Order, order!

You may remember me saying earlier about the random and somewhat unsatisfactory way in which my workshop has developed. Not only are the tools and attachments put where space offered, but all those items like loose milling cutters are put in odd corners in unlabelled drawers beside  boxed sets of collets and other similar things, so time is wasted in remembering which drawer contains what. In addition my measuring equipment is on shelves and is at constant risk of being knocked off.

Frustration has finally driven me to become more organized, to which end an internet search has led me to two wall-mounted drawer sets for all the bits and pieces, and a drawer cabinet for my micrometers, calipers and some of the lathe attachments like drill chucks and die-holders.

The in-house computer boffin is also a keen gardener and spends many happy hours in her greenhouse growing and labelling all manner of plants for both eating and admiring. She has a smart electronic labelling machine and generously offered to make labels for all my new drawers, so now all is ship-shape and engineer fashion  She also lined the drawers of the cabinet with pieces of  laminated flooring  plastic foam-underlay to keep my micrometers warm and comfortable ! (As she does me !)

The workshop poltergeist

Where the hell are my two tobacco tins of tool bits ??? They found a home when the boxes of things were originally unpacked, on a shelf just above the lathe. In earlier attempts to be tidier they were moved to another shelf,  I DO KNOW WHICH ONE,  but now they have vanished. Short of a complete turn over of the entire workshop I’m going to have to wait for them to just turn up, very frustrating! 

The same thing happened to my vernier caliper. I use it all the time and being without it is like being without a hand. Endless searches yielded nothing, and in the end I bought another very nice one off the Homeworkshop website. Then, you’ve guessed it, there it was where I had already looked three times. I haven’t a name for this Joker yet, but he’s only got to play one or two more of his pranks and he will soon acquire a very uncomplimentary epithet !

The other workshop gremlin is the one that instantly renders invisible small parts that drop onto the floor. Short of painting the floor white on a regular basis and sweeping up every day I can’t think of any way of beating this ‘Johnny’. The upside is that it makes me sweep up really thoroughly more often than I otherwise would and in so doing, finding bits that previously eluded my searches, by which time I have, of course, replaced them!  Steel bits are also rendered non-magnetic as even my most powerful magnet fails to pick them up.


Most of the parts for the motion are now made. I have to rivet the eccentric straps and rods together, file the straps down to their finished thickness, finish the reach rod, drill and taper-pin the reversing lever and lifting arms to the weighshaft, and then will be able to do a first assembly to see how things fit. Setting the timing will follow.

My mentor has given me a very accurate method for setting the valve timing and securing  the eccentrics on the crank axle to the correct angle of lead, so I shall have to re-read his  calculations and make the jigs he designed for the job. I think the eccentric straps and sheaves will need some easing to rotate smoothly, but not a lot as I was very careful with my measurements when machining the straps, each one of the four being individually fitted. However, I think I will be having to put some shims  between the bolting faces, a fitting method which will allow me to adjust the fit as wear occurs.

The new workshop is now well established and work on Boxhill has a good momentum, just as well considering how long ago she was started. When I read in MEWS about the 7 ¼ in. gauge Iron Duke. I wonder how such a huge project can be accomplished in just two years, truly amazing.

Reports from The Styx will be less frequent from now on. I have dreams of building a track in my field. About half of it is very steep ( see photo in Styx 6 ) and wild schemes to build a switch back reversing railway to scale the heights come to mind,  like those built in the Western Ghats in India and the Andean Railway to Puna. An alternative would be a rack system but that would confine specialized locos to their own line. The top of the field is distant from the house and out of sight, but has space for a half mile double loop over and under track – we shall see!

I have finished my marathon reading of back numbers of Model Engineer magazine and now have a very useful database to which I can refer for all manner of information. I noted constructional series on a number of locos, so if and when  Boxhill is completed I will have easy access to a choice of  projects that caught my eye, as well as carrying out some of Artisan’s projects that have been published in these pages.

It’s been great fun and I have enjoyed reading lots of quirky articles, some of which I have already mentioned, descriptions of surviving historical engines of all sorts, and sharing in the passion that we all have for this endlessly fascinating hobby and field of study. Long may it continue.

Finally, what a breath of fresh air is MEWS. It’s light editorial touch is a refreshing change from the established magazines (good though they are), and it’s ability to bring us reports of events as soon as they have taken place gives those of us in remote places a feeling of being in close contact with events as they occur.

”May the song of the swarf at the cutting edge forever soothe our ears”


P.S.  I have got the better of the poltergeist’s little joke and have my bits of tool steel back. I shall, however, be looking to him to tell me why he put them in that particular place!

P.P.S. Boxhill has advanced since the above notes were written, so below are some pictures.

Model engineering in the Styx -

Part 1    Part 2     Part 3   Part 4   Part 5

Part 6