Posts Tagged ‘Mexeflote’

Some varied Weekends

17 April 2015

So far this year things started off with just a few orders, which gave me the opportunity to finish off the Gloster Saro Fuel Trailer.  As soon as that was done, the orders picked up for  a variety of models in my range, plus more for RCL landing craft and Mexeflote rafts.  I have already put several posts on this blog showing both RCLs and Mexeflotes being assembled, so I didn’t think there was much of a need to show more of the same thing – hence the long gap between posts.  I’ve got a trade stand at the Bristol Model Railway Exhibition on 1st, 2nd and 3rd May, so I have also needed to spend some time re-stocking as my stock levels have become far too low to attend a show.  I’ve now got a small stock of nearly everything in the range, which should hopefully be enough for the show.

I have however, had some interesting weekends that have been a welcome break.  Things started off on Saturday 7th March with a MAFVA visit to the REME Historic Vehicle Reserve Collection at Bordon in Hampshire.  Four of us from South Wales MAFVA set off for this event, leaving my house at 0630 hrs.

A group of people on a Conqueror ARV

A group of people on a Conqueror ARV

The Collection is held in a hangar within the School of Mechanical Engineering, so can only be visited by prior arrangement.  It really is well worth visiting this Collection as there are some real gems amongst the vehicles there.  What is more, we were all given free access to go over, under, or in any of the vehicles there, which is quite a rare thing to do for such old and rare vehicles.

The Conqueror ARV

The Conqueror ARV

This Conqueror ARV is an extremely rare beast.  Only a handful were produced, and then only a very small number have been preserved.  This vehicle is very much a runner.  The engine was started up with an almighty roar and briefly driven inside the hangar.  A very impressive sight.

A Bedford RL Pig

A Bedford RL Pig

If you look at some of the pages of this post where I give a brief outline of my model-making history you’ll see some photos of the 1/35th scale Bedford RL Pig that I made many moons ago.  Here’s the one in their collection, in a very dilapidated condition.  The tyres in front of it are from a Mk.2 Thornycroft Antar  This vehicle has been completely stripped down into its component parts.  They are then being cleaned up, painted in red oxide primer and then repainted in bronze green.  An absolutely mammoth task.

A Humber 1 ton truck

A Humber 1 ton truck

And finally, here’s a view looking down on a Humber 1 ton truck.  These vehicles were made in the 1950s as Combat Vehicles and so were designed for rugged use.  It has a Rolls Royce engine with four-wheel drive and independent suspension.  A number of these vehicles had their bodies removed and replaced with armoured ones to become the Humber Pig, widely used in Northern Ireland.  This photo was taken whilst standing on another Foden Recovery vehicle and gives a good general view of some of the other vehicles in the collection.

MAFVA AGM 2015

MAFVA AGM 2015

The following weekend on the Sunday 15th March I had another early start, although not quite as bad as the previous one, with a trip to Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire for the MAFVA (Miniature Armoured Fighting Vehicle Association) Annual General Meeting.  I am not a member of the MAFVA Council, but attend as the South Wales Branch rep.  I feel that having gained so much over the years from the Association, and having made so many friends from among its members, the least I can do is to give it some support at the AGM.  What was particularly interesting was that were joined by Max Hundleby (4th from the right) who was the original President of our Association before Gary Williams took over.  Max also brought along some of his models which were very impressive, and also copies of his book on the German WWI tank, the A7V.  It proved to be an interesting meeting with several important issues discussed.

A Mexeflote approaching the shore

A Mexeflote approaching the shore

By way of a complete contrast, the following Sunday I started off at 0530 hrs to meet up with a friend who had arranged for me to join him on a media day on an exercise on Browndown Beach in Hampshire, on the Solent (The Isle of Wight is in the background of the photo above).  This proved to be absolutely fascinating.  17 Port & Maritime Regiment had set up a field port area where vehicles were being offloaded from the Strategic Sealift vessel Hartland Point using a Mexeflote powered raft and were then moved to a holding area behind the beach.

Hartland Point

Hartland Point

Here’s a view of Hartland Point in The Solent with a Mexeflote up against its rear ramps.  This is the same ship that I photographed at the Sea Mounting Centre at Marchwood  last year.  The Mexeflote was carried to the site as deck cargo on the ship that then used its crane to assemble the Mexeflote.

The raft up against the shore and ready to discharge its cargo

The raft up against the shore and ready to discharge its cargo

What is interesting is that this Mexeflote is four pontoons wide, with three rows of centre pontoons, making it shorter and wider than the one that I have made a model of, showing some of the versatility of this piece of equipment.  This one has a mixed load of both armour and trucks.

A second load nearing he beach

A second load nearing he beach

Here’s a second load nearing the beach, this time with two Mastiffs either side of a MAN truck.  The soldier standing on the cab of the MAN truck is giving hand signals to another further back to direct the soldiers operating the propulsion units who also steer the raft.

A Stormer command/support vehicle

A Stormer command/support vehicle

There were some unusual vehicles used in this Exercise, including this Stormer that is a support/command vehicle that is used with the Stormer HVM (High Velocity Missile) air defence system.  This vehicle is longer than the other CVR(T)s such as Spartan or Sultan with an extra roadwheel, and is also wider.  The other CVR(T)s had a diesel engine fitted as a mid-life extension programme, but the Stormers had a diesel engine from new.

The Kalmar RTCH

The Kalmar RTCH

And finally, here’s a Kalmar Rough Terrain Container Handler, used to move either 20ft, 30ft or 40ft containers over rough ground.  An interesting feature of this vehicle is that the cab can be moved sideways from a centre line when unloaded, or to the left when carrying a container, to enable the driver to see around the container in front of him.

A Nimrod Maritime Patrol Aircraft

A Nimrod Maritime Patrol Aircraft

And last weekend on Sunday 12th April I had another early start on a visit to the Shropshire IPMS show at the RAF Museum at RAF Cosford.  The photo above shows one of the last of the Nimrod Maritime Patrol Aircraft that was saved from the dismantlers.  It was moved to the Museum in bits and then re-assembled on site.

The South Wales MAFVA stand

The South Wales MAFVA stand

Here’s our South Wales MAFVA stand beneath a Comet airliner.  The stand was manned by myself and Mike Johns.  Between us we managed to put on a good display in a variety of different scales and time periods.

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Time for an Update

10 October 2014

For the last few months I’ve either been casting and cleaning up models for orders, or to build up stock for shows, or otherwise I’ve been making up Ramped Craft Logistic and Mexeflote models.  You can see below the current batch of completed models:

11 Mexeflotes and 4 RCLs

11 Mexeflotes and 4 RCLs

There are still some more Mexeflotes that have been cast up and are waiting to be assembled, and I’ve got more RCLs part-built, so still haven’t finished them, but at last I’m starting to make some real progress.  The Mexeflote at the bottom left still needs the containers and propulsion units to be added.

Two with very different loads

Two with very different loads

I’ve had a variety of different requests for Mexeflotes to be made up with different loads.  The good thing is that the Mexeflote is the same scale of 1/152nd scale as all of the other models in my range, so a lot of them are suitable as loads for the Mexeflote.  In the photo above is one with two Leyland DAF DROPS trucks with containers. and below with a single Warrior and a Land Rover and trailer,  I believe that the standard Mexeflote as modelled here has a load carry capacity of about 120 tonnes, so these ones are well under that.

Several well loaded rafts

Several well loaded rafts

I made up a Mexeflote like the ones above for myself, and it’s proved to be a popular choice as I’ve made up this collection of vehicles for six other rafts.

Loaded with Warriors

Loaded with Warriors

Another popular load is with two Warriors.  You can also see two RCL landing craft behind these.  Unfortunately I had to make the RCL in 1/200th scale to avoid any unsightly joins along the hull sides, so I can’t fit any vehicles into them, and I haven’t got the time to make any 1/200th scale vehicles to go in them.  Despite that though I’ve still made up 64 of them.

Another view down on the full set

Another view down on the full set

Here’s another view down on the batch of rafts and vehicles.  These will be going off in a few weeks time, along with the other ones that are cast and awaiting assembly.

 

I shall have a trade stand at the IPMS Scale Modelworld in Telford on 8th & 9th November, so I shall need to spend some time before the show building up my stock of models.  At The N Gauge Show in early September I managed to clean up and package 90 models in about 10 days before the show.  I’m pleased to say that I sold nearly 100 models at the show, and came away with a few orders to fulfil, which have been sent off together with a number of orders from the website since, all of which have lowered my stock levels to even lower than before the N Gauge Show!  Needless to say, I’ve had absolutely no time to finish off the refueller trailer that I started almost a year ago, although I still want to do so whenever I’ve got the time.  One thing to note is that I shall NOT be attending the Warley Model Railway Show in the NEC in Birmingham this year.  It has always been a real rush to get ready for the  Telford show and then have another equally big show in the NEC just two weeks later.  It’ll be a lot easier to have just the one show this year.

Adding a load to a Mexeflote

8 August 2014
An earlier one

An earlier one

I have already made up one Mexeflote with a load of Bedford trucks and Land Rovers that I displayed at the MAFVA Nationals at Duxford.   I’ve now been asked to make up another one with the same mix of vehicles.  So here’s how I did it:-

Using a set square for the headboards

Using a set square for the headboards

All of the vehicles were soldered together using low temperature solder and a flux designed for low temperature work that I got from C & L Finescale.  The Land Rovers were fully assembled with solder, but the bigger vehicles were made up in sub-assemblies that were then glued together with Devcon/two-part resin.

One tricky bit is fixing the headboard so that it is completely square.  I did this using a set square and pressed the two parts against it whilst applying the solder. It’s one of those jobs where an extra hand would have been useful.

Fixing the cab to the chassis

Fixing the cab to the chassis

For all three Bedfords, I fixed the cab rear onto the cab, then fixed the cab onto the chassis.  The soldering iron is showing its age now, but it has proved to be very much worth having as all of my display models for P G Models have been soldered together with this one piece of kit that has a temperature controller at the plug end.

The Bedford Mk Cargo under construction

The Bedford MK Cargo under construction

Here are the two main assemblies for the Bedford MK Cargo, also sometimes known as a GS (General Service).

Getting the wheels squared up

Getting the wheels squared up

One thing that’s essential with a wheeled vehicle is to get all of the wheels sitting squarely so that the vehicle isn’t flopping down on one side, or with a wheel up in the air.  I start with the front wheels, and put the model onto a steel rule to make sure that they are in the right place.  About half of the wheels needed some adjustment at this stage.  You can also see in this photo that I developed a technique of holding the soldering iron with my little finger.  This photo also gives a good view of my finger that had a slice taken out of it.  The bit of redness that you can see here disappeared a few days later.

All of the vehicles after soldering

All of the vehicles after soldering

After soldering each vehicle all of the parts were washed thoroughly under the hot water tap and brushed with an old tooth-brush to try to remove any traced of flux from the models as otherwise this can attack the pewter at a later date.  In this photo all of the parts are lined up ready to be polished.

The workshop body before brushing

The workshop body before brushing

The one thing that really brings up the models with a pleasing finish is to go over them with a burnishing brush.  I’ve got three different sizes of brass brush that I use for this.

Going over the part with the brass brush

Going over the part with the brass brush

I brush the models lightly with a similar action to polishing shoes. Just lightly touching the model with long brush strokes over each face of the model and all to a steady pressure to make sure that any one face isn’t polished anymore that another.

The end result

The end result

The brushing removes any minor blemishes in the pewter and gives the parts a sheen.  Some people have referred to my models as being made of silver, but no, just polished pewter.

The polished sub-assemblies

The polished sub-assemblies

It’s a lot easier to polish the models in sub-assemblies so that you can get around all side of the cab and body.  These sub-units were then fixed together with a two-part epoxy resin.

All the parts glued toether

All the parts glued together

All three Bedfords have had their bodies glued in place.  I use an old dental probe to mix the two-part epoxy resin on a scrap piece of 60 thou plastic card that I wipe clean before the resin sets so that it can be used over and over again. I use the same tool to apply the resin to the model. I find the two-part epoxy resins a lot better to use than the so-called superglues that always seem to be brittle when dry, and so liable to fall apart if dropped.

The completed Bedford Cargo truck

The completed Bedford Cargo truck

One thing that is pleasing is that these Bedford trucks and Land Rovers are some of the oldest models in my range, and whilst I now have better locating lugs for wheels and axles, I still feel that these models go together well despite their age.  This photo also shows the one snag of going over the models with the brass brush, and that’s what it does to your hands.  It is just a surface covering which easily washes off with soap and water, which is particularly important before eating any food.

Everything in place on the wooden base

Everything in place on the wooden bas

I always like to show models in the context of how they are used, and I feel that this works particularly well for this Mexeflote.  I have been told that they can load up with three rows of vehicles, which must be an incredibly tight fit, but it looks fine to me with two rows.

Another view of the finished model

Another view of the finished model

I am still working on the orders for RCL landing craft and Mexeflotes, although I’m pleased to say that I am now making some progress with this.  By way of a change, I’ve got a day out on Sunday 10th August at the Avon IPMS show in Thornbury, although the weather forecast is for the remains of hurricane Bertha to hit us on Sunday, so there’s a chance that the Severn Bridges might be closed if the winds are too strong.  The following weekend 16th & 17th August I am displaying my Haverfordwest N gauge railway layout at Midland Railex at Butterley, near Ripley in Derbyshire, which will be something very different for me as so far I’ve only taken my layout to local shows.

Assembling a Mexeflote

25 July 2014
Checking the fit

Checking the fit

For the last few months I’ve been working solidly on making up a number of Ramped Craft Logistic RCL landing craft models.  Having made up them I’ve now turned my attention to making up some of the Mexeflote models .  The picture above shows all of the pontoon sections cleaned up and put together as a dry run to make sure that they all fit together okay.

Buffed up with a brass burnishing brush

Buffed up with a brass burnishing brush

These models are being made up as display models, and so the parts are being cleaned up and then buffed up with a brass burnishing brush to bring up the sheen of the pewter.

Test fit on the wooden base

Test fit on the wooden base

The wooden bases were made up for me, which saved quite a bit of time as I haven’t got the skills, nor the tools, of a woodworker.  They have all been sprayed with linseed oil, which gives them quite an attractive finish.  The pontoons are here being positioned on the wooden base to check where they are going to go.

Gluing in place

Gluing in place

Most of the parts of the RCLs were soldered together using low temperature solder.  With the Mexeflote though the parts are being assembled in situ on the wooden base and so are being glued in place, in this case using Devcon which is a two-part epoxy resin, very similar to Araldite. I have started with the bow ramp, then the bow pontoon, and so on.

Applying the glue

Applying the glue

The two parts of the Devcon were mixed together on a piece of scrap plastic card, and were transferred onto the pontoon sections using a modified dental tool.  It was lightly smeared over the bottom of each side, and on the underside of the piece that overlaps the adjoining pontoons (at the bottom of the photo).

Pressing down to get a good fit

Pressing down to get a good fit

Each piece was pressed down onto the wooden base and up against the piece next to it.  It was also important to make sure that all of the pieces joined together in a straight line.

Weighted down for the glue to set

Weighted down for the glue to set

Once happy that everything was where it should be. I then put some weights from my kitchen scales over the pontoons, and then everything was left for several hours for the resin to set.

All the other bits

All the other bits

Here are all of the other bits for the Mexeflote.  All of these were cleaned up a test fitted to make sure that they would go together okay.

The sub-assemblies joined together

The sub-assemblies joined together

As with the pontoon sections, all parts were brushed with the brass brush to clean them up, and were then glued together in sub-assemblies.  Each of the propulsion units consists of a base piece; the motor; the control panel/steering wheel; the propeller shaft; and the propeller.

Taking shape

Taking shape

Most of the pieces are glued in place here to show a Mexeflote as grounded on a beach with the propellers raised.

The navigation mast

The navigation mast

Two part epoxy resin is a good adhesive to use as there is some give in it, so if you drop the model there is a better chance of it surviving intact.  So called “superglue” sets a lot quicker, but I always find that it is a lot more brittle, so if you drop the model it is more likely to fall apart.  The time taken for the two-part resin to set is generally no problem, but for some awkward parts it helps to have a jig, as here for the navigation mast.  I’ve cut a slot in the rubber/eraser just big enough for the mast.

Fixing the mast in place

Fixing the mast in place

In this photo you can see the rubber in place, holding up the mast whilst the glue sets.

Following on from this, I added a full load of vehicles onto the Mexeflote to show it in use.  I’ll show how I did this in the next post.

 

The MAFVA Nationals 2014

17 June 2014
The left hand side of our display

The left hand side of our display

Last Sunday 15th June I went with my club, South Wales Branch of the MAFVA, to the National Competitions of the Miniature Armoured Fighting Vehicle Association (MAFVA) at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford, a few miles south of Cambridge.  The event is held in a large marquee that is to the side of the American Air Force hanger.  What adds to the appeal of this show is that there is also a military book sale inside the American hanger, with a military vehicle rally on the grass next to our marquee, with most of the vehicles driving around the airfield, and there’s the Land Warfare hall nearby and next to that is a driving area where you can see several of their vehicles drive around a very muddy test track.

Four of us went along and we managed to put on a good display.  In the photo above you can see the models of Des Burgess who makes them to a consistently high standard.

The centre of our stand

The centre of our stand

Next to Des were the models of Paul Williams who was there with his wife and son and as usual had a varied selection of models on display.  As far as I know, Paul has never entered any competitions and models purely for his own enjoyment, which is exactly how it should be.

The right hand side of the display

The right hand side of the display

To the right of the display were my models, and at the rear two large dioramas from David Burton.  David has only been with us for a couple of years, but has the knack of making some very effective diorama bases, and is very proficient in weathering and toning the vehicles.  As for me, there was a selection of 1/48th scale, 1/76th scale, 1/152nd scale and 1/200th scale to add a bit of variety.

The Mexeflote loaded up with vehicles

The Mexeflote loaded up with vehicles

The only thing new that I took along with me was the Mexeflote, now loaded up with vehicles, which I think really enhances it.  It raised quite a bit of interest like this.

 

Looking along the display

Looking along the display

Here’s another view, looking along the display.  The MAFVA Nationals must be by far the best purely military modelling show in the UK.  There are other larger shows such as Scale Modelworld run by the IPMS in November, but that is mainly a model aircraft show, or there’s Euromilitaire in Folkestone in September, but that is still mainly a model figure show.  What I like the most about the MAFVA Nationals is that it is such a friendly show.  It’s more like a large family re-union as we are all members of the same national organisation, taking part in our hobby within regional groups or clubs.  It’s the one show where I can meet up with friends from Scotland, or North of England and renew old friendships.  A thoroughly enjoyable day out, and full credit to Paul Middleton and the Cambridge MAFVA branch for organising it so well.

Mexeflote completed

28 April 2014
The finished model

The finished model

The last few weeks have been very frustrating, but I’ve finally finished the Mexeflote.  In my last post you saw the new parts that I had made to make the model that little bit more complete.  All I had to do was to make silicon rubber moulds of the new or modified parts, but that was the start of the problems.  The Centre Pontoon sections had bollards added to them.  I had guessed on the size of these from my photographs, and what I did looked okay in white plastic.  When I cast it up in pewter though the bollards looked far too small and puny.  The only answer was to make them again, but bigger this time, and make another mould.

The bollards and coils of rope

The bollards and coils of rope

You can see the revised bollards in this photo, next to the coils of rope.  The other snag is that these small projections also create a load of problems in trying to get the metal to flow into them.  I sussed it out in the end, but it took quite a bit of effort.  In a complete contrast, the coils of “rope” were simply Plastruct polystyrene 20 thou rod wound from the outside to the centre, with a small piece of rope extending out from the centre, which is just long enough to reach the bollard.

The Stern Pontoons

The Stern Pontoons

The other new items are the oil can pallet, to the left of the photo above, and the jerrycan pallet, to the right of the stores container.  The jerrycan pallet was a swine to make with so many parts in it, but luckily it has cast very well, with very few air bubbles in the mould.  To clarify this, when you make the rubber mould you try to remove as many air bubbles as possible from the liquid rubber before it sets, but inevitably there are always some.  When you then make a casting from that mould the air bubbles turn into round balls of metal.  If they’re just on the surface they can easily be removed using either a scalpel blade or, a bit safer, a micro-chisel, but if they’re a bit deeper they can be difficult to remove.  That was the problem with the oil can pallet.  The castings from the first mould of it were covered in air bubbles/metal balls.  Looking closely at the master, the problem was that there were air gaps between each oil can.  The air was getting trapped in these, and rising slightly in the rubber as it set to create a sea of metal balls in the castings.  The answer was one very full night cutting out tiny pieces of 10 thou plastic card to put into each of these gaps to make them shallower, and so able to hold less air, but still deep enough to show a gap between the oil cans.  Luckily the second mould came out a lot better.  There are a few metal balls in the castings, but most of these are easily removed.

A rear view looking forwards

A rear view looking forwards

Here’s a view from the rear looking forwards along the Mexeflote.  The new and modified parts are only minimal in their impact, but from my point of view they make the model that bit more complete.  I know that I am making these models to sell to other people, but I am still very much making these models for myself as part of my hobby, and as such,  I wouldn’t have been happy leaving the Mexeflote with parts missing from it.  So despite the amount of effort required to do these little bits, I do feel that it was worth it.

A closer view of the stern

A closer view of the stern

This shows the “business end” of the Mexeflote where all of the equipment is located, leaving the centre pontoons clear to carry a load.  One thing this shouts out to me is the idea of making one painted up with a crew and with a full load of vehicles on it.  I have already found some figures that might be suitable.  The German company Preiser make a set of 1/144th scale Bundesluftwaffe/NATO figures that come unpainted.  they are a bit bigger than 1/152nd scale, but they’re fairly slim figures, so they’ll just look a bit tall.  They will all need to be modified though with berrets on their heads and life savers around their necks.  Could look quite interesting with the model set in some resin to represent water.  But I won’t even think of doing that yet until I’ve sorted out all outstanding orders, of which there are quite a few.

A side view of the stern pontoon

A side view of the stern pontoon

At the moment I have a number of people who have asked for models of this Mexeflote as it is here.  One possibility for the future is that if there is sufficient interest I could make the Thrustmaster propulsion units that are currently fitted to these rafts, but for most of their long life they have been used as you see here on this model.

The Bow Pontoons

The Bow Pontoons

One thing that I feel has come out well is the ribbing on the ramps.  This was an incredibly tedious job using nothing more than some lengths of 10 thou square plastic strip, a No.15 scalpel, some solvent and a fine brush to apply it.  I cut out a load of strips of plastic card, all made as closely as I could to the same size.  I then started in one corner and kept going lining up each piece by eye and then fixing in place with a thin wipe of the solvent brush, then using the back of the blade to make any finer adjustments in the position of each piece to get all of the strips in line, with the gaps between them forming diagonal lines.  The other awkward bit was getting the shape right at the back of the ramp section.  For anyone getting this model as a kit they will be able to fix the ramps either raised or lowered as shown here.  Or they could be shown raised on any made-up models if anyone wanted that.

Another view of the finished model

Another view of the finished model

And here’s another view of the finished model.  If anyone would like to see the model, I have a P G Models trade stand at the Bristol Model Railway Exhibition in Thornbury (near the old Severn Bridge) this coming weekend on Friday, Saturday and Sunday where I shall have this model on display.  I’m not expecting to sell any to railway modellers, but you never know ….

With this finally done I can now get to work on what for me is my biggest order since I started P G Models for made up Ramped Craft Logistic landing craft models and this Mexeflote.  So don’t expect to see anything else new from me until I’ve made up all of the models for these orders.

 

The Finishing Touches

7 April 2014

The first castings of the Mexeflote were done in a bit of a rush as it was just the day before I had to deliver the model.  Nevertheless, I tried to take care in handling the moulds and had left the moulds of the pontoon sections to fully cure.  Despite that I still found that the silicon rubber of the moulds had broken away in a few places in the grooves on the sides of the pontoons that are used for the connecting pieces.

The revised side

The revised side

When I first made the pontoons I made the connector slots full size/depth, which was 40 thou square, but this was clearly too deep.  What I did was to take a piece of 40 thou x 20 thou strip and chamfer the top edge.  That way, looking at the pontoons from above the full depth of 40 thou is visible, but just a few millimetres down it is just 20 thou deep.  This should considerably increase the life of the moulds.

Centre Pontoon now with Bollards

Centre Pontoon now with Bollards

When I took the Mexeflote model to Marchwood a couple of weeks ago I had a number of constructive comments on ways to improve the model with some minor additions and tweaks.  One of these was that the real thing has eight bollards fitted to it.  Each of these would be absolutely tiny little parts, so it made sense to find a way to fit them on to one or more of the pontoon sections.  The Standard Raft has four centre pontoons, so the obvious thing was to add one bollard each side to the centre pontoon.  One problem was that if I made it prototypically there would be an exposed cross-piece (to hold the ropes in place).  However, this would be impossible to cast.  The answer was to fill in the gap between the cross pieces and the upper deck of the pontoon with some pieces of 10 thou plastic strip.

The oil pallet

The oil pallet

The other things missing were a pallet to hold the various types of oil cans, and another for the fuel jerrycans.  The oil pallet was made up from the inside out.  I started with two pieces of 40 thou plastic card and then added the tops of the various different types of oil can that I could see in my photos of the real thing.  The main large oil can was made using some grey plastic for the central rod and for the outer tube.  The outer tube was made a bit taller than the rod to give a rim around the can which was cut away in one portion for the cap, which was a disc of 10 thou plastic punched out from some strip.  Behind that was some 10 thou plastic strip to represent the handle.

The top of an individual jerrycan

The top of an individual jerrycan

The other pallet was for the fuel jerrycans, which I made in a similar way as the oil pallet.  In this photo you can see me holding the top of an individual jerrycan.  This started as a piece of 40 thou x 30 thou strip.  I wasn’t sure about the exact size of the fuel jerrycan pallet.  I was told that it was the same overall dimensions as the oil pallet, but half as tall.  Looking at photos though it seemed to be a bit longer.  I searched on the internet for the size of the standard 20 litre jerrycan, which I guessed was about the right size, and then multiplied up the dimensions for three jerrycans deep and seven wide.  Through a process of trial and error I managed to get three pieces of strip of the correct length, and then used these to cut out a total of 21 of them.  Each of these then had a section cut out on one face for the handles, and an angled end for the filler cap.

Adding the jerrycan tops to the pallet

Adding the jerrycan tops to the pallet

In the top left of the photo are some pieces of strip waiting to have the profile cut into them, with one piece at the bottom ready to go on.  To get an idea of scale, each of the squares on the cutting mat are 1cm x 1cm.  Working in such a small scale this requires an enormous amount of concentration as even if you’re just a few thousandth of an inch out, it will show.  The answer, for me, is to put a few pieces in place then go away from the thing for a few minutes to clear your head, or just look up and watch the TV for a few minutes, then head down and do a few more.

Adding the handles

Adding the handles

This is one of those things where you need to have some scale compromise.  Each jerrycan top is 40 thou (1mm) wide.  So using 10 thou plastic rod for the handles, it should be possible to add all three handles to each jerrycan.  I tried this on a couple of cans and the trouble is that it looked far too cluttered.  You couldn’t distinguish from one can to the next.  So I deliberately reduced the number of handles to two, which I know isn’t right, but it looks a lot better.  In the photo above some of the handles are slightly different lengths, and some are at odd angles.  These were all sorted out once I had put them all in place.

Adding the side struts

Adding the side struts

The final thing was to add the angled side struts that hold the frame together on the real thing.  These were made from 10 thou plastic rod that was put in place using the No.15 scalpel blade you can see in the photo.

The completed bits

The completed bits

And here are the bits all together.  The other one I’ve made is a coil of rope.  There should be two on each Mexeflote.  It’s only a small point, but one that helps add to the authenticity of the finished model.

One of my friends loves to count the number of parts that go into his models.  I very rarely do his, to avoid scaring me off model making, but sometimes it can be an interesting exercise.  If you look at the jerrycan pallet on the left, it is made up of:

2 x pieces of 40 thou plastic card for the body of it

21 x 40 thou x 30 thou strip for the jerrycan tops

42 x 10 thou rod for the handles

21 x 20 thou x 10 thou strip for the filler caps

1 x 20 thou plastic card piece for the base

8 x pieces of 10 thou strip for the outer edges of the corner posts

4 x pieces of 20 thou square strip to go inside the corner posts

4 x pieces of 10 thou x 20 thou for the strips around the top of the pallet

16 x pieces of 10 thou rod for the side struts

4 x pieces of 20 thou x 40 thou strip for the feet

 

To give a grand total of 123 pieces of plastic used to make this one part.  Ugh!!!

 

Now it’s back to mould making, and then to cast up these pieces to complete the model.

So far so good

21 March 2014
The completed model mounted on a piece of MDF

The completed model mounted on a piece of MDF

The target that I had for the Mexeflote was to deliver one to Marchwood by yesterday, and I am pleased to say that I managed to do just that.  The model in the photographs on this post was delivered to 17 Port & Maritime Regiment yesterday (Thursday) afternoon.

Side view of the standard raft

Side view of the standard raft

This was an incredibly close thing.  Ideally I should have made three moulds, but I managed to get everything into two, which didn’t leave much room to bend and flex the rubber to take the parts out of the moulds without damaging them.  I was mould making Saturday and Sunday for the first mould with the pontoon sections. Whilst those moulds were curing I was finishing off some of the details on the other parts, and then made the second mould with the ramp and all the bits for the propulsion units on Monday and Tuesday.  On Wednesday I was casting from both moulds, then cleaning up the parts and assembling the model on Wednesday night, into the early hours of Thursday, with delivery Thursday afternoon.

The other side of the raft

The other side of the raft

One problem that I encountered was that I made the slots used to connect the pontoons together to a prototypical depth.  The mould is in reverse, so these slots were raised strips in the silicon rubber moulds, and with use just in the one casting session, a number of bits of rubber for these slots broke away.  I’ve altered the side of one pontoon by putting some 20 thou strip into the slots, and they don’t look a lot different, so I shall now make them all shallower, which will make the casting a bit easier for me.

A close up of the stern

A close up of the stern

The good thing about taking a model along to show people is that it gets people talking about the subject.  I had missed out a couple of bins that I now know are called pallets, for oils and fuel jerrycans.  I’ve been given some basic dimensions, so I’ll make those up.  I’ll also make up some bollards that will be fixed to the Centre Pontoons as if I made them as separate parts they would be incredibly small, and possibly some coils of rope.  Other than that though, which is only a minimal amount of work to do, the model is virtually complete and was most certainly well received.

A rear view of the stern

A rear view of the stern

The last piece I made was the navigation mast.  I had a few photos of this in use, and found one with it in a pile in a yard, and it was that one that helped me work out its dimensions.  There was some guesswork as to its exact height, but I seem to have got it about right.

Another view of all of the bits at the stern

Another view of all of the bits at the stern

The last six weeks have been incredibly intense, interspersed with attendance at model shows at Yeovilton (Fleet Air Arm Museum show), Folkestone (On Track), and Barry Island railway station (Barry Model Show), although having a day or two off for each of these shows was probably a good thing to help me clear my head a bit.  Nevertheless, I am really pleased to have got this far with the Mexeflote, and shall now spend a day or two at a slightly slower pace finishing off these last few bits.

The Propulsion Unit

15 March 2014

There’s a bit of a time lag in what you see here on my blog from what’s actually taking place as my priority is to complete the model, with any photographs and blog posts being secondary.  I’m writing this having finished the first part of the first mould with the main pontoon section, which gives me a bit of spare time to do this.

Starting with my references 
Starting with my references

The current Mexeflotes are now fitted with Thrustmaster propulsion units, but for most of their life they were fitted with Hydromaster ones made by Sykes.  Before making this important part of the powered raft I gathered together all of the references I had on it, and found some more.  I’ve got the basic dimensions of each of the pontoon sections that have been published in a number of publications such as Janes.  I found a number of photos of a Hydromaster unit on a stern section that has been displayed a number of times at The Royal Logistics Corps Open Days at Deepcut, which you can see in the centre of the photo above.  I had also photographed it during my visit to Marchwood in 2007.  I did a search on the internet and found some useful photos of the Hydromaster units on an American website, that you can see to the right of the photo above.  These had some good close-ups of the controls and a good side on photo of a unit held up by a fork-lift truck, with the propeller shaft hanging down.

In this photo you can see the usual clutter on my cutting mat, with an assortment of bits of plastic strip and off-cuts of plastic card.  I keep these whilst I’m making a model as a handy source of bits of scrap plastic, and have a clear-up when I’ve finished a model before starting the next.

Making a start

Making a start

On Sunday last week I attended the Barry Model Show at Barry Island with South Wales MAFVA and had a chat with one of my friends.  We agreed that the key thing about scratchbuilding a model is to break it down into its component parts as everything starts off as a strip of metal or rod, well, except for any castings, but the basic principle is sound.  No matter how complicated something is, break it down into easily understood parts – a square or circle or flat piece, and then build up the parts from there.  And that is exactly what I’ve done here with the propulsion unit.  The two bits at the top of the photo are the start of the power unit, with the two bits below the start of the frame for the unit.

Grooves for the axle for the propeller shaft

Grooves for the axle for the propeller shaft

Making master patterns is a bit like playing a game of chess in that you always have to think several moves ahead.  I cut grooves on the inside of each arm of the frame so that the axles of the propeller shaft can slide up them.

The frame taking shape

The frame taking shape

Remember that each of the boxes on the cutting mat are 1 sq cm to get an idea of size.  I’ve joined the two halves of the frame to a piece of 30 thou plastic card to make a solid base so that the metal can flow easily during casting.  I’ve also started the storage box that goes to the front of it.

Beginning to look something

Beginning to look something

The power unit is just resting on pieces of plastic strip, but already the thing is starting to look a bit like what it’s supposed to.  One thing that strikes me as odd is that the power unit/motor is fitted at an angle, although I don’t really understand why as the more modern Thrustmaster units are a simple rectangular box.  This was a product of the late 1960s though when engineers had different ideas to today.

A view from the other side

A view from the other side

Here’s the same thing viewed from the other side.  You’ll see that the stowage box is also set at an angle.  I was fortunate to have some photos looking down on one of these units whilst standing on one of the piers at Marchwood, which gave me a good idea of the angles.  The rounded pieces to the left are the housings for the axle for the propeller shaft.

Making up the sides of the motor

Making up the sides of the motor

The basic shape of the motor was made up from laminations of plastic card, leaving 10 thou either side for the outer layer.  I’ve cut out one of the side panels, with a separate part for the engine access cover.

Making the radiator grille

Making the radiator grille

The radiator grille was made using my old favourite, Boots fine wine filter mesh, which you can see in the background.  The piece I’ve got left is gradually getting smaller and smaller, but should be okay for at least another dozen models.  There are other alternatives that I could use, but I just like this nylon mesh.

Starting the propeller shaft

Starting the propeller shaft

Here’s one of the photos I’ve got looking down on the Mexeflote.  I’ve started the propeller shaft with the eccentric disk just below the propeller blades.  I’ve punched out the disc using a punch and die set from some plastic card you can see to the right.  This is one case where there has to be some scale compromises.  The disc is both too thick, and also only about half size so that I can give a representation of it whilst hopefully being able to cast it in pewter.

Checking the fit of the shaft

Checking the fit of the shaft

The critical dimension for the shaft is its diameter as it has to fit in between the two halves of the propulsion unit frame.  Here’s I’m checking the fit of what I’ve done so far, using a photo from one of the Deepcut Open days as a reference.

The completed propeller shaft

The completed propeller shaft

And here’s the completed propeller shaft.  I managed to get this shaft done in one day, although admittedly that was with 10 hours of work from 10 am to 12 midnight.  It is just a representation of the actual thing, but hopefully something like the real thing.

The Containers

12 March 2014

My main aim at present is to get the Mexeflote completed.  So I’ll keep the text to a minimum, but show you a few pictures so that you can see how I’m making it.

The basic boxes for both containers

The basic boxes for both containers

There are two containers on a Mexeflote, a larger Accommodation container for the crew and a smaller Stores container.  Over the years the Stores container has alternated between a wooden type to a metal one and back to wooden.  I’ve been asked to make the wooden one, so that’s what I’ll do.  Both containers started off as open boxes made of 40 thou plastic card.

Adding the fourth side

Adding the fourth side

With each container I added pieces of 20 thou plastic card down two sides to act as locating pieces for the fourth side.  This gives me pouring in points down the open sides, with the fourth sides as separate pieces.

Putting "wooden" planks over the sides

Putting “wooden” planks over the sides

For the Stores container I added “wooden” planks of plastic strip, in this case strips of 10 thou x 40 thou that were about the same scale size as the actual planks.  This is a tedious job, but worthwhile, and a lot better than scoring the lines on the plastic sheet.  The scalpel blade was used to both put the planks in place and to ensure an even gap between the planks.

The finished Stores container

The finished Stores container

Here’s the finished Stores container with the lifting strips on the sides and the hinges and bars on the opening doors.

Starting the Accommodation container

Starting the Accommodation container

For the Accommodation container I started by adding 15 thou plastic strips for the corner posts, which are the same as a standard container.

Making the corrugations

Making the corrugations

For the corrugated sides of the container I first looked at what Evergreen card I had, but couldn’t find anything with suitable corrugations, so decided to make my own.  This was done using 10 thou x 40 thou plastic strip, with a slight chamfer cut into both sides of the strip.  These were added slightly larger than the container, and then cut to size.

Adding the door to one end

Adding the door to one end

The door was added to one end using various strips of 10 thou plastic card. You can also see the fourth side in this photo.  I have also added a top strip around all sides and have used 10 thou plastic rod from Plastruct to make the bottom strip beneath the door.

Nearly done

Nearly done

And here’s the Accommodation container almost done.  I’ve made the windows solid as I think this will look better on the pewter presentation models, but there would be nothing to stop a modeller from opening them up if they wished.

Next job is the propulsion unit and propeller which are going to be very fiddly.  There are two on the standard Mexeflote, so I’ll make one and cast it twice for each model