Ready to roll

This beast landed with a thump on my doorstep yesterday:

GW Models 10

It’s a 10″ roller built by GW Models in the UK – useful for everything from putting a curl in a sheet of brass for a cab roof, to rolling a boiler for a steam locomotive.

About 15 years ago, I was vacationing in the UK and arranged to visit GW Models to buy a rivet making tool. At the time, I had no need for the roller so I didn’t get one. More recently, I’ve been getting into projects where such a device would be useful – for example, working on the CNR 2-8-2 brass-bashing project, or building equipment for the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway from photo-etched kits.

Then in April, I attended the 2018 Great British Train Show to help a friend exhibit his layout. While on a break from running trains, I wandered the hall and had a lovely conversation with another exhibitor. He had a selection of tools on display to show how he built his models – including a roller. We got to talking and I realized that if I wanted to acquire my own roller, I’d better do it sooner rather than later.

GW Models - MRJ Advertisement

GW Models is not online. It’s an old-school operation: You write a letter or phone, and wait for a response. So I found the address in a recent issue of Railway Model Journal, and fired off a letter, asking about the cost of shipping to Canada. And waited. And waited. Perhaps I was too late?

I mentioned to Terry Smith – a friend in the UK – that I was looking for one of these rollers and he graciously offered to call GW to ask about them. With Terry’s help, I was able to purchase the roller.

(The lesson here is not, “Ask Terry”. The lesson is, phone GW Models to place your order. I don’t want Terry’s kindness to me repaid with a deluge of similar requests for help. I should’ve called GW Models in the first place.)

The tool consists of three rollers – two of them parallel to each other and connected by a gear train so they turn in the same direction, at the same speed, when the handle is cranked. The third roller is above and between the first two: It can be moved closer to, or further from, the base rollers to adjust the degree of curvature one puts into the material fed through the tool – and can be removed entirely to allow one to remove a closed tube, such as a boiler, after rolling it on the device. The GW roller can accommodate brass sheet up to 0.020″ thick – more than enough for any projects I will undertake.

This is a heavy tool – about 2KG – and is designed to clamp into a vise as shown in the lead photo. Last year, I restored my father’s Number 0 Record Vise and mounted it on a base that clamps to my work table, so I’m ready to roll.

(Thanks so much for your help, Terry!)

A precise vise

Soba vise

Last week, I visited my friend Pierre Oliver to help him draw out the first town for his new layout, full-size on the benchwork. I’ve written extensively about that trip on my Achievable Layouts blog, so I won’t repeat it here. You can visit that blog and read about our work session by clicking on this photo of an SP freight working the Clovis branch:

SP - Clovis branch freight.

But on the way to Pierre’s, I happened to pass a Busy Bee Tools store and recalled that my friend William Flatt has a nifty vise he uses to bench photo-etched brass kits – something I’m going to be doing a lot of as I contemplate my switch to modelling the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway in 1:64.

Fortunately, I’d had the foresight to take a photo of William’s vise when I visited him to collect some detail parts and trolley poles. In fact, we’d used his vise to bend the door frames for an interurban passenger car and I was very impressed by its ability to securely hold extremely tiny things:

Soba vise and bent door frame.
(That’s a tiny bend to make, but the vise had no problems holding the brass)

So, I made a quick detour into the land of the Bee and came home with my own Soba vise.

I decided the vise needed to be mounted in a way that it was secure when being used, but easy to move when I didn’t need it. So I built a mounting pad out of some spare MDF. I included a lip to hold it snuggly against the edge of my Festool Multi-Function Table, with the vise positioned so I would not bash my knuckles when turning the handle.

Soba vise - mounted.

I also included enough base behind the vise to clamp it to the table through one of the dog holes, keeping the clamp out of the way of any material I might be working in the vise. For this, I had to drill a 3/4″ hole in the masonite cover I use to convert the MFT to a hobby bench. This is located directly over a dog hole to pass a quick-release clamp, and I have a small plug for the hole when the vise is not in use.

The vise has already proven its worth many times in my shop. I recently did some resistance soldering work on a brass model and it securely held the parts. I can even clamp my ground lead to the vise for this type of work. I’m really pleased!

Mark: He’s right, you know…

My friend Mark Zagrodney writes A Model Meander and it’s always worth a read – but his post today really resonates with me, and there’s not a single image of a model railway in sight.

I won’t give away the story, but it involves the important role that slippers play in the hobby.

Enjoy if you visit – and while you’re there, have a look around at what Mark is doing. I always enjoy the visit.

I made a washer!

Okay, it’s a humble beginning, but…

Washer-Lathe

Last night, my friend Ryan Mendell visited. Ryan is a brilliant machinist, and he offered to give me some instruction on my recently-acquired Sherline lathe. We didn’t worry about measurements, but we talked about set-up and adjustment of the tools and tool holders, then worked through the four basic operations one performs on a lathe – facing, turning, boring, and parting. By the end of the lesson I had the small brass washer pictured above.

What a wonderful experience. I can’t wait to make something else!

Machine tool bases

I spent a couple of hours in the shop this morning, and built some bases for my Sherline tools.

Lathe base

Mill base

Over lunch at Big Fat Burrito recently, my friend Ryan Mendell recommended that I top my bases with a layer of Ultra High Molecular Weight plastic (UHMW). He reasoned that oils and swarf would clean up nicely – and since he is the most talented machinist I know, I followed his advice. On Thursday, I made a trip to Plastic World, a local supplier where I buy styrene sheet, and had them cut me two pieces of 1/8″ thick UMHW to the base sizes recommended by Sherline.

On the way home, I hit a local building supply company for a sheet of 3/4″ MDF, some wood, and a selection of hardware, including rubber feet. (Sherline recommends the rubber feet to dampen vibration … and they do!)

Lathe base - underside

I used the UMHW and the dimensional lumber to lay out the base sizes then cut them with my track saw. Glue and screws secured the wood rails to the MDF. I used dimensional number of various “1 by” sizes – being careful to choose sizes that were as high as possible to help contain the mess, while still low enough that they would not interfere with tool components such as hand wheels. I also ran strips of 1×2″ underneath the MDF base to raise it slightly off the table, and mounted the feet to these. This gives me enough air space under the machines to easily slip my fingers underneath to lift them by the bases.

Lathe base - top

The UMHW is held in place by the bolts that hold down the machine tools, so that I can remove and replace it if need be. I used the tools themselves to lay out and mark the locations of the bolt holes. Machines are secured with washers, lock washers, and nuts from below.

(Thanks for the advice, Ryan – I’m really pleased!)

Machine tool accessory storage

My workshop is built using kitchen cabinets from IKEA, so naturally when it came time to think about organizing the drawers, IKEA is at the top of my list. Yesterday, I made the trek to the big blue and yellow box in the burbs, where I picked up a sampling of drawer organizers in the “Variera” line, including the two approaches shown below:

Variera plastic bins

These plastic bins are sold in pairs (one green, one white) and do a good job of holding small pieces, such as cutting tools and tool posts. Their one drawback is that they don’t fill the drawer completely, front to back: they leave a gap which becomes wasted space (unless I build a styrene tray to fill it, which is a possibility). I have not tried them in different-width drawers. I’ll need to do that. But they hold 90 percent of the machine tool accessories I have. I’d like some larger bins – the size of two of these, together – for bigger accessories.

Variera wooden insert

The wooden drawer organizers use the full space and I like the look – easy on the eyes, and the tools. They don’t provide as many bins, but I could cut and install additional dividers as required. (For wider accessories, I will have to experiment with cutting away a divider between two bins.) They do offer longer spaces for things – which may make them more appropriate for hand tools such as knives, pliers, hammers and so on. They also provide more room for larger accessories such as the lathe’s thread cutting gear shown at left.

I suspect I will eventually deploy a mix of storage options. IKEA has a one-page handout in the kitchen section that shows how the various drawer organizers fit into various size drawers, so I will have some homework to do…

Machine Tool Task Lighting: Jansjo

Good lighting is critical to doing good work, and sometimes you want to aim a light exactly where you need it. Like this:

Tool lighting - Jansjo

While wandering in IKEA yesterday (as one does…), I stumbled across these neat little LED lights. The “Jansjo” lights were about $15 each, so I picked up a pair of them. As the photo shows, they can be positioned to put the light exactly where I need it. If you care about these things, they come in a variety of colours. I bought the silver, because they were on sale and because I think the finish will be easier to keep clean.

Jansjo lighting from IKEA

I’m really pleased with my find.

A turn for the better

Lathe
(Some assembly required)

Yesterday, I picked up my second Sherline tool – a 24″ lathe. Through my experience with Andy Malette on the CNR 3737 project, I’ve learned that I’ll probably get even more use out of this lathe than I will out of my mill. It should come in handy for air tanks and other turned bits for a number of current and future projects.

I ordered this back in November, but between the Christmas rush (yes, people buy machine tools for Christmas) and wildfires in southern California (where Sherline Products is located), it took a couple of months to come in. I picked up this lathe from Atlas Machinery – a venerable Toronto-area dealer – and had a great experience. Their Sherline expert, Mike, is very helpful.

Obviously, I need to assemble the lathe. There are lots of bits and bobs to attach, and a thick assembly guide to get my head around before I start. I also need to mount the lathe on a base to help contain the swarf it’ll generate. (This is something I have to do for my mill as well.) Finally, I need to add some task lighting to the machine tool section of my workshop. But I’m looking forward to putting these tools to good use!

Mill and Lathe

Paint Storage Solution | small bottles

Thanks to everyone who responded – on blog and through private messages – to yesterday’s post about paint storage options. As it happens, I was running errands yesterday and visited a local gaming store (Meeplemart), where I picked up a laser cut MDF rack from Vallejo:

Vallejo Paint Rack

This assembled in about five minutes (as a dry fit – I must go back and glue everything) and holds 52 small bottles, a handful of larger bottles, and more brushes than I’ll ever use. It sits nicely on my desk or workbench and its tiered design means I can see all the paints, inks, washes and so on that I’m most likely to need when painting.

I’ll need to explore the options at Meeplemart (and Wheels And Wings, a local plastic modelling store) for larger paint bottles, such as Scalecoat.

But at least I have the Vallejo under control!

Paint Storage Problem

I have one:

Too much paint

Most of us can relate to this. It doesn’t take long for the number of little bottles of paint to overrun a workshop. I’m currently looking at a few options – including laser cut paint storage racks available at my local gaming store. But I’m interested in the creative solutions that you’ve devised. So if you have solved your paint storage problem – and have a link to the rack manufacturer or to photos of what you did – share in the comments, and thanks in advance.

I’m not looking for suggestions along the lines of “How about something like…” from people who have not done it themselves. I’m looking for ideas that have actually been put into practice. Let’s see what you’ve got!