Plans, projects and how-to's for home machinists

Canandaigua Pageant of Steam

Some off the steam traction engines at the NYSEA's annual Pageant of Steam.

Last August I attended the New York Steam Engine Association’s Pageant of Steam.  Their annual show is a huge four-day event held on 100 acres in Canandaigua NY, which is in the western part of the state, about 35 miles south of Rochester.  This post shows just a handful of the pictures I took.  Please visit this link if you would like to see more.

I’ve known about the pageant for awhile and I live only a short distance away.  But I never went to it because I’m not particularly interested in steam power.  Now I’m kicking myself for not going sooner.  In addition to the steam powered tractors and engines, there were hundreds of antique farm tractors, all kinds of old internal combustion engines, a tractor pull, live music, good food and a huge craft and flea market.  I very much enjoyed myself and was fascinated by many of the things I saw.  Now I can’t wait to go to this year’s show and bring my family.

There are many demonstrations.  You can see plowing, grain threshing, shingle making, a saw mill cutting lumber, bulldozers pushing dirt, power shovels digging and much more.

There were hundreds of antique farm tractors. Here are some of the newer ones.

And here's a much older one.

Continue reading Canandaigua Pageant of Steam

What I saw at Cabin Fever 2011

Richard Carlstedt’s incredible working model of the ironclad U.S.S Monitor’s steam engine.

Something new this year was the big pile of dirt the show’s organizers brought in for a huge model of a dragline excavator that was kept busy filling up radio-controlled dump trucks.  Playing in the dirt looked like a lot of fun and now I’d like to know where I can buy a radio-controlled bulldozer.

As usual there was a huge indoor tank the organizers constructed for radio-controlled model boats, many of which were steam powered.  I’m not sure, but I think it was at least 50 feet long, 25 feet wide and 15-inches deep.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to see the 3-foot long submarine in operation.

There were also two huge oval tracks for steam-powered model trains.  I’m not sure what gauge they were but the locomotives looked like they were about 15 to 18 inches long.  There were also some trains that were big enough to sit and ride on.  In addition, the organizers supplied compressed air to hundreds of feet of display tables for model steam engines to run on.  In other words, the organizers (and sometimes the exhibitors) went to a lot of trouble and expense to make it an interesting show.  Admission was still only $10 for the entire weekend.

David Baker demonstrated his RapMan, a 3D printer kit that you can buy for about $1500. I was impressed by the quality of the parts it made, which hasn’t been the case with similar hobbyist machines I’ve seen.  David was part of a huge group that was there from the New England Model Engineering Society (NEMES) which meets in Waltham, MA.  Their club’s annual model engineering show is coming up soon on February 19, 2011.  I attended last year’s show and really enjoyed it and the museum it’s held in.

There were more displays and vendors of CNC equipment this year.  One was ArtSoft, the popular CNC controller software Mach3.  Their leader, Brian Barker, answered questions throughout the show and gave a talk about what his company was doing and what new features we can expect soon.  He said they’ve been busy transitioning from being a “virtual company” to a “brick and mortar” one by adding more programmers and support personnel.  There haven’t been many noticeable new features added to Mach3 lately because they’ve been busy rewriting much of the core software so it works better and is more compatible with newer versions of Microsoft’s Windows.  But we should see some more visible changes soon.  A majority of Mach3 customers are now commercial users and CNC equipment manufacturers but Brian promised us they would not abandon the hobbyist market and would continue to keep the price affordable.

Lynn Anfinson demonstrated his “Poor Man’s EDM” which looks like it would be very useful for burning out broken taps, which is why he built it.  It’s made using 50 to 70-feet of 12-gauge wire, a piece of PVC pipe, a short length of metal tubing, some alligator clips, a car battery and a few inexpensive odds and ends.  He uses water for his dialectric liquid because of the flammability of kerosene and the high cost of non-flammable EDM fluid.  (Mr. Anfinson, let me know if you’d like some help creating a web page or web site so others can learn about your project).

There were many projects on display that required an enormous commitment (determination is probably a better word), a great amount of skill and thousands of hours of work to complete.  I was particularly impressed with Richard Carlstedt’s model of the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor’s steam engine.  I talked with Mr. Carlstedt for a while, but I have a poor memory and have trouble taking notes when I’m having a conversation, so I can’t give you a lot of specific details about it.  (I need to buy a voice recorder and use it the next time I talk with someone I might write about).  But I can tell you that he is an incredibly skilled craftsman and very modest.  I believe it took him 6 years of research and construction time.  He had to make his own plans because none were available and until fairly recently the original was sitting at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Oh, and it wasn’t the only incredible engine he brought to the Cabin Fever Expo.

I also really enjoyed talking with Tom Meeks of Defiance, OH.  He had a table full of interesting projects that I think many home machinists would be very interested in making.  I’ll be writing more about him later.

Jensen and Wilesco steam engines seem to have become a popular collector’s item.  They were many of them on display and vendors were selling both new and used ones.

Robert Bahney’s very nicely painted and polished hit & miss engine caught my eye.  I assumed it was made from castings and was surprised when he told me it was made from barstock and sheet metal using Harold Depenbusch plans.  Bob was there with his neighbor, John Romberger, who also had a collection of very impressive engines.  They were from Elizabethville, PA.

John Schneider of Bridgeville, PA gave me some very helpful tips about low-temperature-differential Stirling engine construction.  Most people probably didn’t pay much attention to the smallest engine he had on display.  It’s an impressive achievement because an LTD engine that small produces so little power it has to be designed and built almost perfectly to run.  It seems like all the exhibitors were modest about their achievements and John was no exception.  I found out later on the Internet that his engine won 6th place in the 15th Annual Sherline Machinist’s Challenge.

I had a nice stay at the Hampton Inn, which was one of a number of hotels that offered a discount ($82/night) for show attendees.  You can find a list of them on Cabin Fever’s web site.  I’m partial to Hilton hotels, although I worry sometimes that by staying at them I’ve helped contribute to Paris’ delinquency.  I also had a great meal at the Texas Roadhouse restaurant which was about 100 feet away.  I highly recommend eating at one if you ever get the chance.  But get your name on the list early.  I had to wait almost an hour and a half for a table.

I’ve been kicking myself for not bringing something to exhibit and I vow that next year I will.

Photographs Continue reading What I saw at Cabin Fever 2011

“Cabin Fever” Model Engineering Expo – January 15 & 16, 2011

This picture shows just a small part of the steam engine exhibit area at the annual Cabin Fever Model Engineering Expo in York, PA. The show is huge and unfortunately I don’t have any photos that can show you just how big it is.

We’re about a month away from the 15th annual “Cabin Fever” Model Engineering Expo in York, PA.  I went last year and wrote an article about it.  It was was my first model engineering show and I really enjoyed it.  So I’m going back again next month.

“Cabin Fever” is one of the oldest and largest shows of its kind, and certainly the largest in the Northeast.  I think you would be welcome to exhibit any kind of model at the show but most are made from metal.  So it’s a bit of heaven if you’re interested in machining and metalworking.

What you’ll find

  • Model engines of every kind, which you will often be able to see in operation.  There will be steam engines, Stirling engines, hit & miss engines, and more of all kinds and sizes.  Compressed air is provided for steam engines that will run on it and internal combustion engines are allowed to run on small amounts of clean-burning lantern fuel.
  • Model trains, including “live steam” railroads.
  • Model steam boats and submarines operating in a huge indoor tank.
  • Other models such as cars, airplanes, guns and who knows what else.
  • Over 100 vendors selling all kinds of new and used tools, machines, materials, parts, plans, kits, books, and much more.
  • Seminars, demonstrations and more

Some suggestions if you go

  • Exhibit something, even if you only have one thing to show.  Anyone can exhibit and it’s free with admission.  You’ll get table space, a chair to sit in and some other perks.  Admission is $10 for the entire weekend.
  • There’s lots of things to do in the area if you have family members who don’t want to attend the show.  You can tour the Harley Davidson assembly plant in York on Friday.  You’ll also be in the middle of Pennsylvania’s Amish country and nearby Lancaster has a huge amount of shopping and other attractions.
  • There’s a concession stand at the arena that was better than many others I’ve experienced, but from noon on it was very hard to find a place to sit and eat.  You may want to plan ahead and bring a lunch to eat in your car or go to a nearby restaurant.
  • Try to avoid the traffic and stop lights of Harrisburg at rush hour on Friday night, which is what my GPS led me into.

How about dinner after the show on Saturday?

The only thing I didn’t enjoy last year was eating dinner by myself after the show on Saturday.  So I’d love it if you’d either join me or let me join your group.  I’ll be easy to recognize.  I’ll be one of the tallest people there and I look something like this, only a little grayer.


2010 N.E.M.E.S Model Engineering Show

I enjoyed Cabin Fever so much that I made a trip last month to the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation in Waltham, Massachusetts, to attend the New England Model Engineering Society’s 14th annual model engineering show.

The show was much smaller than Cabin Fever and there were no commercial vendors, but the exhibitors were very friendly and I really enjoyed it.  There were probably about 40 or 50 hobbyists showing hundreds projects that included the usual assortment of engines, along with wooden toys, homemade tooling, cannons and even autonomous robots that were designed to seek out and extinguish candles for an annual competition.

The museum was also interesting.  Waltham is often considered the home of the American Industrial Revolution because it is where the Boston Manufacturing Company built the nation’s first power looms.  It was also the home for more than 100 years of the Waltham Watch Company, which pioneered the assembly-line production of watches using interchangeable parts.  The presence of the watch company led to the formation of other industrial and “high tech” companies in the area, such the Waltham Screw Company, which made the first automatic screw machines.  Another was the Waltham Manufacturing Company, which originally made bicycles and then became one of America’s first motorcycle manufacturers.  Eventually it became the Metz Company, which manufactured automobiles.

Before I get to my photos I’d like to tell you a little bit about the club.  It has about 120 members and its founder, Ron Ginger, did something very smart to get it started.  He stuffed envelopes with invitations to join and then paid the publisher of Live Steam magazine (Village Press) to mail them to their subscribers in the area.

Although they advertise themselves as “a group for those who enjoy metal working and machining” they don’t seem to limit themselves to that.  I looked at the list of speakers they’ve had at their monthly meetings and noticed that they frequently feature topics like rocketry, experimental aircraft building, hybrid vehicles, guitar building, model aircraft, boat building, catapults & trebuchets and a variety of other subjects that had little or nothing to do with “machining.”

Members of the club also get together for organized tours of events and places of interest.  For example, about 40 members traveled by bus, and some more by car, to York, Pennsylvania, for Cabin Fever.  I also learned that some of them meet weekly to teach machining to a group of kids by helping each of them build their own model live steam locomotive.

You can learn more about the club by visiting their large web site.  By the way, one of the things you’ll find there are some very nice plans and construction photos for a slide whistle that would make a good gift for a young person.

Continue reading 2010 N.E.M.E.S Model Engineering Show

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