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Member postings for Dithering

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

Thread: Printing page on digital Model Engineer
02/02/2013 15:58:20

Well, almost OK. Although the colour images come out in colour and the black text comes out black, the black diagrams come out in a rather faint green - thus rendering them useless!


02/02/2013 15:55:13

The "Print" item on the left-click menu doesn't work for me either - I just get a completely black page.

However, if you magnify the page you will get a "Print this page" tab appearing at the top. That works OK.


Thread: MEW188 Editors bench letter
11/03/2012 11:21:40

Hi Guys,

I would have replied to some of these posts sooner but I didn't know the letter had been published.

To come clean about my experience, I have had quite a lot of experience in re-furbishing machine tools. Specifically, (long ago) a Myford Super 7 and an Archdale vertical mill which I intended to use for model engineering. But I worked a long way from home and was tired and children came along so I never used them for anything other than tinkering - repairing things around the home and the car and so on.

I was never really happy with either of them because, although I refurbished them quite well cosmetically, they were never really first class so, as I neared retirement, I sold them and bought some new machines.

But I still didn't know what I wanted to do with them!

When I actually retired I bought a Boxford shaper, in a fairly disgusting condition, and re-furbished that. It works well and I'm pleased with my efforts but I did it really to give me something to do to get over that period just after retiring when most people are at a bit of a loss.

I recently did the same with a Boxford lathe but now it's time to do something that has some point to it. My wife is insisting on it!

So now comes the problem. Although I know how to use a lathe and milling machine and most other tools I've never actually made anything that had to be to any particular dimensions so - I'm a beginner.

I have always wanted to make a substantial steam locomotive but I've never really believed that I could do it. MAC's description of his experience in building his first locomotive, with a lot less experience in general machining than I have, has encouraged me to start and I'm on my way.

Now, the point of my letter was not that I wanted any questions answered but in response to David's request for "Beginner's Projects". I was suggesting that beginners do not really want "beginner's projects" but more advanced projects broken down into small pieces and well explained. Oldies, like me, haven't got the time to learn all the basics by making small items they don't want and youngsters won't have the patience because they won't see the point.

I accept the argument that people may get fed up with how long it takes to complete a whole model but, on the other hand, perhaps the pleasure of completing each small part and seeing a larger model taking shape will keep their interest. Perhaps not. Who knows. Everyone's different.

A lot of people will lose interest, whichever way they start, because they don't really want to do it - they just want the finished product. So the cost of getting to the stage of knowing whether they have a "vocation" or not has to reasonably low.

Looking a MAC's website it really does look as if someone with little experience can start something big and see it through - piece by piece.



Thread: Black Five, Jinty or 4F - 3" or 5" gauge - for a Beginner?
04/03/2012 10:37:25

Thanks for the comments Bazyle. Corrosion doesn't worry me because the cylinders aren't likely ever to get wet!

If, in the next year, I can get to the stage of having a rolling chassis running on air (see I shall think my life has been worthwhile. Whether I ever build a boiler is another matter.

Now, I'll come clean here. If you have the latest issue of ME, read the letter from Eddie Jenner. He sounds lke he could be my twin brother.

Many years ago I bought the parts for a Gauge 1 loco "The Project". More recently, but still quite a lot of years ago, bought the parts for a horizontal mill engine called "Tina". I haven't started on either of them and the reason is the same - I'm scared of machining the castings and ruining them. At the moment they have a value - I could sell them. If I ruin them they won't have a value and I don't like that idea.

At the last model engineering show I attended I told a man from SMEE about this. He couldn't help because, frankly, he couldn't comprehend the problem. He didn't lack confidence - I do.

So I would prefer to make something that doesn't need expensive castings and the two questions are:

1. Can I machine a cylinder block from a solid block of metal.

2. If I used aluminium (because it is cheap and readily available) would it work on air - at least for a while.

If I can get the thing working on air I think I would have the confidence to do it again properly. Time isn't an issue. Not getting it badly wrong and giving up in despair is very much an issue. Screwing up a cheap block of aluminium doesn't count as getting it wrong. Junking a £200 casting definitely does.



03/03/2012 21:10:02

Hi Everyone,

The decision's made - it's going to be the Derby 2P. The reasons are that it's rather pretty and looks easier to build than the other candidates.

The one problem is the amount Reeves charge for the castings. It isn't the money, as such, but the fear of machining £200 worth of cylinder castings and possibly ruining them!

Bob Youldon has made LMS 4Fs (which are very similar to the 2P) by machining most things from stock but not the cylinders. I have seen a couple of items on the web referring to people machining their own cylinders - has anyone here done that?

So far as I can see, none of the cylinder castings should be difficult to make from stock other than the cylinder block itself and even that just looks like a solid lump of metal in which you have to drill a lot of holes. I assume that the bores are cored but is anything else? Can it be machined from solid brass or, preferably, cast iron?

(Does anyone know why it always has to be gunmetal or cast iron rather than mild steel, brass or even aluminium?)



Thread: Digital Issues
02/03/2012 15:55:38

I was looking for all the digital issues with the Ayesha II articles and I noted that issue 4315 is not there.

Someone else reported it on 05/02/2011.

Could we have it please?



Thread: Which lathe from these four?
26/02/2012 10:41:53


I don't think you can do better than follow L H Sparey's advice in his book "The Amateur's Lathe" where he says "... it is desirable to buy as large a machine as the pocket or the accomodaion will allow".

I've had a Unimat and a Myford Super 7 and I now have a mini-lathe and a Boxford but the one I use is my Chester Crusader which is roughly the same size as the Warco GH1330 mentioned by Coalburner above.

I find big lathes much easier to use than small lathes (although I have quite small hands) and they can cope with very small work, particularly with a set of collets - mine are ER32.



Thread: Black Five, Jinty or 4F - 3" or 5" gauge - for a Beginner?
23/02/2012 18:12:48

Actually, Bazyle, it could still be either the 2P or the Ivatt because the frame steel is the same for both.

I'm actually going to start on the Ivatt. I'm starting small - buffer beams rather than main frames - so I can still change my mind.

Even the buffer beams are a problem, The Ivatt needs 1" x 1" x 1/8" BMS and I can't get any. The best I can do is 30mm x 30mm x 3mm black steel. I can machine the 30mm down to 1" but 3mm is thinner than it should be.

On the other hand, the 2P requires 3/32" mild steel and (so far as I can see) it just don't exist!

Lifes's a bitch isn't it?

Having seen how many holes need to be drilled in the main frames (particularly on the Ivatt) I decided that a DRO is a necessity so I spent most of this week fitting a scale to the x-axis of my milling machine. I'm just about to start on the y-axis so I can put off actually cutting metal for a few days more.



Thread: Imperial sized materials
23/02/2012 16:47:40

Jason: Do you mean that it changes shape because internal stresses are being released and that black steel doesn't have such stresses?

The drawings I am currently working from (and others I have) specifies bright mild steel which is why I just bought some.

Perhaps cooking it in the oven would releive the stresses!



23/02/2012 14:49:33

1/8" mild steel is still available. I bought some 3" x 1/8" for loco frames just last week. Look at

What I can't find is bright mild steel angle in imperial sizes. I want some 1" x 1" x 1/8" for buffer beams and I can't find any. I can get 25mm x 25mm x 3mm and I might have to settle for that.


Brian Thompson.

Thread: Recycling aluminium
23/02/2012 14:41:17

Wotsit: The reason for the erosion of your stainless steel containers is that iron actually dissolves in molten aluminium so any iron-based metal crucible will have a short life. On the other hand, Poundland sell stainless steel pots very cheap - I think I bought 4 for £1.

SpeedyBuilder5: Year before last, at the Midland Model Engineering Exhibition, there was a guy melting brass to cast house number plates (I can think of more useful things to cast!). He was largely using old, chromed taps but it took a long time and a lot of gas to melt them. Partly, this was because he was out in the open and it was quite cold but I should think that he wouls have to be in the open because there were a lot of fumes and the flames were roaring about 5 feet high.

Michael Cox 1: I have a collection of old hard drive chassis which I intend to melt down. I'm not sure, though, that they are aluminium. Possibly, they are zinc. Anyone know a test to distinguish between the two.


Brian Thompson.

Thread: Black Five, Jinty or 4F - 3" or 5" gauge - for a Beginner?
21/02/2012 15:07:45


I like the fact that you made whatever you could from scratch rather than using castings. I've never been sure why people use castings - is it just to reduce the amount of work or because the parts simply cannot be machined using hand-controlled equipment? You seem to have found that they can so that's encouraging.

Reducing effort isn't my aim so I will be making what I can and I will not be using laser-cut frames.

I have the construction notes for the 2P which is why it's so high up my shortlist.


I'ld be interested in the Q1 if it wasn't Southern and the ugliest locomotive ever built but I'll certainly look at your construction articles. In fact, I've just been doing so.

Thanks also for the warning about the lack of photos in the 4F contruction details. I think I'll scratch that one from the list at the moment which makes it 2P versus Ivatt.



11/02/2012 19:26:50
Princess Marina looks a nice loco and Reeves do a construction manual for it which helps. However, being a Reeves loco the castings are very expensive. Perhaps not a good idea for my first try.
Glad you like the Ivatt - I do too. My machines are all metric so I would also have to convert all the dimensions.
I've looked at your pictures and they look good. I assume that you started on the temder first? If I could get that far in a reasonable time I would be very happy.
A major advantage of the Ivatt is that the cylinder castings (from GSS Model Engineers) are very cheap - if you go for cast iron. Anybody got an opinion on the pros and cons of cast iron versus gun metal?
I don't have any opinion on the advatgaes or otherwise of injectors because I don't really know what they are. I know what piston valves are but I don't have any idea of the difficulty of making them compared with, I assume, slide valves.
My sister lives in Canada so I know how cold it gets there. If it's any colder than it is here at the moment then God help you. Too cold to go into the workshop so I'm currently planning the upgrade of my milling machine to DRO. The Ivatt certainly has a lot of holes yo be drilled and I can't see how I'd get them in the right place any other way.
09/02/2012 18:33:11
Old Elan,
I've come to the conclusion that there must be some compromise but only some!
I don't think I can have my heart's desire (which is, almost certainly, a Black Five or a Jubilee) at this moment but I must have something close. Something I will really like to have when it's finished.
At the moment, it's a toss-up between an LMS 2P (Don Young) and an Ivatt Class 2 (Martin Evans) both in 3½" gauge. I will have seen both as a kid and they are both attractive locos and I've got the construction notes for them.
There's a nice description of building a 2P by Mike Clarke on which would be very useful.
See below.
Bob Y,
The 4F is third on my list because I don't have the construction notes for it. I can get them, one way or another, of course.
One problem with both the 2P and the 4F is that they are both from Reeves and their prices for castings are rather high. The Ivatt castings can be had for much lower prices.
That isn't really significant compared to the total build cost or the number of man hours but it does mean that someone rather scared of ruining a casting is going to be a lot more scared.
Perhaps the information you've supplied about it being relatively easy to build (why have you built three, I wonder?) will be the deciding factor - I can't find much information about anyone actually building the Ivatt.
So thanks for the advice.
01/02/2012 17:55:05
MGJ, Less than two years to make your Metre Maid is very encouraging - particularly as you encountered delays not of your own making. I can see the advantages of driving a locomotive of that size but I remain committed to standard gauge because, spending my childhood on the West Coats main line, that's what I remember.
Peter A and John S, I've had the same advice about starting with the tender from another source recently so that seems to be the favoured way and I can see the point - you don't have to buy expensive cylinder castings for a start.
The Don Young 4F is high up my list but, as usual, it seems that no-one supplies the construction notes for it. I believe it was in ME Vol 141 and I'm currently looking on eBay for it. If anyone knows another source of construction notes I'ld like to hear about it.
30/01/2012 14:24:42
Clive, I'm glad your dad's still going strong - I'll be happy even to make it to 89.
Regarding why people give up part way through making something - it would be interesting to do a survey only, if they've given up, they won't be on the forum!
I'm going to carry on looking around.
Thanks, Bazyle, for the recommendation - I take it you have some experience of the St Albans club.
I'll try to get there on the 8th. I don't mind the cost of joining so long as there's some point to it.
As I said, my only experience of clubs is in the photographic world and there every second meeting was an internal competition or a "slide battle" with another club. I was never very interested in whose photos were better than mine - only in trying to make mine better!
29/01/2012 12:38:21
Thanks for the encouragement. It's nice to know that other people don't start until they've retired. Best of luck with Speedy.
I've had a look at your short list and I must say that I like the Y4 more than the others - not enough to want to spend my life building it though! Rail Motor No 1 is quite pretty but not my style. Hope you enjoy it though.
Now, here's a question for everyone: Is my first locomotive also going to be my last? I mean, I'm 65 and reasonably healthy so how many can I build between now and when I get too feeble? How long does it take - 2 years? 5 years? I don't have any other major committments other than keeping the house running.
The difference it makes is that if I can only expect to make one locomotive then it must be my heart's desire. If I can make more than one I can afford to build something that is a bit simpler as a learning excercise.
I had a message from Mike who posts under the name MAC and I've had a look at his web site ( where he has documented his build of a 3½" gauge Don Young Derby 2P.
Now that looks a very nice, straightforward locomotive with components of a size I could cope with. He started in 2009 and has got a fair way so perhaps I could do that too.
At the moment, it's top of my list of probables so thanks Mike.
28/01/2012 10:20:52
My last post started a train of though within my dithering brain.
The valve gear on an outside cylinder locomotive looks complicated whereas that on an inside cylinder loco doesn't - mainly because you can't see it. Presumably, it is, in fact, just as complicated.
So, if I'm going to have to make complex valve gear I might as well be able to see it on the finished model. Don't you think?
So, perhaps, an outside cylinder model would be a better bet.
I've seen references to a Don Young designed Black Five in 5" gauge but I can't find much information about it. Any suggestions?
Brian Thompson.
27/01/2012 19:33:10

Thanks guys for your help although I'm still not sure where to go next.

Michael, I was born in Nuneaton and got my degree in Rugby so I'm a confirmed London Midland Region man. That's why I listed the locomotives that I did - I used to see them all the time and Nuneaton had quite a decent shed that I used to sneak in to. I live in Hertfordshire now surrounded by LNER weirdos but I'm not letting that change my allegiance!

John, For the reason above, the Q1 wouldn't interest me. I saw the bit about you having lots of little parts to make for your Shay. Why aren't you making them? Do you find them difficult or boring or what?

NJH & Tony, There are two clubs nearby (St Albans and Welwyn Garden City) that both have 3½" and 5" tracks. One problem is that they only meet one evening a month, for 2 hours in non-workshop environments. I'm prepared to give it a try but I'm not over-optimistic. My only experience of such clubs has been photographic societies which, frankly, nearly make me cry with frustration at all the things they don't do. What's your general experience of clubs - are they really willing to help beginners or are they full of cliques? Both clubs have web sites but they don't really give a "happy feeling" regarding new members.

I'm not too fussed about having a track to run it on (or what it will haul) because I don't have much confidence in my ability to make a boiler. I'd be very happy to build something that looked good and ran on compressed air.

Overall, there seems to be a bias towards 5" rather than 3½" and really, that means a fairly small locomotive. That brings me back to the Jinty rather than the Black Five. (Is it easier (less fiddly) to build a locomotive with outside cylinders rather than inside cylinders?)

To confuse the issue, I just bought a copy of The Best Of Model Engineer Volume 2 and that includes drawings for a 2½" gauge Black Five. I'm currently investigating those drawings to assess the degree of fiddly-ness. This is complicated by the fact that the drawings are at about one-third scale which makes things look a lot smaller than they are. Is this common for locomotive drawings or would you expect them to be at full size?


Brian Thompson

25/01/2012 17:40:18

Like many people, I've dabbled in Model Engineering for many years and I've built up a fairly comprehensive workshop comprising a big lathe (6½" centre height), a Boxford CUD, a Mini lathe, a 626 turret mill, a drilling machine, a bandsaw, a compressor and even a shaping machine. Plus a basic set of hand tools.

You could be forgiven for thinking that I just like collecting machines and tools and you might be right.

However, I have recently retired and I want to make something worthwhile with the equipment I have collected (and in some cases, refurbished from a very poor state).

It has to be something that I would really like to own rather than something built just for the sake of building it.

In my heart, I would like to build a 3½" gauge Black Five like LBSC's Doris (what a name for a Black Five!) but that might be a bit too much for me. There doesn't seem to be many people working in 3½" gauge so help might be hard to find.

I would quite like to build an LMS/BR 3F (or, possibly, a 4F) in 3½" or 5" gauge and I can find drawings and castings for LBSC's Molly and Martins Evans' 5" gauge Jinty. What I can't find are any books or constructional articles that would take me through the building process and I have seen it written on the web that Molly is not a good first engine to build (which might be because LBSC has a habit of saying "I'm not going to describe this operation because I did so last year in ...." which is all very well if you have the appropriate text from that particular series of articles - but I don't).

I prefer working on large components rather than small, fiddly ones so perhaps I would be better off with the 5" gauge Jinty.

Does anyone have an opinion to express on which of my ideas are practical if, indeed, any of them are? Can anyone point me towards a good source of information to help me build any of these models?

I'm about to take out a subscription to Model Engineer (I currently have one to Model Engineers' Workshop but I'm giving that up) so I will have access to the digital back issues. I'm not sure how far they go back so I don't know what I'll find there.

Any help will be much appreciated.

Brian Thompson.

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