Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Look what followed us home...

We got home from the HTMC (Holy Trinity Meccano Club) on Saturday and found a whole load of Meccano in the boot. Do you ever have that problem?

Boxed with all the original paperwork!
The first thing to come to light, hiding in the boot, was a was a very nice, boxed Cricket ball motor. Nothing special but according to the guarantee slip it is the same age as me! It looks as if it has never been used and still has its inspection tag. 

It even has some drive bands, original I think...
Unless anyone says otherwise I don't expect this to have any great value so I will use it for what it was intended for and build it into a model. The next items are a reflection on what is happening in our hobby today.

Where did that come from?
There are many ways to enlarge a collection of Meccano. In my youth, I would ask Mum, Dad and Father Christmas - that usually resulted in a 'joint' present! Then the paper-round gave me cash to go and pester the man in Forest Hill until the Meccano buying was curtailed for a while when I discovered girls. By the time I was buying again it was a totally different scene. Very little (if any) was readily available and what was I had no interest in whatsoever. By this time Sue and I were married and we would take our annual trip to Henley for the show in the Town Hall and our regular trip to Geoff Wright's famous Meccano shop, MW Models. Other than buying a few bits and pieces from dealers at our local club meeting the only other place to find Meccano was at jumble sales and boot fairs. We might find the odd set in a charity shop, but I can count on one hand the number of times we have been successful.  It was not until the internet and web-based auctions became available that we really started to find good amounts of Meccano, readily available

Tamsi motor lurking under there...
...another powering the steering plus a couple of others
The tide is turning on the availability of parts. A lot of the 'attic finds' have gone and although the number of listings has rocketed in recent years, they are usually for small number of parts at high prices or large accumulations of 'junk' with hugely inflated price tags. There are a few bargains still to be had, but the cream is long gone.

   Listen up people! Just because it is old, and either is or looks 
   like Meccano, does not mean it is worth anything - Got it!

In recent months another trend seems to be escalating. Large life-long collections of Meccano are being auctioned off or offered for sale within the community. These collections of parts can be enormous especially if the owner is someone who does not take their models apart! Many of these collections are sold on an all or nothing deal and Sue an I have bought the odd collection like that in the past. Others are subjected to the ravages of the auction house and often do not make the sort of money the owner/family expect.

Between all this mayhem you will find there is some level ground. We have documented here on our blog, and earlier on our website, that we have purchased built up models. Normally this is because they are Meccano-built dealer display models and are bought (usually rescued) with the aim of refurbishing them to their original grandeur.  Occasionally we will buy made up models for the parts as we did a few years ago when we bought a complete SML 4 Blocksetter - see HERE.

The owner had built it from good clean or new parts and although when we went to collect it, he was in the progress of building another huge model, he could not bring himself to take it apart, preferring to buy more stock. 

What's this another collection of parts...
A similar thing happened on Saturday. There, on the dealer's table, were a couple of models built in red/zinc. As anyone who knows us, that is our preferred colours scheme. Closer inspection revealed that there was a lot of 'extended-range' parts and some large stainless steel plates. Not to everybody's taste, but we like all modern parts, genuine Meccano or not, so long as they are generic parts that Meccano 'might' have made. The models had been built by the seller and again he said he did not want to take them apart after spending so much time building them. He went on to say that he was happy for the buyer to take them apart as they had been sitting in his loft for some considerable time anyway. 

Some useful parts here!
We are now in the process of demolishing them for the parts and discovering why the owner had put off the task - how many nuts and bolts?

Other things to follow us home were a selection of odd brass bits and a pile of spoked wheels! Now, I wonder how that lot got there...


Monday, 28 April 2014

Rack and pinions...

The current 7-model Multiset
A week or so ago, our friend and fellow Meccano nut, Subrata, from Sikkim, India, posted a picture of a working spring balance on the Spanner II list. It was built from parts taken from the current 7 - model, Multimodel set. Subrata was following on from my post of the 16th April regarding making small models from larger sets. The original post is HERE.

Subrata's spring balance
The weight of an object placed on the tray will compress the spring and cause the rack to be pushed downwards. This will rotate the pinion mounted on the rod (journaled in the grey bracket) that carries the indicator mini strip at one end. Subrata has used the rack and pinion, from the 7-model set, to covert linier motion into rotary motion, the reverse of how it is normally used in Meccano sets.

The plastic rack (P/N A343) was introduced to the system in 1998.  Since then it has been used in various sets and it is normally employed as the 'rack'  in a rack and pinion steering system.  Using the part described as 'Steering Wheel Mounting Bracket' (P/N A425) as a bearing it can be paired up with a 12t pinion to make a self contained rack and pinion mechanism most commonly used in Meccano to facilitate steering. Subrata has used these parts as the basis of his spring balance model.

Using the steering wheel bracket to support the 12t pinion and rack
The rack has 18 teeth and when meshed with a 12t pinion, one revolution of the pinion will transverse the majority of the rack leaving a few teeth spare either end. this rate of gearing works fine with most models where the idea to replicate some sort of rack and pinion steering. To generate a greater movement of the rack, meshing it with a 24t pinion would then mean the rack can be transverse to the same extent as when using a 12t pinion, with only half a revolution of the rod supporting the 24t pinion.

The new bracket allows the 24t pinion to be used with the rack
To achieve  this another bracket is required, and along it came in the Evolution ATV set. This new bracket (P/N C920) has longer lugs with extra hole holes spaced in order to facilitate the 24t pinion at the correct spacing for meshing with the rack.  Using this set up in the ATV gives a much better steering response to the handlebars than if the lower-geard 12t set up had been used.

More and more parts are emerging from these new sets and combining these with the existing range of parts available opens up a wealth of new possibilities.


Monday, 21 April 2014

Dynamic bike!

The engine looks the part!
After building the new Evolution Chopper bikes I thought I would have a go at something from years gone by. I came across a Motorbike set from the range of sets that Meccano labelled 'Dynamic' made over 20 years ago in France.

These sets featured zinc/red/yellow parts and although some of the new plastic parts were appearing for the first time, there were still some brass parts included.  The tyres, to fit 1½ inch pulleys, are of a design I had not seen before and look more like motorcycle tyres. Dated 1993, I guess they must have been new parts at the time.

Dynamic motorbike set
The instructions are very colourful, you could say Dynamic, and feature a comical cartoon character who ends up holding an oil after spending the whole time constantly waving his finger at you!  He even dons full leathers and a crash helmet pointing (again) at his finished bike. Once you get your eye in the instructions are very clear but they get a bit of getting used to.

The bike from the otherside
The build was easy although a bit fiddly in places. I was impressed with the engine, it makes up easily and really looks like a motorcycle engine. As I have said before, I know nothing about bikes, I just like the look of them. However, I am not at all sure about the spring arrangement for the front forks  - is there a prototype that has springs at the top like they are arranged on this model? 

Overall, I was pleased with the way this bike went together and the finished model is solid, looks the part and I enjoyed building it.


Saturday, 19 April 2014

Kitchen, Bismarck or Bagger?

Bagger 228 Finished - 1¼ ton in weight and the best part of four years building
How many times has the other-half asked you to do something, just as you were about to start building a model, to which you answered "I'll just finish this dear" and got away with it? Remarkably there is one guy who did, and he got away with it for years!

A retired mathematics lecturer in Grahamstown, South Africa did just that; only his project took him the best parts of four years to complete. In mid 2009 Graham Shepherd was facing retirement and decided to dig out his old Meccano set with the a view to looking for a suitable project to tackle.

Initially  he thought about building a model of the battleship Bismarck, something he had contemplated doing since seeing the pictures of the sunken vessel taken by Roger Ballard and his team when they found the wreck in 1989. As Graham was short on Meccano plates he started making replicas of his own. He wanted enough plates to build an18 foot long model. 

"Can you put that away now dear - supper is nearly ready" ..." Er, No"
By June 2010 he began to reconsider the Bismarck project, as a Meccano ship was not all that exciting from a mechanisation point of view. I tend to agree with those thoughts myself, I have never built a Meccano ship. Even as a kid, I always thought a ship full of holes was a silly idea.

Graham's thoughts turned to an excavator, he had seen, that worked in open-cast coal mines in Germany.  Time spent on the internet researching these huge machines resulted in a decision being made. The machine he decided to build is known as Bagger 288 - a bucket wheel excavator built by Krupp of Germany.

To give scale to the model, here is Graham standing next to it
Nearly four years later when I 'spoke' to him this morning via e-mail, I asked him what the next project was to be, he said:
"What's next is that I have got to turn my attention to all the things that got neglected due to my preoccupation with Bagger 288! I was on the point of renewing the kitchen of our home for a start. Not to mention the jungle that our garden has turned into!"
 "I'll just finish this dear" Yes, I really do think this model has elevated that phrase to new heights and there will be dozens, if not hundreds, of Meccano builders everywhere referring to Graham's story to justify the fact that they will not be that bad! Thank you Graham for a fantastic model and the best defence against domestic discord yet!

The story behind Graham's remarkable model can be found on his blog HERE.

Graham has just written another article for Constructor Quarterly and this will be published in the September (actually on sale in July just after SkegEx). All pictures used in this post are reproduced here with the kind permission Graham Shepherd.


Wednesday, 16 April 2014

New 3 and 10 model sets...

New Multimodel sets for spring are here!
The new Multimodel sets are a refreshing move back to the more traditional parts. Meccano are constantly upgrading the Multimodel range and these two new sets will (should) appeal to the traditionalist and modern enthusiast alike. The sets contain far fewer plastic parts and lots more recognisable metal bits! There are also some newer parts, nothing we haven't seen before, but this time they are supplied in what I would call more traditional colours. Gone are the bright oranges and purples and in with red and yellow all complimented with zinc plates strips and brackets - Great stuff, parts I can use in our larger models!

3-model set light aircraft
The 3- model set is a little gem. The 'star' model is a well proportioned light aircraft reminiscent of the aircraft that line the out-field of the small private airports scattered around the countryside here in the UK. There are no awkward fiddly parts that require supreme levels of dexterity to fit. Nor are there lots of parts that need bending or straining to fit. The model makes up quickly and easily into something that is instantly recognisable.

Although the set does not include any new parts there are a couple of the small triangular girder frames, finished in a red paint. These have only been supplied in Matt black up until now. The red Multi-Purpose gear (P/N A827) has no boss and is bored with a standard size round hole. I did suspect this was a new part for a while, but as my mate George (Roy) reminded me it was also included in a Future-Master set some fifteen years ago and has not been seen since. The model can be seen in THIS post from January last year where I used other components from the set to build powered, tracked vehicles.

Ready for work!
 The new10-model set appears to have replaced the old black set that I reviewed four years ago when it first appeared, see HERE. Then it was the first of the new generation sets to hit the UK market. New sets, made in France and featuring new parts that have subsequently been introduced to several of the new Multimodel sets.

The new tyres are a vast improvement on the old low-profile offerings
Tipping and articulated - great fun!
 The latest 10 model set is, in my opinion the best yet! the plastic content has been reduced to a few useful parts, the chosen colour (yellow) is good and it is full of traditional looking Meccano parts. The box-art model of a dumper truck makes up well and has a traditional Meccano look to it. This will (Should?) appeal to the traditionalist and the newcomer alike.

More than 10 models inside

Digging a little further into the set, I thought it would be fun to have a go at building a few minimal models flavour of those old pre-war manuals. Unlike today's sets. Meccano in those days contained instructions to build small models using few parts and then progress to bigger models using more and more of the sets contents. The models tended to be of diverse subjects, some of them stranger then others! With this in mind I have extracted three small models from the set.

Landmark simplicity model...
The first could be described as a simplicity model and will solve the nut and bolt 'problem' that Meccano have tried to 'solve' a couple of times by trying to make the construction simpler...

Message to Meccano: Please don't, we like nut and bolts!  

Yes it's the landmark model Meccano never built. What do you mean you don't know what it is! It's... well I am sure you know, but I will tell you anyway... The leaning Tower of Pisa. 

Girl and dog
Next up is a homage to all the old set instructions that always contained some people of one kind or another. I can't think of any modern Meccano 'people' yet all the old manuals have families and often animals. To rectify this I have found a little girl with her sausage-dog hiding away in the parts of the 10 set.

Street go-kart
Finally, this one is harping back to my childhood. We lived on the side of a hill and the road behind us came down and around the end of our garden, past the front of the house. This was the perfect place to race our home made go-karts. Usually built from the wheels off an old perambulator and some old wood that we had acquired from somewhere, we would sit in the box and steer with our legs on the front axle. It was fantastic fun in the 1960s there were not the cars about or parked in the road like they are today. The wheels are a bit thicker than we had as kids but the model has the feel of what we used to build.

I am sure there are plenty of other models to be found in that box and many of the other sets that Meccano make today. Have a look at what I found in one of the new Evolution sets HERE.


Sunday, 13 April 2014

Did you miss us!

We have been a bit tied up recently with this...

The new Meccano website
The new owners of Meccano, Spin Master, have just launched a new Meccano Community website. There, anyone can upload information about Meccano events and Meccano club and society news. You can also upload pictures and a description of your latest model build.  

It is early days at the moment and there are a few bugs that need squashing, but it is all there for you to play with and have a look around. The best bit is the Meccano blog. Go and have a look and you will see why. You will find the new Community website HERE

In the meantime normal service will restart here in the next day or so.