I enjoyed your home page very much, particularly an article by Mr. Harrison about lathe and milling machines.

I myself have never made live steam models (I wish I could) but have made more than ten O gauge locomotives from brass; that is, almost all parts are hand crafted. And I have had similar experience with Mr. Harrison in the old days (vice and hand drill stuff).

Perhaps, a little bit different from him was that I constructed a lathe itself to make my models. The reason: lathes were expensive (particularly for me, twenty years ago) and I don't think we can find cheap Asian (Taiwanese) lathes in Tokyo even today. So, I did it using an induction motor from a washing machine which was the first electric washing machine in my home (or in my parents home to be exact). It was made by Hitachi and the motor is working perfectly all right after, perhaps, 30 years of it's manufacturing. Of course, to make a chuck was impossible and I bought one of a spare parts for small home lathes commonly sold here. So, what I made were the bed, driving mechanism of the chuck, and tool holder moved linearly by long screw whose rotation is inversed by a set of gears. (to move the tool holder, we need a left screw which is another part almost impossible to obtain.)

Click here for more pictures of my lathe. Heavy graphics.

Click here for more pictures of my locomotives. Heavy graphics.

And I made that tool with very poor tools. But, tools can make themselves in some way. Very rough tool can make finer parts which in turn can be used to refine the original tool.

By that lathe, I made all my models until today. Of course, the lathe has not good tolerance, but it worked tolerably all right for my hobby.

But, I think the chuck has been worn out now, because to get the object centered I have to try several times. It should be high time to replace the chuck. (I know it is still available.)

About the drilling machines, cheap Taiwanese models became available in Tokyo just in these ten years or so. I bought it about ten years ago, and I thought it was cheap at that time, but even cheaper now. But "cheap" is the right word and I did a bit of modification. When I bought it, it was very very noisy. One of the reasons was that the pulley was just cast with no finish at all. So, I polished with a file while working the motor. It was scary. It is still noisy, but not "very very".

So, those were some of my mechanical engineering experience as a hobbyist. I also made an oscilloscope by myself for my hobby but I really am an engineer in electronics, so it was somewhat related with my profession. But that was a different story.

Sincerely yours,
Shigeru Tajima

E-mail: tajima@its.sony.co.jp