Turning out Fireboxes

A bit of lathe work to create the perfect Bury firebox

5/4/20232 min read

A bank holiday Monday is always a good excuse to get on with a bit of modelling when you should be mowing the lawn or cleaning the windows but the rather flimsy excuse that 'It's my holiday too' presented an opportunity to fire up the lathe.

For a few years now I've had some 16mm copper rod leaning up in the corner of the booth containing my lathe. I bought it primarily to turn chimney caps but it has now come into its own providing the raw material for the distinctive copper fireboxes of the Bury locos that will be the mainstay of the locomotive fleet at Coventry. Serendipitously it is already the correct diameter, just requiring a domed end to be turned, the core drilled out and a slot milling at the boiler end to accommodate the gearbox and motor. I say 'just' with tongue in cheek as copper always presents a challenge on the lathe being a very 'snatchy' material to turn, plenty of lubrication and patience eases the process but the tools must be as sharp as possible. Copper doesn't stand for bluntness!

I managed to turn three for the Bury 2-2-0 passenger locos and one extra for a Norris 4-2-0. I accept that the Norris does not have any right to be pulling passenger trains through Coventry; however, the Class A is such a distinctive little thing, (and is essentially only a Bury with different wheels and outside cylinders), that it deserves a model.

I was pleased to turn and polish the outsides of all four but came unstuck after boring out the centres to 10mm when the Norris firebox snagged momentarily and tripped the lathe fuse. Whilst removing the old fuse to replace it the fuse holder itself decided to disintegrate leaving me with nowhere safe to connect the new fuse. I called time and ordered a replacement fuse holder and some more fuses for a few pounds from a well known internet auction site. Once these arrive I will be able to drill out the centres to around 13mm and finally mill the slots in the front.