By Journeyman

The blessed warmth of summer is here at The Styx and with it come days of steaming and good company down at our track. We don’t have a proper Club House, so wet days are a misery with two dozen damp model engineers crammed into a small space waiting for the skies to clear so that we can get on and enjoy ourselves.

Cleaning up round the Styx is made easier by not having to dodge the showers as I attempt to remove the huge accumulation of moss on paths and walls that has been nurtured by the winter’s exceptional wet weather. Pressure washers are a great invention and they leave all the surfaces sparkling and good as new.


Out of true 3-jaw chucks

I mentioned in an early Styx that I bought my Myford ML7 new in about 1970 complete with a  Burnerd 4” 3-jaw s.c. chuck. Right from the start it never held work anything like true, and I’m talking about 0.020” at best,  and so it has remained all these years.

Tool post grinder

I decided not long ago that I must either ‘chuck’ it and buy a new one, or attempt to grind the jaws true, to which end I acquired a toolpost grinder. Thoughts of a new Griptru came and went when the price was revealed! Clearly, this could not be done if no way could be found to set the jaws so that they were firmly against the scroll. So if this could be achieved then all would be plain sailing, (!) to which end I made a stepped disc to catch on the inside backs of the jaws and proceeded to run the toolpost grinder, carefully you understand, a thou at a time until all three jaws were touching equally on the stone.

Disc in back of jaws

Examination revealed that the contact faces on the jaws had become tapered,  the end of a bar describing a large circle. This matched what I had read somewhere about this way of doing the job, so lesson learned, rely on other people’s experience and don’t think you are cleverer than them !

My next idea was to make a disc with a 1½” hole in the centre and slip this over the outer steps of the jaws together with some super glue, wind out the jaws and leave it to set. The thinking was that I could then wind the scroll in gently  against the jaws and the glue, and thereby support them against the outward thrust of the grindstone. The glue never stuck so idea No.2 went the same way as No.1.

Failed second idea

So what next? Well the chuck hadn’t had much use for obvious reasons and the jaws were still a close fit in their slideways, close enough for them not to slip under gravity when vertical,  and I reasoned that if I ran the lathe at full speed the jaws would, once firmly set against the scroll by hand before starting, remain there by centrifugal force, and that is what duly happened, and my chuck is now only a few thou out, certainly good enough for most purposes. With the lathe running so fast the feed rate of the stone was, of course, very slow.

The finished jaws

Before starting I trawled the internet for ideas and got the usual wordy film clips made by our American cousins which weren’t much help, except that one of them showed the stone being dressed with a diamond which was a very good tip and contributed to the final parallelism of the jaw contact points. I also took a lot of care in setting up the toolpost grinder spindle between centres to ensure a true axial path for the stone.


Even in the forge, painting was my least favourite job, so I have been anticipating painting Boxhill with some trepidation. This has been compounded by the complexity of the lining out, especially as some of the lines are only 0.011” wide! After a lot of thought I decided that I would brush paint everything as I wasn’t confident of my spraying skills and, besides, didn’t want to invest in the equipment. I have several books on the subject, and the more I read the more confused I became as to what types of paint to use, how to thin it, reduce it’s surface tension, types of brush to use, how to create a dust free environment etc., etc., etc. A further consideration was that steam locos never were spray painted and I didn’t want to try and produce a finish more like a McClaren F1 than a steam loco. Anyway, a few steam ups would soon dull all that fabulous shine.

Further investigation revealed that the only source of authentic transfers was exhausted and enquiries were met with a less than polite retort as to the impossibility of more being available. This is where Mrs Journeyman in collaboration with my mentor stepped in. My mentor is also embarking on the transfers road for his own future use, so between the two of them I hope to have a set to apply when all is ready for them.

In the meantime I am working on producing good brushed finishes. Internet searches found sources for the paint that don’t need second mortgages to afford them, so I have finished the frames, motion and all sub running board pipework so far. The paints, being startlingly quick drying, need a positive and quite swift form of application, as going back over it to brush out any blemishes can lead to dragging of the drying surface which is impossible to put right. The results were awful, and thorough rubbing down and repainting produced no improvement at all. I suspected that what is needed is some thinning, but with some care and not as much as is needed for spraying, so when the correct thinner arrives I shall do some tests to establish how much to add.

The other problem that has yet to be resolved is number and works plates. The only source for Stroudley plates has ceased production and making plates is one skill I do not want to have to learn. It’s just my luck that  plates and transfers have become unavailable in the last three years ! If anyone knows of a good maker of such plates please send details to our editor to forward to me.


I’ve decided that I will have to spray Boxhill as thinning and brushing produced no improvement at all. So to that end all the crummy paint applied by brush has been stripped off. Cellulose thinner is the stripping agent and works very well. I buy it in 5 litre cans from my local motor factor, and it works out at being at least 15 times cheaper than in small cans from the usual paint suppliers. If you don’t want that much it’s easily split and shared among your friends.

Taking things back to bare metal was tedious and messy and had to be done outdoors to allow the fumes to disperse, and the most difficult parts were around the crevices of the frame horns. One of those brass wire brushes sold for buffing up suede shoes was a great help.. All is now re-primed and awaiting the spray gun.

I was strongly advised by my mentor all along to spray, but lacking spraying experience, and equipment as I explained above, decided to brush. In mitigation I had no idea that the paint would prove to be so unsuitable for brushing, despite claims to the contrary, so for once this wasn’t  another case of me ignoring good advice thinking I knew better.

Gooch in the station

By way of a break we took Gooch to the Bath and West Railway. This is situated in the Bath and West Showground and is run by the East Somerset SMEE. It’s all quite new. There is ½  mile of 5” and 7 1/4” track and extensive workshop, storage and steaming facilities, supported by stations, crossing gates, loco loading and unloading facilities and a comfortable club room. They carry large numbers of passengers every year, especially at the B&W Show, which pay for all their costs and facilities. Gooch was able to ‘stretch’ it’s great driving wheels on the home straight which was great fun. We discovered on our return that the right hand front outside crank was loose on its axle. A new tighter key has been fitted which it is hoped will keep it secure.

Approaching the station

Steaming bays

For those of you who read Model Engineer magazine, the new series on old machines that has just started, written by “Journeyman”, is not from my pen. So now there are two of us!

Talking of clearing the forge, we have recently taken a ton and a half of  steel (10p/kg) and a quarter of a ton of old electric motors (30p/kg) to our local scrap yard for which we will receive only enough cash to fill the car with diesel a mere three times such is the negligible value of scrap metal these days! Then see how much they ask if you want to buy.

Nuff said, in the words of LBSC.