Getting Started in Model Engineering: Setting Up Your Home Workshop

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So, you like tinkering around with bits of machines and maybe you have seen some clever little devices or locomotives at a summer fair. You invest in a Model Engineering magazine and everything suddenly looks hugely complicated. Don’t despair, model engineering projects come in all shapes and sizes, and if you are reasonably handy and like making things work, you can make a great hobby of it. All you need is a workshop to get started.


Getting Started in Model Engineering

The Workshop

Model engineering is a noisy, messy business which requires concentration. Unless you live alone you will want a space where you can work undisturbed and without disturbing the rest of the household. You will want good natural or artificial light to work by and an adequate power supply.

A shed or a converted basement might be ideal but avoid anywhere which tends to be cold or damp. One of the biggest dangers to the sort of equipment you will use is condensation. Preferably find somewhere that you can keep at a fairly steady temperature because alternating heat and cold will make the damp settle on your tools and projects.

You don’t need a huge amount of space, to begin with, but the less you have the more organized you will need to be.

Basic Equipment

Furnish your workshop with a bench. You will spend a lot of time there and it needs to carry weight, so it is worth having a good one that is comfortable for you to work at. If you build it yourself, you can make it just the right height for you. If you are buying one ready made, look for something that is adjustable.

Your main piece of equipment will be your lathe. Lathes come in a huge variety of sizes and qualities, and to fit every pocket. The best are very expensive, so perhaps you would be better settling for a good budget model, to begin with. The size will depend on the sort of projects you have in mind.

There are plenty of second-hand lathes on the market. You can never know how long an old lathe will last, but you should be able to keep it going with a little perseverance. If parts like bearings need replacing, online sites with a good range, like RS-Online, can help.

You will need a selection of lathe tools (these will probably be included if you buy a new lathe) and something like a bench grinder to keep them sharp. You will need a good quality vice and a variety of hacksaws and files. Your projects will be much easier if you have a height gauge and some digital calipers.

A Great Hobby

Model engineering is a fascinating hobby, and the results can be immensely satisfying. Don’t worry if your first efforts are not comparable to those you have seen in exhibitions. You will soon be producing stuff that you can exhibit yourself, or even sell to fund your next project.