I’m a strong believer in looking to other crafts for inspiration and techniques. Taking time to get out of the model train echo chamber can greatly enrich our modeling.
When I decided to pursue working in brass, I went looking for sources of information and inspiration. There are a number of model building YouTube channels like Stephen’s Custom Models, that offer a change of pace from the typical model train outlook. I wanted more however. While it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, I’m drawn to high end craftsmanship and work. Going down that rabbit hole one day, I found my destination at a YouTube channel called Clickspring.
Chris, the creator, is either a watchmaker/ jeweler, maybe a machinist by trade or at least, a highly skilled hobbyist in those crafts. He never really says as the videos aren’t about him. Working from a truly small but tidy and organized home shop, his metal working skills are superb as is his skill as a videographer and content creator. I seldom subscribe to YouTube channels but this one was a slam dunk choice.
Among the many lessons I’ve taken from the videos is how to approach the work itself. As you might expect, Chris is calm and methodical in his work and this comes through in the tone and pacing of the videos. There is a satisfying mix of machine and hand tool work and the camera angles, lighting, editing and narration are all excellent at showing the procedures clearly, without the distracting fluff so often seen in amateur how-to videos.
While all that is good, I understand that many people wonder what clock making or other geared mechanisms have to do with model trains. In my view, a great deal.
The video above describes a homemade indexing plate for evenly dividing a circle. This is used to mark out the number of teeth in a gear or for drilling evenly spaced holes in the perimeter of a disk, like, for example, the rivets around the outer edge of a steam locomotive boiler faceplate.
As a beginning or inexperienced modeler, without specialist tools like a rotary table or indexing fixture for the lathe or mill, how would you even begin to do such a layout? Chris describes the problems of accurately stepping off small dimensions, in his case it’s the teeth of a small gear. Working in even smaller scales as we do, such problems are too familiar. I won’t go into detail as the video does that better than I would. And, while this fixture won’t find a home in every modeler’s shop, it’s the ideation and thinking process behind that is where the gold is found in my view.
My point in sharing such non railroad oriented resources is to say forget about the specific category; i.e. clockmaking versus model trains. It’s the cross pollination of ideas, and knowledge from one discipline to another that’s valuable for our purposes. Working brass is working brass, regardless of what shape the object involved consists of. It’s also good to look at our work from a different perspective and see what is possible when other approaches are considered.
The channel also has a number of useful tool builds that are beyond my current skill level such as the two part series of this neat little finger plate clamping fixture. They will be raw material for the future as my ability grows with time and further practice. For now, my interest in Chris’s work is in bringing the mindset and values shown in the videos to my own work.
There is plenty more to see, so check out the channel if you like and enjoy the work if it interests you. There’s no commercial affiliation or connection between us, I’m just a satisfied and enthusiastic viewer.