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New member from the USA

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Ronnie Zownir24/09/2020 22:12:18
6 forum posts

Hello everyone,

I'm a mechanical engineer from the Northeastern United States. I have a home machine shop which includes a Taig CNC mill with ball screws, two Sherline CNC lathes, a Shapeoko 3 XXL CNC router, a WWII-era Atlas Lathe that my grandfather purchased new as a young tool and die maker, and a Jet engine lathe, among other things.

I collect model engines and the British ones are the pride and joy of my collection. Last year, I was lucky enough to find an original unfired Alco Firefly steam boiler that went unsold at an auction house that typically deals in fine art and furniture. I discovered it a few days after the auction took place and snapped it up for half the opening bid! (I have not seen another one online in such excellent condition.) I already had my sights on and subsequently acquired elsewhere an Alco Firefly genset. Both the boiler and the genset are from 1944 and the serial numbers on each are close enough that they may have been at the factory at the same time. I don't know the history of the boiler, but the genset has been around the world. It made its way to Australia from London and spent the last 20 years in Idaho.

I hope to share my passion and knowledge with this great community! Glad to be aboard.

Brian H25/09/2020 08:50:52
1797 forum posts
108 photos

Hello Ronnie and welcome to this wonderful Forum.

I like the sound of your home shop, plenty of things to play with!

Are you a self taught CNCer or have you had previous experience at work?

I only ask because CNC is something that interests me.

If you have any question at all then please ask on here, someone is almost certainly to come along with the answer.


Chris Evans 625/09/2020 09:18:47
1746 forum posts

Welcome along Ronnie, like Brian above I like the sound of your workshop. If you can sort out how to post pictures I would love to see the GenSet.

old mart25/09/2020 14:41:17
1991 forum posts
151 photos

Welcome, Ronnie, this forum is a great place for model makers, there is so much expertese. I presume that you are already a member of The Home Shop Machinist forum on your side of the pond, many of their members are also into models.

Harry Wilkes25/09/2020 16:25:42
981 forum posts
63 photos

Welcome to the forum


stephen goodbody25/09/2020 16:50:58
52 forum posts
40 photos

Welcome aboard Ronnie.

There seem to be a few non-UK residents on here, myself included. I'm not sure where you're based but there are several model engineering clubs in the northeast.

I'm a member of the NJ Live Steamers which is a great club and close to where I live and, while my visits are unfortunately occasional thanks to other demands on my time, that doesn't mean that I don't appreciate and enjoy the opportunity when it arises. I'd be happy to put you in touch if that's of interest.

2020 has been tough, with no in-person meets for most clubs, and these online forums are a blessing in helping to stoke the enthusiasm. As mentioned above, the Home Machinist forum ( is a similar resource in the US and well worth checking out.

Best regards


Ronnie Zownir25/09/2020 18:12:41
6 forum posts

Brian, I began learning CNC machining in college. It was a basic introduction, but the experience made me want to buy a CNC mill. Nine years later I finally did. I sometimes work closely with the professional CNC programmers at my job and have learned from them, but I am mostly self-taught. There is always more to learn, and I learn as I go. I believe it is something within anyone's grasp who has a genuine desire to take it on, so dive right in!

People with solid experience in manual machining who know the "feel" of cutting metal have a great head start when it comes to CNC. Without that, there is much more fiddling around and missing what would otherwise be obvious.

Another observation is that small CNC machines present their own unique challenges, which require you to be more thoughtful, clever, and deliberate. The guy making chips on a Haas, Brother, Robodrill, etc. would probably stand to benefit from experience on a Taig or Sherline. Some pros may scoff at that, but whenever you have limited resources to work with, you become better at utilizing them and your work is more efficient. That is a fundamental truth which is widely applicable. Model engineers understand it well!

A third observation in going from small manual to CNC machining is that the consistency and complex control CNC affords improves your machine's effective capability in a way that is not widely appreciated. With CNC, more of a small machine's limited power can be made to go into cutting metal rather than the frictional losses associated with trying to do so. Learn about the concept of "chip thinning" and the calculations that go into feeds, speeds, and power utilization with low radial cutter engagement. Only CNC operation can allow you to take full advantage of this. I have done trials pushing my mill to its limits and probably set the record for material removal rate on a Taig, with calculated power exceeding the 1/4 HP continuous duty rating of the motor. Going from locking up the spindle and having to retram the mill doing pathetic cuts the wrong/inefficient way to ripping through with complete confidence is sure to bring a devious smile to your face!

Along the way, you will be making improvements and custom accessories to enhance your CNC mill. That’s all part of the fun of it.

Ronnie Zownir25/09/2020 18:13:03
6 forum posts

Chris, I will try to post photos of my complete Alco Firefly set later.

Ronnie Zownir25/09/2020 18:15:53
6 forum posts

Steve, what part of New Jersey? From Bergen County and went to college in central NJ.

stephen goodbody25/09/2020 19:22:58
52 forum posts
40 photos

Ronnie - I'm originally from the UK but have lived in Morris County for the past 25 years or so.

Best regards


Temporary Nickname Guy28/09/2020 03:21:58
8 forum posts
3 photos

Greetings from another newly minted American member (California); Joined a few weeks ago, the result of some clock making questions, but first love is miniature I/C and steam engines; Hoping to rekindle my enthusiasm for all hobbies, as set aside for decades when "life" got in the way.

Jealous of your equipment, lost most of mine a few years back, now reduced to "files and hack saws", projects which fit in a shoe box, for the time being. I had a very nice Atlas lathe in my garage for many years, but took it for granted, as I was working at the time in a machine shop, had continual access to larger, newer machines; No longer working there, I miss the Atlas daily, more than I would have thought.

To date, nothing but positive things to say about the forum, suspect you will agree!

Brian H28/09/2020 07:08:10
1797 forum posts
108 photos

Hello Ronnie and many thanks for the detailed answers to my questions.


Ronnie Zownir29/09/2020 02:37:33
6 forum posts

Steve, I'll check out the NJ Live Steamers once things get back to normal.

I went to the CAMA Fall show in Kent, CT last year and was in nonstop amazement. Steam trains, tractors, and land vehicles are great. And the sweet waxy smell of a coal-fired steam boiler is an experience all its own. What I really want, however, is a boat. Building my own steam launch is on my Must Do list. But many projects ahead of that massive undertaking.

Chris, I haven't forgotten about the photos! Took some yesterday, but have to get them off the memory card.

Brian, no problem. Hope you found what I wrote useful.

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