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Muj's 60 year old locomotive !
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 Posted: Mon Jun 11th, 2012 03:05 pm
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mwiz64
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Those are stunning.... I'm always amazed when I see hand built brass locomotives. Where do people learn those skills?

Mike



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 Posted: Mon Jun 11th, 2012 03:46 pm
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W C Greene
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Mike-the skills to build brass locos is really a lost art. If you look back in ancient Model Railroader (long before it became a rich dude's RTR rag), there were guys showing how to build brass locos using files, a jeweler's saw, a Yankee drill, and some screwdrivers...the soldering irons needed kilns to get heated. Back then, if you needed a cross compound Westinghouse air pump (PSC and everybody else makes castings now), you either made it from 35 bits of brass or you did without! Skills like those needed were learned from years of learning to make things by yourself. Herb Kephart is an example of such a modeler, his work is top rate and he makes everything (except the motors) himself. Yes, wheels, gears, everything. I stand in awe of those skills, very very few posess them now. Muj is of that lost generation, he has forgotten more than we will ever know.
Where does one learn? I suppose the info can be found on the net today, practice makes perfect and be prepared to make mistakes...many of them. There are some guys who still walk the old paths, one young dude is Jeff Bisonette, he builds HOn2(not erzatz HOn30 wannabees using N gauge mechs.) locos from brass, and he has made a couple of HOn18 locos. The mind reels at such stuff.
I don't know if I can really answer your question, the techniques are part of a bygone era.

Woodie



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 Posted: Tue Jun 12th, 2012 11:54 am
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mwiz64
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I suppose it's the old saying "Where there's a will, there's a way". I imagine those guys wanted those models bad enough that they worked at it until they acquired the skills to make them all on their own. I've never worked with metal much so I always find that kind of work a bit of a mystery and a marvel. Thanks for the post.... even if it is an older one. I really enjoy the photos.

Mike



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 Posted: Mon Aug 27th, 2012 03:17 am
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hicountryscratcher
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 Mike,

   I can attest to what Woodie is saying that the masters we all admire , every one he named in that post and a lot more that were around in the early days of Model Railroading had skills and peserverance that staggers the imagination, considering how little they had to work with compared to now, and IF you can find any thing any of them have written to help one learn, do so.

    I can also say that unless you are an absolute uncooridnated klutz that building in brass is possible with a bit of determination.

     I learned how and IF I CAN most ANYONE can. Prior to building my first Brass Locomotive at the age of almost 50 my entire soldering education had been making a funnel in the 10 th grade , with one of those huge soldering coppers heated by a blow torch like Mel used. I had done a bit with a solder gun on some wires  as well, but that was about it.

  My introduction to the lure of Brass locos came when a Friend of mine bought a United Models Brass Climax, he only wanted it for display , but he wanted it to be hooked up to some log cars he had and there were no couplers on it.  He asked me if I could put some on , and left it with me while he went to California for a couple of weeks.

   I had never seen a brass engine -- mostly Mantuas, I had been building mostly model cars for years, only recently becoming interested in trains. I also had never seen a geared locomotive and was completel transfixed by how neat the little engine was.   I knew he had paid over 300 dollars for it  ( 1980's dollars)  but I wanted one myself and was not flush enough to even think about buying one-- So I shortly had the little loco in pieces on my bench  measuring  and bending and soldering , I got a gas jewelers type torch, ordered wheels from somewhere , can't remember now .

 I Spent a bunch of time on the phone with Cliff Grandt ,  ( another of the Giants of the past)  so he could help me design the transmissions for the 4 ( yes 4) locos I was building . The gearing used by United was not available as they had it special made, so Cliff Grandt helped me to utilize some of his parts to get the job done --all 4 ended up having a slightly different gear train because after one set was figured out , Cliff would say  --"OR we Could"------- so we did!

   This tells a LOT more about Cliff Grandt than it does me, I had never met the man, had not used any of his kits or parts, I just had seen his ads and knew he was providing gears and things to model railroaders. I called his company number and  Cliff himself was there and he very graciously helped me over several weeks! No wonder he is called a giant of the hobby!

Now to explain how it got to four --when my Friend came back and found his very expensive loco in a million pieces he about croaked -- I calmed him down by telling him I would make 2, one for each of us -- My youngest son heard that and wanted one too , thats three  , then I decided on 4 that way I would have one to sell because by now even building them myself was getting costly!   Never sold the extra!

   The point is that with nominal modeling skills which I am sure almost everyone on this forum has ,the things so many marvel at are within reach of all.

    Dave

Last edited on Mon Aug 27th, 2012 09:30 pm by hicountryscratcher



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 Posted: Mon Aug 27th, 2012 11:37 am
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Herb Kephart
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Interesting story Dave.

And I agree that most of the folks that say, or think to themselves, "I can't do that", could--if they get over the mental block.

I think that I did a piece on soldering way back here on FreeRails--but the two places that folks have problems when they try to solder are.

The objects have to be clean. This means--squeeky, scrubby, you can lick it, no germs clean. File, abrasive paper, Bright Boy abrasive block, CLEAN.

Second place where failure rears it's ugly head is- not enough heat. If the soldering "iron" will melt the solder readily, you have enough TEMPERATURE, but you still might not have enough HEAT (think BTU's) You have to have enough mass in the soldering iron that the heat is transferred almost instantly to the area to be soldered and the solder flows. This is the "secret" to putting one piece on a boiler without two adjacent ones falling off. You can't do much with a 25 watt iron, except solder small wires, A good choice for scratch building would be a 125 (or larger) watt iron.

Don't try soldering with a small torch, or a resistance rig, until you have mastered the use of an iron.

In model building, a torch is most useful for starting small workbench fires.

Herb 



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 Posted: Mon Aug 27th, 2012 01:55 pm
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mwiz64
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I've done a fair amount of electrical soldering in my days. I make my own battery packs for R/C airplanes so I've soldered lots of batteries together and lots of connectors and lots of wire splices. Some of it has been very high current stuff so it's not all tiny either. In fact, I'll bet most of my soldering isn't as fine as a lot of the soldering done on a brass locomotive. I can certainly agree with the need for having the proper temperature to melt the solder and the proper amount of heat stored in the tip to get a quick heat transfer. Too much heat left too long on a loco I'm sure does create problems with other parts falling off. That same thing(staying on the parts too long with the heat)can wreck electronics or melt wire insulation. So yes, to get a good quick heat transfer is key to making good soldering joints.... and having clean parts and a clean soldering tip are a big part of that.

I've always used a 40 watt and an 80 watt soldering iron for my work. I don't think anything more would be of any benefit but having the right size tip is huge. If the tip is too small it won't hold enough heat to get a proper transfer. Wipe the tip with a wet sponge prior to every joint soldered to make sure the tip is clean. I clean all my parts with alcohol first and I many times will sand them slightly too to give the solder something to hang on to. If you sand them wipe them clean with the alcohol again before soldering. If at all possible hold the parts perfectly still until the solder hardens. Any solder joint that isn't a bit shiny is a cold solder joint and will be subject to failure down the road.

If I were building brass locos I'd look at getting a resistance set from American Beauty. Take a look.

https://www.americanbeautytools.com/site/

I don't think I'll be building any brass models anytime soon but I certainly can appreciate the effort one puts into such a effort.

Mike

Last edited on Mon Aug 27th, 2012 02:00 pm by mwiz64



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 Posted: Mon Aug 27th, 2012 02:10 pm
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mwiz64
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Say, speaking of American Beauty... They have some nice how-to info about soldering right here.

https://www.americanbeautytools.com/site/bulletin

Mike



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 Posted: Mon Aug 27th, 2012 03:21 pm
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hicountryscratcher
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Herb Kephart wrote: Interesting story Dave.

And I agree that most of the folks that say, or think to themselves, "I can't do that", could--if they get over the mental block.

I think that I did a piece on soldering way back here on FreeRails--but the two places that folks have problems when they try to solder are.

The objects have to be clean. This means--squeeky, scrubby, you can lick it, no germs clean. File, abrasive paper, Bright Boy abrasive block, CLEAN.

Second place where failure rears it's ugly head is- not enough heat. If the soldering "iron" will melt the solder readily, you have enough TEMPERATURE, but you still might not have enough HEAT (think BTU's) You have to have enough mass in the soldering iron that the heat is transferred almost instantly to the area to be soldered and the solder flows. This is the "secret" to putting one piece on a boiler without two adjacent ones falling off. You can't do much with a 25 watt iron, except solder small wires, A good choice for scratch building would be a 125 (or larger) watt iron.

Don't try soldering with a small torch, or a resistance rig, until you have mastered the use of an iron.

In model building, a torch is most useful for starting small workbench fires.

Herb 
Herb , I seldom disagree with anything you say , and knowing the caliber of your work, am somewhat hesitant to do so now.   However, I find a torch , I use a Blazer Gb2001, to be invaulable in building with  brass or other solderable metals.  It provides instant heat where and when you want it. It makes it easy to attach small parts to , say , a Boiler . The secret, if you will ,is to "tin" the part to be attached so it has solder already at the scene,  so as soon as the heat make a liquid of the solder , it's time to remove the heat -- NOW!! -- I find it helpful in fussy details to use a spray bottle with water to aid in instant cooling.    I also have an assortment of solders with different melting temps , start with the highest , add more parts with lower ones.  As far as clean goes , you are 100% there but beyond that use a GOOD flux, none of this fluxcore solder stuff, get some good acid flux-- the acid flux sold by Sta-Bright is the best I have found , their solder is also one of the ones I like . If it can stll be found there was a flux called SalMet  that I got some of years ago , not sure who sold it --Kemtron?? . Probably Sta-Brite is the best you will find , try to get the BIG 4 oz bottle,  the tiny bit that comes wqith Sta-Brite solder will be gone long before the solder. http://www.blazerproducts.com/tools/http://www.harrisproductsgroup.com/  Dave , I have no connection with Harris products, honest  , HARRIS

Last edited on Mon Aug 27th, 2012 03:32 pm by hicountryscratcher



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 Posted: Mon Aug 27th, 2012 03:31 pm
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hicountryscratcher
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mwiz64 wrote: Say, speaking of American Beauty... They have some nice how-to info about soldering right here.

https://www.americanbeautytools.com/site/bulletin

Mike


 Mike a lot of folks swear by resistance soldering , I have tried it and completely abandoned it. I confess I never tried a commercial product like American Beauty the 500 .00 dollar and up price kept my hands in my pocket. A couple of the model mags. had articles on building your own rig-- I did build one according to the article --worked fine BUT was much too low a wattage to do much. Now that I had the basics down I searched around and found a transformer that would produce about 250 watts , got that built --still could do much better with my little blazer Soo-  :us:    ----- I regressed back to the stone age sitting around the fire making sure it did not go out!

 

  Dave

Last edited on Mon Aug 27th, 2012 03:32 pm by hicountryscratcher



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 Posted: Mon Aug 27th, 2012 03:39 pm
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W C Greene
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With all that being said (or written), yes...I can do nice soldering BUT these days, I build from styrene. My soldering is just to connect wires to r/c boards and Li Po batteries...and I forgot, I assembled Muj's little HOn3 Kemtron 0-4-0 Teakettle a while back. A nice "refresher" course. I still make loco cabs, etc. from brass but I ain't building the whole thing from scratch any more(except for all freight cars, structures, track...awww geez)

Woodrow



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