Saturday, July 21, 2018

Saturday Film Club: Isle of Man by railcar

Next week, I should be on the Isle of Man, so in tribute, here's a couple of minutes travelling in the ex-Donegal railcars out of Douglas station. Not a view likely to be repeated in the near future as restoration isn't on the cards. Apparently they simply aren't big enough, or fast enough for modern loadings. In fact there is a good chance they will be on their way back to Ireland...

Friday, July 20, 2018

Talyllyn perfection in Garden Rail

Sometimes my job allows me to meet some special people. The main feature in this month's Garden Rail is a loco built by Simon Atkinson. Before contacting him via social media, I didn't know him, but I knew his work. Specifically some of the spaceships that appeared in Blake's 7 back in the 1970s. Now he produces amazing graphic art and teaches model making.

You might think that us normal bodgers can't learn much from a professional. He has access to tools we don't and will probably use exotic materials.

Tools - yes, but then laser-cutting is becoming available and more to the point, it's not essential. You can cut sheets of plastic yourself, it just takes longer. And the rest of the work, well I can see how you could repeat much of this at home.

Elsewhere in the magazine we have some technology in the form of RC couplers and even running a layout completely automatically. There's quite a bit of rolling stock construction too as an antidote to that main course of scratchbuilding.

Oh, and a competition to win a very impressive controller.

Garden Rail 288.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Bunglow, dock and a layout refurb in BRM

August is the scenic special issue of BRM and in the past this has seen me build a detailed diorama in 7mm scale (O gauge). This year is no exception, with the subject being a prefab bungalow.

Despite being built to a deadline, I always enjoy doing these. So far I've managed to keep them train-free with a vegetable garden and nissen hut being the previous stars.  There's plenty of detail and this time, digital reader can even download some printable tea towels to add to their own washing line! (I just tided up the file I made for my efforts).

This isn't cake box size however, but I've built one of those too:

Using models from the Graham Farish range, we have a slice of a dockyard scene. This could easily be expanded to layout length by simply repeating the walls. In fact I have some left over if I fancy a bit more 2mm scale (N gauge) waterfront.

On the DVD, Howard and I take on the challenge of reviving a second hand layout. The model is basically very good, but the scenery needed going over. Two days work and the results are, in my opinion, excellent. It's a very different project from normal, but one I think people will find useful. You don't need to buy in a layout, you could just look at your own with fresh eyes and use some of our techniques.

Digi readers will also find me looking at the Heljan 07 and trying a Golden Valley Hobbies Janus loco. 

August 2018 BRM.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Warehouse Wednesday: Tin hut

Corrugated iron hut

This week, I return to my love of corrugated iron with this cracking hut spotted at the Moseley Railway Trust. 

A simple enough building, the doors and windows are boarded up and painted to match the walls, as so many scruffy huts seemed to be. If I have a comment, it's that the paint is good modern stuff, not the thick black pitch from days of yore. Not that this matters for modelling purposes.

I suppose it's a bit clean too, miniature versions would benefit from a coat of rust working its way up from the ground.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The perfect tool to dry-brush brickwork

I've decided that the Harper's Yard brickwork should be painted rather than pencil-crayoned. I'll probably use some of the Robert's mortar stuff too, but the key is - no brickpaper. I want all the finishes to match up and for me that means taking control. 

Dry-brushing bricks is a bit of a fiddle, that's why I evolved the crayon method. It's very easy to get brick colour in the mortar lines. I've found a brush that makes the job easier though, a Humbrol Coloro Number 8

These are the cheaper end of the Humbrol brush range and if I'm honest, not my favourites. They lose their pointed shape almost immediately and are very stiff. But, it turns out this makes them perfect for brick-brushing. See the exciting video below: 

Dry brushing

Shot on my 'phone, you can see how easy the job it. Paint is picked up on the brush, worked off again on the corner of the modelling board and then brushed over the bricks. A shallow angle to the surface is essential, but once you get the hang of it, pretty easy and with hardly any paint where I didn't want it.

I'll go over the surface with brick and a couple of browns to add variation, but the results look pretty good so far. And I'm keeping all those Coloro's safe now.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Back to the yard

Regular readers might remember that last month I started building a Petite Properties "Harper's Yard" kit. I got as far as sticking some Plastikard on the front, and then it all went quiet.

I had carried out a bit more work - the openings were all lined with plastic and I'd got as far as trying the windows. At this point I realsied that losing 1mm off each side made the pre-printed glazing look odd. On the PP stand, the model is covered with their brickpaper and the problem doesn't occur.

So, the lining was carefully removed despite all the effort I'd gone to to put it in neatly. Then the plastic started to peel from the front. Then it tore. Then I'm embarrassed to say, I had a bit of a meltdown and screwed the whole kit up and lobbed it in the bin.

But, I still like the model and with the bit more care, I think I can do a good job. So I ordered a replacement kit which has arrived and I'm back to making progress.

This time, the inside edges of the openings will just be painted. Some need to be a painted wood colour, others brick. While the lack of mortar lines might annoy me a little, once on a larger model, no-one is going to notice. At least I'm not going to tell them.

So, I'm going to learn from my mistakes. A slightly different tack to the build and no more modelling while stressed.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Smallspace 2018


It's 40 years since the superb BBC sci-fi drama Blakes 7 debuted on our TV screens and a very young Phil sat and watched some dystopian telly, missing the sub-plot completely and just enjoying the special effects and spaceships. It was grittier than Dr Who but I didn't care.

Smallspace this year celebrated this with the original Liberator (in a VERY bad way) and an appearance by Michael Keating, who played Vila Restal in the series along with the designer and model makers from the show. A shuffle of displays allowed us to enjoy "Vila's Vault" with a collection of props and costumes, bot real and reproduction. You can tell the later, they are better made and more detailed!

UFO hunters

Along side this there were examples of more sic-fi modelmaking, a bit of steampunk and the most amazingly detailed bakers shop where every item was hand made from clay and I wanted to tuck in!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Saturday film club: Accucraft open day 2018

A couple of weeks ago, I headed over to Wales for Accucraft UK's open day. 

Once the bargains had gone (I missed out on IOM coaches for a tenner - perfect for a carriage cottage) people  spent the time runing trains on the test track - and I filmed some of them. There's a good variety of scales from G to 7/8th and some really interesting stock.

Friday, July 13, 2018

A working paddle boat for under 4 quid?

Loitering on a model boat forum, I spot a topic with a title along the lines of "This would be a good boat for the kids". Inside is a link to an eBay shop and a paddle boat costing £3.75. It looks like a bit of fun and so I hit the "Buy it now" link and then add a load of waterproof switches from the same shop for good measure.

A week or so later a package arrives in a jiffy bag from China. The switches are brilliant, and impossible to find in the UK (I've looked a lot) but the kit is contained in a plastic bag. Opening this up and I have the bits above on my bench.

The instructions show that you basically use double sided tape to stick the foam shape to the plywood board, attach the double-ended motor with cable ties, wrap some wires around terminals and push the plastic paddles on the shafts.

I broke out the soldering iron for the wiring, twisting the wires didn't work for me and the paddles took a bit of brute force to fit on the motor, but the whole job was done in under 20 minutes.

On a pool, the little model potters around beautifully. Care is needed to make sure the paddles don't catch on the foam, but when working well, it's quite fast and utterly charming.

Paddle boat

I'm already wondering what I can do to make more of this kit. For the price, it's a bit of fun and yes, would be good for kids. 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Looking through the square windows

I've been working on a few model building projects recently and if there is one thing I will do my best to avoid, it's being able to see things inside the model you shouldn't be able to. Mainly this is being able to look through a building when there should be walls in the way, but can also refer to seeing the construction of the model.

Now, you can equip a model with a fully fitted interior. That's what the guys at Pendon would do, but I don't have the luxury of that much time and to be honest, for most models, it would be overkill. Fine if you like sticking things on the layout that no-one sees, but that's not for me most of the time.

My solution is to make up little boxes for the back of the windows. Inside is painted dark grey, not black, and then stuck in place to blank out the view. There needs, in my opinion, to be a little separation between the "glass" and the blackness or this looks odd too.

The job doesn't take long, but adds immensely to the look of a model.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Warehouse Wednesday: Falmouth stone warehouse

Falmouth warehouse

Spotted by my parents while on holiday, this rubble walled warehouse is a Grade II listed building - the full details of which can be found here.  

As well as being very attractive, the shot is useful because the viewing gallery it's taken from is high enough to give a view of the roof. In fact, it's not a long way from the view we get of models like this on railway layouts. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

MiG Oilbrusher

New, to me anyway, is this handy painting goodie from MiG. To anyone who has owned a car and carried out any work on it, it looks like a touch-up brush, and to all intents and purposes, this is what it is.

Inside the 7cm by 1.5cm tube, is 10ml of paint and in the cap is a long bristled brush. Unscrew the lid and you have a ready-loaded brush for tiny jobs.

I'm assuming the paint is an enamel because of the name - it certainly sticks well to plastic and metal.

I chose a dark brown (dark mud) that looked pretty close to Humbrol Track Colour. It's a very useful shade to have at shows for touching up scrapes or soldered joints. Most of the time a colour match isn't essential, some dirt will do the job.

Not the cheapest way to paint, mine cost £3.50, I can really see these being a useful extra tool for many modellers. It's certainly quicker than mixing a tinlet and then washing the brush afterwards. An essential addition for most exhibition toolboxes I'd suggest.

See the full range on the MiG website.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Robert's Brick Mortar Formula

One of my Canadian souvenirs, is this little bottle of "Roberts Brick Mortar Formula". It's a magic substance that claims to be able to fill the mortar lines in brickwork, something I've never had any success with. The stuff isn't cheap, but I thought I'd give it a go as I've not seen this product for sale in the UK.

My first test was some 4mm scale Slaters Brick Plastikard. I painted it brick colour using Humbrol 70 and left to dry overnight.

In the morning, I painted a little of the formula on the bricks and wiped it around a little. This is left to dry and then wiped again to reveal the faces. The effect is very impressive. A little polishing with a paper towel and the mortar is clearly defined.

I've no idea what is in this stuff but it feels like a very fine gritty powder suspended, if you shake it well enough, in a liquid. There's definitely some texture in there.

The colour is a bit bright so I experimented with a wash of thinned cream enamel (left) and Agrax inks on the right. They look OK, but a little work is still required.

 The second text was on some laser cut MDF, again in 4mm scale. This stuff can be tough to paint as the bricks are so sharp my normal pencil crayon technique doesn't work. Again, I painted the bricks with enamel and once dry, used the formula. It worked a treat, possibly too well as you can see the brick joints aren't vertical.

1oz of the stuff covers 5 square feet, so a good chunk of anyone's layout. I'd certainly use this again in the future, even at the price.

Robert's brick mortar website

Sunday, July 08, 2018

KMBC Open Day 2018

Pigeon Pie

A bright sunny day in early summer spent beside our model boating lake? What could be better?

The KMBC open day enjoyed perfect weather and this brought out a wide variety of model boats, not just from the members, but from visitors too.


One of the highlights had to be this massive model of Titanic. With no icebergs to worry about, the processed around the pond in a stately fashion. To be honest, at nearly 6ft long, she is a little bit for our water, but just managed to make the turns smoothly.

I spent the day operating the Bring'n'Buy stall, so the chances to take photos were a bit limited, but at least I managed to get a sail with Pigeon Pie - well you have to take your best boat don't you? 

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Saturday Film Club: Behind the scenes with Thomas

Some interesting footage here showing the filming of the pre-CGI series of Thomas the Tank Engine. 

I'm no expert, but there appears to be footage from filming one of the films - a stupid dies with a grab on the top dangles from a viaduct at one point. Nevertheless, it's fascinating to see the scale of many of the sets required for the Gauge 1 and larger models to operate in.

Some nice 80s shirts going on too as well as vintage radio control gear.

Friday, July 06, 2018

LGB Track cleaning loco

LGB Track Cleaning Loco

Summer is here and it's time to get the garden railway working properly. Maintenance over the winter means that one end of the circuit needs no work and most of the rest just a bit of a clean. 

The better news is that cleaning duties can now be farmed out to a new addition to the fleet - an LGB track cleaning loco. 

Picked up at a bargain price from an advert on Facebook, the machine is simple but effective. The back end 0-4-0 is a normal LGB loco. The "nose" houses a pair of motorised wheels that spin in the opposite direction of travel when the loco moved forward. The speed of the cleaning wheels, which have a mildly abrasive surface, is controlled by a knob on the cab roof. 

LGB Track Cleaning Loco in action

It takes a beefy controller to power the loco. I'm using a Helmsman Model Rail unit designed for garden railways and offering 0-20V DC at 4.5amps. My suspicion is that the little 0.5a LGB controller isn't going to be man enough for the job. Sadly, the Helmsman unit is a prize for a forthcoming Garden Rail competition. I may have to buy my own. 

The track is noticeably shinier after a few passes by the loco. How well it will deal with the dirt after months of inaction I'm not sure, but with parts of the railway difficult to access, this is a worthwhile purchase. 

Did I mention the lights on top flash? They do - fantastic!

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Ben in 009

I'm not much of a loco buyer, prefering to build them myself. Normally, I'll have a crack at anything, but there was one kit I looked at many times and decided that it was beyond my abilities. Backwoods Miniatures Barclay Contractors loco in 009 (Link here, scroll down).

Building a high quality but fiddly chassis always put me off, even though I thought the loco looked delightful in the adverts. At the very least I would be required to quarter some tiny wheels and I'm no good at that in OO. Alongside this, I simply didn't have a real need for the model and there were (still are) plenty of kits in the "to do" pile.The kit isn't available any more and so I thought no more about it.

Fast forward a few years and I'm at the Oxford 009 show and on the society stand I spot a built up Barclay. After half a day of pondering, I ask to see if the model runs. It does, although a very slight tweak to the quartering might be required. Price £70 - a tenner less than the kit used to be sold for.
Barclay chassis
Looking at the chassis, it's not nearly as scary as I thought.The design looks not unlike some RTR 009 locos. The wheels would need to be set up, but turning the working bits over without a motor would be simple enough for fiddling.

All seems to work, but I fear the motor isn't long for this world. When running it heats up and a full speed blast for a couple of feet seems white smoke wafting off. Since nothing seems tight, I conclude that there is something bad going on in the windings. With Mashima motors being unavailable, I have to hope I have something suitable stashed away, or can one day replace it with another unit. The chassis design makes that look a distinct possibility, so I'm not worried.

Going back to the days when I looked longingly at the Backwoods adverts, they appealed so much I scratchbuilt my own version in 16mm scale, 32mm gauge. I was always rather poud of "Ben", so much so, I've ordered a set of Narrow Planet plates for the 009 version with the same name.

Ben the steam engine

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Warehouse Wednesday: Lean to workshop

Lean to building

Visiting the Black Country Museum a few weeks ago, in the rain, I couldn't resist the properly mucky areas of industry. Yes the shops are pretty, but this is an industrial area and so that's the proper history. 

This little lean-to workshop is (assuming the museum have got it right) the sort of useful modelling prototype I like. A single story, it's what you make when you've got some bits of a kit left over and don't want to throw them away. 

Great for giving a model the "higgledy-piggledy" look that these sort of places developed as buildings were thrown up to do a job, not to look pretty. 

Added detail - the ground was compacted dirty stone rather than tarmac. Not very flat, a skim of plaster mixed with black powder paint would do the job. Then add puddles.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

The Branch Line by RPA Edwards

Publisher: Burke Publishing, London

ISBN: 0-222-99298-0


64 Pages

£1.20 (24/-)

Published 1970

A book aimed at schools as part of Environmental Studies (who was doing this in 1970?), The Branch Line tells the entire history of a fictional line running to the town of Rockton in Rileshire.

The story opens in the 1840s when it is found that the old methods of transport, sailing barges on the River Rill, couldn't keep pace with the demand for the local stone. Along comes the railway and gradually barge trade dies out. On the other hand, farmers find they can transport their animals to market quicker. Passenger services were introduced and this allowed locals to travel, even as far as London!

After WW1, motor vehicles appear but they aren't as good as trains. WW2 though sees more improvements and the quarry company buys a fleet of lorries. Demand for stone changes too, crushed material being more use than large blocks.

The line started to lose money and was threatened with the Beeching axe. This would affect many people especially small market-gardners who sent good via train to the stall holders of Rilchester market rather than wholesalers. This extra profit was essential and would be lost if the railway closed.

Public meetings are held and petitions signed. A public inquiry takes place, but the outcome was still closure on the basis that the local bus company would run services for everyone and not just commuters. They don't of course, because of competition between two companies in one area.

The council investigates buying and running the line, but people aren't willing to pay higher rates to make this happen, so the railway closes.

With the line gone, the trackbed reverts to nature to the delight of foxes and schoolchildren doing nature studies. A local mushroom grower takes over the tunnel.

Lack of transport forces some of the characters from the story to move from houses in the country to flats on an estate. Rockton's town centre starts to die off as people with cars now decide to travel to larger nearby towns.

All this is illustrated with attractive paintings by Gareth Floyd.

The Branch Line is, to my mind, a brilliant book. It succinctly tells the story of a local railway from birth to death and uses a few character along the way to explain how the changes matter to people. Many of the events are recognisable, such as the comment that if all the people who had come to see the last train had travelled regularly on the railway, it wouldn't have closed.

As an overview of the social history of railways, there's very little better, at least as an introduction to the subject. It's also well written and genuinely enjoyable read.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Pictures from Pendon

Last week, I paid a visit to Pendon to see the opening of the Bristol Line. While there, I took advantage of the protective glass around the Vale scene to snap a few photos.

Roye England at work

Roye England at work recording details of a cottage for the model.

The Vicar calls

The vicar calls.

The Carpenters Arms

The Carpenters Arms.


Some Great Western chuffer obscuring a nice photo of a farm.

 Train and signal

Banana vans in a scene where the white balance was so to cock that sepia toning the scene was the only solution.

Collecting water

Collecting water from a stream.


A bird (Magpie?) in a tree.

All the photos are taken handheld with an Olympus SZ-17 compact camera. No stacking, a touch of white balance correction but nothing else.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

DEMU 2018

Burton Station

You don't often get off a train and an hour later find yourself admiring a 1:76 scale version of the station you were standing on, but that's how it worked at DEMU this year. Cavan Millward's 2mm scale model uses a clever set of N2 track standards that create a fine crossing V to encourage smooth running without modification to rolling stock.

I didn't really notice this until I read the details in the programme. What I saw was a very accurate model that nailed the look of the station and surroundings.

Model model railway

Another eye-catcher is this model of a model railway in a 4mm scale Wills garden shed. I really fancy building one of these!

Diesel engine

The exposed diesel engines on Oil Drum Lane looked good too. Very clever bit of modelling.

DEMU also sees a few interesting new products appearing. I met the boss of Hattons in the queue to come in, and he'd brought a 3D print of their new Class 66 along for people to see. 

If I'd been smart, I'd have realised this might happen and been better prepared with the right camera to bag some high-quality shots. As it was, I had to do the best with the pocket compact in my bag which leads to limited depth-of-field. 

The Mickleover limited edition Scottish Class 37 looks nice - I like the big yellow end engines. This one has been weathered by its owner which enhances it even further. 

Next year the show moves out of it's traditional Burton Town hall venue. I'm a little sad about this as it's a quirky and fun place to go, but I understand that the show needs to grow and that means more space. 

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Saturday Film Club: Quaint little railways

A short film today. It's sunny so you won't want to be stuck in front of the computer when you could be out doing sporting things in the healthy fresh air will you? (Must check the demographic of my blog readers)

This film kicks off with a potato railway - specifically, the Nocton Estate Light Railway. Little narrow gauge lines like this proliferate when rural roads were hopeless for the lorries of the day. Sadly, both roads and lorries improved and the railway closed in 1960. 

After this we head off to a gentleman's grand house complete with 3-rail model railway. I can't work out if it's O or 1 gauge. The Meccano Ferris wheel in the background is quite nice though.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Putting the Stirling Single through its paces

Having seen the Rapido/Locomotion Stirling Single at all the phases in its development, when the chance came to have a quick play with one, I couldn't resist. I've borrowed the BRM review sample and put it on my ancient H&M Rolling road. Since the loco is fitted with one of those new-fangled DCC chip things, I used my MERG DCC controller to bring it life. 

I'm not going to spoil things by reviewing the model, you can check out the July issue of BRM for that, but you can enjoy the video - turn those speakers up to 11!

One highlight of the package is the instruction manual. Written in the usual Rapido humorous style, it's worth going through just for entertainment, that you learn how not to break the model is an added bonus. The po-faced might not be happy, but making a normally dull document entertaining has the advantage that people will read the thing and perhaps even take the advice contained within. Clever move.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Great Models - Mississauga

One of the benefits of not driving everywhere is that you have to explore places to find bus stops. After visiting Credit Valley Railway, I went in search of transport and tripped over another model shop - Great Hobbies.

If Credit Valley is heaven for toy train buffs, Great Hobbies covers everything else. The sizable (for the UK, average for Canada) store is stuffed with RC vehicles, plastic kits, boats and loads of materials. I wandered the aisles for the best part of an hour, constantly doing currency calculations in my head followed by "how much space do I have in my bag and how close am I to the weight limit".

Sensible Phil won out and my only purchase was this suitably silly figure:

Tiny and cheap, it now sits looking at me from the Canada section of my display cabinet. In fact, until I can reorganise the display cabinet, it is the Canada section.

As it turns out, I was right about the space and not far off the mark on the weight for my bag, but I'll admit the pound vs dollar rate did make a lot of the plastic kits look like bargains. More importantly, the staff were very friendly and I feel guilty I spent less than 5 dollars. 

Anyway, if you are a model maker, head over to Mississauga. Two fantastic shops within walking or driving distance.

Visit the Great Hobbies website.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Warehouse Wednesday: Ghost sign in London

Ghost sign

The work taking place to gentrify the King's Cross area have revealed, or at least made easier to photograph, this lovely ghost sign near the station previously obscured by some wooden shops. 

I've no idea how old these letters are, but 3/4 of a century would seem a reasonable guess. We forget just how much advertising there was around in "the good old days". Paint something like this on the front of your listed building now and watch the local busybodies get upset!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Weighty tools

My plan with the front of Harpers Yard is to use Slaters embossed Plastikard bricks rather than the brick paper used on PetitieProperties stand. I think this will blend with the other buildings I'm likely to use better.

Fixing the plastic with Deluxe Materials Speed Bond, I wanted to let the glue dry under some weights. These lumps of steel are offcuts bought from a model engineering show for 50p each and have proved invaluable for all sorts of jobs. They are a perfect fit for this building!

Basic items like the steel lumps are cheap and useful, but not "proper" tools in many modellers eyes. They are wrong. 

Monday, June 25, 2018

Harpers Yard

I've long been a fan of the Petite Properties range - I like the idea of basic but well-designed buildings that you can assemble but have to sort out your own surface texture for. A recent addition to the range is Harpers Yard, a low-relief industrial structure. I've looked at it many times on the stand but resisted buying until I had a use for it.

The photobox has me thinking about a tiny industrial model and that's enough to persuade me to hand over some cash.

Anyway, the parts are laser-cut MDF with card detailing. Construction starts with the main MDF parts being fixed together to form the back of the building, leaving the front free for the moment.

 I'll work on that next.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

I can find modelling tools anywhere...

The British Tarantula Show might not seem the obvious place to go to find modelling tools. To be honest, that wasn't what I was expecting when I went along. In fact, I didn't know what to expect at all, but it was 10 minutes drive and only a fiver to go in - and I was curious.

The first surprise was that although there were tables full of spiders for sale in little plastic pots, there customers also wanted creepy crawlies. Millipedes the side of a Twix finger, twice as long and with an awful lot of legs for example. Quite attractive in their own way...

African snails are quite a size too. I don't get these, I mean you can't cuddle them, can you? All you have a is a huge mollusc leaving slime everywhere. Fun for a few minutes, but after that, you've still got to feed it.

Anyway, after a fascinating chat with a stallholder about the virtues of whistling cockroaches, I found a tool stall.  

A few quid later, I'd re-stocked my pipette supply, bought some metal tweezers and a new spritzing bottle for ballast. That and some useful plastic tubs with hinged lids on top. Perfect for ballast and scenic materials as you don't need to open them fully to get a bit out. Far safer if they get knocked over!