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.


Friday, 22 August 2014

Back to some real Meccanoing...

The past few months have been taken up with  looking at new sets and messing around with small models. Next weekend is The Henley Gathering and it is about time we got back to some serious modelling. That gives us just about a week to get something built. My aim is to build a steam car based on an article I have seen in an old Meccano Magazine. Nothing too hard here, it is just a bit of fun and will complement my Steam Wagon.

Fun project aside there are a couple other things that have taken a step forward today after a visit from the postman. We are always telling ourselves that we have more than enough Meccano but for some reason it keeps arriving or following us home from meetings and shows...

New 6 inch plate bending rollers
Today a nice slim package arrived from Stuart Borrill containing some very interesting parts. First a set of silver steel plate bending rollers. I. know we already have a set built into our bending machine we built several years ago, but these are special. This new set of rollers is one of Stuart's latest creations - they are 6 inches long. Now I will be able to form 3½,4½ and 5½ inch plates along their length without having to resort to using the slip rollers I have in the workshop. There is something rather satisfying about using Meccano built tools/machines.

Now all I have to do is design a new bending machine to make good use of these new rollers. The old bending machine was built several years ago and the design was constrained by the building stock available at the time.

The original bending machine  - This picture was taken just after it was built
While I am at it I might as well give the original one a makeover too as it is getting a bit sloppy. The holes that journal the rollers get misshapen after a lot of use so stripping it down and reversing the strips will improve things considerably. I will post some pictures of the new machine in a day or so.

Remember the Merry Mixer?

Yes it is still in production, it has just been 'mothballed' for most of this year while other things have taken our attention.  The drive system has been up for debate and the latest idea is to follow the prototype and used a friction drive to the rotating spiders that carry the seats. Making a compact reduction drive at the end of the arm has been a sticking point but now Stuart Borrill has added a very nicely made 38t contrate to his list I have another option.  

Solid brass 38t contrates
Looks like it will be a weekend of building for a change. Again I will update progress and let you know how it goes.


Thursday, 7 August 2014

The new 15 model set...

...or should that be the 10+5?

Confused? Well we were. I first saw this set at the London Toy Fair in January. You will find details of that visit HERE. Then it was described as a 12 model set. The display model was a helicopter, and to be fair it looked like a good model. Along with the other two models, recently released, they were somewhat overshadowed by the the superb, all new, 3 and 10 model sets. See HERE.

The back of the box for new 15 model set
I managed to get hold of pre-production model and a mock-up box when we broke-down the Meccano stand at Skegness a few weeks ago. The box is just a plain white box with a mock-up of the front of the box-art stuck to the front so we could not see all the 15 models. If I had looked closer, I would have realised that most of the models pictured on the front were from the old black and zinc 10 model set that dates from Spring 2010. I reviewed that set at the time HERE. It was the first of the new generation of Multimodel sets and incorporated some of the new parts that are now included in all the latter sets. The new 15 model set is an extended version of this set. Click on the pictures below to enlarge them making it easer to study the content.

This much of the set is what you got in the old 10 model set
There is a fair bit more in this set
Of the 15 models shown on the box, there are instructions for five new models included in the manual with a further ten available for download (soon) from the website. Of these, five are new and the other five are from the original ten set. This is nothing new. Meccano have been reissuing and upgrading sets for years. The current Super Construction set was first issues as the Anniversary crane set over a decade ago and is still a popular set today. The old 50 model set is an extension of the old 40 model set (affectionately known as the 'Elephant' set). We were talking about this on the Rust Bucket forum this week and we did investigate the possibility of progression between the sets and although it is true between the 40 and 50 sets is does not appear to be the case anywhere else in the original Motion System (later to be renamed Multimodels) sets.

If you think about it, this is what the old progressive sets we all love so much did. The only difference is you can't today buy the 'A' (or later the 'X') set to make one set up to another. We can all bemoan the passing of the old sets of our youth but that was then and this is now, Today's modern world and especially Meccano's Target market have changed. Modern Meccano has changed with the market, we may not like some of it but it is wise to consider the current situation for what it is. If Meccano are to survive they cannot do so by catering for a small number of old fuds like us. They have to sell millions of sets, with very tightly controlled costings, to make it viable globally. We have to look at the current offerings for what they are and maybe reverse our thinking.  Sue and I consider our collection as the centre of our Meccano universe and we add to it without thinking about it. The suppliers have changed. Today, if I want parts, I think of the second hand and replica dealers, and of course, eBay. We buy new sets as they come out (most of the time) out of curiosity to see what might be useful. We are building a collection of building parts, not sets.

The box art aeroplane - a bit odd looking?
I digress. This new 15 model set is showing lots of potential. Venturing past the box-art aeroplane, that looks very strange, the set contains a good selection of parts so it should be possible to build something a little more realistic. This set has its ancestry firmly rooted in the 1990s and even the new models seem to follow that theme of fantasy - Now I wonder what else we can build with these parts...

...It has just occurred to me that you can also build the other five models from the old black 10 model set. The instructions for old 10 model set are are available for download HERE (clicking this link will download a11.2Mb .pdf file of the instruction book to your computer).

To see an alternative model built with the parts in this set, click HERE.


Saturday, 26 July 2014

New Meccano at Argos!

New catalogue starts today
The new Argos catalogue has just been issued today and it has Meccano in it! Five items, including the new 25 model, Multimodel set that we showed you recently HERE
Only a small section, but it is a start after a break - Click to enlarge
They are also showing a few models on their website. Argus are not always the cheapest around but they are the first with the 25 model set! 

The other models we mentioned will become available soon. My mate Chris Instone reported that 20 and 25 model sets are listed on the Smyths Toys website too.


Monday, 21 July 2014

Mini-model Stockcar...

The gauge
Last Saturday was the summer meeting of North East London Meccano Club (NELMC). At each meeting we we have a themed challenge. The only rule is that the model has to fit within a theoretical 4½ inch cube and loosely have to be capable of falling into the subject category. The more obscure the better! The official gauge is used to check the model's dimensions.

What is Skegness known for? Well, you may say SkegEx or Butlins, but it also has the Skegness Stadium; home to all sorts of short-circuit motor racing. As the subject of our challenge this time was a four wheeled vehicle it seemed fitting to celebrate the fact that stockcar racing is participated in just a few miles from the home of the biggest Meccano gathering in the world!

Mini-model stockcar - Click to enlarge...
...and from behind
My little model is of a freelance stockcar not based on any particular type or class but incorporating some of the more obvious features like the enormously oversized name/number roof spoiler. If you are not familiar with this type of racing just Google: F1 or F2 stockcar and select 'Images'  the model was built using standard and Evolution parts. The narrow strips full of holes don't look too out of place on this type of model and allow the model to look lighter at this scale

The underside shows the stockcar's simple construction
The car measures just a shade under the maximum length, 4½ inches. I was working to a size that left me a bit of room but the bolt heads are significant in this scale and guess who forgot to take them into account! It was all good in the end as there was at least a couple of thousandths of an inch clearance. I thought about taking the gauge apart and rebuilding it making sure the maximum opening had been achieved by exploiting the hole to bolt tolerance to its maximum...

...Thankfully such action was not called for.


Friday, 18 July 2014

Elephant legs...

My elephant needs three new legs!

Last week, Constructor Quarterly (No.106) dropped on to the mat a few days after we got back from Skegness. Although most people rave about the complex and sophisticated models, I tend to go for the unusual. In this issue Bernard PĂ©rier continues his series of simple plastic models with an interpretation of an African elephant.

My elephant has the wrong colour legs
The model uses a part from a Space Chaos Dark Pirates set as the head. Having been put off buying these sets at the very beginning partly by the high cost and lack of parts and also a complete lack of interest in the finished models, I have never looked any closer at the subsequent releases. Now they have been discontinued, they are relatively hard to fined. A trawl of the internet found a suppler selling this set at about a third of its original price - I bought his entire stock - Three! This set contains all sorts of bits and pieces including four hinges and a good selection of long bolts, pivot bolts and other useful parts. Now I have a dozen elephants heads, the rest should be easy. I have a box full of those double obtuse corner brackets but only one grey one.
Lots of fancy colours - only one in grey

The Future Master model
It turns out those brackets were, as far as I can see, only available in one set in my required colour. What's more there is only one in the set. To make it worse, it is one of the less common sets. It is also sought after for other unique parts. What is this set? Well, I have motioned it HERE before, It is the Future Master drilling machine. I have one of these made up so I only have one left to use on Nellie. Hopefully, I will be able to get hold of one or two grey legs tomorrow, at the NELMC meeting, but I might need some more, so if you have any spare ones kicking around, I am happy to buy/swap something for a couple more... 

The model was a bit fiddly to put together and I modified some of Bernard's instructions to make it a bit more solid. The Space Chaos part looks just like an Elphants head and will be forever known as such!

The finished elephant from the other side
 Now for the next little project, a challenge model for tomorrows meeting - Plenty of time!


Thursday, 10 July 2014

Three more Multimodel sets

A trio of new Multimodels
We first saw these sets at the London Toy Fair in January of this year. As they were not for imminent release we were concentrating on the 3 and 10 model sets. Last weekend at SkegEx14 Meccano had a stand and were showing a good selection of the new sets including the new 15, 20 and 25 model sets. Release dates and details have changed slightly since then.

Multimodels section, London Toy Fair January 2014
At the end of SkegEx14 we had already offered to clear away the Meccano display material, banners and posters etc. and it made sense to clear the product displays as well (If you want to be popular, buy a big van!) This we did and it has given us the chance to get a closer look at these three, pre-production models. It must be pointed out that these are not production samples and there may be a few minor changes to the models when they appear. We don't have full release dates but we have been told the 25 model set will be available from Argos when the new catalogue appears at the end of July. Other sets should be in the shops around the same time, although this seems to be a best estimate and a more realistic guess at the High Street availability would be a few weeks later.

Although I have straightened up a few bent bits and tightened the odd nut and bolt, I have not attempted to alter these in any way, considering they have been around for a few months they are bound to get a bit knocked about.

Click on any of the images below to enlarge them! 

15 Model Set 

A rather strange looking aeroplane
Of the three, I have to say this is my least favourite model. At the toy fair this model was not to be seen and a rather nice looking helicopter was sitting on the shelf. As can be seen by the mock-up box, in the heading picture, this model has been chosen to be the box-art image.

Another view of the model
 Although this model is not motorised, the play value is enhanced by a series of rubber bands driving the three propellers from the front wheels. On this prototype the grey ½ inch pulleys have round holes so they do not grip the tri-axle making it impossible to see it working.  I see no reason why it will not work once tri-axle pulleys are supplied in the production sets.

Close up of the central propeller and mock engine
It will be interesting to see if the gears stay this colour in production. In the past. these are the sort of details that tend to get changed. The jury is out on whether we like the orange colour. From a builders point of view this is just another colour to contend with. I can't make up my mind if this helps sales or not. Trying to see it from the sales point of view I suppose it must as little 'Jonny'  is going to distinguish the set by colour. He will have a red aeroplane, now he wants an orange one...

An underside view, I think that rear wheel is in the wrong place...
None of these sets have any new parts, if you exclude colour variations. I do think that the helicopter, I mentioned earlier, and can be seen in the Toy Fair report, is a nicer model. It will be noted that at the time the model was labelled as a 12 model set - I said things change!

A final view of the model from above.

20 Model Set

The red and white of the racing car looks good from this angle
From where I am standing this looks good. It is true that we may be a little biased as we build mostly in red and zinc so this fits in well with that but I also think this does look like a racing car. The motor enhances the play value and I think this will run on most surfaces.

The battery box simulates the drivers cockpit
The model is fairly chunky and looks as if it will take a few knocks The steering on this model needs to be set fairly stiff so it can be set before it's let rip! This is one of the few models that takes advantage of the geared hub to give a 3:1 reduction by using a 19t pinion to drive the 57t annular gear moulded into the hub.

Reduction geared drive to the hub
I think this is a smart looking model from all sides. It is not meant to be an accurate interpretation of a real formula one racing car, but I think most kids would recognise it as such without any prompting and that is the general idea. Although we have not built any of these models ourselves, none of them look to have any traps - but we have not seen the instructions yet... No doubt they will be available for download soon.

Looks good under here...
I am sure the kids will love this and from the builders point of view there is a good selection of Meccano there including some useful gears.

 25 Model Set

This fantasy 4x4 is robust and full of springs - lots of play value with its motor and reduction gearing. At the San francisco Maker-Faire  a few weeks ago, some kids were told to drop this model on the floor. Reluctantly, after a lot of reassurance, they did. They then picked it up, set it running and off it went, with the kids saying "You can't do that with Lego!"

Tough too!
To the serious modeller this model has lots of faults - but hold up guys - This is a toy! and as such I think it works. As a source of parts it also has some appeal. There are a few gears at the back end and some chunky shockers all around.

The dark (ish) blue paint is better than a lot of the awful colours of the past and, of course, there is a nice set of wheels with geared hubs. The model also used a few long bolts here and there too.

The layout from below
As I said these are pre-productions samples and anything can happen but it is interesting to get a good look at them before they are available in the shops. See what you can do if you own a big van!