Bad, bad medicine…

Posted on January 20th, 2009 in Driving Emotion,Opinion,tools by Julian Edgar

I recently bought 300 old model engineering magazines.


As a novice owner of a mill and a lathe and an oxy acetylene set, I thought I could potentially get a lot out of these magazines. Plus, when I was a kid some 30 years ago, I was a member of a 5-inch gauge live steam model railway society – I have always maintained a very high affection and regard for model engineers.


But I think I’ll have to give up on reading these magazines.


Why? Well, they are just so damn depressing!


I always knew that model engineers were talented, but these guys (and they’re almost all ‘guys’) are just so good that they make me feel utterly ineffectual, ignorant and incompetent.


Like, take a gauge for measuring the pressure of steam in a boiler. In a model locomotive of say 7¼ -inch track width, you want it to be maybe 1 inch in diameter max.


Now I’d be scouring the suppliers’ catalogs to find such a gauge.


These blokes make their own.


Yes you read that right. They make their own 1 inch (25.4mm) diameter pressure gauges, including the Bourdon tube, the rack, the pinion, the gauge body, the bezel, the pointer and the scale.




And then, the other night, I was reading these magazines while lying in bed. My wife was also reading (but not model engineer magazines) and I showed her a picture of a vertical mill. Being technically quite aware, she looked at the pic in slight puzzlement – “Yes, nice looking mill.”


Then I pointed out that it was a working model in 1/5th scale




Then I came to the traction engine where the steering chain had been hand-made in scale – just so that the links were the correct size and shape. Just imagine hand-making chain…


Or the railway couplers (a screw design) that were very much like the full-size ones I saw just a few weeks ago on the NSW Zig-Zag Railway’s historic Queensland rolling stock. I was puzzling over why the captions seemed to be making such a big deal over these modelled couplers ‘til I realised that it wasn’t the couplers that the story was about, but the miniature lock-wire used to fasten the nuts and bolts that in turn held the couplers in place!


Double aaagh!


I could go on and on. There is literally barely a page where I don’t marvel at the incredible workmanship and skill on display.


I still can’t decide if reading these magazines is bad or good for me….

6 Responses to 'Bad, bad medicine…'

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  1. Ford Man said,

    on January 20th, 2009 at 10:49 am

    I had the same feeling of awe and being put off starting my own project looking at this model makers work:

    And there is the classic:

  2. Peter said,

    on January 20th, 2009 at 11:41 am

    I suspect you are also looking at Model Engineers Workshop. I find this a more relevant publication as it is all about the machines, how to use them and how to make them – very interesting and also very awe inspiring – if only I had the time!

  3. Ben said,

    on January 20th, 2009 at 11:47 am

    I can’t help you on your decision, but the first time I saw a proper model engineers project I was quite amazed as well. It was a scratch built small (maybe 3cc max) four-stroke engine with ignition timing (yes, spark ignition…), throttle, and mixtures adjusted by controls on the boats (it was in a model boat) control tower.

    Speed of the boat was by means of a variable pitch propeller, which I think he also made himself.

    I am struggling to comprehend how you can make valves and spark plugs that small at all, and he built it himself.

  4. Ford Man said,

    on January 22nd, 2009 at 6:58 am

    At least these modellers have actually made something, even if the return for hours spent seems a little off. How about the guy who has spent 3 months washing his Astra?

  5. Wave said,

    on January 29th, 2009 at 11:22 am

    Wow, had a good look at that Astra detailing guy and I have to say that he is certifiably insane. Cleaning your wheels 4-5 times per week? Waxing the springs on the suspension? 51 layers of polish on the paintwork?!! He must have forgotten how to drive.

  6. Boris said,

    on February 2nd, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    Absolutely amazing, to be sure. On the other hand, I happen to enjoy driving what I work on also, so not quite the same category at all. Makes me think of the show cars that have every bolt and screw aligned, all the undercarriage chrome plated, the paint on the inside of the fender wells just as immaculate as on the hood… Amazing, but let’s face it, we make some different decisions about how to spend our time. As my brother asked me once “OCD much lately?”