Project ‘Z’.

Learned Counsel turned up the other day with the chassis of a racing car on a trailer.

I’ve been invited to help design the body – that’s nice – and I was just getting the pencils out when the call came for me to leave for Nordenham in Northern Germany. NSW have a very big cable-making factory on the banks of the river Weser and needed a kilometre of cable magnetised. Fortunately for us, all the hotels in Nordenham were booked up so I and my fellow magneteer had to stay in Bremerhaven on the opposite bank, in a spanking new hotel – beastly luck, what?

There’s a lot of building work going on in Bremerhaven; new marina’s, hotels and so forth and I gather that the town is gearing up for the tourist industry and hoping to persuade the smaller cruise ships to visit.

There’s a lot going for Bremerhaven and I would have liked a bit of time to explore the Maritime Museum which looked incredibly well stocked. The dock had a variety of vessels of all ages; tug-boats, sailing ships, a submarine and this interesting hydrofoil…

Even the shopping centre was shaped like a boat…

The hotel ‘Im-Jaich’ was excellent and I was delighted to see that the bathroom designer had taken note of my comments regarding shelves above basins…

… the perfect set-up but – there’s always something that’s not quite right. The water was luke-warm and no amount of running it produced the slightest increase in temperature. I had a particularly brief shower in the morning but noticed a control knob set into the wall under the sink. That evening I turned it to full and voilá – or rather, hier, hot water.

The dining room hinted at Hopper’s ‘Laundromat’ and the painting in the foyer was one which I would have quite happily hung in my house.

Someone on the interior design team had done their homework and it showed. It was the briefest of visits and I was looking forward to a couple of days R&R when I got home but the Silk Finishing Machine was needing further attention so I had to wait for the weekend before having a bit of time off.

A Special Builder’s Breakfast Club run with the Ambassador’s Daughter was planned but we got only 20 miles before the Hillman faded on a roundabout and, not wishing to tempt fate, I turned around and headed for home. We stopped at the Suffolk Motor Club’s trial and watched a lot of people having fun in the mud before going home – it did look fun but something the Hillman is entirely unsuited to – too long and no turning circle to speak of. Later, I remembered that I’d removed the manifold to put the new copper gaskets on and hadn’t re-set the idle so we could have got to Southwold but, having never been to a trials before, it was a happy omission.

I saw that Learned Counsel had been at work while I was in Germany; I’m sure everything’s under control.



An Even Odder Business…

I thought there was something wrong with the suspension because every time I went over the paint on the lane markings of the Autobahn, the steering wheel shook like the feedback on a PlayStation racing car wheel. I’d had a similar problem with my Mercedes so I took my hands off the wheel and pressed the brake gently – no vibration but, there was a ‘ding’ in the cockpit and a message flashed up, ‘Do not remove your hands from the wheel’. What!

I discovered that the Ford S-Max which we’d hired for the trip had a feature called ‘lane control’ which, if you happened to stray, nudged the steering wheel so the car remained in the centre of the lane you were in. My first encounter with the system and not knowing about it was slightly unnerving but I worked out that indicating before I changed lanes, cancelled the ‘driver assist’. This also worked on single track roads and on my tour around the Bornholm coast, I decided to experiment and managed to get the car to go round gentle curves without any help from me, the upshot of which was that the car kept telling me that I should stop and have a coffee because I was clearly becoming incapable of steering the car myself. Clever stuff.

I visited Hammershus, a 13th Century castle at the Northern tip of Bornholm and developed a taste for bicycle racks….

… this one in Glamsbjerg and this next….

I spotted on our return trip via Rotenburg in Germany. This new enthusiasm somehow sits quite happily with railway lines. But, besides the art museum on Bornholm, the other great highlight of the trip was a visit to my sister’s friend’s near neighbour. A brickworks sits in the bottom of a shallow valley and in the middle of that, a fairly unassuming building houses a collection of over 100 cars; the Strøjer Collection.





There must have been around 20 Ferrari’s – at least half of which had racing history; a half-dozen Lamborghini’s, a similar amount of classic 50’s Mercedes sports cars, Aston Martins, Maserati’s, a Bugatti Veyron, a dozen Rolls’, a huge H6 Hispano Suiza, an even bigger Duesenburg. Billed as a collection of ‘dream cars’, there was a dream-like quality to tripping over this little lot in the middle of nowhere. Oddly enough, when I was in Finland just before Christmas I happened to turn on the TV in my hotel room and caught the last 10 minutes of a programme about what I now know was the Strøjer Collection; I recognised the hugely enthusiastic and welcoming owner who keeps all the cars in running order and uses them regularly.

Even odder still, a wonderful Skoda museum (although closed when I was there) is just down the road.


An Odd Business.

I may be old-fashioned but when I arrive at an hotel, I’ve come to expect to see someone, even if they take their time appearing at reception.


I dropped big sister off in Glamsbjerg (and spotted a railway line to snap) where she could spend the next few days talking dogs with her breeder friends which gave me the perfect excuse to further my research into Aage Georg Schad, the painter of the portrait I’d bought in a junk shop in Sweden in the 90’s.


I hopped aboard the ferry at Ystad (pronounced ‘oershtal’) in Sweden for a 50kt roller-coaster of a ride in one of the biggest catamarans afloat, to the island of Bornholm which is out in the Baltic, just below the Swedish mainland.


It was almost dark when I got into port at Ronne but the hotel was only a few minutes from the harbour and I parked outside to unload my bags. I went in and as there was no desk or anything and thinking I might have gone in the back door, I searched the place looking for some sort of reception or at least some sign of life. Nothing….. until I noticed an envelope on a shelf in the hallway with my name on it. It contained the keys to my room so that was a start but, what do I do with the car? I went back outside and wandered up and down the street trying to decipher the instructions on the parking notices – Danish is not my strong suit. Then I noticed a girl struggling with a pram up the steps of the hotel and seized my chance. Fortunately, practically everyone you meet in Scandinavia speaks excellent English and this young mum was no exception. My parking worries over, I went to look for something to eat; everywhere was closed (the off-season) except the garage which offered a selection of crisps and some local beer.


Jolly good it was too! You’ll notice of course, that the label is in the shape of the island of Bornholm. I’ll pop back tomorrow and buy a selection box to take back with me.


The island is not huge so I decided that I would go the long way round to the Kunstmuseum and try to get some feel for the landscape. There’s something here that’s very reminiscent of Cape Cod. If Hopper had been Danish, this is where he would have painted. Certainly the architecture; wooden and once bright but now fading painted houses set in isolation…..

Coast, Gudhjem

… and the rugged coastline would have appealed to him. I didn’t have enough time to seek out the ‘Hopper’ shot but it’s without doubt, here somewhere.


The Bornholm Kunstmuseum is a gallery which should be on every art-lovers ‘must visit’ list. Besides a truly excellent lunch, the permanent collection is wholly unpretentious and full of delights. It concentrates on artists connected with Bornholm and the Bornholm School of Painters but, typically, the only person missing is Aage Schad!

I had a chat with the staff and left some pictures so this extraordinarily odd omission may yet be rectified.






…. is blinkin’ taters in Suffolk, so the call which saw me swiftly departing the fix for Naples, was very welcome.


As the sun rose over Vesuvius the next morning, the cable-laying barge was in place ready for us Magneteers to get on with the job. We had 27km of cable to process which ordinarily would take about seven or eight days but the Italians don’t seem to be in so much of a rush as the rest of us so ten days in temperatures of 14°C was a welcome interlude.

On the beach

In my wanderings I spotted another plant on the beach below our loading jetty which I hope Mike, my botanist reader from Western Australia, will identify for me.

Night fishing

Early one evening, I noticed a light moving across the bay towards our station. I’m not sure what these fishermen were after but the chap standing on the prow had a five-pronged harpoon which would have made a mess of a passing Turbot; squid or eels perhaps?

Gulfo di Pozzuoli

The Gulfo di Pozzuoli. That’s Pozzuoli on the left and in the right conditions as you pan right, Capri would come into view just ahead of where the barge is anchored at the end of the jetty. It was odd but, all around us there were thunder storms and rain while our little bay remained sunny and clear for the most part.

Arco Felicé

I had my railway moment with a snap of the station at Arco Felicé.


And on the way home, we stopped in Milan as the sun was setting.

1908 Swift

I nearly forgot to mention something about cars – we had some fun getting this 1908 Swift started before I went away but I regret to say that I still haven’t been out in the Hillman this year as there’s still too much salt on the roads and it won’t be the last of it either at the rate the temperature is dropping.

And here’s something interesting:



… is almost gone and whilst the cold and bright days are a very welcome change from the dank, wet and overcast of recent winters, the downside is the salt on the roads. I was on the M25 a few days ago, a bright but chilly day and there was a salt mist almost a metre high thrown up by the traffic – I didn’t take the Hillman out on New Year’s Day and I haven’t been out in it since for that very reason.

Speed Six

My car of the month at the local New Year’s Day meet had to be this Bentley and I was surprised to see it out in the conditions which prevailed on the day; I take my hat off to the owners.

Little Satan

I also take my hat off to Mr Dean, owner of ‘Little Satan’ who ventured out along with Leon in his Austin 7 Special for the first breakfast run of the year – to Thorpeness. The Ambassador’s Daughter and I wimped out and took the Mercedes but frankly, the fuss and palaver of washing down the Hillman in the freezing cold …… no thanks.

House keeping

Instead, a bit of house-keeping, charging the battery, replenishing the anti-freeze and whatnot – I even got the polish out and fussed on with that for a few minutes. I’ve got some special American polish that a friend of mine uses on his ‘Flaming Cactus’ Airstream vans. I apply it with my (gloved) fingers rather than a cloth and work it in to the aluminium before buffing with a soft cloth; the results are fantastic but it’s a bit of a labour of love and you need to set aside a full day to cover the whole car properly.


I was asked to extend Project ‘X’ to include a loom roll carriage which would go up and down, in and out and side to side. Here’s the in and out and side to side bit; the up and down is taken care of by a jacking beam mounted on the black sliders – a bit of an over-kill but the more substantial the machine, the longer it’ll last in a commercial environment. In fact, this bit of the machine was more difficult to develop than the rest of it put together. I’ll post a more complete picture when it’s finished.

Rover Quadrant

A quick jury-rig of the Rover’s gear lever and handbrake quadrant showed that I’d managed to get the ruler the right way up and read the numbers properly. Once again, the benefits of laser-cutting shine through – cutting the brake ratchet would have been testing!

Farm cat

And here’s one of the farm cats – cool I would guess, as it’s January.

Project ‘X’….

… has taken up most of my time since the autumn of 2015; car stuff has taken a back seat – so to speak.


The brief was to replace a 60-year old fabric finishing machine with something that would refine the finishing operation, expand its capability, last for the next 60 years and at the same time bring the control process into the 21st Century by introducing programmable logic control (plc) and touch-screen operation. Oh, and by the way, the finishing room has only small doors so the 2m x 3m machine would have to be assembled on site.

Steam blades

Part of the finishing process involved the delivery of super-heated steam to the fabric and I was lucky to be familiar with the coating process on wallpapers; air knives deliver a metered, high velocity blade of air that blows away surplus ink and leaves an even side-to-side coating on the substrate. Air knives are also used for drying tomatoes and suchlike in food processing plants.

Heated rollers

My biggest headache was how to heat the 2m wide rollers that are the last stage of the finishing process. In the original machine, the rollers were heated by steam but over the years the surface temperature had become uneven. Not knowing anything about the internal structure of the cylinders and how they might well have corroded over time, I had to think of another way of heating them. I looked at oil, water and electricity but the downside of all these internal systems was the weight of the finished rollers – around 350kg each! To change a bearing or a seal would require lifting tackle and a gantry incorporated into the structure – the machine would become a different animal. As with all these things, a chance conversation (with Learned Counsel’s brother-in-law, a print technician in Australia) put me on to Infrared. Perfect.

Laser cutting

The laser cutting girls and boys swung into action and produced the superstructure and some of the fiddly bits like the brackets for the linear actuators used to wrap the fabric round the heated rollers…

Linear actuators

… and with the addition of most of the ancillary rollers, the machine was beginning to take shape.


Next stop: disassembly, powder-coating and reassembly at the client’s premises.


Of course, nothing is as simple as all that – there were plenty of ‘gotcha’s’ on the way and a certain amount of cutting and fitting as this was fundamentally a prototype machine. One of the biggest headaches was (as always) translating the finishing process into a computer programme – something we’re still working on.

Thank you to everyone who, despite my reduced concentration on this blog, has stayed the course and I wish you all a Happy Christmas and all the best for 2017.





I Spoke Too Soon!

Having commented that now is not the time of year to be sitting in a tent on the shores of the Gulf of Finland, guess what!

Gulf of Finland

It looks worse than it is, although when the wind gets up, it’s worse than it looks. We Magneteers are here to magnetise a cable as it’s loaded aboard the ‘Cable Installer’, a ship operated by the Italian company, Prysmian.

Cable Installer

We’re back in the same retro style hotel and what I didn’t notice the last time I was here were these ceiling lights – classic Thunderbirds! Also I completely forgot about the instruments of torture which pass for pillows in this neck of the woods – nasty foam filled things which turn to concrete when you lie on them! Two glasses of wine at the hotel – £26! Supermarkets are awash with cider, lager and funny coloured fizzy drinks but a bottle of wine? The nearest ‘Alko’ (the state-owned outlet for anything over 4.7%) is 24km away.

ceiling lights

Every year, I say that I won’t be going to the Classic Car Show for at least the next three years and every year I end up going. But with the entry price at around £30, I’m determined to readdress my resolve to not go.


The cars that caught my eye were a very pretty Fiat 1500 Cabriolet, a brace of Triumph Italia’s (I’d never heard of this hook-up between the TR3 and a Turin body shop before, let alone seen one) and a Maserati. The Italians have always been at the top of the styling game.


Which started me thinking about sports cars and how nice it would be to build one of my own. A couple of initial sketches indicated how difficult it is to depart from received ideas about what constitutes a sports body. Some radical thought outside the box is required! Recently, I was leafing through a book about special bodied Jowett Jupiters by Edmund Nankivell and noticed a coupe with particularly attractive lines. A Jupiter chassis….

Jupiter chassis

… would be a good starting point and there are a few dotted about (if you can find them) that would be perfect for such a project. I’d have to do a bit of juggling with the radiator – perhaps make a couple of side-mounted assemblies to lower the bonnet and maybe move the engine back a bit…. it’s just a thought at the moment of course.


This week, I’m working the midday to midnight shift so I have a couple of hours to explore the area around Siuntio. In the sunshine and snow I imagine the forests are a real treat; fungi, elk, bears and whatnot, but in the cold, wet and overcast skies we have at the moment, nothing could be less inviting.

Lohja station

The nearest town, Lohja, threw up this charming station building. It didn’t appear to function as a station anymore although the lines were definitely in use.

Railway lines

I saw a sign to a museum but it was time to go back to work; maybe the museum (and finding Alko) is tomorrow’s adventure.