No Broadband for a month 

We have had no Broadband for a month. Almost. It comes and goes, and we pay Telecom $50 for it to come and go, and our consolation prize has been telephoning 0800 289 987 and talking to Sam, Shane, Janette, Paula and David in Auckland who have variously spent fruitless hours having me check and uncheck various boxes on my antivirus software before finally admitting that the fault is likely to be the Migration which has affected 490 Motueka customers. The Migration is, I gather, an Upgrade. In the meantime we got occasional glimpses of our emails. We do not know what a Migration might be, other than that everything was suddenly to improve a fortnight ago at 6.30 when the Migration was completed and our Broadband restored. The Migration was but the Broadband wasn't.

I looked up Migration in the dictionary and it didn't say Munt Your Broadband For Weeks While We Change Cables, but then it is a very old dictionary. In the end they sent us a new modem and now it works.

Having no Broadband meant listening to the radio for glimmers of news, and I have learnt all sorts of new words as the journalists keep me abreast of the current crop of neologisms in Corporate Speak. I heard that they have removed the procedure from her heart. A procedure is now a thing rather than an activity, and you can make one in a procedure factory and insert it into peoples' hearts and remove it afterwards. I already knew that Telecom underground their cables but from a report about the airline Quantas I have learnt that you can hub the passengers through Brisbane, which implies that hub has also become a verb. I hub, you hub, he she or it hubs. I underground, you underground, he she or it undergrounds. - At least, I presume he she or it undergrounds, though it could be an irregular verb. We have not been told. We hub, you (pl.) hub, they hub. I have been hubbed through Brisbane.

Personally I think verbing our nouns ought to be confined to Shakespeare but after the Arab Spring and the UKUncut demonstrations and the Occupy pepper sprayings I suspect there is a global corporate conspiracy to destroy communication and since undergrounding the cables and migrating the broadband hasn't been wholly successful, they are going to upfuck the language. Anything to stop any more Twitter riots.

Anyway nothing of bicycling note happened here until two days ago when I saw a Bike Friday tandem in Motueka. The last Bike Friday tandem in Motueka belonged to the production engineer of Bike Friday who it will be recalled is none other than our own Mr English, of our colony of Oregon, obv., because that's where Bike Fridays get built. Mr English, it will also be recalled, popped me on the back and because he is such a slow and pathetic rider he was delighted to find that we rode my daily circuit in 46 mins rather than the 56 mins I take on the recumbent or the 64 mins I take on my delicate little Peugeot racing bike. Which I have just noticed has developed a crack in the brazing at the top of the seat stay, so I will have to get out the oxy-acetylene and whitepaint it afterwards. (I whitepaint, you whitepaint, he she or it whitepaints.)

A cracked Peugeot, yesterday

Cracks are easiliest noticed when the paintwork is white because they show up as black lines. I like white paint. If you were as rubbish a welder as I am you'd like it too. Mr English isn't a rubbish welder but it appears he abruptly ran out of steel tubing, a case, perhaps, of carboning his seat tube.

Mr English's latest. Other pics are here

He sent me a pickture and I enquired further.

*Very* pretty. - If y'like that sort of thing. - If y'like to have y'neck twisted off and are prepared to substitute a scalpel for a seat. - Okay okay okay. - So what's it weigh? 'Ere, - also, - how d'you specify how to wind carbon? What calculations are involved? I've never done any composite stuff, ever, incl. not-repairing the knackered canoe that still clutters the sheds. And - and and and - is that seat post contiguous with the seat tube? They appear in my spectacles to have the same diameter. And - and and and and  *and*  - what is the advantage of mixing steel with carbon? Just weight? Or is there some fiendishly clever engineering reason for retaining steel in the stays and crossbar and downtube?

In due course he replied:

Hi Richard,

So..... frame is 1200g, projected bike weight is 10.8lbs, hopefully! Specifying the carbon was fairly unsophisticated - I told them what diameter I wanted and what I was using it for, and they picked their nearest mandrel to give an appropriate wall thickness. In theory they can tune the stiffness through the layup - I asked for it to have a bit of flex for comfort - nope, it is a very stiff bit of tubing (with the old 'bend it across the knee' trick). If I do this again I'll talk to them a bit more about quantifying the stiffness so it does what I want it to do.

Yup, integrated seatmast, no saddle height adjustment (I can get away with this on my bikes!)

Why to do it? The initial idea had been to use the tuneability of the carbon to build in some passive suspension from the cantilevered seatmast. I guess now I could argue that it is to get a stiffer seatmast.... It saves 100g over an otherwise equivalent all-steel frame, and I really like the look. Otherwise no good reason really, it's fun to try new things though. I will be interested to see how it rides once it is all assembled.


It is to be hoped he doesn't suddenly undergo a Growth Spurt.

Anyway this morning I popped John on the back of our tandem and he and I rode the daily circuit and it was like having a motor on board. So I think I now know the answer to the question my wife sometimes asks when she's on the back, which question is 'Why are we going so slowly?' although I've yet to think of a tactful way of telling her what this answer might be.

Right, s'nuff of that. Now we've got some Broadband I'll just nip over & see how Mr Knight's getting on with all the seasoned applewood he nicked off me. He usually blogs on a Wednesday.


Saturday, December 10, 2011 6:46:00 AM Categories: engineering problems Rob English tandem



A long time ago when I was young and famous and often had to go to London to Be Dead Important it occurred to me to buy a Brompton which I immediately did and which my wife immediately adopted (stole) to get from Leicester Station to the sexual health clinic, returning with all manner of startling stories from which it can be (was) deduced that the private lives of film stars are tame and staid when compared with those of the lower orders of Leicester.  Aye, and the upper orders. There was a vicar - get this - and it was just a week before he was due to marry someone else and  - yes, well we won't go into details. This is the Internet after all. (She never told me his name of course so he might be anybody now, you know, a university chaplain, a bishop, whatever.)

I experimented taking it (the Brompton, not the adventurously wayward clergyman) to Scotland and immediately didn't ever again. Twelve miles of Sutherland hills exceeded my Brompton-wimp quotient. A Brompton I concluded is strictly an on-and-off-the-train machine.

Accordingly I lent it to various people most of whom returned it unmaintained and went off and bought their own. One of these souls was my wife's brother.

When you lend a brother-in-law a Brompton, though you don't actually know it beforehand, the deal is this. He uses it for several months in the East End and returns it with tyres shredded with glass cuts, the pump missing, and deep rust on all the rear mudguard stays. Later he gives you a Brompton front bag that you never knew you needed and have never used since. He always was a little unpredictable. Once I lent him a Moulton and a few months later he surprised me by telling me he'd welded up the back suspension, though as he didn't give me the Moulton back it was an irrelevancy in my ordered life. -

When your student daughter conceives a need for a Brompton in London you dig it out and prepare to pack it up for shipping but recalling that her enthusiasm for bicycle maintenance doesn't greatly differ from her uncle's, you decide to attend to the rear mudguard stays yourself because you have a creeping suspicion that spares, necessarily specific to the machine, will not be cheap. - I wonder if Andrew Ritchie has moved on to stainless steel for mudguard stays? - Mine is an early Brompton.

Removing the mudguard tests your vocabulary and illustrates the tightness of all the clearances, no doubt to enhance its folding diminutiveness. Removing the stays from the mudguard involves sheering off the bolts because rust is a form of welding. Undercoating them reveals the shocking fact that I am just fantastick'ly stupid. You know, really, really stupid. Stupider than Dr Phillips's son at school who once took a large sheet of copper and bent it in half merely because the metalwork master wasn't in the room. You would have thought, wouldn't you, that I would know by now that wet paint is wet, and it's paint, and you don't touch it.  But no.  I am so stupid that I think I can pick freshly painted things up and not have to spend hours rubbing zylol and acetone all over my fingers afterwards. I am not monumentally stupid. I am globally stupid.

Reassembly reveals the reason why the entire population of London - what, ten million people - are employed at the Brompton factory. First, you discover - which you didn't realise when you pulled the thing apart - that each stay is a unique length, and since you didn't note which was which you have to start from First Principles and work out why and therefore which stay goes where. Then you need to hold the mudguard, and the middle stay, and the outer little thingy with two plain holes in it, and the first stainless steel replacement 5mm bolt, and the inner little thingy with two 5mm tapped holes in it. And a spanner. Which you have to turn using the sixth hand you grew for the purpose. Which won't like turning because the stainless steel bolt is now trying to get into a tapped hole freshly plugged with paint. -  So that's either everybody in South Kensington in a job putting on the middle rear mudguard stay, or it's the reason why those Indian johnnies have that god with all those arms sticking out.  And that, boys and girls, is why nobody who ever borrows your Brompton ever does any maintenance. And it's also why next time I'm not going to lend my brother-in-law my Brompton. I shall give him one instead. Then he can worry about rusting galvanised mudguard stays, and I need not suffer post-traumatic stress if it suddenly occurs to him to weld parts of the frame together.

Friday, October 21, 2011 7:45:00 AM Categories: Brompton engineering problems

100kg as opposed to 68 kg 

Monday, November 1, 2010 7:16:27 AM Categories: bike crash engineering problems penny farthing trikes

Cardboard Box 

Labour Weekend, so my wife thought a good plan would be an expedition with some Danes to the top of Mount Arthur in the snow and promptly set off for the hut. Therefore I made a cardboard box and Mr McLeod, who isn't Danish, wasn't consulted and had organised a recumbent ride instead, made a tailfairing and Mr Schroder made a fork jig. To each of us our accomplishments: some climb mountains, some make tailfairings, some make fork jigs. And I make a cardboard box. - As a matter of fact I've been meaning to make the box for a while because the old one was getting worn out - it's on the back of the shopping trike and needed to be a whisker bigger because of the statutory size of New Zealand juice bottles, which prevent crisps and milk and grapes being bought at the same time. So I pinched a bike box from the shop because they're double-thickness corrugated cardboard, and set to with knife and PVA and little reinforcing sticks of willow and when it was all done, I carefully covered it inside and out with cut-up cotton shirts ostensibly to reinforce it but actually cos I fancied the idea and wanted to see if it would work.

Messrs McLeod and Schroder appeared and we went for a ride, Mr McLeod with his new tail fairing which was thin and flimsy and lightweight and insubstantial and rubbish all of which compelled me to assure him it wouldn't work, but in the event I was wrong. It worked exceedingly well. A roll-down at Ngatimoti said 38.8 kph without the fairing and 40.6 with, and whenever I followed him I found that I wasn't picking up a tow but was riding into immense turbulence which entirely validated his roll-down data. The tailbox was a single fold of corriboard, neatly sealed at the front with foam, and held in place with tiny light-weight rubberised cotton bands weighing nothing. Admittedly his drive chain was creating a series of hiccups, but nobody's interested in drive trains. They're only the means of testing the aerodynamics of single folds of corriboard. (And on the topic of hiccups the children who have decided I am to be knighted, presumably for services as yet unrendered, observed that the worst time to get hiccups is when the Queen is about to knight you. It is a prospect that doesn't fill me with alarm because I'm neither a rugby player nor a film producer and Her Majesty is not yet in the habit of knighting cardboard box makers.)

Mr Schroder had his fork jig with him which I shall probably have to nick sometime, and he tried to persuade me to ride from Rotoiti to Renwick with him but I declined because I'm pathetic and a wimp and it's a long way and he's too fast. Mr McLeod will have to go instead.
In the morning I nipped up Mount Arthur to see how they were all getting on and was much cheered to find that Dr Dane-Mollerup is another person who shaves his own head, doubtless to save having to discuss whatever in Denmark constitutes Leicester City with whoever in Denmark cuts hair. - By way of instigating stimulating conversation the barber in Barrow used to ask of each client:
'Y'suppor' Leicester City, er wha?'
Naturally I did not support Leicester City nor indeed any other team but I did not disclose this to the man because he had sharp implements and my throat to hand. Instead I bought a BaByliss and proceeded to shave my head with a Number 4, deeming that however ragged a mess I made in the mirror it would be preferable to a bimonthly discourse on association football. If you see a man with hair exactly half an inch long you'll know he has a BaByliss, and if there's a diagonal intrusive pathway mown out of the back of his neck only an eighth of an inch long, you'll know his wife declines to shave the last few bits for him with a Number 1.

Up the mountain was a Troll. He had appeared long after dark outside the hut, hopping about with a torch on his forehead and waking everyone up shuffling through his pack, and in the morning he set about advising people what not to do. Not to wear cotton shirts, not to wear cotton jeans, to choose different boots from the ones they had and to go on routes other than those they proposed. In short, to do what he was doing. Everyone ignored the Troll so he had to accompany them all day to give further advice, suddenly rushing ahead with his mountain sticks, randomly announcing which of the range is named Gordon's Pyramid and which Billy's Knob, and surprising people who hadn't ever seen him in their lives before by gratuitously pointing out the route to Salisbury Hut. He was most odd. He was covered in tattoos, very probably inflicted by mountaineers who had tired of his advice. I have a feeling he lives on the mountain, so when I next go up there I'm taking my cardboard box and I'm going to spend quality time advising him how to make one using inappropriate materials like cotton and we'll see who can be the most annoying and I bet it'll be me.


Right, attentive readers of these notes - I flatter myself - the attentive reader of these notes - assuming there is one, which is more than improbable - is aware that I am obsessed with the thought that quite soon all the oil will vanish and everyone will have to gather logs for their cooking balanced on their heads like the ladies in Darfur do. - The logs balance on the heads, not the cooking. - But anyway it seems to me every time I visit the dump I discover some cheery mortal has thrown away three quarters of a BMX and the remaining wheel has a 14mm axle. Ever picked up a BMX with a back wheel? Heavy. Ever tried to carry one home on your head? Cumbersome. Like logs in Darfur. And even carrying one on another bike's no good. So I need a better vehicle for dump recovery operations.
The BMX the cheery m. had thrown away had a wheel which, when coaxed apart, had had the wrong size ball bearings fitted, and when I replaced them with the right size, which ran on the unpitted part of the cone, I suddenly had a smooth bearing on a 14mm axle.
It is a fact that your brain immediately says 14mm = stub axles, if you chance to be a serial recumbent tricycle maker. You cannot help this. It's a reflex action.
I dived into the bookshelf and recovered my 2nd edition Bicycling Science and found the Oxtrike on p 325 and then on p 324 read that in Asia heavy loads of perhaps 330 lb, or 150kg, are carried on a single speed trike with a cruising speed of about 4-7 mph (2/3 m/sec.) Blimey! that's handy. - Any time you forget what 4-7 mph is, you can just back-calculate from knowing the velocity in metres per second. I do like David Gordon Wilson. Well of course everyone likes DGW. He designed the Avatar 2000. Which graced Richard's Bicycle Book. (Which actual bicycle - Mr Ballantine's, not Professor Wilson's - is now owned by Mr Wray, my spies inform me.)
So, quick calculation: cadence of 60 and a fixed gear of 26 inches gives a cruising speed of 4.64 mph. So that's 2.074707788 m/sec, Dave G.W., if you happen to be reading this. And if I want to go at 3.12928 m/sec, I can always pedal faster.
I was very pleased with myself and immediately decided to build a grown-up's child's tricycle. The pedals attach directly to the front wheel and obviate gears and chains and so forth, and all you need is the basic technology of the penny farthing.
Now I'll tell you about my flanges, and it's this - I got an old steel back hub and chopped it in half and bored the flanges to fit a cottered 5/8 axle and adjusted the cross-slide by one thou right at the end of the cut and for some reason unknown it jumped four thou and created a big floppy hole, like a thing that is floppy and not a thing that isn't floppy.
'******* ******,' I said to myself, 'but you're a *******; you've ****** it up again.' (I often say this to myself, because it doesn't matter what I'm doing, somehow I always manage to **** it up.)
So I got another lump of 5/8 from my tin of worn-out cotter-pin BB axles, and I ground the cones off carefully and made it a perfect fit on both my flanges. Then being warned in a dream that a 150 amp MIG isn't enough to penetrate 5/8 steel, I coated it with borax paste ready for brazing, and tack-welded both flanges in place and d'you know what - Juno Watt - both were square and parallel but the spoke holes weren't perfectly alternate.
'******* ****** but you're a ******* etc.,' I said to myself, and set about breaking the tack welds. And d'you know what, they wouldn't break. Had to saw them off. So I thought the MIG will actually weld it; I won't need to braze. So I sawed off the second flange's tack-welds and scrubbed all the borax off and replaced them and welded them up, and d'you know etc. etc. etc., now they aren't bloody well square. They *******  wobble. So I ******* went back to the box of old steel hubs and d'you ******* know what, I had absolutely none whatever that were suitable to machine 5/8 holes in. So now I'm ******* well stuck with wobbly flanges.
'Oh Damn and Blarst,' I said to myself, 'Better not show it to that ******* Knight or he'll know that *once again* I've accomplished a piece of ******* bad craftsmanship.'
Sunday, October 10, 2010 10:44:21 AM Categories: engineering problems penny farthing trikes wheel hubs


 It is Winter. (Have I mentioned this?) It is cold. The moth that fluttered round the kettle this morning seemed out of sorts as if he'd prefer to have stayed in bed for a few more months like a teenager. He resented being captured in cupped hands and when I chucked him out of the kitchen door and he was instantly plucked from the air by a fantail, I saw he had a point. New Zealand possesses these tiny birds just like blue-tits who flutter a yard away wherever you walk, on the lookout for disturbed insects. As soon as they take to flight you just know in your bones that they are called fantails; and so it proves. Fantails are not very clever and whenever they come into the workshop they spend hours attacking themselves in the mirror and perching, slightly baffled, on the badminton racquet below for a rest. The Maoris tell me it's bad luck to have them indoors and that's true, because a month later you find they've been dropping corrosive white chemical onto your supply of silver steel. Chickens are not the only bird that don't just lay eggs.
My workshop is full of anomalies like badminton racquets but the mirror isn't an anomaly. It's used for checking one's riding position while building useless fairings, and it makes the workshop twice as roomy, except now it doesn't because I cover it with a garish pink tablecloth to stop the fantail despoiling all my reamers. Why does anyone go to the trouble of making pink tablecloths? My life is full of mystery, including where the pink tablecloth came from. Another mystery is why my cycling tee-shirt has to have a large plastic tab sewn onto it bearing the legend Eden Project. I thought the Eden Project was about recycling and sustainability and whatnot. Large red plastic tabs cannot be recycled, add weight, serve no purpose, and itch. It is as if clothes designer executives have a group session every Monday morning to decide what brainless irrelevancy they can perpetrate upon an insentient and gormless public that week. What they need to do is take lessons from bicycle manufacturer executives, who, as we all know, have group sessions every Monday morning to decide how to make components that work flawlessly and are compatible with all other components. That is how Shimano Index Systems work so well, and why I fitted one to my new perfectly good gentleman's mountain bicycle.
Unfortunately it didn't work.
Unfortunately the inner chainring needs a whisker of clearance against the frame so that you can turn the pedals round, and unfortunatelyer Shimano's executives didn't think of this on their Monday morning group session so when I tried to fit a front mech I found that the parallelogram frame is actually too short to lift the chain onto the big chainring. And to rummage for alternatives in the box of spare front mechs I had to move the bandsaw and the table promptly broke off, examination proving the attachment lugs to be made of some flimsy brittle substance approximating to metal but possessed of No Strength Whatever.
 Shards of bandsaw
And two minutes later a temporary German damsel (1) came round the corner wheeling a bicycle with a broken chain-link.


Shards of chain

But at least she had the great good sense to keep the chain. The last time I heard of a chain-link breaking was in a phone call from a friend in the village where we lived in England and he had thrown the chain away, being unacquainted with the phrase 'weakest link'. The curious thing was that he was a certain Professor H********, head of department at the largest university engineering faculty in the country. I now start to wonder if his special field of research incorporated bandsaw table lugs, tee-shirt technology and the corrosive metallurgy of bird-lime. I don't think he was a consultant at the Shimano Front Mech Factory.
1. She goes back to Germany in ten day's time, slightly chilled and probably exhausted from skiing


Saturday, July 10, 2010 10:33:32 AM Categories: engineering problems mountain bike New Zealand

Wagons v. carts 

Here is a picture of a house that didn't quite make it up a tree though it did give us a happy weekend a few years ago when raised aloft in the manner I imagine archaeologists think Stonehenge was probably raised. The treehouse is small; it is made out of an apple crate rescued from the orchard dump where it would otherwise have been burnt. The windows - since children require complication to their treehouses - are of plastic drinks bottles and the frames nail 'em all together.
In front of the treehouse are grapefruits. We have an orange tree too but it's rubbish whereas the grapefruit tree blooms and produces abundantly, more's the damned pity. We also have a quince tree and this afternoon it yielded ten boxes of quinces. If you don't know what to do with ten boxes of quinces you look up Jane Grigson and find that she doesn't either, so you bag them up to give to anyone foolish enough to accept them. Quinces are almost as horrible as grapefruits. They're a sort of combination of a pear and a turnip, and the tree knows you're going to hate them so it is just fantastically prolific though since I've never found a seed in a quince I don't know why it bothers. The only consolation is that a quince has a beautiful smell and may be kept for a few weeks on all your bookshelves, provoking animated discussion among your daughter's schoolfriends about your sanity which discussion you encourage because it affords them a brief respite from talking about sex.
Between treehouse and grapefruit stands the most exquisitely formed wagon and the only thing I ought to have done differently, apart from provide it with brakes, is modify the handle so you can tow it. A spade handle is easily made but insists on being held at ninety degrees to your body, which is not tremendously comfortable when rescuing apple crates from orchard dumps. Heavy thing, an old wet apple crate.
Sometimes it's necessary to rescue trees, not crates, from the orchard dump, for when y'raverage well-dressed Tesco buyer decides we've all lost interest in Braeburns they're all ripped out and Jazz or Fuji are planted in their place. Commercial orcharding is brutal, and vast bonfires smoke the valley out, but we have a wood stove and keep half an eye on next winter. Rescuing applewood is only complicated by possession of a woodworking lathe so there's always a battle between firewood and incipient chessmen. Nice wood to machine and tough too. Applewood gears meshing with cast iron gears in windmills used to last 40 years and were much quieter than iron on iron gears. - I had a millwright for a grandfather. - He didn't tell me this: I looked it up in a textbook.
Rescuing trees is best done with a cart, not a wagon. Carts are 24.5227606% more efficient than wagons on a hard road and I'm not going to tell you where I got that mysterious figure, though the same book a sentence later says that carts are 31.9105691% more efficient on arable land. Hurrah! I want to know how they found out. - Anyway it's true, a cart is easier to pull than a wagon with apple trees on board and since I have a welder and wheels, here is a cart I made for the purpose based (a trifle inaccurately) on the M3A4 because, according to , One of the most popular small US Army 'vehicles' of WW2 is without doubt the M3A4 Hand Cart. Hardly any survived the War. All the French farmers nicked them. My version entirely lacks triangulation and therefore with meaty logs on board bends until the side-members rub on the wheels, when it becomes 31.9105691% less efficient than even a sledge. Must beef it up before Mr G. Bird notices. The new apple-tree-stealing season is almost upon us.

Saturday, April 10, 2010 9:01:14 AM Categories: engineering problems wagon


Broken off seat clamps

Sam is my friend although he is Scottish. The Scots are faultless (Hamish told me) but Sam does have one fault which is that every time he goes near a recumbent it breaks. No - hold - he has another fault which is that he oils his chains. - And actually he has another fault, which is that the bearded Celtic kilt-wearing bagpipe-playing Gaelic-speaking midge-slapping baaaaarstard doesn't bloody well clean the black ucky sticky horrible oil off his machines before handing them to me to fix. So I get oily fingers and oily bench-edges and oily inside-of-vans and oily bench-press-handles and no doubt other oily bits that I won't find till later when my wife draws my attention to oily shirts. Amazing what you brush a machine against when you bring it into the workshop.

I am therefore very kindly going to offer two Useful Tips as a timely present to all Scottish Persons before the New Year reduces them to the usual insensate alcoholic stupor.

1. Prior to getting someone to weld something back onto your machine, clean it. Clean oil off the frame. Clean oil off the front chainrings. Clean oil off the rear cluster. Clean oil off the underside of the handlebar and clean oil off the rear mech and the front mech and the idler wheel and the rear rack and the oily, black, disgusting back wheel-spokes. And finally clean oil off the cable housings. And if you are Scottish keep the resultant black rag and you can sell it to Canada when the Athabasca sands run out.
2. Whatever possesses you to oil your chain anyway? It only makes you feel better, not the chain. The chain is a tension member and needs lubricating only when it snakes its way round the chainrings or idler wheels. Road dust+oil is a penetrative lapping compound and helps to wear it out. Chain maintenance is done by waxing. This is not a new idea: 'tis as old as the bicycle. Remove chain; place in saucepan of wax; deep fry; remove; cool; replace. About once a month works for me and I don't even clean the chain before waxing because there never seems to be any dust to clean off because road dust doesn't stick to dry wax. (Though I graciously permit the use of oil inside a fully enclosed chaincase to which road dust doesn't have access.)
3. If you are Young and Disputatious and feel that I am a pedantic old git, which view has some merit because it does in fact happen to be the case, and you persist in besmearing your exquisite machines with inappropriate lubricants then removal of oil from hands is best effected with soap and sawdust. This isn't a new trick either; everyone did it until Swarfega advertising executives persuaded us daily to daub unknown chemicals on our hands at five o'clock and leave a ghastly black residue in the tea-room basin. Wet the fingers, rub a little soap on, and dip generously in sawdust. Make hand motions like Lady Macbeth. Rinse off and lo! the oil is stuck to the sawdust and you can go inside and play your violin with impunity.
4. If you weld a flat plate to the middle of a flimsy bit of box-section it had better be for a low-stress joint. Seat bases are not low-stress. Pedalling a recumbent produces a slight swaying motion of the pelvic girdle. Not many metals particularly enjoy constant twisting strains.
5. I can't count to two.
How the seat base is clamped

As a matter of fact when I ground all the paint off the broken bits of Sam's bike I found that it had broken before at the same place and someone had brazed the plates back on. They are now beefed up with small triangles and my big ugly blobby welds and we shall see how long it takes Sam to bust them again, and then we shall further see if he reads this blog because if he does, the sporran-swinging claymore-waving peat-burning oat-eating baaaaarstard'll then kindly return the machine to me in absolutely pristine condition and the sawdust quotient of his bathroom waste-pipe will be high but there won't be any oil on the holes of his chanter.
Monday, December 21, 2009 9:03:00 AM Categories: Chain case engineering problems maintenance


Hurrah! I have solved the mystery of what happened to Sir Frank Whittle's Hero steam engine, and I have been mowing my lawn.

I like mowing my lawn: it makes me feel like a grown-up. You have to mow lawns in New Zealand. It is a national obsession. (Once walking deep in the bush I found five neatly mown bits of lawn, each fenced with chicken wire and laced with slug pellets. I called my companion over and he told me what the large leafy plant growing in the middle of each enclosure was.) I mostly mow my lawn with electricity, only straying onto the ride-on when it gets too long. We inherited the ride-on. It came with the house. It is a White Outdoor Product and if the global financial crisis has any silver linings, it will be the extinction of White Outdoor Products because they're crap. South Bend lathe? Excellent bit of American engineering. White Outdoor Product? Absolute shite. When each week she hears me maintaining my White Outdoor Product with a two-pound claw hammer my wife suggests I buy a new ride-on, but what does a ride-on accomplish? Short grass. Which you can more profitably obtain with a sheep. All the male New Zealanders I know talk longingly of Peak Oil so they can have a sheep instead of a lawn, but all their wives demur.

A Wotan shaper, this afternoon

Anyway, today I showed my wife a photograph of my shaper. She was very surprised. She said '*uck me, you've not gone and bought that.'
I said proudly 'Yes!'
She said 'Where are you going to put it? I never want to see that. Ever. You can keep it in Maud's Back Passage.'
Maud Lodge is one of the sheds, and it has a roofed passage between it and one of the other sheds, and it has a second passage behind it which, for want of a better term, we call Maud's Back - well anyway you've gathered that.

My wife was aware that I was purchasing a shaper. She was aware that Nigel had saved it from being sold as scrap iron to China. She was not fully aware of what a shaper is, nor how big it is, but by means of the above photograph she has been introduced to these concepts and now I have to win her round by assuring her that I can use it to repair the White Outdoor Product, which will be a lie. It can't. *Nothing* can repair a White Outdoor Product.

The shaper is mine, technically, because I now own it, but it is displaced 25 miles to the right, there being a geographical discrepancy between my shed and Nigel's back yard. How I get it here is going to be the difficult bit. It is, as you see, balanced on a pallet and wedged with a piece of marble. I do not like to ask whence the marble. It looks like it was stolen from a cemetery.

And from among his junk on a shelf this afternoon, Nigel plucked a small Hero steam engine and handed it to me.
'Know what that is?' he asked.
Sir Frank Whittle's Hero steam engine

You will remember, of course, that Frank Whittle used to take a little model of a Hero steam engine that he'd built, to all his lectures by way of demonstrating the jet principle, and that it subsequently disappeared and has never been seen since. About forty years ago Nigel's retired neighbour leaned over the fence and said 'Care to have this, boy?'
The neighbour had been a friend of Whittle. You would have thought being given a jet engine hand-made by him was pretty exciting but the neighbour happened to be an Army major, unusual in achieving retirement age because he was a bomb disposal officer, and for him excitement was probably the fact that he got home for tea each day. Anyway he handed this to Nigel and so if you've been wondering where Sir Frank's demonstration Hero steam engine went, it's in a shed in the Nelson region of New Zealand.

And if, instead, you were looking for the Red Baron's flying boots, they're in Blenheim, just over the ranges. The air museum advertised that they possessed only the one boot, and that not properly provenanced, and presently got a parcel in the post from a lady in Australia who said her father had brought it back as a trophy after the first world war. It was an exact match to the one the museum already had.
Saturday, December 12, 2009 9:40:07 AM Categories: engineering problems New Zealand


Satan, and I know you've been wondering this, doesn't live in Hades any more. He's moved. He now lives in Richmond and goes about under the name of Duncan McDonald and he's just emailed to tell me that there is an old Colchester for sale on Trademe and bless my soul the vendor is now happy to take three hundred dollars for it. That's about a hundred and fifty quid. Get thee behind me.

Here's the offending lathe. Now you as an engineer are going to fall over chuckling not only at the rust and general decay and tin shed (all sheds in New Zealand are tin. It is a Law of Nature) but also because after gazing upwards to the left and half closing one eye for a moment, you've recognised this as almost certainly not a Colchester but rather a Britannia probably dating from about 1899. And you'll at once have gone zipping off to Tony's website where we all spend far too much time of an evening dribbling enthusiastically down our cardigans, and have located this pickchure:


and thought to yourself, Yes, hey! that's the little chappie.

Trouble is I possess this lathe

which is its baby brother. Get thee behind me, Duncan. It's in Invercargill. Invercargill is to Motueka as Inverness is to Marble Arch, with the addition of the Southern Alps to negotiate. And a Britannia 17 lathe weighs two-thirds of a ton. 13.5 cwt, in fact. (Why did we stop measuring things in cwts? 20 cwts in a ton, 8 stone to a hundredweight, 14 lbs in a stone, 16 oz to the pound and four-hundred-and-thirty-seven-and-a-half rather delightful grains in an ounce. A marvellous divine system. Whatever possessed the Frogs to invent kilograms? Philistines. Barbarians. Savages. Foreigners. Etc etc etc)

'D'you think I should buy a lathe?'

'You've got a lathe.'

'I know but d'you think I should buy this one? It's like mine only bigg - '


'But - '

'What would you use it for?'

'Well nothing. But - '

'Could you fix the cutlery drawer with it?'

'Hush.' Sore point. The front of the cutlery drawer fell off this week, and inspection revealed two diecast rivets (can you have diecast rivets?) had sheared, which rivets I carefully drilled out and tapped 4mm and replaced and it still fell off and slightly closer inspection revealed that a diecast lug had also sheared and so I went to see Bryce who built it and Bryce had closed-down-or-gone-bankrupt so I got mad and fixed a *ucking great bolt through it. It was a completely *ucking stupid unnecessary bit of engineering Bryce'd used, an absurdly complicated device for fixing the front of a drawer onto the remainder of a drawer, and Bryce'd used it even though it was expensive because I'd asked for something that was so good I wouldn't ever have to spend some distant Wednesday evening fixing it back on. And they'd made it out of cast zinc or something equally pathetically feeble. Here it is, a crappy out-of-focus photograph but since it was a crappy fitting it deserves crappy photography. I hate it.

There's an eccentric lug to save the woodworker having to measure where to put the screws in accurately, and a twisty-sort-of-spring-loaded-quick-release-thingy to get the lugs out of the way of the slots as you fit it to the steel drawer, and yet they'd made it out of utterly feeble zinc only 2mm thick and thought it would be adequate in a kitchen, for God's sake, where children do not carefully close cutlery drawers nor ever have in the whole history of washing up. I hate them. They are stupid stupid stupid baaaaarstards and probably foreign to boot and when I take over the world I'll make them measure the zinc for their bloody castings in drachms and pennyweights. - And while we're about it, how do you stop Shimano cleats twisting in your soles? Eh? Eh?


Friday, October 30, 2009 4:34:37 AM Categories: engineering problems
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