Model Engine News: September 2002 (bis)

Special Features:

   Man of La Mancha
   Sparey, Revisited

Regular Features:

   New Books and Magazines This Month
   Standard Stuff

All material on this web site is Copyright (c) of Ronald A Chernich 1999-2004, and all rights are reserved, world-wide. No text or images my be reproduced in any form without explicit permission of the copyright holder.
I truly regret having to add this, but after seeing my own words appearing uncredited in eBay auction descriptions, it's time to get petty. If you want to use any material, just ask. Non-profit usage will almost certainly be permitted and blessed, but if you plan to get rich on my work, I want a piece of the action!



I wonder if life gradually becomes clogged up with " you remember where you were when you heard..." moments? As September 11th approaches, I certainly remember where I was this time last year, just as I remember where I was when I heard the news about JFK and John Lennon (I'm too young for Pearl Harbor). On a somewhat happier note, I also remember where I was when the first diesel I ever owned started. I'd spent all day flicking at that damn thing, screwed to a piece of board and clamped to the cast iron garden furniture when my father came home, fiddled the comp and needle, and had it running in about three flicks. Don't think I ever forgave him...

Man of La Mancha

And what has a 60's Broadway Musical to do with model engines, and the making thereof? Not a lot, but the signature song of the play is "The Impossible Dream", which philosophizes along the lines that while some task may seem impossible, if you don't at least try for it, then it most certainly will remain impossible. This past month, I received an email from Graham Varcoe, head honcho at Woking Precision Models. As I mentioned a couple of months back, Woking is the source for two popular diesel engines designed by Lawrence H Sparey. For over half a century, the smaller engine has been known simply as the Sparey .8cc Diesel, even though the actual capacity is 0.63cc. Well, Graham has bravely undertaken to right this unrightable wrong through his catalog and web site and I wish him every success.

Sparey, Revisited

While on the subject of the Sparey designs, I receive a lot of emails from Sparey builders because any web search on "Sparey" leads first to these pages (which should be no surprise, given that one of my work-day research topics is web site metadata and how to help "search engines" favour your pages). The only other web info I've ever located on LHS were a number of broken links on the North London Model Engineering Society web site, which is a pity, given the pioneering work he contributed to home-constructors. Back to those emails... Many of them relate to duplication of the engines exactly as LHS drew them. Now I hope this does not sound like sacrilege, but Sparey was a pioneer and we know a lot better now, having stood on the shoulders of giants, as they say. The piston and contra-piston design are "quaint", the timing far from optimal, and the fuel metering system rudimentary. All can be improved significantly, using the intervening 50 years of experimentation and experience and I'm happy to discuss changes with any builder. None of which is any attempt to take away or diminish my admiration for Sparey as a pioneer. Sparey's designs can be made to run better, but if built to his plans, they will still run well enough to delight the builder.

Books, books, books...

I often think my personal library is somewhat of an obscenity—size wise I hasten to point out, not content wise, although there are some "unusual" works . The Engine and Aviation section grew a little this month with an outstandingly well researched volume on the Wright Tornado, by Kim McCutcheon (head of the Aviation Engine Historical Society mentioned last month) and an autobiography by Peter Twiss titled Faster Than The Sun.

Dealing with engines first, Tornado: Wright Aero's Last Liquid-cooled Piston Engine describes the Wright R-2160 Tornado. As the title says, this was the last liquid-cooled piston engine designed by Wright and packed 42 cylinders into an engine with a footprint similar to that of a gas turbine. Imagine six banks of seven cylinders each, built as three independent 14 cylinder modules—ie, not a single six throw crankshaft, but three two-throw segments geared together by six lay-shafts that ultimately drive the propeller reduction gearing! The engine never actually flew, but its design and development make for fascinating reading (ISBN 9710847-0-X).

coverFaster Than the Sun, the Twiss autobiography, is also outstanding, covering the life of a British test pilot. In 1956, Peter Twiss captured the world speed record in the Fairey Delta FD2, on a shoe-string budget, fighting astonishing bureaucratic resistance along the way. His writing style interposes chapters detailing the record attempts with chapters covering his life, delivered with understatement and humility that typify the very best of British spirit. This is another book I highly recommend to aviation buffs (ISBN 1-902304-43-8). The description of the dead-stick controlled crash of the first FD2 that opens the book is unforgettable.

cover While talking about books, I'll sneak another one in that was added to the library several months ago: Tabletop Machining by Joe Martin is noteworthy for several reasons. Joe owns and runs the company in the USA that makes the Sherline lathes and mills. The basic design and concept for the Sherline originated in Australia quite some time back and while the modern Sherline range has evolved and even includes CNC versions, the basic concept for a light duty machine based on aluminum extrusions remains the same. I know professional job shops that have Sherlines installed to produce small parts, leaving their bigger brothers free for heavy duty work. Back to Joe's book: while obviously targeted at Sherline owners and a shameless self-promotion (and why not?), the quality of the photography is excellent and I found ideas in there, specific to the sizes we work at (regardless of the lathe manufacturer) that I've not seen anywhere else. If you have a Sherline, or like well illustrated and informative books on basic model engineering, get this book.

Model Maker — November 1951 to February 1966

The library magazine collection also grew this month with a near complete set of the British magazine Model Maker. This magazine first appeared in November 1951 when the publisher of "Aeromodeller", "Model Cars" and "The Model Mechanic" combined the latter two magazines into a new magazine covering all non-aeronautic model making. Interestingly, the prolific Lawrence H Sparey had been the editor of Model Mechanic up to this time. It was in this new magazine called "Model Maker" that the Weaver-Ransom 1cc diesel design appeared.

To me, the golden period for Model Maker was around 1955 when Peter Holland was presenting his "space-age" designs for models that rolled, slithered, flapped and walked on the water, land and in the air using ingenious music-wire cranks driven by rubber motors, or small electric motors. The magazine presented occasional internal combustion designs, together with boats, cars, a bit of live steam, a series on lathe work for beginners and other odd stuff, such as dioramas and military subjects.

Initially, the magazine bore the rather long title of Model Maker incorporating Model Cars and The Model Mechanic. The "mechanic" part, never strong after Sparey's departure, gradually diminished and the cars bit got bigger and bigger until April 1964 when the magazine, now called "Model Maker and Model Cars", was split into "Model Cars" and "Model Maker". Over the next months, with all car related material gone, there was not a left except boats, so the name mutated into "Model Maker and Model Boats", and all model engineering related material disappeared.

The reason for this was the acquisition in December of 1965 by publishers MAP (Model Aeronautical Press) of well established and unassailable rival, "Model Engineer"—a magazine which had begun publication in the previous century by Percival Marshall Publishing. So with all model related publications in the UK now under the one roof of MAP, "Model Maker and Model Boats" gradually increased the point size of Model Boats on the cover, reducing the size of Model Maker until the March 1966 issue when the approbation "Model Maker" disappeared altogether, completing the metamorphosis begun two years earlier. MAP now covered the spectrum with Model Engineer, Model Cars, Model Boats, Aeromodeller, and Radio Control Models and Electronics. In December 1966, MAP acquired their last rival, Model Aircraft and incorporating it into Aeromodeller. ME and RCM&E survive to this day with ME celebrating its centenary of publication in 1998.

My Model Maker collection has holes, but I have a lot of duplicates (including issue #2), so I'd be happy to talk "swaps" with any other sicko — err, I mean fellow magazine collector!


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