getting started with brass

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by green_elite_cab, Nov 8, 2007.

  1. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    I just got my first Brass locomotive, but there are changes i'd like to make to it. How does one go about modifying and further detailing a brass model?

    Do i need special drill bits and other tools? How does one get introduced to working with brass?
  2. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    I have worked with brass some, and I have learned most of what I know through trial and error. One thing I have heard about modifying brass locos, is attach additional details with epoxy or CA rather than solder, unless you are a super expert solderer. Reason? You don't want to screw up and unsolder details that you want to remain in place!!

  3. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    If you really want to get into working with brass models, a good investment would be a resistance soldering outfit. This will allow you to add or remove details easily and neatly, and also to repair any poor soldering done by the original manufacturer. :rolleyes: However, these units are not cheap, so if you're only talking about a few models, you can get by with using ca or epoxy. However, you can do quite a bit with regular soldering equipment, too, if you're careful and plan your work out in advance. My first real attempt was two locos for my friend cn nutbar:

    I don't have a photo available of the other loco, but both involved adding elesco feedwater heater systems and the associated piping, along with a few CNR-specific details. I used three different soldering irons: a 25 watt pencil-type, and 80 and 200 watt full-size irons, along with a full-size propane torch. I also used a Micro Flame oxy/butane torch, but had some problems with improper seals, so it wasn't of much use. Another trick is to use solder of different melting points, using the higher temperature ones first.
    Regardless of whether you use solder, ca, or epoxy, a good mechanical joint will be a great help, both to hold things in place while you work, and also to make the connection more solid. You can do this by drilling holes where appropriate, or by fabricating clamps from brass wire, bar, or shimstock. Clamps are especially useful for holding pipes in alignment: simply drill a small hole (or pair of holes) where a pipe is to be placed, then after positioning the pipe, insert a short "U"-shaped length of wire in the hole(s), trapping the pipe against the outside of the shell. Twist the wires together on the inside of the body, then glue or solder as appropriate.
    You can also use wire to make mounting pins for parts that don't already have them cast in place. Drill suitable holes in both the part and the model, then use your chosen method to fasten a short piece of wire into one hole, then to fasten the part to the model.
    I'm currently working on a complete rebuild of an older brass steamer for Mister Nutbar, including frame modifications, complete boiler re-detailing, and a new cab. When I get it finished, I'll be posting some "in-progress" photos, but not a "how-to", as I continue to learn as I go along. ;):-D

  4. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    cool! yeah, as far as my model goes, only light details like the horn amd some handrail stanchions I'm mor so concerned about lighting. my brass model has not holes for headlights.

    would I be able to drill in holes, or am i stuck?
  5. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    It should be no problem to drill holes in brass, especially if you have a Dremel or similar tool. You can also do the drilling using a pin vise, but that will take a lot longer. Drill bits for headlights and other similar-size holes can be bought at any store that sells tools and related items, but some details require smaller holes. You can buy a set of modeller's drill bits at places like Micro Mark or your local hobby shop, or, if you only need a couple of sizes, buy the bits separately. The set consists of sizes #61 to #80 (all numbered bits have sizes measured in thousandths of an inch - the higher the number, the smaller the bit. I have a set from #1 to #80, but there are many much smaller sizes: I have a trade show sample from the National Jet Drill Company that consists of a human hair, of approximately .003" diameter, which has been drilled through with a "Najet" drill .0012" in diameter. A .001" diameter wire has been inserted through the hair. :eek:
    When using the smaller diameter bits, particularily with a Dremel tool, the use of safety glasses is highly recommended, as these bits can break very easily.

  6. CNWman

    CNWman CNW Fan

    Hey, doc, what does a Dremel look like? I keep on frogetting to look for one whenever I go to Home Depot. I'll probably be going back to pick up some drywall compond for a stucco building, and I could look for a Dremel then.
  7. CCT70

    CCT70 Member

    Check out:
  8. CNWman

    CNWman CNW Fan

    ok, thanks CCT70!
  9. CCT70

    CCT70 Member

    Call me crazy, but having owned Dremels before, I actually prefer the Craftsman brand of rotary tool over the Dremel. Both are very nice though, I just prefer Craftsman tools and most of mine are just that.
  10. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    I hear you with those flimsy dril bits. they always break with in the day i use them first. they need to make them tougher i think.

    I have a dremel that you can select speeds with, but i don't think it can handle the smaller bits, and even then, i don't feel confident they i have a steady enough hand. I'm thinking that a drill press might be better for projects that require tiny bits, since they appear to hold steadier, but I wonder where i can get one that uses such small bit sizes.

    Its good to know though that i don't need any special drill bits or other weird equipment.

    About that resistance soldering iron though, how much is it? I plan to work with some brass stuff in the future in the form of Catenary kits. if you are familiar with the Northeast corridor/ PRR style of catenary, there is not alot of room on those beams for there to be noticeable catenary.

    I should post pictures about my particular problems. I'm feeling alittle more comfortable now though, its almost like plastic.
  11. CCT70

    CCT70 Member

    About $400 at Micro-mark, but if you are going to do Catenary, I'd definitely consider one.
  12. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Those small drill bits are so small that theycan't be made stronger. They would be less susceptible to breaking if they weren't so hard, but then they would bend and that would be just as bad. I just buy 6 or so at a time when I'm at the hobby shop. The folks in the train dept of the local hobby shop know me by name, so they give me an empty envelope that the bits are shipped in for each size I buy. I just mark the bit size on the envelope and keep them in the envelope until I use them, then put them back in the drill index for the mini bits. That way I can look at a glance to see if any bits are missing and replace them immediately.

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