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Topics - Alan Downey

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A friend of mine from school surprised me with this shirt yesterday. I never used to make very many puns, but being around you guys has clearly rubbed off on me. Apparently puns are an unavoidable part (curse) of hanging around me now. I'm not sure if that makes the WW&F a bad influence or not, but I think I'm proud of this one! My apologies to the innocent bystanders...

Whimsical Weirdness and Foolery / New Whistle for #11
« on: April 01, 2015, 12:13:48 AM »
After the work that has gone into replicating #9's old whistle, I started doing some research into what whistle #7 wore in it's later years of service at the railway. It was hard to exactly pin down. but the real giveaway was appearance of #7 after the enginehouse fire. Nearly all of the wooden cab was burned away, and the whistle is conspicuously absent. This leads to the only possible conclusion that #7's whistle was in fact made of wood. While this choice may seem unconventional, I appreciate the museum's dedication to maintaining historical accuracy with all of our efforts. Thus, I am pleased to announce the conclusion of our research and development, and present #11's whistle!

Replicas will be made available in the gift shop to meet popular demand.

Volunteers / Want to give pattern making a try?
« on: August 04, 2014, 11:30:00 PM »
Do you like woodworking? Are you unable to spend as much time at Sheepscot as you'd like (even at all)? Then you ought to give pattern making a try!

There are many more pressing and important projects steaming along on site, and we don't want #11 to take away any manpower from these efforts. But even though we have not officially "kicked off" the #11 project, there is a great opportunity for our "From Away" members and fans to get involved with the Railway who otherwise couldn't. #11 will have dozens of castings before it is finished, and each of them requires a pattern to be made. Up to now, Bernie and I have made all of the patterns for #11. We can't physically make all of the patterns by ourselves, nor would we want to even if we could. Building a steam locomotive from scratch is such a unique opportunity, that part of the goal of this whole project is to allow our members and volunteers to get to experience the process first hand. Since the project hasn't officially started yet, we have the luxury of not being under the gun to get certain patterns finished, or feel like we are holding anything up. This means that we can take the time to really do things right, and also teach other people how to do this and get involved! Each pattern than can be contributed by volunteer efforts is also a significant contribution to the locomotive, and really helps to keep the cost final down.

Pattern making used to be one of the most prestigious woodworking trades, requiring a mastery of joinery and carving, and a lifetime of experience to be a master pattern maker. But with modern materials (plywood, epoxy, and polyurethane), and modern assembly methods (nails, screws, and glues), pattern making is a lot easier now than it ever was before. There is still plenty of room for mastery, as many of Bernie's patterns show, but it is not hard to get started making patterns.

But I couldn't make patterns look as nice as Bernies!
Bernie will be the first to tell you that if a pattern looks nice, that it is almost by accident. As long as the surfaces are smooth and the important dimensions are correct, a pattern can look like utter dogmeat and do the job perfectly. I use tons of epoxy and bondo to make up for dents, dings, and the occasional misdirected saw, and would be happy to show off some of my most heinous woodworking crimes that have made serviceable patterns. The point is- you don't have to be an artist to be a pattern maker. You just need to be able to work accurately.

Would I need special tools?
Beyond typical woodworking tools, the only special tool that is really helpful to have are pattern making shrink rules. But the good news is that they aren't hard to find if you're patient, nor terribly much. But we can even get you started without one to let you figure out whether or not pattern making is your thing. You might find that there are tips and tools which make things easier, but that will all depend on But we have patterns which can fit the style of just about any type of woodworker, whether you mostly prefer to do turnings, build boxes, or just make a lot of sawdust.

I've never done pattern making before and have no idea where to start.
Neither did I when I started. But Bernie and Jason were both a huge help to me in the beginning, and now I'm pretty self sufficient when it comes to figuring out how to execute a pattern. I say that to reinforce the fact that pattern making isn't that different from any other sort of woodworking, and once you learn the basic fundamentals, there are few rules to follow. Frankly, certain aspects of pattern making are wonderfully liberating simply because you don't have to worry at all about how a pattern will look in the end. Learning and teaching happens constantly at the WW&F, and it would be a pleasure to help teach a few people what a few of us have learned about pattern making so far.

Again, all the work that we do on #11 has to fit around the current priorities of the museum, and cannot get in the way or distract from the efforts on #9. This is just a really unique opportunity for folks who are from away to be able to get their hands dirty. So if I've struck a chord with you, let me know and we can chat. I'd love to bring some more people in on this!

Volunteers / Summer Work Visit
« on: March 06, 2014, 10:43:54 PM »

Last summer, my father and I came up unannounced, and you all graciously found us a project which we could work on. It was incredibly rewarding to get 103 repaired, and couldn't have done it without the countless other hands who helped work on it. We had such a great time working with you guys, and even though we were worn out each day, we enjoyed every minute of it.

This summer, we were hoping to do something similar again. We have 2-3 weeks to spend in Maine working on projects, and would anticipate arriving around memorial day weekend. Instead of putting ya'll on the spot on our arrival, I wanted to put this out early, to give you guys a chance to think about projects could use addressing.Hopefully, that would let our visit be even more productive. We'd like to help make a dent in whatever the museum needs a helping hand with. Obviously we're both woodworkers, but we both can weld, sling dirt, or run a chainsaw. I've also been working in a machine shop on campus this past year, so I've learned a thing or two about machining. We have no prejudice towards projects, and would be happy to work on anything.

Hopefully this post isn't too preemptive. If it's a bit too early to think about, we can just let this simmer. But I wanted to give plenty of lead time, in case it would be useful.

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