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Is Model Engineering "green"?

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Juddy29/11/2021 12:34:41
106 forum posts

The hobby can never be considered green, the models we make in general run-on fossil fuels for a start, and apart from repairing a few old machines etc. the hobby does not make useful items from the energy and materials consumed except to the individual’s enjoyment in the making. All in all, the output from a model engineering workshop is as pointless as a lot of the toys and trivia produced in the world. Of course this is missing the point of occupying a lot of people who would need some other form of enjoyment to fill their time, with whatever that alternative hobby would be, it is almost certain it would also not be ‘green’, as what human activity is truly ‘green’.

Nigel Bennett29/11/2021 13:02:12
460 forum posts
20 photos

We each of us - all 8 billion - produce 1kg of CO2 every day just by breathing. Basic needs living adds a lot more to that.

As Ady & Martin said earlier, the 8 billion is the problem. We are, as they say, doomed. All this talk of "green EVs" and the like is so much re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The "Offsetting Carbon" mantra of planting a few trees because you're burning fossil fuels is just arrant nonsense.

The problem is that very few of us 8 billion is going to step forward and volunteer to stop breathing. Stopping breeding is one solution - but then who's going to look after the aged population after a few years? Another apocalypse scenario - and where would we get the model engineers from if they shoot everybody over the age of (say) 65?

It'll be an asteroid or that caldera in Jellystone Park that will get the human race. So long as I'm not here to witness it...

Keith Wyles29/11/2021 18:29:59
110 forum posts

Nigel, isn't the who is going to look after the elderly a red herring created by those that want to see an ever increasing population to buy their products. Short termism seems to win out. Really needs a dictator with a long term vision, but that usually goes wrong. We just need to realise that the need to keep buying new things is a con, and buy products that last longer and are repairable.

Martin Kyte29/11/2021 18:54:27
2789 forum posts
53 photos
Posted by Nigel Bennett on 29/11/2021 13:02:12:

We each of us - all 8 billion - produce 1kg of CO2 every day just by breathing. Basic needs living adds a lot more to that.

The Carbon exhaled comes from grown food, grown food has drwn down carbon from the atmosphere so you are merely completing the cycle. Properly grown food also makes soil which also locks up atmospheric carbon. The cycle breaks when artificlal fertiliser are used which add fossil carbon and don't do much for the soil. Thats why diet and agriculture are key to changing the carbon footprint.

regards Martin

Neil Wyatt29/11/2021 21:24:31
19076 forum posts
736 photos
80 articles

An interesting discussion.

I'm somewhat conflicted because of the large amount of resources that are going into my workshop rig-out.

I've tried to insulate and draught proof as best I can, especially as it is quite big, and so far a trial indicates it is going to prove efficient to heat, once I have insulated a final panel and completed draught proofing. On a nearly windless day, the temperature inside rises by 2-3 degrees with just me and the dehumidifier, which is only 200 watts when flat out, and that's with me occasionally opening the rather badly sealed main door.

My main bugbear is the door, which is warped and has required some ingenuity in making a 'sealable' door frame. Essentially, I'm fitting the frame to the door, rather than the other way around. I've now got some suitable strip to make a seal all round, but I've lost the torx bit for finally fitting the final screws for the repositioned hinges.. every little job leads to another little job. At the other end, I've made an insulated false wall inside the heavy-duty roller shutter. Easy to make a close-fitting door, more challenging to achieve a draught-sealed join to the steel roof. I've had to use expanding polyurethane foam, apparently modern ones are less damaging than the old ones. Sill hideous to use. I have six feet to complete once I can get into that corner! I also have a few more sections of plasterboard 'pelmet' (just 4" wide lengths) to finish sealing the other wall/ceiling joints.

95% of the walls are either wooden door or polystyrene insulation, the floor is laid with a moisture proof membrane and then insulating foam panels over the concrete. I've had to go for 'bubble wrap'-style insulation for the roof for practical reasons. It's not the most efficient solution, but a fully enclosed insulated roof was going to be impractical.

I will only be using very low-level anti-frost heating except when I am inside (there is sufficient insulation that condensation won't be a worry - the original garage was plagued by it, but it is definitely cured now). I have max-min thermometer and hygrometer set up, and I will be keeping a close eye on its performance. I'm also using a non-contact IR thermometer to track down draughts and cold spots. The one thing the 'jury' is out on is whether I should clad about four-feet in width of wall which is painted concrete block. If these end up as significant cold spots I may just cover them in 2mm polystyrene, which can be effective despite being very thin.

As for kitting out, the timber came from B&Q, partly because I know it's all to Forestry Stewardship Council standard. I'm using screwed construction for benches etc. and designing it to make as much as possible removable and reusable. A lesson learned from my previous workshop, where the new owner is benefitting from my old benches. Much of the timber that came out has been to poor to re-use and has been recycled. Notable exceptions are a very sturdy but narrow woodwork benchtop, about 1 1/2" thick and a heavy duty, but battered, eight-foot bench originally made for the workshop in my grandfather's shop by a school woodwork teacher 'in the evenings'. It still has (long since unconnected) pairs of 5A two-pin sockets at each end, once used for multiple soldering irons. With a new plywood shelf it will be used mostly for storage.

Lighting will all be LED, although I'm a bit worried that a total of 240W of LED striplights may end up more like a tanning salon than a workshop, but I can always add individual switching.

Sorry if this has wandered off the point a bit! My main aim has been to maximise energy efficiency and eliminate damp and draughts.

As for what I do in it... I have most of the materials I will need for my planned projects, and I will continue to try and maximise the re-use of materials. I will also try and continue to use my workshop to repair things rather than replace them.


Nigel Graham 229/11/2021 22:06:14
2284 forum posts
33 photos

Keith -

Not quite a "red herring" by commerce. The People's Republic of China has recently ended its birth-contol laws because it was indeed leading to population with more elderly than young, pro-rata.


Are we "green"? Not in the slang sense, judging by the lively discussions elsewhere on this forum: we know the differences between heat and temperature, energy and power, and why coal is still important for producing iron not steel.

Yes we use a fair amount of electricity to make modles of which many will burn coal - though the CO2 from an afternoon's steaming must be miniscule compared to that from certain other mechanically-based hobbies.

On the other hand we use not only new machine-tools with modern electric motors, but often keep very old machine-tools going, mending rather than throwing away, and often treating them to modern motors and drives too.

If we were not in our workshops what would we be doing? Sitting in a very warm house watching TV programmes which even if our end uses little electricity, represent vast kH/h at the production end? We cannot deny that our society likes its luxuries and we are no exception, be we spending an evening at a concert or an evening milling a big lump of steel. Indeed a society that likes it luxuries to profligacy - never mind battery-driven cars to move the pollution and land-fills elsewhere;, what of all the electricity wasted in motorway service-areas with their amusment-machines and gee-gaw shops irrelevant to taking a rest from driving?

We all enjoy our leisure, but if we were really Full Members of the Greta Tornberg Fan Club would we be installing machine-shops in our homes, going to the theatre, travelling long distances on holiday, having hot showers, etc., etc.?

No we are not as "green" as perhaps Extant Rebellicose and Greater Thunderbox would like. Besides, where are we going to find slide-way oil - or hydraulic oil and insulating materials for wind-turbines - if she closes the oil-refineries? Nevertheless we are probably no worse, indeed "better", than many others - for one thing our collective penchant for "recycling" old tools and materials would put the Wombles to shame.

By all means "save the planet"... but let's keep a sense of proportion, understand what needs to be done - and consider the cultural and social costs.

I am only glad not to have bred. I hate to think what any great-grand-sprogs of mine might eventually face. A safe life climatologically perhaps, but in a very isolated, culturally and economically poor society, I fear.

duncan webster29/11/2021 22:07:55
4120 forum posts
66 photos

The air in my workshop was decidedly blue (not green) on Saturday when I carefully made 2 components to exactly the wrong dimensions. Teach me to do a proper sketch beforehand rather than working it out in my head.

Nicholas Farr29/11/2021 22:48:45
3418 forum posts
1592 photos

Hi, well I don't think there are any hobbies that are totally green, but whatever you do, you could probably find a green reason why you shouldn't be doing it. Myself, I use as much reusable materials as I possible can and have a variety of off cuts of steel from my working days that would have ended up in the scrap bin. I don't have any heating in my garage so to speak, but I do have two areas which are partitioned off and are reasonably insulated, one of which still has to be finished off, but the other one has a thermostatically controlled oil radiator set to keep it at around 12C minimum but if it gets a bit to cold to work, I can just turn it up a little and then back down when I've finished, more than 70% of materials for partitioning off and putting in a ceiling in both areas has been done by reuse of wood, MDF and about 50% plasterboard and I've put LED lights in the second section and intend to change my 125 watt fluorescent strip light for LED ones soon. I'm retired so I don't have to use my car even half of the time I used too. I actually don't like things that you can't take to bits and repair and prefer proper screws / fixings rather than silly plastic tabs that very often snap off.

Regards Nick.

DiogenesII30/11/2021 08:28:02
589 forum posts
234 photos

I can't totally seal the workshop above head-height, because the bats won't be able to get out - and I can't seal it at ground level because the shrew family and the wood-mice like to come and go - and they are my 'rat-canaries'..

I can't raise the temperature because the tortoise will wake up, however if it gets too near freezing, I'll have to bring her in, and then I might burn some wood, although woodsmoke condensing on bare machined surfaces never ends well in the long-run.

As far as the machine-tools go, as long as the air is free to circulate, the only major problem is with arriving warm-fronts which, two-or-three times a year, cause every cold surface to run with water which has to be attended to - a squirt of the inversally-derided dispersant usually does the trick, along with a wipe-down as soon as it's passed - it's okay if one is attentive and as much of my life is intertwined with the weather and it's doings, we're well-attenuated.

Stuff like rotary table, chucks etc. get an oily wipe-over before they are put away, on VCI paper in birch-ply wine boxes, or wooden cabinets, or on the rubber mats that line the drawers in the lathe cabinet..

What do we actually need, and how much do we just find convenient..

Who was it that did most of his work in a damp, dingy, former-wash-house attached to the back of his house - Walshaw? Westbury? Sparey? ..someone knows I'm sure..

colin hawes30/11/2021 17:19:18
559 forum posts
18 photos

Seems to me that natural pollution from volcanos and forest fires has a bit to do with excessive CO2 and the loss of trees has a lot to do with failing to reduce carbon absorption .Why didn't we hear so much of global warming in the decades of smoky domestic chimneys? Colin

Tim Stevens30/11/2021 17:48:20
1622 forum posts

Let's try for a moment to think within the box, but also to realise how big the box really is. Which box? The box marked 'Model Engineering'.

There is no rule which says it has to be anything to do with railways or steam, or coal, or petrol, or electricity. It is just as legitimate to make a model of any engineered product, or even anything which might be engineered in the future, by carving it out of wood or bone, if that is what the job requires. Good models of the Eiffel Tower (and no-one can deny that is engineered) can be made from paper and straws.

And the topic is not limited to hobby activity, either. An inventor near me wanted a miniature of a life-size idea, based around the workings of a car differential, but not using it for power transmission. The job was done and he went away happy, having paid a fair price for the work. Was it model engineering? Of course.

There will be changes in the future, but there will still be blokes in sheds making stuff.

Cheers, Tim

Keith Wyles30/11/2021 17:56:59
110 forum posts

I have wondered if green hydrogen burners can replace coal when it is finally banned, or an electric compressor instead of steam or if steam power will go out of fashion as it is no longer remembered from ME's youth.

SillyOldDuffer30/11/2021 18:21:27
8891 forum posts
1998 photos
Posted by colin hawes on 30/11/2021 17:19:18:

Seems to me that natural pollution from volcanos and forest fires has a bit to do with excessive CO2 and the loss of trees has a lot to do with failing to reduce carbon absorption .Why didn't we hear so much of global warming in the decades of smoky domestic chimneys? Colin

Helps to put numbers on problems. This graph shows the amount of CO2 put into the atmosphere each year by mankind since 1750.


Man-made CO2 output was relatively low during the smoking chimney era, not reaching 6 billion tonnes per year until 1950. After 1950, burning oil and coal really took off and this year humanity will dump about 36 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. Human emissions are in addition to natural sources and it can't be said the quantity doesn't matter.

Massive increases burning fossil fuels during my lifetime, far beyond anything done before. It's not surprising there are consequences.


Michael Gilligan30/11/2021 18:40:36
20289 forum posts
1064 photos

Posted by SillyOldDuffer on 30/11/2021 18:21:27:


Helps to put numbers on problems. This graph shows the amount of CO2 put into the atmosphere each year by mankind since 1750.



Simple, Honest question, Dave …

Do you have any idea at what point on that graph the data start being trustworthy ?


Harry Wilkes30/11/2021 18:51:28
1371 forum posts
66 photos

Who cares Ive turned the gas down use less electric and drive less so done my bit take the workshop away may as well stop in bed !!! frown


old mart30/11/2021 18:52:09
3898 forum posts
268 photos

Model engineering is certainly greener than having a gas guzzling V8 American car to pollute the world.

Andy Carlson30/11/2021 19:10:11
435 forum posts
132 photos

I've been trying to resist... but temptation has got the better of me.

An eco variation on what must be everyone's favourite recurring forum topic...

Presumably more green points should go to those who populate their workshops with lovingly restored classic British made lathes rather than newly minted ones from the other side of the planet.

Michael Gilligan30/11/2021 19:14:09
20289 forum posts
1064 photos

There’s probably no actual need for restoration, Andy angel


mgnbuk30/11/2021 20:46:35
1205 forum posts
72 photos

Can't say I have given the "green-ness" of my workshop activities a second thought & have no intention of doing so. My stopping such activities would make no appreciable difference to anything in the greater scheme of things - totally eradicating my 1/68000000 contribution to the UKs emissions would make no appreciable difference either & totally eradicating the UKs entire contribution would make for all of a 1% reduction in worldwide emissions & that would be snuffed out within a year by other countries increased output.

Additional workshop electricity consumption is negligable & most likely exceeded by the excess generated by the solar panels that I can't use that goes back into the grid. Heating (when required) is around 1/2 a litre of red diesel an hour through a 5Kw air heater - not going to get worried about that while the 20% of global emissions attributed to military activities world wide are off the COP agenda.

All my machines are "second user" & the newest is over 25 years old (barring the Chester 3-in-1 sheet metal machine which was new 20 years ago). Most of the metal in the stash is industrial offcuts or recycled from other sources (still working through my late father's stash of angle iron bed frames !) - re-using or using up "stuff" that has already been made is surely for the better ?

Nigel B.

Tony Pratt 130/11/2021 20:49:29
2024 forum posts
12 photos
Posted by Harry Wilkes on 30/11/2021 18:51:28:

Who cares Ive turned the gas down use less electric and drive less so done my bit take the workshop away may as well stop in bed !!! frown


My thoughts exactly! Anyone over 60 did their bit years ago without even realising it 😀


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