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Old 05-16-2010, 11:30 AM   #1
Tin Falcon
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Default Geting Started in Model Engine Building

How do I get started in Model Engineering ?
Tin Falcon

Note: If you are one of the people that want a steam engine but are not yet ready to build one read on anyway . near the botom of page Two of this thread there are some nice engines you can buy.

Model engineering requires considerable knowledge and skill in many areas of craftsmanship. The primary area is machining. We live in a very knowledge based society and the internet is a gold mine of information, so that is a logical place to start. The US military trains and utilizes machinists in there everyday operations. And since they produce documents that are public domain that is an excellent place to to begin.
Army TCTO 9-524 is the Army's Basic handbook (Training Circular Technical Order) for machine tools. It can be found and downloaded here: from
or directly from the US Army
another gem is the US Navy Machinery repairman's Manual

Massachusetts Institute of Technology has also produced a decent set of videos that teach basic machine tool use and safety. These videos are available for download and viewing to the public.
There are actually 8 videos about 45 minutes each.

Another skill that is important to learn and requires less expensive and more common tools is drawing. I believe that a trained eye is one of the most important tools for a machinist or model engineer the best way to train the eye for what is true is to learn to freehand draw. There is a book on the market that is teaches this skill quite rapidly. It is “Drawing on the Right Side of the brain “ By Betty Edwards and is available used, for quite reasonable prices on the internet. Along with this basic mechanical drawing skills ether on paper or on the computer are essential While you do not need to design an engine right away or put that Ideas on paper reading a blueprint or drawing is a must and the ability to visualize in 3-D make life much easier even when starting out.
The navy blueprint reading and sketching manual can be found here:

Of course you will need a place to work what we machinists call a shop and artists and professional model makers call a studio. This can be anything from a closet to a barn or garage and just about anything in between. Shops can be in the attic or basement. Inside the house or out. Wherever you set up shop make sure you have plenty of outlets for your machines and plenty of lighting ,preferably on separate circuits.

And you will need tools. In theory and some extent in practice one can actually build a small steam engine from bits and pieces of metal using hand tools. A little more than a hacksaw, a file, and a drill can accomplish the task.. The lathe is in reality the centerpiece of most home machine/engineering shops. And many if not most home model engine shops have a vertical mill. Other common tools are the bench grinder for tool sharpening ,A metal shaper which is considered obsolete by industry but a pleasure and relaxing to run, Metal cutting band saws in the horizontal and vertical variety for cutting stock to size and rough shaping. . And stationary sanders to shape and cleanup edges . So where is the best place to get these things and what lathe band saw milling machine is best for you. The machines selected will be driven by budget and by your shop space and location. If you have a two car garage and live in an industrial area used industrial tools may be your best move what we call old iron. These can be a good value but they may need some restoration and rebuilt to get the most out of them.
There are two manufacturers of quality Hobby lathes and mills in the USA. These are a bit limited in standard features but have a large range of available accessories.
Look for
in the UK
another popular option is the SIEG (Shanghai Industries Engineering Group) They have the classic little 7x 12 lathe that you get from littlemachine shop, micro mark, harbor freight, these are Chinese import machines available in in many sizes from desktop to large industrial sized machines.
The product page for hobby machines is

Up until now I have mentioned tool manufacturers. You will need to talk with a dealer. For Sherline and Taig check the web sites.
And here is a list of catalogs and dealers for import machines as well as tooling and materials.
Grizzly Industrial
Travers Tools
MSC Industrial
McMaster Carr
These guys carry all the parts and accessories for the import machines that many other dealer do not or will not carry.

Some sort of plan for an engine is also essential some of my favorite starters are
More plan sets here: and many more
Getting more out of a 7x mini lathe.

Machine mods for the 7x mini lathe

Setting up and tuning a Seig C3 lathe
Gems from the past:

The Model Engineer's Handybook: A Practical Manual on Model Steam Engines ... (1902)
Paul Nooncree Hasluck
Lathe work
Model Making , Francis Yates[url=] Has many out of copyright books of interest search your favorite subjectby key word such as steam engine or machine design.

And last but not least on like forums like this one.

Shop safety Read here http://www.homemodelenginemachinist....php?topic=87.0

Machinist Bible aka Machinery's Handbook
link to 1941 Machinery's handbook is dead sorry guys.

Please browse and read all sticky threads they will give you a good idea of what we are about. Please read the rules they are simple and easy .

I will also make a note that there are skilled craftman that write books on Home machining and model building Harrold HAll is one of those people and he shows up here he has a web page.


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Old 05-16-2010, 11:39 AM   #2
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Default Re: Geting Started in Model Engine Building

Folks : I am posting this as a first resource for folks here. Kind of quick index for the gems of info. I am leaving this open for folk to post these gems. please do not post the normal attaboys or great thread.
But do post links to books vendors other forums etc.
I may pull some stuff from the links section as I have time and may organize and edit submissions as I see fit . I want this as a go to handy resource.

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Old 05-16-2010, 12:59 PM   #3
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Default Re: Geting Started in Model Engine Building

This forum has many great resources, but for the beginner I think 3 stand out to me:

1. For a first build look up past builds so you can see first hand what operations are involved and any problems the builder had to overcome. It is even better than good plans to be able to see an engine being built step by step and read the interaction and advise from others. Being able to discuss a build with others who have completed it can be very helpful.

2. The Download and upload section of this board has a wealth of plans. Some of those plans were designed by members of this board. It is really nice to be able to contact the designer and ask questions about the plans.

3. Gail in New Mexico put together an index to the downloads section that makes it easier to find what you want.


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Old 05-16-2010, 02:34 PM   #4
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Default Re: Geting Started in Model Engine Building

Here's another.
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Old 05-16-2010, 02:41 PM   #5
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Default Re: Geting Started in Model Engine Building

Not sure I'd hold up the MIT videos as 'safety' videos what with the guy sticking his fingers into the mill all the time...

I think it would be good to start out explaining that the skills, knowledge and tools are built up as you go along-- you really don't need much more than basic tools to start out, and that you should probably start out with a basic set of tools and work up. Sometimes the sheer mass of stuff overwhelms people just passing by, and sometimes buying a lot of tools and machines up front is not the best way to go about it.

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Old 05-16-2010, 02:51 PM   #6
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Default Re: Geting Started in Model Engine Building

Aimed at apprentices , but
"... can also be helpful to the home shop hobbyist as well as the pro."

Has general tips, explanations may be helpful to the novice, inc. several videos to go alongside the explanations.
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Old 05-26-2010, 09:18 PM   #7
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Default Re: Geting Started in Model Engine Building

Also invaluable is the "Machinery's Handbook," from Industrial Press, Inc. Any edition is good; used copies can be found everywhere (check ABE and eBay). It contains a wealth of information: from drill sizes to thread profiles, from measuring techniques and methodology to how to harden and temper various metals.
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Old 05-27-2010, 08:06 AM   #8
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Default Re: Geting Started in Model Engine Building

You may also find my website of interest - it was started for the sole purpose of helping and encouraging begiinners to get started.

a friendly place for model engineering beginners
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Old 05-27-2010, 11:33 AM   #9
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Default Re: Geting Started in Model Engine Building

Here are a bunch of videos posted up on YouTube by a retired shop teacher:

There is a four part video on lathe tool grinding.

He is currently doing a 10 part series on on building a wobbler inwhich he casts and machines parts.

There is a wealth of great info for the beginner there.
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Old 06-05-2010, 08:14 AM   #10
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Default Good book for beginners

If you are new to model engineering, like me 'O' level Metalwork "failed" 44 years ago and until this year I've never touched a lathe since, you may find this book useful, and its only £10.37 (plus shipping outside UK). I got a copy from my local library and then decided to buy my own. doesn't have it but Amazon UK does. I ordered on Tuesday and it arrived on Friday, and I am in New Zealand.

It's well written, and covers almost every question I've needed to ask since I started, just check the Amazon reviews.


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