Part 4
by Journeyman

WINTER is closing in here in the Styx. Being on the West side of Dartmoor we get a great deal of rain and everything is saturated. Natural springs come back to life covering the lanes and roads with running water and because the drains are not kept clear of leaves by the Highways Authority, great puddles lie around through which cars plunge like trawlers in a force 8 gale. When the sun does emerge on the chilly mornings, the mists fill the valley, drifting round the cattle and lifting up from the terraces in our garden, and the dead bracken on the common above the house glows as if connected to the Grid, quite magical  and a real ‘lift’ after days of grey and overcast weather

More Training

I mentioned that I had used the Worden t&c grinder as a training exercise. Well, another such project was to make a Microscope Finder, another kit from Hemingway. Some of you may have made one of these from the kit – how did you get on?  I enjoyed this project, especially cutting screw threads on the lathe, a job I have never done before.

As with all new operations I attempt, I approached this very carefully, especially if arithmetic is involved, doing a trial run on an off-cut before doing the actual job, which worked out very well. I ran the lathe at the slowest possible speed to prevent  accidental overrun and further additions to the scrap pile. I have a Newton Tesla speed control fitted to my ML7 which enables me to achieve back gear speeds without the need to engage them.

Setting the optical parts was the most difficult bit of the project, and I finished with the centre of the reticule 0.006in. out on both axes. By the time I had got to this stage I’d had enough of fiddling with minute adjustments and left it as it is. In a calm moment in the future I shall have another go at zeroing it, and rely on the corrections in the meanwhile. It was very useful in telling me how accurate are my markings-out by hand, no more than 0.003in. error if I am really careful.


Just under three years ago I heard on the TV that there was an LBSC Terrier in steam at the West Somerset Railway. I contacted them for permission to take close-up pictures and so found myself crawling all over and under Martello and finished up with a very useful set of pictures (see Styx 2). Being in the pit under the loco called for considerable contortions to gets pictures of all the motion and a fair amount of grease and dirt walked away with me!

There are significant differences between the original loco and Martin Evans’ design both in small and larger detail. I had not known before that the slide bars on Terriers are of channel section with the crosshead running within them, rather than being of square section with the crossheads being grooved to run outside the bars as Martin incorporated into his design. This modification makes sense when you consider how thin would be the wall thickness of the channel if made to scale. I have found these pictures very useful as a reference for fine detail such as the coupling rod oil cups, and would recommend that anyone that can to do the same for a loco that they are building.

The preserved railways are always helpful, in my experience, if you write to them and pay any small photo access fee they charge. It helps to have your own orange ‘high viz’ jacket. I put all these pictures onto a disc and sent them to my mentor for  reference for his Boxhill, a small return for all his help.

The Forge

You may remember that in Styx 2  I mentioned my blacksmithing days. For some 25 years I ran my own business making decorative ironwork and doing agricultural welding repairs. The welding of  farmers broken machines I enjoyed,  apart from muck spreaders in the height of summer when the whole place smelled of burning dung , I can still remember that pong to this day! 

As for the ironwork there was one rule. Absolutely NO cheap cold-bent welded anything. My interest lay in the forging of hot iron (well, mild steel) traditional construction methods, and latterly, and conversely, very contemporary work both in design and construction.

My philosophy was that the tradition of scrolls, leaves and all the accompanying methods of the 18th C. should not be cheapened to the lowest possible price to satisfy popular demand, like making early 19th C. look-alike furniture from veneered chipboard  and selling it as late Regency – ugh ! Because of this, customers were not abundant so I never made much money, but as in the building of a fine loco or traction engine or clock, the satisfaction is in the making and finished quality, not the true pounds per hour value.

In the designing and making of contemporary work I used every bit of modern technology I could afford. I reasoned that my 17th and 18th C. forebears used the most up to date tools and methods - technology of, and for, it’s era. So, in a sense, I was continuing the tradition of innovation and development.

I include a sequence of pictures showing how a hole is  punched in hot metal, the method employed before drills were developed to do the job. In this instance they were made for the gates and railings illustrated to create decorative effect, using 2 x 1in. mild steel, the work being done under my 2cwt power hammer (that’s the moving part, seen in photo 7 ). Having punched the hole, the bar was cut to length and drawn down  each side to make the point and the welding stub. Two of them were then set into a jig with an intermediate length of bar, welded together and finished with an angle grinder.

Large numbers of components were made in railway workshops employing such forging methods using very heavy bar, e.g. 8in. square  and really big hammers such as the 10 ton machine at Blist’s Hill at the Ironbridge Gorge Museum.

Work of this kind continues in industry to this day. However, I am not yet drawn to the latest in CNC machining in my workshop, as I have so much to learn in manual machining. Lots of men envied me my job, but there is little romance in it, and they weren’t visiting me in winter when the quenching trough had an inch of ice on it in the morning. Invariably they were in secure jobs with excellent pension prospects! It was also surprising how many women’s grandfathers were blacksmiths !

I learned a great deal about  problem solving and working out my own ways of doing something new, some of which I can apply to Boxhill, remembering always that for Boxhill it is a matter of metal removal rather than metal re-arrangement, apart from the boiler. It was an interesting period in my life, but together with family commitments left no opportunity for model engineering, which is why I’m a man in a hurry to catch up.

Talking of family commitments, Boxhill has had to take a back seat for the last few months. My very elderly father-in-law went into a steep decline and died at the end of October. He lived next door and we had been caring for him for the last 6 ½ years, something I think many of our generation have had to do or have yet to come. It’s work that is astonishingly wearing both physically and emotionally and I have only just recovered the energy to re-start  in the workshop.

Since I started this instalment, the big freeze has been and gone, frozen ground has heaved up cracking tarmac and caused mini landslips a the back of the house, but having made sure that the pipes  were laid really deep when the bore hole for our water supply was sunk, (we are miles from the mains), we have had no frozen pipes at all!

Model engineering in the Styx - Part 1

                            Part 2

                            Part 3

                            Part 5

microscope finder

Under Martello

Punching a hole

1. First slit
  1. 2.Slitting tool

  2. 3.driven in

3. First drift ready for driving

4. First drift driven through

  1. 5.Second drift

driven in

6. Third drift is driven right through

7. Fourth drift also driven right through

8. Forgings drawn and welded to bars

9. The finished job