Small Scale Engineering offers you the following services:

  • Engineering, fitting & turning on once-off and short run pieces
  • All types of welding including bespoke, metal furniture manufacture
  • Prototype manufacture
  • Home maintenance, restoration, repairs and renovations
  • General handyman


Small Scale Engineering is also building a house out of shipping containers. Follow the project on our blog:

The Latest From the Container House Project
3rd November 2021InteriorKevin’s two favourite materials are steel and wood, so it was no surprise to me when he decided to make a steel and wood staircase for our container house project. We’re about half way there, and we have been using it! It is turning out so beautiful, I can’t help but admire it every time I go up or down stairs. Kevin has made five staircases including the one we are discussing, so he has a pretty good idea of what it takes to build one. Out of the five, he worked on the design for four of them.To be honest, it’s not something I’d lightly consider doing. The first two he made were solid wood (using Rosewood for the first, and Meranti for the second). He has also made two steel staircases. But this staircase combines both materials, which is really awesome. Sanding and varnishing the underside of the treads In order to post this article, I’ve had to do a bit of homework on “parts of a staircase”. Here’s a useful diagram. The Science Behind Stairs Scientists have worked out the best design for staircases. However, I’m sure you’ve had to use a badly designed staircase at some stage of your life and probably already know that it has to be right to be comfortable to use. If the rise between each step is too high or too low, it makes it tiring to use. There’s a point it becomes more of a ladder than a staircase, if the steps themselves are too narrow. If they are too wide, it takes a bit more work to coordinate your gait to coincide with the staircase. But it doesn’t have to be exact. There’s a bit of leeway in what makes a comfortable staircase. Half the treads are in! Making the Steel and Wood Staircase When it comes to safety though, most of the focus is on the railing. So, when you see our photos in this post, you’ll note that there’s still a lot to be done on the balusters. The railing is there, but it would still be too easy for someone to slip under the rail and fall. But that’s for another day. Fitting the handrails To make the carriage (see what fancy jargon I’m learning!), Kevin welded together several lengths of rectangular tubing to make an extremely strong steel “laminate”. To that he has bolted the treads. The treads are pink beech and blackwood; much stronger wood than pine. The combination is beautiful! (You can have a look at our sample tread here). We’ve completed two layers of varnish on the treads, but there are another four layers of varnish to go before that will be completed. We also have a decision on how to finish the steel. Are we going to paint it black? Or, are we going to varnish the metal so that we can see the grind marks and welding points? Varnish will truly emphasise the industrial nature of this house, so we are very torn. What do you think so far? Do you like our steel and wood staircase? Sanding and polishing the wooden treads [...]
20th October 2021InteriorExpansion and contraction as things heat up and cool down, is something that every child learns at school. It’s one of those things that I mostly believed about because it was taught in school, but nothing I really thought would make much of an impact in my life. Well, I was wrong! So, here we are, living in house made out of giant metal boxes. Expansion and contraction is a thing that we have visibly seen as the weather changes through the seasons and even day by day. Kevin knew it would be a problem, and we would have to run many experiments to see what survived this phenomenon the best, especially in regards to the joints in the interior cladding boards. They don’t all look this bad. Photo for dramatic effect. Problems that Expansion and Contraction Have Caused Us Here are some things that have caused us problems: Joints in cladding boards are where the problems lie, even behind tiles. We have had a few tiles develop hairline fractures exactly where the board edges are, especially on softer type tiles. Some areas of grouting cracked loose. The worst areas were in corners.On some of our interior walls, we tried OSB boards for the cladding. We used plaster skim to hide the joints. Over that we hung wallpaper. The wallpaper worked very well, but you can still see where the joins in the boards are, if you look carefully. The paper is having to flex around the seam. The other problem is that the resin from the knots in the wood has bled through in some areas, marking the wall paper.We then tried marine plywood as our interior cladding, and covered the boards with paint and hessian. This worked exceptionally well, but we still had the problem of trying to hide the joins in the hessian.Lastly, we’ve tried chipboard (USA = particle board) for the interior cladding and filled the seams with paintable acrylic sealant (caulking). This particular area of the house is the most affected by the sunshine as it is on the North side. It didn’t work. Even these cut lines on this vinyldecal have not been immune We’re not too worried about the cracks showing through, as we knew this house is a bit of an experiment. It was always likely that we would have to redo a few things, or try something else a few years in the future when it becomes time for maintenance. However, we have learnt a thing or two: Things We Have Learnt Ensure that there are no joins behind tiles in critcal areas, such as in the shower. There’s no getting away from joins in the corner of the shower. In that area, behind the tiles, Kevin securely glued in aluminium angles, against the cladding. So far, it’s working!Create expansion joints in the grout by using silicone instead of traditional grout. We used silicon in all the corners of the bathrooms; both horizontal and vertical. We used standard grout on flat surfaces. Silicone caulking is available in many colours so we were able to match it up to the grout and it’s difficult to tell what’s grout and what’s silicone. If you want to try the wallpaper idea in your own project, we suggest using darker colours that will hide any marks that bleed through. Alternatively, you could try a plastic based wallpaper. The hessian and paint trick worked fantastically well, but worked out a little pricier than we were hoping. We had to soak the hessian in paint to get it to stick to the walls properly and found ourselves reglueing sections. Using cheap paint for the sticking helped a bit, and then we painted over everything with a good quality paint once it was secure and dry. We used fabric strapping for the joins. Another option you could try would be glueing the hessian in place horizontally (we glued it vertically) and placing a dado rail over the join in the hessian. We’d love to hear how you deal with expansion and contraction if this has ever been an issue in one of your projects. [...]