Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Nuffield Place

The national trust are taking on Nuffield Place, a bit smaller than their usual property but of historical significance as it was the home of William Richard Morris. William Morris who later became Lord Nuffield founded and ran the Morris Car company making such classics as the Morris Minor.

Save Nuffield Place from National Trust on Vimeo.

One fun feature of the preserved house is that Morris kept tools in a cupboard in his bedroom. This inclues files, pliers, calipers, measuring tools and a small anvil. I noticed there are tobacco tins to hold small items, my inherited Mechano set included several of these tins to hold nuts and bolts. The tool cupboard allowed him to tinker with ideas at night.

Photo of Lord Nuffields Bedroom Tool Cupboard by HEATHCLIFF O'MALLEY

Other Morris References
The Bullnose Morris Club
Oxford Mail
Save Nuffield Place

Friday, 20 May 2011

Trip to the sunny south

My work took me to Marseille this week so I thought I'd take some photos of French Garages and construction equipment so you can see the difference to that back home.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

John Wilding Clocks Auction

John Wilding is downsizing his house and is offering up a selection of his clocks for auction. John's clocks have been exhibited at various model engineering exhibitions and he's written many books on the subject. He's even ventured into Meccano clocks.

Bohams will be selling the clocks in a large aution on 24th May in Oxford. This is a marvelous selection and there is even a lot of horology books for those interested in taking up the hobby themselves.

Profile of John Wilding from The Internet Craftsmanship Museum.

In case you'd not twigged by now, this is not the same John Wilding who attended the X Factor last year.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Portis Shortening

Since we've swapped the laminate flooring in the lounge with a pale carpet we've started taking our shoes off at the door. So hence the need for a suitable shoe rack. I'd previously contemplated buying a couple of Ikea Lämplig trivets and welding up some kind of end brackets or buing some wooden bars and making one from scratch but concluded that it was rather more work that I wanted to take on at the moment.

Wandering around Ikea today there were a few different racks but they were all quite expensive. However we spotted the Portis shoe rack and it was a good style, the right price but a little too long. However given that it was simply some metal bars we bought it thinking that it would be a very easy hacksaw job to cut it down.

When I got the rack home I realised it was slightly more complex. The rack is held together by bolts that screw into nuts wedged in the end of the bars. The ends of the bars are rolled over to hold the nuts in place. After hacksawing one bar from 90 down to 56cm (big enough for 2 pairs of gents shoes) it now only had a nut in one end. So I took the offcut and used a metal bar to push the nut a little further down into the bar end.

I could now cut of the end that was rolled over and then use the bar to knock the nut out of the offcut.

I then tapped the nut back into the end of the shortened bar.

Finally I used some "unibond repair metal for good" to hold the nut in place. Make sure you don't get this in the threads or clean it out before it dries. This stuff hardens harder than the screws provided with the Portis and you might have a problem getting them back in.

Finally screw it together as per the origional instructions and there you go.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Wooden Bike from Rammed Earth Workshop

Michael Thompson has recently finished building a bike made from wood, the SplinterBike. No metal, plastic or rubber parts were used at all. The main part of the bike is made from birch, the axles from the hardwood ekki and oily ironwood (Lignum Vitae) as a bearing material. There are no screws or bolts holding this together just a selection of sophisticated glues. Even the gear train is made from wood with a huge 128-tooth cog linking the chainring and the gear on the rear wheel.

The SplinterBike team are preparing for a world speed records but Michael has found some time to tell us about his workshop and some of the equipment and techniques used for his bike.

Workshopshed: Hello Michael and thanks for taking time to talk to us about your workshop and amazing bike project.

Your workshop has a slightly unorthodox construction in that it's made from rammed earth. How long did it take you to make and what did you learn along the way?

Michael Thompson: Building the Eco-Shed was a leap of faith as I had only discovered rammed earth construction a few months before going ahead with building the workshop. I decided to use this method as I simply couldn't afford to build a wooden workshop of this size (60m2). It took two people six months (2700 hours) from start to finish which I admit is a long time but it will stand for hundreds of years which is a lot longer than a timber building and it only cost me £2,700 in materials to build. I learnt that not only is it dirt cheap to build with earth but you create something that is natural to its surroundings as we also covered the roof with sedums, grasses and wildflowers which replaces the land used in the footprint of the structure. Don't get me wrong, I'm not wandering around in a pair of sandals and a tie dye shirt, far from it, it just makes a lot of sense to build with what's around you and avoid waste. You can learn more on one of my building courses this summer or download the DIY Rammed Earth eManual.

Workshopshed: One of the essentials for rammed earth construction is good soil, what can you tell us about your soil improvement device.

Michael Thompson: You actually need subsoil to create a rammed earth wall. This is found about 6-8 inches below the topsoil. Once you have excavated the subsoil you will need to sieve it down to a manageable particle size. This is where SID (Soil Improvement Device) came in, a simple contraption that initially enabled me to sort out the topsoil in our garden for the raised beds. He processed the soil into three grades... under 12mm (for the raised beds and later for rammed earth), over 25mm (which was mainly glass, plastic and hardcore, which got buried under the shed floor) and gravel between 12mm and 25mm which we used for pathways around the garden. This video explains things better maybe.

SID has now been condemned on health and safety grounds - he served us well and must have processed over 60 tons of earth in his short life. TREV (no acronym worked out as yet) is now the new kid on our block and is a much more efficient sieving contraption.

Workshopshed: Being wooden, the workshopshed suffers from damp and cold during the winter. How did the rammed earth building cope during the winter?

Michael Thompson: Amazingly well. The rammed earth walls are breathable yet don't allow moisture to travel to the inside of the building. This means that moisture, which can result in mould growth and surface rusting to your precious tools, does not occur. Also, the thermal mass flywheel effect of the rammed earth walls effectively turns the building into a giant storage heater, absorbing the heat by day and releasing it inside during the evening. This creates a stable temperature without dramatic heat fluctuations inside. Having said that, the extreme winter we have just had did jog me into installing a woodburner just to take the edge off and help the wood glues I use to activate and set properly.

Workshopshed: What equipment do you use in your workshop?

Michael Thompson: I think it would be easier to say “What equipment don’t I use” and the answer to that would be a CNC machine. Everything else I have available to me in the Eco-Shed. I have owned CNC machines in the past when I had a large furniture factory but the shed is just not big enough and I can always blag a bit of time on one at my friend’s factory nearby.

The power tools I use most often are my Makita radial arm saw, Kity bandsaw, Axminster mortiser, Dewalt router, Myford lathe, Bosch skillsaw, scheppach table saw to name but a few and of course I have countless hand tools at my disposal, some new but many very old.

Workshopshed: Do you prefer to work with hand tools or power tools?

Michael Thompson: Power tools are great for the speed and ease of getting through a lot of the general tasks undertaken in a joinery shop, you can’t beat a good quality machine for mundane and repetitive jobs you often have to deal with. Then again when time is not so important, getting your prized plane out and shaping something up for a special piece can be more than satisfying.

Workshopshed: Some of the components such as the gears and wheels of the splinter bike are quite large, how did you go about turning those?

Michael Thompson: I didn’t turn any of those particular components of the Splinter Bike on the lathe, instead I used a homemade rotating router jig to spin the circular shapes out.

Workshopshed: Did cutting the gear teeth cause any specific challenges?

Michael Thompson: The gears were initially printed out on paper templates and glued on to mdf and then I cut the teeth shapes out by hand to create the master templates. I used a homemade Pin Router to copy the actual gear parts out of Birch Plywood from the MDF templates.

Workshopshed: How did you go about selecting the right materials for the job?

Michael Thompson: Most of the materials came about by accident, I managed to talk a large plywood wholesaler into giving us the birch plywood we needed, the 50 year old Ekki was salvaged from a company doing a maintenance contract on the Norfolk Broads and was being pulled out of the river bank to be replaced. The only wood that I had to specifically obtain was the Lignum Vitae, this is a naturally oily hardwood that is essential to reduce friction where one part turns against another part on the bike.

Workshopshed: Given some of the specialist hard woods used in your bike how did you go about machining those?

Michael Thompson: Carefully, we only had a small quantity of Lignum Vitae and Ekki to play with so errors were not an option, these timbers are very hard indeed so it was imperative that I only attacked them with very sharp blades. In fact, the Ekki I used to turn the handlebars was so hard I used the metal turning attachment on the lathe so I could slowly but surely create the correct contours for the finger grip positions.

Workshopshed: And finally, being a joiner by trade you claim to be able to make anything from wood, apart from a wooden bike, what are your other wooden achievements?

Michael Thompson: Nothing completely out of the ordinary really, Splinter Bike excluded of course, I have worked on all sorts of pieces and projects over the years. I’ve made bespoke furniture for the rich and famous, restored mahogany speedboats, built staircases of various shapes and sizes, supplied large pieces of art for well known artists, TV news desks, reception desks for government departments, kitchens, windows, doors... all the usual suspects you would expect to be made from wood and wood based materials.

I’m looking forward to starting another sideways looking project soon, but first we need to get this land speed record in the bag before the end of the summer because in September the Splinter Bike is off to the Victoria & Albert Museum to be included in an exhibition called “Power of Making” which is the icing on the cake for this particular project, I couldn’t have wished for a finer final resting place.

Workshopshed: Michael, thank you again for your time to be interviewed and the effort and time you've put into to your building and bike.

Splinter Bike's selected charity is Shelter Box an international disaster relief charity that specialises in emergency shelter.
Michael is also raising money to pay for world land speed record on a wooden bicyle.


Rammed Earth Building
Splinter Bike Blog
Follow Splinter Bike on Twitter
Guardian Newspaper Interview

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The Story behind the Models DVD

In this DVD, Ivan Law from the SMEE interviews two of the UK's greatest model engineers at the 2009 Sandown Exhibition, Cherry Hill and Mike Sayers.

I was initially a little disappointed with this DVD as I was expecting more about how Cherry Hill built her magnificent scale model replica of an 1863 Robert Blackburn agricultural engine. Looking on the forums it would appear that Cherry is a difficult person to interview and is not always forthcoming. However the 15 minute interview does give a very detailed look at the engine and some of the history behind how it was designed and constructed.

The second interview with Mike Sayers is slightly longer at 20 minutes. He describes his model of a 1923 Bentley car engine. This is a working 1/3 scale model of the fullsized engine. Mike describes the parts and the detail is amazing although he can be a little repetative.

It's obvious that the camera man was more interested in the models than the people as many shots show the model with a headless body in the background. I initially found this a little strange but it does mean that you get to see the models in a lot more detail than you would with a wider shot.

The special bonus feature is a presentation by James Hill, chairman of the Gas Turbine Builders Association who talks about the recent development of model gas turbine engines. At 35 minutes it's the same length as the other two interviews put together. James is a excellent presenter and having never heard about gas turbines before I found the whole section facinating and for me this made up for the shortness of the other two sections.

You can buy the DVD from the my hobby store, if you've never bought from them before then you can use the following referal code for 5% off your first order.


The Story behind the Models DVD

Friday, 6 May 2011

Online Auction - Fabrication Machinery, Vehicles etc

GoIndustry (UK) Limited Online Auction of Fabrication Machinery, Office Furniture & Equipment and Internal & External Transport

Bidding open: 9 May 2011 6:00 AM PDT
Lots closing from: 24 May 2011 5:00 AM PDT

90 Lots of Metalworking Machines, including Laser Cutting, Metal Punches, Pressbrakes, Drills, Saws, Mig & Tig Welders, Fork Lifts, Vehicles, Office Furniture and Equipment

Preview the Sale

This sale features:
  • Laser Cutter
  • Press Brake
  • Punches
  • Guillotine
  • Saws
  • Drills
  • Welders
  • Vehicles
  • Fork Lifts
  • Power Tools - Drills, Saws, Grinders
Located in West Thamesmead Business Park, Woolwich, London, UK

If you have any questions, please call +44 07774 417226 or email

Don't forget that on top of any bids you need to pay fees and VAT.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Welding and Engineering Applications for Smart Phones

There's a surprising number of useful phone apps for a welder. However there's a general thought that a smart phone and a workshop are generally not compatible, grinding dust and dirt don't go well with a touch screen.

Welding and cutting company ESAB have their own app for setting up the parameters on a MIG Welder. However it's not as flexible as the online calculators from the likes of the Miller Welding Calculator .

Discover more Android apps

The Weld Design app also has a welding calculator for MIG, however it only covers flux cored wires at the moment. It includes some technical guides for selection of electrode type and thickness for TIG, explaination of welding symbols and tables with amperage settings for Arc and Flux Cored Arc welding.

Discover more Android apps

The Machinist Toolbox allows calculation of cutting speeds for your drill or mill and M Starr who wrote this also do a range of other milling calculators.

Discover more Android apps

There are a good range of angle measuring apps you can download and also calculators and convertors to switch between metric and imperial measurements. One of these that looks interesting is the visual geometry calculator that allows you to setup various shapes and view the angles between the edges.

Discover more Android apps

My final recommendation would be to get some kind of ereader so that you can read or listen to books when not working.

Workshop Practice Series