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Is Model Engineering in Decline

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Ron Laden16/08/2018 20:48:54
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1190 forum posts
194 photos

I went into our local engineering supplier today to get some nuts and washers and the assistant that served me I,ve known for over 30 years. When I was working the company I worked for bought all its fasteners and engineering supplies from them.

We had a chat and he asked if I was into model engineering, he had noticed me in the shop quite a few times over the last couple of months, I told him I was but quite new to it.

Its not a massive supplier but they are great, as you can go in with a shopping list and get small quantities of various sizes and types of fastenings. You dont have to buy minimum qty,s or full boxes, they will supply you with one screw if thats all you need.

I said, I bet you get quite a few modellers in dont you but he said no, not any more. He said if he thinks back 30 years and compares it to now, model engineering for them as fallen off a cliff. As well as fastenings, they used to stock some items and materials popular with modellers but those days are long gone.

From what he said it would seem that model engineering is nothing like as popular as it once was, which made me wonder, is that just local to me or is that the situation in general.

Ron

Edited By Ron Laden on 16/08/2018 20:50:29

Alan Waddington 216/08/2018 20:57:19
435 forum posts
86 photos

It probably is on the decline, but so is shopping in person.......

RevStew16/08/2018 20:59:41
87 forum posts

There will always be people who want to make models of things, in metal, wood, or anything else they can get hold of. Look at the guy with his paper 777. There just may not be that many of them.

It just may be that it goes back to the very early days, where there were no suppliers of castings and so on. There were sparse times at the start, then a golden era, and now we're on the downward slope to sparse times again it seems.

I would say it's in decline, but so are many hobbies that don't involve sitting on your arse with the idiot's lantern lighting up your face.

Dave Halford16/08/2018 21:01:59
412 forum posts
3 photos

Originally that was why Reeves in Holly Lane went bust in the 90's

I suspect now it's all Mail order and we all pay through the nose for the wonderous convenience or we just live too far away.

Machinery sales should give a more realistic picture of what's going on..

martin perman16/08/2018 21:15:11
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1611 forum posts
67 photos

I don't do model engineering as such, I make parts for my other hobbies, but I do enjoy visiting my local ME clubs to ride the trains, attend ME exhibitions etc and the no of grown ups who attend seems to be on the increase, my local fastener company will sometimes give me my fixings for nothing if I'm looking for the odd bolt as its cheaper than raising the paperwork, I always tend to buy a minimum of ten offs now so I have stock.

ME exhibitions are a source of tooling for me as are ARC and other companies so I buy on line as distance is the major drawback so there has to be a deal of trust that what you see is what you get and companies have to make sure they are squeaky clean otherwise they go out of business. 

Another thought is that this forum is only a small percentage of those that actually have ME as their hobby, 

Martin P

Edited By martin perman on 16/08/2018 21:24:33

Simon Collier16/08/2018 22:02:18
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297 forum posts
52 photos

Our big supplier, Hare and Forbes Machinery House, now have less model engineering stuff and more emphasis on car restoration stuff. They are just following the demand.

Mick B116/08/2018 22:13:28
1123 forum posts
62 photos

Looking at the magazines, it seems to me there are more options from more suppliers than, say, 20 years back. I was thinking that it's the baby-boomer generation, some of whom have the skills and the pensions to enable it, who are actually expanding the hobby. Obviously amongst the suppliers there'll be winners and losers.

The jam-packed state of those exhibitions I've been to seems to me to back that up. Just my opinions from what I've seen.

FMES16/08/2018 22:37:59
595 forum posts
2 photos

Despite best efforts within a large engineering training school it has been painfully obvious with only a very few exceptions, that the youth of today are not particularly interested in anything that cannot be completed immediately and only by the use of their thumbs.

I recall only one lad that actually had a natural interest in all things engineering and that was out of around three hundred apprentices that passed through the school.

Nowadays the tendency is 'learn something, sit the exam and forget it' very little recall, and a great deal of skill fade if not practised for a couple of weeks.

These guys, and gals for that matter, are taught differently in schools today, and anything practical that harks back to anything steam related (Nuclear excepted) just isn't interesting to them.

I used to get them to build a small oscillating engine using only hand tools and the milling machine, and despite their apparent wonder when it actually ran on completion, their next question woiuld in the main be 'How much could I get for it on ebay'

But its not just Model Engineering, Crafts on the whole are dissapearing.

Sad really.

Neil Wyatt17/08/2018 00:29:16
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16226 forum posts
675 photos
74 articles

No decline, just people doing things differently.

Not buying in person or supporting local businesses.

Branching out into new technologies.

Seeing engineering skills as secondary to other hobbies (that are now much more advanced/ambitious than they used to be) rather than an end in themselves.

Hardly anyone understanding that the 'maker movement' is exactly what model engineering was 100 years ago before it got typecast as locos, traction engines and clocks.

I bet there are more lathes in private hands now than ever before and vastly more mills, but with the internet a large proportion of these people are self sufficient, and don't join clubs, visit exhibitions and only find a forum like this or a magazine like ME/MEW by accident.

There is a huge appetite for engineering related hobbies, check out Instructables, Thingiverse and Men in Sheds. All ages, all skill levels, they just don't relate what they are doing to model engineering unless we get out and tell them.

 

Neil

Edit - I'm reminded of the book about recent social change in America - Bowling Alone. The title says it all.

Edited By Neil Wyatt on 17/08/2018 00:30:24

Hopper17/08/2018 01:35:18
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3651 forum posts
72 photos

@ Neil, yes definitely more lathes in private hands these days and most certainly mills. The affordable Chinese mills available today were unthinkable a generation ago. I never knew anyone who had a mill in their home workshop until recent years.

As for not supporting local businesses, a lot of local businesses don't do much to support small volume customers such as ME types. Not enough money in it for them these days.

But even local businesses in general seem to be less and less interested in their customers. I stood around for over half an hour in an almost empty local appliance retailer's showroom yesterday with $1,000 in my pocket to buy a new set of hi-fi speakers and got ignored. Walked out. Went home. Bought the same thing on that dreaded auction site for a bit less money. I think walk-in shops' days are numbered.

I already buy almost all my workshop tooling, supplies and materials online because it's more time-efficient than running around local shops waiting to get served then only to find they are out of stock because they don't bother to reorder until the shelf is totally empty. So if I've got to wait for them to get it in, I might as well stay at home, order online and wait for it to arrive at my doorstep. Every hour of shopping time, and driving time, saved is an extra hour of making swarf.

Limpet17/08/2018 06:23:40
103 forum posts
3 photos

The problem we get in the south West is that there are no local shops the nearest one I could get anything for the lathe or mill is over 30 miles away ( hardly a quick nip out) we have one place I can buy fixings above 6 mm but nothing smaller so you're forced to do all the shopping online. I'm not even sure how far our nearest foundry is but I suspect at least 80 - 100 miles

XD 35117/08/2018 06:46:56
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1295 forum posts
111 photos

The other benefit of an on line trader is there is no need for a showroom so it keeps overheads down and thus a cheaper purchase price .

Hopper , i get the opposite treatment - i can't stand it when i just set foot into a store and have someone badgering me !

Can I help you ? No i'm just looking thanks ! Walk into the next aisle - differnt sales person but same question an so on and so forth ! Usually by the time third sales person has irritated me i tend to start tearing them a new one !

I was just reading the latest edition of a local model engineering magazine and due to the distributors putting up their prices the magazine has had to stop selling through newsagencies so subscription only from now on . I wouldn't be surprised if more publications follow suit or eventually switch to digital only subscriptions .

John Olsen17/08/2018 06:58:34
977 forum posts
86 photos
1 articles

If you go back to the earliest issues of Model Engineer you will find that people were saying the same sort of things...the hobby is in decline,there are only old people doing it, etc.

Simon Collier17/08/2018 07:54:36
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297 forum posts
52 photos

I got my Sept-Oct issue of AME today and it is to be the last issue sold in newsagents. Distribution costs have gone up to the point of making a loss, so subscription only. That means no accidental discovery of the hobby while browsing.

Ady117/08/2018 09:10:02
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3463 forum posts
513 photos

T'internet is where it's at nowadays

There's no way I could have got going without it, or got half the gear I have

Probably less people do ME nowadays because the choice of alternative options is massive

Even the TV is under threat, such is the nature of modern society

pgk pgk17/08/2018 09:29:28
1395 forum posts
278 photos

Hopper's story means i just have to highjack the thread for my personal rant against salesmen. I like to view capital items before buyng so showrooms have their place but when they have salesmen that have been 'trained to sell the modern way' - particularly car salesmen who think that befriending me will make a difference - it just irriitates.

Example. I went into a car showroom. Salesman asks my name "Mr Kxxxxx" I reply

"And your first name Mr Kxxxxx?"

"Why do you need my first name?"

"So I know what to call you?"

"I'm the customer. You call me 'Sir'"

"And how much did Sir want to spend?"

"Sir didn't want to spend anything. Sir wants a new car that represents value for money that he fits into!" (I just happen to be a few thou under 6'8"

And just because i like to stir things up I have been known to go car shopping using my oldest car, sloppiest comfy clothes and not shave for 2-3 days. It puts salesmen on their back foot.. One rude 'barsteward' even asked me to move my car and park it around the back because it wasn't in keeping with their brand. I enjoyed tearing into him in very posh and formal queen's english.

pgk

DMB17/08/2018 09:48:38
901 forum posts

I said years ago when there was talk of many more channels, what are they going to put on?/what have they got?Why dozens more channels?Can only watch one at a time.

Now we know and I'm sorry to say my forecast of umpteen repeats of what the first 3 channels produced, has come true.

Recent announcement that no more local tv stations will be set up says it all.

I soon won't have to pay extortionate licence fee to watch rubbish and I suspect there will be an awful lot more baby boomers soon won't be paying either. Oh dear, BBC, you can't/won't afford any more expensive high court cases!

One local Sussex club has 4 very keen 13-16 year old members, 2 of whom have got their own electric Locos. Trouble is, no better off since older active members are being taken ill or just giving up and sit around on wrinklies days watching the youngsters play trains.

RevStew17/08/2018 09:57:51
87 forum posts

If the baby boomers are all going to shuffle off to the Lords workshop very soon does that mean there will be a glut of cheap ML7's on the market? Muhuhahahahahahah...

RevStew17/08/2018 09:59:45
87 forum posts
Posted by pgk pgk on 17/08/2018 09:29:28:

Hopper's story means i just have to highjack the thread for my personal rant against salesmen. I like to view capital items before buyng so showrooms have their place but when they have salesmen that have been 'trained to sell the modern way' - particularly car salesmen who think that befriending me will make a difference - it just irriitates.

Example. I went into a car showroom. Salesman asks my name "Mr Kxxxxx" I reply

"And your first name Mr Kxxxxx?"

"Why do you need my first name?"

"So I know what to call you?"

"I'm the customer. You call me 'Sir'"

"And how much did Sir want to spend?"

"Sir didn't want to spend anything. Sir wants a new car that represents value for money that he fits into!" (I just happen to be a few thou under 6'8"

And just because i like to stir things up I have been known to go car shopping using my oldest car, sloppiest comfy clothes and not shave for 2-3 days. It puts salesmen on their back foot.. One rude 'barsteward' even asked me to move my car and park it around the back because it wasn't in keeping with their brand. I enjoyed tearing into him in very posh and formal queen's english.

 

pgk

Love it. I really don't like the 'friend' ploy either. Rapid escalation to frosty Queens English soon follows!!

 

 

 

Edited By RevStew on 17/08/2018 10:00:52

Edited By RevStew on 17/08/2018 10:02:31

Mick B117/08/2018 10:12:04
1123 forum posts
62 photos

The problem with the huge multiplicity of TV channels is that it undermines the commonality of entertainment, experience and culture that prevailed when there were only 3 or 4. People don't have the same stuff to talk about the next day.

The coherence of society is destroyed, and civilisation degrades to bloody chaos.

It is the duty of Model Engineers to keep alive the knowledge of how to make the basic machinery that pumps water, makes and transports bricks etc., else we're all doomed.

So there. Tell me if I'm wrong.devillaugh

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