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 Hello and welcome to my model engineering workshop

Radial model engine

Welcome to the world of model engineering. A much more rewarding experience than watching TV!

Model engineering – an all absorbing pastime for mechanically minded individuals that offers endless challenges and enormous satisfaction with the successful completion of each and every project. Start with something simple like Elmer’s #25 wobbler and as your skills and confidence grow move on to more complex challenges.  Believe me, the satisfaction you gain when your first simple steam engine bursts into life is just as great as when your first model internal combustion engine fires up.

In the days when I displayed my model engines at steam rallies and country shows it was clear that whilst there was a great deal of interest in model engineering, there was also much uncertainty on how to make a start. These were some of the questions I was frequently asked.

“Did you make these engines yourself ?”

“Did you work from a kit ?”

“Where do you get the plans ?”

“How much does it cost to get started ?”

So this page has been created for you, to try to answer these basic questions and from this you may be able to decide if model engineering might be for you.

Assuming you already have a garage or well insulated shed investing in the equipment necessary to make a start, is likely to cost a minimum of £800. You could spend a lot more than this and many people do but the following should get you under way. You would no doubt add further equipment and tooling as you progress but this should provide some idea of scale of setup costs to get the ball rolling with your model making.

On the financial front the good news is that once you have a reasonable set up the cost of building models is relatively low. Plans are quite often freely available and whilst the cost of materials is always rising buying bar stock is reasonably affordable.If you really get the model engineering bug you will soon want to add a milling machine to your workshop and with tooling you are looking at maybe a further £700 to £800.  I would advise against buying second hand as the savings are not likely to be significant and you could finish up wasting your hard earned money with worn out or damaged equipment.

You could buy castings from which you can make model steam engines but don’t make the mistake of thinking these are an easy option as the reverse can be true. This is due to lack of datum lines from which to measure from. These casting kits are very expensive and replacing castings that you may damage even more so. My only exception is that I do buy cast flywheels for my larger scratch built models.

Elmer’s #2 Twin Wobbler (left) alongside Elmer’s #25 Single Wobbler. Excellent engines for newbies to the world of model engineering.

The other resource that will play a major part in deciding if model engineering is for you is time. Whilst the simpler oscillating type engines can be built in a few days you should consider weeks and months to build the more complex engines. Experienced engineers who build scale traction engines for example measure their build time in years. My advice would be to start with something modest like Elmers #25 Wobbler which is featured on here under Starter Projects and this excellent little engine can normally be built in a matter of days and without the need for a milling machine, desirable but not essential.

Other options which may enable you to sample model engineering before making a decision are, in theory, part time model engineering courses but these are now few and far between. The other is to join a local model engineering club but despite their acclamations I wonder just how much they do welcome and make total beginners feel at ease. If my assumptions on this latter point are wrong I would love to hear from any Model Engineering Clubs who can provide the help and hands on guidance which beginners are seeking.

Please remember this site is designed with the beginner in mind – there are plenty of other sites for the experienced engineer. If you would like any specific advice please get in touch via email and I will try to help.

One very important note please do not underestimate the need to pay due respect to health and safety. A common sense approach is best, and avoid loose clothing, long hair, jewellery or anything else than can be caught up with revolving machinery.

My Background

Let me introduce myself – my name is John and I am very much a late arrival on the model engineering scene. I have no career background in engineering though I have always had an underlying interest in all things mechanical. I restored the first of several motorbikes when I was 14, I’ve rebuilt an MG sports car, restored numerous antique wall and longcase clocks and even dabbled at restoring vintage clarinets. My long standing participation with motorcycling came to an end five or six years ago and it was then that my thoughts turned to the possibilities of model engineering. Soon thereafter I was gathering the supplies and making a start machining my first metalworking cuts.

So, what qualifies me to develop a website aimed at up and coming model engineers? Not a great deal apart from a fantastic apprenticeship under the guidance of John Moore – known to many model engineers as Bogs – who has kindly contributed some content to this site. In the space of less than three years through Bog’s help and encouragement I have learnt so much. Not only is Bogs a superb and ingenious engineer he has that rare gift of being able to convey his thoughts with clarity and humour.

When I took my first tentative steps into the world of model engineering I was hungry for information to help me get started. I bought the magazines, visited exhibitions and scoured the internet but I found it all very confusing.I didn’t even know what questions I should be asking. Then I had the good fortune to meet up with Bogs and slowly but surely I gained the knowledge and skills to make progress.

So this site is clearly not written by a skilled and experienced engineer but rather by someone who as a newbie has made some progress and had a lot of fun and satisfaction along the way. If it helps others to make a start and getting that first engine up and running then I shall be well pleased.for-home

It was early in 2007 that I bought myself a mini lathe and armed with Stan Bray’s plans for a ‘simple’ steam engine I started my first project. The fact that the engine ran at all was due more to the forgiving nature of small model steam engines than any skill on my part.

It was at this early stage that I realised that steam is not essential to run steam engines – compressed air will do just as well. In fact, in my opinion, compressed air is far better. My first engine was run on a small ‘cheapo’ tyre inflator. Building boilers is not easy and can be downright dangerous so my advice is to steer well clear, at least in your early days. You will have enough of a challenge making the engine, let alone constructing a boiler.

Get started by taking a look at my Model Steam Engines page or the Machines & Tooling section.

 Comments, questions, want to ask about anything you’ve seen on the site? Head over here.