Bridport Foundry is much older than model engineering. In fact, it goes back more than 400 years and continues to cast for engineers, architectural restorers, steam enthusiasts, even royalty. And, of course these days, model engineers.

The business has been owned by the Lambert family since 1988 and now by brothers John and Steve Lambert. They have driven the company and added complementary business to the foundry base. First was the acquisition of the well-known Plastow Traction Engines ten years ago. They added the famous and universally admired Stuart Models in 2012. Quite possibly the majority of model engineers started with a Stuart design, like the young MIss Cherry Hinds.

Both Stuart and Plastow models are sold as sets of castings, pre-machined kits ready for assembly or, as ready-to-run models. An increase in demand for the pre-machined kits and ready-to-run models turned John and Steve’s attention to investing in modern machine tools.

“Having taken over Guernsey-based Stuart Models we moved all of the existing stock to Bridport. To give some idea of scale it arrived in 10, 40 foot trailers, which almost brought the town to a standstill. This volume of stock was indicative of the amount of machining that we were going to encounter and while initially we put all this out to sub-contract, it was a cost to the business and we lost some control over the quality of the finished products. Given that the customer base for Stuart Models is made up of current or ex-engineers aged between 55 and 90 they are quick to respond if the quality is not right,” says John Lambert.

Given that space was available, the brothers decided to invest in machining capacity. However, as John openly admits, their machining experience was more ‘agricultural’ than precision, so that any machine had to be user friendly and easy to program and operate. An SMX 2500 ProtoTRAK bed mill was chosen.

“The ProtoTRAK control was a perfect transition for us moving from manual machines to CNC and it is perfectly straightforward and easy to operate, even for someone with such limited programming knowledge as we had. We are using the XYZ SMX 2500 mainly for pocketing, PCD drilling and tapping work on cast iron components, work that is increasing as more and more customers are ordering the pre-machined kits.”

That was followed by an SLX 1630 ProTURN lathe, again from XYZ Machine Tools in Burlescombe near Tiverton, Devon. “This is being used to machine the many types of flywheels we need for the models, and with stock turnover being what it is it is kept busy.”

With more model engineers with limited time looking to speed up completion of models, the investment at Bridport will make sure that demand can be met.