A first kit-build: 3500 Gallon Churchward Tender - 4mm Scale.

Discussion in 'Workbenches, including workshop techniques.' started by jonte, 28 May 2020.

  1. jonte

    jonte Western Thunderer

    A nice post, Michael.

    Thank you.

  2. jonte

    jonte Western Thunderer

    It’s very humble of you to say so, Adrian, but the ‘properties’ benefits of N/S to the beginner were indeed gleaned by myself from a variety of sources.

    Off the top of my head, LRM’s site cites one or two of their own kits for this reason; there are others but I can’t think now for the life of me from where I sourced them.

    I really don’t mind anyone discussing the pros and cons here, in fact I welcome it as there’s always something that will come in handy for all we newbies reading it. The more , the merrier :thumbs:

  3. Mike Garwood

    Mike Garwood Western Thunderer


    *Brass ranges between 111 W/m K (admiralty brass) and 160 W/m K. 120 W/m K would be typical for what we use. NS (62% Cu, 15% Ni, 22% Zn) the figure is 24.9 W/m K. Brass conducts heat 5 times as fast as NS.

    * Sourced from Howard Bolton, Scale4 Soc.

    I've no reason to believe that Howard would exaggerate. He's a class modeller and track builder. Please don't think this is a one upmanship excercise, it's not, life is too short to be petty.


    Edited: for clarity
    Last edited: 15 July 2020
  4. adrian

    adrian Flying Squad

    Hi, no problem with posting this as it does highlight a difference in the materials but from my point of view the fact that brass conducts heat 5 times faster than N/S is why I prefer N/S. I take this as a plus point for N/S for a few reasons and it's all around soldering.

    For a good soldered joint you need to concentrate the heat at the joint. So this is something I find people struggle with using brass because as you say it dissipates heat far quicker than N/S. This heat dissipation leads to other problems if the soldering iron doesn't have the required power to keep the temperature at the joint, also with thin overlays this heat dissipation can lead to buckling and distortion because the user ends up holding the soldering iron on for longer. With N/S the heat stays around the joint so it's up to temperature quicker to melt the solder which you can remove it quicker without disturbing the rest of the kit or other joints. I can solder a fine 5thou overlay in 2mmFS with a 75W iron without any buckling, I think I would struggle to do the same if it was in brass.

    Which gives the final benefit for me - no burnt fingers! Due to the lower heat dissipation I find I can hold a couple of pieces of N/S together in one hand and solder the joint without it getting too hot. Again if it was brass I'd burn my fingers and drop the components before the solder has had time to cool.


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  5. jonte

    jonte Western Thunderer

    Hi Mike

    It’s okay and I know you’re not being petty :)

    Howard is indeed an excellent modeller, and squirrelled away somewhere in my album are a couple of piccies of the innards of his signals on ‘Minories’ which I would shamelessly nick, only I haven’t the foggiest how it all works. Looks good though:thumbs:

    You’ve used facts to explain why brass is more suitable for our purpose and that's the way it should be. I, on the other hand, generally talk wham and should be ignored at all costs.

    Thank you anyway for sharing, Mike, as this is an education for me.

    Stay safe.

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  6. jonte

    jonte Western Thunderer

    A well written post, Adrian, thank you.

    Even I can follow it.

    I like the sound of ‘no burnt fingers’ ;)


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  7. michl080

    michl080 Western Thunderer


    I'm really sorry, I can't press the "like" button five times.

    This is the whole secret of soldering in our area. Getting the energy in as quick as possible and control its spreading into the material around.

    AdeMoore likes this.
  8. J_F_S

    J_F_S Active Member

    I don't mind being quoted - but I DO mind being misquoted - or rather misinterpreted!!!

    Adrian is quite right in everything he says. In the letter from which that text is quoted, I was saying I MUCH prefer Nickel silver because of its properties. I have produced dozens of etches for my own use and I have never had anything done in brass - nor would I ever.

    Here are my Minories signals (4mm) - my own etches and done in nickel silver. I would go so far as to say this is impossible in brass - the whole thing would solder up solid.

    Starters close up small.jpg

    The only point I would make to jonte is that the soldering of wrappers to the frame is where everyone goes wrong. I don't know about the kit you built, but certainly in Martin Finney's 3500 gallaon tender kit he specifically says just to tack the overlay - and not to solder it from the inside - otherwise it will do as you saw. That said, I have made a b*lls of just such a job before now - and not on my first tender either!

    My tips for successful soldering:-

    1. Clean the metal, clean it again, then clean it again.
    2. use the minimum possible amount of flux
    3. use the smallest possible soldering iron bit appropriate to the job - a 1mm point is big enough for most 4mm work.
    4. clean the job after you soldered anything. Then clean it again.

    Keep practicing - this is a skill not a talent, and skill only comes with practice.

    Best wishes,
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  9. Mike Garwood

    Mike Garwood Western Thunderer


    You've obviosly taken offence at being quoted, but your article/ letter clearly gives the impression you favour brass. As you say, all in the interuptation. For any offence caused I apologise it was not my intention to cause any. I have admired the skill you bring to the hobby for many years.

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  10. J_F_S

    J_F_S Active Member

    Don't worry Mike I am not easily offended, but I am surprised that what I said could be mis-read.

    Here is the key sentence from that letter so that everyone else might understand what I was saying.

    I cannot conceive how anyone with ANY practical experience whatsoever of using both metals could possibly come to [the] conclusion that brass is easier to solder: it is not; and that is a fact.

    If you were willing to add a small edit to your original post, we can be friends again!

    That said, we don't always have a choice, and I am on with a Finney Drummond tender - in brass! Beautful kit, but it would be so much easier in N/S!

    T9 Tend 11.jpg

    Best wishes,
  11. Steph Dale

    Steph Dale Western Thunderer

    I don't necessarily agree with you; every time I build one of those I've ended up needing to tweak the corners of the flare, which is easier with brass as it doesn't work-harden. Anyway, assuming it's 7mm scale; just for the record and especially if anyone else reads this, I believe we can provide any of our kits in nickel-silver to order and at a small premium - you just have to ask!

    Neat build, by the way... :thumbs:

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  12. oldravendale

    oldravendale Western Thunderer

    I'm incapable of arguing the technicalities. However, from my experience (and dealing with 7mm only) brass works really well for me (I have no problem with NS either) and I use a really large tip on the iron and a temperature at the tip around 300 degrees. I built the signal in brass and with the large tip iron using some tiny components and failed to solder the moving parts up solid. I also slosh the flux around like there's no tomorrow but use tiny pieces of solder.

    I've tried Mickoo's technique with a gas torch and also the use of solder paste as recommended by others. Neither works for me but that doesn't mean they should be disregarded.

    So........ This comes down to personal preference and what works best for you as an individual. I'd not impose my techniques on anyone else but can, very happily, demonstrate them to anyone who wants to watch.

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  13. J_F_S

    J_F_S Active Member

    Thanks for the kind words! It would be a boring old world if everyone always agreed, and of course you are right - probably I subconsciously allow for that knowing it is a "bend once" situation.

    It is actually 4mm and I think the kit is at least 15 years old. If I understand rightly, the 4mm versions are also going over to N/S gradually - but don't quote me on that!!
    The coping plate flares actually folded up very well and the fit was absolutely spot on - to a thou - but on this side, as I was sweating the tacks in, the heat ran away from me and a minor buckle set it - hence as you can see, it is waving up and down all over the shop and there is no recovery from that. Of course, it is not easy to see in bare brass. Until I paint and line it ... And that is the problem I have with brass!

    I suppose a lot is down to what we are used to. Before etched kits came along, my only experience was scratch building (and I was no good at it!) and for scratch building, if you could not afford N/S you used tinplate - never brass! Then the kits came along, there was suddenly no choice and for me it was a tussle thereafter.

    Just a further thought for jonte based on experience. Looking at the photos above, you can see that the where the coal plate sweeps down at the front, it is not soldered to the side (it actually fits in a half-etched groove). The reason I did not solder this is that experience tells me that if it were soldered, the side would pull-in as it cools and the outline of the coal plate would "grin through" to the outside - this is the same issue as you refered to with your tender side.

    Best Wishes,
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  14. jonte

    jonte Western Thunderer

    Hi Howard

    Thanks for clearing up the issue of the ‘grin’ for me. Another tip noted :thumbs:

    Some interesting posts there, so thank you for your valued contribution.

    The tender is magnificent, despite your mention of a buckle which to me is undetectable.

    The corner flares look as though they’ve been fabricated from brass and look fabulous. In my instructions, it advises to form them from low melt solder and work to shape with files etc. May I ask how you achieved them?

    Many thanks.

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  15. Steph Dale

    Steph Dale Western Thunderer

    Yep - that's the way that Martin suggested - I built one in 4mm about 20 years ago...!

    Jonte, they're brass - the kit includes shaped corners as part of the flare, so they need some careful forming, but no other work. On a Drummond tender the flare isn't curved in section.

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  16. jonte

    jonte Western Thunderer

    Hi Steph

    Many thanks for clearing that up for me. It’s just that I recall Iain Rice mentioning in his book that he inserts off-cuts of fret into the gaps and then works them into shape which he states was the GWR way of doing it, but the flare in Howard’s example appears free of joins etc. No wonder, it’s a different kit!

    Incidentally Steph, both you and Howard mentioned that Martin gives specific instructions about how the coal chute and tender wrapper should be affixed respectively. Although I’m usually wrong, I really couldn’t recall either instruction being given, especially with regard to the affixing of the wrapper, as later I wished that it had (you may recall I had to take the flame thrower to it to undo the mess :(). In fact my thanks go out to @mickoo for putting me right on that score.

    So I dug out the instructions and it would appear for once I was right :eek::


    Funnily enough, I attached a copy of the instructions on a previous post, so as I had them, I thought I’d post them again for the record. I hope you don’t mind. It even mentions about how to solder the chute as I call it.

    Perhaps we’re at cross-purposes, as above, and talking about different tender kits.

    Thanks again, Steph, for your prompt and helpful response to my query.


    P.S. The ring around the part that refers to the attachment of the wrapper isn’t me trying to prove a point. It was done during construction while keeping a record of jobs done or highlighting essential parts of the build (of which there were many :().
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  17. Steph Dale

    Steph Dale Western Thunderer


    I can't talk so much about the other kits in the range, but I know the LSWR stuff quite well. It may well be an instruction that Martin thought was only relevant to the Drummond tender kits. Looking quickly at the GWR tenders they do go together differently, so it appears that we're both right, and for jolly good reasons!

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  18. J_F_S

    J_F_S Active Member

    Hi jonte,
    Steph has I think answered this, and for sure this tender is an order of magnitude easier than a GW tender! thanks also for the kind words about my build, but if you lay a rule along the bottom edge of the flare in the photo, the truth will out!!

    I was surprised by the instructions (it was thirty years ago when I built the last one!) and I just did a quick check and it is in the 51xx instructions that he specifically mentions this point - apologies for misleading.

    Steph is also right that Martin mentions not soldering the coal plate in the LSWR tender, however, he does not say why - just that he " ... did not find it necessary ... " and I did notice that the instuctions are a lot briefer these days than formerly. Martin is a great bloke and as good a 4mm modeller as there is, but maybe he forgets that us mere mortals need a bit more help! The new owners (in 4mm) also know they have occasional blind spots in the instructions department!

    There is scope for a better book on this subject - sadly, for me at least, Ian Rice's effort was not quite up the job as he does not attempt any of these quite sophistcated, high-precision kits where, to get any result at all, you need to work accurately. And some of his soldering was not the best example!!! The Blacksmith kit he worked on was stone-age (its forebear was the first kit I built - a Mallard "Duke" in 1972 - etched in nickel-silver!) and looking at pages 53 and 74, Ian struggled more than yourself with the tender!

    I think a far better book would be that by the late Geoff Holt, published in two volumes by Wild Swan - there is a lot in there you don't need (yet) but it is first-class stuff. The older volumes by Guy Williams are also good, though they really are more about scratch building.

    As others have said, don't beat yourself up that you struggled - it is a GREAT kit but that is not the same as "easy" - scour ebay and you will find dozens of half-finished kits - now you know why - they are worth paying a few pounds for just as practice material.

    Meanwhile, get it on the stove, melt it all to pieces, wipe all the molten solder off with a damp cotton cloth, clean it all thoroughly and have another go. I guarantee it will seem easier the second time. It won't build a masterpiece as many of the parts will have stretched, but you will build your skills!

    Best Wishes,
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  19. jonte

    jonte Western Thunderer

    That really is a wonderful post for a newbie like myself to receive, and serves as a pat on the back. Thank you, Howard.

    Thank you for taking the time to draft it and sharing your experience.

    I’m most grateful.

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  20. AdeMoore

    AdeMoore Western Thunderer

    Hi Jonte,
    Earlier remembered this thread and now noticed a stall in posts.
    Any news?