Excused Games.

Not long after returning from Norway, a slight tickle in the throat heralded the onset of an extremely painful cough. I hadn’t been to the Doc’s for years but thought it best to trundle on down to the surgery and see about some antibiotics.

Then all I had to do was look out of the window and sit it out. Thank goodness I was clever enough to invest in a subscription to Netflix. I finally got to the end of ‘Breaking Bad’, sat through days of ‘Designated Survivor’, ‘Homeland’, Person of Interest’ and, as the course of antibiotics came to an end, so too did ‘The Crown’. The alternative – regular daytime television – would have been purgatory. I promised myself I would do this and that; catch up with bits of reading, do some drawings for bits of machinery but, I didn’t.

Unlike Leon who busied himself making a new catch tank for the breather on the Climax engine…

… and continued his experiments with the Special’s brakes.

Mr Summer’s looked in to give me his Morris Minor windscreen to assemble…

And I bought a new tool bag for the Hillman – idle hands often turn to Amazon! The last canvas bag had been in service in several different cars going back 30 years and tools were beginning to escape through holes and rattle around in the back.

And while I’m upgrading the front brakes, I wondered about putting a twin carb manifold on the Morris Six. I’ve got all the bits but as I’m only getting about 22mpg at the moment, do I want to spend more money on fuel for not very much more performance? I might just rebuild one of the spare engines with a twin manifold and hold it in reserve. As I was in recovery mode, Counsel and I popped up to Redditch to see about having the discs and bells made for the Hillman. We had half an hour with the chaps at the engineers and decided they’d be made in two pieces – the bell and the disc being held together with bolts threaded into the disc. They’ll be a little bit more expensive than I’d anticipated but still a lot cheaper than not being able to stop in a real emergency. We elected to come home a different way as the traffic on the A1 and A14 was at a stand still on the way up. We came back via Warwick and looking in the car mirror, I thought I recognised the scene. I parked and dashed back up the road to get the snap.

100 years ago, I bought for £10 in a junk shop, a small coloured etching of the West Gate at Warwick. It’s absolutely charming and I’ve even reproduced it in miniature in one of my paintings – I like putting pictures on walls in paintings. I couldn’t remember the artist’s view-point in the etching – I discovered that it was across the road when I got home but, very little else had changed.

When I say I ‘dashed’ back up the road, that’s not entirely accurate – I think I’ll be off games for a while yet.


A Few Days R & R.

My phone’s battery is getting a bit tired so as soon as I’m on the aeroplane and headed home, I switch it off to conserve what’s left for getting taxi’s and so forth at the other end. I almost always end up missing a good photo.

There was a Norwegian 737 with two de-icing trucks dancing attendance on the other side of the apron though by the time my phone came back to life, it had gone. I managed this shot which would have been better but at the last moment I had to move from my window seat to make way for a cello. I wouldn’t sit next to one again – never said a word all the way home.

I was nevertheless distracted by a spot of lunch which I’d prepared at the hotel and wrapped in a BeeBee Wrap to keep fresh. BeeBee Wraps are beeswax impregnated cotton squares and used as an alternative to cling-film. It’s reusable and said to last about a year.

Traditionally, I’ve used cling film to wrap up sandwiches and there’s always a certain sogginess about them by the time I get round to lunch. Not so with these wax wraps. The claim is that food stays fresher for longer because the wrap is breathable – a claim I wouldn’t dispute.

The sky was clear as we came over the East Anglian coast and I was pleased to make out a popular spot for The Special Builder’s Breakfast Club at Southwold harbour (arrowed in green).

But the next morning the picture was slightly different – cue, travel chaos.

Those of us lucky enough to work from home, always have something on the go to keep us occupied when the rest of the country shuts down. Learned Counsel is making headway with the Mazda-engined racing car aided by his new Lidl air rivet gun. The chassis has been powder-coated and I lent him a 100m roll of plain wallpaper to cut the body panel patterns out. Wallpaper is perfect for the job as it’s stable enough to take a bit of rough handling.

I see he’s following my lead with Wilwood calipers and, I know that a bunch of washers as spacers doesn’t look very nice but for trackside adjustment (of the rake in this case) they’re the way to go.

My ‘snowed in’ occupation is a Model Airways Albatros D.Va kit. I first saw one of these kits in the late 70’s. It was a Sopwith Camel and I’ve never forgotten being completely bowled over by the level of detail. A model like this was always way out of my reach – historically they’ve been eye-wateringly expensive – but this last Christmas I bit the bullet and stumped up the folding. The kit has not disappointed – there’s a zillion parts in the engine alone! I think I’m going to cover it in a transparent Solatex of the type used for indoor flying models, paint one side and leave the other clear though I must first finish the painting of the Hillman which I’ve rather neglected of late….

… because, besides some more stainless steel manifolds to make, ‘Project W’ and some further additions to the silk finishing machine have taken up most of my time.

No rest for the virtuous then.


Things To Do In Drammen When It Snows.

In the rush to get to Oslo’s attractions the last time (but one) I was here, I didn’t notice that there was a museum and gallery in the town of Drammen, not 15 minutes walk from the hotel.

Another few inches of snow had fallen overnight…

… so it was a bit of a lark getting there on foot. I lost the path at one point and ended up in the middle of a roundabout. Happily, the Norwegians are very good about pedestrians and the traffic stopped to watch me struggle through a 3ft high snow drift to get back onto the footpath.

They like their wooden jugs…

.. and their mangles. These work by putting the freshly laundered item on a flat table, wrapping a moist cloth round a cane and with one hand on the horse shaped handle, the cane is rolled up and down under the board until the laundry is smooth before being hung up to dry. I think I’d be much engaged elsewhere if one of those came out of the cupboard – it must have been incredibly hard work.

A small room was devoted to Hans Heyerdahl, a realist painter whose early years were spent in Drammen.

I’d come across and admired his work in the National Gallery in Oslo so it was good to see him again.

Eduard Fischer was a contemporary of Heyerdahl. He seems to have specialised in water and boats but I can’t find much more about him.

Frederik Collett was doing his stuff mostly up the road in Lillehammer.

And finally, Gustav Wentzel with a very typical Scandinavian interior. The gallery followed much the same form as the Bornholme and Haugesund galleries I’ve visited in that it represented only artists that were ‘local’. I like that idea and for that reason I’m looking forward to visiting the Ateneum gallery in Helsinki whose collection comprises mainly Finnish artists. I’ve spotted also, on the way to Helsinki airport, an aviation museum that looks like it’s worth a visit.

With wood in abundance, interiors were lined with boards and then painted, as was almost every other bit of furniture and household utensil. A house without colour would have been a dull place indeed.

The museum occupied two buildings. One building, a modern glass and steel affair, housed the permanent collection. The other, the big house pictured above, had an exhibition of Scandinavian art and design from 1900 to the present. There were two exhibits which caught my eye; the chair above…

… and this small plate. Of the two I would have been happy to take home the plate which was perfect. The chair was nearly there but somehow, not quite.

Back in the hotel, the outlook from my window wasn’t encouraging as more snow fell throughout the day….

…. and with the temperature forecast to drop back to -11°, in the coming week, spending the day holed up in the tent with a box of cup-a-soups, was beginning to look less than appealing.

I’m not sure my building a snowman would be approved of, but it would be something to do.

An Impressive Amount Of Snow.

I was weighing up which might be the best way to create the false drums that’ll cover the discs and calipers on the Hillman when my fellow Magneteer and I were called back to Norway.

We got the front seats, the sun was out and it wasn’t a silly-o’clock departure – perfect. The outlook was less encouraging as we crept into Oslo through the clag, breaking through the cloud base at what must have been close to decision altitude.

A squadron of 17 snow ploughs was busy keeping things clear…

…. and it wasn’t long before we were back in Drammen….

….though a very heavy snow fall over the weekend promised to hold up the proceedings for 24 hours. Happily, that gave us time to get in supplies for the days and nights ahead. But, back to the aluminium brake drums; I had several options. Aluminium tube, 340mm id, 20mm wall, would give me enough material to machine the finning and weld in a 4mm face plate. Sandcasting was the second option.

Building up the drum and fins from different sized aluminium rings was the third, and lastly, rolling a 20mm x 100mm wide plate to form the drum and again, welding in the face plate. The first three options are all quite expensive so I’m going to go with the fourth. There’s a big engineering works down the road from me and I know they’ve got a set of power rollers – I’ll visit when I’m back from Norway.

I’ve also got to pop up to a company in Redditch to have the discs and bells made. I’ve made up the pattern from rings and everything fits in very nicely. The false drum face plates will have to have a slight dish in them as the caliper is just proud of the disc bell by 8mm. I’ll make up a couple of press tools and do that myself. I don’t yet know if, in order to create some visual balance, I’ll put false drums over the existing rear brake drums, it might look a bit over done.

Learned Counsel found time to get the hood started on the Jowett Jingle Bell – luckily, the original hood was in one piece so a careful unstitching of everything gave him a set of patterns to work with.

Mikhail Guermacheff was a painter born in the Ukraine in the late 19thC and, being back in Norway and not having seen so much snow for a long time, it brought to mind this painting belonging to the other Wright brother. Guermacheff’s treatment of the combination of snow, water and light – especially evening light – has always made his paintings instantly recognisable, so when a friend of mine walked into my local pub and asked if I knew anything about some paintings that belonged to his family, pictures of which he had on his phone, I was able to say in a very knowledgeable way, ‘Ah yes, Guermacheff,’ and blather on for a few minutes about the artist’s history.

Even I was impressed.





We Called An Attempt.

In the Olden Days, when model aircraft radio control systems were in their infancy,

Pa was Secretary of the Royal Air Force Germany Model Aircraft Association (RAFGMAA).

Under Pa’s tutelage, my brother and I were keen competitors in the Single Channel Spot Landing Competitions. Filling the fuel tank with an amount of fuel that you guessed would place you up-wind and high enough for a couple of positioning circuits, you started up and launched your model into the air. When the engine stopped, deft use of the rudder control (1 push of the button on the transmitter for left and 2 for right) you guided the model in to land as near as possible to the pre-designated ‘spot’. The rules accommodated for the best of three launches and, if you touched down a bit wide of the mark and felt you could do better, you called an ‘attempt’, and that launch would be discounted. My brother got rather good at this and would regularly beat all comers at the ‘Champs’ to carry home the prizes that Pa, in his capacity as Secretary, had selected from Herr Jansen’s Modellbaugeschäft in Mönchengladbach.

We never had a spark ignition engine – I’m not sure why – E.D.’s and Mills engines powered all our models until the Japanese O.S. engines became available (I think one of the very small ones was a prize once). The E.D. pictured here was used and abused for many years before being sectioned in the Station Workshops at R.A.F. Bruggen in Germany.

My brother has a box of now vintage engines, he being more of an aeromodeller than me, though I seem to have ended up with the paperwork.

We had over the years several radio systems, some of which were better than others. Starting out with the ‘Galloping Ghost’ escapements, we quickly progressed to the much more advanced Graupner sets that had proper servos – Bellamatic, Variomatic (I think) are names I recall. Simprop was our first ‘proportional’ system – how much you moved the joystick on the transmitter corresponded to the deflection of the control surface on the model – and was rightly considered a huge advance. Pa though, was always a ‘rudder and throttle’ man. He reluctantly added elevators in the late 70’s but I don’t remember him ever experimenting with ailerons. ‘Keep it simple’ (and light) was a sound philosophy and, against all odds, he managed to get a scale 56″ wingspan Sopwith Camel flying perfectly reliably on rudder and throttle alone.

A call to Norway for a quick magnetising job involved a 3:30am start (groan). My fellow magneteer and I arrived in Drammen to find snow piled 2ft high and temperatures promised to plummet overnight to about -16°. This cold snap wasn’t expected by the cable manufacturer (or anyone else) so after a night in my favourite hotel in Drammen, The Clarion, where the food is first-rate and the beds very comfortable, we were sent back home, to touch down at a sunny Gatwick (+5°) by 2:00pm the following day.

That’s what we call an attempt.

Getting To Grips.

Counsel and I spent the day at The Great Collector’s workshop, reinstalling the 1905 Darracq cone clutch. Charles Johnson in Norwich had done an excellent job relining the cone with the same material they used to reline the brake shoes on my Hillman. As the original material was leather, it would be interesting to see how this might work.

The trial fit of the cone in the flywheel didn’t see any improvement in the depth of engagement – the cone still stuck out of the housing by at least 3/8″ so I popped it in the lathe and formed a small radius on the front edge.

On the inside of the cone are 4 equally spaced spring-loaded plungers. They press on the inner face of the lining to create 4 high spots, the purpose of which is to provide a smooth take up on the drive. As the clutch is let out, the springs compress and the lining flattens against the cone. We thought that these might have been preventing the cone from engaging fully with the flywheel as the new material didn’t have the same flexibility as the old leather, so out they came.

There was some improvement so we decided to reassemble and give it a go. With everything back in place – it’s not a terribly difficult job, just a bit awkward as we’re not as flexible as we used to be – all the signs were that we had a perfectly serviceable clutch again and off we went down the road. It was quickly apparent that we were back to square one and the clutch slip that had prompted the new lining, had not gone away. Back in the workshop we noticed that the cone was now fully home in the flywheel, with no overhang at all. Hmmm. There’s a very big nut and coil spring on the end of the gearbox input shaft and the Darracq Owner’s Manual instructs the would-be mechanic to adjust this nut in order to alleviate the symptoms of slip. However, it doesn’t say which way to screw the nut and when you do it doesn’t seem to make the slightest difference to anything but the amount of pressure you need to apply to the pedal – though without a schematic of what’s going on in the gearbox, I could be wrong.

With everything in pieces again – we were becoming quite expert at this – we noticed a ridge of what looked like paint in the inner edge of the flywheel. It corresponded with the now very black and greasy lining on the cone. A Stanley blade scrapped away a 1/4″ thick line of 100-year-old whatever-it-was-they-used-in-the-olden-days to keep the leather in trim. Back in the lathe, a liberal dose of brake cleaner and a scrub up with a soft wire brush, soon had things looking normal again.

As a belt-and-braces fix, we decided to insert a 2mm aluminium spacer between the gearbox input flange and the cone. This, in theory, would help to push the cone home under a greater load. We also put the spring-loaded twinks back in their respective housings, popped everything back together again and whizzed off on a second test run.

Success! Not a hint of slip and, Mr Toad seemed pleased with the outcome.



Simple But Tricky….

I was searching the web for anything on the Cushman Husky engine – bits for sale and so forth – when I came across an ad for the Cushman Package-Kar. I noticed the unique rear springing arrangement and realised that that’s what we’ve got – a Package-Kar chassis with a drop tank body. Special Builders – turn your back for a second and a perfectly respectable ice-cream tricycle becomes a noisy, bullet-shaped speedster. Tut, tut!

The Great Collector’s 1905 Darracq cone clutch had never been quite right. The lining had broken down over the years and going up hills was latterly more often accomplished backwards.

Four bolts and a few split pins saw the gearbox moved out of the way and the male cone withdrawn from the clutch shaft.

An attempt to replace the leather resulted in the clutch becoming inoperable – the leather was 1mm too thick and prevented disengagement. An easy fix was to move the gearbox back a squeak, but drilling holes in the chassis would be a last desperate measure rather than the first option, and besides, it had worked before. So the cone was taken away to a specialist for relining. I read somewhere that Kevlar is sometimes used on early motor-car cone clutches; fit and forget apparently. The Darracq is having a fibre and copper wire woven lining which in its raw state will probably grab like mad. WD-40 is applied to get it to work smoothly, but how much WD-40 wasn’t mentioned. Fortunately, the clutch is very accessible with the floorboards removed, so with the engine running and a fit volunteer, all should be well.

Going was never a problem for Leon’s A7 – except when the engine blew up – but stopping has always been under par. With a mix of hydraulics at the front and an extra slave cylinder operating the cross shaft for the cables to the rear, good braking pressure has never been fully achieved. The mismatched volumes of the Minor wheel cylinders and the cross shaft slave is a contributory factor. As the weather continues rubbish, a new cross shaft with different sized levers attached is being fitted and should remedy the situation.

Very Learned Counsel has a new toy – a handsome Hotchkiss AM2. A good-sized engine, 2.4 OHV, and equally good-sized brakes.

The body was the work of a coach builder called Pouille, in Valenciennes. The premises are still in existence and occupied still by a coach builder, though not of the same name. ‘Nitrolac’ refers to a paint finish available at the time. The prominence of ‘Nitrolac’ on M. Pouille’s plaque might suggest an agency?

And, some progress on the disc brake experiments. Chumley reported that it was a bit tricky setting up the hub carrier on the mill as all the arms were uneven but the stub axle had a 60mm diameter machined flat on the inside of the casting, so at least there was a datum of sorts to get going with. I’ve only to clean up the rough bits where the tool couldn’t get at the inside edge of the weld, bolt the caliper mounting block to the new surface, get the disc in the right place and jolly off to Birmingham to have the real ones made.