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Assembling a simple etched brass kit

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I though a simple blow by blow on working with etched kits might help to dispel some of the myths of whats involved and even encourage people to have a go.


I am starting with the test build of one of my many "works in progress" a MGWR van.





All ready to kit, tools and light refreshment on workbench.


Very much like the old Superquick building kits except in metal


The main tools at this stage are a piece of hardboard or self healing mat and a craft knife for cutting away the tabs that attach the parts to the sprue.


A square and vice to act as a press brake for bending, a London Road Models Riveting Tool (thing with cork on the end), miniature drills and a pin vice, the white slab is a heat resistant ceramic pad for soldering.




Sorry about the quailty of the photo, the sides are designed to fold up around the floor and the W & V Irons fold down to form parts of the running and brake gear. The chassis can be assembled with a rigid or compensated chassis where on axle is supported on a separate rocking W Iron unit


The photos is from the back showing the half etched holes for forming bolt or rivet heads. One of the limitations of the process is that normally its only possible to etch half way through the metal so sometimes detail has to be built up in layers.




The rivet tool in use place the punch in one of the half etched holes and drop the little weight which acts as a hammer, alternatively the pionted end of a scriber or centre punch can be used.




Section of one side and floor showing punched bolt heads.




Its usually necessary to drill or ream out holes as its difficult to etch out a hole to a specific diameter due to certain chaaracteristics of the process.


Drilling out one of the underframe compensation brackets with a 0.75mm drill in a pin vice.




Drilling and punching complete we now get to the metal bending phase of the project.


The sides are designed to fold up around the floor, the side is bent up with one hand while holding the floor down against the mat using a block of wood or the square, then checking




Repeat for the other side.

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The next stage is to solder up the ends, form the solebars and basic underframe.




Maybe I should have read the instructions first and careful not to contaminate the flux with beer or vice versa.

This is similar to the Carrs sheet metal solder flows nicely and not as blobby as the 145 detail solder usually recommended, the flux is organic and does not appear to be as noxious as phosphoric flux often used, not supposed to leave a residue.


The important thing is not to handle food without thouroughly washing hand and keep the hands well away form the rim of the glass or bottle neck.




The ends are built up in two layers as while the vans were basically flush sided the outside framing was visible on the ends, I have yet to produce masters for the distinctive end posts on these vehicles.




Asbestos finger time:) While its usually recommended to secure the work in place before soldering. Is sometimes difficult to clamp everything in place so sometimes its easier to tack solder a part in place check the alignment before soldering the seam.




Inner layer now soldered in place.




A bit of metal forming the inner solebars are formed into an L shape and the tabs fit into slots in the floor. The fold line needs to be slightly wider than the metal thickness otherwise its impossible to form a 90o fold, there is a similar problem with slots which may be too narrow to accept a tab.




I generally clamp the narrow section in the vice then use a steel rule or an engineers square to fold over the wider section, I have a fancy American etch bending tool which generally lives on a shelf gathering dust.




The jaws are not quite level so reverse the work and press down again.




Starting to look like a van solebars folded and ready to fit, the van headstock (bufferbeams) ends have been folded over into position.




Solebar slotted and tacked into position. I should have folded up the axleguard first before fixing the solebar.




Inner solebars tinned to accept cosmetic half etched oveerlays. The solebars are formed in two sections with an L shaped structural section and a cosmetic overlay with both detail and support bracket for the handbrake brackets.

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John you are too modest. That is more fantastic work, a great resource, and a marvelous tutorial for anyone wanting to attempt a foray into the etched brass kit building world. I agree with what's been said a superbly thought out design.



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To spring or not to spring, compensated or rigid probably one of the most controversial subjects among kit and scratch builders, both are equally valid in OO or EM but some form of suspension is strongly recommended for S4 members.




This type of W Iron assembly has been common from the late 60s either as separate components or included in kits. It folds up into a U shape with the axle running in top hat bearings which gives very free running.




Brake V hangers folded into position and cross shaft fitted, to assemble the chassis as rigid its simply a matter of folding up all four W Irons and fitting the bearings. For a compensated chassis the W Irons are folded up at the end opposite to the pivot tabs.




Solder in the top hat bearings making sure the bearing cup is on the same side as the fold line! Its often necessary to open out the bearing hole with a tapered reamer as the diameter of the hole may vary with the etching process.




Voila ready for final assembly




Rocking W Iron fixed in position on .7mm dia wire pivot. While this type of arrangement is considered dated it minimises the number of separate components that have to be assembled.




I have assembled the van in this example without brake pull rods, but here is one complete with rods that I built earlier :).


The rods look pretty but its not really visible from the line side and something I missed earlier its nearly impossible to remove the wheels without removing the rods!




Zurcon sprue cutting gizzmo I could not find yesterday.




The brake hangers fit into slots set for 21mm or OO gauges.




Soldering the hangers, there is a difference of opinion on how to get the solder to flow into the joint. Theoretically the workpiece should be clamped solid in a jig, flux applied to the joint, then the hot iron and solder last of all as the flux boils away. In practice some people place a small dab of solder on the tip and carry it to the work otheers place a small piece of solder beside the joint and apply heat, I tend to use a mixture of all three.


Generally carrying the solder on the iron to tack something in position, then running in a seam of solder to the heated joint when everything is lined up.




Re-attaching a footstep to a steam loco, the loco body is on the ceramic mat and securred in position with a piece of stripwood pinned down on the opposite side, the step is brought up against the loco and held in position with a craftknife as I solder the joint, this has to be done quickly otherwise I could un solder the middle step:confused:




The final stage of the assembly of the van is probably best done with cyno soldering the beading in place around the panels was devlish and the clean up even worse, plus there are distinctive MGWR style door hinges, latches and angle strappings to be attached.


Then again most of the detail is not visible from 2' the most important thing is to put something behind the louvres so you cant see through the van.



MGWR Meat Van at Sligo in CIE days © F Shuttleworth


The van has had a number of modifications is probably reaching the end of its days but still in use on the Sligo-Mullingar Night Mail in all probability carrying fish or other preishible traffic for the Dublin Markets.


Francis Shuttleworths photo of the mail that night shows an interesting mixture of new tin vans, a MGWR 6w TPO dating from the 1870s and a meat van dating from the 1890s, the train seems to have been made up by a MGWR 2-4-0,but its hard to know if an A or C Class took over for the run to Mullingar that night in 1957 or 58

Edited by Mayner

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Thanks for the tutorial John it was very helpful to see how it is done and making etched brass kits not so scary.

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I love the way that the brake blocks line up with the wheels John. There's nothing wrong with the rocking W iron. I've seen some P4 4 wheel wagons running with them and the Bill Bedford type springing compensation within the same rake with no problems.



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I have finally got around to fixing the detail castings to the van. It took a long time to get to the casting stage but the results were well worth the delay, the axleboxes and springs appear to have been common to a number of Irish Railway Companies including the GNR and should be available at some sage through Dart Castings.





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Lovely job and a most unique way of using the castings to get the side wall detail.



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