Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Pre-war No.6 set...

Just lately a lot of talk here at Laughton Towers has been about the modern stuff. Hardly surprising as there is a lot going on out there currently as the new owners of Meccano settle in to their new shoes. Sets disappearing and all sorts of deals around as the old stock and the current production of sets (that were already in the pipeline at the time of purchase) emerge on to the market. All this activity has rather skewed the content of the blog, and taken attention of late.

The number 6 set as found - click on the image to enlarge
To address the balance, here is some of the traditional stuff to get your teeth into! Six months ago I was talking to a fellow Meccanoman who told me about a No. 6 Meccano set he had found at a provincial auction as part of a lot. He said it was in a wooden box and although he thought it not to be complete, it looked like most of it was there. As he was more interested in the other items in the lot he wanted to just move this on to someone who would appreciate it. This week we met again and money was exchanged for Meccano. We are now the proud owner of most of a 1920s Meccano No. 6 set.

The lower layer of parts - click on the image to enlarge
I like the dark red and green of the 1920s Meccano and it is not often that we find it in nice used condition,like this, that is good to build from. It is either really rough, bent and very rusty or it is immaculate and worth a fortune to a collector. This is 'builder' quality and as builders ourselves, it is exactly what we look for. I know the spoked wheels are missing from the set, as you can see, but they are around, built into a model that will be dismantled this week and will follow on to be reunited with the set.

Nice set of channel segments
Some of the parts have been repainted rather heavily and will either be replaced with parts in original finish or will be suitably refinished and lightly distressed to match the rest of the set.

There is a good number of original nuts and bolts included in a small plastic box - a later addition! The interesting thing is the complete set of eight channel segments that all look in good condition. I now need to go away and do some homework to try and date the set and select the correct contents list so I can set about checking and making up the set to be complete.

We have a fair bit of Meccano from this period, but this is the first time we have had anything like a complete set, let alone a decent sized one. The fact that it has been used is not a
problem as it all cleans up really nicely after a wash and a buff-up using Sue's furniture polish trick she gleaned from our friend,  Mike Burgess, a few years ago. The same treatment was given to the parts used to build our little steam saw I built a year or so ago.
Pre-war steam saw...
This was built a while ago using parts from our box of pre-war Meccano that we have been rooting out of collections we have purchased over the years. The saw uses later nuts and bolts as we did not have many contemporary ones at the time. The plastic box of lightly rusty nuts and bolts, that came with our latest acquisition, are a bit of a bonus for us and will clean up beautifully after a wash in the ultrasonic bath (sounds grand but cost a few pounds from Aldi) followed by a soak in rust remover, lightly oiled and given a 'scrunch' - as  my mate Dunmow Dave calls it - in an old towel. I will post some pictures as we go along cleaning up this set.

Modern (ish) meccano used to build a classic model
Now we have this set, it has just occurred to me that it would be good fun to build another Steam Wagon (see HERE) using this set... Now there's a thought, wouldn't that look good all in contemporary colours? We could even race them...


Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Bargain basement time!

A Gears of War set on our blog?
I did not think I would ever be talking about a Gears of War set on our blog in a million years. When these sets first appeared my will to live was being severely compromised. Surely Meccano were not going down the diversification road in top gear, were they? They were following in the footsteps of that Danish company and forgetting where their roots are. To me these sets seemed over-priced and full of bespoke parts playing lip-service to the brand by adding a few holes and the odd 'real' Meccano part.

So, why on earth is it here now? Price. This week Tesco Direct and Toys 'R' Us (and probably some others) are selling the Halvo Bay Pursuit set for under a fiver (£4.99) each! What appeals to me is  this set contains four fence sections that fit together to make a good looking guard rail, ideal for cranes and other structures. Several of these sections can be configured in many ways to make long lengths of guard rail or closed areas, as they are used in the set.

The fence sections
Narrow double obtuse brackets are not very common in any sets and this set has four of them as  a few narrow strips and a selection of plastic parts including a large square plastic plate that is used as the floor to the tower. 
handy narrow brackets

The set also contains a good selection of nuts and bolts in various lengths, as a bit of a bonus. At its original price, (anywhere between £15 and £20+) this set was not worth looking at from a builders point of view but at this price I could not resist the temptation of buying a few sets. The full manual can be downloaded from the Meccano website. HERE (approximately 2.2Mb) There you will find the full list of parts supplied with the set.

The set makes up into a sort of tower platform that has no means of access. Forgive me I am not familiar with the game that this sets, and all the other Gears of War sets, are meant to complement. As you can see there is not much appealing about this structure and nothing there to make me want to buy it when it first appeared.

Is that it then? Hmmm... not quite
The set is also supplied with a couple of small figures that are cleverly articulated, two side arms and three packing cases. The latter items might find some use but the figures and guns have no foreseeable future as far as I can see.

"Stop chucking those bolts about I am sure the beer is here somewhere..."
I am sure that these sets are just being cleared out and they will not be around for long so if you fancy a few sets yourself, don't hang about as when they have gone I don't think you will see them again.


Thursday, 25 September 2014

Two events not to miss...

As the nights draw in and it starts to get a little colder, the days get a little shorter and the Meccano time gets a little longer, it is time to start building those models for the up and coming Meccano events. Here in London, next month we have South East London Meccano club's annual show, which has become one of the most successful one-day shows of the year. 

This year's display cabinet in the Eltham Leisure Centre
SELMEC's promotion machine is rolling and we have already started the publicity in, and around the local area. For the third year running we have secured a display cabinet in the Eltham Leisure Centre to publicise the show in the weeks leading up to the event.  This display presents a taster of some of the superb models that can be seen at the show, a few examples of which can be seen here...

Cath Claydon's superb military vehicles are always worth a good look
...and the almost abstract style of Chris Fry's Peloton
Adrian Ashford's Tug boat catches the lines of the prototype just right
These models and more will be on show at the Eltham centre until the show on the 25th October 2014. 

Meccano UK will be in attendance and as well as giving away special sample sets to the youngsters they will also be running a mini - version of our extremely successful, Make it with Meccano hands on activity.    

Full details of the many other attractions to be found at the show, including the Cycle Racing and lots more, can be found HERE.

And now for something completely different... 

A few miles North East of Eltham, and on the other side of the river, you will find Hainault. Nestled in this East-end suburb of London, you will find North East London Meccano club. Here we have taken a rather different approach. This year will be an open event and we are inviting modellers and collectors from all over to attend and display their latest creations alongside those of our members. This is your chance to be part of London's premier* MECCANO Hangout! New, bright and vibrant, this year's event will mark the change…

The Hainault Hangout


What is this all about?

For the past few decades NELMC members have spent the year attending four club meetings and an annual exhibition. You would be forgiven for getting them mixed up as our exhibition was more like an open meeting. Now is the time to try something different. This December our exhibition is taking on a whole new persona. We are going to run the day as an open day for all interested modellers, club members or not.

This year we are going to drag the dusty old exhibition out of the corner it has been hiding in, and give it a 21st century work out. We have secured a lot more space at our usual venue by renting the entire building! By introducing new competitions, supplying raffle prizes that are really worth winning, and presenting the event in a casual and friendly environment, the new Hainault Hangout will be one event you will not want to miss.

Win free Meccano! 

You can join in the fun right now by guessing the number of spacer washers there are in this Jar...

How many spacer washers?
 ... The nearest guess to the correct number will win a Meccano Multimodel, 3-model set. Send your guess to me HERE and the closest guess will receive the prize during the week following the Hangout. The closing date for entries of the e-mail based competition is Friday 5th of December. Please Note: The e-mail competition is open to UK residents only.  You must be 16 years of age or over to enter.

The Hangout will be held on:

Saturday 6th December 2014, 10:00am – 5:00pm


Hainault Baptist Church, Franklyn Gardens, Hainault, Essex IG6 2UT

A flat admission fee of £3.00 will be payable by all exhibitors, members and visitors, with the exception of accompanied children who will still be admitted FREE of charge. For this small charge exhibitors will receive an Exhibitor’s Pack containing FREE tea and coffee vouchers, plus one FREE draw ticket for a special exhibitors-only Prize Draw!

Refreshments will be available and our friendly dealer, Mr Dave Taylor, along with his long suffering and amazingly tolerant wife, Marylyn, will be in attendance should you wish to stock up on even more nice shiny Meccano!

Convinced? Here is what you need to know…

  • The Hainault Hangout will take place on Saturday 6th December 2014 from 10:00am – 5:00pm at Hainault Baptist Church in Franklyn Gardens, Hainault, Essex IG6 2UT.
  • The venue will be open for setting up from 8:00pm on Friday and from 7:00am on Saturday.
  • A limited number of free parking spaces are available adjacent to the venue, or for £2.00 at Hainault Underground Station nearby. Reserved parking spaces can be booked for disabled exhibitors (Blue Badge holders). Disabled toilets are available.
While you may just turn up on the day with your models, if possible you should complete THIS form to book your space.

We look forward to seeing you!

* Well, it will be if you are there!

Friday, 19 September 2014

They got it right!

Multimodels 10 Model Set scoops the Gold Construction Award at this year’s UK Independent Toy Awards. Along with the 3 model set, this has to be one of the best Multimodel sets to surface this year.  

Well deserved winner!
We were impressed with this set when we first saw it (see HERE) and now the industry has acknowledged the fact too.


Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Nellie gets new legs!

Nellie now has four grey legs - that's better!
You may remember when I came to build Nellie, a couple of months ago I was short of grey 'legs'. See my previous post HERE. At the time I could only lay my hands on one in grey. I have plenty of them in different colours but have you ever seen an elephant with yellow legs? If you have then you might not care to admit it! I tried a few friends and in the end Dave Taylor came up with one from his vast stock and my mate Peter Goddard from WLMS came up with another. This now meant I had three...

... Nothing for it, I would have to arrange for one to be stolen from an assembled model we have.

Hmmm... That's the bit
A whisper in the right ear and this bloke with hooped shirt and black mask said he could get me one for a small consideration.

He won't miss it
I thought that bloke looked a bit dodgy, but he was as good as his word, and now Nellie has four matching legs. Sue is now complaining that you can't leave anything alone for five minutes without someone pinching something... Really Dear?


Friday, 12 September 2014

New Evolution Rubber Duck

The latest Evolution set is shipping into the UK retailers over the next few weeks (if it is not there already) It has been available in France for a while but that means braving using Amazon.fr and for someone who does not speak much French that can be daunting! The set is supplied with instructions for one model. Instructions for the other model will be available to download from the website soon.

The Rubber Duck is here!
As luck would have it,  I managed to get hold of one to look at as they were shipping. I think this is the best Evolution model yet. I may be a little bias as I have been waiting for this to surface since first seeing it at the Toy Fair in January. It is also painted in a good colour that complements two of the other sets in the range.

Too dark!
Good as it may be, there are still problems with the printing of the instructions. Some of the darker parts are just one mass of black and can only be viewed by tilting them to the light to get the light to reflect off the line-work around the infill. I understand this will be corrected as the Spin Master designs become available next year. This model is one of the last to be designed before Spin Master acquired the Meccano company just over a year ago.

The chassis looks the part
For once I found no mistakes in the instructions which are almost bolt-by-bolt. There are some fiddly bits involved during the assembly of hydraulic arms, but nothing that a deep breath and a few words of 'encouragement' won't cure. The model is built in several sub-assemblies. The chassis makes up very solidly and looks good standing alone. The rest of the build is time consuming (but is that not a good thing!) but interesting. Getting the various mechanism to work, including a couple of the new screw-rams.

The front scraper blade and outriggers lift for travelling
Lobed knobs operate the outriggers and slew
The front scraper looks good and solid
The only small criticisms I have with the finished model are to do with operation of the rams. they are really slow and on this model it is even more apparent. Also I would like to have seen the bucket arm fold in further to simulate the travelling position. No extra new parts are included but it does incorporate the digger bucket from the recent skid-steer loader and of course, lots of the now familiar evolution parts. The front-end of the crane truck is used as an engine cover proving that some of the new parts are indeed generic and not bespoke!

Neat use of existing parts
I like this model and I think with a bit of thought many improvements can be made by adding a few parts and using 'experience' to modify some of the mechanisms. I don't usually apply them but there are stickers available on the set. The modern stickers are not as easy to use as the old Binns Road stickers from the Multikit sets. These have a more permanent adhesive and do not peel off so easily. also the kiss-cutting of the sticker sheet is a bit deep and requires careful separating of the decal from the backing sheet.

I like this model and with a bit of thought many improvements can be made by adding a few parts and using 'experience' to modify some of the mechanisms. There is also the obvious conversion to the road/rail version we often see working on our rail infrastructure. I am sure there are many others.

Mixing it up


Now we have a good stock of parts to work from
There are now three models in the evolution sets that used similar colours. The crane truck, the skid steer loader and now the wheeled excavator (Rubber Duck). These three sets together give a good range of parts and lots of potential for building new models.

JCB with beaker - A good model idea?
Add a few parts from the other sets or from the vast stocks of brass parts we already have and for us, the enthusiast, there is a lot of potential there to construct contemporary plant equipment in this rather pleasing scale. I am sure a grader is in there somewhere, or even a JCB with back hoe attachment. Even though there is no narrow bucket available (How about it Meccano?) it could still be built fitted with pneumatic breaker...

Thursday, 4 September 2014

The Henley Gathering 2014

It was that time again last weekend. Time to pack up the car and head west into the wilderness. To that historic place that hosted the great Meccano exhibitions of the1970s and 80s. The place that was also home to that shrine to Meccano; MW Models. Yes it was time for the Henley Gathering and the annual meeting of the Old Boilers, who incidentally, seem to be getting younger. That can only be a good sign!

The day began with an early start. The art of Henley is to get there before the car park becomes full. That is before 8:00 am. We made it to the car park in time and then took a leisurely stroll down to the cafe where a full English is super sized to a Grande Breakfast. If you click on it, you may recognise some of the Meccano people caught by that intrepid paparazzi photographer in this shot - don't worry we will get our own back later...

Owen and Geoff inspecting and running the old boilers of1914
Me, Tim and Chris messing with Tim's 2014 gas fired engine
This and the cafe photograph by Richard Payne   
As usual the weather ordered earlier on in the week arrived and another fine day graces the proceedings. This is important at Henley as the annual gathering of 'Old Boilers' can only proceed if the weather is fine. This year we had a good gathering of Boilers both young (ish) and old. The real old boilers with their 1914 engines were made up of Geoff Brown and founder of this most enjoyable sub-event, Owen Roberts. they were having fun with some other old  engines as well as Roelf Valkema had brought his old boiler all the way from Holland to steam it here at Henley.

Chris Instone, Tim Gant, Richard Payne and myself making up the youngsters were happy playing with Tim's recently finished gas fired engine built from modern Mamod parts and a few bits of Meccano. Chris was powering his Meccano workshop, that featured a selection of workshop machines built from manual model instructions from the smaller sets, using his Mamod SP8 Beam engine alternating with another modern engine, SP7 I believe, driving the whole thing from the other end.

The Steam Wagon awaiting its turn out in the sun with Sue
explaining something to an interested spectator
The steam Wagon has not been fired up since Crossness back in June where it had its first outing. See HERE. So it was out with the oils and meths and off we go. Sue discovered the video facility on her camera a few months ago and has been playing about with it. The 23 seconds is a bit shaky but you get to see the little piston working flat out and a nice drift of smoke/stream coming out of the chimney!

From the archive, Richard in 2012 at Henley running his steam traction engine
Richard brought his steam traction engine and it ran nicely around the hard standings in the garden. Chris got some good footage of Richard's engine running again this year. There is a link to his video at the bottom of this post.

Inside there was plenty to see including some serious discussion about John Hornsby's enormous Gottwald AK680-1 crane. More details of this ongoing build can be found HERE. As you can see there was some serious discussion going on that was obviously going right over his head, as it would have been mine!

John, Michael and Roger discuss the crane while John poses for the picture
Lots more models can be seen on the NZ Meccano website HERE and there is a video, including Richard's steam traction engine, to be seen HERE. As usual the the time just flew by and before we knew it we were back in our car and heading back East! Another great day, and looking forward to 2015.


Monday, 25 August 2014

20 model set, an alternative model...

Following on from the 15 model set alternative model I just had to have a go at the 20 model set. Out of the three new Multimodel sets (see HERE) this seems to be the one that most people seem to like. Last weekend at Blists Hill, there was a little boy who came up to the display and picked up the made up 20 model racing car and really didn't want to put it down. Several heart felt pleas, first to his mum and then his dad, only secured the release of the model when a promise to visit the local Smyths Toys was secured from both parents. At one point I thought the little boy might insist on a written agreement so determined was he! It is encouraging to see such passion from one so young.

Complete with spare wheel...
Meccano seem determined to use as many parts as possible, including the motor, in every model they show on the back of the box. Why? I have long championed the use of fewer parts when making alternative models. This model is no exception. the most obvious omission is the motor. I have also left a sprinkling of parts and fixings in the box.

Shiny chrome (well, zinc) bumpers
 I started from the back. the formed braces girders will just about bolt together  for a better looking structure to represent the rear of the trike. Those little rubbery grips that everybody loves so much have been used here to secure the rods that make up the bumper rods in place as well as give the hand grips some... well, grip! This trick has steering albeit limited just like some of the real 'chopped' trikes.

A few gears, strategically placed, allude to an engine
 Again this model is not meant to be a scale model but it is obvious what it is supposed to be, and no, I have not motorised it even though the set does contain a motor. I am reasonably pleased with this one and it goes to show that this set does have some mileage. The little boy I mentioned earlier could obviously see the potential - maybe one day he will be sitting down reminiscing about that first Meccano set...


Look what I found...

...inside the new 15 model, Multimodels set


Dragster - a realistic model?
The three new Multimodels sets are a strange collection of models mainly in the style of the earlier sets they are based on. A few of them are very odd looking models indeed! For a long time Meccano have produced a lot of fantasy models that resemble very little. The recent 3 and 10 model sets bucked this trend with some very realistic and recognisable offerings. However, the 15 model set's box-art model from the latest release is, well, horrible. Sorry Meccano but it just is! There is a reasonably good looking helicopter but I suspect this does not use as many parts as the chosen box model. I have already looked at what you get in this set, in THIS POST.

Rear view of the dragster
Now it is time to have ago at building something. The set has a fair selection of parts including a good mix of old and new. It is worth noting that most if not all the new parts are metal. The overindulgence of plastic parts has been curtailed recently and although this set has its share of plastic parts, they are all moulded in a sober light grey colour.

Simplified details give the look with limited parts
My model uses a good number of parts but not all, click on any of the pictures to enlarge them and see more detail. The desire to use as close as possible to every part in the box, seems to be part of the model designer's remit for current sets. The model I have built uses only the parts required to make the model look something like what it is representing. Okay, this is not a scale model but more of a representation of the prototype. If the viewer recognises the model for what it is supposed to be, the job is done. The Engine is a big part of the 'look' so it is fashioned to suggest a 'V' configured engine with a couple of carburettors between the banks of cylinders. 

Parachute pack, rear differential and exhaust pipes or
a pulley, pinion and a couple of rods!
It only needs the suggestion of the real thing to make it work. Meccano models of old have always been so. The models from the old manuals used these techniques to make the models believable. Some were more successful than others, more often than not it was perfectly possible to identify the model designers target.

The dished triangular plate hints at the seat
I am not saying my model is perfect, it is not, but at least most people looking at it will know what it is supposed to be - I hope!

Next up I will have a go at making something new from the new 20 models set. Making models from a restricted number of parts is interesting and a nice diversion from the big projects. these models are being built on the kitchen table with just what is supplied in the box - a sort of solo Meccano challenge. It is good fun too!


Sunday, 24 August 2014

New plate bender...

...Click on any photograph to enlarge the image

Plates being bent along the width
As I posted here on our blog (see HERE) a couple of days ago, Stuart Borrill has introduced a set of new plate rollers, these new 6 inch long rollers are made to the same high standard as the shorter 3 inch versions that have been around for some time. Our original plate rolling machine has served us well for years and will continue to do so, even if it is looking a bit tired these days.

The original machine will only roll most plates along their length
The wider machine has a new trick!
The new machine is of slightly different design to the original machine. At the time I built the narrower version, I did not have the supply of parts available to me today, so I made do with what I had. With this machine I have used brass posts (short threaded couplings (P/N A176) that support rods. Running on these are short couplings (P/N 63c) that support the legs holding the rollers.

The slider
A threaded pin joins the leg to the short coupling. this is then actuated by one end of a fork built up from a 4½ inch angle girder and two 1 inch x 1 inch brackets. I tried using a rod to join the short couplings but that just caused the couplings to jam on the rods as it is impossible to keep them both aligned perfectly. In the end I decided to let the short couplings find their own way along the rod independently from any solid connection - works fine!

The 'nut'
A 5-hole coupling (P/N 63g - again available from Stuart Borrill) is bolted to the angle girder via its outer threaded holes and used as the 'nut' for the threaded rod adjuster. There are many ways of achieving this, I just happened to have one of these couplings to hand. It may get 'requisitioned' if it is required for a model.  The angle bracket makes it much easier to fix the 'nut'' and now looking at the photograph,as I type this, a threaded boss would do a good job here if you don't want to use a useful lump of brass. There is always the threaded strips, either the sought after Meccano versions or the extended range items. I am sure there are several alternatives to my solution.

The winding end
 The screwed rod is terminated in a threaded coupling and extended with a short standard rod. this passes through the hole in the top of a standard length threaded coupling and restrained using a couple of collars. a bush wheel and long threaded pin make a suitable crank. The standard threaded coupling is strengthened by short standard rod passed through it and a pair of short threaded couplings fixed either side.

Hand-wheel and gears
The rollers are arranged so the one with the long extension is uppermost in the 'A' frame with the other two positioned in adjacent holes at either side.  A 19t pinion is added to each end of the three rollers. In addition, a 2 inch pulley (with a tyre fitted) makes a suitable hand-wheel and it is fitted to the long extension on the top roller.

The new roller has a strip-built base
The strip base is fitted with rubber non-slip feet made from the push-on rubber tyres that we all have boxes of looking for a use. I have only had a chance to try bending a couple of plates but so far so good. I wish we had this machine when Sue made her racing car.

The bonnet plates would have been an ideal candidate for this machine
 Details of Sue's Racing car build can be found HERE. I am sure we will find many other uses for this machine. and as with the other machine it will flatten out all but the most heavily creased plates, a job the original machine has been doing admirably for many years.

Stuarts Borrill's parts...

I have been talking about Stuarts parts for years both here, on our blog, and on our website. I have no connection with Stuart other than being a very satisfied customer. Nothing is too much trouble and his prompt service is second to none. Stuart has changed his website address since those early posts and I have tried to update them where I can but I may have missed the odd one here or there. If you find a broken link on our pages please let me know and I will fix it.

If you want to see Stuart's range of parts or contact him for a quote for bespoke parts click HERE.