Fun With Funnels….

… though fun was the last thing it turned out to be. It was a job that had been doing the rounds of successive fabricators, each politely declining the work until muggins here, thought it would be an interesting exercise. Fortunately, having committed to the work (and a tight deadline) enough of my engineering friends took pity on me to help bring about a successful conclusion.

Using the etched lines as guides, a few hours on the brake press saw 80 of these developments ready to be tacked together. The upper band was also rolled ready for joining.

As the developments were only 1.2mm mild steel and not always completely abutted, I tacked rather than continuously welded the seams. Then, over a wooden jig, I persuaded the welded band over the funnel (which had the added bonus of pulling the funnel properly into the round) tacked around the circumference and finally tapped the surplus 10mm into the shape of the body.

3 metres of steel pipe was chopped up to make the bottom tubes – my chop saw has now paid for itself – and the press tool was turned up by Chumley (a half-dozen finest Norfolk sausages, 6 rashers of excellent streaky and 4 homemade burgers did the trick – remember I was on a tight schedule) and it worked perfectly, the tubes just resting in the bottom of the funnel ready to be tacked on the outside.

This was a stage I was pleased to arrive at – the fitting of the bands being especially irksome. The peening over of the surplus looked like being a long old job as well, so I spent an hour making up a planishing tool for my air chisel. After about 10 seconds, the head fell off the stem (dissimilar metals – duff welding) so it was back to the Armstrong method. Good practise for the Alvis body!

The whole lot went off to the powder-coaters, coming back all shiny and, more importantly, ahead of schedule….

…. leaving me time to get on with the Alvis drawings. I have to say, it’s no easy task and, having now moved on to the front and rear projections, what seemed like a relatively simple procedure, has proved quite difficult on paper. A sketch on the back of a napkin is a doddle but, when you have to get down to the detail – where a panel starts or ends and how it blends into the next shape – is a bit of a headache. I think only by making the model, will I then properly arrive at the form. I’ve got the profile and I can more or less extrapolate from the drawings so far, the 3-dimensional figure. Tweaking that and then scanning to make the buck formers, is my plan. The model will be about 850mm in length (roughly 1/5th scale) so should be a reasonably accurate representation.

A visit to Leon and Awkward’s workshop for the start-up of the rebuilt Climax provided an excuse to get away from the drawing board. One snag…

… a bolt left over, though I have my suspicions that some joker might have dropped that in the box of bits. Talking of jokers…

…. next door thought the funnels were great fun.



But, so what! The sun promised to show its face over the weekend so The Ambassador’s Daughter and I took ourselves off to see Big Sister in Kent. On the way, we took in Whitstable where, contrary to the forecast, it was raining and gloomy.

Even Her Majesty looked a bit grumpy. There was a chap round the corner fighting off flower people..

… and further along, someone not dressed for the weather..

..though looking a bit smug about something. Whitstable was a charming town, full of shops with Victorian and Edwardian shop fronts and very reminiscent of Louth in Lincolnshire, though a bit scruffier.

The following day, Sissinghurst, where years ago I’d managed to get Nigel Nicholson to very reluctantly sign his book, ‘Portrait of a Marriage‘, was on our way back from the Weald Fair (acres of eye-wateringly expensive stuff you can live without). After getting away from the National Trust membership sales drive (ever since they grubbed up Ickworth Vineyard, they’ve not benefitted from my support),

… a brisk walk around the estate ended in the discovery of the perfectly shaped tree.

Back at home, an order for 40 funnels in mild steel sent me off to find my ‘Engineering Formulas and Tables’ published by Lefax of Philadelphia in 1946. It’s an incredibly useful volume and helped me set about the cone development with pencil and paper but,

.. it’s a lot quicker (and more accurate) if the laser-cutting people do it for you. For the bottom collar of the funnel, nobody I knew had slip rollers small enough in diameter so I took the plunge and bought a relatively cheap set from the internet. I had convinced myself that I could roll the cone quite easily in 1.5mm mild steel but was advised to ‘bump’ form it, which would take half the time.

And yes, once I took delivery of the slip rollers I had to take them apart because they’re so blinkin’ rubbish they’ll need a complete rebuild before they can be used.

I have similar plans for this bead roller – there’s a lot of slack in the bushing and end-float in the axles – though I’ll be adding a motor and foot pedal to allow for single-pilot operations. It was a while before I could get on with tweaking the profile of the Alvis Coupé

I was also distracted by a trip to Kettering to collect the wheel and anvils for the completion of the wheeling machine.

It’s always a delight to receive something of such superb quality that you know from the outset that if anything goes wrong, it ain’t the tools! Justin Baker’s ‘self-build’ wheeling machine set is of this ilk. Just as I’d completed the funnel drawings, I had an enquiry for 52, 2 metre long, double-sided, stainless steel pig’s troughs to work up as well; I don’t know how I’ve managed to get into the pig unit business but, as the magnetising is sort of seasonal, it should help tide me over the winter.

A few weeks at home will sort out the logjam.

If It Hadn’t Rained….

…. on the 3rd July 1988, the last day of the Popular Flying Association’s rally at Cranfield, I would never have met my fellow Magneteer, who was this time accompanying me back to Rognan for my third visit in almost as many weeks.

The Monday before, I and another Magneteer left Bodø, climbing out past the famous maelstrom just discernible under the bridge,

and flown on over mountain lakes before landing in Oslo for a welcome couple of hours lay-over in the SAS lounge.

Leaving Oslo, the sun dipped below the horizon and Norway’s lights came on below as we sped our way to Heathrow at nearly 600mph.

It was a clear evening and London’s western approach was bright as a button – in sharp contrast to my cottage, which was being re-wired. When I got home, it was like a war zone so I was not unhappy when the call came through to return to Rognan asap and get out of Sparks’s hair.

But, getting back to my story, I’d flown with my then wife, down to Cranfield in the old L4 for the PFA rally. It was a lovely morning and our gaggle of aircraft from Norfolk and Suffolk set off for the show in fine trim, each assuming that the others had looked at the weather and all was well with the world. Well, come 2 o’clock in the afternoon, the sky blackened, the heavens opened and stayed open for the rest of the afternoon. We tied the L4 down in the lee of one of Cranfield’s hangars and phoned a friend who, very obligingly, dropped everything to come and collect us in his car.

A few days later, we found a volunteer to drive us back to Cranfield. My current fellow Magneteer was one of our number; he’d had to abandon his Baby Lakes. I’d never met him before, but we’ve been flying chums ever since.

On our last day in Rognan, we had a couple of hours to spare so popped across the mountain, passing frozen, snow-covered lakes, into Sweden.

The road-kill is of a different order in these parts, this sad scene lent poignancy by a pair of smashed spotlights just out of frame.

The mission was to purchase a tin of Surströmming – a Swedish delicacy. Just enough salt is added to Baltic Herring to prevent it from rotting but allows it to ferment in its own juices for at least 6 months. The result is the most disgusting smelling, but apparently delicious dish. Well, we’ll see.

We left Bodø for Oslo and caught a second flight into Heathrow, crossing the English coast just a few miles north of Southend – which I remembered was where my friend Dennis – a seasoned airshow performer – first displayed the Avro. It was blowing a real hoolie on the Sunday of our return from the show and our ground speed was knocking 110kts; the Avro cruised at around 65kts indicated.

As I’d been away for it seemed, most of October, I looked in on Learned Counsel to see if he’d been pulling his weight on the Mazda-engined Locost in my absence. He explained that the installation had thrown up one problem after another – well, it never rains….


As The Sun Got Up…

… so did The Special Builder’s Breakfast Club and sped off to Southwold’s Harbour Café.

The day before, I’d popped over to Awkward and Leon’s workshop to see what was going on and also give the newly assembled Hillman pinion carrier a bit more of a workout.

Awkward was crack-testing his Model A crankshaft that was reported to have a problem developing in journal No.4. Neither of us could see it so, we set off in the Hillman to have it Magnafluxed over at Very Learned Counsel’s works. This revealed the crack to be on the radius of journal No.3 – no wonder we were having doubts about the diagnosis.

Leon’s Coventry Climax engine was also on the bench as a strip down to find the source of a leak in the block had revealed the poor condition of the shells.

It’s such a beautifully engineered piece of equipment and incredibly light; a V8 would be something! A new set of shells has been found so it should be back in his A7 before very long.

And boys being boys, a Scalextric was set up in the living room (it’s actually Fleischmann track) and cleverly, for when you’re on your own, one of the cars was equipped with a small pin on the underside of the rear of its chassis and set to whizz round the circuit at quite a lick. The extra pin prevented the back-end from swinging out and the car coming off the track. The idea was to try to overtake the solo car and stay ahead for at least one lap – very difficult.

Back in my own workshop, I’d spent a couple of days welding up the wheeling machine frame. It became so heavy I could only just turn it over to complete the welding on the other side.

The legs and anvil adjustment malarkey have yet to be added because I’m waiting to get the wheel and anvils – there’s some tricky alignment bits to get right before I go any further. I ordered a kit of parts from Justin Baker and was about to get in the car to go and collect them when….

… another early start saw me and a fellow Magneteer whizzing off to Heathrow to catch a plane to Oslo (the little white dot is the moon going down in the west, the streaks of light are a passing lorry.)

We crossed the English coast abeam Felixstowe Ferry – a popular breakfast and lunch run – you can enjoy breakfast on either side of the River Deben and, for lunch, fish and chips at the Ferry Café are the best ever. After a stop-over in Oslo…

… we started our descent into Bodø as the moon reappeared in the East. The temperature had dropped considerably since I was here a couple of weeks ago and, when the sun was obscured by mist and low cloud, now everything looked a bit grey.

But there was a bonus. As the sky cleared in the early afternoon, freshly fallen snow on the peaks sparkled for a moment before the sun started down again.

A Bit Early….

… for the Northern Lights and a bit late for the spectacular show the trees put on in early Autumn.

With Janecki z Krakowa, my fellow magneteer, I was posted at the last minute back to Rognan, north of the Arctic Circle, arriving as the last glimmer of sunlight climbed the wall of the Saltdalsfjorden, plunging the town into shadow.

But I can’t think of many vistas to wake up to which might better this one.

We had a couple of hours free before we were due at the factory so we took a single track road as far as it went up the side of the fjord to take in the scenery. The air is so fresh and invigorating, if you could somehow bag it, someone would buy it.

On our return, as the midday sun started again to lower in the sky, we were treated to more spectacular views.

To lighten the mood, here’s a ‘Buddy’, an all-electric ‘motorised quadricycle’ made in Norway and capable of up to 50mph, even without the ‘go-faster’ stripes. It’s essentially a city car that in some jurisdictions can be parked sideways (although you’d be ill-advised to complete that manoeuvre on wheelie-bin day).

With a few hours of daylight to spare on the last day of our trip, I explored the road to Tverrik. The 813 took me up into the hills where the trees become stunted and wind-blown…

… and higher still to where the emerald-green lakes, seen on the approach to Bodø, reside.

And there at Tverrik, the road stopped. That’s something to get used to in the more remote parts of Norway – you can travel for a couple of hours, but you’re still going down a cul-de-sac. If you’re thinking of going ’round the block’, check the map first.

From my hotel room, a new addition to the dock was observed, the Nordlandsjekta ‘Brodrene’. It looked a bit odd without its mast – it could be in for a re-fit – but for hearty types, bracing trips in and around Northern Norway can be had in the summer months. I found pictures of the boat on the internet – it’s a fine sight in full rig.

Looking in the opposite direction, the ‘Heidi’, was busy with its crane, loading itself with logs as the evening drew on, hinting that it was time for supper and an early night before the rigours of the journey home. It was about 3:00am when I was woken up by a deep throbbing coming through the hotel walls. It was the ‘Heidi’; she’d started her engines and by the time I went down to breakfast, she’d slipped away into the night. We caught up with her later in the morning about 40 miles away as we crossed the Tverlandsbrua, the bridge over the famous Saltstraumen maelstrom, on our way to the airport.

Back home, I had to fit all these gears and selector rods into…

… this hole here. I remember the last time I attempted this, it took almost a day until suddenly and for no particular reason, everything decided to fall into place.

I’d better make an early start then.


Engaging The Brain.

I wasn’t home for very long before I got stuck into the list of jobs which was growing ever longer while I was away. There was some welding to do and a job in the cow shed where a concrete purlin had to be replaced.

The ends of the new wooden purlin looked a bit vulnerable so I was asked to make up a couple of saddles – one for each end. Next up, the Hillman’s pinion carrier. The problem, it turned out, was not one of collapsed bearings but that the dope who did the wire-locking of the two adjustment rings got it wrong – which is a bit worrying considering how many propeller bolts and turnbuckles I’ve locked up in my time.

So the carrier decided to adjust itself and spoil the day. I gave up trying to get one of the old ones apart to remind myself of how to put it together again and took the carrier off the car. It came apart very easily (and in so doing demonstrated why the old one wouldn’t).

I played about with it for a while and then went off to see The Great Collector who had in his files a general arrangement drawing. I still can’t quite get to grips with how it all works as the bottom cup has to go on the shaft first, then the Woodruff key is inserted, the drive plate and locking ring is then threaded onto the bottom cup.

There’s almost no way of telling if the lower face of the cup is still up against the inner race (preserving the loading) when you put the drive plate nut on and finally tighten the locking ring.

Anyway, I did what I thought was going to be about right and put it all back on the car. The test run was a bit of a revelation as the bearing rumble on the over-run that was present from the word go, had disappeared, suggesting that the wire-locking wasn’t the only thing dopey got wrong. I shall keep an eye on it all from now on.

On the way out from The Great Collector’s, I glanced in his shed to see that the Talbot is coming back together following its engine rebuild. As the weather was holding, I decided to service my Peugeot. The oil and fuel filters have plastic caps with hexagonal shapes on top to which you apply a socket or spanner to undo. The car has done only 73000 miles and already the plastic ‘nuts’ are showing signs of rounding off and both caps were extra tight. I didn’t do the fuel filter, the cap was so tight I was in danger of breaking it. To change the cabin filter, the glove compartment had to be removed. OK, sounds a bit daft but I had some time on my hands. First, the lid comes off. Could I get the lid off? No – not without breaking something. I left that as well.

Do designers think anything through?



A Good Spot.

We had a stop-over in Stockholm on the way back from Helsinki and, coming into land…

… I spotted this rainbow – there’s two of them if you look carefully. Another extraordinary sight – one that I saw in a hotel in Germany and forgot to mention – was this staircase made entirely of nougat.

On the second leg of our journey home, we made land over Minsmere on the Suffolk coast and trundled across London….

… for a straight-in approach to Heathrow. SAS (Scandinavian Air Services) pilots always manage to grease their 80-odd tonne aircraft onto the runway; I can’t remember a single ‘planting’ in the last 20 or so flights.

Two jobs were high on my list of priorities as soon as I was at home. The finishing of the nickel plating for the Sunbeam and Straker Squire cars and the Hillman’s pinion carrier removal and repair. I’d done the copper stage of the plating and was looking forward to seeing how the shiny bits turned out. Not as well as I’d hoped but, I’d forgotten that the existing nickel-plated fittings were showing signs of age, so my efforts fitted right in!

The sidelights, which should have been the best bits – I just couldn’t get right. The copper plating was fine; that polished up nicely (important for a good finish on the next application) and I went through all the normal procedures of cleaning in the pickling acid (a new batch) and then straight into the nickel bath (also a new mix) at very low amps as the lamp bodies were quite large. I left each piece in the bath for about 30 mins with the solution continuously agitated by a fish-tank air pump and at a temperature of 24°C. I can usually expect very good results with these parameters and, if less than perfect, showing stuff to the polishing mop does the trick.

The lamp bodies did respond to the mop but I ended up going through to the copper in a couple of places. Eventually, I changed the position of the piece in the bath and that evened out the coating which, in turn, led me to think that my setup might need some further thought when it comes to plating more complex shapes. It could be that, despite the low current, areas of the sidelight body nearest the anodes will attract a greater concentration of nickel (evident around the rim and at the pointy end) than those further away. That doesn’t explain the patchy dull/shiny result but, that could be to do with some ancient contamination the pickling acid was unable to shift – who knows.

I found a couple of pinion carriers under the bench and, working on the assumption that I might have paid less attention to the backlash setting and meshing than I should have on the failed part, I thought I’d do a bit of a refresher course on the Chinese puzzle that it is. First thing, I had to get one of the carriers apart – it’s still sitting in the press and up till now, proving uncooperative. As luck would have it, look what I found in a box on another shelf…

Good spot Hoskins!