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The Top Ten Tools

(Author: Stan Knight)

Indispensable Tools for the Meccanoman

In 1967 Meccano Ltd introduced, with great fanfare, their new ‘Super Tool Set’ – three unusual implements designed to be essential additions to the serious Meccanoman’s kit. Hardly! Apart from a decent, long screwdriver (ignoring its rather nasty plastic handle), the Set contained two quite useless gadgets – a Nut Dispenser with sliding action, and a Flexible Nut Driver which was supposed to bend around corners. Bert Love dismissed them both as ‘little more than a gimmick of very little practical use’.

So what are the truly Indispensable Tools for the Meccanoman of today? Returning to Meccano building after a more than 50-year gap, perhaps I have a rather unorthodox vision of what they might be. So don’t be surprised if my List of Top Ten Tools is not the same as yours. My only claim is these unlikely devices work for me.

Number One   First on my List has to be ‘Blutak’! Without this ‘Mounting Putty’ (as they call it in the USA) I would be stymied/snookered/dead in the water, time and again. But with a little ‘Blutak’ applied to the end of a long slotted screwdriver, I can boldly go where no Meccanoman has gone before! I can reach places the Flexible Nut Driver had never even heard of! And while the good old Box Spanner has its merits, placing a dab of ‘Blutak’ on the end of it, greatly enhances its effectiveness and reach-ability. Blutak gets my vote as the Most Indispensable Tool for the Meccanoman.

Number Two   Talking about 34b… Some time ago, Alan Esplen kindly sent me a new-fangled Spanner (proudly stamped with the Meccano name) that this Meccano

Boy of the 1950s knew absolutely nothing about. It’s a sort of cross between a Box Spanner and a standard one. The trick is that the ‘box’ part tapers slightly towards the end, so it grips the Square Nut (who would ever want to use any other type of Nut??) instead of just cradling it. Magic! Except that not all Square Nuts are created equal. I mean, even some of my original Binns Road 1950 Brass (now brown!) Nuts (to admit nothing of modern ‘replicas’) slide right through the gripping part. So, even in those days, they manufactured Nuts with inconsistent widths? (Gosh! What a concept!) Nevertheless, I love this new Spanner; and as most of my Square Nuts are gripped by it, it fully qualifies as an Indispensable Tool for the Meccanoman.

Number Three   On the one hand, spilling a whole box of Washers on the floor (be they M4s or mere 38s) can cause time-consuming, not to say Anglo-Saxon-vocabulary-inducing, inconvenience. On the other, after totally dismembering your Prize-Winning Traction Engine on the dining room table, what a pain it is to separate the Nuts from the Bolts in order to redistribute the said Nuts (Square, of course) and said Bolts (Cheesehead, naturally) to their respective repositories. Well, in either case, my next Indispensable Tool for the Meccanoman comes to the rescue! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? NO, it’s Super Scoop!! Artfully crafted from plastic modeller’s polystyrene to a precise configuration (which fits inside the repositories perfectly), with leading edge sanded to a knife-like profile, our Super Scoop makes light work of otherwise tedious, time-consuming labour!! Sorting and gathering in quick easy movements, the sheep are separated from the goats in no time at all. And this amazing Tool even improves the Meccanoman’s vocabulary.

Number Four   What if, quite by accident, a whole box-load of Fixings disappear under your Welsh Dresser like Lucy through the Wardrobe? Or what if (like me), Meccano building is confined by SWMBO to that guest bedroom, with its wall-to-wall deep-pile carpet which sucks errant Washers and Bolts into instant invisibility? Hah! Another Indispensable Tool is called for – the Mighty Magnet. Preferably – if one is easily able to get down on hands and knees to chase migrant Washers, but quite unable to get up afterwards without the aid of a Fork Lift Truck – one mounted on the end of a long handle! Unfortunately, magnets don’t work on Plastic Meccano…

Number Five   I used to think that Tweezers were tools only useful for the removal of splinters (USA: ‘slivers’) from the forefinger – and, of course, the plucking of female eyebrows. But Wait! These remarkable implements have now been promoted to a much more important rôle. They have become an Indispensable Tool for the Meccanoman. They can pick up the tiniest Grub Screw (even the ones omitted by a certain UK Dealer); they can extract a single Shoulder Bolt buried in a sea of Set Screws; they can even substitute for a Spanner in a really tricky situation. Tweezers – I wouldn’t leave home without them.

Number Six   Have you ever come across Meccano brassware which refuses access to standard Meccano Axle Rods? I seem to have a lots  – particularly among my shiny modern ‘replica’ brassware (which apparently originates from a very large country which begins with the letter ‘I’). At first, I thought that the Grub Screws were creating the obstruction, but no, the problem is much more serious – the tappings are not finished smoothly inside. Never fear, I have found the perfect device to reform these unruly objects. Somehow, I have inherited from somewhere a set of files (the steel variety that smooth out the roughs in metal). And one of them is yet another Indispensable Tool for the Meccanoman. It is a round file with a diameter of 1/8th inch, a long business section, and tapering ends. Insert this file into blocked openings inside brassware, apply a few deft planing strokes to the obstruction and the problem is solved. Meccano Axle Rods now slide through the brassware holes with the greatest of ease.

Number Seven   One Ancient item – an Aeroplane Constructor part, A1083 from 1932 – has to be included in my list of essential tools. This is the Humble Drift, incorporated into Meccano Outfits after WWII, as Part 36c. What Brainless Idiot decided in 1964 to omit them altogether from Meccano Outfits?? (Whoever that desk-bound, paper-pushing Accountant was, quite obviously he had never tried to build a single Meccano model himself!) But as every Real Meccanoman knows, no decent mechanical model can be constructed without the aligning persuasions of the Meccano Drift. (And, by gum, often it is that Brute Force is required to tame those wayward perforations!) No Meccanoman worth his salt would be without his Drift – a truly Indispensable Tool.

Number Eight   Talking about Screwdrivers (we were, weren’t we?), I have to admit deep disappointment in this one aspect of the Products of Binns Road. What Sadistic Joker dreamed up the Looped Screwdriver (part 36) with its clunky slotted end (surely not St Frank?), or that dreadful Combined Spanner and Screwdriver (34a)? (Could the latter have been another brilliant notion of that same Deranged Accountant; this time penny-pinching the 1970 Pocket Meccano?) For proper Meccano building I need different lengths of Screwdrivers, but they need to be Beautiful as well as Efficient. (Form follows Function, remember.) They should sit in my hand comfortably, have perfect balance, yet allow firm grip. Also they should spin without the slightest effort. So where do I find such idyllic hand tools – Liverpool? Calais? Argentina? Nah – Ace Hardware!! These excellent Screwdrivers not only perform effectively, they are a Joy to Behold and to Behandle. Here is an Indispensable Tool for the Meccanoman, if ever there was one. The top of the smooth ergonomic handle spins freely in the palm of my hand and, take note, their shafts totally penetrate standard Meccano perforations, and their hardened steel tips even go into the tapped holes of Bosses, Collars, and Couplings. Beat that, Binns Road!

Number Nine   My penultimate choice in my list of Ten Top Tools? Oil – a totally Indispensable Tool for the Meccanoman. As the model is under construction, a little of the lubricating stuff should be applied to all the parts that move. After the model is completed, apply Oil. While it is running, add Oil. Indeed, when in any sort of doubt, Oil it. Presumably, the finer the oil, the better the lubrication, so I use Sewing Machine Oil – easy to find, and easy to use. Especially if you also have my Tenth Indispensable Tool in your kit…

Number Ten   …A Pipette (which I pronounce ‘pip-ette’, but Americans seem to say, ‘pipe-ette’). Whatever would I do without this invaluable item, which is available, a dime a dozen, from local Medical Suppliers (and also online)? This is undoubtedly a Required Item for every Meccano workbox, one which facilitates the easy application of very necessary lubrication in those hard-to-reach places and, what is more important, with precision quantity control. In MHO the Pipette easily earns its place as an Indispensable Tool for the Meccanoman. (Repro Magic Motor Box, courtesy: A Esplen Esq.)

What works for you?

Stan Knight
Idaho, USA
(A Meccano Wilderness)



Total number of messages on this page: 11.  This is page 1 of 2.   Next

Old Blue Gold      (at 1:36pm, Sun 2nd Aug, 15)

A very valuable tool is a magnet on a piece of string. When nuts, bolts and washers or any other traditional part falls on the floor - as they tend to do at the least provocation - the magnet is an easy way of picking them up without getting off your chair.
Doesn't work for the new plastic parts or some of the old brass parts though.

Len      (at 6:29pm, Thu 25th Sep, 14)

Have to agree with your No.1 choice, Bluetack is indispensible!

Stan Knight      (at 5:54pm, Tue 5th Jun, 12)

Well, it's probably a very sad story. I think I am what is described in the USA as an 'anal retentive'. Not only do I separate nuts from bolts but I also separate 1950s brass-like cheeshead bolts and square nuts from modern cheesehead and square ones. Then I even separate Joel Perlin's shiny cheeseheads and square nuts from Dave Taylor's. Joel's bolt heads are slightly flatter and wider (you don't actually need M6 washers under them), and his square nuts are thicker (giving a better purchase in certain situations). So, you see, there are excellent technical (to say nothing of aesthetic) reasons to subdivide my nuts and bolts. Hence the absolutely indispensible Super Scoop!

Very Old Gold      (at 2:47pm, Fri 1st Jun, 12)

One odd point about this list of useful items is the super scoop. Why do you need to keep the nuts and bolts in sepsrate containers? Mine are all mixed up, After all when you use a bolt you usully need a nut as well so they might as well be kept together.
Blue Tack can be very useful when trying to bolt one of the French motors. Even though they have slots to try and hold the nut in place,without someting to stick it down the nut will quite deliberately jump away from the hole just to annoy you.

Stan Knight      (at 7:14pm, Thu 16th Dec, 10)

Charles, The neat shaft of the Ace screwdrivers is just a part of the story. The handle has also been really well designed. It's beautifully balanced, it fits perfectly in the hand, and it's made of a slightly soft plastic material which allows a positive grip and yet feels nice in the grasp. Perhaps best of all, the very top section of the handle spins, so that when applying lots of pressure you can still turn the handle very easily. It's that magic 'Form follows Function' thing!! Btw, in case you were wondering, I have absolutely no financial interests in Ace Hardware!! I just happen to love their screwdriver.

Harry      (at 2:19pm, Thu 16th Dec, 10)

The hexagon nuts are infernal! The reversion to square nuts was most welcome

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