This the third time I have had the pleasure to travel to Leesport PA for the Annual Cabin Fever Model Expo. I was able to make it to the first, third and this last expo. Although I missed the second one, I can say that I have noticed a steady growth in the number of dealers, exhibitors, and the general public. The show promoters have tried very hard to provide everyone with the best conditions at the show and they continue to cope with the steady increase of support and interest.
I arrived with my friend around 9:30 am and already the crowd was so thick one had trouble getting around the exhibit hall. As always, there were dozens of the best model machinist in the world and the work shown this year was clearly higher in quality than even a short year ago. It seems that there is not limit to what we home shop machinist can accomplish.
I was specially taken by a man I met for the first time by the name of Bill Huxhold. A German immigrant who arrived shortly after WW2 , settling in Canada. Iíve posted a page of his incredible work on my web pages for all to enjoy. Iím just afraid that my photos will not do his work justice but at least the viewer can get a small idea of what I was lucky enough to witness. Bill built a scale copy of a Hardige† turret lathe. True to the smallest detail and fully operational. With it he demonstrated the creation of miniature brass goblets by performing a myriad of operations with all the lever operated functions of his lathe. All of the cuts, contours, length and depth were controlled by stops. To watch him go through the motions would leave you breathless as you try to assimilate it all. Turned out to be futile. You really have to watch him over and over to be able to grasp what itís happening. The result is a gorgeous little goblet about 1/2Ē tall.
††††††††††† He, with lots of hard handwork created all the lathe castings. The finished components were beautifully finished and the paint job was also flawless. The lathe sports everything the real lathe had. The little change gears are nothing short of jewelry. The headstock features a fully working collet chuck and a quick-change gear box which means that it also threads. Truly and unbelievable piece of work and an even more fantastic man.
††††††††††† There was no shortage of finely crafted miniature engines of all sorts. Gas, steam and even electric motors were on display with their builders directly behind to not only answer our many questions but I am quite sure, to absorb all of our comments, oohs and ahhs! I was especially amazed at a small finely crafted, flat box, which by itself was pretty impressive. Inside, nestled in cut out depressions were miniature versions of many standard layout and measuring tools. It even contained a mini version of a radius dressing tool. It was no bigger than the first two knuckles of my thumb but it rotated ever so smoothly and it was fully engraved in degrees. Truly the work of a madman! I will be posting pictures of these things as the days pass.
††††††††††† The sales reps from Sakai were there as well and this time they brought their newest milling machine, which is about twice as big as a Sherline and about the size of the Minimill. They demonstrated it on aluminum and it seemed to do an admirable job. Everything about Sakai exudes quality. Quality such as that does not come cheap as this mill sells for $5800. I could only dream about such tools!
††††††††††† A dealer from Philadelphia brought several machine tools, which included the Minimill, that Harbor Freight and now Grizzly is selling. I was very glad to finally see it in person. I played with it extensively and shot video of it. Of the two examples he had on hand, one was hooked up with a Direct Read Out unit that he also sells. It seemed to work great on the mill. As you may know, a DRO will read only the actual movement of a sliding surface. Even when a tool has some backlash, it will instantly compensate for it. Itís like using a dial indicator against a lathe carriage. A dial will only read the movement and not the backlash. The biggest surprise was seeing the new 7 x 14 variable speed minilathe. It actually looks nothing like our beloved 7 x 10 but is looks as if it has been designed from scratch. The lathe bed was flawless and everything seemed to operate smoothly. I ran the spindle at both the high and low settings, like on the 7 x 10 and I could not find anything to complain about. The chuck appeared a bit smaller in diameter but it mounted the same way, as all Asian lathes seem to do. The last of the big tools on hand was the 9 x 24 gear head lathe. This one was the best deal as it sells for $895 with a full array of accessories I wish the 7 x 10 would offer. It comes with a real 6Ē four jaw, a follow rest and a steady rest, a full set of machined steel change gears, dead and live centers, a set of some surprising good quality carbide tipped tools, a face plate and dog and a tool kit composed of several wrenches and such.
††††††††††† At the rear of the second room was a large train loop of about 30 feet diameter for some fantastic little live steam locomotives. These babies ran on alcohol or something like Sterno. They ran extremely smooth but they were a bit hard to get to operate consistently as the room was somewhat cold.
††††††††††† Plenty of good, hot food and drink was provided for all of us as was evident by the long lines.
††††††††††† Although I did not stay the whole day, I left the show fully satisfied that I had just witnessed the very best in model engineering in our country and abroad. One would not have to travel far to the N.A.M.E.S. show to see the best. If any of you live reside within a few hours driving distance to this show, I would recommend it without reservations. If you can stay the weekend, so much the better. I had a very enjoyable time gazing, gasping, drooling and chatting with some of the finest folks in the world. Put The Annual Cabin Fever Model Expo in your calendar for the year 2001. You will† not be sorry!
Jose F. Rodriguez