Making a brass truck frame

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Making a brass truck frame

Postby chariots of fire on Fri Mar 28, 2014 12:10 pm

After posting my latest project Aaron asked about the process of making up a brass truck frame. In this tutorial I will show you the techniques that I have found successful. It works for me and I hope it will be for you also.
The first part of the project is determining what the shape and dimensions of the frame will be. So I make up a pattern that will be the outline of the web portion of the frame. Frames in cross section look like a "C" with the web being the vertical part and the horizontal parts the flanges. A normal frame would be made of one rolled piece but we will make one using separate pieces for the web and top and bottom flanges.
Next is to select the materials to be soldered together. In this tutorial I am making up a frame for the same 1938 Ford that I have already posted. The reason? I'm making two rigs the same! :P In the photo that follows you can see the paper pattern for the frame web and the pieces of strip brass that will make up the web and flanges. I just noticed something! The strip I have labeled 1/64 x 3/32 should be 1/32 x 3/32! Sorry about that guys! :oops:
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This next photo shows the tools, solder and flux paste necessary for soldering the work. You can see a 15 watt iron with a blunt pencil tip, a butane torch, the solder flux and a roll of electronic silver bearing solder. Also in the upper left is a machinist's block that I use either as a weight or a means of making sure things stay at right angles to each other.
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Now it's on to the soldering. You will need a good flat surface and one that is heat resistant to lay the pieces on and do the soldering. I use an old piece of asbestos panel that was used years ago as fire resistant sheathing. There's no asbestos dust to contend with so long as I'm not cutting it. You can also use a smooth ceramic tile for the same purpose. I found one at a floor tile store. The next posting will begin the process of soldering the frame pieces together.
With the pattern secured to the brass strip with double sided tape, the shape was cut using a cutoff wheel. The thin brass cuts easily and needs only a small amount of file work to be sure that the edges are straight and smooth.
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Then the end of the strip to be used for the flange is annealed to soften it for bending at the end of the web section. Look closely and you will see that the strip has discolored indicating that it has softened.
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Next we set the pieces in place on the flat surface with the web section flat down and the flange piece upright between the web and machinist's block. The block helps hold the flange piece upright and square to the web piece. Start by making sure that there is flux between the two pieces. This helps the solder flow into the joint where it secures the pieces together.
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Now we begin the work of "tacking" the web and flange together.
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Continue tacking at various places along the pieces until you have something that looks like this.
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Notice we have used the iron here and not the torch. The iron works better because it doesn't heat the pieces quite as much. We don't want the sections we have already tacked to come apart because of heat transfer. You could use some heat sinks but that is not easy when the pieces are laying flat. Also notice in the photo below that the end of the flange section has been bent down and secured to the web. By softening the flange piece it was easy to bend it sharply against the web.
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When you finish with the solder and it is continuous along the joint it should look like the piece in the photo directly below.
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Now we can begin some cleanup. I use a wire brush in my Dremel. The brush cleans up the brass and removes the excess flux and solder. What remains is in the joint between the two pieces. When you finish with the wire brush you should get something like what is below.
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With that portion done it is now time to tackle the second flange. But the elves ran out of flange stock so we will continue after they make a run next Tuesday to the LHS. :lol:
Last edited by chariots of fire on Sun Apr 23, 2017 11:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Making a brass truck frame

Postby Firepig on Fri Jan 16, 2015 1:58 am

Nice, Charlie. Very helpful. Thank you.

Will this be continued to completion?
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Re: Making a brass truck frame

Postby chariots of fire on Fri Jan 16, 2015 2:55 pm

I do have some pix of brass frames that I have made. I don't have a particular tutorial that would follow this one right now. What I can do is post some of the other pix along with an explanation if that would help.
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Re: Making a brass truck frame

Postby Firepig on Fri Jan 16, 2015 3:07 pm

Whatever you have laying around, Charlie. Anything at all is good; it's very educational to be able to look over your shoulder.

Best regards,
Dan

PS: Are you going to be at GSL this year?
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Re: Making a brass truck frame

Postby chariots of fire on Sat Jan 17, 2015 12:22 am

Afraid not but I may go to the NNL Nationals in Toledo next October. I'll bring together a group of brass frame pix from different builds so you can see what has been done.
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Re: Making a brass truck frame

Postby chariots of fire on Sat Jan 17, 2015 11:07 am

Here are some photos of various truck frames I have made from brass. When I started doing a lot of scratch building and needed special frames, I found that plastic stock just was not rigid enough to withstand warping or twisting. That is a hard thing to keep under control unless the frame members are thick and more out of scale than they should be. I attempted one plastic frame using dimensions obtained and found that it was weak and did not give me a positive building platform. So I learned how to do a little soldering and went from there.
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This frame is for a USAF R-2 Rescue. The sides (web) of the frame were first drawn out on paper and taped to brass strip. Then the webs were cut out using a Dremel and cutting wheel. It's important to check each web after it is cut to be sure that the curves and overall lengths match. If they don't a little filing will cure the problem. Uneven frame webs will result in a racked frame or will not give positive location points from side to side to mount springs and axles.
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The top and bottom flanges of the frame rails were soldered in place as shown above. Softening the strip stock makes it easier to follow the curves of the web.
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Here is a nice straight frame made for the Pierce Arrow dump truck shown in the photo above it. This one was made from actual measurements taken of the real truck. A frame like this is easiest to do because the rails can be set upright on a flat surface for tacking in the cross members. Actual measurements here also helped to set the frame rail spacing. Turning the frame upside down when tacking in the cross members is also a good idea especially if the top flange is nice and straight like this one.
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A shot of the same frame but with a lot of added detail. Photos and measurements of the real truck were used here as well. The front axle hubs are brass telescoping tubing with an outside diameter the next size down from the brass tubing used for the wheel hubs. The hole in the middle is threaded for a #90 brass hexhead bolt.
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Making a full frame is really a series of sub assemblies and then putting them all together. Here you see springs and spring shackles that were made from brass strip and tube stock. The ends of the springs were soldered on and then cut to length to accept #90 bolts and nuts.
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This is the frame made up for the 1938 Ford Brush Truck. The flat cross member in the middle of the frame is just a temporary piece intended to keep the frame rails in allignment. If the two frame rails are not kept parallel, then all of the building from that point on will be off as well. Measure, measure and then mesure again early on and it will pay off in dividends later. In the foreground is the front axle assembly that will allow the front wheels to turn. Made from tubing and channel stock.
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The rear bogies of this truck are based on a Marmon Herrington design. Photos of a similar frame found on line helped in the fabrication.
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When making a frame of brass or of any other material actually, if the frame is square and straight, the rest of the build will be also. Working with brass for this part of the model adds strength and rigidity as well so that flexing will not be an issue.
Shout out if you have questions and I hope this helps a bit.
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Re: Making a brass truck frame

Postby Firepig on Sat Jan 17, 2015 6:33 pm

Great information, Charlie. Thank you.
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Re: Making a brass truck frame

Postby Aaronw on Mon Jan 19, 2015 3:34 pm

When you mentioned using the machinist block hold things in place, I went to Home Depot and grabbed a variety of ceramic tiles, a smooth terracotta (unglazed) 12x12 floor tile as a work surface, and various other sizes from 2-6" to use as "holders". That tip alone made a huge difference in my being able to keep things straight.
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Re: Making a brass truck frame

Postby chariots of fire on Mon Jan 19, 2015 4:10 pm

Amazing how a single comment generates new ideas! I never would have thought of the ceramic tiles even tho' I have one for my working surface when I take a project to our place in Maine! Cool! :)
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Re: Making a brass truck frame

Postby chariots of fire on Fri Nov 18, 2016 9:50 pm

Been experimenting a bit with various solders that melt at different temperatures. I've started building a 1954 Maxim 750 pumper and have a brass frame basically done. The front axle is dropped in the center to allow clearance for the engine. I was unable to find such in my stash so I'm making one from brass. Soldering small parts without using resistance soldering is a bit of a challenge but I've solved part of the problem by using a high heat silver bearing solder for the main parts and then using a lower temp solder for the last pieces. The chance of disturbing the rest of the pieces is lessened since the low heat solder does not disturb them if held on with a solder with a higher melting temperature.
I'll post some pix of the soldering projects when I get a bit more done.
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Re: Making a brass truck frame

Postby Aaronw on Sat Nov 19, 2016 12:50 pm

I wouldn't have thought about mixing solders, but it makes sense.


Do you think a heat shield would be of any use? They make heavy foil heat shields for plumbing, they are mostly for protecting the surface behind the plumbing when sweating copper pipes, but I could see how the same idea could be useful for working on parts close together to help reduce the radiated heat from the torch.

I've seen resistance soldering units, but not really familiar with them. If the elves get one I'd be interested in seeing more.
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Re: Making a brass truck frame

Postby chariots of fire on Sat Nov 19, 2016 8:16 pm

Probably not a heat shield but a heat sink works. It carries heat away from the part it is secured to. Been thinking of talking to my elves also about a resistance soldering unit. Professional grade ones are a bit expensive but a simple one at a lower price might be good. In the meantime I took a photo of the work on a new build and will post it in progress.
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Re: Making a brass truck frame

Postby foothill6514 on Mon Nov 21, 2016 1:10 pm

Resistance soldering is different learning curve. I got one from micro mark last year for Christmas. It is much like TIG welding, which I never got the hang of, too many things going on at once. That being said, it is nice that it doesn't remelt your previous joints, no heat sink needed. One thing I did notice when learning how to use it, it will melt brass, making it unusable.
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Re: Making a brass truck frame

Postby chariots of fire on Mon Nov 21, 2016 5:23 pm

Thanks for the heads up! There must be a variety of settings for using resistance equipment. Micro Mark shows it being used to solder small parts on brass locomotives. Maybe I'll hold off a bit! :?
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Re: Making a brass truck frame

Postby foothill6514 on Fri Nov 25, 2016 12:23 pm

The one from mirco mark I got has two posts that attaches the ground to with a wing nut. (Either high or low post) Then there is the foot pedal that you depress which completes the circuit. The theory is you depress the pedal while holding the hand piece near you joint with the ground attached elsewhere. The hand piece heats up the joint very quickly, then you add solder. My problem with melting brass was depressing the foot pedal for too long, probably because I am so used to traditional soldering.
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Re: Making a brass truck frame

Postby chariots of fire on Fri Nov 25, 2016 12:29 pm

So is it an instantaneous heat that is generated to melt the solder? I'd really like to try it but don't want to take the chance on something that will be more trouble than it's worth. Like everything else I assume there is a learning curve with it.
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Re: Making a brass truck frame

Postby foothill6514 on Sat Nov 26, 2016 2:32 am

Charlie, there is a total learning curve. But a man of your skill and talent could easily master it. The hand piece is cold once you let off the foot pedal, so yes its an instant heat. The joint is heated in spilt seconds, which is why when learning its easy to melt the brass. My problem was I was trying to use it like a conventional iron and leaving the foot pedal engaged to long. More is not always better.
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Re: Making a brass truck frame

Postby foothill6514 on Sat Nov 26, 2016 2:36 am

I have used it only to make a roll cage for a racecar so far. With a traditional iron I would fight with joints coming undone. This is not the case with the resistance. Your heat stays at the joint you are soldering. I haven't touched a model project this whole year :o :( . Was remolding my old house, selling it and moving to new place. I'm finally settled here, hoping to get back to modeling soon.
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