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  • Writer's pictureTinkers Bubble

Log-dogs and Hobnobs

Here is, after a very long time, an exciting update on Ol’Steamy.


Ol’ Steamy the steam engine has now been residing almost 3 years with James at Shaftsbury Steam Restoration. It has seemed, at times, a painfully drawn out process, crawling along with multiple hiccups and setbacks. She has been stripped to her bones, abdomen and thorax strewn, skeletal and sad. The doctors shaken head signifying condemning of another organ. Yet operation after operation has brought us a new fire box, boiler barrel, end plate thingy, boiler tubes, chimney and the other bit. Valves have been replaced, piston rings unstuck, rivets riveted and many, many holes bored and reamed. None of the structural elements on this period of steam engine are ‘off the shelf’, the way they were manufactured dictated tolerances demanding customisation. Therefore one single ¾ inch steel plate cost us 5k alone, as the dies had to be especially made to be hot pressed in a massive hydraulic press. This is all slow and highly skilled work, requiring at least 7 organisations to manufacture, repair, supply and test various parts.


But we hear faint on the winds of time, etheric puffings echoing through our dreams of tomorrow. She rises at first arthritic and grim faced from the fires of the metallurgists, limb for limb wrought together, the phoenix of industrialisation. The movement will start to come smooth as the sanguine oil warms and runs in her joints, animation creeping as dawn colours in to the day.


We aren’t quite there yet though, but James has said that in the next few weeks they might be able to perform the first pressure test – meaning that all the major components are nearly fully assembled. Sometimes a lot can happen in a couple of days, and sometimes it takes a days just to get something aligned and in the correct place. Such is the nature of the beast. But we are now, at least, always moving forwards, bit by bit. Everything has been manufactured that needs to be, and all materials procured. And when she does come back (hopefully this half of the year) we will essentially have a new engine, good for another 100 years! The final costs are coming in at 28k, plus a bit more for transport and setting up the mill again. 19.5k has amazingly been donated through our various fundraising requests, which has made this project feasible. To cover this last outlay we are looking to borrow £6000 as a medium term load, to be payed back in full by our woodland business as the mill gets running again. If you, or someone you know, would be interested in supporting us with this loan, please get in contact via our email address –


On the theme of the steam engine, we have just had a wonderful weekend with some woody friends, prepping the timbers for the new structure that Steamy will live under. There were 6 of us hewing away with a multitude of axes, chalk lines, log-dogs and hobnobs. We have prepped sills, post, wall plates, purlins and rafter, some 2 meters long, some 9. We even had a little crack with my newly sharpened pit saw. We didn’t finish though, so are planning another weekend soon to finish the hewing and get in to the framing. I’m hoping to get some curved braces in for beauty, and there is a nice array of other projects to turn our hands to when we finish. There are huge log hives for our bees to be adzed out and set up, and trestles to make for the pit saw (plus other construction projects this summer and next). But only once Steamy is back will we erect the frame around her. If you are looking to develop your skills in working with traditional timber and carpentry and already have experience of working with hand tools and timber, and would like to join us for a weekend (either soon or in the future) drop Richard a line (07594 506084) or on our email!


Happy springing! Richard and all at the Bubble.

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1 Comment

Frank McKenzie
Frank McKenzie
Mar 15


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