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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. More 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
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 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?
(A Meccano Wilderness)
Arup Dasgupta (at 2:10am, Thu 16th Dec, 10)
Agree with you on all counts. I also use a set of jewellers screw drivers and for my plastic non-focussing eye a head mounted magnifier which keeps both hand s free. I use to also posses an old discarded syringe from my diabetic uncle for drop by drop oiling. You can see my kit sans the syringe in my album.
Charles (at 3:27pm, Wed 15th Dec, 10)
You don't have to worry about "Ace" brand, almost anyone sells 4mm screwdrivers, and buying the more expensive ones tends to get you a better one. I also use a 3mm for the short grubscrews which can fit into some smaller spacers, and a very long shaft 4mm for the impossible stuff. If you get a strongly magnetic tip it can hold the bolt securely as you place it.
Stan Knight (at 3:18pm, Wed 15th Dec, 10)
Brian, The Ace screwdrivers of that type are available in Phillips, Square, Slotted, and I think also in Hex. If not on the shelf they can be special ordered. My 6 inch slotted one is Item 2167104, and the 2½ inch one is Item 2167096.
Brian (at 12:14pm, Wed 15th Dec, 10)
Hi Stan, tend to agree with your observations. Must look out for the s/driver at ACE. Wish they sold hex points! I see the Asplen repro box has been included, mine houses one of the M/Motors. The Drift is undoubtedly one of Meccanos best thoughts although its easily subbed of course. Its also handy for checking the other problem you mention concerning certain brass. Fortunately my workbench is the kitchen table on hardwood floors but your super scoop is a good idea. In the absence of BluTak, I have been known to use Plasticene pr in a real emergency a bit of spit on the end of your finger!
Paul D (at 4:38am, Wed 15th Dec, 10)
Nice article! A rather poor version of your dual-ended 'gripping' spanner is that some square nuts are an interference fit in the jaws of hex spanners.