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Scratch Building In Brass - comments invited


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With what little modelling time I have available I have been nibbling away at an unusual project, 7mm narrows gauge steam trams in the black country circa 1885 -1895.  There are no kits, no track, certainly nothing ready to run and not a lot of material available.

 

Track work I have figured and tested, buildings I am always comfortable with, scratch built buildings.  It is rolling stock I need to invest my time in.

 

This sort of thing:

 

image.png.099d9d28c7d7c7a63180a61e9d663c4b.png

 

That is a Birmingham and Aston 4 window Kitson with its crude trailer, not the exact prototype for me but they were reasonably standard.

 

I have not scratch built something in brass before, my hope is that I tell you what I am doing whilst inviting  those who know more than me to tell me what I am doing wrong, how I could do it easier, what tool I am missing.

 

  • My source documents are some general arrangement plans,
  • Some key dimensions
  • Photos of the only preserved stuffed and mounted Kitson in the country and access to it if needs be (in a museum in Hull)
  • Some prototype photographs

 

The chassis, wheels, motor and gearbox are built.  I have a cosmetic boiler and firebox in plastic.

 

887859901_kitsonchassiswithboiler.jpg.726c46f3910ded66bb00585ffdc29768.jpg

 

So I intend to start the body.

 

These are the tools and materials I have.

 

Brass sheet,  16 thou, 10 thou and 5 thou.  lots of brass strip, will need more.

Soldering Iron (Obvs)

Piercing saw and blades

A scribe and steel rules

I have a scribing block M&W 9"

Hacksaw

Minidrill ect

 

I expect to start cutting out the floor of the cab. with hole for the motor and gearbox as well as some secured nuts in order to attach the chassis. The walls of the cab will project up off the floor (well outside of the floor) and the skirts that hide the wheels and motion will hang down from it, slightly inset.  I will make the floor with the 16 thou (0.4mm).

 

Any immediate thoughts team?

 

Andy

 

 

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Thank you for that,  I do have some shots.  I visited last year and learnt a lot.  Steam tram locomotives almost always ran firebox first with triangles at the terminus rather than run around loops.  This means that almost all photographs are from the firebox end..  Like, I had assumed there were doors at either end but at the smoke box end there is just a hatch to allow that ash to be cleared from the smoke box. There are access hatches / panels everywhere, I see you have a shot under the ladies skirt...

 

Andy

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10 hours ago, wagonbasher said:

...

Brass sheet,  16 thou, 10 thou and 5 thou.  lots of brass strip, will need more.

Soldering Iron (Obvs)

Piercing saw and blades

A scribe and steel rules

I have a scribing block M&W 9"

Hacksaw

Minidrill ect

...

 

I'm not a scratch builder but a few things I find handy that aren't in your list;

 

- toolmakers clamps in a couple of sizes.

- solder in a few temperature ranges.

- blue for marking out. I actually use cheap Sharpies to colour in before setting out

- mini engineers squares. Again a couple of sizes.

 

Of course the tools you use are very personal and you can always have more tools but you tend to develop skills around what you've got.

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42 minutes ago, SR71 said:

 

I'm not a scratch builder but a few things I find handy that aren't in your list;

 

- toolmakers clamps in a couple of sizes.

- solder in a few temperature ranges.

- blue for marking out. I actually use cheap Sharpies to colour in before setting out

- mini engineers squares. Again a couple of sizes.

 

Of course the tools you use are very personal and you can always have more tools but you tend to develop skills around what you've got.

 

A good call, I do have some squares and solder,  Is the blue sharpie to colour the metal so I can see my scribes rather than using it to make marks.

 

Im also wondering what folk use to hold panels at 90 deg to each other, the luxury of a half etch fold will not be available to me.

 

Andy

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11 hours ago, wagonbasher said:

 

 

With what little modelling time I have available I have been nibbling away at an unusual project, 7mm narrows gauge steam trams in the black country circa 1885 -1895.  There are no kits, no track, certainly nothing ready to run and not a lot of material available.

 

Track work I have figured and tested, buildings I am always comfortable with, scratch built buildings.  It is rolling stock I need to invest my time in.

 

This sort of thing:

 

image.png.099d9d28c7d7c7a63180a61e9d663c4b.png

 

That is a Birmingham and Aston 4 window Kitson with its crude trailer, not the exact prototype for me but they were reasonably standard.

 

I have not scratch built something in brass before, my hope is that I tell you what I am doing whilst inviting  those who know more than me to tell me what I am doing wrong, how I could do it easier, what tool I am missing.

 

  • My source documents are some general arrangement plans,
  • Some key dimensions
  • Photos of the only preserved stuffed and mounted Kitson in the country and access to it if needs be (in a museum in Hull)
  • Some prototype photographs

 

The chassis, wheels, motor and gearbox are built.  I have a cosmetic boiler and firebox in plastic.

 

887859901_kitsonchassiswithboiler.jpg.726c46f3910ded66bb00585ffdc29768.jpg

 

So I intend to start the body.

 

These are the tools and materials I have.

 

Brass sheet,  16 thou, 10 thou and 5 thou.  lots of brass strip, will need more.

Soldering Iron (Obvs)

Piercing saw and blades

A scribe and steel rules

I have a scribing block M&W 9"

Hacksaw

Minidrill ect

 

I expect to start cutting out the floor of the cab. with hole for the motor and gearbox as well as some secured nuts in order to attach the chassis. The walls of the cab will project up off the floor (well outside of the floor) and the skirts that hide the wheels and motion will hang down from it, slightly inset.  I will make the floor with the 16 thou (0.4mm).

 

Any immediate thoughts team?

 

Andy

 

 

Whilst a very clever etched kit might off the superstructure as a single fold up sheet, you might do well to think how it can be broken down into several sub assemblies and how these will relate to each other. The arched windows will be a real skill builder!  Plastikard is cheap and cardboard free so a dummy run might be advised

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Even cheap Chinese made 123 blocks should be accurate enough for holding panels at 90 degrees to each other though I wouldn't use them for precision grinding, I bought a couple of pairs of 123 blocks only recently off a well known online auction site which are more than accurate enough for this sort of thing.

 

Using Engineers Blue (a paste) or marking fluid (a liquid) is much more accurate than simply scribing the metal, personally I prefer the fluid, well known brand Dykem, brush the fluid on the surface you want to mark up and it leaves a sub 1 micron layer of blue lacquer on the surface, this gives a matt finish and can be scratched with light pressure from a scribe, in fact the pressure can be so light as to leave no marks on the metal beneath, this lets you create incredibly fine and accurate lines, very handy when working at small scales, always do a test on materials to make sure there are no adverse effects before use (but I've yet to have any) it can be removed with a cleaner obtained from the same manufacturer, or fine emery cloth or very often with acetone typically found in ladies nail varnish remover ;-)

 

When developing a pattern start off using stiff paper or card as close to the thickness of the metal you plan to use, this should highlight any technical issues with the pattern before you start cutting metal

Edited by DGO
can't spell marking apparently
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2 hours ago, wagonbasher said:

 

A good call, I do have some squares and solder,  Is the blue sharpie to colour the metal so I can see my scribes rather than using it to make marks.

 

Im also wondering what folk use to hold panels at 90 deg to each other, the luxury of a half etch fold will not be available to me.

 

Andy

 

Yes the Sharpie acts like engineers blue so you can see your marks more clearly. Also gives you the chance to re-mark.

 

1-2-3 blocks are probably the best solution but I've not gotten on with them. My phone won't post pics ATM but here is a link in my thread of how probably not to do it with squares :blink:

 

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12 minutes ago, SR71 said:

 

Yes the Sharpie acts like engineers blue so you can see your marks more clearly. Also gives you the chance to re-mark.

 

1-2-3 blocks are probably the best solution but I've not gotten on with them. My phone won't post pics ATM but here is a link in my thread of how probably not to do it with squares :blink:

 

Drawing pins and a small offcut of plywood. A block of hard wood with a straight square edge glued and screwed down one side.

I usually start each new project by assembling a new one and often end up with three or four zero cost jigs by the time the loco is finished. A boy cannot have enough set squares including the large plastic type found in upmarket geometry sets. Equally useful are small clamps, some bought many years ago but most salvaged from shed clear outs or broken tools. 

Where it is difficult to clamp, a small piece of scrap brass or hardboard can be screwed to the plywood firmly securing the work against the straight edge. Tools do not have to be expensive but when you decide a purchase is necessary, pay that little extra for quality. Whilst I could manage without my Dremel and RSU, I wouldn't get far without my piercing saw or modellers files.

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Guy Williams book, ‘Model Locomotive Construction’ is an excellent starting point for anyone starting out in scratch building. It defines the tools, materials and techniques paid down by the master himself. It can be picked up cheaply from a certain auction site and is well worth the couple of pounds it fetches nowadays.

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I’ve only ever used a square batten of wood screwed to an MDF laminate base to support right angles (as Doilum says). Cheap, easily adapted and does not act as a heat sink when soldering.

Also, remember that surfaces to be soldered need to be freshly cleaned of any oxidation / production residue. Fine grade wet and dry paper and/or a glass fibre burnishing stick are my preference. Wear vinyl gloves or similar when using the fibreglass brush, the splinters get in your skin, are hard to see, difficult to remove and can be quite painful.

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8 hours ago, Darwinian said:

I’ve only ever used a square batten of wood screwed to an MDF laminate base to support right angles (as Doilum says). Cheap, easily adapted and does not act as a heat sink when soldering.

Also, remember that surfaces to be soldered need to be freshly cleaned of any oxidation / production residue. Fine grade wet and dry paper and/or a glass fibre burnishing stick are my preference. Wear vinyl gloves or similar when using the fibreglass brush, the splinters get in your skin, are hard to see, difficult to remove and can be quite painful.

 

A block of wood...  I can do that.

 

Andy

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On 12/09/2020 at 21:20, wagonbasher said:

 

 

With what little modelling time I have available I have been nibbling away at an unusual project, 7mm narrows gauge steam trams in the black country circa 1885 -1895.  There are no kits, no track, certainly nothing ready to run and not a lot of material available.

 

Track work I have figured and tested, buildings I am always comfortable with, scratch built buildings.  It is rolling stock I need to invest my time in.

 

This sort of thing:

 

 

 

That is a Birmingham and Aston 4 window Kitson with its crude trailer, not the exact prototype for me but they were reasonably standard.

 

I have not scratch built something in brass before, my hope is that I tell you what I am doing whilst inviting  those who know more than me to tell me what I am doing wrong, how I could do it easier, what tool I am missing.

 

  • My source documents are some general arrangement plans,
  • Some key dimensions
  • Photos of the only preserved stuffed and mounted Kitson in the country and access to it if needs be (in a museum in Hull)
  • Some prototype photographs

 

The chassis, wheels, motor and gearbox are built.  I have a cosmetic boiler and firebox in plastic.

 

 

 

So I intend to start the body.

 

These are the tools and materials I have.

 

Brass sheet,  16 thou, 10 thou and 5 thou.  lots of brass strip, will need more.

Soldering Iron (Obvs)

Piercing saw and blades

A scribe and steel rules

I have a scribing block M&W 9"

Hacksaw

Minidrill ect

 

I expect to start cutting out the floor of the cab. with hole for the motor and gearbox as well as some secured nuts in order to attach the chassis. The walls of the cab will project up off the floor (well outside of the floor) and the skirts that hide the wheels and motion will hang down from it, slightly inset.  I will make the floor with the 16 thou (0.4mm).

 

Any immediate thoughts team?

 

Andy

 

 

Some needle files might be useful.

 

Nigel Hunt

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2 hours ago, Nig H said:

Some needle files might be useful.

 

Nigel Hunt

This might be the exception to my advice of pay for quality. Brass, white metal and plastic are not kind to files and whilst it is possible to clean them it is easier to have two or three cheap sets which can be regarded as semi disposable. Car boots and auto jumbles are often a good source. I have also found on occasion shim brass and other off cut modelling materials way below usual !prices.

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A quick summary.    Sharpie seams to work ok.  marking out is hard.  I like the way I can paint over mistakes with the sharpie and the mark disappears (well, I know its still there).. 

 

The Guy Williams book was as described by Rangers and so that is on its way.  I have also ordered a copy of the Simon Bolton book scratch building locomotives. 

 

I might cut something later.

 

Thank you for your collective help so far.

 

Andy

 

 

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An alternative to cutting out a big hole in a relatively expensive sheet of brass is to take two strips of brass (the outer edges of the footplate) and cut two smaller pieces to fill in the ends. This is where homemade plywood jigs come into their own. All of my scratch built tank engines use this method, partly laziness and partly a good Yorkshire upbringing.

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Oh just thought. I've found the easiest way to cut straight lines in brass is to use a skrawker and a ruler.  Make several runs along the brass until it starts to show through on the reverse. Then bend back and forth (you might need to clamp longer  pieces under a ruler) until the brass snaps along the line. Much neater than piercing or hacksaws but of course not always possible.

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So...

 

Almost 2 weeks since my first post, some advise, some books and some practice and I have some observations.

 

my primary plan doesn't quite match photographs I have of a Kitson standard 4 window steam tram to f my period.  Not a problem I have identified and understand the weaknesses.

 

scribing wth my scribing block is great but probably unnecessary as a square does most the work.

 

the engineers scribe is a bull in a China shop,  I resorted to my scalpel quite quickly,  Simon Boltons book also suggests a craft knife.

 

the Blue sharpie helps ID the cut lines but it does com off on your hands and after some work on my piece I had to rescribe a section as the sharpie had rubbed off.  Not sure how the Dykem (engineers blue) would compare.

 

Piecing saw massive learning curve. Used it very occasionally before.  My first run this time this time was a disaster.  Guy Williams said if it won't run true churck the blade.  I did and things were better, not sure if it was the blade or experience.  He also said angle the saw forward to cut slightly diagonally to the brass ( Straight cuts only). More teeth on the brass.  What a ritual replacing the blade is....  in saying that I tried to whip the triangular corners off the footplate off with junior hacksaw.  What a brutish approach, like putting track pins in with a lump hammer.

 

 

Once I had cut a few pieces, the piecing saw is pleasurable, steady easy cutting, maybe half a mm off the scribe line, with my glasses on.

 

Amazing news that I can cut straight lines with a knife, news about bending bars to help snap the knife fracture lines.

 

Filing is best done with the piece supported on a block, cutting down only to the scribed line

 

dont hit the punch too hard, it will distort the brass

 

ohhh,  if you need glasses, wear them.......

 

 

In the past I had at times struggled with kits to make them as per the many facturers way.  Whatever I do here is my way (with advise from you) right or wrong.

 

commentary welcome

 

Andy

 

 

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10 hours ago, wagonbasher said:

dont hit the punch too hard, it will distort the brass

 

Don't use a punch, a steel dressmakers pin/gramophone needle held in a pin chuck will make a perfectly adequate pin point in brass.

 

Mike.

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28 minutes ago, Enterprisingwestern said:

 

Don't use a punch, a steel dressmakers pin/gramophone needle held in a pin chuck will make a perfectly adequate pin point in brass.

 

Mike.

This is another job for the rivet drop tool.

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