Monday, 21 April 2014

Dynamic bike!

The engine looks the part!
After building the new Evolution Chopper bikes I thought I would have a go at something from years gone by. I came across a Motorbike set from the range of sets that Meccano labelled 'Dynamic' made over 20 years ago in France.

These sets featured zinc/red/yellow parts and although some of the new plastic parts were appearing for the first time, there were still some brass parts included.  The tyres, to fit 1½ inch pulleys, are of a design I had not seen before and look more like motorcycle tyres. Dated 1993, I guess they must have been new parts at the time.

Dynamic motorbike set
The instructions are very colourful, you could say Dynamic, and feature a comical cartoon character who ends up holding an oil after spending the whole time constantly waving his finger at you!  He even dons full leathers and a crash helmet pointing (again) at his finished bike. Once you get your eye in the instructions are very clear but they get a bit of getting used to.

The bike from the otherside
The build was easy although a bit fiddly in places. I was impressed with the engine, it makes up easily and really looks like a motorcycle engine. As I have said before, I know nothing about bikes, I just like the look of them. However, I am not at all sure about the spring arrangement for the front forks  - is there a prototype that has springs at the top like they are arranged on this model? 

Overall, I was pleased with the way this bike went together and the finished model is solid, looks the part and I enjoyed building it.


Saturday, 19 April 2014

Kitchen, Bismarck or Bagger?

Bagger 228 Finished - 1¼ ton in weight and the best part of four years building
How many times has the other-half asked you to do something, just as you were about to start building a model, to which you answered "I'll just finish this dear" and got away with it? Remarkably there is one guy who did, and he got away with it for years!

A retired mathematics lecturer in Grahamstown, South Africa did just that; only his project took him the best parts of four years to complete. In mid 2009 Graham Shepherd was facing retirement and decided to dig out his old Meccano set with the a view to looking for a suitable project to tackle.

Initially  he thought about building a model of the battleship Bismarck, something he had contemplated doing since seeing the pictures of the sunken vessel taken by Roger Ballard and his team when they found the wreck in 1989. As Graham was short on Meccano plates he started making replicas of his own. He wanted enough plates to build an18 foot long model. 

"Can you put that away now dear - supper is nearly ready" ..." Er, No"
By June 2010 he began to reconsider the Bismarck project, as a Meccano ship was not all that exciting from a mechanisation point of view. I tend to agree with those thoughts myself, I have never built a Meccano ship. Even as a kid, I always thought a ship full of holes was a silly idea.

Graham's thoughts turned to an excavator, he had seen, that worked in open-cast coal mines in Germany.  Time spent on the internet researching these huge machines resulted in a decision being made. The machine he decided to build is known as Bagger 288 - a bucket wheel excavator built by Krupp of Germany.

To give scale to the model, here is Graham standing next to it
Nearly four years later when I 'spoke' to him this morning via e-mail, I asked him what the next project was to be, he said:
"What's next is that I have got to turn my attention to all the things that got neglected due to my preoccupation with Bagger 288! I was on the point of renewing the kitchen of our home for a start. Not to mention the jungle that our garden has turned into!"
 "I'll just finish this dear" Yes, I really do think this model has elevated that phrase to new heights and there will be dozens, if not hundreds, of Meccano builders everywhere referring to Graham's story to justify the fact that they will not be that bad! Thank you Graham for a fantastic model and the best defence against domestic discord yet!

The story behind Graham's remarkable model can be found on his blog HERE.

Graham has just written another article for Constructor Quarterly and this will be published in the September (actually on sale in July just after SkegEx). All pictures used in this post are reproduced here with the kind permission Graham Shepherd.


Wednesday, 16 April 2014

New 3 and 10 model sets...

New Multimodel sets for spring are here!
The new Multimodel sets are a refreshing move back to the more traditional parts. Meccano are constantly upgrading the Multimodel range and these two new sets will (should) appeal to the traditionalist and modern enthusiast alike. The sets contain far fewer plastic parts and lots more recognisable metal bits! There are also some newer parts, nothing we haven't seen before, but this time they are supplied in what I would call more traditional colours. Gone are the bright oranges and purples and in with red and yellow all complimented with zinc plates strips and brackets - Great stuff, parts I can use in our larger models!

3-model set light aircraft
The 3- model set is a little gem. The 'star' model is a well proportioned light aircraft reminiscent of the aircraft that line the out-field of the small private airports scattered around the countryside here in the UK. There are no awkward fiddly parts that require supreme levels of dexterity to fit. Nor are there lots of parts that need bending or straining to fit. The model makes up quickly and easily into something that is instantly recognisable.

Although the set does not include any new parts there are a couple of the small triangular girder frames, finished in a red paint. These have only been supplied in Matt black up until now. The red Multi-Purpose gear (P/N A827) has no boss and is bored with a standard size round hole. I did suspect this was a new part for a while, but as my mate George (Roy) reminded me it was also included in a Future-Master set some fifteen years ago and has not been seen since. The model can be seen in THIS post from January last year where I used other components from the set to build powered, tracked vehicles.

Ready for work!
 The new10-model set appears to have replaced the old black set that I reviewed four years ago when it first appeared, see HERE. Then it was the first of the new generation sets to hit the UK market. New sets, made in France and featuring new parts that have subsequently been introduced to several of the new Multimodel sets.

The new tyres are a vast improvement on the old low-profile offerings
Tipping and articulated - great fun!
 The latest 10 model set is, in my opinion the best yet! the plastic content has been reduced to a few useful parts, the chosen colour (yellow) is good and it is full of traditional looking Meccano parts. The box-art model of a dumper truck makes up well and has a traditional Meccano look to it. This will (Should?) appeal to the traditionalist and the newcomer alike.

More than 10 models inside

Digging a little further into the set, I thought it would be fun to have a go at building a few minimal models flavour of those old pre-war manuals. Unlike today's sets. Meccano in those days contained instructions to build small models using few parts and then progress to bigger models using more and more of the sets contents. The models tended to be of diverse subjects, some of them stranger then others! With this in mind I have extracted three small models from the set.

Landmark simplicity model...
The first could be described as a simplicity model and will solve the nut and bolt 'problem' that Meccano have tried to 'solve' a couple of times by trying to make the construction simpler...

Message to Meccano: Please don't, we like nut and bolts!  

Yes it's the landmark model Meccano never built. What do you mean you don't know what it is! It's... well I am sure you know, but I will tell you anyway... The leaning Tower of Pisa. 

Girl and dog
Next up is a homage to all the old set instructions that always contained some people of one kind or another. I can't think of any modern Meccano 'people' yet all the old manuals have families and often animals. To rectify this I have found a little girl with her sausage-dog hiding away in the parts of the 10 set.

Street go-kart
Finally, this one is harping back to my childhood. We lived on the side of a hill and the road behind us came down and around the end of our garden, past the front of the house. This was the perfect place to race our home made go-karts. Usually built from the wheels off an old perambulator and some old wood that we had acquired from somewhere, we would sit in the box and steer with our legs on the front axle. It was fantastic fun in the 1960s there were not the cars about or parked in the road like they are today. The wheels are a bit thicker than we had as kids but the model has the feel of what we used to build.

I am sure there are plenty of other models to be found in that box and many of the other sets that Meccano make today. Have a look at what I found in one of the new Evolution sets HERE.


Sunday, 13 April 2014

Did you miss us!

We have been a bit tied up recently with this...

The new Meccano website
The new owners of Meccano, Spin Master, have just launched a new Meccano Community website. There, anyone can upload information about Meccano events and Meccano club and society news. You can also upload pictures and a description of your latest model build.  

It is early days at the moment and there are a few bugs that need squashing, but it is all there for you to play with and have a look around. The best bit is the Meccano blog. Go and have a look and you will see why. You will find the new Community website HERE

In the meantime normal service will restart here in the next day or so.


Thursday, 27 March 2014

I do Like a digger!

Ready to go
If the truth be known, I am really a crane nut but Sue is not that keen. No wonder We don't often build cranes these days! If I can't have a crane then how about a digger?

Going up!
While Sue was off doing Route 66 with her Chopper Bike I was building the other new Evolution set, the Mini Digger.  I will not hide the fact that I like this one. I first saw it at the London Toy Fair and got to handle and photograph it. This little set features the new digger bucket that will also be included in the 'Rubber Duck' set, due later this year.  Included in this set is one of the new tri-axle worms and a couple of the geared mini strips. 

Looking the part and ready to work

The build

Very easy, straightforward build nothing much to say other than the screwed rods inside the simulated 'hydraulic rams' have to be tightened with some force to make the whole thing solid.  The mechanism works well once the slack has been 'wound' out; an extra washer on the worm shaft will take up some of this slack. 

The neat worm drive
Over all a very pleasing model and the smallest of the range so far. Like Sue is doing with here Chopper Bike I am off to build the alternative model...


Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Funny video

If you think the Rabbids are silly take a look at this spoof on the old jeans  TV advert, its hilarious!


Monday, 24 March 2014

Evolution Chopper Bike

Looks Good on the stand...
The first new models to be released for a few months have all arrived here at Laughton Towers in one go! I immediately ear-marked the Evolution Chopper Bike to build. It looked like a nice model if the picture on the box is anything to go by. I don’t know why I tend to go for the motorbikes as I have never ridden one or even wanted to. There’s a bloke who lives down the road opposite who owns an immaculate Harley Davidson that looks and sounds great. I often see it on my way to the shops and come back home enthused, much to Ralph’s bemusement. I just like the engineering mixed with the artistry.

...from both sides
The box art model shows the new shock absorbers and the ‘V’ twin engine is convincingly portrayed. The back of the box shows the alternative model and I will have a go at that one soon. That looks more like a trial bike than a chopper. On opening, the contents are packed in plastic bags and are loose in the box. The instruction manual follows the same format as the other Evolution models in that the box-art model is featured with download instructions for the alternative. However unlike all the previous models, this one is a complete new build from the ground up, no common assembly instructions - See Evolution Alternatives.

A look at the parts list confirms the introduction of the new shockers and lots more of the new Evolution parts. This is going to be fun there are lots of small parts including 34 washers and 16 fishplates!

Let’s build
There are a few unconventional ‘moves’ here. Step 1, bolts one bit to another. That’s fine but then Step 2 requires bolts to be passed through tri-axle driving dogs but they don’t fit! They have to be screwed in cutting their own thread as they go. I was reluctant to do this at first. I didn’t need to worry as the threading does not hinder the function of the tri-axle hole at all. Construction continues up to Step 17. Here the instructions show the previous assembly being attached using an obtuse bracket. From the factory these brackets are set at 45°. Left like this, there is no way the sub assembly will fit. The bracket needs to be flattened to a much shallower angle to allow the parts to fit together.

Hold that there please Ralph...
... Thanks! The bracket need to be flattened to make it fit better

At this stage the frame needs a bit of manipulating to get everything in line and looking right before the cylinder blocks are fitted. when I was happy that it was as good as I could get it, I tightened all the nuts and bolts to be reasonably but not fully tight as I suspected the fitting of the cylinders might be a fiddly affair. In the end it was not too bad. Before any of that I needed to build them. 

Cylinder block assembly
The next step in the instructions shows the assembly of the air-cooled cylinders. The fins are represented by fishplates spaced by washers. This is much easier to do by standing the long bolts on their heads and building the washers and fishplates up, finishing up with the double narrow brackets and nuts.

On to step 21. This is where I tripped up. If you look at the diagram you will see the bolts are different lengths. I just did not notice this as I was building. Even if I had, I think I would have assumed it was a mistake. As it turned out it is perfectly correct.

Note the different lengths of the bolts
The long bolt is there for a reason that does not become apparent until later in the build, It receives the end of the rubber 'pipe' that is used to represent the exhaust pipe which is pushed on to the thread of the bolt - a short bolt is just not long enough to do the job properly.

The exhaust pipe terminates on that long bolt
The rest of the job is straightforward, if a bit fiddly. Some adjustment is required to get the wheels to run free but this is not a big problem as the model makes a good display piece in it’s own right. For a collection of relatively small parts it builds into a very solid model. Now for me it is time to tackle the Alternative model. His Nibs is messing about with a neat little digger – I expect he will be talking about that next.


Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Social Meccano!

If you are reading this, then you are at least in touch with the internet. As you may have gathered Sue and I are fairly active on various forums and lists as well as publishing stuff on our own blogs and websites. Until recently we have stayed away from the social networking sites. To be honest it was a fear of the unknown. As it turned out an unfounded fear. Let's look at Facebook.

Click on any of the screen-shots to go to the Facebook page!
Meccano France
There are several (lots more than I thought!) Meccano-people with Facebook exposure so you will not be a lone face. It didn't take me long to find the Meccano France's Facebook page. And yes they are a friendly bunch - they were even polite about my attempt at posting in French! Don't worry about the language thing, they post in English as well as French and if it is in French, there is always a translation available!
Meccano New Zealand
From there I found Meccano's official New Zealand Facebook site. There too the natives are friendly. I have posted several items there and they even featured this bolg!
Big Keith's page
As well as the Official Meccano presence there are also enthusiast sites like Big Keith's page. Full of interesting stuff and worth a look.
Sobrassmeccano's page
One of the newest pages to appear, in the last week or so, is that of Sobrassmeccano. Here is a small manufacturer of quality brass items for Meccano builders and other hobbies. There is a standard range and they will take on bespoke commissions. They also have a website HERE.
Now I wonder who that is...
And you can also find us on Facebook Click on any of the screenshots to go to the various pages and say hello - we won't bite! 

If you have never tried facebook, don't let all the the non believers put you off it is full of good stuff if you embrace it for what it is. If the privacy thing worries you just don't fill in any details in your profile it is entirely up to you who sees what. There is also another reason for getting to know how social media works. here I have only been talking about Facebook but there are lots of other places to go and look or chat and very soon there will be a new place to go when Meccano launch their new Meccano Community social networking site which is due to go live any time soon....

...I will tell you more about that as soon as I know.


Sunday, 2 March 2014

Automatic tramway...

Part 1 - Power collection from the track

The idea behind this project is to build a small, automatic tramway that will run up and down, stop at each end, wait for a while and head on back to the other end to do the same thing again, endlessly for exhibition use. Initially this will be achieved using an electro mechanical reversing switch and a couple of diodes. I then plan, with the help of my tame geeky mate, aka Digital Tim, to add some digital control (using the Arduino) to control the speed and, maybe later, add other features - we will see how it goes.

Front and rear pick-ups
First things first, I need to build something relatively simple and make sure that works. The little tram car is taking shape with pick-ups at either end. Twin pick-ups will ensure the electrical continuity is maintained more reliably than when just using a single collector.

The pick-ups are made from Elektrikit tin brass 2 inch strips. These in fine condition can and do fetch a good price but there are plenty of tatty ones around at lower prices. These can be easily smoothed out using a set of rolling bars. These are intended for bending plates to a smooth curve, and they make a fine job of that, but we used ours far more often to straighten our bent plates.You can see how we build ours HERE.

Flattening out the brass strips
Here I have just found another use for it. The strips themselves are too thin to track through the rollers on their own but using a flexible plate as a platter the brass strips roll easily and will soon become far more like their original selves. I left them with a slight curvature to press the pick-up 'shoe' against the centre 'live rail'.

Perfect - Well good enough!
The pick-up 'shoe' is in fact a reproduction buffer. I am not sure where these came from as they arrived here at Laughton Towers in a lot, but similar items can be obtained from Stuart Borrill. A list of his stock parts, including buffers, can be found HERE.

Pick-up mounting and three-point 'suspension'
Here I have used original Meccano insulating washers to allow a fixing through the double angle strip. The bolt has a 4mm banjo tag fitted under the head that will provide a place to make a solder connection after testing. It also provides a convenient hole to attach the temporary wiring to.
Insulated washers and solder connection, used her to make a
temporary connection for testing.

The electrical return is through the body of the tram, through the wheels to the track. If the wheels were all on rigid axles the tram would rock as it traversed the track and at best only three wheels would be in contact at any one time, unless a perfectly flat track section was found. This would assume the axles were perfectly parallel to each other. Neither scenario is likely!  By supporting the trailing axle on a central pivot the tram weigh will be on the driving wheels and the pivot will ensure the trailing wheels are always in contact with the track allowing for much smoother running and electrical continuity.

So far so good, next job is to build the reversing mechanism using the new geared motor and reversing switch from the Evolution set... and some track might be useful.


Saturday, 1 March 2014

Not so bright...

Years ago, my dad would say "Nothing lasts!" whenever anything went wrong or stopped working, for whatever reason. The other day I found myself saying the very same thing when I turned on one or our continuous lamps we use for some of our photography.  Nothing. Not a spark of light emerged from the bulb "Nothing lasts!" I mustered to myself.

"Nothing lasts"
It was at this point that I realised I was sounding just like may dad! Sadly no longer with us, he would have been laughing his head off right now, as every time he said that we told him it was because he was getting old! Sue informed me we have had those lights for some time and it was not unreasonable to have to replace the bulbs from time to time. Before she had a chance to rub it in any further I got onto the suppliers and ordered a new pair of bulbs. The remaining original bulb was set to one side as an emergency spare.  The new bulbs arrived today and normal service will be resumed...

Hello! - Where did that come from... ?
 ... looks like it is just in time to catch the early stages of the latest project. Do you know what it is yet?