Midlands MEX 2022

I visited the Midlands Model engineering Exhibition in Warwickshire on Thursday (13th). Arrived around 10AM after a good journey along the M40 and A423. Only slight delay caused by construction work for HS2 just outside Southam. Found something that vaguely resembled coffee and then started off around the show. First thing to be said is, that to me, it appeared smaller than on previous years. Particularly noticeable in Hall 2 where about one third of the space had been set aside for tables and chairs. Outside also looked a bit sparse with only twelve of the Fosse Way Steamers in action. The usual portable rail track was absent as were any other outside displays save two catering wagons.

1. Ashmead @ Lympsham Wharf
1. Ashmead @ Lympsham Wharf
This was my ‘Best in Show’ a diorama of Lympsham Wharf on the River Axe with an impressive model of (1) the Severn trow Ashmead by Anthony Judd. These barges were used for local trade in coal and timber on and around the River Severn. This is a freelance model based on Bridgewater built Norah (c.1868). Ashmead was build as a radio controlled sailing model and is fully operational with servos controlling the rigging and rudder. The diorama was added later. Photo does not do the model justice due to the poor lighting and crowded background. I thought this would make an excellent museum display, when her sailing days are over of course. Gained 3rd place in competition class 10.

Cooch Vertical
2. Cooch Vertical Engine
Practically the first exhibit you see on entry is (2) this large vertical column engine, the label unfortunately described it as a ‘vertical boiler‘, hopefully the label was altered at some point in the show. Cooch & Son were agricultural equipment makers in Nottingham but I am unable to find any mention of steam engines, their speciality was potato sorters, so not much help there. Reminiscent of the Benson vertical column engines but the column appears parallel rather than tapered. Nevertheless a fine model by John Fysh and competition winner in class 5.

For A Larger View – Click On The Image

Vertical boiler and steam plant
3. Vertical Steam Boiler
Just so that there is no misunderstanding this is a vertical boiler!

On the Wolverhampton & District Model Engineering Society was this freelance model of a vertical steam boiler and associated plant (3). The boiler was sized to suit a section of 6.625″ copper tube from a club member. The boiler is based on an Atkinson vertical boiler but with larger fire tubes. At the front of the picture are plastic patterns used to cast the ash pan vent, chimney cap and base. The boiler can be used to steam a Stuart No.4 engine and future projects along with testing injectors. An excellent piece of kit by Dave Bickerton.

For A Larger View – Click On The Image

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3D Printing in Lockdown

Like many this year I have been “mainly staying at home”. As you can tell from the sparsity of posts I have not been doing very much either, a bit of exercise on the bike a couple of times a week, pottering in the garden and tinkering in the workshop. The workshop tinkering was partly targetted at rejuvenating my old 3D printer which has not seen much use recently partly down to a loose print-head. I resolved to fix this by making a new aluminium backplate to get rid of the plastic frame that held the print-head in place. Whilst the printer was in bits I also decided to fit cable chains and “improve” the wiring to make the hot end easier to maintain. The outcome was only partially successful.

Print-Head Mods
Print-Head Mods

The aluminium backplate worked and held the print-head to the X-carriage securely making use of a ready made steel angle bracket from another make of printer. The wiring mod worked by inserting Molex connectors between the hot-end and the main wiring loom from the print-head assembly. Cable chains were a failure the cables not being heavy enough or flexible enough to make them work as intended.

One of the unforeseen problems was that having removed the build plate fans, printing anything small or with small details wouldn’t work. I was going to print new housings for the fans to screw to the sides of the new backplate this proved to be difficult. I am sure I would have got there eventually but being somewhat impatient I opted for a different solution. Buy a new printer!

A New 3D Printer

Prusa i3 Mk3S Printer
Prusa i3 Mk3S

I spent some time researching which printer to buy, not an easy choice. You can pretty much pay anywhere between a couple of hundred to a few thousand pounds for a smallish 3D printer but within my price bracket the Prusa i3 Mk3S consistently had good reviews and I opted for this rather than one of the many short lived strangely named Chinese offerings. At first glance the new printer looks very similar to the old but there are many differences and improvements from old to new.

I opted for the kit version of the printer, it is quite a bit cheaper than the fully assembled one and the kit gives you plenty of insight into how the printer works for future maintenance jobs. I was going to do a write up of the build but there are so many versions on-line including some excellent videos that I decided against it. Not only that, the build manual is so good it really doesn’t need any help. Assembly is quite straightforward just read the manual carefully, and eat the Gummy Bears (Gummibär) as directed. The most difficult part is putting the print head assembly together. The printed parts are made in Prusa’s 500+ printer farm, which uses the same model printer, from PETG. The finish and accuracy of these parts is very good and the files to print replacements are all included on the SD card. The supplied hardware is also of good quality including, at least on mine, Misumi linear bearings. Interestingly as I was writing this Prusa announced an upgrade to the printer, the latest version is now the i3 Mk3S+. Also available (January 2021) is an upgrade to v2.3 of the PrusaSlicer software which makes a few useful changes

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Midlands MEX 2019

Rudyard Kipling
Visited the Warwickshire show on Thursday and the first thing I noticed was that the usual large Warco stand was no longer welcoming visitors by the main entrance having been replaced by a number of smaller trade stands. So this year by the door was Station Road Steam, 17D Miniatures and Keith Robinson Engineering Tools whilst RDG had taken a couple of the spaces to add to their very large sales area.

There were a few new exhibitors this year one of those being Eric’s Railway Art, he had plenty of prints available to buy and was painting a new masterpiece during the show. The image from his flyer is reproduced on the left and his website is worth a look.

Another layout change was that the “lecture theatre” had moved to a screened off area of the main hall. Apparently some attending lectures found the noise from outside a bit off-putting. This also made the show area a bit smaller than normal.

Other new trade stands included: CL9UD or Cloud Nine if you prefer selling various phone related gizmos and cables; ExGlo UK demonstrating something to do with power drills; Just the Ticket traction engine and large scale rail model engineering supplies; Large Scale Locomotives and Steam Age Nameplates, were the ones I noticed.

Hall 2, where the majority of the club stands are located, seemed slightly emptier than usual although according to the plan in the show guide the layout was similar to last year but with a small competition stand placed between Wolverhampton MES and the Gas Turbine Association stands.

Working clockwise around the hall I started at the Guild of Model Wheelwrights who had one of there usual fine displays. I am always impressed by the level of detail in these relatively small models. The combination of metalwork, woodwork and other skills is incredible. I was particularly taken with the Kessler Dumping Wagon by Brian Young but the whole display was excellent. A couple of images below to encourage your wagon building and wheelwright ambitions. (Click On An Image To Magnify)

I note from their website that, sadly, the Guild is no more. Closed from October last year due in the main to declining membership. It is to be hoped that the individual members continue to provide an excellent display at the various model engineering shows for a few more years yet.

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Spalding Model Show 2017

Sunday being St.George’s Day I set out on a quest to visit the Spalding Model Engineering and Hobby Show. Despite the best efforts of the dragon, in the form of the Highways England re-surfacing crew, I survived the considerable delay on the A16 and arrived at about 10:30. A quick cup of coffee in the restaurant and I was ready to take in the show.

Burrell Traction Engine
“Albert” Burrell Road Locomotive

Outside there was a very good turnout from the traction engine fraternity. I counted 18 engines in steam and a couple of static steam models being demonstrated. The Burrell road locomotive “Albert” pictured above was very nicely turned out, I am guessing 3″ scale, I didn’t see the owner/driver to talk to.

Click On Images For Larger View

This rather strange engine named “Aenigma” caught my eye. It certainly lives up to it’s name, looks like a cross between a portable engine and a traction engine. The cylinder block is at the wrong end with a chain drive to the rear wheels. It is vaguely reminiscent of the American Case engines but the wheels are English. The boiler seems very long and the wood cladding acentuates this. I cannot find any information on this engine as I was taking photos at lunch time and no one was about.

The display of boilers and stationary engines was interesting with plenty of signage to deter small boys, and the not so small, fingering hot bits. One of the engines was driving a selection of Mamod machine tools invoking boyhood memories of playing with a Mamod steam engine, though I never had that many workshop machines to drive. Plenty of info on the stand explaining the setup and how the boilers were made.

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Samsung C430W Printer

I don’t print all that much but it would be nice to have a printer that worked when you need it. Due to lack of use the ink cartridges always seemed to be clogged up when I needed to print something. This resulting in a lengthy cartridge cleaning cycle that never worked properly and wasted ink. A new set of cartridges cost almost as much as the printer so I thought it was time for a change. I reasoned that a laser printer wouldn’t ‘dry up’ if not used, as the toner is already a dry powder. Laser printers tend to be a bit bigger than inkjets but a bit of research came up with the Samsung C430W Xpress, a small footprint colour laser printer.

Samsung C430W Xpress
Samsung C430W Xpress

The printer was ordered on ‘Black Friday’, more by luck than planning, but was priced at £85.00 rather than the usual £129.00. It was also at the same time subject to a Samsung promotion of an extra set of toner cartridges to be claimed later. Also had an extra years warranty courtesy of John Lewis. Despite the best efforts of the courier the printer turned up eventually, the outer packaging was a bit battered but the box seemed to have staved off most of the results of being ‘in transit’ for 10 days!

Unpacking was straightforward and there was plenty of styrafoam to protect the printer in it’s box. The printer was basically ready to go once all tape holding covers and trays in place had been removed. Even the toner cartridges were in place and ready to run without any preparation. First thoughts are that the plastic case seems a bit flimsy, everything bends and creaks when pressed. The paper tray seems very light duty, time will tell whether it is up to the job. The printer is quite heavy though so there must be a reasonable amount of metalwork holding it together somewhere under the flexi-covers.

Big disappointment was that the paper tray sticks out the front when loaded with paper. This is not made clear in any of the sales blurb or even the specification. There are no pictures anywhere with the tray sticking out at the front, I think this is a bit remiss of Samsung not to mention this as it adds 90mm to the depth. The footprint with the tray in shipping mode is 380mm wide, 310mm deep, 210mm high. The depth in normal use mode is 400mm. The paper tray expands the first time you pull it out and clips into it’s new larger footprint. If you remove the paper, the tray does not shrink back to it’s original size without a bit of effort to find the clicky somwhat flimsy locking tab. If you only want to use A5 paper, it will work with the tray concertina’d in, which restores the advertised footprint.

Once over that annoyance (I decided I could live with the ‘new’ footprint) I installed the drivers and set the printer up. There is a CD with the drivers but my PC doesn’t have a CD/DVD drive, fortunately the drivers are also downloadable from the Samsung support site. Not quite sure what happened with the driver installation but I seemed to end up with three printers. That was probably a combination of me not reading the instructions carefully, Windows 10 and the downloaded drivers. However I gave it a quick test on the usb cable which seemed to work OK and then deleted the printers in device manager and used the usb cable to set up for a wireless network setup. Everything now works fine with just the wireless network connection and just one printer showing in ‘Devices and Printers’. I can even print from my phone and tablet though I am not quite sure why I would want to.

The text print quality is good and the printer makes a nice job of my Geomagic Design drawings. The photo quality is OK but not up to my old inkjet standard, I didn’t really expect anything different. It might perform better with a better quality paper, I believe you can get special photo paper for laser printers. The printer is quite quick once it is printing although there is a delay before it gets going. I haven’t timed it but I am happy with it. The network connection seems solid (at the moment) and there appears little difference in timing whether connected with a usb cable or over the wifi. The controls on the printer panel are just the on/off button, a WPS button, a stop button and an ECO button. I haven’t explored the so called eco mode but it’s main claim at savings seems to be the ability to print two or more pages on one sheet. The graphic in the properties display proudly claims that you can save 50% toner by printing two pages on one sheet! Probably, but it will be half the size, I have enough trouble reading full size print, thankyou…

The printer seems to be reasonable value for money, especially if you can find it on offer somewhere. Print quality is good but don’t get it for your photos. Casing and paper tray seem a bit flimsy but there is plenty of weight inside. My only other criticism was the labels stuck all over the front, I really don’t need all the store display advertising permanently stuck to the front! At least make the labels easy peel, I had to spent 15 minutes with a bottle of foul smelling label remover to get everything off. A full set of toner cartridges will cost more than I paid for the printer. The colour cartridges are rated for 1000 pages and the black for 1500. I am hoping that with the spare set of cartridges from Samsung’s offer I shouldn’t need to buy any more before the printer wears out.

Midlands MEX 2016

Went to the Midlands Model Engineering Exhibition on Thursday. An uneventual and speedy journey meant I arrived just before 10:00 and the car park was already filling up. A quick cup of something that vaguely resembled coffee in the mezzanine restaurant and I was ready with the camera. It was quite busy and not always easy to get good photographs and the ropes around some of the stands kept getting in the way. (Click On An Image For A Larger View)

Triple Expansion Engine O.B. Bolton Design
Triple Expansion Engine

This would be my choice for a prize, a marine triple expansion engine to an O.B. Bolton design in 1/12 scale, owner is Brian Newbound. I think this is based on the casting set from Brunell Models. The construction series was in Model Engineer from August 1985. A very good looking engine but I don′t know who built this one.

Two 7¼” locomotives caught my eye. The first is a ⅓ full size model of Phillips and Rangeley Railroad No. 3. (George M Goodwin) This is a 2-6-0 tender engine built for the lumber trade. The original, 2 foot gauge engine, was built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1891 works number 11706. This model has been professionally built by Cromar White for Bob Whitfield in 7¼” gauge. The engine is huge and will probably soon be seen on the Echills Wood Railway in Kingsbury Water Park.

A bit smaller but none the less impressive is this model of Charles an 0-4-0 saddle tank quarry locomotive, part of the City of Oxford Society of Model Engineers display. The original was built by the Hunslet Engine Company Ltd of Leeds in 1882, with a works number of 283. for the 1′ 10¾” gauge Penrhyn Railway to carry slate from the Bethesda quarry.

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