February 2015

 From the Editor - February 1st, 2015

Good grief, Charlie Brown, it's hard to believe that February is here already! Up here in Canada we're still in the grip of winter, although climate change has affected that to some degree - far more rain and a lot less snow. Not sure which I prefer.......... Opportunities for model flying and outdoor engine testing have been relatively few and far between lately, thanks both to the weather and to a number of personal commitments in other areas of my all-too complex life!

One enjoyable interlude was a rain-dodging one-week trip to the Big Island of Hawai'i at the beginning of January, during which we did some caving (actually, lava tubing in this instance) as well as some volcano watching and other outdoor activities. Although far too short, it was still a really great trip - the hard part was leaving the sunny 26 degree weather to return to soggy 6 degree Coquitlam! Quite a change ...........oh well, no doubt we'll survive! 

An event which will sadden many in the model engine collector community was the passing of my fellow Canadian and MAAC member Frank Anderson, who died on January 2nd, 2015 at the age of 83 years. Apart from his decades of outstanding service to, and participation in, Canadian aeromodelling, Frank became widely known within the engine collector community for his publication and periodic updating of the famous Blue Book, a guide to the evaluation of collectable North American model internal combustion engines. This publication was of great assistance to collectors wishing to have some rational basis for evaluating their own collections or deciding upon an appropriate offer for engines which they wished to acquire. The book ran to five editions, maintaining its popularity to the present day. We're all greatly in Frank's debt for his efforts - he will be sorely missed.

On a happier note, I've almost caught up with the backlog of material which had accumulated during the period in which I didn't have a fully functional web-site. The next couple of months should see that process completed, after which things will slow down to what I expect will become their normal one or two article per month pace - I can't sustain a higher level of effort than that. Still, I think (or at least hope!) that the site is now populated to the extent that it is already becoming a useful reference for anyone interested in model engines.

This month we have three new major articles to present. The most significant of these is the long-promised piece on the start-to-finish history of the MOKI enterprise from Hungary. I began assembling this article over a year ago, working with extensive input from former Hungarian speed team manager Ferenc Somogyi, but circumstances have delayed publication until now. I can only thank Somi for his patience and express the hope that the finished article meets his expectations. The article may be found under the "ENGINE ARTICLES" button on the toolbar. 

The same button will bring up another addition to the site - the complete history of the Majesco range from early post-war England. This article originally appeared on the late Ron Chernich's now-frozen "Model Engine News" (MEN) web-site - in fact, it was the last article that Ron was able to add before his final illness claimed him. However, the images attached to that article don't come up as they should, and Ron didn't leave us with the wherewithal to go into the site to fix things. Accordingly, I decided to simply re-publish the piece here, complete with images.  Hope you agree that this was the right thing to do..........

Finally, for the tech-heads out there, I've added a new in-depth article to the "TECHNICAL TOPICS" list on the subject of Model Engine Lubricants . The presentation of an article on this topic was suggested by my good mate Maris Dislers, who also provided a great deal of useful data and commentary - thanks, Maris! The old castor-versus-synthetic argument seems to resurface periodically, but there is generally very little hard data applied to the issue. No more - I believe that you'll find all the data you need here, whichever side of the fence you sit on! Turns out that both sides have their valid points .......... you decide!! 

There are also a few additions to the GALLERY, although as I've said before, that area has a relatively low priority for me and only gets attention when I have a little time going spare (not very often!!). Same goes for the PUBLICATIONS and SOURCES areas, at which I continue to chip away periodically. 

Next month will see the fulfillment of another long-standing commitment - this time to the surviving family of the noted English model engine designer and manufacturer Alan Allbon. Alan's two sons Derek and Kenneth have kindly provided me with a wealth of inside information on the life and work of this hitherto poorly-documented individual. As a long-time user and admirer of Alan's engine designs, it was both a privilege and a pleasure to set down the full story of the man himself. The publication of this article too has been greatly delayed by circumstances beyond my control, but once again I sincerely hope that the end result justifies the greatly-valued support of Derek and Kenneth for my efforts. 

During the development of the Allbon story, I was inevitably drawn into some further consideration of the history of Davies-Charlton, with whom Alan Allbon was closely associated for some years. The renewed investigation threw up enough new and in some cases revisionist material that I felt that the article which was first published in 2010 on MEN urgently required updating. Since the opportunity to do this on MEN is no longer open, I have elected to present the updated Davies-Charlton article on this site. This too will appear in next month's issue, which should come on line around March 1st if all goes according to plan. 

A very welcome development of which I've recently become aware is the effort by Woody Bartelt of Aero Electric fame to reproduce some of the components frequently required to restore the very popular FROG 500, about which I've written in depth on MEN. Many of these engines have badly-graunched cylinder heads due to ham-fisted attempts to change the deeply-recessed glow-plug using the wrong tool. Woody has now arranged for the manufacture of a batch of replacement heads to deal with this vexing issue. At US$49.95, they're not cheap, but they can sure make that old FROG 500 look nice again! 

I bought two of these heads, both to check them out and because I have two examples of the engine with badly-graunched heads! I can assure readers that they're very well-made indeed. In fact, if anything they're perhaps a bit too well-made - the casting is cleaner than the originals, and there are more machined surfaces, most of which you admittedly can't see when the engine is assembled. Still, can't fault Woody for producing a superior component! The material used seems to be of far higher quality than the near pot metal of the originals. 

Woody can also supply replacement head screws for this engine - a useful service given the often mangled condition of those items on many examples of the FROG. He is now working on arranging for the supply of replica tanks for the 500 - another often-missing item. Finally, for those of us who have examples of the FROG 500 PE petrol model which are missing their timers (the usual situation!), Woody expects to be able very soon to supply replica timers. I will definitely be a customer! I've added Woody to the "SOURCES" button on the toolbar - go check him out! The range of complete engines and components which he can supply is truly amazing! 

A less positive news item came to my attention in the January issue of "AeroModeller" magazine (a very highly recommended read - get yer subsciption ASAP!). This one will come as a bit of a shock to some of you high-performance types. I've mentioned before in these pages that the availability of such standard model engine fuel components as ether and castor oil has become compromised in recent years due to the use of these substances for illicit purposes. It now appears that nitromethane is on the way to being added to that list, and for the same reasons. The British government has just added nitro to the list of "explosive precursors" because of its use in the illicit manufacture of explosives. Under the forthcoming regulations (to take effect in March 2016), the possession of nitro at greater than a 30% concentration by volume will require a permit, the obtaining of which will likely be both onerous and expensive. Of course, the criminals will rush to get such permits .......... won't they??!@?

Here we go again ........ once more, the legitimate users are penalized for the abuses of the illicit users, for whom it will be business as usual under the new regulations. In my book, any law which has the effect of imposing a burden upon the law-abiding community while leaving the criminals unaffected is a bad law. The new rules will of course also cap the nitro content of commercial glow fuel at 30%. as well as making it illegal for individual modellers to possess fuels having higher nitro contents without the permit. Sigh ..............

One matter which has repeatedy come up recently in correspondence is the fact that I don't have an active "CONTACT" button on this site. Such a button could easily be added, but so far I've resisted all suggestions that I go ahead and do so. My reason for this is very simple - at over 1000 individual users now and growing every week, if even 10% of the readership took me up on the "contact" option, I would quickly drown in the resulting email blob! 

An alternative which has occurred to me is to incorporate a one-way contact option - a way for people to leave their comments and suggestions with no expectation of any direct response other than in my Editorials and articles or through the publication of information on suggested topics. It seems to me that this might open up a line of communication for readers to make suggestions or provide comments while at the same time resolving some of the potential workload pitfalls. I'll talk to Todd about this possibility ............

Well, I think that's quite enough from me for this time around! As always, I welcome suggestions from readers who are already in contact regarding future articles as well as input to existing articles - updating and amending already-published pieces is now very straightforward. In fact, I view the articles which appear in these pages as works in progress - as more information becomes available, the articles will immediately be amended accordingly. So if there's a subject that you'd like to see covered here, or if you know more than I do about an already-discussed topic, please let me know! If I can't address your topic myself, I'll find someone who can!

Until the next time, happy collecting, safe flying and productive metal-cutting! 


Adrian Duncan

Coquitlam, BC, Canada