It just gets worse and worse, doesn't it? The Japanese tragedy and aftermath put our Australian and New Zealand disasters in a certain perspective, although for those doing the actual suffering and grieving, it's cold comfort, I'm sure. What is really getting up my nose is the noisy, self-serving gaggle of politicians and lobbyists who are trying to further their own agendas by beating up selective aspects of all these natural disasters while promoting their brilliant hindsight and perspicacity. It's obvious they think the public is stupid, and by extension, that includes me! [pause while Ron gnashes teeth and uses words generally reserved for accidentally turning some irreplaceable casting undersize].
Despite the rather clever quip that goes something like, if you say that you remember the 60's, you weren't there, I am child of the sixties and I do remember them! From that time, I also fondly recall the songs of Harvard mathematician, Tom Lehrer. For longer than I can remember, our national Public Radio service here has broadcast a very eclectic two hour weekly segment called "The Music Show", hosted by classical composer, Andrew Ford. About ten years back, Andrew tracked down Tom Lehrer and arranged a telephone interview with him. As it turned out, Tom was surprised anyone remembered him, although he expressed very fond memories of his Australian tours. This, he said, was due to the warmth of the Australian audiences, plus the memorable police presence stationed around the auditorium in Adelaide (City of Churches) who were there to make certain he did not sing his Boy Scout song. What precisely they were going to do if he did was never clear to him. Makes me think of the concert in the Blues Brothers movie.
Essentially, Tom Lehrer's songs were social commentary, or satire if prefer. For the curious, the ABC has an online transcript available here, although it can't capture the sense of simpatico evident between the two men. Towards the end of the interview, Ford asked Lehrer why he had abruptly stopped? Tom replied that he reached a point where the things he had been satirizing were suddenly not funny to him anymore. Instead they just made him angry, so he simply quite and returned to the calm, abstract world of mathematics.
That's rather how I feel about all those who are currently grabbing all the headlines and airtime they can to distort aspects of the various tragedies to transparently push their own agendas. It's just not funny to me anymore, although I sort of think the world would be a better place if they were laughed off stage. So I'm following Tom Lehrer's lead. THAT'S IT! I've said my last piece about politicians. I've retired. They make me too angry to think straight and you'll never hear another peep about them from me! Never ever. Promise. I'll go back to beating up on Microsoft, at least their antics and products still make me laugh.
On the home front, the doctor monitoring my PSA count caught a small but steady increase and concluded that the hormone treatment was loosing its effectiveness, so as of the start of March, I'm on the dreaded chemotherapy. Hair loss will not be a problem as I doubt many will even notice a difference, though the mere thought of loosing manual dexterity and having my finger nails fall out has me in a cold sweat. But so far, so good. I was knocked about and sorry for myself for a week, making me fear this month's page would be light-on, or late. As usual when I get this feeling, the issue, to my amazement, turns out to be neither and that has cheered me up no end.
For all that, I've managed to complete a C/L Bendix racer to the painting stage. It's not really your actual Bendix, but a new, locally grown formula which places a limit on how low you can push your lap times in recognition of the sad fact that the pilots and pit crews are close to their use-by date and need all the coddling they can get! Apart from the over-engineered fuel cut-out machined up for the Racer, no real model engineering took place this month. Naturally I'm still putting in my standard full days at the University, causing Ruthie to murmur in my ear when she thinks I'm asleep, "...retire and make models ...retire and make models...". The amazing thing is it's starting to sound like a rather good idea!
Vale: Eric Whittle (1926-2011)
Master model maker and model engine designer, PEL (Eric) Whittle, passed away in early March, 2011, just a few days short of his 85th birthday. Like many, I became aware of Eric through the pages of Bob Washburn's magazine, Strictly Internal Combustion (SIC). His first construction series, the Robin 1.25cc single cylinder four-stroke, commenced in the Dec/Jan 1990 issue, but for me, it was his series on building the Zimmerman 1/6th scale DeHavilland Cirrus Mk I that started in Feb/March 1985 issue which really made me sit down and take notice. Eric's writing in this series was in some ways reminiscent of LBSC's writings on building small live steam locomotives in that he made it all sound so straight-forward that anyone with basic equipment and some common sense could do it, regardless of their experience level. That's not a common gift and it was enough to encourage me to buy the castings and build the model using Eric's "words and music".
Following his SIC Cirrus series, Eric reduced the engine to 1/9th scale and built a new bar-stock version which flew in a friend's 1/9th scale Desoutter, the original having been Cirrus powered too. This time the construction series appeared in British magazine, Engineering in Miniature, commencing in Volume 15, number 1. The actual Cirrus Mk I, designed by Major B Halford, was essentially an Airdisco/Renault V8 cut in half, so what more natural after his 1/9th scale version of the Cirrus that he reverse the process and reuse the cylinders and head design to create an air-cooled Aero V-8. This time the plans and construction series appeared in the Model Engineer, beginning issue 3991, Volume 174, May 1995. Eric's V-8 found immediate favour with modellers world wide. Not long after it appeared, I attended the inaugural 1997 Pacific Rim International Model Engineering (PRIME) show. This was held in Eugene, Oregon, effectively just a quick drive down the I-5 in the new Z3 from where I was living at the time in Beaverton, Oregon. At the show, the very new and active Bay Area Engine Modellers (BAEM) club had not one but two completed Whittle V-8's on display! Even better, Eric himself was there with his prototypes, running the V-8 regularly for the delight (and in many cases, amazement) of the crowd. Later a few of us ventured uptown for a quiet drink in a noisy bar where I summoned up the courage to speak briefly with Eric, finding him to be the quiet, unassuming sort of bloke who makes light of his exceptional accomplishments.
After his initial appearances in SIC, Eric continued to contribute to the magazine with an original design for the Peewit, a tiny 5.5cc, flat-four, air cooled "boxer" aero engine (issue 61, Feb/Mar 1998). This engine appeared again in Model Engine World (MEW), cut down to a lovely little opposed twin. Like the boxer, Eric's description and clear drawings make it all look so simple and straight forward that you just want to start making swarf right away. Regretfully, the circulation of MEW was not large and hence, not the best vehicle for a project of this complexity. Had the design appeared in a more main-stream model engineering publication, we would certainly have seen several examples, but as it is, I fear that a really great design is languishing and fading into obscurity.
Beyond doubt, Eric Whittle inspired many Model Engineers to have a go at complex projects through his gift for elegant design and his ability to describe precision machining steps in straight forward, understandable terms that work! As well as being made by model engineers all over the world, his designs have been reproduced in small volume at high quality by at least two companies I can recall. I'm sure his creations will continue to be built and enjoyed for a long time to come. Vale, Eric.
Opposed Piston Engines Then and Now
Knowing I have a fascination, perhaps morbid, for unconventional IC technology, Charlie Stone forwarded me a conspiracy story about the latest in opposed piston engines. The Opposed Piston Opposed Cylinder (OPOC) 3D CAD model seen here is real, -ish. Design and initial development was funded by DARPA and undertaken by Professor Peter Hofbauer, who during his 20 years at VW, among other things, headed up development of VW's first diesel engine and the VR6. The engine is a two-stroke diesel and as usual with radical IC engine technology, amazing claims are made for it's weight savings and fuel economy. There's a video of Herr Prof Dr Dr Hofbauer explaining the thing here, and damn if a lot of his reasoning does not make a lot of sense to me, especially the way an opposed piston two-stroke allows you to close the exhaust before closing the transfer (think about it and if you have trouble, don't worry yet, and old friend will come to the rescue later).
The conspiricy nut piece Charlie forwarded to me speculated that the engine would quickly sink without trace as the Usual Suspects in Big Business and Politics cut it off at the knees. Even if they don't, there is such massive global investment in conventional engine design and manufacture that I just don't see how any "new" technology can get a leg into the mass market short of a total collapse of civilization, and hopefully, a rebuild. Still, interesting to watch. Remember it's being sponsored by the military at the moment, so maybe they can find a niche market. I hope so and have added a link to Eco Motors International web site in the Unusual Engine Designs section of the Links Page.
In one of those coincidences that seem to happen too often to be coincidences, Charlie's email arrived only a day after I'd been leafing through some old issues of the Model Engineer and spotted a piece by ETW on, guess what, opposed piston engines! This one dates back to 1963 and so post-dates his 1953 description of the Napier Deltic delta-configuration, opposed piston, multi-bank diesel. Taking this as a sign, ETW on Opposed Piston Gas Engines has been OCR'd and preserved here for study. Westbury says the early exhaust closing trick requires crankpin offsets that upset balance slightly, while Hofbauer insists his engine is perfectly balanced. I suggest you watch the OPOC video first, then read ETW's piece to see how we have become so good at going 'round in circles and reinventing wheels, although I admit modern computer control has changed the equation more than a bit.
Speaking of Charlie Stone, readers will likely recall the amazing blending job Charlie delivered on the hogged-from-solid crankcase for his gestating MAN 19 diesel which appeared here in the March issue. Now that you've been left in suspense to ponder for a month, here's how 'e did it: EDM! Now some might call that cheating, but look at the effort Charlie has gone to in making the female plunger electrodes from a solid (and probably costly) block of copper. The results speak for themselves and I call this good, solid, modern model engineering.
Charlie reports that his first efforts in manually removing metal brought him to the sad realization that this approach was just not going to produce the quality he was after. So after removing the bulk of the non-crankcase metal, the remainder was eroded by Charlie's electrode in his friend's trusty plunger type EDM. As you can imagine, set-up and rigidity were critical so registration on both sides would be perfect. There is a light vertical mark which looks for all the world like a die separation mark, so I'd have to give Charlie and his friend full marks in this area. Note too that while he made two electrodes, only one was needed and it looks capable of producing another dozen cases.
If, like me, you've never heard of a Dapping Block Set, read on. One of Oz's most productive model IC engine builders is Rob Jenkins. We've seen his efforts here so often that a list of links got boring, so just search on "Rob Jenkins". Anyway, Rob decided to build the 5cc Fixed Compression Micron which was our Members' Free Plan a little while back. It's really great to see the Free Plans used in anger, especially complex subjects like the Micron. Construction went well until Rob got to the tank, originally a deep-drawn brass item. I probably would have sacrificed a three pound lump of solid brass to produce a 3 gramme tank and a lot of swarf, but Rob had recently been given a Dapping Set.
"Dapping" uses a hardened steel punch and die to shallow-draw metal into a dome shape. For the curious, there are demos of dapping on uTube. After watching the video, Rob soon formed a dome in shim brass (un-annealed, remarkably) to a good mate with a piece of brass tube of the appropriate diameter. Some soldering and machining for the fuel-feed and cut-off produced what you see above. About the only improvement possible would be gold solder to hide the join. The dapping block is never going to produce anything with parallel sides of any significant length, but as a dome maker, it can't be beat. I was so impressed by Rob's effort that I went out and found an unused set on eBay at under half the price being asked for a new set. No idea when it will get used, but I'm armed and ready!
More Cabin Fever 2011
Way back in February this year, David Zwolak sent in some additional photos for the Cabin Fever 2011 page which I managed to hide carefully in plain sight (sorry David). Well this is fixed and David's extra shots join Hank Helman's at the foot of the page. The headliner thumbnail chosen for this item shows a Hodgson 9 cylinder radial doing it's thing. I'm always amazed at how easily these start, how smoothly they run, and how nicely they idle. A real tribute to Ageless Engines' Lee Hodgson and his father Sam before him (I'm told that the pensive guy in the background is Lee himself).
That Road Roller Again
Quite a few years back, a reader casually asked me if I'd scan the 1938 Westbury Aveling Road Roller series for him. At the time, I had access to Russell Watson-Will's very extensive ME collection, so the request was do-able, if I didn't mind manually scanning and editing 97 pages! Although my first inclination was a polite "get lost!", once I had the magazines and started skimming the series, it really got me in, so the reader's request was granted and those 97 pages from 1938 were quietly added to the MEN website (see MEN, June 2004). I say "quietly" because I figured the old thing would hold little interest to most people, except for the stationary engine brigade.
That may be true, but over the years, a surprising number of readers have "found" it and expressed their thanks. One has even completed one, from the solid, a task you have to study the plans to truly appreciate (see August 2009 MEB review). For most, the show-stopper is those castings, available before World War II from Bond's o' Euston Road (London) and supposedly "lost" during the Blitz. Well, surprise! A kind reader has emailed to say the original patterns have been located and are being restored by the Engineers' Emporium (UK). A brief look at their web site does not mention the Aveling, so looks like the project is not ready for market yet, but our correspondent is planning a visit and will report in due course. Even if Road Rollers are not exactly your thing, the engine component by itself makes for a very fine hopper cooled stationary IC model.
No Elves Allowed
One of my all-time favourite model engine books is John Brown's Dan Calkin and his Elfs, subtitled, He Never Called Them Elves! It's hard to say why as the engines themselves are rather delicate things and very "fiddly" to make, although this has not stopped people like Eric Offen from tackling and completing a pair of Reed Valve Flat 6 Elfs. It's a good idea to build more than one as making the fixtures required to hold the very irregular casings is more effort than building the actual engine! To get an idea of this, get hold of the book and leaf through the pages showing Dan Calkin's original fixtures. These are absolutely fascinating and reflect an age we'll never see again (short of the collapse and rebuild of civilization mentioned earlier).
As well as Eric's flat 6 Elf duo, there are numerous original and home constructed Elfs scattered all through the MEN web pages (the Site Search and terms like "elf" and "dan calkin" will find them for you). Observing that several of the originals pictured in various pages are in a state of slow decay, MEN supporter, Miles Prentice, has very kindly sent in enough pictures of pristine Elfs to compose a page of the various models. A search for a collective noun for Elfs has proven fruitless as it appears Dan Calkin was the only person who called then Elfs! To others, the plural is as expected and a search provided drove, mischief, shire, and quandary. None of those really seem to fit, though a lawn of gnomes on one reference did make me smile. Anyway, enough twittering on. Click the pic for our Shower of Elfs page (Portland not noted for being all that dry ).
Our Links Page gets a new permanent entry in the Commercial section this month. Authentic Scale is a new venture supplying fully complete, finely detailed, working model engines of the type to which many model engineers aspire, but realize they have neither the time, equipment, nor skills to build. Authentic Scale will build small runs of multi-cylinder engines in radial and other configurations using existing fully authentic scale and semi-scale designs from respected designers. The engines will be produced with the latest in CNC and high-tech materials, such as Titanium/Nickel/Chromium valves and ceramic bearings. Like the company, the web site is new and evolving. The projected models will not be cheap, but quality never is. For those with a deep love of complex model engines and even deeper pockets (tell her it's an investment), this will be a site to watch.
New Books and Magazines This Month
The Library did grow by a couple of books during March, but I'm not far enough through them to consider a review yet. Instead, let's have a rather general look at one of the magazines I subscribe to regularly. I'd hope that by now, every reader of these pages in every country will be aware of the venerable old UK publication, the Model Engineer. The cover shown here is a relatively recent issue chosen at random and contains no IC content at all, although I probably had a one in three change of finding some.
So if no IC, what is in it? Well for start, it contains 54 pages, including the covers, all printed on glossy paper in full color using an unusual sans-serif font which to me, decreases readability—a finding which a number of well referenced academic studies support. Ok, Rant Mode off. It's reasonable to include the covers in the page count because they are included in the sequential page numbering scheme applied to each volume. I've always liked this, and I'll bet index writers do too! As for content, there are 24 pages of advertising, clustered at back, front and center; the actual article pages are whole with no advertising inserts (I like that a lot too, but wish the recent center advertising cluster annoyance was dropped). So after we add the front cover and do the hard math, there are 30 pages of content (about 56%). There are four build series, all steam engines. Two are locomotives, one a stationary engine, and the other a ETW Cygnet Royale-like three cylinder radial, as depicted on the cover. Two more articles are devoted to British model engineering exhibitions, one to a site visit, and another to a surprisingly long running how-I-did-it series on a double-decker tram-car. Then there's the regular columns, five in number, such as the Editorial, Readers' letters, club news, competitions, etc.
Looking through the advertising, the growing number of companies dedicated to buying and selling—or auctioning—completed live steam models stands out for some reason. I counted five and may have missed one. This makes some kind of sense as we seem to have struck a period where old model engineers are dropping off the twig, so these companies cater to the growing class who want to own and drive a live steam loco, but can't build it for one reason or another—sort of like the R/C fliers today who would never think of building, but enjoy their flying nevertheless and have deep enough pockets to indulge, well, deeply!
Just for fun, here's "same" issue from sixty years ago (the comparison is not precise because the ME was a weekly in those days; today there are 26 issues per year). In this issue, there were 44 black and white, rather ordinary quality paper pages. Back then, advertising accounted for 13 pages with the advertising and cover pages numbered in lower case Roman numerals. The sequential volume page numbering scheme applied to the content only which is quite a nice scheme, really. Deducting the cover, we are again left with 30 pages of content representing 68% of the total this time. Like our modern issue, there was no IC content in this issue (luck of the draw; must have been ETW's week off). There were three long running construction series. Two of these were live steam, the other a hot air engine (LBSC's 3-1/2 gauge 4-6-2 Britannia had just started). Different from today, the issue contained four workshop equipment and techniques articles. In fairness, the ME publisher today has a separate publication, Model Engineers' Workshop, dedicated to this important and interesting topic, so apart from having to pony up for two subscriptions, no great harm done. To round out the content, there are pages for the Editorial (with Table of Contents), letters, club comings and goings, a semi-regular bookshelf column, and a diary of upcoming events.
Just looking through both, to me, the 1951 issue seemed to have more interesting and readable articles. Even without color and CAD, the drawings seem clearer and more readable (the serif'd font may have something to do wit it ). The broader scope is nice too. That's not to say the modern magazine is awful, or modern contributors less knowledgeable and talented. Neither is it a nostalgia thing either. I simply found I wanted to spend more time with the old than the new.
So there you are. No star ranking; both are good, but if you've got the opportunity, cash, and all important storage space, I'd say invest in as many of the old volumes from 1930 on as you can!
Engine Of The Month: AMCO 35
The AMCO "35" (a 3.5cc engine, not 6cc) was a big engine in England of the 1950's. The plain bearing version gained a reputation as a right "finger-biter", though any decent size diesel is going to get antsy as the temperature drops. Several current owners here in the Wide Brown Land Downunder—where the temperature on the flying field is usually above 30° Celsius—have commented that the finger-biter reputation is quite undeserved. Both engines were designed by EC "Ted" Martin, who later designed the MAN 19 DIY diesel, an engine which bears more than a slight family resemblance to the BB AMCO 35. Adrian Duncan has done his usual thorough job of documenting the genesis and evolution of the AMCO 35 PB and BB models and we think you'll find a surprise or two in the story.
Tech Tip of the Month
Not so long ago, our little group ended up discussing the head screws used on later OS engines and the truly pitiful state they are frequently found in. This is a hot-button topic with me. I've had a thing about using the correct screwdriver for the screw head type, even conventional slotted types, ever since a first year "Engineering Workshop Practice" lecture given to us young Civil Aviation Technicians In Training (Radio). Early post-war OS engines used 4-40's, but this changed in the 70's to Japan Industrial Standard (JIS) 3mm screws. Although they look like what many term "Phillips", they're not. Phillips screws were designed to cam-out. The idea being that as the torque required to turn it increased, the screw would throw out the screwdriver rather than suffer damage (ho-ho). The JIS cross-point is just designed to transfer torque, probably applied by some rather precise robots, or women behaving with enviable robotic precision. Unsurprisingly, there's a difference in the included angle of the "V" too.
Have a look at the drawings here and you'll get the idea. It's not hard to tell the difference between screw head types just by inspection. A Phillips will have a distinct "radius" at the intersection. A JIS screw does not; the intersection is quite sharp.
If you place a Phillips driver of remotely the apparent right size in a JIS screw, only the very tip will engage (badly) and way before the screw is torqued down (or up), the skimpy engagement will tend to slip and destroy the center of the screw. Conversely, a JIS driver in a Phillips cross-point will engage only at the ends and destroy the screw from the outside, though the tendency is less and the incidences are going to be rare compared to center damage of a JIS screw due to the rarity of JIS drivers in your average toolbox.
There are an amazing number of other "cross-point" screw head types. Apart from JIS and "Phillips", the two you'll most likely to encounter are the "Pozidrive", and ISO. A Pozi screw has four light "tick" marks stamped at 45° to the actual slots, plus a clearly visible tapered square center cam. An ISO screw looks like a JIS and generally has a dimple depression between two of the cross-point segments. While I've often encountered ISO's in power tools, I don't believe I've ever seen one in a model engine, however some later Taipans used Pozi self-tappers to hold the head down, so you better arm yourself with a number 1 Pozi driver as well because that non-denominational Phillips driver is, as usual, just going to destroy the screw head. Regarding the ISO, if you've ever bought a Makita power tool, you probably got an ISO driver with it and you can use your ISO driver in a JIS screw with impunity and confidence.
So, engine owners, restorers, and tinkerers, PLEASE be aware that not every cross-point is a Phillips! In fact, fewer and fewer are. Do yourself, your engine, its intrinsic value, and its maintainability a favour and obtain the right screwdriver for the job. If you use the wrong type, you will destroy the head before the required torque is applied.
For additional information on more cross-point and other screw head types than you knew existed, visit the Instructables website. It will nag you to become a member, but you can slither around most of that.
Garden Island Special
Garden Island is an active Royal Australian Navy (RAN) base situated in Sydney Harbour. It is also a rather large island off the coast of Western Australia, again owned and operated by the RAN so I do hope they don't get confused too often as the two are 3300 km apart (2050 statute miles) which is just about as far apart as you can get in Australia. As you can see from the photo, "island" is a bit of a liberty, but in 1788, it was an actual island used to grow provisions for ships' company; land reclamation connected the dots in 1946. Like many modern equal employment militaries, our RAN has had, and continues to have her fair share of mixed crew hijinks and scandals, so a "Garden Island Special" could be just about anything!
We name Naval bases after ships and the one at Garden Island (East) is called HMAS Kuttabul after the ship sunk there during World War II by one of three Japanese mini-submarines that entered Sydney Harbour looking for Allied warships. None of the submarines survived and the extent of damage caused was just poor old Kuttabul, a decommissioned Sydney Harbour ferry made redundant by the newly opened Harbour Bridge that was being used as accommodation for Allied naval personnel in transit. She was the victim of a wayward torpedo striking a nearby seawall and sank at her moorings killing twenty-one of the sailors sleeping aboard.
And why the history lesson and over abundance of detail? Well David Owen has dug up Yet Another Obscure Australian model engine called, wait for it, the Garden Island Special! While the name reflects a rather close association with the RAN station, the engine has a rather close association with the Brown Jr. Click the link to get back on topic and find out what David has been able to discover about it.
This section may get promoted to a new item in Regular Features with the purpose of alerting you to little things that are hard to expand to a full news item, or cunningly wind into the Editorial, but are worthy of note never the less. Here we go...
- Owen Engines Australia has released their new Price List for 2011, effective immediately.
- A "double top" refers to the segment at the very top of a dart board (the double 20). If that makes no sense, see this Davies-Charlton item (thanks go to Brian Cox and a possibly wasted youth ).
- Arne Hende and Lillian "Curley" Lawrence, aka LBSC, now have well deserved links on the People Page.
- That big Napier is a Deltic (not a Deltec), and I hope I've found and fixed all visible instances.