Erector set part number 'ED' triple drum hoist


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Nov 23, 2014
Here’s another thread of an Erector set part reproduction. This one is Gilbert Erector set part number ‘ED’, the triple drum hoist. First the obligatory history lesson . . . Gilbert introduced this part to the Erector set line in 1927 and included it in sets (just the largest two sets, size No. 8 and No. 10) in 1927. The gearing in the hoist can be set up in different ways. For the most part, the hoist was set up with two ‘CJ’ 36-tooth gears on the upper drum and one ‘CJ’ 36-tooth gear on the middle drum. The upper crank had a ‘P12’ 12-tooth pinion gear on it which engaged either both ‘CJ’ gears on the upper and middle drums, or just one ‘CJ’ on the upper drum. This was achieved by sliding the crank back/forth in the side plate holes. The middle drum has a friction brake of sorts to keep it from free-wheeling when the crank pinion is disengaged from its 36-tooth gear.

The lower crank has a ‘P49’ 18-tooth gear on it which engages with a ‘BF’ ratchet. The ratchet edge jams into the 18-tooth gear and allows the crank to only turn in one direction. The child would have to manually release the ratchet by pulling back on a finger catch to turn the drum the opposite direction.

Gilbert illustrated a number of crane models that used the ‘BM’ clam shell bucket and ‘ED’ hoist. The clam shell bucket had a counterweight, which when raised or lowered relative to the bucket itself opened or closed the bucket. Perfect application for the ‘ED’ hoist and the upper two drums. The upper drum was strung to the counterweight and the middle drum to the clam shell itself. The child could slide the upper crank to engage just the upper drum, then turn the crank in either direction to open or close the bucket. Then slide the crank so both drums were engaged, then turn the crank to raise or lower the bucket with the bucket opening staying put. The lower drum was strung to a crane boom. Turning the crank without pulling back on the ratchet raised the boom. The child would grab the lower crank, pull back on the ratchet, and turn the crank to lower the boom.

You’d think that the ‘ED’ being in just two large sets (a very nice 1927 No. 10 set sold at auction for $17,000 in 2006) that there wouldn’t be a lot of demand for it. Well, there isn’t, but I made 36 of these ‘ED’ hoists in 2008 and sold them all (with no advertising) in 4 years. Time to make some more . . .

Like the thread on the ‘BM’ clam shell bucket, the ‘ED’ hoist has a number of parts that will be broken into individual posts. I’ll quickly go over how I made the parts for the 36 assemblies made in 2008, then how I do them now.

First big change is the steel stock used. Gilbert nickel-plated a lot of their parts from 1913 – 1953. The 2008 batch were made from plain steel and nickel-plated. I have a 2-gallon nickel plating set up from Caswell Plating, but went with a commercial plater at the time because of the sheer volume of parts I had made up. Unfortunately, the plater I used back then is now out of business. So, out of laziness, I went a different route and made all of the nickel-plated parts out of 304 stainless steel in a 2B finish. That finish looks very close to nickel plating. The jury is still out on stainless or plain carbon steel; I’m currently looking at a new commercial plater.

The first part I’ll cover are the main side plates. There are two side plates with 18 holes and 6 slots that are joined by three steel rods. My original repro batch had the side plates done by gluing a paper hole template to the steel blank which were then center punched, and the holes were punched on my Roper Whitney #218 punch press. The paper template also had the trim edge of the side plates which were cut on a shear and with aviator snips.

On to 2017 . . . For the next batch I took advantage of the addition of a DRO on my mill. I measured up an original ‘ED’ side plate and knew the (X, Y) coordinates of all of the holes and the corners of the trimmed edge of the plate. Made a punch template on the mill for the current run. Started by indicating a plate of 3/8” CRS to the mill table, then started spot drilling and drilling holes for the side plate holes. By the way, the holes were roughly 11/64” as Gilbert used 5/32” rod stock for axles. The corners of the trimmed edge were drilled with an 1/8” drill instead of the 11/64”. Plan was to transfer punch those holes, then trim the side plates to size by basically going dot to dot.

I had to make a modified 11/64” punch for my Roper Whitney punch press as the stock punch wasn’t quite long enough to get through the 3/8” steel, 0.036” side plate blank and the die. Simple lathe job here, made up 2 of them so I had a backup.

Started the side plates by gluing a template for the foot flange slotted holes. Knocked in the holes with a 0.172” x 0.281” slotted punch. Then folded the flange on my DiAcro brake.

Next, the side plate is clamped to the 3/8” steel punch template. The clamp is a piece of 3/8” bar stock and has a 10-24 cap screw with its end turned to 11/64” to act as a locating pin to hold the side plate in the correct position.

I used an 1/8” transfer punch to mark the corners of the trimmed edge of the plate. Then knocked through the 18 holes with my modified 11/64” punch. The side plates have a LH and RH side which is accomplished by flipping the blank on the 3/8” punch template.

The edges were trimmed to the corners using a 4-ton notcher. The first hit is just off the transfer punched hole so I had something to see while lining up the next cut.

Next are the steel rods that hold the side plates together. These are 3/16” rod stock with a shoulder turned to 11/64” inch. The ends are peened to the side plates to hold them together. I use a spotting drill to countersink a hole at the end of the rods. Makes it much easier to peen over than a piece of solid stock.


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The next part I’ll cover are the drum side plates. These are 1 ¾” 20-gauge steel (304 in my case). They have 4 slots on a circle that are 1/16” x ¼”, a 3/32” hole for passing string through, and a center hole for a brass hub. The slots are for passing through “toy tabs” on the ends of the drum spools which are then bent over to secure the spool to the side plate.

In the past I made up the side plates by center punching a hole, scribing a rough over-sized circle and rough cutting the disks (octagon). Then punched the hub center hole and stacked up the rough blanks on an arbor (bolt with a center drilled end). Chucked up the bolt head, rolling center in the end of the bolt and pecked away on the lathe until the stack was turned to size. Problem was the disks were so out of round that the lathe tool would catch and stop one disk while the others kept spinning. In retrospect, some double sided carpet tape would have worked.

For this latest batch I went with a punch and die. Found a 1 ¾” punch and die for my RW #218 press on eBay and was a new owner. Couple of problems with plan ‘A’ – first most people want the hole, not the slug. The punch has a couple of raised areas to start the shear, then the inclined punch face works its way around the hole. That takes the tonnage required down a lot, but leaves a bit of a distorted disk. I knocked out a 20-gauge galvanized disk with a two-handed pull on the press handle and mashed the disk flat on the 12-ton shop press. Not a great solution, but workable.

Time for punching out a 20-gauge 304 stainless disk. Quick version is I weigh under 170 lbs. so can only pull down with my weight which was not enough to pop through the 304 stainless . . .

So, on to plan ‘B’ . . . Bought a die shoe off eBay, made a punch out of O-1 and an adapter for the 1 ¾” die and moved to the 12-ton press. Since I wanted a round disk, the first shot at the punch was flat. That meant the fracture surface would by the entire perimeter of the 1 ¾” disk. My 12-ton press has an air motor on the bottle jack which saves a lot of hand pumping. Put the 304 blank in place and pulled the bottle jack trigger, “ta ka ta ka ta ka” at a rapid pace, then “ta ka ta ka” and a real slow pace until the motor stalled, then “BANG”. Punch went through but that 12-tons of pressure in the bottle jack all released at one instant. Nothing broke, but I anticipate punching out around 200 – 300 of these disks and didn’t want to hammer on my press that many times.

So, took the punch to the surface grinder and ground a bevel on the face so the punch would initially cut through in two areas and work its way around the blank. I’m no die maker, so I could be way off on my relief, but started with 0.080” relief other both sides which is just over double the material thickness. This worked much better. Now hear an initial “pop” as the punch goes through, hear a nice, steady “ta ka ta ka ta ka” of the bottle jack and a much more subdued “bang” and the end of the stroke. After the disks are punched, they get a secondary hit between two pieces of CRS on the 12-ton press to flatten them out.

Next, the center hub hole gets punched. I’m currently using a Roper Whitney #5 Junior with a 9/32” punch/die. Gives my hands a workout knocking the holes through 304 stainless, so I see a future POTD to make a 9/32” punch for my #218 press. Something about a 2’ long lever winning out over a hand squeezed punch (gotta love mechanical advantage).

Next step is to spray adhesive on a paper template for the 1/16” x ¼” slots and the 3/32” string hole. Use a #5 Junior for the 3/32” hole and the #218 press for the slotted holes.

The middle drum has a couple of the disks stacked to make up a sheave pulley. This in turn gets a wrap of 1/16” music wire for a friction brake. One of the disks has a depressed area so when two disks are stacked it forms the pulley. I didn’t shoot pictures of the die set construction as it was done 9 years ago with the first batch, but it’s two pieces of CRS turned on the lathe with a center pin for registration of the blank. Slip a disk over the center pin and mash away on the 12-ton press.

Next step is making the brass hubs. These are 5/16” brass with a 6-32 tapped hole for a set screw. I use a drill bushing for centering an 11/64” axle through hole. This is a hardened piece of drill rod with a 5/16” hole for slipping over the brass and an 11/64” through hole to hold the tail stock drill bit on center. Naturally another method would be center drilling the brass, then changing to an 11/64” drill bit, but the drill bushing saves the time swapping tools on the tail stock.

Next step on the brass hub is a counter sink. The brass hub is passed through the drum side plate and peened over on the back side. The counter sunk hole gives a nice knife-edge for easy peening. A parting tool is used to put a 9/32” shoulder on the end of the hub so it’ll slip through the disk hole. Then a second drill bushing is slipped over the brass. The bushing is ¼” wide which is the length of the hub. I set the parting tool up against the bushing to back it up and move the carriage side to side until the edge of the bushing is flush with the shoulder. Then take a cordless drill and drill the 6-32 tap hole followed by a second cordless drill with a 6-32 tap. I didn’t show the operation, but the 6-32 tap drill had its shank ground on my surface grinder on three surfaces so the drill chuck jaws lock onto flats. Otherwise, the tap drill kept spinning as it just went through the brass. Then part the hub off and sand the parted end on a belt sander.

On to the peening operation. Use a holding fixture which is a plastic block with a 5/32” pin. The hub slips over the pin, set a disk over the hub, set a ball bearing on top and give it a few whacks with a hammer. Works pretty well though occasionally I have to do a little direct hammering to get the hub locked in place. A drop of Loctite works too.


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On to the drums or spools themselves. In the past these were made by gluing a paper template on the 26-gauge (0.018”) stock and rough trimmed. The spools have toy tabs on them which slip through the 1/16” x ¼” slots on the drum side plates. The gap between the tabs is ½”, and I happened to have a ½” square punch, but it worked like crap. Problem I didn’t realize at the time was the punch/die relieve was around 0.026” which won’t work with 0.018” stock. Relief should be 20-25% of material thickness. So my work around was using a smaller square punch and doing two hits. That left square “teeth” which needed to be radiused. I started by nibbling the corners, then used needle files to hand file in the radii.

Thank goodness for more experience, and tools in 2017! Did a POTD to make a closer clearance ½” square punch so the notches were done in one shot. I thought about making an 1/8” radius punch/die to put the radii in the ends, but frankly a 2x42” belt sander goes so quickly I went with the manual sanding route.

Next step is forming the spools from the blanks. In the past I’d used a 2x4 drilled through with a Forstener bit which was then sawed in half to leave a trough. The blank was set over the wood form and a piece of steel rod pressed on the blank to form a “U”. Then the blank and steel rod were held in a vise and the blank setting above the steel rod was tapped over with a hammer to form the spool.

On to 2017 . . . Made a new die set for forming the spools out of steel instead of wood. Bored a piece of stock on the lathe to a little undersize of the OD of the spool. Set the rod in a V-block on a surface plate, Dykem’d the end and scribed a line to the center of the tube.

Then on to the mill and a slitting saw to split the tube. First side was done with the scribed line parallel with the top of the vise jaw. One end of the tube extends outside the vise, so aligned the tube by setting a parallel on the top of the jaw and looked at the line from below the parallel.

The second cut was done with both halves in the vise jaws; didn’t want the top half to go flying at the second slit was completed. The second cut was aligned by setting a stack of spacer blocks set at the radius of the tube on parallels and rolled the tube back/forth on the parallels until the scribed line was at the top of the spacer blocks.

That gave me a steel die set of the outside of the spool. Made up a steel fixture to hold the bottom die. In use the spool blank is set over the bottom die and an inside steel rod slips down the sides of the fixture. The rod is hammered down on the blank to form a ‘U’. Then I squeeze the spool ends to make a tear drop shape. The top die is set in place and hammered on the spool. Works very quickly and gives me perfectly round spools.

The drums are then formed by feeding the toy tabs on the ends of the spool through the side plates. The 26-gauge steel bends up very easily with a punch.


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Another part of the assembly is Erector set part ‘BF’ ratchet. These are 20-gauge sheet metal cut to size, couple of holes punched, bent and painted. In the past I used a nibbler and needle files to form the part. Did the bending on a HF 3-in-one sheet metal press brake. On to 2017 . . .

Start with a paper pattern spray adhesived to the 20-gauge stock. Now use a 4-ton notcher to do most of the trimming. Also use 2x42” and 1x30” belt sanders and a die filer with a pippin file to do the rest of the forming.

The tab on one end is bent on my DiAcro brake to a 90. Then the blanks are set on a piece of steel milled to the proper thickness of the ‘U’ on the end of the ratchet. Stay at the DiAcro brake and adjust the shoes so the brake acts like a toggle clamp. Lock the steel in the brake and hammer over the top of the tab to form a ‘U’. Parts are lined up and painted.


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On to the cranks and the stop collars. Gilbert included a part# P24 crank in Erector sets. I have lots of them in my inventory of parts, so used nice originals to make the cranks. The ‘ED’ hoist has wooden knobs on the cranks which are held in place by peening over the end of the crank to capture a washer and the knob on the crank handle.

Started with the knobs. Turned a dowel down to the correct diameter. Then center drilled and drilled a hole for the crank handle. Next, a countersink was put in the end with an end mill. Used a grooving tool (MGMN 200) to cut some grooves (to match the original design) into the knob and parted.

Then to the drill press to put a countersink on the end of the crank handle. It’s a lot easier to peen the end of the crank when it’s at a knife edge. Used a drill bushing set over the crank handle to hold the drill bit on center. Then mounted the P24 crank in a jeweler’s vise, supported the back of the handle with a punch, and dropped on the knob and washer. Peened the end of the crank with a punch and hammer.

The ‘ED’ uses a number of stop collars which are Erector set part# ‘BH’. These are 5/16” diameter brass with an 11/64” hole through the middle, and a 6-32 tapped hole on the side. I used the same drill bushings that were used to make the hubs for the drums.

Last part made was the 1/16” diameter music wire friction brake. This was bent on the hoist with the drum in place. That gives a pattern for bending more using one of the brake drums as a pattern for the curved portion of the wire.

Time for the final assembly; just a matter of feeding parts on the axles, tightening set screws and adjusting the position of parts on the axles. You can see from a couple of the photos how the upper crank can move side to side to engage either just the upper drum or simultaneously engage both the upper and lower drums. Another part ready for an Erector set show in your neighborhood!


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Bruce -
That's a very elaborate and very good looking assembly!
Hey Bruce, are you having any fun? :)
Fantastic work, takes me back to when I was a little kid. Just about everything I learned about mechanics I got from my Mechano and Erector sets. (long before Gilbert)

CHuck the grumpy old guy

The only thing better than your results in making reproduction parts is your awesome level of documentation of their making.
I'd like to try making some punches and dies someday, and your posts teach me so much.

I truly appreciate you sharing this!