On the 31st of January this year I reported a problem with the manipulation of the fingers in my left hand, this has not gone away, and I have therefore decided to refrain from modelling matters for a while to rest the tendons inside my left arm, where I am told the problem is located. So I will only be working on larger matters in life where minute manipulation of my fingers is not required; hopefully, the rest will provide healing over a period of time. I don't want to get into a situation where using the fingers of my left hand is too difficult or painful simply because I refused to take rest for a period of time; so all projects are on hold until the inner workings of my left arm are healed.
In addition to the above, I have now taken the decision to retire in the near future, the outline plan being to retire in the spring of 2022. The future of this website is uncertain at the moment, and a decision on the website will be made after my retirement.
I plan to complete the delayed projects and then post an image of the completed model, without showing any more interim stages for these particular models, as the delays have already been considerable and I want closure on these outstanding projects.
2020 and 2021 have been difficult years through injury and illness; hopefully 2022 will bring retirement, yes, and the time to create my one-acre wildlife garden on a Welsh mountainside; modelling will continue on a more personal level in future, and my 0 gauge Leeds Model Company (LMC) interest will benefit from having more time to restore a backlog of items held in storage; I will be busy, but retirement means an end to commission work as I enter this final stage of my life, with full access to the time that remaineth for me.
This EDL7 had been a non-runner for decades, purchased some years ago and originally a 3-rail that somebody had converted to 2-rail it remained on-the-shelf until very recently; I stripped the chassis, cleaned, reassembled, and fitted a new Neo Magnet as the original magnet was too weak to field the motor; the new Neo Magnet powered the chassis superbly. The paint finish will require a combination of rubbing down and respraying until sufficient gloss is obtained; the current plan is to finish the loco in BR Mixed Traffic. This body has been sprayed using an Aztek Airbrush.
In this case fillers in are smaller jobs that I can insert into the longer process of bigger jobs; so whilst I am waiting for paint to harden on a large project, I will fill the waiting time with quicker jobs that help to clear the backlog of small items awaiting restoration. The Graham Farish 00 gauge metal-body 7 plank coal wagon (both images below) is an example of filler in work to create a converter wagon: Peco coupling one end, and original Graham Farish coupling the other end, to allow a Graham Farish Black 5 to haul a variety of later wagon stock; converter wagons are in general very useful, and this wagon was already missing the original GF coupling from one end and thus presented an obvious choice for conversion. Despite appearances the original GF tension-coupling is set much higher than conventional Hornby/Bachmann tension-lock couplings, and therefore the GF will only mate with similar, very early, high-set tension-lock couplings.
I like the Aztek Airbrush and have used same for many years without any major problems. I have both the plastic-body version and the metal-body version; both have similar internals that require understanding and a modus operandi that differs from using the conventional type of long-needle airbrush.
Now that the Aztek Airbrush is, according to information received, discontinued in production, a number of these airbrushes are appearing on the secondhand market: buying a used Aztek Airbrush is always a bit of a gamble unless you are able to try out all its functions personally before purchase. Many Aztek Airbrushes have not been managed and cleaned properly, and many have received nothing short of abuse caused by lack of knowledge, understanding, and the use of procedures that do not suit the design of the airbrush at all - like sticking your finger over the nozzle and back-blowing through the cup: you might get away with this on a conventional airbrush but on the Aztek this will cause paint & thinner to be blown past the seal (on the operating rod that controls the nozzle-needle) and into the body of the airbrush itself, thus contaminating those working parts inside the body; witness the secondhand Aztek Airbrush that (provided the trigger is not physically broken) no amount of adjustment can induce it to work double-action, and it resolutely remains single-action; only complete stripping down and cleaning of the body internals will restore the airbrush to function according to its design intention. Stripping down will entail some adventurous working with delicate small parts, and you will soon realize why Aztek Airbrushes require understanding of their internal mechanism, and a modus operandi that respects their unique construction.
As a general rule I never stick my finger over the nozzle of any airbrush and blow back through the cup, I regard this as ill-advised, and no substitute for proper manual cleaning of the airbrush - irrespective of make - immediately after use; on average it only takes about thirty-minutes to strip, clean, dry, and reassemble any of my various makes of airbrush, leaving them ready for immediate use in the future; whereas, faced with a seized internally contaminated airbrush that has not been maintained will cost you hours of delay.
There are nine nozzles available for the Aztek Airbrush (not all boxed sets contain nine nozzles) colour coded for ease of identification, they cover a wise selection of applications, making the Aztek a versatile tool for many people interested in using an airbrush across a wide creative range; the only problem here is that nozzles are put away not cleaned properly; here (below) is an extreme secondhand example:
It took me some time (above) to gently prise the needle out of the nozzle housing; however, once removed gentle brushing with artists' thinners and an old toothbrush cleaned up the needle, and standard airbrush cleaning brushes and tools were used to clean up the housing both internally and externally. A clean example is seen in the image below:
In my experience the needles come out for cleaning and go back into the housing, and the housing back into the colour-coded nozzle, without any difficulty, and this is the only way to tackle congealed internal contamination.
Whilst reassembling I thought to add these two images (above & below) to help those unfamiliar with the workings; this is a well-used A470 example with plenty of commission work behind it: you can see the internal staining of the bodysides caused by seepage past the seal through which the indicated shaft passes: you are always going to get some natural seepage into the body, however slight, as there will always be a tiny amount of back-pressure during use; this is completely different to the back-pressure exerted on the seal by blocking the nozzle with your finger! So every couple of years or so a bit of internal maintenance and cleaning will be needed on this all-important shaft that converts movement on the trigger into the fore and aft movement of the shaft, the tip of which engages into that little (in this case) turquoise cup on the end of the needle spring (upper picture) and thus the needle tip moves in and out of the nozzle to control paint flow; air flow is controlled by vertical movement of the trigger, as in any double-action airbrush; the silver roller wheel on the top-rear (lower picture) of the airbrush allows the selection of single-action or double-action of the airbrush: move the roller to the right for single-action; move the roller to the left to engage double-action; experimentation on the individual airbrush soon establishes how much to adjust the roller.
Eventually, like anything mechanical, parts will wear out; coupled with the discontinuation of production, cannibalization may become the only way to keep these airbrushes working, unless somebody starts machining replacement parts, and supplying plastic replacement hose.
Talking of parts, you may come across a variant whereby the metal linkage fore and aft of the plastic trigger is also made from plastic, and some users have reported failure of this plastic linkage, resulting in a non-working trigger that just flops about in the upper-body slot; the remedy for this would be to fashion, from suitable strong wire, a linkage of the correct dimensions resembling the linkage in the photo (below) and this remedy should not be too difficult to achieve using only the most basic of hand tools.
When looking at these airbrushes from the outside it is difficult to tell whether they have plastic or metal trigger linkage; although, to my eye, the metal linkage triggers do seem to sit a little higher and more upright in the body, and I certainly prefer the action of the metal linkage, as the action is more positive compared to the plastic linkage which feels a tad spongy in operation; I also think adjusting the single-action/double-action roller wheel is more positive with the metal linkage. As far as I can see both versions employ the same moulded trigger, and other internal parts look similar too.
I have enjoyed using the Aztek Airbrush, it has provided me with some excellent results; my approach always being to consider which airbrush in my armoury is the right choice for the job in hand.
Most long-term users of the Aztek Airbrush have developed their own methods for keeping these tools clean and serviceable, and there is much evidence of this on the internet in the form of words and images; there is also a lot of dissent from people who hate the Aztek Airbrush. I think more people would have gained valuable use from the Aztek if they had approached the tool differently, and not tried to treat it like a conventional airbrush.
Similar in principle to driving my wife's manual gearbox vehicle, and driving my own automatic gearbox vehicle, I climb into the driving seat and just switch from one to other as needs be, and I don't find any problem switching from one to the other and back again: I understand how both work and adjust accordingly. So with my airbrush.
I think the single most important word concerning the Aztek Airbrush is delicate, by which I mean handle the tool with respect; don't adopt heavy-handedness as a means to problem-solving; when things go wrong calmly trace the fault by a process of elimination of all possible causes until the fault is found, and then work out a solution to fix it.
All the above applies to out-of-warranty Aztek Airbrushes; if you do still have warranty on the product, and can obtain the services of that warranty, then use the warranty to fix a problem.
Keep it clean out there.
If you didn't believe me about my wife's Barbie collection, here's the evidence: a successful hip replacement operation, aluminium not surgical steel, filler putty, two-part epoxy, and a screw. Access to the abdominal parts was obtained with a razor saw (see removed section to rear) allowing complete removal of the legs and disassembly of the working parts, followed by repair and reassembly. The removed section fits back upon the steel shaft upon which her movement pivots. She now looks quite decent, even her arms move in unison with her legs which, being a dancer, was essential to her recovery. The patient has now left the hospital and is doing well, taking convalescence in a cardboard box while her new clothes are made. Well it makes a change from tinkering with the innards of locomotives.
2020 turned out to be a year of injury: in March an injury to my left knee put me on crutches for three-months; then in the autumn an old spinal injury resurfaced and put me once again on crutches for a very long time; even now I am still in daily discomfort, sometimes pain that roots me to the spot. More recently in the last six-months I have developed a problem affecting the manipulation of the fingers of my left hand. Nevertheless, I have completed a commission I am pleased to say, and am now looking around the studio (now I can get back up the steps) to finish those projects that stalled during injury time.
I have completed the Russian Military rail truck diorama, called 'Retaken' which models a supply dump retaken by Soviet Forces during their push toward Berlin; there are new photographs closing the build on the appropriate page. There are more stalled projects to complete, and I am working on those too; my wife during lockdown has taken to collecting pre-owned Barbie dolls; she sews and knits new costumes for them and I am amazed at her skills, and my role is to repair their various broken heads, arms, legs prior to them acquiring their new clothes. I am rapidly becoming surrounded by little women.
There is clearly something very serious to say in respect of Covid:
I would advise everyone to manage their expectations, for 2021 is likely to be very similar to 2020 whilst we attempt to vaccinate the entire world before this Covid virus mutates into something we cannot stop. Being vaccainated does not allow you to break the Lockdown restrictions, and a vaccinated person can still infect other people, so we are in for the long haul until everyone is vaccinated. This is the worst war we humans have ever faced, far worse than the 1918-1919 pandemic, there are still people out there that haven't grasped how serious this worldwide pandemic is right now: the Covid virus is on the march, assimilating new abilities as it passes in and out of victims. It really is a race against time to stop the virus before it stops us. Please obey the Rules.
Humanity is not immune to extinction.
For those old enough to remember black & white television: ITV 1957 to 1967. Google it if you are too young to remember!
Emergencies do arrive at one's door, as in the popular hospital soap, a sudden unforeseen occurrence needing immediate action:
'Well, it was like this, Guv, we reversed a rake of wooden-bodied minerals into the siding, and then the engine wouldn't move. Can't figure it out, the engine was running perfectly until then...wonder if the chip has gone?'
'Ah!' [the possibility of the chip having failed. I knew the loco was equipped with a Loksound V4] 'Did the sound perform okay?'
'Yes - it were working fine.
I was in the middle of commission work, routine surgery would have to be delayed, and so I took the patient in and set to work. Placing the Bachmann Austerity on the track produced a direct short indicated on the controller. To cut a long story short (excuse the pun) and finding no obvious visual cause of the short, a gradual disassembly of the loco was undertaken, including separating the soldered-in permanent wiring between loco and the tender which housed the Loksound and speaker; this was an early Austerity not DCC ready and had been converted by me some years ago to DCC sound, it was one of my favourite locos, and the clanking big end ring of an Austerity was well reproduced - I had heard many of them in my childhood, clanking past in the night on the old GW & GC mainline.
By separating the tender both physically and electrically from the loco it became clear the fault was confined to the loco itself; and moreover, the short-circuit did not exist with the chassis bottom plate removed, but screw the bottom plate back on and the fault was present; this has happened before with these Bachmann Austerity locos, and I was somewhat relieved to suspect that the Loksound V4 was undamaged, and would only require the soldering back of connections between loco and tender.
The fault in the chassis bottom plate is with the metal strips that carry the pick-ups to each wheel, with time they tend to bow upward toward axles number two and three until they create a short across either or both of these axles; the remedy is to drill out the plastic securing blobs (what else do you call melted blobs of plastic) at the front leading end so that the metal strips can be stretched out and secured down with two-part epoxy; the slots for the wiper contacts will have to be carefully widened with a file at the front end to accommodate the slightly re-positioned metal strips - it's only a fraction of a millimetre.
Once the two-part epoxy has cured off and the metal strips are fully flat and secure I paint the top surface of the strips with two coats of ladies' clear nail varnish to insulate them against any further contact with the axles; although hopefully the epoxy will keep them in place for many years to come. All that remains is to screw the bottom plate back on, track test that the short is no longer present, and reassemble and rewire the four connections between loco and tender. Job done.
The photo below shows the disassembled chassis parts; note the bottom plate is reversed in relation to the chassis in the photo. The right hand end of the bottom plate shows where the securing blobs of plastic have been drilled out, the slots for the wiper contacts enlarged marginally, and both metal strips secured down throughout their length with two-part epoxy. Both metal strips have received two coats of ladies' clear nail varnish to insulate their exposed metal surface: avoiding the soldered wire contact area in case these wires ever need replacing. You will note also the heavily modified tender chassis with additional wire holes and grouped ventilation holes underneath where the Loksound V4 sits on edge; the speaker sits over a rose of specially drilled holes; space is very limited under the tender body. The tender is permanently coupled to the loco when in situ through adaption of the original tender coupling. The original conversion involved a lot of work; now just careful soldering of four wires and general reassembly is all that is required to restore that lovely clanking sound.