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Doc's Ami-Lac-Built Dockyard Crane ("Grue per Cantiere")

Hi folks, Doc here. Here's another dockyard crane model to go along with the Exacto version I built recently (you can see that one here in the Model Gallery, as well). The design shown in the photos on this page is from the current Ami-Lac 7/8 manual (see image at right). I built it with my Ami-Lac No. 8 set, plus a few Marklin parts (more on this later). It's a much larger model than its Exacto counterpart, standing 26½" tall overall. The tower itself is 13" tall by 6" square. Like the Exacto version, the model is a fairly standard shipping crane design, although the completed Ami-Lac version is less realistic looking than the Exacto model. As the photos below will attest, this crane features an open cab sitting atop a straight legged tower. The cab rotates 360º on a large flanged disk. A fixed boom is attached to the front of the cab. The hook is raised and lowered by means of a manual crank; a ratchet lever keeps the weight of the hook and any attached payload from unwinding off of the hoist spool. A second manual crank rotates the cab and boom assembly.

I like Ami-Lac construction sets quite a bit, and I enjoy building with them. They typically contain a wide variety of both standard and non-standard part types, the larger sets in particular. This can make model building a much more enjoyable and interesting exercise. The quality of the individual parts is also very high, both in manufacture and in finish. I do have a couple of minor quibbles: part inventories often vary slightly from one set to another of the same number. Also, while the sets and their parts are all newly or recently manufactured, the instruction manuals they contain are reproductions of older manuals. The only real problem with this is that the current line of sets does not contain all of the parts that were once available in Ami-Lac sets of the past. As a result, some models shown in the manuals may incorporate parts that are not included in the sets (the model shown in this pictorial is no exception - more later). When this occurs, it is usually a very minor issue that can be worked around with some creative engineering and/or part substitution.

Ami-Lac sets, on the whole, do have one shortcoming: gear selection. The largest sets do contain a variety of gears, including crown, bevel, and worm. Oddly, though, there are no pinions or sprockets, which are the types I use most often in model building. As it appears in the manual (see image at the top of the page), this model requires three pinions and a sprocket, plus a worm gear. In addition, it utilizes two sizes of a very special part commonly known as a "cookie cutter" gear ring as part of the cab rotation mechanism. These gear rings are made from thin strips of flexible metal that has been folded into a tight series of rounded corrugations and then soldered into rings of various diameters (see photos below). Looking just like their culinary namesakes, they are used by stretching them around pulleys, wheels, or large flanged disks in order to form, in effect, coarse toothed gears (which, due to the shape of their teeth, will only mesh with other such gear rings). The missing sprockets and pinions are common parts in other systems, and so are easy to come by. The gear rings are much harder to come by, however, as Marklin was one of the only systems that included such parts. I wanted to duplicate the Ami-Lac design exactly, and fortunately I had the necessary Marklin parts to do so. I also used a Marklin sprocket and pinions, but gears from Meccano, Erector, Exacto, or other similar systems would have worked just as well. For those of you who might want to build this model but don't have gear rings, it would be fairly simple to re-engineer the design a bit to incorporate more traditional gearing.