Sunday, 9 October 2011


I have not blogged a blog for a while yet and felt that I should take up a pen and write. Having recently become an old aged pensioner I feel that I should have the spare time to make these entries more regularly – maybe I will.

Neither of us had ever visited Bath in the UK so in mid August – of we went. We stayed at a lovely hotel (Paradise House) and soaked up the atmos. A visit to the roman baths was the highlight of our stay but all in all, Bath was beautiful.

We left Bath after a few days and meandered south to the caravan at Bowleaze Cove where we spent the next month or so taking our ease.

We are back at home for the moment. L is sorting out on the domestic side and I am getting my model engineering shed organized – just not enough minutes in the day to do what I want!

A week or so more and we will head south again to enjoy Dorset and shut down the caravan for winter.

I’ll post some of the pics taken during the year over the coming weeks.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Scratch built steam engine.

This is a scratch built steam engine that I completed 30 years ago. The design originated from a set of plans published by Model Engineer. If my memory serves me right it was described as a marine engine but I would class it more as a mill or factory engine. I made several modifications to the design but the major departure from the original was a doubling of all dimensions on the drawing. (and yes, it did cause problems.)

For the most part the machining and construction was carried out on my ancient leather belt drive Grayson three and a half inch lathe, (sadly missed). Milling was done using a vertical slide on the lathe. My drill press was machined from a set of castings and my bench grinder was hand made and powered by a washing machine motor.

No castings were used in the construction. With a few exceptions – nuts and washers for instance – everything was hacked from solid bar even the cast iron parts were cut from fine grained cast bar.

On completion, I ran it up briefly down the local pub on CO2 gas just to check the timing. It hasn’t been run since and for most of that time has lived in a toolbox wrapped in oily rag. Even so it had become very dirty in that time and rust was starting to show so a couple of days ago I set to and gave it a clean as best I could without dismantling it. The sump within the frames has a layer of brown crud that has set like varnish sealing in the dead critters and Christmas tree needles???? – don’t ask, I can’t remember!

I recently acquired an air compressor so I was looking forward to seeing my little engine in action again. I filmed it running and you can see the results here – just click on the link:

Technical detail:

• Bed or frame constructed from gauge plate dowelled and screwed with edge radii stone dressed by hand.

• Phosphor bronze double acting D valved cylinder with 1” dia cast iron piston.

• Piston “ring” and stuffing box glands fitted with traditional graphite cording.

• Cylinder lagging cover from shim stock – oiled and heated to produce blue “parkerizing” effect.

• Connecting rod partly machined then filed, stoned and emeried to a finish.

• 3.5 inch dia cast iron flywheel turned from a 4” dia bar.

• Runs (slowly but nicely) on just 10 psi

• Overall length approx. 12.5” or 32cm if you’re under 65

• Weighs in at 18lbs or just over 8 kg

Monday, 27 June 2011


We went to the “tankfest” at Bovington tank museum yesterday and watched some historic armoured stuff rumbling round the arena. At eighty tons this behemoth nicked named “the tortoise”, is the heaviest tank ever built.

Behind us sat an elderly man in a wheelchair. He was receiving quite a lot of attention so I asked a chap why and was told that Joe Ekins – his name – famously destroyed three German tanks in a single morning during WW2. He is regarded as a living legend.

Nice to see the scarlet coats of a group of Chelsea Pensioners at an occasion like this. I overheard a conversation between two blokes who were referring to one of these great characters “Where’s Alf ?” one asked – “he’s in the beer tent getting as much free ale down him as he can manage!” . Good for you old boy I thought, you deserve it.

Picked up a nice framed and glazed colour print of an engraving at Dorchester boot on Sunday. The border is annotated in pencil “Weymouth Bay engraved by J. Bluck from a J.W.Upham original – 1821”. If you know Weymouth you may wonder where the Nothe Fort has gone to. Well, it wasn’t completed until the 1870’s – quite a long time after this was painted. The picture is much nicer than my scan but yer’tis anyway.

I have just done a little googling on the artist and engraver and found that a gallery in London are offering similar plates for around £300. Investing in the purchase of this picture in the sum of one quid has left me with a deep feeling of contentment. In fact, the phrase"dog with two willies" springs to mind. Oh happy day.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011


There is a small chapel on Portland known locally as the avalanche church. It got its name following a collision between two ships – the “Avalanche” and the “Forest” on a stormy night in 1877. Both ships sunk with a huge loss of life – many young families were passengers on the Avalanche. Just twelve souls were rescued by local boatmen and enough money was raised afterwards to build this chapel in memory of the dead.

The anchor in the churchyard is from the Avalanche and the stained glass windows in the church depict streams of bubbles – large bubbles for drowned adults and small bubbles for the children.

They have pollarded the trees outside the caravan allowing us a free view to the top of Jordan Hill. One particular pigeon has adopted this newly formed platform as his favourite perch. I snapped him as he looked distinctly puzzled at the strange bird close by.

And while Mr.Pidge wasn't looking, a handsome green woodpecker - or "yaffle" - nicked his spot.

For many years there has been a tradition of sand sculpture on Weymouth beach and now, a new and permanent sand sculpture exhibition has opened near the sea life centre. Artists from round the world were invited to do their stuff and here is a simple of their work.

We discovered a place a few days ago that even most local people have never heard of. Wolfeton House, just outside Dorchester is a gem. Dating from the thirteen hundreds this lovely old house at the end of a rutted track running through water meadows is home to Captain & Mrs Thimbleby. We were shown around the ancient rooms by the captain and his elderly lady guide. Nothing has been “tarted up” in this atmospheric building; dust and cobwebs just add to the charm and the private areas of the rooms are cordoned of with binder twine looped over chair backs. I spent much of the visit talking with Nigel Thimbleby, a charming man, and he proudly showed us the results of his refurbishment work. This simply meant ripping out “improvements” in order to reveal the original fabric. If you ever visit, the recently revealed original oak floor in the great hall is a show stopper.

In 1594 the left hand tower of the gatehouse pictured above was used to imprison a catholic priest named Cornelius. He refused to renounce his faith and was taken to Dorchester, tried and hung, drawn and quartered. He haunts the stairs that lead up to his cell. I don’t blame him, it probably hurt like hell!

Saturday, 14 May 2011


Our long relationship with malfunctioning electrical equipment continues. Had to call out the bloke today to attend a sickly fridge freezer. He left here scratching his head and without a fix for our poor old “whitegood”. He may come back, he may not – who knows. In the meantime we will have to put up with a fridge compartment that thinks it’s a freezer. At least the eggs don’t break if you drop’em.

Used the mega zoom on the latest camera to get this shot out in Weymouth Bay of a yacht race. Note the rescue boat in the background :-)……… another example of health and safety overkill?

Saturday, 19 March 2011


This creation is in the grounds of our local Emeaus re-cycling centre. It is meant to remind us of the house of God. The work has been put together by a lady artist whose name escapes me for the moment. The frame is constructed from an old bed and everything else is representative of the sort of household goods that regularly pass through the residents hands. I think that meaningful works that convey a “conversation” - as this does – are the sort of modern art that I can understand and appreciate.

I am not in the regular habit of taking photos with my phone (what would my granddad who died in the ‘fifties have made of that statement) but I remember stopping the car and snapping this arboreal alien in someone’s garden last summer.

Herringstone House in Winterbourne Herringstone. Often I have driven past and thought I would like to take a picture down the long drive from the road but there always seemed to be a Land Rover or some other vehicle parked outside spoiling the view. Yesterday though, no cars in sight – not the best of pictures but the sun was well in my face so the picture looks somewhat washed out. I’ll try again when the light is right. It is quite something that the Williams family who live here have used this old roof for shelter for so many years. A John Williams who was born in 1545 was one of the earliest occupiers (if not the earliest).

You are looking at Jordan Hill. This is the road we negotiate when leaving our lovely caravan at Bowleaze Cove. We were quite surprised by a local resident when she told us a couple of days ago that during that cold snap we all endured this past winter, this road was impassable for four days. I sit here now in the caravan looking up the hill bathed in warm sunshine and find it hard to imagine. Local folk cannot remember it worse. Global warming? - Oh yeah?

Seems we are to be treated tonight with a “super moon”. I just hope my sleep apnoeas mask does not fall of because if it does – and my chain saw snoring kicks in and the vulpine side of me induces howlings at the lunar spectacle it could well be a noisy night around here!

Thursday, 24 February 2011


I’ve always liked going to auctions and sales but as I get older my physical condition means it’s not so much of a pleasure. However, my son recently introduced me to i-bidder. Once you are registered you can bid online at selected auctions. There is a local auction running today and I am planning to bid on a small air compressor for my model engineering workshop – and I don’t even have to get out of my chair to do it.

The years have passed and I can now reflect on how far things have moved on. When I first got interested in computing in the early 80’s I fondly imagined that at sometime in the future people would be able to communicate using computers. Little did I know how far things would develop over the next 25-30 years. Sure I have to go and pick this compressor up if I am the winning bidder but in another 50 years what then? Delivery by matter transference?

Sad thing is though, unless they come up with an anti aging process – and in my case – pretty damned soon, the only matter transference I will experience is when I move from this world to the next ;-)

Did a little food shopping at a local Tesco supermarket a while back and found this parked outside the store.

Try as I might I couldn’t see anywhere on board where the driver might stash his shopping bags!