Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Machinist Blocks

During two of my college years I worked in a machine shop to help pay college expenses.  While working in the machine shop I used tools that I could use to improve my modeling.  The caliper and micrometer were two measuring tools I used there that I have written about on this blog ( see the labels caliper or tools).  Another valuable tool I found to assist my modeling was machinist blocks.  The machinist block is a tool that will help you keep model freight cars and structures and other projects square.  I want to share with you several types of machinist blocks I have in my collection that help me and may help you in your modeling projects.

Various commercial and custom made machinist blocks

If you and I do an internet search for machinist blocks and look at images, the most common machinist blocks I find are called 1 2 3 machinist blocks.  The precision milled, ground parallel, flat, square and hardened blocks are useful for setup work. The holes can be used to bolt them together to form custom shapes.  The 1 2 3 blocks are available from various vendors. I purchased my pair of 1 2 3 blocks, 1"x2"x3", from a tool vendor at a railroad show.  I use these blocks mostly to help keep projects such as model structures square during assembly.  The blocks have some weight to them so I also use them for a weight when called for.

1 2 3 machinist blocks

For freight car assembly, the machinist blocks I use frequently are called angle plate blocks.  In my tool drawer I have the following three sizes: 1"x1", 2"x2" and 3"x3" that I purchased from MicroMark.

Angle plate machinist blocks

I use angle plates to keep the car body "basic box" square when building a resin flat car kit. I make the "box" by gluing an end to a side to create a "L" and repeat the process for the other end and side.  The two "L" units are glued together to create the basic car body box. I use the angle plates to keep the "L" square while glue is applied. I clamp one of the resin sides to the 2"x2" angle plate and use a second one to support the car body end against it to form the "L".  The small 1"x1" is used on the inside to support both the side and end.

The car body "basic box."

Machinist blocks to create an "L"section

The angle plates work well; however, I had a custom set of machinist blocks made for me that I like even better and use to assemble ever freight car I build. The blocks were made in two sizes: a small block 1/2"x7/8"x2" and a large block 5/8"x1-1/8"x2."  The special features of the custom made blocks are size and chamfered edges.  The blocks were machined for me by my friend Gary Wildung; therefore, I call them the "Gary blocks."

Custom machined Gary blocks

I use the Gary blocks , as the angle plate blocks, to build the car body basic box for a freight car build. In the photos you can see the Garry blocks have several chamfered edges.  The chamfered edge allows them to be placed in a square corner to which glue is applied without the machine block getting glue on it and attaching itself.

Custom Gary blocks in use

The Gary blocks, placed in a vertical position,  or the small 1'x1" angle block can be used inside the completed car body basic box to install a baffle.

The machinist blocks I have described above should sit on a flat surface when being used. In the machine shop the machinist blocks were used on a "surface plate" made from granite.  Of course, this type of surface plate is cost prohibitive and does not work well on a model workbench.  After a search for a good substitute, I decided a piece of plate glass obtained from a local glass company was my best option.  I had the glass company cut the plate glass to the size I wanted for my workbench. I keep a gray sheet of cardborad, a photo framing mat found at an art supply store, under the plate glass to enable me to see easily kit parts laid on it.  The plate glass is also easy to clean as you can easily scrape off the glue that collects on it during the basis box assembly with a single edge razor blade (SERB).  The plate glass can be etched if cutting directly on it when using a knife or a SERB so I keep a small healing cutting mat in one corner to cut on.

If you do not have machinist blocks in your collection of modeling tools I urge you to give them a try.  The machinist blocks act as extra hands to hold the resin car ends and sides together square when applying the glue.  I am guessing you as I will soon be convinced of their value in your tool drawer.

Thank You for taking time to read my blog.  You can share a comment in the section below if you choose to do so.  Please share the blog link with other model railroaders.
Lester Breuer

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