How Much Is Enough – Steve Briancourt

How much is enough?

So, how much Meccano is enough for one person?  I’ve heard it said that you can never have enough, and also heard someone say “I think I have enough now”.  There’s no clear answer, as it depends on what one’s philosophy is.  You can accrue loads of everything so you always have available those bits needed, or can have some of everything and be prepared to buy the additional quantity when the need arises.  I used to aspire to the former, awed by the amounts other people have.  But now it’s more practical to have enough to be getting on with and buy more of a particular item when needed – or so I thought.

The trouble is, I’m always looking to add more of those less common items when the opportunity arises, like those boxes of old stuff which you can see have a few of the bits you’re interested in.  What the hell, it’s only a few pounds, and as long as I get enough useful bits to warrant that cost, the rest is a bonus.  And here’s where the problem starts.  I don’t like to throw away stuff that is potentially restorable.  It just feels wrong to bin Meccano.  So I filter through the old stuff thinking “o.k. it’s a bit tarnished and bent – alright then, rusty and bent – but I can fix that and add it to my collection.”  So I end up with the bits I originally had my eye on, plus another hundred 2 ½ inch double angle strips, an uncountable number of dubious 5 hole and 11 hole strips, and yet another cache of various sized pulley wheels.  Oh, and a shed load of flanged plates, sector plates and trunnions.  But they can all be restored right, so why throw them.  

So I start to mentally grade them:

Stuff that’s ok already – just needs a bit of a clean up or coat of paint

Stuff that’s definitely restorable with a hammer and enough time (I won’t do it all now, there’s time when I retire)

And stuff that is far too ropey for that, so I’ll bin it.  Or not.  Well, you never know when I might need some scrap stuff to prototype with, or make cut-downs from, or actually perhaps make a model to genuinely look like it’s been in a fire and run over by a combine harvester.  I use M4 nuts and bolts for the most part, but can’t bring myself to throw away those rusty original Meccano nuts and bolts.  Well, they are Meccano after all, and who knows when I might need them for an ‘all original Meccano’  model (competition judges might be harsh on such things).

Either way, most of it doesn’t find its way into the bin.  Which then brings the next problem – storage.

Unlike many, I don’t have a Meccano den in the house.  My wife and I share a hobbies store room.  On one side are her cupboards of stuff, on the other side are my cupboards of Meccano.   But only the ‘can use now’ Meccano, not the stuff still to be restored, and certainly not the stuff that earned a death sentence reprieve.  The garage would be the obvious place for the latter, except that it’s not a garage now but a workshop, and food larder, and bike shed, and household goods store, and paint tin repository etc.  Well, perhaps I could ditch the old car parts (from three cars ago) and make room for the ropey stuff.

Inside the house I have to be more inventive for space.  In the lounge where I do my building in the evenings, I have a rather nice oak cabinet – modified for maximum storage – that blends in well, but that is just for the evening build ‘float’. I can store out-of-sight under beds, in the loft (reminiscent here of the ‘Great Escape’), and in a couple of bedroom wardrobes (after all, it’s just us in the house now except when they all come to stay, so the bedrooms still have to be bedrooms.  We haven’t gained any space, just re-designated the property from a home to a hotel; but I digress).  However, whist exploring places to store stuff I have been attacked by a falling plastic tub full of odd knitting wools, so clearly my wife also has designs on secreting stuff away.  So how is it that my discretely stored caches are ‘taking over the house’ while her stuff is ‘you never know when I might need these scraps for the grandchildren’?  I digress again.

Back to the original question; how much is enough?  In the end it is probably a function of finance, storage space, available time, model aspirations and conscience.  If you are happy with a set 9, then that’s enough.  There is hardly a restriction on the number of models that can be built with it.  If you want to build a full size car, then you need to collect until you have enough.  The fun with Meccano is to create something to be pleased with.  Quantity is not a competition, but sometimes a by-product of collecting the bits you really want.

The above makes it sound like I have a lot, but that is relative.  Compared to non-club members who used to build when they were young (as I did) I have a ridiculous amount (a few hundred kilograms of useable stuff), but compared to long term enthusiasts I am merely a starter – which actually I am as a collector.  So I guess when I feel having more is a waste of collection effort, I will have enough.  I haven’t got there yet.  And I might want to build – say – a spiral staircase for some reason.  All I would need are hundreds of sector plates and about 30 boiler bodies for the core.  Ah! I have just the thing……….