Who are these strange fellows?

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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" !

Monday, 27 May 2013

Steam Powered Cannon Part II

Was going through old files on the PC and came across a set of videos from a few years ago when we were supposed to be revising for our AS exams...but we decided it would be for fun to spend the day playing with a steam cannon! The Carpenter can be seen operating the cannon...

The Engineer.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Trebuchet Kit

I found this kit the other day while going through my rubbish in the shed...

It's a wooden model of a 13th century trebuchet (google it if you don't know what one is - there is a particularly good Scrapheap Challenge clip of one in action!). The kit comes entirely pre-cut and drilled requiring only glueing and assembly.

Templates are include for the assembly of the components making it easier to assemble correctly...it's still going to be a bugger to clamp though! I plan on building this kit with my younger brother and sister, who, at their ages have a short attention span, so I intend on making these sub-assemblies then doing the final assembly and testing with them. Updates as and when progress occurs.

The Engineer.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013


At a young age, before moving onto Meccano, I grit my teeth on the plastic construction set K'Nex. I had dozens of boxes of the stuff, mainly picked up from car boot sales. Unfortunately  as I grew out of it, my parents then got rid of my prized collection, only to end up re-purchasing it for my younger siblings, much to the satisfaction of myself, spending more time fiddling with it than they do!

Anyway, mum recently came home with a box of the stuff, and in it I found these small pieces which are obviously part of a new K'Nex range. I like seeing large and small versions of common objects, so just had to grab a photo of these miniature parts next to their normal sized counterparts. Although this post is not of much consequence or containing any useful information, I thought it might re-jig some happy memories of readers of my age group!

The Engineer.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Westonzoyland Pumping Station Visit

This weekend I went to the Steam on the Levels event held at Westonzoyland Pumping Station. The station was originally built in the 1830s to drain the Somerset levels to avoid flooding. After falling out of use, it has been taken over by a preservation trust who restored the original Easton & Amos engine and then went on to build a selection of sheds full of other stationary steam engines all ran off of a portable boiler.

I took a large selection of photographs, to numerous to post here, but have picked out a couple of the more interesting ones to put on here, and have put the rest onto the Flickr Account.

Firstly, a steam powered bottle washer. These were used in dairies to clean the glass bottles used to provide milk in. A small steam turbine drive through gearing the rotating brush onto which was placed a glass bottle for cleaning.

A set of 'boiler bogies' were on display that were used for moving large boilers around for installation into their place of use. 

Finally, I loved this little water wheel that they had operating outside. The small pump would have been used to provide fresh water to an estate or something similar. You will notice the pump feeds water back to the header tank - what's all this fuss about perpetual motion, this bunch of volunteers seem to have cracked it!

All in all a very good day out! I would recommend a visit to the museum if you are in the Somerset area!

In case you missed it earlier in the post, here is a link to their website. http://www.wzlet.org/ they also have a blog which you can see here...http://wzlet.blogspot.co.uk/.

The Engineer

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Hobbies SE4

Here at MBI, we pride ourselves in not being stuffy collectors who like things to come in boxes. In general, we like tinkering with old toys and making them do what they were supposed to do! However, when this particular engine came up on eBay the other day, for a very reasonable price, I just had to buy it. It is a Hobbies SE4 (made some time around 1937-1939) by Malins Engineers, who were to become Mamod on behalf of Hobbies. This was the top of the range engine at the time, with twin cylinders, geared counter shaft  whistle displacement lubricator and sold in a wooden box.

Considering this engine is over 70 years old, it is in very good condition, with the only real problem being the lack of paint on the firebox, the lack of lid on the box and no burner. I'm debating whether or not to make the burner, as replicas are available at a reasonable price.

The engine came with a Bowman loco burner which I need for another engine in my collection, and a non-original extension chimney. The brass tube the chimney was made out of will come in handy though, I've had great difficulty finding 1" OD thin wall brass tube to replicate a burner for another engine, and this so happens to be just what I was looking for.

The photos were taken immediately after unpacking with no cleaning. Since the photos were taken, I have rubbed the engine over with an oily rag (no polish) and it has bought the original paint out very nicely!

Further photos can be found on our Flickr account, which we will try and make use of to add extra photos relating to our posts here.

The Engineer.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Where are they now?! The Swingboat.

Sorry I've been away, busy busy busy! Heres something to keep you occupied.
Regular readers may remember the swing boat I built for GCSE product design, you may also remember it was very much an exercise in building and I never really indented on using it properly so its just sat about being slowly chopped up for other jobs. 

Here the beefy crossbar is being used along with some 6" nails to rewind some film, The bar is currently cut in two and is propping up an organ in the workshop. MBI recycling before it was cool!

The Carpenter.

Monday, 6 May 2013

The Influence of Drink...

Last year, before a BBQ with a bunch of school friends, we decided it would be a good idea to make a water wheel powered rotisserie...don't ask why, it just was! Anyway, with scraps scavenged out of the school workshop scrap bins, a crude water wheel powered rotisserie was assembled in ten minutes at the end of the lunch break. Upon testing the extremely crude contraption, it was discovered the water wheel flung water everywhere - not much good for a BBQ, so it was put away, and the BBQ continued. Anyway, a few pints down the line, and we decided, much like the mine owners of the early 1700's that water wheels were outdated, and what was needed was steam...

I belted up my D.R Mercer traction engine to the rotisserie, and the following hilarity ensued...

An improved version is being mooted, using a more powerful engine, more suitable gearing, a larger BBQ and a multiple spindle rotisserie!

The Engineer.