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Manbench Industries; Purveyors of general mayhem since 1994, a blog to follow the crazed, possibly deranged projects and emotive musings, of an undergraduate engineer, and an apprentice organ builder who have always felt they were born in the wrong age. Follow us as we, re-write history, learn lost skills, discover strange new worlds, break things, rant at things, mend things, make new things and generally find ways of passing the day instead of doing "proper work" !

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Have you always been such a loose Cannon?!

MBI love nothing more than things that shoot things, so heres some details of another of our projectile launching projects.

This was a confetti firing cannon, that was designed to be used in conjunction with a mechanical organ, that the cannon might fire in time with the music! We never got round to actually trying it with an organ as, well to be honest the thing was overly bulky took up too much space and hence was chopped up and made into a planter for cactus's eventually. Still it was fun, and the simple mechanism did fire confetti quite nicely as Can be seen below! 

The main body was laminated ply, stained and varnished with turned solid ply wheels. The barrel itself was constructed of laminated paper around a wooden framework, painted in Hammerite Hammered Finish Gloss Black, for that authentic cast iron patina! 

Side profile...

Main air supply into barrel shown above...

Firing Shots...

Detail of the barrel end mouldings...

The Carpenter.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Hello, is it Mead you're looking for?

Ayup Chief, ... some updates of the brewing mead...

More frequent Bubbling! 1 bubble of released gas at 6-7 second intervals! Its alive!!!
Started to clear, ... sediment settling at bottom of demijohn,
The raisins have started floating?!, maybe they're trying to leave?

approx. 5 weeks in?!.

Shown above, the rudimentary cardboard light shield, made from a banjo box, to block the detrimental damage direct sunlight will have on fermentation! 

The Carpenter

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Steam Powered Christmas Tree

Thought this would make a good post for Christmas day! A few years ago, a few days before Christmas, I had the brilliant idea of producing a steam powered Christmas tree. The idea stemmed back from an article in Model Engineer I had read many years back now. I already had in my possession a Stuart #500 boiler with a Basset Lowke 'Eclipse' engine mounted together on a base, so with some scrap wood, a Meccano motor, some LEDs and one of those miniature trees probably brought from a car-boot sale at some stage over the years, this was knocked up. It looks very crude, mainly because it is, but it was a project just because I could!

Merry Christmas from us both here at Manbench Industries!

The Engineer.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Google Sketchup Models Part I

The free Google Sketchup is a fantastic program - not suitable for accurate drawings, but for a visual representation of a project, very handy. We have already shown you some of our Sketchup models made for various projects and will continue to do so, however you may be interested in seeing some of our models we have worked on just for fun and practice of various features in the program.

I shall start this with a few screen grabs of the model of my Myford Super 7 lathe that I started a while back. I might get around to finishing it one day!

The Engineer.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Lessons learned in Drum Making P1

Heres a collection of photo's from the production of the custom built drum kit, pictures speak a thousand words so I'll just post them here! A great variety of skills (learned and practiced) used in making this including sign writing, lamination, machining, fabricating and many more, a great all round project and one I'd recommend anyone who's looking for something interesting to make!

More detailed shots of components to follow! 

The Carpenter

Monday, 17 December 2012

Wilesco D32 Rebuild

Now that I am back from university for a few weeks, I have some workshop time finally! I thought I'd make a start on the rebuild of a Wilesco D32 (two of them in fact!) Why two? I'd always wanted one of these in my collection but with a decent example going at around £600 a piece, I just couldn't afford one! In the end, I picked up two knackered ones for under £100 each with the intention of making one out of the two. In the end, I found the missing parts to complete the pair on German eBay at reasonable prices, so at some stage in the future I will restore the both. I only have photos of one of them as purchased, but they were both in pretty much the same condition.

The Engineer.

Steam Generating Plant

This project, from about three or four years ago now is one I am very pleased with. It started life as a standard Wilesco D20 steam engine that I bought many many years ago from PPS Steam Models (now sadly defunct) and provided me many years of enjoyment. I decided to do something with it and after experimenting with a few Meccano motors I came up with a nice design for a generator. I came up with further ideas which were added to the design as I went along: a boiler feed pump to keep the water topped up, a control panel, and a water tank among other things. The project is still not finished - I have a few ideas for further improvements such as the fitting of a gas burner to make the increased running times allowed by the boiler feed pump to be more enjoyable.

The Engineer.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Unusual Methods Of Clamping IV

Ok, so technically this is a photo from work, but its too great an example of clamping (a topic we love here at MBI) to pass up....

Sometimes when things are a real awkward shape, in this case a complex hollow taper, you just need millions and millions of clamps to keep the things from flopping about all over the place.
Hence why every workshop should have as many clamps as possible, as you never know when you're going to need them all!

TIP_OF_THE_DAY-  Buy a few whenever you see them for sale, i'll guarantee they'll save your ass at some point!

The Carpenter...

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Compressed Air Powered Snow Gun

Miniature armaments are something that will probably crop up quite a lot here - after all, what's more fun than a gun! The one shown here was built in two days for the schools Christmas performance. We were asked to produce something to fire fake snow at the audience at the end of the show. It wasn't going to be seen - but that doesn't mean we have to do a half-assed job of the design. The idea that something needs to like nice even if not seen is something we at MBI strongly feel has been lost in the last one hundred years.

Anyway, the gun consists of a bit of plastic tube, a ball valve some hardboard and some bits found in the bottom of the school scrap bin! A plunger was also made to load the snow into the barrel but the school Physics department now use this with their potato cannons!

The Engineer.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Generator Experiment

A school project now - this was built for my A-Level Physics experiment where I decided to build a dynamo and measure the effects of increasing magnetic field strength, number of coils and velocity of rotation upon the voltage created. The dynamo was quite crude and very inefficient - the windings I made had wooden, as opposed to iron cores - the cast iron I had to do the job was so hard it barely scratched by the big power hacksaw I tried to cut it with - I suspect it was chilled. The AC voltage coming from the dynamo was measured on a oscilloscope,; the wave created is shown below. Anyway, I powered the generator by a big 12V motor with a field coil needing two power packs to run it. With the two power packs running, I was taking 460V from the mains, with the dynamo itself producing somewhere in the region of 0.4V, equating to an efficiency of somewhere around 0.08% - how's that for solving the energy crisis!

The Engineer.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Engineers In Unusual Forms II: Gorizambard Kingdom Brunel

The second exciting installment of 'Engineers In Unusual Forms' brings you the fantastic model of Gorizambard Kingdom Brunel! Last summer, for the 175th anniversary of it's opening, Bristol Zoo produced a set of 61 full size Gorillas and 90 miniature ones around Bristol. They were all decorated by various teams of people from around the Bristol area and after the exhibit finished, were auctioned off to raise money for the upkeep of the Zoo.

One of the most popular of the Gorillas was based on the great engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel and was placed on one of the entrances to his fantastic Clifton Suspension Bridge. 

When the gorillas were auctioned off, a total of £427,300 was raised for the zoo funds. Of all the gorillas sold, Gorizambard reached the highest figure, bringing in a fantastic £23,000! Yet more evidence to show engineers are some of the most widely esteemed people and showing the close links we Bristolian feel towards Brunel!

The Engineer.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

JazzmeupScotty... Something got Done!!!

Here at Manbench Industries its actually quite rare for a project to get finished mainly due to one, or indeed a number of the following reasons...

1/ While a project is underway another comes along that takes much of the interest away from initial one...

2/ The minute we think something is nearly done another great idea of a thing, or a part to add comes along, constantly pushing the finish line further back, 

3/ We're perfectionists, nothing can ever be finished, things can always be made better, 

4/ This project requires a new skill to be learned before i can complete it, (Years of learning how to do something follow until the project is finally returned to.) 

5/ We realise the idea was a silly one in the first place, and go away and do something else...
(usually leaving the workbench piled high with "Silly Ideas")

So then, when a project does finally get done its time to celebrate! And what better way than to do this than perhaps our second favourite thing, Dressing Up!  Shown below is the completed "L'artisan de Swing" Custom built Drum kit, shown in period 1920's style!  

The Carpenter.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Swash Plate Beam Engine

Found this online recently - thought it might be of interest to those of a Mechanical bent like ourselves. When James Watt was working on his rotative steam engine in the late 18th Century, a patent had been filed for the application of the crank on steam engines. To get around this, Watt came up with various other methods for converting the reciprocating motion of the beam into rotary motion of the wheel. In the end, as you probably know, he went for his famous sun and planet mechanism, however, his sketchpads still survive showing other methods tried, I find this swash plate method particularly interesting. I had always thought the use of a swash plate in engines was a relatively modern feature - it just shows the brilliance of these 18th Century engineers.

The Engineer.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Unusual Methods of Clamping: III

Now this was a particular favourite of ours, again from the drum kit project. After the difficulties faced trying to lay up the drum shell around a centre we reverted to the standard method of forming an internal mould, the problem still stood as to how to hold the plies in place as the glue set of course.

This is where the MBI ingenuity came into play, the idea was born that inflating an exercise ball inside would not only do the job perfectly, but also look hilarious and provide hours of entertainment in that respect! The only downside of course was that we looked particularly un manly purchasing one of the exercise balls from the shop!
 (Apologies for the picture quality, after loosing the photo file it only existed as a hard copy so this is a scan from the coursework! )

The Carpenter.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Three Wheeled Madness "A" Part I

Both of us have a three wheeled peddle powered vehicle in our possession. Mine happens to be the legendary Sinclair C5. This was donated to me around four years ago on the condition that I got it working - which I sort of half did - it works on pedal power as I still need to sort out the battery and wiring.

Anyway, after getting the C5 working on pedal power, I figured it would be a good idea to get it working for my Year 11 school prom entrance to be something different from the obligatory limousine entrance. To cut a long story short, after getting the C5 out of the workshop for testing a week or so before the prom, it seemed that however much I peddled the peddles, the wheels wouldn't turn. I traced this back to the splines engaging the drive from the axle to the wheel - these were made of a soft metal alloy (probably a zink alloy) and the splines on the axle are steel. Of course...the ones in the wheels had worn.

Without the facility to machine such fine splines in the axle easily, I went for the easy option - cleaning both sections thoroughly  assembling together, then filling the space with JB Weld - a fantastic American product that seems to be an epoxy resin with steel powder in it. After this, a hole was drilled through the hub of the wheel and a roll pin driven in to ensure transmission of drive. In the end, although a bit of a bodge, it turned out very successfully.

The Engineer.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Richard Trevithick's 'Pennydaren' Locomotive in Airfix

Richard Trevithick seems to crop up here a lot - we think very highly of the great engineer and his works here at Manbench Industries. Anyway, today I thought I'd show you a project I did last year when I should have been revising for my A-Level maths exam. I had gone to a vintage flea market and picked up a few things - this was one of my purchases, I think I paid about £8. After opening it up, I had the thought to keep it mint in box as it was...for all of about...say...10 seconds, after which I got the glue out and started making!

As you push this model along, everything works - it is really quite satisfying. Definitely the most enjoyable Airfix kit I have ever built. I still am yet to fit the motor - will do it at some time! Need to fettle everything to be running very smoothly as the motor is low powered, and the drive only by friction on one of the driving wheels.

The Engineer.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Graphics Graphics everywhere but not a drop to Graphic.

Graphic design is something I've found myself dabbling with on a number of projects,
Shown here is my design for a plaque to mount on my custom built drum kit, the final design was then lazer etched onto an transparent acrylic sheet and mounted over a black backing.  This sort of thing can be easily knocked up in a few minutes on a word publisher, but just help to make a product look complete!

 I think my biggest flaw as a "Maker" is that I tend to spend more time producing these "Finishing Touches" than actually completing the project itself! Fortunately, our mutual friend "The Engineer", tends to get bored with a project before its time for finishing touches, so between us if we can put aside artistic differences, can usually make something great... when we're not frying grapes. (But thats a video for a different time.) 

The Carpenter.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Unusual Methods of Clamping: II

Now, here's one that I really should have done in a different way, but you've probably realised that here at MBI we love a challenge, and I wanted to see if a drum shell could be laminated around a centre instead of the usual 'internal mould' method.

This was the construction of the snare for the "l'artisan de swing" drum kit, and doing it this way only served to prove that it was a silly idea, sure it worked, but it did leave the two of us wrestling with straps to desperately restrain glue covered strips of ply from darting across the room! Mistakes of course are the portals of discovery, and we learned that while it works it sure is a faff, and there are simpler ways....

The basic principle was that the ply's were built up around the centre core and restrained with webbing straps onto the G clamps, ratchet straps ensured much tension could be achieved.

Lesson Learned.... dont try and re-invent the wheel. (you can be sure we'll to again)

The Carpenter.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Manbench Industries Plans on Planning (Life lessons No. 1)

Here at Manbench, we tend to follow the saying of the great George Gershwin "Life is like jazz, ... its better when you improvise"

That is to say we rarely plan, and if there is a plan, like hell does it ever get stuck to. 
Perhaps a good example of this is to show the original drawings the "Pub Bed" was created from. These masterpieces were hastily scribbled up in some dreary lesson back in the day and as you can gather the final product ended up looking somewhat different....

This rather haphazard style probably isn't for everyone but it sure makes life interesting, and if nothing else its worth a try surely.... 
Be like us improvise, blag, and fly by the seat of your pants! 

And that concludes todays life lesson. 

The Carpenter

Friday, 30 November 2012

The Queens Bed, A revolution in pubbing technology!

July 2012 saw the completion of perhaps Manbench Industries greatest achievement! "The Queens Bed" our pub themed entry for the Chew Valley Bed Race. Complete with solid wooden floor, working pumps, wine cellar, peanuts and pork scratchings as well as all sorts of other pub paraphernalia. All built using whatever we could salvage from our respective workshops, homes and local skips, which really when we consider it are all the same thing! Manbench Industries collected money for Cancer Research UK raising a not inconsiderable sum!

SLEEP DRINK EAT SLEEP DRIVE SLEEP DRINK - All in one place! Avaliable Now Only From Manbench Industries.


Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Unusual Methods of Clamping: I

Something that causes a lot of distress is the clamping of unusually shaped objects. Here at Manbench Industries, we tend to go for 'cut, glue, assemble then decide how to hold together till glue dries' method of construction which often means interesting methods of clamping are used, using stuff that we can lay our hands on in our immediate vicinity. As and when these unusual methods come up, we'll post them - someone may find them useful!

This photo shows the clamping of a curved section of planking around the back of the tender of a model of an Emmet locomotive. After assembly, the question of clamping came up - this resulted in a piece of pipe being cut in two, a piece of bar put through the middle - pulled into place by the weight of two G-Clamps pulling the bar down and a G-Clamp holding a strip of wood in position to hold the pipes tight against the planks. It worked - yes - but we should have made a jig!

The Engineer.

I want a drink imMEADiatley!

Its a firm belief here at Manbench Industries that one can never have too many skills, brewing Mead is a skill, so why not learn it, .... no arguments? well thats sorted then, time to learn how to brew mead. Ive started with quite a basic 'ancient' recipe, which is a euphemism for 'crude' it seems from what I've learnt from my mead based research. But all signs look promising, day 4 in and things seem to have settled nicely and the bubbling is suggesting its fermenting away nicely. It'll be a good 2 months till we get to try this 'golden nectar' though so it looks like February will be our GLORIOUS MONTH OF MEAD!

The Carpenter.

Engineers In Unusual Forms Part I

Both of us here at Manbench have great respect for many of the Industrial Heritage broadcasters on Television; Guy Martin, Mark Williams and Adam Hart-Davis to name but a few. I, in particular am very fond of the late, great Fred Dibnah MBE, so I was quite pleased to see a photo of a Fred Dibnah scarecrow my mum had sent me while on a scarecrow trail around the villages in our area.

The scarecrow trail was one of several put up in the local villages to raise money for the  Harvey Hext Appeal.

The Engineer.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Richard Trevithicks 'Catch Me Who Can?' Part II

A further updated of the model of 'Catch Me Who Can?' showing the construction of the engine components used to power the locomotive. The engine was taken from the same Mamod that donated the boiler to the project. To save space, I removed the majority of the frame and silver soldered a brass bush to the remaining section. The bush was then drilled and reamed in the lathe:

The lathe really needs cleaning up a bit!

An action shot:

The wheels were pressed off of one of the axles and the axle turned down to accommodate a Meccano gear. A Meccano gear was bushed and drilled to match the crankshaft of the engine. Meccano gears were probably not the best choice for use here, but I had them, so I used them!

The Engineer.


This month has seen a change in direction of the type of music I've been writing, November has been a month of jazz really, mainly due to the amount of time spent listening to Gershwin (He's the boy), so heres a sample, a work in progress like most of the posts on this blog but hopefully enjoyable none the less  ....

The Carpenter

BH9 by Thomas Von Dean

"L'artisan De Swing"

2011/12 saw the production and completion of my scratch built, 1920's themed drum kit "L'artisan De Swing," built as the practical component of my A-Level in product design.  The above image shows a CAD model created half way through production, as with this, and every other project I undertake I never plan!  The CAD files were compiled purely to satisfy the A-Level mark scheme, but the challenge of producing them was relished. The Art Deco style is one which I intend to return to in future projects.

Further details of the build to follow...

The Carpenter

Richard Trevithick's 'Catch Me Who Can?'

Here at Manbench, we've always held the work of the great engineer Richard Trevithick in high esteem, Trevithick revolutionized the application of steam to industry and in doing so constructed the first railway locomotive. Unfortunately he achieved little commercial success from his indeavors which included his exhibition loco 'Catch Me Who Can?' shown below:

After seeing a 5" gauge model of the locomotive, I quite fancied building a smaller one around about Mamod scale, however as with most ideas it got put to the back of my mind and nothing done about it. However, one day I was going through the spare parts drawer and coming across a spare set of Mamod loco wheels and this happened:

In this photo the locomotive is only a rolling chassis with no engine components inside of it. The boiler was from and old Mamod Minor 1, the frames were milled from some aluminium sheet and the rest was just from bits found in the workshop. The pencil for a chimney is only a temporary feature! Further work has progressed on this since the photo was taken - it's a case of finding the photos! Unfortunately work on this project has slowed down...something about 5 years of university getting in the way!

The Engineer.

'Dont Fret' ..... Hobbies "Gem" Fretsaw Recondition.

As good a place to start as any,....the end of the summer saw a brief interlude before "proper work" had to commence so this was the chosen way to pass the days.  Bought at GDSF 2012 for a mere 20 Squids, we believe this is a 1940's or 50's model. A basic reconditioning, ....complete disassembly and re-finish of all parts. A new belt was fitted as the last had seen some use and was beginning to slip and the decision was made to give the flywheels a tasteful new gloss red finish, .... because its a good rule that if its a flywheel it should be red ;) Back together now and a great little machine, should last another 60 odd years me thinks.

The Carpenter


Manbench Industries; Purveyors of general mayhem since 1994, a blog to follow the crazed, possibly deranged, projects of an undergraduate engineer and an apprentice organ builder who have always felt they were born in the wrong age. Follow us as we re-write history, learn lost skills, discover strange new worlds, break things, mend things, make new things and generally find ways of passing the day instead of doing "Proper Work"!