Saturday, 31 August 2013

James May Motorbike at Henley Gathering

The bike surfaced a few days ago when a piece of video appeared on YouTube showing it being driven on the world famous Isle of Man TT racing cuircut. It was built by Toy Stories and Man Lab’s project manager, inventor and engineer Simeon Oakley (Simmy) over a nine week period.

Today, It visited the Henley Gathering and I managed to get a few pictures. The bright sunlight and shadows did not provide ideal conditions for taking photographs but I gave it a go.

Click on the pictures to enlarge!

A crowd of Meccano nuts jostle for a good look at the huge machine
Even the main drive chain is made from Meccano parts
How's that for a wheel!
The frame is connected to the front forks by stacked  trunnions
The model is beautifully built and a credit to its builder. As I understand it, the parts were supplied by Meccano free of charge but they want the finished thing returned to them so they can use it as an exhibit, just where it will be displayed I don't know.


Friday, 30 August 2013

The Mark I Merry Mixer

Don't forget, you can click on the photographs to enlarge them! 

That is going to need a bit of work...
Today we managed to get the Merry Mixer together for the first time. I was intending to take it to The Henley Gathering tomorrow but It is not ready for that yet. Although it looks reasonable in the pictures it is far too flimsy to take to a meeting (or should I say Gathering?) in its current state.

Time for a bit of a rethink. I originally decided to build it with three arms, just to make it a but different. That has causes all sorts of problems attempting to get it to look right and make it it rigid. The other problem is the ball race - it's too small for a model this size so I will have to redesign that. I have been messing about for the past few days tiring to make a bit of bad design good. In the end. I have decided to do what I should of done a week ago, start again! Not the whole model just the centre column and the (now) four drive arms.

Initial assembly of the main components shows it need some work
Sue is going to build another spider and seats - good job I sprayed up and extra 4 inch circular plate the other day when Sue wanted one for the tree she built then. It doesn't matter how much Meccano we collect there is always something else we need. Talking of which, I had better make a list of stuff to buy tomorrow. After my attempts at spraying myself red, the other day, I had better get another can of light red... and I will need some large axle parts... and...

The trouble with this model, as it stands, is it lack of a good design to start with. I started to build before I had thought trough the mechanics, trying to save time by working around the problems as they arose.

No, it just doesn't look right...
Due to the weight of the spiders and the flimsy construction of the lower arms all the weight has to be carried by the upper arms which now look out of proportion to the rest of the model. There comes a time, with a model lke this, that a deep breath needs to be drawn and a lot of rebuilding has to take place - but that is the fun bit - is it not?


That makes a change...

Sue and I are constantly on the lookout for modern Meccano sets and over the years we must of bought hundreds of them, second-hand, from the usual places. Most of the time the boxes have been opened and maybe a couple of parts have been put together. Often the parts are unused but more often than not, the packets are still sealed. Today the postman arrived and delivered a parcel. Inside was the 2-model Multimodels  set. When I opened it, there still assembled in the box, was the bicycle, built properly and working!

The bicycle, fully built
Although it is good to receive mint-condition parts, it is sad to think that it was bought for someone who obviously didn't want it. In this case it is somewhat heartening to think there is at least one other person out there who still builds Meccano models straight from the box, even if they did sell it!


Saturday, 24 August 2013


Who's String!

Today we have been busy sorting out a new section for the shop; Ralph's String. We have been making up hanks of cord and and labelling them ready for sale. Original Meccano string, part number 40 - Hank of cord, is getting harder to find and the collectors want the real stuff.  Personally, I am happy to use all sorts of cord depending on the model to hand. We have a small stock of original green cord, that we found in a dealer chest we bought a few years ago along with a lot of shiny red hooks! I will list the hanks of cord in the shop over the next few days.

Several hanks of original Meccano cord

Our string worked very well on my little Block-setter
Our new string has been used of a few models this year like my small No.3 set Block-setting Crane and The Galloper. in both cases it performed faultlessly. Although it is not identical to the original, it is reasonably close and looks a lot better than many of the other substitutes I have seen over the years. We will be selling it in two cut lengths of approximately eight and twelve feet as hanks and also as cut lengths by the metre. We have some other cord that is looking promising, but we will only sell it on if we think it is good enough, so you won't be seeing that for a while.

The new string was used to drive the Galloper

Enough messing with string, I need to get on with the Merry Mixer. Now, where was I?


Wednesday, 21 August 2013

I built myself a new washing machine!

White goods! I suppose that is my department...

There was no chance of Ralph building this one. He comes out in a rash every time White Goods are mentioned. So when my box of Rabbids arrived the other day I packed him off to build that catapult thing while I got on with the shopping trolley. By the time I had finished the trolley (done the washing up and all the other things that just happen by magic around here!) it was getting too late to build the washing machine. It has sat around for a few days because the priority as far as Meccano is concerned is getting on with the Merry Mixer.

A couple of nights ago, while His Nibs was messing with one of our other websites, I decided to build the washing machine. I thought a couple of hours would be plenty of time to build this one - but I was wrong. A combination of very fiddly construction, bad design and several serious errors in the instructions that do not become apparent until it is almost built. Yet again we had to supplement the parts supplied with our own stock as parts were missing. This surprises us as overall most of the sets we have bought over the past few years have been complete. Two out of the four Rabbid sets we have were missing parts. In both cases, this made it impossible to finish the model without raiding our own stock of parts. If this had been bought as a one-off toy for a child, disappointment would ensue.

Price aside, there is a lot of Meccano in this set. It includes a motor, seven 3½ x 2½ flexible plates, four flexible gussets, over 60 nuts and bolts and a lot more. The painted parts suffer from the usual over-applied paint resulting in thick edges and tight holes. This becomes a problem where the door hinges attach over the join between two plates.

That's no good...

The biggest disappointment, for us builders, is the door. First of all it is not what it seems. It is a clear plastic moulding that has been sprayed silver around the edges. the 'holes' are just blank impressions in the moulding. Ralph suggested drilling them out would be an option until we realised that they are not even spaced to Meccano standards. I am not sure I will ever find another use for it ,possibly a  window in a model - but you never know.



After looking at the instructions I set about making up the battery box and adding a few pieces to the motor, then the next thing to do is to make the drum. This consists of a 1½ tri-axle pulley, some narrow brackets and a couple of 1½ x 5½ inch flexible plates.  The instructions show these plates fitted to the narrow brackets by the middle hole on one edge and the next picture shows them bent round the drum. These plates are made from the usual thin steel and not the spring steel used for the flexible strips. I am sure that will not bend very nicely by hand. Ralph kindly offered to 'roll' them for me - he does come in handy from time to time - and that made them fit around the drum nicely.

Most of it went together well

General construction of the cabinet and motor-mount are a bit strange and do not result in a very rigid construction. a lot of fiddling with the drum bearings is necessary to get it to run without binding. Paint needs to be cleared from the bearing hole in the white plate through which the tri-axle passes to allow the axle to even turn, let alone run free.

The instructions have a couple of mistakes in them which just adds to my disappoint in this model. I am building this on the kitchen table with only the tools supplied in an effort to assess how easy this would be for a mum or dad building it with a little'n. The frustrating thing in the instructions is when they tell you to do something wrong and it does not become apparent until much further down the line.

That's not right!

Better but not good
At stage 28 it clearly shows the bottom plate being bolted over the bottom edge of the top plate. At stage 32 the hinge is added. Due to the plate overlap and thickness of paint, the hinge will not fit square. After looking at the picture of the model on the cover, it shows the plates are fitted with the top one overlapping the bottom one, giving a smoother surface to mount the hinge. Due to the paint finish, although better, this still does not solve the problem, so I added a thin washer under the plate, where the fixing passes through, in an attempt to get the hinge anywhere near approaching square.

Moving on to stages 35 and 36. The instructions show placing bolts in the flexible gusset plates through two adjacent holes. If this is done , the door is very difficult to close without damaging the plastic moulding. The top fixing should be made one hole higher. Again the photograph of the model shows it built this way.

That's not right...
I haven't stuck the stickers on it yet as I intend to go back to it and see if I can make it a bit firmer by readjusting some of the assembly. The machine comes with a very cross-looking Rabbid complete with an array of weaponry and a shield. Just what that has to do with a washing machine is beyond me. I understand it is smoothing to do with a video game?

From a builders point of view there are a few usable parts in this set. We managed to buy this set at a fraction of its regular price via Amazon (listing has now disappeared) along with the others. At anywhere near the normal price this set is expensive. I also think a parent buying this for a child, unless they have any experience of building, would be disappointed.

Built but needs a bit of fiddling before I add the stickers

Two evenings I have been messing with this thing for a few hours each time, maybe that is the 'value'. No more Rabbids for now (if ever!) back to real Meccanoing for me - more later!


Sunday, 18 August 2013

The Merry Mixer moves on a stage

Click on any picture to enlarge!

The base and lower support are getting there

I managed to spend a few hours, over the weekend, sorting out the base and thrust bearing for the lower frame. The idea at the moment (and this could change!) is to chain drive the three smaller spiders from the static sprocketed half of the thrust race.

Large axle parts give rigidity to the main bearing
Large axle part are being used for support with hollow rods and standard diameter stainless steel rods being used as the pivot. The large diameter (LD) rod passes through an LD bush wheel and is terminated in a LD heavy bush that is bolted to the top plate of the trust bearing.

Solid base will support the entire weight
A small base supports the sprocket side of the trust bearing and is strengthened with a 2½ x 2½ inch square plate on top and a couple of angle girders underneath.  Black plastic spacer washers are used to space the thrust bearing sprocket off the base to ensure plenty of clearance for the drive chain. The intention is to add stabilising 'legs' to the base and the whole lot will stand on rubber tyres acting as feet. Power will have to either come from a motor under the base. In which case I might extend the base itself, or the drive could be positioned at the top of the central column, but that will mean getting power up through the thrust bearing which will mean some redesigning... I am still thinking about that one.

Lots of bracing - Victorian over-engineering principle!

The end of one of the drive arms
with test sprocket fitted
Drive to the spiders will be via sprocket on the end of each arm. The spiders weight will be taken by the top frame so they will be 'suspended' from it and no weight will be taken by the drive frame. Its only function is to provide a bearing for the drive sprocket. These will be attached to the underside of the end of the rod that passes through the centre of small spiders. In the picture , there is a small rod fitted so the system will be able to be tested without having to fit the spiders. It is now easier to see where it is going The final picture shows Sue holding one of the completed spiders in position over the base and drive frame. With all three spiders in place, the centre column built and the top frame in place this is going to be a sizeable model!

Finally getting a feel for it
Hopefully some more progress will be made tomorrow and a few of the decisions I have been putting off will get made!


Thursday, 15 August 2013

Meccano helicopter is a real handfull...

Over the years we have made all sorts of models. When I was a nipper, I loved to build cranes and diggers. Growing up in the fifties and sixties, here in South London, all I can remember were the bomb sites, fenced off with chestnut palings,  slowly being redeveloped. Streets devoid of all railings slowly being enclosed again with walls, fences and hedges. These were our playgrounds and as they were taken away from us our attention was taken by the machines that destroyed our camps and dens.

Power drive set box lid
In the late 'sixties my world of red and green Meccano was shattered by the arrival of a Power Drive set for my birthday. It was black, yellow and silver (painted). The box lid was covered with models of machines just like the ones I had been looking at, for the past 10 years, converting the bomb sites into houses and flats (mainly flats) it was the age of high-rise living. What's more these were modern machines and I could build them in something nearer the correct colours. I can remember doing my paper round on a Saturday or Sunday morning working out what I was going to build that day. That set was built up to a set No.6 over the next couple of years, until I discovered... Girls!

New colours!
Now over 40 years on I still look at that set warmly. The one I have now is not my original, that has been absorbed into our collection and is still getting used, but I can't tell it apart from the rest now. The set pictured here is one I picked up on eBay several years ago.

I just had to build a helicopter

The crane thing stuck and I have, and still do, build cranes but my horizons have been broadened by being an active member of several Meccano clubs and the internet has opened up so many new avenues. I was only reading, the other day, on the Spanner II list, a post by John Gled, regarding his passion for the No.5 set model 5.14 of a helicopter. That sparked a desire to build one of my own. Even with all that is going on at the moment, I decided to find time to build one of my own, and a real handful it turned out to be too.

We often find ourselves building all sorts of things that I would never thought of building in the past. the little model above, along with the other five models in the Nano series, inspired our Nano Roundabout a few year ago and look where that lead to. In fact it is probably responsible, indirectly, for our current model, the Merry Mixer.


Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Now look, he's got me at it!

The other day Ralph, and our mate Tony, seem to have gone off the rails a bit. I 'heard' (Reading his e-mails - but don't tell him) them taking about a new Rabbids set that did not seem to be available here in the UK. Up until now we just dismissed these sets as kids stuff, without taking a second look. The set in question is the Bucking Bronco, see: Silly Cow! I know most of you think we are mad, but stay with me here. Looking at the Amazon website, I discovered that they were selling off a lot of the Rabbids at very reduced prices. On revealing this to his nibs, he took one look and suggested the washing machine and shopping trolley might be of interest to me. Typical! So just to prove him right I ordered them and a catapult thing to keep him quiet...


A real honour

I have to say that I am chuffed that Meccano have taken up one of my ideas and produced a kit, obviously based on my model. I am so pleased they read our blog, I am just awaiting the nice big royalty cheque...

My original trolley

I built my trolley as a SELMEC Secretary's challenge model. Ralph was going to build something boring so I decided to build something different the full story can be found HERE.

More Rabbids

Today the postie arrived with my box from Amazon. Three more boxes of Rabbids have landed at Laughton Towers. I gave The catapult thingy to Ralph and told him to go and make it up while I have a go at the trolley. There is is a lot of narrow strips, including a couple of the 3-hole ½ inch strips (¼ inch spacing) in this kit and a good number of brackets, plus four miniature tyres and a bag full of nuts and bolts. Not bad for the eight quid (ish) it cost me. I decided to make it up, and it went together reasonably easily if a bit fiddly. That aside it suffers from Meccano's habbit of pushing the hole tolerance to the limit and some of the parts will only fit with the nuts set at a particular orientation on the bolt. My set had a couple of pivot bolts missing, which for us is no big thing but for little Johnny building it with Dad (or Mum!) it would mean that after going through all the building of the basket there would not have enough parts to fit the wheels.

The finished model
The model comes with a lauch ramp and some cones??? and a Rabbid in race-gear. I suppose if I was familiar with the game these characters come from I would know what this is all about.  The cones are amusing even if they are a bit squashed - they don't look like the ones in the back of Ralph's van. I have no Idea what we will use them for!

I had better show you the catapult  thingy Ralph built, otherwise I will never here the last of it!

Ralph's Catapult thingy...
Well that made a change from detailing the cars on the Merry Mixer. I decided to have a night off and have a bit of fun instead. I still have the wahing machine to build but that will have to wait for a bit. I need to get on with the Merry Mixer if we are to get it finished in time for Henley.


Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Merry Mixer - Safety first!

After yesterday's silliness it is back to the job in hand. While Ralph has been working on the running gear experiments, I have been hard at it fixing the safety bars to the cars. The new parts are working well here. Standard length bolts and locking nuts hole 2-hole narrow strips to the side panels but allow them to swing into position. A 65mm long rod is passed through them and held in place using neoprene grip rings.

Engineerette at work
I have now completed all twelve and after a false start the other day (got waylaid by the safety bars) I will get back to building the small spiders that I had intended to start a couple of days ago. I think we had better have a bit of a tidy up before we move on to the next stage.

The Prof is inspecting my work - Alright, is it?


Monday, 12 August 2013

Silly cow!

No, not you, the Rabbid!

Rabbid riding a bucking bronco - so does that make it a bull, not a cow?
What the hell is a Rabbid? I hear you cry. Well, it is yet another of Meccano's voyages off into the land of popular culture. As far as I can discover, the franchise is from a video game series - No wonder I had never heard of it! What's more it is a game that is popular in France. There is a lot of stuff on Wikipedia, if you want to know more, but to be honest I could not be bothered to delve any deeper.  

This one is so naff I had to buy one!
When these things first appeared I completely ignored them, as I suspect most of you did. The other day, My mate Tony (Brown) mentioned a Rabbid I had never seen before. This one was not to be found on the Meccano (UK) website or in any of the usual UK outlets. Tony gave me the link to an Amazon listing and I followed it through. Today the postman arrived, parcel in hand. Inside was the afore mentioned 'Silly Cow'. The box is notated in French so I am assuming that this model is not on general release here in the UK - yet.

All in French
The model, is a bit of fun even if it is eye-waveringly expensive for what it is. It made up easily and if you turn the handle at anything over a snail's pace it ejects the Rabbid. The Rabbid is dressed in what looks like a Sheriff's outfit as it has a gold coloured star on the waistcoat - don't ask me why but I am sure somebody knows what it is all about. Okay, it may not be the way us old duffers would of liked Meccano to go but they have and it made us smile, which can only be a good thing...


Evolution sets are coming...

Looking good - won't have to wait much longer!

Adverts for advance orders of the much awaited (at least by us!) Evolution sets are now starting to appear on the internet for advance order. The instructions for the crane and tow truck are available for download from the official Meccano website. The crane instruction manual runs to 60 pages and only covers the building of the one model although there is a picture of a recovery truck on one of the last pages that can also be built from the set. 

Alternative model
The most interesting thing for me is to be found in the parts list of the tow truck. A new angle girder the looks to be standard dimensions, 4½ inches long with ¼ inch spaced holes (17 holes long). all sets are full of new parts - too many to list here at the moment. studying the parts lists in the front of the manuals will reveal more. You can download the manuals from HERE


Sunday, 11 August 2013

Running on air

Today we have had a day off from building the Merry Mixer or anything at all for that matter! Instead I spent a bit of time out in the workshop rigging my 'steam' Ferris wheel so that it will run on compressed air.

The low pressure airline to the model

I have made the whole article into a page and you can find it by clicking on the link "Running steam engines on air" in the pages menu (in the right hand column ) or just click on the picture above.


Saturday, 10 August 2013

Latest steam model...

Well, this has been fun this month! My original entry for the competition over on the Mamod Forum was going to be the same model for the Henley Gathering at the end of the month. Trouble is the Merry Mixer has become a huge project and does not really fit with the spirit of the competition. So I decided to build a smaller model...

Nice and small...
...and from the other side
I'll steam it up tomorrow and see what speed it runs at. I may have to adjust the gearing, but that will be fairly easy as the model has been built so that can be done without too much trouble. The other addition that may be required is a chain tensioner, but if I can get away without, I will!

The gearbox is easy to get at
Sue is still detailing the cars of the Merry Mixer tonight and tomorrow we will be building the main frame and the other small spiders...

A few days later...

It is running fine! you can also see it running on air HERE.


Friday, 9 August 2013

King Ghidorah lives!

If you have been watching Meccano on eBay recently you may of seen listings for the much sought after King Ghidorah set. This set was never officially available here in the UK and models that were imported were costly to start with and became even more expensive due to the shipping costs. I am not sure how genuine the listings on eBay are and there is a fair bit of 'chat' going on as to the validity of the listing. Another interesting twist to the story is the photographs of the finished model are 'borrowed' from the 'net. The model was and displayed at various shows by Reg Hall. Sue and I purchased most of Reg's Meccano collection a few years ago, including King Ghidorah. So now that very model is used for collecting dust, sitting on the top of the bookcase in our office here at LaughtonTowers. The other day while taking some photographs of some other stuff I decided that it was about time I took a shot of him, and here he is.

King Ghidorah (complete with genuine dust)

I was asked if I could show him moving. Now that means video and I have more experience of washing up (and that's not a lot!) than I have of the art of moving pictures. I must investigate the art of making videos in the future but for now it remains a complete anathema to me. I may come to like it in time, but for now I am much more comfortable with 'stills' I has taken me about five years to accept digital photography, ad that was years after everybody else!

Anyway, I was looking at Sue's little compact camera the other day, and call me slow, but I suddenly realised it is capable of HD video. Today I decided to give it a go and here is my first attempt at a video using it. It is unedited and very crude being straight off the camera but at least you can see that the model does actually work.

I will have a play with Sue's little camera and find some editing software and see where we can go from there. You never know I might even post some more videos on the blog one day, if I can get them to look a bit more presentable.


Thursday, 8 August 2013

Gears and Mixer...

Having just been messing about with the Roto Truck set, I mentioned that the 24t pinions mesh at ½ inch spacing with the 12t gear. So tonight I have put together a couple of 2:1 gear boxes, one using conventional brass gears and the other using the modern tri-axle 12t and 24t gears.

Both of these gearboxes give a 2:1 Ratio
The same gearboxes viewed from above
Using the modern parts in combination with the older 'Traditional' Meccano can make a lot of sense. Our miniature fairground models were a good example of this as was our transporter bridge model. The powered 'trolley' was built using eighteen plastic pinions which significantly reduced the weight. 

Plastic 19t tri-axle pinions transfer the drive to all the flanged wheels
Top view of the trolley showing the motor and gearbox

Mixer update...

Sue is still adding detail to the cars so there is not much to show at the moment bit just to prove something is happening here is a Paparazzi style shot of what sue has been up to tonight!

Still going at it Sue?... YES!