10th April 2008
Work is continuing steadily in the Bluebird shop to complete the right-hand side of our big blue boat.
We’re not in a hurry but this part of the job is not like the nose where all we could see was a task stretching off to a distant horizon. This is more what we’re used to – small repairs (lots of them) and the fettling of parts that took a tweak in the accident.
That nasty hole in the flute has now gone for good.
If you look carefully you can just see the join where that blue G-clamp is situated on the left but the rest is completely original. Good as new, eh?
That hole was a constant cause of conflict between the HL-effers, Tweedies and the project team.
The do-gooders would ooh and ahhh and poke about inside it but the idea of repairing it was anathema to them and they said so.
“Why do you want to fix it?” they’d ask indignantly.
“Because the water will p*ss in if we don’t,” we’d point out somewhat sadly because their mentality seized up way short of allowing such an important object as K7 near water ever again so they never understood us; yet plugging that leak seems perfectly obvious now it’s done.
So, sorry folks, it’s gone.
Well, not exactly. It still exists in its entirety and will end its days in the museum display for Tweedies to ooh and ahhh at as a sad aside to excited schoolboys (and girls) who’ll doubtless ignore a scrap of bent tinwork in favour of the beautiful craft that took Donald to seven world water speed records.
So, having sorted that bit, we moved forwards to put more of this beautiful old girl’s clothes back on.
It’s intensely annoying (though completely understandable) that people are more impressed with the outer skins than the multitude of complicated features – many of them crash damaged, corroded, salvaged from beneath a mile of mud then finally repaired to full serviceability – that go into holding her skins in their proper positions; but there you go.
It’s like moving all the furniture in your front room, stripping the walls, sanding the woodwork, filling the cracks then sanding some more. Then you paint the ceiling, do the preparation needed to slap on the new décor so you can shift the dust-sheets when all’s dry, vacuum the carpet and finally invite the family round to have them admire the pattern on your new wallpaper… But that’s just how it goes.
We had a few outriggers left to mend on this side too because they’d stretched in the crash and the stretching in this instance is often so severe that the only way to be rid of it is to cut and weld the panel. We’ve become experts at this but evidence suggests that K7’s entire structure from front to back was momentarily twisted something like six inches without most of it letting go and this has left many components with a small stretch here and there.
So we acquired this…
…or rather, I called the boss-man at Frost Tools having researched the topic extensively and asked whether he’d be kind enough to donate one to the project as Frost seem to be the only UK supplier of this miracle cure.
He said yes. (link – frost tools, shrinking hammer)
It’s a shrinking hammer – the only shrinking hammer I’ve ever tried that actually works (and I’ve tried a few). The spiral-ground face is rubber mounted so what you do is put a good, heavy dolly on the back of the offending part then whack it with this thing, which screws the metal together with each hammer blow and shrinks it. Very impressive.
It took a little more than a tap with a hammer to put this one to rights, mind you.
It’s the wrecked remains of F-11- S, the most badly damaged outrigger from the big hole, and here it’s marked off with black pen where surgery is about to commence. We held a meeting about whether or not it ought to be retired to the museum display or conserveered back to life and quickly agreed that even if we saved only fifty percent it would still count as an original panel. Rob therefore did his usual as head of the patching dept. then I went in with the hot metal glue.
It’s all better now.
Another clever appliance of science we had in the workshop this week was a gizmo for measuring relative humidity along with a real-life museologist to operate it for us.
Meet Louise… She’s a proper conservator from a real museum proving beyond doubt that not only are we still an equal-opportunities employer but that we’re getting soft in our old age too – but more of that later.
You see, RH is life or death stuff in a bona fide museum.
Remember how museums exist only for the public… but the public tend to breathe, fart, sweat, come inside in dripping clothes, etc. (They also want the lights on and the heating turned up).
In short, they keep buggering up the museologists environmental ideals and worse still, in our lowly Bluebird workshop, we don’t even have a million-dollar climate control systems to prevent our resident icon from fizzing away to dust.
Vicky once told me that a RH of 50 was considered OK and you didn’t land in bother ’til it hits 60-ish so discovering that our workshop was hovering at a paltry 43 evinced much satisfaction.
We had a great turnout last week too with veterans of various types turning up to keep the job moving.
Whisked eastwards by the Novie-taxi once again came good old, ‘Doddy’ with his bag of hammers to bash tin with us. He mended a couple of squashed brackets that hold the fuel tank in position. I’d had look at them then made a deft body-swerve but Alan took them on and soon straightened things.
Novie, in the meantime, spent the whole day crawling about the floor cleaning a ridiculously long strip of aluminium with a zillion rivet holes in it.
Here you can see only the last four feet of a piece that runs almost the whole length of the boat. Then there was this other bloke…
Mr Hannarack – another veteran who, er, helped Novie with his cleaning.
Meanwhile, the tin-bashing continued with the next piece of forward skinning. We’re now working with all-new material, which is slightly easier than welding yesteryear onto today so the regular tin-bashers soon had a little more of K7 watertight.
(Pic © Louise Bainbridge 2008)
Bluebird is clothed as far forward as the centre of the main spar-box at this point with only the section between here and the centre of the front spar-box to complete. But there are one or two outriggers in that section that still need some work before the skins can go down smoothly. We’ll get onto them next week.
Then the usual suspects cut another slice of tin and clashed it over the remaining holes.
Next time you see this sheet of high-duty alloy it’ll have been stretched, shrunk, joggled and wheeled into a brand-new cockpit wall that’ll blow your socks off and completely overshadow the countless hours spent searching a freezing English lake for every millimetre of its supporting cast.
C’est la vie…
Our sponsons won’t be far behind either – look at this lot.
Sponsons… flat-packed, admittedly, but sponsons nonetheless.
Were this a meal you’d be looking at something made with Périgord truffles as a starter followed by choosing the lobster for your thermidor then perhaps a perfect crème brulee and a splash of vintage Armagnac for afters.
Six months it’s taken to bring this pile of historically-correct material together and it’s been well worth every second. Ken and Lew would be well chuffed…
The sponsons are a part of the boat in which we can include only a very small proportion of the original craft. We have a number of salvaged formers from the top fairings that will be reincorporated and, unbelievably, one of the rear ends of a fairing came out of the lake virtually intact. It seems to have simply popped off like the lid of a beer bottle so that’s going back on.
But mostly the sponsons are a new-build and whereas we could have redesigned them to get their mass, displacement, strength and buoyancy within prescribed limits using off the shelf parts, the fact that we’ve sourced without compromise (and even had made from scratch in some cases) the material we need to make perfect, historically-correct replacements means that they’ll be worthy to ride with K7 when next she gets wet.
Then we’ll sweep and paint the workshop, reacquaint ourselves with our neglected families for a week or so, and then get stuck into the next project; something that has nothing whatsoever to do with boats!
18th April 2008
Still plugging away over here but a rare occurrence took place this week – I called off a Thursday night session in the workshop. A combination of exhaustion and a mostly, otherwise-engaged crew caused a stand down of the project for a whole evening!
It’s not terminal though and a lot has been done despite this failure. The sponsons are now digitised, for example. This week we took the drawings plus some pics of the sponsons under construction to Matrix Lasers whom I’ve worked with for over fifteen years and pretty much took over their CAD dept for most of an afternoon until the salient shapes and dimensions were born into cyberspace.
Next we’ll have the necessary templates and formers water-jetted from a suitable material and begin assembling our tooling. It’s exciting to be building something absolutely from scratch with no stretched, corroded or temperamental material to work in as we go.
The nose was all new but had to be a copy of a shape that exists only as images and the replacement cockpit skins are also built from fresh metal but they had to marry up with original panels that Donald had made most intriguing for us. The sponsons are a real breath of fresh air.
And still the conserveering continues…
Louise brought some more museological gadgets this week. Don’t get us wrong here – we’re only having a bit of a laugh with this because if anything is discovered to be way outside of limits there’s bugger-all we can do about it anyway.
So we checked the UV but anyone who’s ever visited our underground workshop will tell you that if you spent enough time here your skin would whiten and your eyes would turn pink; so we passed that test.
Alain then tried the light meter. He’s a bit of a photographer in his spare time so he knew his way around it and soon verified that we’re also OK for luxes…
It’s all go at the museum too. Here’s one for the Hapless Lottery Failure…
Yep – That’s Vicky, Gina and Anne shovelling grass in the middle of a building site. The builders are so enthusiastic about this project that the girls struggled to find any remaining grass to dig up! We’ll shortly have four walls for our Bluebird wing and the roof will inevitably follow so we can take our rebuilt boat back to where she belongs and home-port her (except for days when she’s taken out to make a noise, thrill the crowds and blast jet fuel all over the local ducks) as the world-class attraction that she truly deserves to be.
It has to be said that the museum team have done an absolutely outstanding job in earning well deserved support from those funding agencies unfettered by standard-issue HLF bifocals.
We’ve justly proven that giving free rein to those best able in each discipline was the way to go.
I could never put up with the bureaucracy (if nothing else comes from this project I’ve learned to spell that bloody word) of the museum world and I’m sure Vicky and Anne would acknowledge that they’re not well versed in materials science. But the bureaucrats always wanted a single manager to spin all the plates and therefore may as well have sought a herbalist who dabbled in quantum mechanics…
Where were we?
Here’s an interesting piece.
It’s a blister once fitted to the lower left-hand side of the cockpit wall to provide clearance for the steering gear. In itself it’s quite unremarkable.
So Bluebird’s builders needed extra space beyond the cockpit skin and a blister was the obvious solution without having to re-profile the whole side of the boat. But what makes it interesting is the pair of vertical creases where it has been violently wrapped around a vertical frame tube. What this actually demonstrates is that the frame failed at F-18 before it went at F-15 allowing the blister to wrap around the frame vertical.
Right – that’s enough history – we hit it with a hammer then wheeled the middle bit curved again.
You can still make out the creases though they’ve largely gone now and will soon be lost forever under a new coat of paint but all you have to do is scroll upwards a little to see how it once was.
Then we wheeled, shrunk, stretched, cut, welded, folded and bashed that new side skin into shape…
Not being very good at this wheeling lark we went very slowly with lots of hands on the job because the sheet tended to sag until we gave it some shape. Then it became a case of a stretch here and a shrink there – try it against the outriggers (F-19 still turned out to be wrong despite all our efforts last year) – then coax it some more until everything fitted properly.
It was a tricky one to get right. But we seem to have won.
Notice how there’s a lot of shape on the left whilst the right is almost flat. Distributing the metal evenly without leaving lumps, bumps and ripples really put our amateurish abilities to the test but it looks OK and it fits nicely.
That’s the right-hand side pretty much finished now, or at least all the parts are made for the big build.
The limiting factor at this stage is that nothing is properly nailed down and by the time you get to three or four thicknesses of material it becomes impossible to continue with any reliable degree of accuracy. We’ll be unable to finish that outer skin until everything beneath it is permanently fixed so for now it remains a few millimetres oversize.
Each piece has to be properly primed and painted before riveting too. You’d never dream of simply sticking two bits of aluminium together and hoping for the best, especially where there’s water involved.
Left-hand side next…
We had some snagging to do on some of the right-hand outriggers before they can go to the paint shop but having mostly bottomed the problem there was no stopping us. Many hands make light work – so they say – and this time K7 was rolled onto her other side in double-quick time.
Everything here is in much better condition and as we’ve solved the fabrication problems for the skins we expect a quick finish on this side and then we’re into the floors.
Louise is busy conserving those panels that we can’t put back.
Unfortunately the one thing we really can’t beat is corrosion and where it’s done this to an outer skin that has to keep the water out we’re forced to retire and conserve it for the museum display. We were once accused by those who shall not be named of attempting to, ‘write the 67 accident out of the history books’. Yes they can be that stupid – but nothing could be further from the truth. These parts will be conserved (not conserveered in this instance) to the same shiny, defiant blue of the tail fin and added to a sensitive museum display that will enable the public to understand and properly interpret the events of January 4th 1967.
That’s museology speak for it’ll look amazing without being macabre or displaying a wrecked boat.
This part is somewhat trickier.
It’s the air intake assembly from immediately behind the cockpit and we brought it out of storage to rejoin the rest of the project this week. It’s languished in a container for a few months while we developed the art of conserveering. We sprayed it with a clever inhibitor supplied by Chemmetal Trevor before it went away and it’s not deteriorated in the meantime but as you can see it’s a little squashed. This is one part we’d not feel good about displaying in the museum. It clearly came off second best in its altercation with the lake whereas the tail fin seems to have put two fingers up at everything the water threw its way. So what to do with the intakes?
They happen to be an integral and fascinating part of Bluebird and show evidence of much modification and development over the lifetime of the boat so there’s only one thing to do though the guys did give me a few odd looks when I said the usual, ‘it’ll fix’.
Much tin-bashing lies ahead, methinks.
27th April 2008
Remember what we said about cracking on with the other side…
There’s a thus-far unsung hero involved here that you ought to know about. You see, what happened is that we needed to push bends in long panels and we simply don’t have the facilities. Although my factory is next door to the BBP shop, and metal-bending is what goes on in there, most of what we make you can hold in the palm of your hand so bending a 2m sheet is a problem.
I called Alan from Leengate. Alan has been extraordinarily helpful not only in supplying welding materials but also with his extensive knowledge of old material spec’s and how to weld them. He straightaway pointed us at a company called Kirkdale 2000. (http://www.kirkdale2000.co.uk/About%20us.html)
Remember when Carl fitted our heating system and Balmoral Tanks supplied us with that smart, green fuel tank… Well that tank was made in a huge mould into which powdered plastic is poured before the whole affair is heated to melt the plastic then tumbled about to spread it evenly around the inside. Once it cools you can take the lid off and you have a plastic tank inside. Guess who made the mould. Here’s another one in the making.
The guys at Kirkdale are tin-bashing heavy sheets of steel into these amazing shapes. It’s similar to what we’re doing only on a grand scale with much heavier material and they’re bloody good at it!
We were introduced to Drew West, the main-man and a thoroughly good bloke who immediately offered to help out if he could.
So Saturday morning found John-Tidy and I in Kirkdale’s workshop where Drew very kindly and expertly set up a bend for us…
…then gave it a shove.
Pic © John W Barron 2008.
He got it absolutely spot-on at the first go and it literally fell onto the boat, but more of that in a mo.
Work didn’t slow down because John and I had sneaked off, not a chance. The Novie-taxi had screeched to a halt earlier and disgorged several fresh pairs of hands into the fray so while Novie slapped Chemetall-Trevor’s miracle paint remover over a large floor section, Doddy set about finishing that blister from the port side.
Young Greg, in the meantime, tank tested his model for a future water speed record contender.
He’s well under forty so what he was thinking of we have no idea but it floated disturbingly well.
In the other workshop, Rob was bashing away at the air intake. What a complicated beastie that is; especially now that it’s a bit tweaked here and there.
The 66 mod’s following its in service failure are extensive and a belt-and-braces approach to the problem. It’s little wonder Donald’s crew had to slap a pile of lead in the back of the boat after what was riveted into the front! And here’s an interesting theory for you – and it is only a theory at this stage.
You know how history has recorded that when the intakes let go during a static engine test in the winter of 66 the engine ingested a load of rivets and trashed itself – well I reckon that may be slightly wrong.
One, there aren’t many rivets in there in the first place, perhaps for that very reason. The intakes are a big, fabricated lump from one end to the other with only a handful of rivets on the inner surfaces. But… it does contain large quantities of some sort of glass-hard epoxy filler that’s been slapped into every crevice seemingly with a trowel.
We first though it was pieces of Perspex from the canopy or spray baffles but it’s not. They must’ve got a bucket load of it for free.
Now then – were the intakes to collapse internally you’d probably get a few rivet heads going down the spout but perhaps, more significantly, you’d get a shedload of this epoxy stuff too and it’s easily hard enough to scar a compressor blade. No doubt we’ll learn more as we carry on dismantling.
Here’s another interesting snippet.
Remember Donald waxing lyrical about ‘advanced engineering, rocketry, what have you…’
He forgot to mention the plywood keeping his spray baffles on.
It’s these tiny fragments of history that bring to life the human side of that thankless struggle under canvass in the winter of 66/67. Wonder who cut and shaped that piece of wood, or who decided it was the answer in the first place.
Back to the tin-bashing; we brought our beautifully formed panel back to the workshop and set about making it boat-shaped.
Doddy has done a bit of wheeling in his time. He wheeled a hundred-odd panels for those golf balls at the Fylingdales early warning station, for example. (http://www.fylingdales.ukf.net/views.htm) So we judged him up to the job and got going.
Wheeling with the great ‘Doddy’.
It was the first time we’d opened the big door this year too (the skin panel was too long to do the job with the door closed) but it was windy outside so dust swirled in and landed on our sheet of alloy.
Hearing the gentle crunch of bits under the wheel, John attempted to dust it off on an ongoing basis until Alan pointed out that he’d only catch his thumb between the wheels once. The dusting stopped quick as you like and soon thereafter, K7 took delivery of her other side.
Told you we’d have a quick finish on the port side, notice that we’ve chucked the blister on there too. There’s some snagging to do on the main spar-box and a repair to the back of the flute but otherwise we now have both sides. Target now is to get her upside down and rebuild the floors.
Considering that we have everything intact (floor-wise) from the tip of the bow (F-23) to the cockpit bulkhead (F-15) with Airframe Assemblies having reworked the cockpit floor, and likewise with the stretch from F-1 to F-10, that leaves us only five stations in the middle unaccounted for. Of course, that happens to be one of the more complex floor sections, but the material is sourced and inbound. Kirkdale can push the intricate bends for us and we’ll spanner it all together at this end.
The floors promise to be a real challenge because, like the sponsons, it’s critical that we get them right. The amount of leverage transmitted from those outrigged planing surfaces to such a slender hull frame requires little imagining and at very least such torsional flexing will cause rudder deflections. But imagine if it popped the heads off a few rivets and how quickly disaster would ensue if the corner of a skin yielded to air or water pressure.
Go to the AAIB website and look up the Lockerbie 747 accident report. From memory the bomb went off in the lower left corner of a forward hold just aft of the cockpit and fired a crack over the top of the fuselage all the way around to the right-hand window belt. The outer skins were instantly stripped off by the airflow as far back as the wing but still the aircraft flew, held together by its decks; but not for long because the explosion disrupted the floors and caused a violent control input via the underfloor runs. The cockpit immediately broke off as a result, departed to the right knocking the number 3 engine off its pylon as it went and still the work wasn’t done because the remaining three engines let go too. And the time frame for all of this… four seconds! http://www.aaib.dft.gov.uk/cms_resources/2-1990%20N739PA.pdf
I think we’ll make sure the floors are properly fixed… And to that end we have some experimental and extreme conserveering lined up for later in the week.
5th May 2008
As most of you know it doesn’t take much to set me off where the museologists are concerned but this week I happened upon a case of museological arrogance of gobsmacking proportions.
Several years back I visited Athens and took a trip up the hill to where hosts of sweating, Greek craftsmen were knocking the Parthenon back together using traditional methods. They were doing amazing things with basic tools; like splitting huge slabs of marble using wooden wedges bashed into carved troughs full of water so the wood would swell and exert irresistible pressure until the block fell in two.
They’ve been rebuilding their treasured building in blazing sunshine for many years now and as the job is about done they’re also ready to unveil a beautiful new museum full of ancient Greek artefacts including a marble frieze dating back to goodness knows when. Except that they only seem to have half of it…
The problem is that some arrogant Brit stormed over there in about 1800 and nicked the other half. Elgin, he was called.
The property he burglarised has languished in the British Museum ever since but now that the good people of Greece (and they’re proper good people in my experience) have spent the time, effort and money creating a world-class attraction atop the very hill where Mr Elgin went thieving you’d expect those guardians of museological morality to do the only decent thing and give it back, wouldn’t you…
But what do you suppose the British Museum is really doing about its stash of pilfered marble?
You probably guessed already – they’ve made replicas, hypocritical b’stards that they are – and offered the Greeks a heap of cheap reproductions with which to complete their display while we hang onto the originals! No doubt it took a good many ‘experts’ to arrive at that decision…
How utterly disgusting.
Here’s another thing…
I was recently pointed at this book http://www.amazon.co.uk/Corsair-KD431-Time-Capsule-Fighter/dp/075094305X
It’s the story of a Royal Navy Corsair, one of the last examples manufactured during WWII. It rolled off the Goodyear production line in nineteen forty-something and saw limited service as a carrier-borne aircraft before being shipped back to RAF Cranfield as a training aid.
There it was poked at by wannabe airframe fitters until 1963 when Cranfield gave it a lick of paint and put it on display. All well and good, you’d think, but then the museologists got their mitts on it…
Realising that the original WWII paintwork survived beneath that applied in 63 and that it was almost otherwise untouched since it rolled out of the factory and not a mish-mash of other planes spannered together in the heat of battle they started to take the 1963 paint back off again.
But not with anything Chemettal-Trevor might dish up – oh no – they took it off with toothpicks, baby wipes and squares of old, cut up anoraks dipped in water, or was it razor blades, sticky tape and thinners?
Either way, they not only painstakingly removed the 1963 paint molecule by molecule; they also researched everything thus revealed to the far ends of creation.
How the RAF roundels were applied, for example, (using a dodgy stencil with a bit missing), what kind of fuel was supposed to go in the tank (the factory applied instructions said one thing whilst some long forgotten crewman had crudely painted something far less confusing on the filler cap). The list is both endless and fascinating. The amount of history contained in a single aircraft and uncovered by the team is astonishing and a real credit to their dedication. But just as it was about to get really fascinating they put away their toothpicks and went home!
Hang on a minute…
What about all those intrigued folks who want to know how difficult it is to start a genuine WWII, Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp installation with all its yesteryear spark plugs and magnetos and such?
Why couldn’t they give their Corsair to someone who operates a running example today to explore the differences in such things as the flying controls and brakes so we could learn what those pilots of old were really up against?
I once met a bloke who worked on current Merlin engines who explained how during wartime the engines were built with big clearances everywhere and used enough oil to provoke a small war these days so as never to seize up as they fought for their lives in extreme manoeuvres. Whereas modern-day builds use much tighter clearances and up to date oil-sealing technology so their owners don’t spend all their pocket money on expensive oil only to get covered in the stuff whilst climbing in and out of their plane.
But no – the museum types just donned their tweed jackets switched out the hangar lights and went for a pint of warm shandy. So whilst the museologists are satisfied, us engineering anoraks will never learn all the details we’d like to know.
Still – a cracking job by all concerned. Give us a call when you want the boys to come down and get a tune out of that engine.
What am I doing here?
Ah yes, our big blue boat. What have we been up to?
We mended the other squashed flute this week. It seems that when K7 tumbled during the accident she smacked her front-right and rear-left corners so how the hell the fin stayed so proud and upright is a real mystery - sheer bloody-mindedness probably.
The right-hand flute was caved in at its front end taking out the F-10 to F-13 outriggers necessitating the graft that we inserted a few weeks back. The left-hand flute was caved in at the opposite end between F-1 and F-4 with no hope of getting a tin-bashing hammer into the affected area. Even were this possible there was too much stretch in the metal to deal with without cutting and shutting it.
Here it is before we started work.
Not only crushed but split too. We had the same argument with the tweed-types about this damage because the water would p*ss in here too if we didn’t close it – and the buggers had better not mention meddling with history to me ever again after offering the Greeks cheap imitations of their own heritage on a take it or leave it basis…
Sorry about that, where were we?
We marked it out with a pen…
…then, er, chopped it to bits.
Next, we bashed it with hammers for ages because it’s the metal equivalent of a violent criminal when it comes to rehabilitation. I asked John to put plenty of pins into the newly corrected part as we put it back – a strait jacket and handcuffs approach – before the hot metal glue went in.
Again, cracking was initially a problem but we worked out a new process to get preheat into the material and it all worked out beautifully in the end.
There you go – good as new, totally original too (well, except for the half-dozen welding rods) and it’ll also keep the water out now.
There was a small loss, however. You see, what we had to do was to push all the stretched metal into one corner then cut it off, so there was a slice of LOOF (Loss Of Original Fabric). You can see it here curled up just before we cut it free and made the welds.
But that’s nothing, if the flutes are fairly uncompromising then the following is the Kray twins, Bonnie and Clyde and Al Capone all rolled into one.
It’s a piece of floor.
The main floor is irreplaceable. Not only does it comprise a material that is near impossible to obtain in any shape or size nowadays it’s also of a shape and size that’s virtually impossible to obtain in any modern material except industrial carpet! And as can be clearly seen this bit has broken off and taken considerable punishment along the way.
It simply will not weld or straighten without literally going off with a bang. It’s absolutely the toughest aluminium alloy I’ve ever come across so if we’re to tame it something drastic will be needed.
Following considerable research we contacted a global supplier of heat-treatment processes with a 6 metre furnace not too far away and told them what we had.
The piece you see above is being cleaned prior to being annealed. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annealing_%28metallurgy%29
Because we’re about to try a bold experiment here.
The plan is this.
We’re fairly certain that we can anneal the material to make it sufficiently ductile that it’ll weld and shrink but it’s going to be a huge amount of work to repair the entire floor in the hope that we can then have it heat treated back to its original hardness. We’ve told the heat treatment guys what’s what but as you might expect of a fifty year-old material they’ve never heard of it nor passed any of it through their furnaces so we’re on slightly dodgy ground.
It’s going to be either a massive triumph or a crushing failure but the Bluebird-Project remains a bastion of uncompromised optimism and lives by the motto, ‘it’ll fix’.
Another experimental technique we perfected this week is the removal of deep corrosion pits from aluminium skins by filling them with new metal. It only works on fairly heavy material because lightweight stuff just blows away but the essence of the process is this. You take your average corrosion pit…
…and clean back to good metal with the die grinder.
Then you fill the pits with fresh, hot metal glue and whip out the die grinder again to take the tops off the welds.
And finish with a sanding disc and lots of lubricant. See, good as new and another panel saved.
On another note – Alain has become a family man and is now daddy to a baby girl.
For the ladies, the technical spec is as follows.
Name: Ziva Alice Douglas
Weight when born: 8lb 5 ½ oz (Imperial weight, of course)
Time and date; May 4th 2008, 14:03 hours. (Alain keeps insisting that she’s a ‘Star Wars’ baby – May the fourth be with you. Cringe!)
Mother and daughter doing well.
Tech-spec for the lads… we went to Al’s local and got bladdered.
Best wishes to Alain, Lianne and Ziva from the team.
17th May 2008
Crikey! Did I get into trouble over Lord Elgin’s thievery – didn’t realise what a hot, political potato that one was!
I was told variously to shut up, stick to tin-bashing and that I oughtn’t to poke my nose into things I know nothing about.
Fair enough then, well, apart from the ‘shut up’ part. So here’s another one to chew over. There’s a small and unexciting entry in my log book from when I was learning to fly dated 15th April 2000 and in the notes column in my instructor’s neat hand reads the following,
‘Holy Island return, ex-22, practice RT, zone E/E’.
Beside this minor entry is his signature confirming that I passed exercise 22 including practicing radio procedures with Newcastle control tower and exiting and entering the controlled zone.
The reality was a terrifying 1.4 hour flight (an instrument in the helicopter logs time in a decimal format thus confusing the hell out of the pilot when it comes time to complete the post-flight paperwork).
I somehow clung to my nerve all the way from Newcastle airport to a small island off the coast of Northumberland close to the Scottish border then back again, alone in an aircraft resembling one of those fans favoured by menopausal women suffering hot flushes.
I clearly remember lowering the collective… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helicopter_flight_controls ...as Holy Island hove into view then banking the aircraft at five hundred feet over beautiful, shallow water covering white sand that dries at each low tide to unlock the island.
Many a time I’d visited Holy Island as a child – somewhere to take the kids on a Sunday afternoon – but I’d never seen the place like this and only wished I wasn’t so scared in a sky suddenly the size of the universe.
I arced over the ancient castle watching my airspeed and carburettor temperature because despite being warm in my cockpit spring hadn’t quite thawed the earth so an iced carb’ would plunge me into that shallow water before I could exclaim, ‘Aw bollocks, I forgot to watch my carb heat!’
Then, as euphoria at having completed the difficult outward leg of the journey began to prop my confidence, I intuitively rolled level onto the correct heading, just as I’d been taught, selected carb-heat-in and raised the collective for the best rate of climb. My radio transmissions sounded relieved in my headset as I raced for Newcastle. Another forty minutes and I’d be safely back on the ground providing I didn’t crash on the way. It was an absolutely, utterly, terrifying buzz that was my first solo nav-ex.(navigation exercise- Al)
And why am I recalling a scary helicopter flight from almost a decade ago?
Because Holy Island is not really called Holy Island, it’s called Lindisfarne – the largest of the Farne Islands in a chain of rocky outcrops off the Northumberland coast.
The ‘Farnes’ are not only a place of stunning natural beauty with seabirds and seals galore but they’re also a Mecca for divers of every level and I’ve been one of those – a diver of every level – so hopefully it’ll be accepted that at least on this subject I do know what the hell I’m talking about…
Now then – here’s another jigsaw-piece of outward irrelevance.
I bought my first house in 1988 and found myself, as a 21 year-old entrepreneur who would’ve been sacked by Sir Alan (http://www.bbc.co.uk/apprentice/) in about four seconds, living next door to a professional engineer who made sweeties for Nestlé in global quantities and who was also Daddy to a brace of lovely, young daughters.
Twenty years later, my father-in-law, Andy has retired from process engineering to become a vicar at weekends so if ever there’s anything I need to know about matters theological he’s the man.
He’s very much one of the lads too. We call him ‘the vomiting vicar’ because of a particularly entertaining (in retrospect) fishing trip aboard Predator when the sea chose to do it’s most horrid, rolling, seasicky thing for long enough to turn him a dreadful grey colour.
Being a long-time sufferer of the old mal-de-mer I instantly sympathise with anyone feeling queasy so I shaped course back to the Tyne at sight of his waxy pallor. But what’s deceiving to the inexperienced sufferer is that things sort themselves out immediately the boat gets going again…
By the time we made it to the river, Andy was feeling right as rain and perhaps a little foolish for causing such a fuss so he insisted we stop and cast our hooks like nothing had happened.
But I knew what was coming having been there so many times myself.
The sea was lazy and oily with diesel fumes and colour quickly drained from Andy’s face yet he took it stoically. But the end was at hand and I watched surreptitiously until, with a great heave, he dashed for the rail, glancing skywards as he went, pleading, “Oh God,” before spewing copiously into the North Sea.
He chucked again and again despite our ministrations until we warned him that should he feel something circular and rubbery pass his lips he ought to bite hard and swallow it back down as he’d need it at the other end once he’d recovered.
We laid him in the recovery position, reeled in our lines then headed upriver. It was later in the pub that mention was eventually made of Andy’s final, desperate plea to his boss before violent emesis claimed him.
“The big cheese didn’t save you then…” I suggested rolling my eyes heavenward much as he had. I supped a pint as Andy placated his outraged stomach with a half of harmless bitter.
My father-in-law’s demeanour told me firmly that I’d not heard the last of this as he met my playful challenge.
“That’s because he has your sense of humour, you b’stard!” he told me...
Andy’s a great bloke – and that’s part of the reason why am I relating so much nonsense when we’re supposed to be building a big tin boat?
You see, he has an interesting tale to tell about that island I flew over earlier.
Way back when, in about 700AD as it happens, a monk called Eadfrith was bored stupid in his monastery having fed the chickens, tended the vegetable patch then downed a gallon of mead.
The monks kept bees so they had lots of honey and therefore no shortage of plonk with which to while away those dark, northern evenings.
Putting up with a life of poverty, chastity and obedience would have been unbearable without a few perks so Eadfrith took up his quill, poster paints and the skins of 150 calves and painted himself a particularly tasty illuminated bible.
These were the days before the Gideons left them everywhere and as Lindisfarne was the most important seat of Christianity in the British Isles (hence the Holy Island thing) Eadfrith made sure his creation was a real work of art.
Now then, Eadfrith’s book, known subsequently as the Lindisfarne Gospels, ended up being snaffled during the dissolution of the monasteries after which it meandered through a private collection or two until finally washing up in the British Library and into the hands of the museological hypocrites.
And guess what…
You got it in one – now that the time is right we want our book back. But they won’t hand it over.
This is despite a vigorous campaign backed by the local newspapers and charitable organisations offering a choice of perfect locations in the north east where it could be displayed and properly looked after. The southern musos were even exposed writing derogatory e-mails about us northerners and how we’d not take proper care of our book whilst in the same breath our Tyne & Wear museums are feted as flagship establishments whenever it suits them.
You see, they’re at it again and they keep getting away with it, which is why I flag their disgusting behaviour up at every opportunity. And they’d do to well to listen because while all we’re doing at the moment is bashing lumps of tin and screwing skin pins into everything one day we’ll roll out a beautiful, blue boat and you just never know who might call up and ask for an after dinner speaker…
The Association of Chief Police Officers hired me one evening only to enjoy an illustrated presentation on the best way to blow up a shipwreck with illicit explosives – but that’s another mischievous tale so for now it’s back to the tin bashing where the air intakes have become an iconic case of historical reversal without a flapping of museological tweed to be seen.
The plan was to complete the side skins, which we’ve now done apart from some minor snagging on the flutes, then flip the boat over and crack on with the floors. But the floors can be mostly built away from the job whilst having the hull upside down would mean we’d not be able to do any of the much needed work on the top. For that reason we’ve left her right way up.
Remember this mess?
Pic © Steve Rothery (www.marillion.com) 2001
You’re looking at the front of the main spar at F-15 where the boat snapped. Part of the seat harness still hangs forlornly from the horizontal frame tube and our boat hasn’t even dried yet. This pic is from March 8th 2001.
But what’s most important is the mass of wrought metal at the top that once comprised those elegant air intakes.
If you look closely you can also see the rail that once stood at the back of the cockpit canopy between the inlet throats.
What has proven especially interesting with the current phase of the build is that we’re reconstructing the intakes almost as fast as Rob can strip them down.
Rob has worked single-handedly drilling literally thousands of rivets often in difficult positions due to crash damage in order to keep up a steady flow of pieces for the tin-bashing crew.
Rivet drilling, however, has not advanced as a science and even though Rob is unquestionably the grand master of K7’s rivet technology his drill doesn’t turn any faster than it ever did and his pin punches still must be hit with the same hammer.
The tin-bashers, on the other hand, can whip pieces of scrap through the stripping bath then in and out of Tony’s blast cabinet in double-quick time then push them back to their former shape just about as fast as rob can pry them free.
Take the foremost air intake frame, for example.
This wrecked former once spanned the boat side to side near the engine inlets defining the shape of the throats on either side of K7’s cockpit and it took Rob nigh-on a week to get it loose. Unfortunately it had also taken a bit of a tweak and had its ends torn off too. Worse still, it’s a channel section and we don’t have a clever method of repairing such shapes. We can, however, work with angles so out came the panel saw and once again we chopped history to bits.
You can see that the inner half has now been removed so we’re treating two angles instead of a channel and that’s one hell of a lot simpler.
With the other side cut similarly thus giving us three straightforward repairs instead of one impossible one we drew out a template and started mending things.
Why-oh-why did those Norris Brothers have to make everything so flippety-blinking complicated? Why couldn’t they just draw around the bottom of a bucket or something to make their inlet throat profiles? Instead they created a stupidly difficult shape that can only be drawn using distances and angles from a datum. We threw it roughly onto a sheet of chipboard and got bashing.
But it gets worse – because it appears that at the last minute the throats were modified to give an extra half-inch of inlet area near the upper edges and this isn’t included on the drawings we have – so how do we know about it?
Because, if you look at the top of the piece above there are a few skin pins popped in there and this is down to a lucky chance that unlocks another fragment of untold history and something only discovered because we’ve dismantled K7… (Pay attention, ‘Johnny-Paint-Preserver’, (Rachel’s name for the bloke with the Corsair)).
You see, Salmesbury Engineering made it wrong in the first place – the former, that is. Their finished effort is actually about an eighth of an inch too low along its top edge so what they did to fix it was flush-rivet a strip of alloy up there then file it to suit. Better still, they used yet another piece of V-bomber wing spar so when everything was blasted to smithereens all the spacer did was shear the heads off its rivets and stay exactly as it was. Without this vital piece of evidence we’d have been hard-pressed to work out why our intakes didn’t fit the drawing. As it turned out we simply made the spacer fit the frame again then reverse-engineered the throat profile accordingly.
Rob, our resident wood-butcher, was then detailed to fabricate what immediately became known as ‘Pinocchio’s kidneys’…
…around which Doddy, John and I made everything fit with our tin-bashing hammers…
…before welding all the pieces back together again.
The ‘Salmesbury spacer’ can be clearly seen running over the top of the frame. And, best of all, not a hint of new metal thus far. Everything you see is completely original. That’s not to say that we won’t need new material. We will, but only for the boring bits. The inner and outer skins of the ducts will need to be replaced but all they do is obediently hug an underlying structure that’s going to be almost entirely original. No mean achievement considering what we started with.
It remained only then to pop the end we managed to salvage back onto the frame…
…then knock together a new one for the other end (new material at last) and weld it into position.
That’s the frame complete apart from the usual snagging that we’ll do when it’s time to bash the rivets in.
Our heat treatment of the floor material was a success too, but then we knew the softening part would be. In fact our test piece is now so malleable that it sagged under its own weight in the furnace and came out banana shaped. Before treatment it would easily take the weight of a fat bloke then spring back into shape; this time I pushed it flat by hand but it’s whether it can be made springy again that remains to be seen. Hopes are high though and in the meantime, Rob is furiously drilling rivets again as he dismantles the floors into their various sections.
And another thing – we’ve been promoted.
Our elder-statesman and mentor, Mr Alan ‘Doddy’ Dodds, reckons we’re now past the beginner’s stage in our tin-bashing training so according to Rob we must now be ‘intermediates’.
Doddy was tin-bashing before any of us were born so it’s a bit like having your pilot’s license presented by Wilbur and Orville...
What a joy it would have been to have old Ken Norris watching over the project too but sadly it wasn’t to be.
14th June 2008
Phew! Back again and apologies for the break... The past few weeks have doubly hectic culminating last Tuesday in the birth of our second daughter, Emily.
Things kicked off a week behind the medically predicted schedule while I was enjoying a pint with John-Tidy. We normally imbibe a beer or three on a Monday evening and as nothing appeared to be happening in the birthing dept. and with induction scheduled for a week hence, I’d been given a pass-out for the evening safe in the knowledge that the local taxi firm unfailingly provides transport week-in, week-out, almost before I’m off the phone.
Not this time… We’d not quite made last orders at John’s local when Rachel’s frantic call arrived. I placed another to the taxi firm but they told me with much regret that on this occasion they didn’t have a car available ’til midnight. So as John raided his biscuit tin to put up a food parcel for me, Rachel called the in-laws for transport and babysitting support.
The midnight-midwife was a man-hater, she seemed to hate most things as far as I could tell, so following an inspection that indicated little chance of immediate action, we trailed home again where I dozed intermittently, fully clothed, from three am until eight at which point the process accelerated once more so back to the hospital we trooped.
The new midwife was an angel and Rachel was quickly connected by hose to the hospital’s supply of nitrous-oxide / oxygen mix. I took a few slurps for a laugh but after so many hallucinatory trips on high-pressure nitrogen to the bottom of the sea it’s a bit tame. Still, if you get the chance to try inert-gas-narcosis give it a go, it’s fun, and completely harmless as long as you get the gas mix right.
Next on the menu came diamorphine and that really got the job done. The empty hypodermic had hardly clattered into the tray before Rachel complained indignantly that our two sheepdogs had made an unscheduled arrival and that the smaller of the pair, Poppy, was, “Sitting there looking sanctimonious.”
Apparently our chickens made a brief appearance too and pecked about the polished, sterile floor but I didn’t see them.
I offered to trial the diamorph’ on a purely scientific basis but the staff thought it unnecessary (guess they’d heard that one before) so I laid out a waterproof birthing mattress I’d discovered down the back of some chairs and had a snooze instead. The midwife woke me presently to ask if I wanted a cuppa.
Things didn’t really get going until around six that evening after which all sorts of girning and straining climaxed at a quarter to seven in an explosion of giblets onto the sterile, green sheet.
The hospital staff seem to enjoy playing wicked pranks on me when it comes to cutting the cord. Last time they asked me if I’d like to do it but I said no, I’d leave it to the professionals, especially as there was already a man wielding a very sharp pair of scissors in the appropriate vicinity. So I was surprised to say the least when they stretched a length… (What on Earth does the baby want with two metres of pipe? Does it sneak out in the night and raid the fridge?) …of what can best be described as high-pressure silicone-rubber hose before my eyes then handed me a cutting implement that had to be the bastard child of a pair of scissors and a spoon.
“Go on then, Daddy,” they encouraged, so I leaned between doctor and midwife and cut the pipe. Both perpetrators were instantly splattered with blood to the point where I thought a firing squad had got them while I escaped unscathed – served them right.
This time they just gave me a blunt scissor-spoon thingamabob and left me to hack ineffectually at what seemed an even tougher length of hose whilst instead of stretching the pipe where I could aim effectively the midwife pinned it amongst the gore with her bloodied fingers at great personal risk. It parted eventually to my great relief and as the nursing staff pointed out, Rachel and Emily became, ‘two people’.
I remember a friend of mine telling me that at the birth of his first he’d burst into floods of tears and that I’d undoubtedly do the same when my time came but this is twice now and I’ve never felt less like crying in my life. Newborn babies are, in my opinion, gruesome, grey, smelly, space-aliens that take days to metamorphose into tiny humans – but when they do they’re wonderful miracles of nature.
I’ll leave you to decide which one hasn’t quite metamorphosed…
And, as usual – tech-spec’ for the ladies.
Name Emily Blossom Elder-Smith.
Weight 8lb 8oz (ouch!)
Time / date 18:44, 10th June 2008 (In birthing room number 7 for the Bluebird anoraks)
Process Natural birth using Entonox, diamorph’ and much groaning.
Sitrep Mother and daughter doing well, father skint and knackered.
Tech-spec’ for the boys… watch this space.
Needless to say, not much has happened with the big blue boat.
Only kidding, we’ve been at it in a ‘business as usual’ sort of way throughout and as you’d expect things are moving apace. We’re well into what we hope is our final major challenge on the boat and the job is progressing nicely. The air intake assembly is our ultimate, conserveering hurdle and a monstrous task for three main reasons.
Firstly, if it was ever built to a drawing then it’s not the one we have. The inlets have all been ‘grown’ to varying extents at each station. Sometimes at the top, sometimes at the bottom and occasionally at the sides but each deviates from what was specified to such an extent that you can put your fingers through the gaps so it can’t be crash damage.
It’s well known that the inlet’s performance was marginal to begin with and almost a lost cause where the Orpheus was concerned but it now looks like Ken and Lew got a bit of a panic on right back in the beginning and made some last minute mod’s to up the duct volume.
The second problem is that there’s just so damn much of it. It’s outrageously complicated and so full of fiddly, little doublers, aerodynamic widgets and bits added after it broke in 66 that repairing it is the kind of thing that wakes you, screaming, in the middle of the night.
And the third problem is that it’s absolutely mashed to buggery!
Take, for example, the transverse formers. We’ve showed you how we mended the first one but there are lots of them and although the damage diminishes the further aft you go so the problem of mending them increases in magnitude because they’re progressively bigger pieces. Shifting even a small stretch from the middle of a wide section of material can be exceedingly difficult and where you have to work to within a thickness of material – in this case 2mm – it’s nigh-on impossible at times.
Then there’s the endless welding and grinding to repair things like torn out bolt fixings or stretched rivet holes. It can take half a day to save a piece of material you can hold in the palm of your hand and this is why it’s impossible to put a finish date on the project. Then each salvaged fragment presents us with a choice. We either accept that it fitted once upon a time and rework everything until it goes back or we bin it and create our own interpretation. We’ve not binned anything yet…
As an example some of the mod’s made in 1966 to beef up the air intakes are as good as any. Part of the plan back then was to add heavy doublers to the intake lips and though they stayed with the crumpled mess we salvaged back in 2001 they’re not quite as they were.
Rob took ’em off almost blowing the entire BBP budget on drill bits after discovering the hard way that they’re made of some weird, springy alloy and fixed with stainless steel rivets. Then Mark Evans popped over last week and cut them into two halves much as we had to do with the first intake former because it was the only way to deal with them. Now presented with a problem broken into manageable portions Doddy whipped out his hammers and worked a spot of magic.
It’s like seeing a ghost – how can this exist in 2008 when history saw it destroyed in 1967?
The chill comes from the fact that it’s not a new part, it’s the real deal; brought back to life by our love of the old machine. By the time we’re done the inlets will be perfectly capable of directing a fresh rush of air into Bluebird’s new engine but it took three skilled men (well, Doddy and a couple of ‘intermediates’) a good many hours to bring it to this point and it’s still far from finished.
By leaving these parts to last we’ve ensured that our skill-set is about as good as it’s going to get and we’re now sufficiently confident to chant a new mantra.
We’ve augmented the gospel according to the grand poobah of museology, our mate Mr Knapp, and his teachings that, ‘reality dictates’, by adding, ‘it’ll fix’ when appraising any part of the boat.
With this in mind we’re now revisiting work we did weeks or months ago to see whether we can improve upon anything or graft in another spoonful of history here and there.
We honestly thought we’d gone as far as we could with this bit of scrap.
It’s the right-hand cockpit rail and having picked it clean of deck formers and clues about where those craftsmen of 1955 made their welds we consigned it to the conservation dept. for Louise to clean with her scalpel blades and glass-bristle-brushes prior to placing it on display in the museum.
But part of it just won’t go away.
You see, it includes a near-intact piece of the cockpit opening that we absolutely had to save, so having decided we could do this, John weighed it up carefully like a gem cutter studying a priceless diamond then fired up his panel saw and cut off the useable section.
Doesn’t look like much until you see it in context…
…so now we’re back into the realm of spooky shapes returning from the past. It also belongs to a part of the boat that follows the drawings too – what a pleasant change. The cockpit opening is a very sensible twenty-one inches wide by forty long so all we have to do is bash the wrecked bit back to size then graft it into the new section we made last year. There’s a substantial piece of the opposite side we can use too if this goes according to plan. Time will tell.
21st June 2008
Only a short diary entry this time. I’ve long wanted to do more frequent, shorter entries than the epics of late so here goes.
What did I say about, ‘watch this space’ after the new baby was born?
A few of the boys met up for a pint or two last Friday resulting in a late start on Saturday. Fortunately we only had a skeleton crew that morning. I’d not normally say this was fortunate but you understand…
Tin-bashing commenced soon after 11am with an attempt to rebuild the right-hand inlet to its 1954 specification. We need the 54 spec’ build to support the 66 setup and as the original was buried beneath the later mod’s it was therefore protected to an extent in the crash but still well squashed by the time Rob dug it out. The piece we wanted was the Norris-designed inlet lip built at Samlesbury’s in 54 so a hundred million rivets and ten drill-bits later…
…Rob got it free but it looked a bit sorry for itself.
And then a very strange thing happened.
Whenever a piece of tin is hauled from the wreckage the first thing I do is give it a good twist and a pull about to assess its mechanical qualities. Depending on what it’s made of some parts are like roofer’s lead and can easily be shaped by hand whilst others, the floors are a good example, are so tough you wonder whether they’re made of some top-secret stuff from the fifties the formula for which was lost during the Cold War.
But this was like nothing thus far encountered.
It didn’t feel particularly springy nor was it soft; but as it flexed in my hands it began to return to its original shape without need of a hammer – truly weird.
It was as though it was straining to get back from whence it came but hadn’t quite the strength to do it unaided. All I had to do was lightly push it where it wanted to go and hey-presto…
It turned back into an intake lip; can’t help thinking Donald took an hour off seducing angels and popped into our workshop for the afternoon. How I wish the whole boat was made of the same stuff.
So what you see now is the 54 arrangement and the setup (correct me if I’m wrong, anoraks) used on all of K7’s victorious campaigns. It’s also a less than ideal profile for slurping air around corners so the Bristol Siddeley engineers had just cause in ordering modifications once their comparatively hungry Orpheus replaced the old Beryl hairdryer.
What’s especially gratifying about the above pic’ is that apart from a piece of shiny scrap we’ve clamped to the outside in place of an outer skin – we did this to check the accuracy of our work on the profile of the transverse formers – you’ll not find a fragment of non-original material in sight.
But it’s far from simple. John and I spent a whole day trying to work out how this lot was put together. In the interests of perfect, historical authenticity we want to build it exactly as it was but achieving this often involves extensive detective work.
The thought that went into solving the myriad problems with getting air into that engine is aptly demonstrated once you gain an understanding of how the intake was constructed and still it’s important to remember that it remained a ‘work in progress’ throughout the life of K7.
We’re trying to resurrect thirteen years of mechanical evolution from the smashed remains of a major accident followed by thirty-four years of slow decay on the lakebed. Guess it wrong and we’ll be hooking bits of scrap out of our wrecked engine.
The other side wasn’t quite so accommodating; Rob released it in fragments…
…and this pic was taken long after the tin-bashing commenced otherwise it simply wouldn’t be recognisable.
It too wanted to return to its original shape but if the spirit of Donald Campbell made a cameo appearance in repairing the other side then by comparison mending the above must’ve been overseen by the ghost of Fred Dibnah.
Don’t get me wrong here – I’m a great fan of the late Mr Dibnah but you’d not want to be in too much of a hurry for your job, would you… Bless him.
The same gathering of fragments in quarantine – we often spot-weld such assemblages then leave them untouched for weeks until subsequent tin-bashing exercises prove whether we’d got it right or wrong first time around.
Incidentally, I proudly showed this image to Rachel. “It’s full of holes,” she said disgustedly.
These partial repairs are much easier to cut up and fix when only spot-welded, something to which Alain will testify this week regarding the doubler he made for one of our transverse formers – but that’s another story.
You’ll notice a shiny, new piece of tin too. Rob packed away his drills and pin-punches after so many weeks of dismantling the intakes, moaned about his ‘broken finger’, which isn’t really broken at all (and if he hit it with a hammer then who’s fault is it anyway?) and knocked up a new closing plate for the back of the cockpit. Nice job.
Rob deserves a medal for tackling such a bewildering mountain of rivets over the past few weeks. Instead he rightly greeded the entire resources of the BBP to clean and fix his collection of Meccano and miniature, Mamod steam engines.
We resolutely pushed the broken bits of aluminium back to where they belonged.
Considering where we started things aren’t going too badly here but there’s a downside to all of this.
Our original plan was to have a more or less complete boat by the end of 2009 whilst we’ve qualified this throughout by stating that it’ll take as long as it takes.
Much of what we’re attempting is breaking new ground so if it stretches to the horizon then so be it but there was never any intention to rebuild that intake. Nor did we envisage four months on the lake last year sniffing out that lost frame section. We really believed our new survey kit would turn it up in an afternoon after we missed it in 2001 without ever considering that it might have flown further than the front spar.
In consequence, taking the inlet repairs and our gallivanting on the lake into account, we find ourselves with about eight months added to our schedule – in theory at least.
We were asked on numerous occasions how long we planned to search the lake for the final piece of frame and the stock answer, ‘until we find it’, always made me nervous. There are pieces down there that we surely haven’t found because nothing shows above that impenetrable mud. The fact that only a handkerchief-sized fragment of aluminium flagged the whereabouts of a two metre section of steelwork testifies to the luck we’ve been dealt from time to time. Had the frame landed the other way up – and who can say how it behaved as it tumbled through the air then plunged to the bottom of the lake – that tiny shred of alloy would have been forever buried and we’d probably still be looking.
But then, perhaps we made our own luck… Admittedly, things were beginning to come apart by the time Carl made that decisive dive. So many individual theories on where to look and what had happened to the missing piece were being pushed forward; and that’s the most depressing scenario in project management when the doubts of others heap upon your own and every step becomes twice the effort because morale is wilting by the day.
I like to think that had we not finally nailed that missing piece by logical and rigorous searching we’d have eventually resorted to a grappling hook and smugly patted ourselves on the back many months later when it came up with a dripping piece of frame on the end.
And yet, like the hypothermia victim opting to lie down for a short nap, it would have been so easy to say, ‘we can’t find it because…’ and close our eyes forever to the problem.
Likewise, it would have been painless to pronounce the air intakes deceased. I mean, who would’ve argued? We could then have set about making new ones, learned nothing of the history wrapped up in the originals and built their replacements wrong into the bargain.
But we’re not. We’re plugging away so if it takes time and extends the schedule then, we’ll all just have to live with it.