At a kiddie’s party recently the missus asked if I’d like a drink and in a moment of nostalgia I asked for a can of Lilt, remembering the sweet pineapply taste I so enjoyed in my youth. But what arrived was not the Lilt of old. It was nasty, watered down waste that you and I might describe using a word beginning with the letter P or, to a medical professional, U. In 2003 with the help of their marketing gurus it seems the Lilt people successfully removed the sugar, grown from cane or beet then extracted at moderate cost, and replaced it with a few drops of a cheaply synthesised amino acid without actually letting on. Well that’s not strictly true. They do tell us that it was ‘reformulated’ to reduce its calorie content by 58% and go on to tell blatant, barefaced lies about it still having the same great taste it’s had since 1975. Of course, the economics of selling flavoured water with a toot of CO2 has nothing to do with this… quite clearly the product is better for you without the calorific disaster that is sugar.

And again, later that same day, by pure chance, I happened upon a tube of Primula cheese. That rich, creamy, flavoursome luxury we used to squeeze onto celery sticks as kids then smack our lips at its smoked ham, prawn or chive accents. Not nowadays… oh no. The modern day, translucent ooze I squeezed from the tube bore a sickening resemblance to gentleman’s fluid, but look on the bright side; they’ve stripped it of all fat, cholesterol and anything else that might ultimately kill those of a sedentary persuasion. Your cleverly packaged tube of half cheese, half emulsified slop has been defused, you’re safe again.

And that’s without mention of the cracker I chose to spread it on, which once upon a time would have been one of those deliciously sharp, salty jobs with ‘Ritz’ on the box but salt is now as much an enemy as sugar so they may as well cookie-cut their product from discarded beermats for all the taste they have nowadays… On the plus side I did buy some extra thick double cream this week to make Roquefort sauce for my steak and each and every calorie was present. The downside is that they stole it off the top of my milk in the first place then sold it back to me, but never mind.

Despite this anomaly the modern way seems to be flogging less for more then dressing it up in clever marketing as the populace becomes increasingly besotted with what they read on their computer screens or soak up through TV advertising.

And, in a similar vein, our project is being noticed more and more by organisations that smell a great opportunity as it nears but completely failed to pick up its faint scent ten years ago and now imagine they can buy in at the last by offering bugger-all in exchange for rather a lot. They’ve mostly missed the boat, literally, and we turn down various offers of so-called help most weeks. We just don’t need the hassle because after ten years of quietly beavering away we’re self-sufficient and being beholden to someone we don’t need would be utter madness.

For example, we had an erstwhile sponsor make a pitch lately to throw in a few quid but with a completely unworkable string attached; a finish date. This, as you may imagine, was an absolute must were they to do us the huge favour of shamelessly exploiting the last five minutes (historically speaking) of our project for their own commercial ends in exchange for what amounted to pocket money when compared to the value of work done without thought of reward by more understanding partners.

No can do, I explained to this quaint little outfit, unless they could tell me how long it would take to calibrate the air system, stop the hydraulics from leaking or mend the tail cover. They tried a different tack. How much quicker would it be done if we took their pennies? Hang on a minute! We don’t get this from the big-boy, aerospace lot so why should we put up with it from what’s a cottage industry by comparison? Needless to say, I could only answer politely saying that it likely would make no difference because even when the boat is ready the deciding factor will likely be weather.

It wouldn’t matter how many new sponsors crowded aboard at this late stage because we couldn’t go any faster anyway. There’s nothing we could write a cheque for today that would be a showstopper later on. We’ve still enough of our unique work to do on the main hull that everything else can be acquired in plenty of time and paying for it up front would not alter the schedule.

Now that’s not to say we’d look a gift horse in the mouth, far from it, and having a few quid spare would certainly give us some latitude when the boat is finished and we find we suddenly need unforeseen tools or maybe an extra hire vehicle or hotel room, but for now the project runs sweet-as with only its light snowfall of donations and the steady exodus of our goodies. It seems more honest and pure that way anyway so we vowed to carry on as before and turned them down – a tiny blip on the screen compared to sacking the lottery fools.

There’s a more sinister aspect to this, of course… Just suppose we involved ourselves in such a scheme and signed away our lives to a timetable while their marketing and promotions lot went hell for leather gearing their richest clients for a thorough fleecing on the appointed day. And then we failed to deliver…

Sour relations, lawsuits, compensation and that’s without the stress in our camp... Best we pick and choose and don’t expose ourselves so stupidly, methinks. Or so the lawyers tell us…

But while we’re on the topic of lawyers – we have our very own bylaw. It’s official, we can go faster than 10mph on Coniston Water without getting arrested and having that in the bag is something of a coup. After years and years the waterlogged derelict that is bureaucracy has finally fetched up on a shoal of common sense and the yes/no conundrum regarding us using our lake of choice has been answered. Our byelaw application has been approved at long last by someone from the government, no less. Our history is sad catalogue of begrudging adoption of one backup plan after the next but here it looks like we’ll get the gold medal position for the first time. We’ve grown up at last. (Metaphorically speaking only, of course).

There’s too many people so richly deserving of praise and thanks in this process and I’m never sure who wants to be named anyway because so many pull strings or drop hints in the corridors of power because they believe in our madcap scheme but daren’t own up for fear of being cast into some committee-free wilderness for a slightly edgy view. Therefore all I can suggest is that you all know who you are and how hard you’ve worked so thanks… and thanks again.

The downside of all this is that our dedicated though small volunteer team is now centre-stage again with ever more people asking the dreaded ‘when’ question so it’s all hands to getting K7’s clothes back on. Building her structure offered little in the way of visual progress most days as the sprouting of an extra outrigger here and a doubler there was difficult to spot and not very exciting anyway but there’re big bits coming together now. Take the flutes, for example.

Having been to Bettablast (http://www.bettablast.co.uk/bettablast/contact.html) for the standard issue chromate etch-prime and a coat of silver-grey polyester we brought the left hand example back and set about assembling it to the jointing strip that forms a lap joint between the flute and the panels above. Lashings of choccie sauce and hundreds of pins later and we were ready for the rivets.

It took the rivet twins only a few days to bash this little lot together but the end result was very satisfying. All panels below the horizontal deck are designated ‘KWO’ or ‘Keep the Water Out’ as are the joints between them and this one, as you can see by looking, passes muster first time.

Unfortunately, the panels higher up consumed a considerable amount of time that we hadn’t budgeted for. You see, had someone explained back in the day to those involved that should K7 spend thirty odd years under water then be rebuilt it would be bad practice to fasten steel and brass fittings through thin alloy skins because the dissimilar metal corrosion would turn out to be a proper nuisance, things may have turned out differently – but they didn’t.

It took much careful patching to get ahead of this little lot.

As ever, the big problem with inserting patch repairs is the shrinkage caused by welding and the ensuing difficulty in getting the shape back again. In this case we must work to a tolerance of 1/32nd of an inch or 0.79mm because these panels are held on with 1/8th diameter rivets, which is of course 4/32nds, and the next size up is 5/32nds, so if we can get within a 32nd we can upsize and put fresh rivets into lightly tickled-out holes making the boat stronger than ever she was without losing originality. It’s a fusion of heavy rock and microsurgery with hammers.


It took weeks to get them just how we wanted them but the result is excellent.

Every trace of corrosion has been excised, every hole lines up and the shape is precisely as nature (or rather Samlesbury Engineering) intended…
One positive to come out of this exercise is that, having cautiously crept up on the problems on this side and bottomed them by degrees, we can now bash seven bells out of the other side knowing precisely the consequence of every hammer blow so there’s much time to be recouped there.


It looks even better with its paint on awaiting final fixing. I’d also like to proudly point out that you’re looking at bare metal with no more than a thin film of polyester on top of a wash-coat of etch primer and not a hint of filler anywhere.

And it’s a far cry from the day it was stripped away back in 2006.

Apart from the tinwork we also have to think of K7’s systems because she obviously has to live and breathe. I remember a discussion with a lottery fool during which I was told it was poor value for their money to connect up the airspeed indicator or throttle pedal or, though the fool didn’t actually say so in as many words, anything else that might’ve made the boat work. It was their somewhat pathetic way of trying to ensure K7 remained properly dead. I just let them go then offered to recruit a volunteer team to rebuild the systems once they’d paid for the hull – you may imagine how that meeting ended. But now the systems are coming together rapidly with the most amazing help from volunteers and British industry.


The good people who are rebuilding our fuel system chose not to accept their share in the glory until they see if it all works, a stance that appeals to my wicked sense of humour no end, but their names would raise your eyebrows and, though I can’t shout their praises from the rooftops as I’d like to, this ought to give you an idea of how seriously everyone takes this work and the level of professionalism involved.

The CCU, or Combined Control Unit, by the way, is basically the engine’s fuel injection system. It meters and controls fuel delivery to the burners in the engine dependent on throttle position and inputs from other modules in the control loop. A very clever hydro-mechanical system from before the days of digital engine controls and its rebuild means that when K7 runs again it will be all the same systems making her move that Donald asked so much of back in 67.


Humbling, isn’t it, and I’d not really appreciated just how fortunate we are to have support at this level until recently, after a presentation I made, when a member of the audience came to see me once I’d shut up and asked how we’d done it as his project had unceremoniously bounced off the same set of sponsors.


Taken unawares, I had no answer… ‘Depends how you ask’, I answered somewhat lamely, though I suspect Donald’s legacy had a hand in our successful outcome...


Another aerospace monster, we were eventually to learn, swallowed up Lucas Rotax, the company that manufactured all the air-start gubbins and they happened to be sitting on all the drawings and tech data for the various valves and twiddly bits. The problem was the lawyers – no surprise there.


Quite rightly, in this day and age, were they to supply information pertaining to a HP air system and I made a hash of it and blew my left ear to kingdom-come this would all be all their fault and I’d be obliged to run crying to my lawyers, bloodied stump in hand… Erm… I think not.
I offered that I once crawled through fishing-net-festooned shipwrecks for fun with a HP air system keeping me alive so were I to blow off my ear it would likely be my own stupid doing and I’d be glad to sign anything to this effect. Having had this accepted and subsequently signed a disclaimer I was then given access to a treasure trove of drawings by a splendidly helpful individual who shall remain nameless for now and a long-suffering though equally helpful lady in the print room. The result is this beautiful example of engineering art…

Now I’ll not go too far into this at the moment because its resurrection is to be the subject of a special diary piece all on its own but basically what you see here is K7’s original, bespoke air-start system completely rebuilt, working and properly tested. It’s a monumental example of buggering about in a good cause but more of that later.
Back to the flutes… with one finished and painted the other rose to the top of the pile, this one by far the most badly damaged. The forward end was smashed to smithereens for starters. Because the boat crashed down on her left side and flipped over the right took a proper pounding on the first roll and the water punched straight through here.


Disentangling the shredded metal from around the frame tubes required hammers and crowbars and it wasn’t very healthy-looking once we got it free.

But we soon mended it with a new piece of tin. Ironically, we could have mended the original knowing what we know today but those were early days so instead we replaced the mashed part. The section we cut out has since gone on to become a training aid for the rivet team for setting rivets in awkward corners and at the end of that working life it will likely go back into the boat as something else. Waste not, want not…


The new section was pretty enough though. We welded it in for the dry build then didn’t go near again for years.

We got back to the serious stuff recently. It’s one thing to make these parts look OK but another entirely to make them watertight, capable of being fastened to the rest of the craft and reliable in service. John spent countless hours dressing back welds where once there were rivet holes or around patches where corrosion had threatened the integrity of the part.

Next he thoroughly crack-tested the whole thing from one end to the other with gallons of pink dye and shouted for a welder the moment a defect was located.

That took ages too but eventually the flute was ready to be put back and have new holes drilled. They’re 1/8th diameter because the rivets are 5/32nd at their finished size and we’ll drill to the final diameter when it’s time to stitch her together.

You may also notice that the foremost three outriggers are unpainted at this point. That’s because they were shattered in the back of that big hole and had to be repaired and set up at the same time as the flute was mended. The whole shebang was soon despatched to Bettablast and it wasn’t long before the last outriggers were up there with the rest awaiting the attention of the rivet twins.

Now, as everyone knows, this project is led and run entirely by volunteers and you’ve met most of them but here’s someone you’ve not come across yet.

Meet Barry…
The story goes like this.
Being interested in all things engineering I often wander off across the good old Interweb in search of intriguing things of that nature and one day I came across this.
http://modelenginenews.org/gallery/croft/eagle/index.html
Here’s another.
http://www.enginehistory.org/eagle_22.htm
Finding myself absolutely flabbergasted I looked further and found this.
http://www.enginehistory.org/merlin_xx.htm
And this…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xe1LL1IC7Y
Let me give you a few facts about those model engines… The magnetos actually work and deliver something like 24 sparks per revolution – Barry wound the coils using wire he unwound from mobile phone earpieces and the sparks go down little stainless braided leads to teeny-tiny spark plugs. Then there’s a set of fully functioning, 1/5th scale instruments on the back so he can see what’s going on when things are running. The oil rings on the miniature Eagle engine each have eighty holes drilled through them and when I asked Barry how on earth he managed that he simply shrugged and said, ‘with a cobalt drill’ – the list goes on. I have since seen these engines for real and they are utterly mind boggling in their detail and precision so you may imagine that I could think of a few jobs that Barry may be able to help us with if only I could track him down.
This took a while but having proved marginally easier to locate than Osama Bin Laden, Barry eventually mailed me his phone number having been introduced by a mutual associate and after a bit of a chat he agreed to help. This was one of our early collaborations. See this crudded up lump of junk…

… it’s one of two igniters shot fed sparks into the Orph to get the fire going and after 34 years under water it was knackered.

The gubbins inside had gone properly crusty and wouldn’t work but Barry said he liked coils and had spent – or rather misspent – his youth learning to rewind them so he immediately set about the windings with a hammer and chisel until little remained and I stood aghast amidst miles of shredded, hair-like copper wire where a priceless museum exhibit once had been. What is it that Chris Knapp used to say? ‘Reality dictates...’Barry assured me that making the coils work again was the easy part but what about repairing the cans in which they lived? This was going to be a problem, surely?Now that didn’t bother me one bit so as Barry indulged himself in his garage, coming to the phone now and again covered in epoxy as he wound about 100,000 turns of wire around something or other, I set about the cases in a similar orgy of micro-fabrication.

Using 0.5mm MIG wire as filler, some tiny scraps of 16swg steel and a needle-sharp tungsten the steel cans were painstakingly pieced back together.

By the time Barry had finished gluing himself to the coils, the cans were glued back together too and ready to go to the electroplaters for a fresh coat of nickel.

As an added bonus, Barry took the original igniter cables, an example seen here with an igniter plug from the engine…

…and made up a complete set of new fittings for the ends. Clever or what?
And, as a final touch, because we’d struggled to locate the exact plug connectors for the cans despite having the part numbers, Barry made new ones from scratch

How about another?
Have a long stare at the lump of widgetry upper right that’s partially obscured by all that wiring and, while you’re about it, see if you can spot the igniter hiding in the background.

Found all the bits yet? Check out the thing with all the pipes coming and going. It’s the pressure regulator and non-return valves for the water brake system and appears to have been snaffled bodily from somewhere inside the donor Gnat along with about five times as many hoses as they actually needed. Stripped of muck and rust it looked like this.

But we couldn’t do much more than pull it down and give it a clean and even then some of it just wouldn’t come to pieces.
Over to Barry.
Yes… soon it was in a million bits with a host of new parts reverse-engineered from the originals.

And by the time it came back you could eat your dinner off it – or perhaps, with it.

What you can’t see so easily is that the fittings on the ends of the pipes were mostly rotted away and as we don’t want hosed down with hydraulic oil, Barry made up some tooling to un-swage the ends of the pipes so he could make up and install new fittings then re-swaged them thus saving the originals and the world of pain we’d have had getting new ones made up.
This valve, by the way, manages the hydraulic pressure by allowing it to build up to a pre-set level then venting excess pressure into an idle circuit until more is needed. It’s a close-tolerance part made by Lockheed and, although we’ve made it look pretty, getting it working within limits, considering the amount of refurbishment it’s undergone, is going to be challenging to say the least.
The entire hydraulic system is being built onto a test rig that replicates a section of K7’s frame so we can connect it all up and see if we can get the water brake to trundle up and down.

Then, of course, there’s this little beauty…

The genuine Longines stopwatch was bought from a dealer in Buenos Aires and shipped about 4000 miles in a Jiffy bag. The perfectly reproduced holder came out of Barry’s workshop. But be warned. We are extremely fortunate to have Barry bring his incredible talent to our project as he’s now a man of leisure who’s been there, seen and done all things engineering and made the well-earned T-shirt into a duster before most of us were born. So if you want to be next to coax him from retirement, take it from me, it’d better be good!

Back in our workshop we got the inlets to the point where we could unbolt them and stick them back on the tool. First though, ‘Checkie’ Rob – so called for his penchant for checkie shirts – spent a day modifying the tool to suit. The inlets were built in the upside down position so some changes to the tooling were required.

That done, the rivet twins soon got back to work.

The duct and its formers are really only the shell of the thing, all the trick bits go inside and then we have yet to mend the expanse of tin they clashed in there in 66 as a last-ditch effort to keep it all together after the inlets imploded so there’s still a heap of work to do on this component, but it’s looking OK so far.
We had to knuckle down and make some new outer body skins too. The left side of the cockpit survived in good shape because when the boat landed on her side the outer skin was crushed against the frame and, though it suffered a bit of hydroforming around the frame tubes, it was substantially present. But the other side didn’t fare so well. The water got in when the left hand cockpit wall snapped in two and literally blew the skins out of the opposite side. We didn’t get much of it back so the executive decision was taken to make up new skins and use the remains of the old ones to make formers for the upper sponson fairings. With that plan sorted it didn’t take long to spread a sheet of tin over the side and wheel a little shape into it.

Its forward end had to be welded on because back in the day they had 8x4ft sheets to play with but ours are only 2x1m so it was somewhat easier to glue an extra piece on than source a bigger sheet.

Next, with the panel more or less the right shape, we set it up on the bench and used it to set up the lower half of the next panel aft because the two joggle together in such a way as to present a smooth outer surface. You’re looking at the inside below, by the way, with the outrigger positions marked with a Sharpie so we know where to drill the holes.

Compared to reworking damaged and corroded tin this work is refreshingly quick and simple. It’s a joy after some of the torture we’ve put ourselves through. The only downside is that, due to company policy, we had to paint it that awful green colour but as you know it’s only temporary.

For those late arrivals who maybe don’t get the green thing it goes like this. We always wanted this rebuild to be sympathetic to museum conservation techniques and not one of those ‘data plate’ jobs that goes on with flying aircraft. There, of course, it’s a must because you can’t coast to a standstill so easily in your Spitfire but our boat is a different animal and we’ve been very inventive when it’s comes to saving original material whilst engineering in the strength and reliability needed for her return to the water, but here and there we must make new and this is where the green comes in.
I was told once of a student who wrote a lengthy thesis on the history of WWI aircraft and was surprised to discover just how much fibreglass (my spell checker keeps trying to spell that fiberglass! Damn you, Americans for messing with our beautiful language…) was used in their construction. Of course this was a falsehood perpetrated by a museum that hadn’t properly marked what was original and what was new so henceforward museums have been careful to make this clear and this is what the green is all about.
It’s well known that Donald loathed anything green so, all you future students of K7, if you find some on his boat, we did it.
But there’s way more to that slice of green tinwork than merely getting it to the right shape. It’s a recreated part of an historical artifact and has to withstand the closest of scrutiny so that’s why Mike spent days on what I called his ‘exercise in futility’ drilling and filling dozens of holes opened then closed again in the 1950s during many experimental attempts to make the boat plane.
Let me explain. Way back in fifty-something the Norris Bros. designed a boat that was then built by Samlesbury Engineering and taken to Ullswater to be driven by Donald that damn-well didn’t work. It just wouldn’t plane so they fastened temporary surfaces between the sponsons and the main hull to gain an understanding of the problem. Two things came out of this (and please, historians, correct me if I have this wrong) firstly, the front spar was lifted to keep it clear of the water as the boat accelerated and, secondly, the option to fit additional surfaces for low-speed, demonstration runs was retained and used occasionally. The result is dozens of unused holes in the sides of the cockpit closed either with 3/16th rivets or 2BA screws in captive nuts. None of them serve any purpose whatsoever nowadays but in the interests of doing a proper job every last one had to be correctly located and drilled. Mike spent days with a chunk of original skin from the same side working out exactly what went were then built the new part just as it once was.

This is the inside because it’s easier to see the captive nuts than the screw heads on the outside. And notice below the diagonal line of captives there’s a horizontal line of empty holes. These were blanked with rivets and we’ll set these at the last before the blue paint goes on so the bodyshop can work unhindered on the flat outer face.
Here it is from the outside.

Lots to see here… For starters, notice that the skins around the pointy end are fully pinned awaiting only their rivets and, more importantly, they’re painted silver, which means you’re looking at original material. We got lucky here because this piece of tinwork flew off pretty much intact and lay about in anaerobic, mud-coated safety for thirty-odd years so all we had to do was straighten it and put it back.
We recovered neither of the oval closing plates that were fitted over the original spar boxes though one survives in a museum but the committee voted not to give it back despite the deal being a total no-brainer thus proving yet again that there are no brains in bureaucracy.
In business terms it would be like your local Merc’ dealership phoning to say they wanted your old car in exchange for a shiny, new Mercedes Benz topped to the brim with fuel and a free fuel card in case it used any. Servicing would be free as well as any tax or insurance and should you scratch it please feel free to use the bodyshop anytime you please. Being bureaucrats they held a committee meeting and opted to hang onto their communal, 1982 Honda Civic auto in sh*t brown…
We made some new closing plates and one can be seen fitted here in its final position.
But so what? It’s only an oval-shaped piece of tin, what’s the big deal? Well I suppose there isn’t one unless you appreciate all the work that’s gone into getting every last screw hole positioned as accurately as all the physical and photographic evidence will allow. We’re kind of proud of these simple items and, despite all that’s befallen our tin boat, there’s a fair chance that were we able to nip back to 66 to try them out our new closing plates would swap for the old ones and all the screws would go through the holes first time.
Another thing… look at the forward panel, the silver, triangular one with all the pins in it. See the diagonal row of rivets through the middle of it?
Those holes were also used to fix something that later went away but evidence suggests they had more 2BA screws through them as they’re slightly bigger than your 3/16th rivet so when time came to make them go away again whoever got the job just cut some small squares of tin, popped a 3/16th hole through the middle and banged a rivet through. The result looks like this from the inside.

The great thing about these little squares is that they’re completely unmolested. They were drilled loose in 2005, bagged, tagged and stored away then put back this week still bearing their original coat of silver paint.
The time has also come to take a look at the upper fairings and we recently dismantled the engine cover. As you move aft there’s less and less impact damage, the air intakes being by far the worst affected but the engine cover suffered its share nonetheless.

It’s the right side that took the batteringleaving thepanels rippled from one end to the other and then there’s the corrosion. The cover has five stations underneath it. Number one had the steel, air start kit underneath as well as two small, steel vents let into its upper surface so that area went rotten. Stations two, three and four were over the magnesium compressor so they got away with it, and five was over the stainless end of the engine so that’s knackered too.

There’s also this little box between formers four and five that, according to the drawings, was for a parachute. It had long since been sealed shut but on opening it we found a load of signatures written in pencil, one of them dated 1958 – but that’s another story too.
The great thing about the upper covers is that they’re only aerodynamic fairing so they don’t need the same meticulous repair as the bits that have to keep high speed water out. These only have to keep the weather out so we can crack on at a much faster pace and keep more originality too.

So while John set about resurrecting the parachute box, Girl made her ‘cheese graters’ to fit over the badly corroded formers at positions one and five.

They’re made of 1mm alloy with a series of swaged holes in the front face for strength and an inch wide border round the outside for a pitch of rivets that’ll doubtless be spaced and drilled by Mike then fired home by the twins. The rebuilt formers and parachute box not only look good and are now properly strong again, they’re also mostly original and the work took no time at all.

Apart from some mild straightening here and there all these parts only needed cleaning and painting to be ready to go back.

The outer skins went over to the museum to be cleaned by Novie and his team of volunteers there and came back gleaming so we could start the build for real.

Unfortunately there’s a lot of corrosion in the skins – nothing that won’t fix, mind you, but something that was largely avoidable.
You see, what happened is that way back in 2002-ish we noticed the panels consuming themselves on exposure to oxygen in the air. Corrosion can take many forms with aluminium and much of the electrolytic rot inflicted under water became differential aeration corrosion when it dried out. In this case pitted areas receive more oxygen because of their larger surface area than non-pitted regions and set up an electrical cell that just keeps the process munching onwards. To stop this in its tracks we started with the tail cover and carefully cleaned the metal with a stainless wire brush, ensured it was dry and free of grease then painted it with an etch prime to seal the surface, but we dropped a bollock – to use the Geordie vernacular. We told the lottery fools (thinking we were alerting them to an urgent conservation need) who immediately wet their knickers and ran bleating to their pet museologists who advised the fools that, unless we stopped destroying history forthwith, we’d be ineligible for a grant. In the longer term our faces didn’t fit sufficiently for a grant anyway so now the engine cover looks like granny’s lace curtains while the tail cover is as good as the day we recovered it.
Never mind, it’ll fix, as we say.
But the corrosion is only half of the problem, there’s also a measure of disruption at the forward end of the engine cover because the crash damage went a smidge aft of the air intakes.

This is the good side – take a few minutes to Google some images of K7 as she came out of the water and you’ll soon see how the left hand inlet was torn open as it got a big gulp of water and tripped the boat up. This slapped the hull down on its right flank squashing shut the inlet on the other side.
The right hand panels got it ten times worse than the left as a result…

As someone said during the course of our analysis of the impact, ‘the metal doesn’t lie’, and every last tweak, twist and split in K7’s fabric demonstrates with absolute certainty that her main hull came down on its side; and yet there’s still a few who remain hard of understanding so the above is just one more example.
It took several daysto shrink that mess back to something we could work with.

What you see here is the result of careful heat shrinking and from there it wasn’t such a bad job to get the thing back into shape. The trick is to use heat, cold and other techniques to set up tensions in the metal that oppose the shape of the disrupted area then give it a gentle nudge with a rubber mallet whereupon it quietly goes back from whence it came – something Mike invariably refers to as witchcraft.
Once pinned to the formers and following a round of mild tin-bashery it wasn’t looking half bad. Just some nit picking to do and it’ll be good as new.

Many people think that all you have to do is whack such a dent back the other way and it’ll just go flat again, but it won’t. Stretch a bar of toffee then try to put it back as it was and you’ll see what I mean. The metal stretches just the same and suddenly there’s more of it than you started with and putting a big expanse of it like this back to rights is challenging to say the least. It’s easy to get it close enough then slap some filler in but that’s cheating… If it needs filler you’ve not finished working on it.

There is, however, one piece of crash damage that we’re preserving in the name of posterity.


See that small, well circumscribed dent out to the right that looks like someone stabbed a teaspoon through from the back… (The cheeky buggers in the workshop thought I’d slipped with my hammer – as if!).
Well here it is again, preserved for all time and for one very good reason.

You see, it’s not just some random dent caused by the thing crashing, it’s actually a witness mark where the panel was bashed in by the water and met the solenoid on the start valve coming the other way.
Here’s the solenoid valve, and notice the cylindrical can on the left that covers the solenoid itself – notice also that it’s split along its length.

Now see it in situ and you’ll get the idea.

OK, look just above and slightly left of the end of the red screwdriver lying on the deck and you’ll see the circular end of that can. Got it? When the boat slapped down on her right flank the outer skin of the engine cover was shoved inwards but it crashed into the start solenoid and was effectively hydroformed around it splitting the can in the process. See if you can spot it in this pic of the engine cover before we started working on it.

It would have been so easy to sanitise this skin by losing that little pimple but to what end? It’s doing no harm and it tells the story on behalf of all the ruination that befell the engine cover and has now been magicked away so it stays. Sufferers of OCD can go around the other side where everything is perfect.
And, by the way, that little window in the side that provides a view of the instruments inside is looking a whole lot better these days with its doublers and patches finished and just waiting for paint, choccie and rivets.

And we’ve moved on another vital item this week – our new planing wedges. They’re six foot long castings into which we’re going to incorporate every last crumb of unused material so there’ll be absolutely no LOOF at the end of the job. Scraps, rivet heads, swarf and filings will all be mixed back in to give the wedges an irrefutable whiff of originality. With a few original formers for the sponson fairings recovered from the lake and some new ones made of redundant skins from the right-hand side we’ll reconstruct as much of the sponson tops as possible including the piles of crumpled tin we have stored away that originally comprised them. There’s going to more genuine K7 in this machine that anyone ever dreamt possible.

At a kiddie’s party recently the missus asked if I’d like a drink and in a moment of nostalgia I asked for a can of Lilt, remembering the sweet pineapply taste I so enjoyed in my youth. But what arrived was not the Lilt of old. It was nasty, watered down waste that you and I might describe using a word beginning with the letter P or, to a medical professional, U. In 2003 with the help of their marketing gurus it seems the Lilt people successfully removed the sugar, grown from cane or beet then extracted at moderate cost, and replaced it with a few drops of a cheaply synthesised amino acid without actually letting on. Well that’s not strictly true. They do tell us that it was ‘reformulated’ to reduce its calorie content by 58% and go on to tell blatant, barefaced lies about it still having the same great taste it’s had since 1975. Of course, the economics of selling flavoured water with a toot of CO2 has nothing to do with this… quite clearly the product is better for you without the calorific disaster that is sugar.

And again, later that same day, by pure chance, I happened upon a tube of Primula cheese. That rich, creamy, flavoursome luxury we used to squeeze onto celery sticks as kids then smack our lips at its smoked ham, prawn or chive accents. Not nowadays… oh no. The modern day, translucent ooze I squeezed from the tube bore a sickening resemblance to gentleman’s fluid, but look on the bright side; they’ve stripped it of all fat, cholesterol and anything else that might ultimately kill those of a sedentary persuasion. Your cleverly packaged tube of half cheese, half emulsified slop has been defused, you’re safe again.

And that’s without mention of the cracker I chose to spread it on, which once upon a time would have been one of those deliciously sharp, salty jobs with ‘Ritz’ on the box but salt is now as much an enemy as sugar so they may as well cookie-cut their product from discarded beermats for all the taste they have nowadays… On the plus side I did buy some extra thick double cream this week to make Roquefort sauce for my steak and each and every calorie was present. The downside is that they stole it off the top of my milk in the first place then sold it back to me, but never mind.

Despite this anomaly the modern way seems to be flogging less for more then dressing it up in clever marketing as the populace becomes increasingly besotted with what they read on their computer screens or soak up through TV advertising.

And, in a similar vein, our project is being noticed more and more by organisations that smell a great opportunity as it nears but completely failed to pick up its faint scent ten years ago and now imagine they can buy in at the last by offering bugger-all in exchange for rather a lot. They’ve mostly missed the boat, literally, and we turn down various offers of so-called help most weeks. We just don’t need the hassle because after ten years of quietly beavering away we’re self-sufficient and being beholden to someone we don’t need would be utter madness.

For example, we had an erstwhile sponsor make a pitch lately to throw in a few quid but with a completely unworkable string attached; a finish date. This, as you may imagine, was an absolute must were they to do us the huge favour of shamelessly exploiting the last five minutes (historically speaking) of our project for their own commercial ends in exchange for what amounted to pocket money when compared to the value of work done without thought of reward by more understanding partners.

No can do, I explained to this quaint little outfit, unless they could tell me how long it would take to calibrate the air system, stop the hydraulics from leaking or mend the tail cover. They tried a different tack. How much quicker would it be done if we took their pennies? Hang on a minute! We don’t get this from the big-boy, aerospace lot so why should we put up with it from what’s a cottage industry by comparison? Needless to say, I could only answer politely saying that it likely would make no difference because even when the boat is ready the deciding factor will likely be weather.

It wouldn’t matter how many new sponsors crowded aboard at this late stage because we couldn’t go any faster anyway. There’s nothing we could write a cheque for today that would be a showstopper later on. We’ve still enough of our unique work to do on the main hull that everything else can be acquired in plenty of time and paying for it up front would not alter the schedule.

Now that’s not to say we’d look a gift horse in the mouth, far from it, and having a few quid spare would certainly give us some latitude when the boat is finished and we find we suddenly need unforeseen tools or maybe an extra hire vehicle or hotel room, but for now the project runs sweet-as with only its light snowfall of donations and the steady exodus of our goodies. It seems more honest and pure that way anyway so we vowed to carry on as before and turned them down – a tiny blip on the screen compared to sacking the lottery fools.

There’s a more sinister aspect to this, of course… Just suppose we involved ourselves in such a scheme and signed away our lives to a timetable while their marketing and promotions lot went hell for leather gearing their richest clients for a thorough fleecing on the appointed day. And then we failed to deliver…

Sour relations, lawsuits, compensation and that’s without the stress in our camp... Best we pick and choose and don’t expose ourselves so stupidly, methinks. Or so the lawyers tell us…

But while we’re on the topic of lawyers – we have our very own bylaw. It’s official, we can go faster than 10mph on Coniston Water without getting arrested and having that in the bag is something of a coup. After years and years the waterlogged derelict that is bureaucracy has finally fetched up on a shoal of common sense and the yes/no conundrum regarding us using our lake of choice has been answered. Our byelaw application has been approved at long last by someone from the government, no less. Our history is sad catalogue of begrudging adoption of one backup plan after the next but here it looks like we’ll get the gold medal position for the first time. We’ve grown up at last. (Metaphorically speaking only, of course).

There’s too many people so richly deserving of praise and thanks in this process and I’m never sure who wants to be named anyway because so many pull strings or drop hints in the corridors of power because they believe in our madcap scheme but daren’t own up for fear of being cast into some committee-free wilderness for a slightly edgy view. Therefore all I can suggest is that you all know who you are and how hard you’ve worked so thanks… and thanks again.

The downside of all this is that our dedicated though small volunteer team is now centre-stage again with ever more people asking the dreaded ‘when’ question so it’s all hands to getting K7’s clothes back on. Building her structure offered little in the way of visual progress most days as the sprouting of an extra outrigger here and a doubler there was difficult to spot and not very exciting anyway but there’re big bits coming together now. Take the flutes, for example.

Having been to Bettablast (http://www.bettablast.co.uk/bettablast/contact.html) for the standard issue chromate etch-prime and a coat of silver-grey polyester we brought the left hand example back and set about assembling it to the jointing strip that forms a lap joint between the flute and the panels above. Lashings of choccie sauce and hundreds of pins later and we were ready for the rivets.

It took the rivet twins only a few days to bash this little lot together but the end result was very satisfying. All panels below the horizontal deck are designated ‘KWO’ or ‘Keep the Water Out’ as are the joints between them and this one, as you can see by looking, passes muster first time.

Unfortunately, the panels higher up consumed a considerable amount of time that we hadn’t budgeted for. You see, had someone explained back in the day to those involved that should K7 spend thirty odd years under water then be rebuilt it would be bad practice to fasten steel and brass fittings through thin alloy skins because the dissimilar metal corrosion would turn out to be a proper nuisance, things may have turned out differently – but they didn’t.

It took much careful patching to get ahead of this little lot.

As ever, the big problem with inserting patch repairs is the shrinkage caused by welding and the ensuing difficulty in getting the shape back again. In this case we must work to a tolerance of 1/32nd of an inch or 0.79mm because these panels are held on with 1/8th diameter rivets, which is of course 4/32nds, and the next size up is 5/32nds, so if we can get within a 32nd we can upsize and put fresh rivets into lightly tickled-out holes making the boat stronger than ever she was without losing originality. It’s a fusion of heavy rock and microsurgery with hammers.


It took weeks to get them just how we wanted them but the result is excellent.

Every trace of corrosion has been excised, every hole lines up and the shape is precisely as nature (or rather Samlesbury Engineering) intended…
One positive to come out of this exercise is that, having cautiously crept up on the problems on this side and bottomed them by degrees, we can now bash seven bells out of the other side knowing precisely the consequence of every hammer blow so there’s much time to be recouped there.


It looks even better with its paint on awaiting final fixing. I’d also like to proudly point out that you’re looking at bare metal with no more than a thin film of polyester on top of a wash-coat of etch primer and not a hint of filler anywhere.

And it’s a far cry from the day it was stripped away back in 2006.

Apart from the tinwork we also have to think of K7’s systems because she obviously has to live and breathe. I remember a discussion with a lottery fool during which I was told it was poor value for their money to connect up the airspeed indicator or throttle pedal or, though the fool didn’t actually say so in as many words, anything else that might’ve made the boat work. It was their somewhat pathetic way of trying to ensure K7 remained properly dead. I just let them go then offered to recruit a volunteer team to rebuild the systems once they’d paid for the hull – you may imagine how that meeting ended. But now the systems are coming together rapidly with the most amazing help from volunteers and British industry.


The good people who are rebuilding our fuel system chose not to accept their share in the glory until they see if it all works, a stance that appeals to my wicked sense of humour no end, but their names would raise your eyebrows and, though I can’t shout their praises from the rooftops as I’d like to, this ought to give you an idea of how seriously everyone takes this work and the level of professionalism involved.

The CCU, or Combined Control Unit, by the way, is basically the engine’s fuel injection system. It meters and controls fuel delivery to the burners in the engine dependent on throttle position and inputs from other modules in the control loop. A very clever hydro-mechanical system from before the days of digital engine controls and its rebuild means that when K7 runs again it will be all the same systems making her move that Donald asked so much of back in 67.


Humbling, isn’t it, and I’d not really appreciated just how fortunate we are to have support at this level until recently, after a presentation I made, when a member of the audience came to see me once I’d shut up and asked how we’d done it as his project had unceremoniously bounced off the same set of sponsors.


Taken unawares, I had no answer… ‘Depends how you ask’, I answered somewhat lamely, though I suspect Donald’s legacy had a hand in our successful outcome...


Another aerospace monster, we were eventually to learn, swallowed up Lucas Rotax, the company that manufactured all the air-start gubbins and they happened to be sitting on all the drawings and tech data for the various valves and twiddly bits. The problem was the lawyers – no surprise there.


Quite rightly, in this day and age, were they to supply information pertaining to a HP air system and I made a hash of it and blew my left ear to kingdom-come this would all be all their fault and I’d be obliged to run crying to my lawyers, bloodied stump in hand… Erm… I think not.
I offered that I once crawled through fishing-net-festooned shipwrecks for fun with a HP air system keeping me alive so were I to blow off my ear it would likely be my own stupid doing and I’d be glad to sign anything to this effect. Having had this accepted and subsequently signed a disclaimer I was then given access to a treasure trove of drawings by a splendidly helpful individual who shall remain nameless for now and a long-suffering though equally helpful lady in the print room. The result is this beautiful example of engineering art…

Now I’ll not go too far into this at the moment because its resurrection is to be the subject of a special diary piece all on its own but basically what you see here is K7’s original, bespoke air-start system completely rebuilt, working and properly tested. It’s a monumental example of buggering about in a good cause but more of that later.
Back to the flutes… with one finished and painted the other rose to the top of the pile, this one by far the most badly damaged. The forward end was smashed to smithereens for starters. Because the boat crashed down on her left side and flipped over the right took a proper pounding on the first roll and the water punched straight through here.


Disentangling the shredded metal from around the frame tubes required hammers and crowbars and it wasn’t very healthy-looking once we got it free.

But we soon mended it with a new piece of tin. Ironically, we could have mended the original knowing what we know today but those were early days so instead we replaced the mashed part. The section we cut out has since gone on to become a training aid for the rivet team for setting rivets in awkward corners and at the end of that working life it will likely go back into the boat as something else. Waste not, want not…


The new section was pretty enough though. We welded it in for the dry build then didn’t go near again for years.

We got back to the serious stuff recently. It’s one thing to make these parts look OK but another entirely to make them watertight, capable of being fastened to the rest of the craft and reliable in service. John spent countless hours dressing back welds where once there were rivet holes or around patches where corrosion had threatened the integrity of the part.

Next he thoroughly crack-tested the whole thing from one end to the other with gallons of pink dye and shouted for a welder the moment a defect was located.

That took ages too but eventually the flute was ready to be put back and have new holes drilled. They’re 1/8th diameter because the rivets are 5/32nd at their finished size and we’ll drill to the final diameter when it’s time to stitch her together.

You may also notice that the foremost three outriggers are unpainted at this point. That’s because they were shattered in the back of that big hole and had to be repaired and set up at the same time as the flute was mended. The whole shebang was soon despatched to Bettablast and it wasn’t long before the last outriggers were up there with the rest awaiting the attention of the rivet twins.

Now, as everyone knows, this project is led and run entirely by volunteers and you’ve met most of them but here’s someone you’ve not come across yet.

Meet Barry…
The story goes like this.
Being interested in all things engineering I often wander off across the good old Interweb in search of intriguing things of that nature and one day I came across this.
http://modelenginenews.org/gallery/croft/eagle/index.html
Here’s another.
http://www.enginehistory.org/eagle_22.htm
Finding myself absolutely flabbergasted I looked further and found this.
http://www.enginehistory.org/merlin_xx.htm
And this…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xe1LL1IC7Y
Let me give you a few facts about those model engines… The magnetos actually work and deliver something like 24 sparks per revolution – Barry wound the coils using wire he unwound from mobile phone earpieces and the sparks go down little stainless braided leads to teeny-tiny spark plugs. Then there’s a set of fully functioning, 1/5th scale instruments on the back so he can see what’s going on when things are running. The oil rings on the miniature Eagle engine each have eighty holes drilled through them and when I asked Barry how on earth he managed that he simply shrugged and said, ‘with a cobalt drill’ – the list goes on. I have since seen these engines for real and they are utterly mind boggling in their detail and precision so you may imagine that I could think of a few jobs that Barry may be able to help us with if only I could track him down.
This took a while but having proved marginally easier to locate than Osama Bin Laden, Barry eventually mailed me his phone number having been introduced by a mutual associate and after a bit of a chat he agreed to help. This was one of our early collaborations. See this crudded up lump of junk…

… it’s one of two igniters shot fed sparks into the Orph to get the fire going and after 34 years under water it was knackered.

The gubbins inside had gone properly crusty and wouldn’t work but Barry said he liked coils and had spent – or rather misspent – his youth learning to rewind them so he immediately set about the windings with a hammer and chisel until little remained and I stood aghast amidst miles of shredded, hair-like copper wire where a priceless museum exhibit once had been. What is it that Chris Knapp used to say? ‘Reality dictates...’Barry assured me that making the coils work again was the easy part but what about repairing the cans in which they lived? This was going to be a problem, surely?Now that didn’t bother me one bit so as Barry indulged himself in his garage, coming to the phone now and again covered in epoxy as he wound about 100,000 turns of wire around something or other, I set about the cases in a similar orgy of micro-fabrication.

Using 0.5mm MIG wire as filler, some tiny scraps of 16swg steel and a needle-sharp tungsten the steel cans were painstakingly pieced back together.

By the time Barry had finished gluing himself to the coils, the cans were glued back together too and ready to go to the electroplaters for a fresh coat of nickel.

As an added bonus, Barry took the original igniter cables, an example seen here with an igniter plug from the engine…

…and made up a complete set of new fittings for the ends. Clever or what?
And, as a final touch, because we’d struggled to locate the exact plug connectors for the cans despite having the part numbers, Barry made new ones from scratch

How about another?
Have a long stare at the lump of widgetry upper right that’s partially obscured by all that wiring and, while you’re about it, see if you can spot the igniter hiding in the background.

Found all the bits yet? Check out the thing with all the pipes coming and going. It’s the pressure regulator and non-return valves for the water brake system and appears to have been snaffled bodily from somewhere inside the donor Gnat along with about five times as many hoses as they actually needed. Stripped of muck and rust it looked like this.

But we couldn’t do much more than pull it down and give it a clean and even then some of it just wouldn’t come to pieces.
Over to Barry.
Yes… soon it was in a million bits with a host of new parts reverse-engineered from the originals.

And by the time it came back you could eat your dinner off it – or perhaps, with it.

What you can’t see so easily is that the fittings on the ends of the pipes were mostly rotted away and as we don’t want hosed down with hydraulic oil, Barry made up some tooling to un-swage the ends of the pipes so he could make up and install new fittings then re-swaged them thus saving the originals and the world of pain we’d have had getting new ones made up.
This valve, by the way, manages the hydraulic pressure by allowing it to build up to a pre-set level then venting excess pressure into an idle circuit until more is needed. It’s a close-tolerance part made by Lockheed and, although we’ve made it look pretty, getting it working within limits, considering the amount of refurbishment it’s undergone, is going to be challenging to say the least.
The entire hydraulic system is being built onto a test rig that replicates a section of K7’s frame so we can connect it all up and see if we can get the water brake to trundle up and down.

Then, of course, there’s this little beauty…

The genuine Longines stopwatch was bought from a dealer in Buenos Aires and shipped about 4000 miles in a Jiffy bag. The perfectly reproduced holder came out of Barry’s workshop. But be warned. We are extremely fortunate to have Barry bring his incredible talent to our project as he’s now a man of leisure who’s been there, seen and done all things engineering and made the well-earned T-shirt into a duster before most of us were born. So if you want to be next to coax him from retirement, take it from me, it’d better be good!

Back in our workshop we got the inlets to the point where we could unbolt them and stick them back on the tool. First though, ‘Checkie’ Rob – so called for his penchant for checkie shirts – spent a day modifying the tool to suit. The inlets were built in the upside down position so some changes to the tooling were required.

That done, the rivet twins soon got back to work.

The duct and its formers are really only the shell of the thing, all the trick bits go inside and then we have yet to mend the expanse of tin they clashed in there in 66 as a last-ditch effort to keep it all together after the inlets imploded so there’s still a heap of work to do on this component, but it’s looking OK so far.
We had to knuckle down and make some new outer body skins too. The left side of the cockpit survived in good shape because when the boat landed on her side the outer skin was crushed against the frame and, though it suffered a bit of hydroforming around the frame tubes, it was substantially present. But the other side didn’t fare so well. The water got in when the left hand cockpit wall snapped in two and literally blew the skins out of the opposite side. We didn’t get much of it back so the executive decision was taken to make up new skins and use the remains of the old ones to make formers for the upper sponson fairings. With that plan sorted it didn’t take long to spread a sheet of tin over the side and wheel a little shape into it.

Its forward end had to be welded on because back in the day they had 8x4ft sheets to play with but ours are only 2x1m so it was somewhat easier to glue an extra piece on than source a bigger sheet.

Next, with the panel more or less the right shape, we set it up on the bench and used it to set up the lower half of the next panel aft because the two joggle together in such a way as to present a smooth outer surface. You’re looking at the inside below, by the way, with the outrigger positions marked with a Sharpie so we know where to drill the holes.

Compared to reworking damaged and corroded tin this work is refreshingly quick and simple. It’s a joy after some of the torture we’ve put ourselves through. The only downside is that, due to company policy, we had to paint it that awful green colour but as you know it’s only temporary.

For those late arrivals who maybe don’t get the green thing it goes like this. We always wanted this rebuild to be sympathetic to museum conservation techniques and not one of those ‘data plate’ jobs that goes on with flying aircraft. There, of course, it’s a must because you can’t coast to a standstill so easily in your Spitfire but our boat is a different animal and we’ve been very inventive when it’s comes to saving original material whilst engineering in the strength and reliability needed for her return to the water, but here and there we must make new and this is where the green comes in.
I was told once of a student who wrote a lengthy thesis on the history of WWI aircraft and was surprised to discover just how much fibreglass (my spell checker keeps trying to spell that fiberglass! Damn you, Americans for messing with our beautiful language…) was used in their construction. Of course this was a falsehood perpetrated by a museum that hadn’t properly marked what was original and what was new so henceforward museums have been careful to make this clear and this is what the green is all about.
It’s well known that Donald loathed anything green so, all you future students of K7, if you find some on his boat, we did it.
But there’s way more to that slice of green tinwork than merely getting it to the right shape. It’s a recreated part of an historical artifact and has to withstand the closest of scrutiny so that’s why Mike spent days on what I called his ‘exercise in futility’ drilling and filling dozens of holes opened then closed again in the 1950s during many experimental attempts to make the boat plane.
Let me explain. Way back in fifty-something the Norris Bros. designed a boat that was then built by Samlesbury Engineering and taken to Ullswater to be driven by Donald that damn-well didn’t work. It just wouldn’t plane so they fastened temporary surfaces between the sponsons and the main hull to gain an understanding of the problem. Two things came out of this (and please, historians, correct me if I have this wrong) firstly, the front spar was lifted to keep it clear of the water as the boat accelerated and, secondly, the option to fit additional surfaces for low-speed, demonstration runs was retained and used occasionally. The result is dozens of unused holes in the sides of the cockpit closed either with 3/16th rivets or 2BA screws in captive nuts. None of them serve any purpose whatsoever nowadays but in the interests of doing a proper job every last one had to be correctly located and drilled. Mike spent days with a chunk of original skin from the same side working out exactly what went were then built the new part just as it once was.

This is the inside because it’s easier to see the captive nuts than the screw heads on the outside. And notice below the diagonal line of captives there’s a horizontal line of empty holes. These were blanked with rivets and we’ll set these at the last before the blue paint goes on so the bodyshop can work unhindered on the flat outer face.
Here it is from the outside.

Lots to see here… For starters, notice that the skins around the pointy end are fully pinned awaiting only their rivets and, more importantly, they’re painted silver, which means you’re looking at original material. We got lucky here because this piece of tinwork flew off pretty much intact and lay about in anaerobic, mud-coated safety for thirty-odd years so all we had to do was straighten it and put it back.
We recovered neither of the oval closing plates that were fitted over the original spar boxes though one survives in a museum but the committee voted not to give it back despite the deal being a total no-brainer thus proving yet again that there are no brains in bureaucracy.
In business terms it would be like your local Merc’ dealership phoning to say they wanted your old car in exchange for a shiny, new Mercedes Benz topped to the brim with fuel and a free fuel card in case it used any. Servicing would be free as well as any tax or insurance and should you scratch it please feel free to use the bodyshop anytime you please. Being bureaucrats they held a committee meeting and opted to hang onto their communal, 1982 Honda Civic auto in sh*t brown…
We made some new closing plates and one can be seen fitted here in its final position.
But so what? It’s only an oval-shaped piece of tin, what’s the big deal? Well I suppose there isn’t one unless you appreciate all the work that’s gone into getting every last screw hole positioned as accurately as all the physical and photographic evidence will allow. We’re kind of proud of these simple items and, despite all that’s befallen our tin boat, there’s a fair chance that were we able to nip back to 66 to try them out our new closing plates would swap for the old ones and all the screws would go through the holes first time.
Another thing… look at the forward panel, the silver, triangular one with all the pins in it. See the diagonal row of rivets through the middle of it?
Those holes were also used to fix something that later went away but evidence suggests they had more 2BA screws through them as they’re slightly bigger than your 3/16th rivet so when time came to make them go away again whoever got the job just cut some small squares of tin, popped a 3/16th hole through the middle and banged a rivet through. The result looks like this from the inside.

The great thing about these little squares is that they’re completely unmolested. They were drilled loose in 2005, bagged, tagged and stored away then put back this week still bearing their original coat of silver paint.
The time has also come to take a look at the upper fairings and we recently dismantled the engine cover. As you move aft there’s less and less impact damage, the air intakes being by far the worst affected but the engine cover suffered its share nonetheless.

It’s the right side that took the batteringleaving thepanels rippled from one end to the other and then there’s the corrosion. The cover has five stations underneath it. Number one had the steel, air start kit underneath as well as two small, steel vents let into its upper surface so that area went rotten. Stations two, three and four were over the magnesium compressor so they got away with it, and five was over the stainless end of the engine so that’s knackered too.

There’s also this little box between formers four and five that, according to the drawings, was for a parachute. It had long since been sealed shut but on opening it we found a load of signatures written in pencil, one of them dated 1958 – but that’s another story too.
The great thing about the upper covers is that they’re only aerodynamic fairing so they don’t need the same meticulous repair as the bits that have to keep high speed water out. These only have to keep the weather out so we can crack on at a much faster pace and keep more originality too.

So while John set about resurrecting the parachute box, Girl made her ‘cheese graters’ to fit over the badly corroded formers at positions one and five.

They’re made of 1mm alloy with a series of swaged holes in the front face for strength and an inch wide border round the outside for a pitch of rivets that’ll doubtless be spaced and drilled by Mike then fired home by the twins. The rebuilt formers and parachute box not only look good and are now properly strong again, they’re also mostly original and the work took no time at all.

Apart from some mild straightening here and there all these parts only needed cleaning and painting to be ready to go back.

The outer skins went over to the museum to be cleaned by Novie and his team of volunteers there and came back gleaming so we could start the build for real.

Unfortunately there’s a lot of corrosion in the skins – nothing that won’t fix, mind you, but something that was largely avoidable.
You see, what happened is that way back in 2002-ish we noticed the panels consuming themselves on exposure to oxygen in the air. Corrosion can take many forms with aluminium and much of the electrolytic rot inflicted under water became differential aeration corrosion when it dried out. In this case pitted areas receive more oxygen because of their larger surface area than non-pitted regions and set up an electrical cell that just keeps the process munching onwards. To stop this in its tracks we started with the tail cover and carefully cleaned the metal with a stainless wire brush, ensured it was dry and free of grease then painted it with an etch prime to seal the surface, but we dropped a bollock – to use the Geordie vernacular. We told the lottery fools (thinking we were alerting them to an urgent conservation need) who immediately wet their knickers and ran bleating to their pet museologists who advised the fools that, unless we stopped destroying history forthwith, we’d be ineligible for a grant. In the longer term our faces didn’t fit sufficiently for a grant anyway so now the engine cover looks like granny’s lace curtains while the tail cover is as good as the day we recovered it.
Never mind, it’ll fix, as we say.
But the corrosion is only half of the problem, there’s also a measure of disruption at the forward end of the engine cover because the crash damage went a smidge aft of the air intakes.

This is the good side – take a few minutes to Google some images of K7 as she came out of the water and you’ll soon see how the left hand inlet was torn open as it got a big gulp of water and tripped the boat up. This slapped the hull down on its right flank squashing shut the inlet on the other side.
The right hand panels got it ten times worse than the left as a result…

As someone said during the course of our analysis of the impact, ‘the metal doesn’t lie’, and every last tweak, twist and split in K7’s fabric demonstrates with absolute certainty that her main hull came down on its side; and yet there’s still a few who remain hard of understanding so the above is just one more example.
It took several daysto shrink that mess back to something we could work with.

What you see here is the result of careful heat shrinking and from there it wasn’t such a bad job to get the thing back into shape. The trick is to use heat, cold and other techniques to set up tensions in the metal that oppose the shape of the disrupted area then give it a gentle nudge with a rubber mallet whereupon it quietly goes back from whence it came – something Mike invariably refers to as witchcraft.
Once pinned to the formers and following a round of mild tin-bashery it wasn’t looking half bad. Just some nit picking to do and it’ll be good as new.

Many people think that all you have to do is whack such a dent back the other way and it’ll just go flat again, but it won’t. Stretch a bar of toffee then try to put it back as it was and you’ll see what I mean. The metal stretches just the same and suddenly there’s more of it than you started with and putting a big expanse of it like this back to rights is challenging to say the least. It’s easy to get it close enough then slap some filler in but that’s cheating… If it needs filler you’ve not finished working on it.

There is, however, one piece of crash damage that we’re preserving in the name of posterity.


See that small, well circumscribed dent out to the right that looks like someone stabbed a teaspoon through from the back… (The cheeky buggers in the workshop thought I’d slipped with my hammer – as if!).
Well here it is again, preserved for all time and for one very good reason.

You see, it’s not just some random dent caused by the thing crashing, it’s actually a witness mark where the panel was bashed in by the water and met the solenoid on the start valve coming the other way.
Here’s the solenoid valve, and notice the cylindrical can on the left that covers the solenoid itself – notice also that it’s split along its length.

Now see it in situ and you’ll get the idea.

OK, look just above and slightly left of the end of the red screwdriver lying on the deck and you’ll see the circular end of that can. Got it? When the boat slapped down on her right flank the outer skin of the engine cover was shoved inwards but it crashed into the start solenoid and was effectively hydroformed around it splitting the can in the process. See if you can spot it in this pic of the engine cover before we started working on it.

It would have been so easy to sanitise this skin by losing that little pimple but to what end? It’s doing no harm and it tells the story on behalf of all the ruination that befell the engine cover and has now been magicked away so it stays. Sufferers of OCD can go around the other side where everything is perfect.
And, by the way, that little window in the side that provides a view of the instruments inside is looking a whole lot better these days with its doublers and patches finished and just waiting for paint, choccie and rivets.

And we’ve moved on another vital item this week – our new planing wedges. They’re six foot long castings into which we’re going to incorporate every last crumb of unused material so there’ll be absolutely no LOOF at the end of the job. Scraps, rivet heads, swarf and filings will all be mixed back in to give the wedges an irrefutable whiff of originality. With a few original formers for the sponson fairings recovered from the lake and some new ones made of redundant skins from the right-hand side we’ll reconstruct as much of the sponson tops as possible including the piles of crumpled tin we have stored away that originally comprised them. There’s going to more genuine K7 in this machine that anyone ever dreamt possible.