"One Perfect Part at a Time"


Timing is Everything

I have been setting myself, meaning my workshop, up for the last decade or so, to have the tools I need for retirement. I have succeeded nicely. I just have to force myself to realize I have reached that goal.

I have retired so I have the time and need to start using my shop in its full extent. I am heavy into lost wax silver casting and CNC micro machining. That will continue. But there are other projects I have put off, “for when I have the time.” The Kozo Pennsy A3 live steam locomotive is the most “machine shop” intensive of those put-offs.

I have just posted the pictures below of the A3 work completed that was put on the back burner many years ago, just waiting for this time in my life. These are the tender trucks and the tender frame. The front steps are here too. The coupler box is made incorrectly (oops!) so that will be a re-do.

I have a drawer full of brass sheets, and plates, and bars. Enough to be close to all the material needed to finish the tender. So it hasn’t been for the lack of material this project has been on the shelf.

I am not going to get into all the details for my reasons. Let me just say that priorities in life can change and can change again. As before, when I started with a machine shop project of this size and complex details, it is not the finished product that is the primary goal. It is all the details and skills in the construction that provides the fulfillment. The locomotive will be grand when finished but it is the trip to get there where I intend to find my enjoyment.

Weird maybe, but… Continue reading

Hold on… What’s going on here? Oh my Goodness…

Pennsy_A3Something has snapped. I am actually thinking about dusting off the Penn A3 project. Wow! Is it a dream or am I retired? Oh yeah, I am retired now.

I have the Kozo Shay, Climax and Heisler live steam locomotive how-to project books on my shelf as well as the Pennsylvania A3 Switcher. Are they ALL possible now?

Ha! They are possible but probably not all probable. But I never say never.

I have decided to stop chasing the buck, even with my on-line e-store “Ramblin” Dan’s Store” (RDS). I want to spend my time making things in my shop. RDS will hang together for a while but I decided not to try and increase or even maintain the e-business. It has always been a very low profit and I ran it more for the experience of operating a business.

Any for profit “Business” I do will probably be with my silver work (Lost Wax Casting) as I really enjoy working with very hot liquid metal. Of course the skill can be used for making small brass locomotive castings.

I started the ¾” scale project because Kozo provides excellent guidance in his books and the size of the parts are reasonable. The drawback is where to go to run the locomotive. I think there are club tracks in the Houston, TX area, but nothing in the Dallas area that I know about.

That has made me consider Gauge1 which has many various scales involved with that track size. Generally, it is used with any scale between 1:13.7 (7/8N2 or M scale) to 1:32 (Number 1 Scale)

The 7/8N2 grabbed my attention because it is only slightly bigger than ¾ scale (6/8) but runs on a very common gauge track although this is 2-foot narrow gauge in prototype. Most… Continue reading

Cutting Slots

I present a few more action shots on the X3 mill. The DRO is wonderful for cranking in the proper cutting dimensions even after a careful layout. The layout marks confirm the location but the caliper like accuracy of the DRO makes sure the cut is exact.

These parts will be used to braze up the coupler pocket for the A3 tender. I am not showing all the work involved, just some of the unusual. The saw here is the same thickness as the brass plate. I am cutting two layers at the same time. That way opposite sides will be exactly the same. The pieces will be assembled like an egg crate.

The cuts are made on one side of the vice but unseen inserted on the other side of the vice is more brass material the same thickness. This is to keep the vice clamping equal so that it doesn’t “rack” when tightened.

I will be posting more pictures of how the coupler pocket is assembled and finished.

Sine of 45

I know most of my readers like action shots. Here are a few to keep the juices flowing. It’s just one very tiny step in the making of parts, but there is a bit of interesting machine set up going on here.

I had to cut a 3/32″ wide x 45 deg. chamfer on the one end of both of the two brackets I made for the tender steps. That doesn’t sound like much of a job, does it?

I priced 45 degree end mills and after I got back off the floor, I decided that wasn’t the least expensive way to run this job. At least for the two tiny cuts I needed to make. A file might work but it would look like… well you know, the smelly stuff.

I dusted off the sine vise and although it seemed like massive overkill, it wasn’t all that hard to set up. The fun part was I was able to do a little math and I actually like math. The reason it is called a sine vice is the height of the spacers (called sine blocks) is the sine of the angle desired times the distance away from the hinge.

Here I wanted 45 degrees, and the sine of 45 is sin(degrees(45)) = 0.70710678. I used o.707 as close enough. I have a 4 inch sine vice so the stack of blocks needs to be 0.707 x 4 = 2.828 inches. You can see that number on the top of the pink notepad in one picture. I rounded to 2.830 just to make it easier to build the stack and still be plenty (over) accurate for this task.

Two 1.000 inch, one .700 inch, and one .130 inch block does the job. The actual machining seemed trivial as it usually does. 🙂

Back Breaking Work

I made one part (#10) two pieces last weekend. I milled a 1/2″ square bar of brass into a 1/8″ x 1/2″ angle. It is to be used for the brackets to hold the tender steps. I got the milling done just fine. Then…

I reached around the X3 mill, I think to turn off the main power. It felt like I got stabbed in the back. I have a bad vertebra at the bottom of my spine. Years of heavy lifting destroyed the padding. Occasionally I get an extreme pain spasm and this was one of them.

That shut me down for the rest of the weekend in the shop. ($#^$&#^) <– swear word

I didn’t even get the holes drilled but I did get it cut into two parts. That’s not the correct location in the picture. I just posed the parts…

An immediate heat pad and some ibuprofen got me healed and back to work today. This was one of my shortest episodes. I’ll have to hit the heat pad quickly again next time. Also, I didn’t keep pushing it. It’s heck to get old. I wonder when I will get there?

I’ll just claim working on scale steam locomotives is back breaking work…

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