Turning brass domes--what do I need??

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Turning brass domes--what do I need??

Jim Courtney
OK, once a month the Micromark catalog shows up in the mailbox, and I always end up turning to the pages with the lathe and milling machine and all the extra little devices and attachments that seem to cost a lot of $$$s and probably aren't included with the machines but are essential to their function.

Here's the deal.  For year's I've wanted some fluted Cooke domes in S scale, for both the 2-6-0 and the 2-8-0 (they have different boiler diameters).  I keep hoping that cast domes will magically show up on The Leadville Shops webpage, if Bill Meredith is ever so moved.  There are rapid printed Cooke domes offered in On3 and HOn3 on Shapeways, but so far not in S scale, despite the occasional rumor.  I was fortunate in obtaining a pair of Rhode Island domes from Derrell when he turned a batch (beautiful little things, they are), and they are already installed on an Overland #60 B-4-C that I'm backdating to the Summer of 1909.

So, what is the minimal machinery that I would need to accurately turn 3-4 pair of fluted domes (the actual turning, plus milling out the bottom of the dome to fit the boiler?) Is the required skill set onerous (I don't believe that I have 4-5 years to practice)?. Would I be better off just getting on the schedule at The Seventh Street Shops in terms of time and money spent?

Turning in indecision,

Jim
Jim Courtney
Poulsbo, WA
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Re: Turning brass domes--what do I need??

Derrell Poole
First of all - stop looking at the micromark catalog!

Might sound harsh but good model railroad friends do not let model railroad friends waste their money on cheap Chinese made knock-off junk. Instead go the Sherline site and invest in quality American made tools. The operative word here is "invest".

The Chinese ignore patent laws and other peoples intellectual property. I know this from direct experience in other arenas. Micro Mark is of the same ilk - and I know THAT from direct NWSL experience! I also know from direct experience that Micro Mark knock-off power tools do NOT last more than a short time under heavy use! We have drill presses, power supplies, and ultrasonic cleaners from MM that have failed prematurely. None of our Sherline machines have really failed. They have needed service; most things we can do ourselves like replace worn lead screws but even when lathe and mill heads need service Sherline is excellent and relatively inexpensive AND every single part of every single tool is available for replacement. I don't know how tight MMs mill and lathes are either. Someone who uses them can argue for them if they wish - but I seriously doubt they would match even a worn Sherline tool.

So. Stop it!

You will find handy and convenient the short bed lathe, a milling machine, a rotary table with a 90 degree mounting fixture, 1/4" drill chuck, a 3 jaw chuck, cutting tools and mill bits as well as holders, cut-off tools and holder for the lathe, a good digital (and I recommend a good dial) calipers together. These are the things I can think of right now. And you need a moderate size wheel barrow for all the money this will cost.

It isn't hard to learn how to make your own parts. It helps to be able to plan ahead - to kinda see the project ahead of actually cutting metal - sorta like playing chess. Domes and smoke box fronts can be complex and you can paint yourself into a corner. I read somewhere that a good machinist has the ability to plan the part to where the first effort is a successful part. In fact I think it was Joe Martin who said it.

But that doesn't mean us amateurs can't have a good time learning from our mistakes...
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Re: Turning brass domes--what do I need??

Jeff Young
I’m 100% with Derrell.  Knock-off Chinese tooling is just a way to get a headache.  (I went down that road first with a Taiwanese mill.)

Most of my machining experience is at 12”-to-the-foot scale, so I’ve never used a Sherline.  But they certainly look the business.  I’d try and find some of it second-hand to defray the cost.  (I bought my Bridgeport mill and Clausing lathe each with about 50 years on the clock.)

Having both a mill and a lathe will greatly simplify things, but you can do a lot on just a lathe.  (For instance, you can even cut the bottom of the dome by mounting the dome offset from the centre of a surface plate and using a boring bar.)

Derrell’s list is pretty good.  An indexing fixture would also be nice, but not necessary.  

Use HSS tooling (it gives a better surface finish than carbide).

I’m a self-taught machinist.  Some things you’ll mess up, but it’s not like a musical instrument where it takes years before you have any proficiency at all.  Other things you should be able to knock out on your first go.  

Plus, you’ll be mostly working with brass, which is one of the easiest materials.  (Steel is much more sensitive to cutting speeds, while aluminium can be hard to get a good surface finish on.)

Cheers,
Jeff.


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Re: Turning brass domes--what do I need??

Jim Courtney
Derrell and Jeff,

Thanks for the info.  My suspicions are proven true, machining metal at this level sounds like a hobby within the hobby (or a profession for some).  I googled "Actuarial Table", entered my DOB and calculate that I have neither the time or funds for this endeavor.

So, the projects requiring the Cooke domes have gone back into the Overland green boxes and back into the closet for now, so I can concentrate on actually completing one of several ongoing projects.  I'll just be patient, perhaps they will turn up some day, available in some medium.

I'm also forewarned about Micromark products (all I've ever purchased from them is a couple of replacement Paasche airbrushes when they were on sale).  From now on the catalog goes straight from the mailbox to the recycling bin, with the other junk mail.

Jim
Jim Courtney
Poulsbo, WA
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Re: Turning brass domes--what do I need??

Jeff Young
Hi Jim,

Just to be clear, I am a MicroMark customer.  I use them for raw materials (wood and plastic), and even some of their tools.  But one has to be careful, as they do sell a lot of far east junk.

Should I ever try my hand at scale machining, I’ll drop you a line and see if we can’t knock out the parts you need.

Cheers,
Jeff.

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Re: Turning brass domes--what do I need??

Derrell Poole
In reply to this post by Jim Courtney
Anyone looking for a new Sherline lathe can check out the NWSL Package (NWSL part no. 76-4) on their website. This was a package Dave and I discussed several years ago and he worked out with Sherline because when you buy the basic package you get a few tools you never use and must buy additional tools you will need. NWSL is a Sherline dealer, btw.
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Re: Turning brass domes--what do I need??

Derrell Poole
In reply to this post by Jeff Young
For non precision stuff like materials I suppose one can justify buying from MM. Personally, I won't buy anything from them because of their "unethical" practices (my opinion of course). Why support a company that practices undercutting companies that have supported the hobby so faithfully for decades? I know its nice to save money. But our dedicated model suppliers depend on our support. I'm not telling anyone specifically what they should or shouldn't do but I do offer this thought; when the cheap knock-off competition puts a stalwart supplier and mfrr out of business then they are gone and what you have left is the cheap knock-off supplier. If they don't care about the quality of their products then why would they care about you? And BTW our Congress is about to give this president Fast Track Authority to further damn American businesses and workers to this global market of "equality" that pits our economy against those with much lower economies to further undercut what little American productivity we have left.

NAFTA on steroids - think about it

Just a few thoughts.
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Re: Turning brass domes--what do I need??

Jim Courtney
This post was updated on .
Derrell,

Thanks for the Sherline/NWSL information.  I'll look into it.  Should I win the lottery, actually be able to retire and have time to experiment, fabrication my own parts is still appealing to me.

As to supporting American manufacturers (and New Zealand products seem fine as well--". . . look for, the Kiwi label"):

I've tried to make a point of supporting my own local retail hobby shops, always paying retail to help them, so they would always be there when I needed a particular bottle of paint or some S scale 2x3s on a Saturday afternoon for a project that couldn't wait.  

But then Al Gore had to go and invent the internet! Online sales began driving them out of business. In the greater Seattle area, one after another shop has closed. The only remaining store of consequence is Steve DePolo's Inside Gateway. Steve's current business plan is to be the last hobby shop in the Pacific Northwest to go out of business. I see no reason to order things from Walthers, as they had more to do with the destruction of the American retail hobby shop than anyone. So, if I need to replace or add something, I try to order from Caboose Hobbies if they have it in stock. I haven't actually been in the store since 2001, but somehow it makes me feel better, just knowing that they are still there.

These days, most hobby purchases are done online, usually direct from the manufacturer, ie wheel sets and metric screws from NWSL if that is what I need, order my plastic castings from Grandt directly, or call Keren at PBL if I need a pair of trucks, soldering supplies or maybe a new C&S kit to bash.

WARNING--Non-railroad Philosophical Content:

I fear things are only going to change more radically. This latest cultural revolution, the tech/information revolution, is only about 35 years old.  It took the industrial revolution about 100 years to run its course, from Robert Fulton's steamboat to commercial aviation.  We are building an American economy so specialized that only about 1/3-1/2 of the population has the smarts to participate and benefit from it. You can't even repair a car without being computer literate. And the human beings actually assembling our gadgets are all overseas. The vast sea of clerical staff, that typed, filed, copied and moved paper around are long gone. Agriculture requires far fewer people to harvest and distribute huge amounts of food. Increasingly, America doesn't build anything other than niche items.

And robotics and rapid printing technologies are in their infancy. I can easily imagine a day when every home has a 3-D printer, just like a washer, dryer or dishwasher. Instead of going to a store and buying housewares, you go online, buy a piece of software for $22.50, download it and print a set of dishes, say, or a new shower head or faux silverware or Cooke domes in 3/16" scale. And there go the jobs involving retail, inventory management and shippers like UPS and FedEx.

So what happens when half the population can't really participate in the economy?  What do we do with all those people?  That's the question neither political party wants to address. It does not bode well for future expendable income to spend on wonderful things like scale model trains, so the model train manufacturers stay in business. In truth, we're already pretty far along that road. In America in 2015, it really sucks to be uneducated or below average in intelligence--statistically every other person you meet on the street.

End of depressing rant.
Jim Courtney
Poulsbo, WA
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Re: Turning brass domes--what do I need??

Robert McFarland
One possible way to make domes and smokebox fronts would be build them up piece by piece.
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Re: Turning brass domes--what do I need??

Derrell Poole
In reply to this post by Jim Courtney
President's Washington and Jefferson both said "Trade with all Nations, entanglement with none". We have been entangled since 1945. AND we have gone from the most prosperous and industrialized Nation on earth with THE highest economy to No. 22. We have abandon the wisdom of our founders and have been drained of our wealth thru a Foreign Policy of entanglements. We are the "world police" - and the brunt of the evil global joke!

FDR said; "everything in politics is planned, even if the plan is to do nothing". What has happened isn't simply happenstance or just because technology has outgrown us. And people aren't stupid by accident.

Nikita Khrushchev promised us that Communism would bury us and that we would destroy ourselves. It's called Social Demoralization, which means to indoctrinate our society to cause us to turn away from our original core values. It's the same kind of cycle that has happened over and over down thru history where a people broke out of bondage, and after a couple of centuries finally became complacent and morally "casual" to the point they return to bondage.

Many jobs and industries were replaced or faded away during the Industrial Revolution. And during the IR, jobs and industries always sprang up out of the innovations of a people blessed with Liberty and Laissez Faire - enslaved people do not invent. There is much more here than technology simply out pacing human beings.
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Re: Turning brass domes--what do I need??

Robert Stears
In reply to this post by Jim Courtney
How many Sn3 Cooke domes do you want?

What material do you prefer?

How much are you willing to spend?

Let's see what can be done.

Regards,
Bob Stears
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Re: Turning brass domes--what do I need??

Jim Courtney
This post was updated on .
Good morning Robert,

Depending on price, I'd like at least 1, perhaps 2 pair of Cooke domes for the original Cooke 2-6-0.  I'm using the Overland #21 B-3-B mechanism and boiler, as the straight boiler and driver spacing of the rebuilt Brooks 2-6-0s are petty close to that of the original Cooke 2-6-0s prior to their early 1900s rebuilding.

I'd like 2, perhaps 3, pair of Cooke domes for the 2-8-0s.  I've planned on using Railmaster intermediate C-16 mechanisms and boiler for these conversions.

I'm still in the hospital, working today, but can forward the boiler jacket OD measurements later today.

As to material, I'm not a brass purist, but IMHO The Leadville Shops should consider casting both sets of domes in brass, to complement Bill Meredith's etching sets for the backdated 2-6-0 cabs and the South Park 2-8-0 etching set.  They are the only castings not yet offered to complete these locomotives.  For cast domes, I'd be willing to pay $40.00 per pair, similar to the brass truck kits, perhaps more.

As both domes would need to be removable for painting a multicolored scheme (think Russian or planished iron boilers), white metal cast domes would be acceptable as long as both domes could be screwed to the boilers.  This is why I considered 3-D printed domes if ever offered (see Oahu_Railway on Shapeways).  I cannot imagine that injection molded plastic tooling would be cost effective.

If you are considering actually turning dome from brass or nickel silver, I really don't have a good idea of the labor involved (the fluted Cooke domes have many, many concentric rings and grooves), so I don't know what price would be appropriate.  Perhaps Derrell could guestimate here.  My budget isn't unlimited, so I would have to cut back on the quantities purchased, if the true cost of production is high.

Thanks for your interest,

Jim
Jim Courtney
Poulsbo, WA
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Re: Turning brass domes--what do I need??

Robert McFarland
Oahu Railways on Shapeways is done by Michael York of Cincinnati who also does the DSP&P Litchfield  freight car trucks.Have you seen his DSP&P/CC/C&S work on his South Park Line blog?He has scratchbuilt several South Park passenger and freight cars in styrene-even locomotives or parts thereof.
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Re: Turning brass domes--what do I need??

Derrell Poole
In reply to this post by Jim Courtney
My rate is $40 per hour for hand made brass parts.

I'm making a set of Baldwin and Rhode Island domes for John in 20.3:1 scale. They are not going to be cheap.
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Re: Turning brass domes--what do I need??

John Schapekahm
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Re: Turning brass domes--what do I need??

Robert McFarland
Check out photos of some of Derrell's machining work on his 7TH STREET SHOPS website.Plus other goodies!