jewellers sucking air between the teeth and offering initial estimates in line with the price of houses when the watches were first made!

So I thought, perhaps I can learn to service them.

And it's been downhill since then!

Even more than in mainstream hobby engineering it seems that cheap tools are entirely useless and useful tools are quite honestly unaffordable!

So I'm approaching this by getting mid range tools (and tweaking), second hand stuff and making my own. To be honest I'm likely to get more fun (and much more success) out of making them than the actual watch stuff.

First is my approach to imprisoning small parts...

watch tray.jpg

The innards are a soft leatherette intended to absorb the bounce of a 1mm screw heading for the unknown at mach 1. I'm not entirely sure it works, but the sides might intercept the odd bit. Also in the image is a screwdriver holder. I was pleased with that.

The screwdrivers a bit less so - as mentioned the midrange tools (VERY cheap compared to bergeon's . They needed to be stoned thinner and will also need demagnatising.

My 'watch repair kit' from ebay came with utterly useless tweezers and screwdriver and an equally useless movement holder. So I made one

watch holder big side.jpg

I may well have to make another having used it in anger a couple of times. Mainly the frame needs to be bigger and the screw smaller.

I think that's enough for one post. Next I will explain my successes and failures so far. Hint. not many of the first!


Thread: Hello - Uni or apprenticeship
26/05/2022 16:16:46

One of my son's friends is doing an Aerospace degree in Liverpool and seems to be enjoying it. Of particular note for me is that they have on day a week actually in a workshop making things.

Perhaps that would be a good compromise.


Thread: What Did you do Today 2022
03/05/2022 19:25:40

More on Watch tools. the watch holder I had in my cheap 'toolkit' was unworkable (got in the way of the tweezers) so I made my own. Double sided and will cope with between around 12mm diameter mechanisms and 40 or so (asserted, not tested, yet!).

watch holder big side.jpg

watch holder small side.jpg


Thread: Ping - and a screw is lost
03/05/2022 19:22:31

Thanks, Adrian.


02/05/2022 10:34:46

Hi, Adrian. I don't suppose you have any photos of your ideal tweezers. I think I get it but a picture paints a thousand words...



01/05/2022 08:10:04

It's rather nice to (virtually) meet another Downs (albeit with variant spelling!). We're not that common a breed.

At the moment, I'm finding that (as many will tell me) that the cheap and nasty toolsets are mainly nasty. the watch holder that came with my ;watchmakers toolkit (which surprisingly got a lot of decent reviews) blocks access in most directions, so today will be spent making one more like a bergeon (wristwatch revival on youtube is proving inspirational).

I'm keen on the cheap chinese watch, because I don't care what happens to it. I'm in the process of re-assembling it using a second cheap chinese watch. I'm loosing parts putting it back together too! Not finding them, yet which tells you where I am on the skill level.

I have a bunch of 'not working' movements to practice. Though I seem to have picked a lot with a bunch of (tiny() ladies watches. Start with the hardest and the rest will seem easy!

Thanks for the advice, I will dress.


Thread: What Did you do Today 2022
30/04/2022 17:30:36

And on a more light-hearted note, I've been sidetracked (somehow) into watch repair and have made this rotating screwdriver holder for my (cheap and not very good) watchmakers screwdrivers. When I grow up I will buy some Bergeon tools. If I win the lottery.

screwdriver holder.jpg


30/04/2022 17:28:55

Hardly something I've done today, but an ongoing project, recently completed.

A Hemingway floating reamer holder!

floating reamer holder complete.jpg

And if you're interested, the parts explode as below...

floating reamer holder parts.jpg


Thread: Ping - and a screw is lost
30/04/2022 17:26:54

Thank you all for your feedback on this. In the end it was Dunelm to the rescue!

It turned out that there was a Dunelm more or less next to the Ten Pin bowling I took my son to for his birthday.

I found some soft-backed leatherette (some kind of light felt behind the leatherette) and as a bonus there was a 'surface protector' (a chopping board with a raised edge) which I thought would make a good base.

A bit of melamine shelving, some ply and some PVA and here's the result!

watch tray.jpg

Oh and some bathroom sealant to hide the gaps! I've not tried it yet, but I have high hopes!


Thread: It's About Time!
22/04/2022 21:35:11

I don't suppose there is anything like this up north?


Thread: Ping - and a screw is lost
19/04/2022 19:37:08

Thanks, all.

Dave - 'Dress' tweezers?

I have a glass / watch screw set which I can use for practice, though they don't go anything like as small as the screws I'm encountering..

Also, Dang. This weekend was a cleanout (the wife made me do it). One of the items discarded was a 50cm cube perspex box (housed a scanner and extracted the paper dust), which would have been a good starting point. typical.


19/04/2022 18:03:31

I've taken an interest in watch repair. I'm not sure why, but it seems that I have.

Apart from watching you tube, my education has so far consisted of buying a VERY cheap Chinese watch (shuhang) and attempting to disassemble and re-assemble it.

I was working on a tray (one of these lap trays with legs for when you are poorly), in the hope that items will be contained.

I've found that the tiny tiny screws will pop out of the tweezers, bounce like a cricket on the hard surface and be never found again. Twice so far.

What I thought would be useful is to cover the tray (or a more custom made option with higher edges) with some kind of foam backed plastic so that the kinetic energy of the cricket screw is absorbed and their bid for freedom is (hopefully) constrained.

I'm struggling to find the right terms to search for this - or indeed to be sure if I'm looking at the right thing.

I've looked at leatherette, but it's quite thin and I'm not sure that 1mm will be soft enough. Much the same for foam (including foam boards, whatever they are) and they may also be to fragile to put up with a lot of friction due to the work.

So any input would be helpful, or of course, the alternate solution that you all use that's blindingly obvious once it's pointed out!

Many thanks


Thread: What Did you do Today 2022
11/04/2022 16:49:26

Please don't ask me to make that on my kit (or rather with my skills), John!!!!



Thread: Best Budget 3D Cad software
06/04/2022 18:36:56

I'm something of a fan of OnShape ( You get pretty much a full professional 3D modelling tool for free.

Two drawbacks: Your designs are all public - not something that bothers me. I can deal with the embarrassment if anyone finds something I've done. And it runs in the cloud so you don't have it on your computer. Again not something that bothers me.

I've found it somewhat easier to get to grips with than other 3D design tools I've used.


Thread: Living with an Amadeal (Weiss) VM32L
02/04/2022 15:35:07

Getting the mill into my shed and onto a bench was interesting. I believe I posted about it at some point. Something to be careful of is the ceiling height of your shed. My shed is a standard single concrete garage and it just fits in.

But the headroom it gives is marvellous (especially compared to the SX1 which is my first mill). I enjoy feeling smug when Quin (Blondihacks) complains about not being able to do this that or the other on her mill as it lacks headroom.


Thread: Amadeal Milling Machines
02/04/2022 15:30:10

It is a 5 or 6 tip carbide face mill from ARC. Yes full width and feed rate was probably about 2 mm / sec (that's really only a guess). Speed was around 700 / 800 rpm. I run it a bit faster (1200?) for a low DOC finishing cut.


Thread: Living with an Amadeal (Weiss) VM32L
02/04/2022 12:49:48

Hey, Gavin, I kind of answered in your other thread, but here's a bit more detail.

I've not had to buy spares for the Mill, apart perhaps from the DRO which I ordered when I bought the machine. This was a bit of a fiasco, but I don't blame Amadeal for that is this was during the heart of lockdown and nothing was arriving from China. When it did arrive it was just the scales, sensors and a box - no supporting information at all. However, Hugh was able to get me some photos from the Weis factory on how they put them on which was at least a little helpful. I would recommend you order them fitted rather than the kit - I just didn't want to wait 3 months for a new machine to arrive.

I have had some problems with the spindle being pulled down on heavyish cuts without the lock being applied. The solution to that is simple. Lock the spindle for non-trivial cuts! I've also had issues with the cutter being pulled out of the collet as it cuts. Again, less aggressive cuts and tighter locking is the answer. It's a sign of the power of the machine that this happens and I think that's more or less a good thing.

I don't think it's perfect and I would not like to be trying to make something that HAD to have sub thou tolerences, but there again, I'm not sure I could on an industrial machine.

When I retire (please God may it be soon) and downsize, I would like to get a bigger lathe (probably used British Iron) to replace my minilathe, but I don't feel the need to upgrade the Amadeal machine. Though if someone was to give me a Bridgeport, I wouldn't turn it down.


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