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MEK (methyl ethyl ketone

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Hi folk, 

for the benefit of all....... 

In my model railway hobby, I have assembled many kits and scratch-built many locomotives and wagons.... 

My preferred medium for this is brass, but for wagons and loco bodies - I use styrene card.... available from you LHS.


As many of us did - we grew up using "kid's" glue - which usually ended up on our fingers - and we etched beaut fingerprints into the plastic parts.... 

Most of these where I was a kid (60's) came in very small aluminium tubes... requiring a pin to punch a small hole in the extended nozzle..... then it "squirted" out everywhere...

After use, we stuffed a pin back in.. but before long - the solvents within evaporated and the tube went "solid".... so, it was usual practice of one small tube per kit..... sometimes, if you were lucky - the kit supplied just "not" enough to finish the model - demanding you spend more money and end up with an almost full solid tube afterwards... 


In my 20's - in model railway... I found "new" products which were liquid.. and came in a little square bottle with a brush fitted under the lid - this was a vast improvement to the tube variant.... but left a lot to be desired - it left a residue... some form of lubricant which slowed the rate of evaporation of the solvent..... but, life was grand - and my models rarely ever had "fingerprints" on them.... 


In my 40's... I again returned to the hobby - and was directed to a much better alternative - small 100 ml bottles of pure MEK (methyl ethyl ketone) were available at one of the Melbourne model railway retailers..... for around $2 ... $1 if you brought back the bottle..... I had no idea where he sourced it - I could not get a contact.... but obviously, he was ordering this magic stuff in by a large quantity... and decanting it into small bottles for sale....


Now - this stuff is amazing for "welding" polystyrene (styrene card) together.... a very fine artists brush is used to pick up a very small quantity from the bottle - and the cap immediately screwed back on.... this stuff has a boiling point of -4 deg.... I believe you can appreciate that leaving the cap off the bottle soon accounts for your 100 ml.... 


When styrene parts are held together - first removing the casting wax and a good scrub with soap and water - or dishwashing liquid - lightly sanded to provide a very good joint - the brush is applied to the joint... you can literally "see" the MEK wick into the joint.... and evaporate. Within 30 seconds - your joint is done... almost like welding it... 

The best thing, is that it leaves "nothing" on the joint or surrounding plastic..... and is perfect for almost immediately cleaning up the model for an etch primer.... metho based - or anything with an aggressive solvent like an acrylic or automotive paint will melt the styrene plastic...... so, we go with a metho or inert primer... and afterwards - hit it with our preferred solvent based primer... 


I ran out of MEK many years back.... and the hobby store which used to supply me with it went belly up... or the old chap passed on - or away.... 

Of course, no local hobby shop will sell you these magic little bottles - for they make much greater profits selling their "authorised" glues and fluids... which work - but nothing like pure MEK.


So - here we are... I go to my LHS to purchase some Microsol for decals on my current A9-X project.... and ask about MEK - "nope, you won't get that - need a license".... nor did I get my Microsol.... "we haven't stocked that for years".... 


Sitting at this laptop tonight - after another epic post..... I set about looking for MEK... and got a direct hit.... Sydney Solvents.... 

Price - and I was a bit shocked to learn that just one litre is $22... yet 5 litres of it is only $36..... so, I have purchased the 5 litre container....

Shipping to outer eastern Melbourne - $15....... I can tell you, 5 litres of this stuff will last me all my modeling days.... 


If you have never used this stuff on styrene plastic - I can tell you by experience, you'll never look back...

It does not "stick" many other plastics - but, whenever I come up against a new plastic and I want to glue it to something - or itself - MEK was always my first "go to".... and if that failed - it would do so in under 10 seconds.... and no second attempt was ever tried.... 


You'll find a lot of plastics in our hobbies are styrene based.... and this stuff is simply the duck's guts of fusing them together.... 

Probably the most common - and easiest to pick - is plumbers pipe etc... the "jointing compound or fluid"  either blue or green in those plastic jars (not styrene plastic) have MEK in them... it's the solvent (have a read on the PDL)........ you certainly don't want to be playing around with that very heavy duty fluid - it's got other "stuff" in it to seal up gaps.... we don't want any of that..... 

The styrene card blocks and front axle retainers that I laminated - would have been a perfect subject for MEK..... instead, I used my current ''''go to" Tarzans Grip shockproof superglue... for both the styrene and chassis plastic.. which worked fine - but for just styrene plastic - MEK is a far better and more appropriate choice.... probably still would have had to go with superglue to fit the blocks to the chassis plastic - but, I can't say whether MEK would have done this - because I don't yet have any..... 


I'm not suggesting that other should rush out and order 5 litres of the stuff.... but, for members who are affiliated in clubs - or have contact with small numbers of others - sharing the expense of such a volume would result in it being more affordable than what the LHS will supply you..... and, it beats everything else hands down when it comes to this type of plastic.... 


So - there you go.... just thought I'd share this - I'm pretty happy tonight - having procured this magic lotion after not having it for so many years.... 




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Just to give you a peek at what you can do with styrene plastic card.... three of the scratch built diesel loco's I have done. The bodies are all styrene card and put together with MEK.... the stuff is perfect for any type of joint, and works a treat with laminating... 

Of course - handrails, door hinges, vents and louvres are made of other materials - mainly brass.

The louvres were all singularly pressed in a jig I made .... with a guillotine action for each stamping of each separate louvre in the door, then moving down one space and stamping the next louvre... These doors were made using a brass sheet as the medium - and when completed - superglued (MEK will not look at brass - nor should it) over the styrene body.... as all doors are... The doors without louvres are styrene - and laminated to a basic block shape for the main body... 

Cellulose sheet was cut to shape for the windows... 

Fuel tank and battery box detail was made using styrene sheet... and glued in place on the white metal chassis.... learning to solder white metal took some considerable effort - and until I found "bismuth".. the lowest melting point solder of all - I had many failures... the white metal turning to "blobs" if over-heated... or refusing to "stick' if not enough heat was put into the joint.... very fine line..... 








Happy to answer any further questions...




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I have a tin of mek acquired from a previous employer in 2003, I've not used it yet but may now give it a try. 

Print It, Build It, Race It, Improve It, Repeat...B)

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I am amazed that Sydney solvents sold you MEK.

I think Oz law is similar to NZ, and MEK is very popular for processing a few kinds of "non-generic pharmaceuticals", made from certain wild green vegetables grown in home hydroponic facilities commonly located in ceilings and garages, and in the bakehouses for Contact NP. 

When I worked for a chemical wholesaler 25 or so years back, we knew a few things we sold were used in "street pharma"; so eventually we worked out a system. 

When the dodgy customer came to the counter, employee #1 would nip out back to secure their requirements, and request employee #2 to watch the exit door from outside and get the number plate. As they left #2 would ring the local narc squad with the details and description of said dodgy fella.

We would generally get an unofficial heads up on the very satisfying and often amusing outcomes. These fella are generally not that smart, and between police tails and known addresses of interest, we helped reduce the flow to the streets quite nicely.

Unfortunately, they eventually caught on and began to secure their "purchases" overnight via burglary, without bothering to engage with staff or make payment.

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I didn't have any issue with the order... it has been dispatched. 

Although too late now - I might suggest not making this availability "known" to others outside our hobby..... it would be nice to keep this channel of opportunity open.


Shaynus - some of those scratch built loco's took me nearly three months.... not so much constructing the basic dimensions (which were all scanned from line drawings and scaled down to size at 1/87th).... but the detail... some if it is quite intricate - but very rewarding for the end result.

The brass/white metal kits (not cheap, and no longer available) took me a little bit less time - but learning to solder white metal to itself, and to brass..... painstakingly slow.

Many don't do this, and simply use superglue - it is a flawed option - the glue breaks down in time with the composition of the metal... and parts of loco's simply either fall off - or apart.


See if I can find a pic or two of a couple of brass/white metal kits.... not that this is a model railway forum...




The carriages in the pic below are styrene kit... very detailed - two weeks each approximately. The B class loco is a kit bash - two A7 loco's cut into bits and re-assembled to create this "one off" double ended ML-2 loco that only came to Victoria.... 






The T class loco below is the last loco I was building before we moved home to out here in Mooroolbark - that move put a page break in my model railway hobby, which hasn't yet been picked up from.... soon, I am getting the urge... 




The loco is nearly finished - missing side plates on the bogies, couplers, hose couplings and final weathering.... another was on the building board, which I've just found whilst looking for my Microsol... and I'll bring that out before much longer and continue.... might take a pic of it, it's only reached the basic outline assembly stage in styrene card... happy to post up progress here in this thread if anyone is interested... 


There are boxes and boxes of wagons and carriages to be assembled.. and no less than four brass/white metal locomotive kits... two X class, one N and what will be a six month mission - the R Class steam loco - of which I am qualified as firemen for...... although, at nearly age 66 - I'm coming to an end on it... so physically demanding - takes me three days to recover from one 14 hours shift up there... 

My railway modeling "policy" is that I do not model anything I have not either driven, or fired on.... a reflection, if you like.... or "badge"... a 40 year career as driver and fireman plus 50 years as volunteer fireman (current) on our beloved little Puffing Billy steam railway here in the Dandenongs.... as one great mentor once told me, you can take the man out of the Railways - but you can't take the Railway out of the man..... 






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MEK is  a known carcinogenic. We still use it in the leather finishing industry but with full breathing apparatus and gloves.

Entirely up to you if you want to use it but if it were me, I'd find something (anything) else to use. My 2c

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Hi all. MEK is also used in manufacture of fiberglass and similar products (shipwrights and glassies use it every day) 

You  maybe able to pick up from local chandler shop 


NOTE; this product is extremely dangerous if misused.

DO NOT get i you eyes. This will make you  go blind in minutes if not treated.

We had a guy at work (we saved) and his screams I will never forget.

Be careful lads.

Try Harder, if you dont fail your not trying hard enough

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For what it's worth - my suspicion is that the retail available adhesives from LHS's more than likely contain MEK in them... might pay to read the label, these days - I believe they must state what is in the product in a PDS if requested....




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