The Internet Craftsmanship Museum Presents:

George Britnell

Added to museum: 1/26/10

Steam, IC, guns, tools—George models them all in miniature

George Britnell (Click on photo to view a larger image.)

Introduction

George Britnell has been attending model engineering shows for many years. In the 1990's he entered one of his projects in the Sherline Machinist's Challenge contest at the North American Model Engineering Society Expo in Detroit, which is where we first became aware of his work. Since then he has produced many more project and even entered several of them in the contests over the years, taking a third and two first place awards. George's broad interests take him into many aspects of model engineering—from guns to engines. All his models share an attention to detail and final finish that put them a cut above the rest. He also enjoys making a model and then making another version of it smaller than the first. In this museum, smaller is better.

About George Britnell

George Britnell was born in Canada and lived there until he was 10 years old. He notes that he has always enjoyed building things. His first recollection was carving a helicopter out of a block of balsa wood based on an illustration in a comic book. He was only about 7 years old at the time. About a year later his father had made a trip the U.S. looking for work and brought home a plastic model kit for George. Now that was really something!

In 1955 his family moved to Cleveland, Ohio where his dad had been hired by the Ford Motor Company as a wood patternmaker. By now George was fully into plastic models, mini bikes and lawnmower engines.

His interest in machining didn’t start until he was about 14, when he met an older fellow in the neighborhood. This gentleman had a small machine shop, and one day while rooting around in his shop George found an old Dunlap lathe. Everything was there except the motor and the man offered to sell it to George for $25.00. After finding a motor and hooking it up, his early machining efforts didn’t get too far, mostly consisting of nothing more than making chips.

When he was about 17, George found a place in Cleveland called the Dennison Pattern Works. They sold Stuart Turner kits and had completed versions of most of them on display in their office. From there on he was hooked. He bought the Stuart Turner oscillator and still has it today.

George’s early machining career didn’t progress much as cars and motorcycles took center stage in his life. In high school he mainly took college prep classes but did manage to sneak into the metal shop on occasion and hang out with his buddies. He took a course in mechanical drawing but that was the only industrial arts course he attempted.

After graduating from Brunswick High School in 1963, he attended Cooper Art School in Cleveland with the goal of becoming a commercial artist. He was only able to attend about a year and a half because he had to find work to help pay the bills. He did work in the art field for a short time until he got drafted into the army during the Viet Nam war.

It was in the army that his machining education grew. Although the army initially trained him to be a radio repairman, the machine and maintenance shop needed people and he was recruited. He worked with a German fellow who taught him some of his early skills.

Upon discharge from the service he tried to get back into the commercial art field but didn’t have much luck. He worked several jobs until they opened up the apprenticeships at the Ford Motor Company. He was offered the choice of electrician or metal patternmaker and chose the latter. The apprenticeship was extremely comprehensive and with the large number of skilled craftsmen there he gained the bulk of the machining knowledge that he has today.

Now that he was bringing in a reasonable income he was able to purchase his first serious lathe, a 6-inch Sears/Atlas, with all the attachments. Over the years he has made numerous parts and engines on this lathe. Around 1978 the local tool store started importing Enco tooling and he bought one of the first mill/drills in the area. He still uses it today, and although it has some shortcomings it is still a very good tool. He started building a lot of Stuart Turner kits, and, when he had saved enough money, he bought the Cole’s 1-inch Case traction engine kit. This was quite a departure from the Stuart kits and he learned more about set ups and fixturing during this build.

One of George's most challenging projects to date was this 1/3 scale Ford 302 V8. He invested over 2000 hours and 3 years in its production. Working in the pattern shop at Ford Motor Company gave him access to the actual plans for the full-size castings, an advantage not many modelers have. (Click on photo to view a larger image.)

From steam engines he got into internal combustion engines with the casting kits offered by the late Paul Breisch. With more knowledge and confidence, he started building the 1/3 scale 302 Ford engine. Through his job he had the availability of the Ford engineering drawings for the parts that were cast at the foundry where he worked. He scaled them down and made the necessary changes to make them work for a miniature engine. The total time for this project was around 3 years. He didn’t keep track of the exact number of hours it took, but he estimates it to be about 2000. At times he didn’t think it would ever get finished.

His work at Ford took George into the area if pattern design and later into computer modeling and cutter pathing for the pattern shop. Along with this he had the opportunity to learn AutoCad and several other CAD programs. He has used these tools to design and build some of his own engines; namely an inline, overhead valve engine for which he now offers drawings. He has also designed miniature saw mills, hay balers, rifles, pistols and many other small tools and projects.

George is seen in his shop with his DRO-equipped Enco mill/drill. (Click on photo to view a larger image.)

His small tooling has grown over the years, but he still uses the 6-inch Craftsman lathe, the Enco mill and he now has added an 11-inch Logan lathe for the bigger parts. George thinks model engineering is one of the greatest hobbies going, and he has enjoyed meeting and sharing information with all the great craftsmen and builders he has met over the years.

George talks about Craftsmanship

In response to the various essays on what is craftsmanship?" on our home page, George submitted the following thoughts:

CRAFTSMANSHIP

Having been formally trained as a metal patternmaker in the late 60’s and early 70’s I was taught not only to use machine tools but to use files, scrapers and radius gauges to bring the machined pieces to exacting tolerances. As the years went on and CNC equipment was introduced to our shop the hand finishing that in the past could have taken many hours and days to complete could now be produced by machine.  Where once a person would have had to figure out how to get down into a pocket to blend it out the machine could be programmed to take minute cuts with a small cutter to replicate what the craftsman did.

I consider myself an ‘old school’ craftsman. Do I use CAD to help visualize my ideas and designs, absolutely! Do I use machines to remove and shape metal into the desired shapes, certainly! There’s no doubt that given enough time, a hammer, some sharp chisels and a file could produce things of beauty. Just look a the clocks, automatons and telescopes that were produced centuries ago, all with rudimentary tools.

There’s no doubt that design and ultimately the process to produce a piece of art are not gifts given to everyone, but I guess I have to draw the line, although somewhat vague, as to how the part being produced is finished. Let’s take a couple of examples to clarify my position. At one time carved wood found in cabinetry and headboards was sculpted by hand. Today there’s not many who could or would want to pay for that type of work but with CNC routers a part that might take weeks to carve can now be done in days. Can the finished piece be considered ‘craftsmanship’, not really. Is it art, to be sure.

Now, on to our interests, making miniatures, engines, guns and tools to name but a few. Could all the parts that comprise the indescribable work of Lou Chenot in making the model Deusenberg  have been made by machines in this day and age there is no doubt. Could the finished product then be considered as to have been made by a craftsman, or a machine doing what it was told to do?

I have seen countless examples of metal artistry through the years, with more and more of it being produced by CNC machines. There is nothing that can take away from the quality and exactness being produced by this process, but to me working metal, wood and glass by hand more befits the term ‘craftsman’.

You be the judge!

     —George D. Britnell, 2013

horizontal rule

Here are some photos of the George Britnell's projects:

(Click photo for larger image.)

A 4 cylinder OHV valve engine of George's own design. It is scratch built from bar stock and has a spark ignition and a splash oil system. A few years ago it was dismantled and a  complete set of working drawings were made in AutoCad.

George invested over 2000 hours in this 1/3 scale 302 Ford V-8 engine. The project was started at the time he worked for the Ford Motor Company. It is entirely scratch built without any CNC. It has a bore of 1.00" and a stroke of 0.900". It has a spark ignition, full pressure oil system and complete cooling through the block, heads and intake manifold.

At the 2011 NAMES show in Detroit, George brought along a transmission he is working on for the Ford engine. The case is machined from billet stock using manual machine tools (no CNC) and looks like it is coming along nicely.

This Associated hit and miss engine was built from the late Paul Breisch’s castings.

A one-inch scale, 65 h.p. Case traction engine. This was built from the castings that Cole’s Power Model sells. This was one of George's first ‘big’ projects. Up until this time he had just made mostly Stuart engines. There is about 14 months of build time in this project.

A 0ne-inch scale Case stationary baler. George wanted to build this to go with the Case traction engine above. It required several trips to Pennsylvania to study, measure and take pictures of the prototype. It is scratch built from his own drawings.

A small scale Case traction engine. This was built for the Sherline Machinist's Challenge contest a number of years ago. George took the drawings for his large Case engine and scaled them down to meet the contest requirements of fitting in approximately a 4" cube with a maximum length of 5". It is built mainly from brass with some stainless and mild steel parts.

This one-inch scale Case water wagon was built to accompany the Case traction engine. George used reference pictures and dimensions  from an old Case catalog reprint. The pump will actually pump water from the tank to the engine. He also made a complete set of drawings for this machine.

This is a ½ scale Colt Army revolver. George took apart a friend’s full-size pistol and made his own drawings to work from when building this functional model.

A Cornwall blowing engine from the late Paul Breisch’s castings.

A Gatling gun in about 1/8 scale. George researched this through the public library system, gathering patent information and pictures from books. he then made a set of working drawings and built several of them. The mechanisms all work but naturally being made from brass it doesn’t fire anything.

A 2-inch scale Pickering throttling governor. Many years ago I had purchased the full sized governor at an engine meet. I hadn’t entered the Sherline contest in a few years and thought that this would make a good subject. While it was built for the contest I still wanted it to function so everything on it operates. The hard part was gauging  how thick to make the flat springs so that they would flex and not bend.

A small hit and miss engine taken from the Little Brother drawings and scaled down. It’s all scratch built with the primary parts made from aluminum bar stock. The flywheel diameter had to be increased to give it enough inertia to overcome the compression.

A Holt tractor engine for which George had purchased plans from Cole’s but didn’t like the way that it had to be machined. He initially redesigned the block to be scratch built. Upon completion of the block he continued to scratch build all of the other parts except the manifolds and large flywheel. He says, "Once I got it running, I found that it wouldn’t cool effectively, so a water pump, fan and shroud were designed and built." This engine has to be one of his largest crowd pleasers at the model shows. People like the way that it runs so slowly.

This is the PM Research 1/12 scale model lathe. George had seen this lathe at quite a few shows and had always thought about building one of them but didn’t get around to it until 2009. It makes a very realistic model, especially when you build the four jaw chuck.

This small scale model of a Mannlicher Schoenaeur sporting rifle was made from George's own drawings.

The "Mary" beam engine was built from the castings supplied by Reeves of England. Built mainly from bronze, it makes a beautiful representation of a Victorian style engine. Its slow running and mechanical linkages make it very interesting to watch.

A small beam engine. This engine was built from the drawings of the ‘Mary’ beam engine but was scaled down to meet the requirements of the Sherline contest many years ago. It’s built mainly from brass with stainless steel links and rods. Most of the fasteners are 1.0 x 0.25 mm. It stands less than 4" tall.

This small vertical steam engine with reverse was built for and entered into the very first Sherline contest. It is made mainly from mild steel with 1.0 x 0.25 mm nuts and bolts. It was the only "steam" engine ever to be featured in Strictly IC magazine. The editor, the late Robert Washburn, said he would just call it an "external combustion" engine.

The Topsy Turvy hit-and-miss gas engine was scratch built from the drawings that were featured in The Home Shop Machinist magazine many years back.

A couple versions of the Stuart Turner twin launch engine. The first one has a reversing lever, while the second engine drives a brass propeller blade on its rear shaft.

A compound launch engine. The castings and plans were supplied by Stuart-Turner. On a compound steam engine the two cylinders are of different sizes, with the second cylinder utilizing the remaining energy in the high pressure steam after the first cylinder is done with it.

horizontal rule

New Submissions Welcomed

If you have additional information on a project or builder shown on this site that your would like to contribute, please e-mail craig@CraftsmanshipMuseum.com. We also welcome new contributions. Please see our page at www.CraftsmanshipMuseum.com/newsubmit.htm for a submission form and guidelines for submitting descriptive copy and photos for a new project.

horizontal rule

This section is not yet sponsored.

(Your logo could go here...)

To learn how your company or organization can sponsor a section in the Craftsmanship Museum, please contact craig@CraftsmanshipMuseum.com.

RETURN TO MUSEUM HOME PAGE

Copyright 2010, The Joe Martin Foundation for Exceptional Craftsmanship. All rights reserved.
 No part of this web site, including the text, photos or illustrations, may be reproduced or transmitted in any other form or by any means (electronic, photocopying, recording or otherwise) for commercial use without the prior written permission of The Joe Martin Foundation. Reproduction or reuse for educational and non-commercial use is permitted.