John's High Racer 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

John's High Racer

Mr Knight has taken to blogging his Geared Facile and this country is deeply unhappy unless there is some kind of competition going on. Two thirds of New Zealanders don't really give a toss about rugby, we have just learnt, but they still like their competition and are prepared to do almost anything to enhance it. Rural Herculeses (sic) hold sheep-shearing and wood-chopping competitions. Urban damsels hold World of Wearable Art competitions. (No, they really do. Google it.) Even the voters don't like their politicians getting complacent and I have just surprised myself reading that
46% of National voters would consider voting Labour
33% of National voters would consider voting ACT (the far right party)
26% of National voters would consider voting Green (the 'streme left)
62% of Labour voters would consider voting Green
37% of Labour voters would consider voting National
15% of Labour voters would consider voting ACT
(National = the Conservative party. Labour = the Labour party. ACT isn't really the far right party but nobody really knows what it is. It used to be led by a bonkers loony called - um - I forget his name but he actively disbelieved in global warming, but anyway he isn't the leader any more because he tried to get the former leader of the National Party, one Don Brash, a man chiefly noted for his imitation of teeth, to join him, and Don Brash surprised him by accepting on the condition that he, Don Brash, replaced him, the one whose name I've clean forgotten, as Leader, and now he, Don Brash, has sacked all their MPs. - Well, actually I suppose that's a fair definition of a far right party.)

Anyway back to the topick in hand: Mr Knight is blogging his Geared F., and I'm feeling all Left Out, and John now wants a recumbent because he only has a racing bike and a mountain bike and a funny 29er penny farthing and a unicycle and a few other things we've welded up over the last few years, poor deprived fellow.

John before he outgrew everything (Photo: Mike Toohey)

So I'm going to build him one and I shall now blog it and Mr Knight shall lag behind because he is a Perfectionist and uses air-gauged tubing and polishes each molecule of paint wherewith he eventually adorns each of his machines, whereas I wade in with a welder and a hammer and Just Get On With It. The score stands like this:

Me: approx several recumbents.

Mr Knight: approx 0 Geared Faciles.

We ignore for the purposes of this competition sundry 1904 Royal Enfields & Red Racing Bicycles & tricycles & Weird Garden Toys & horse-manure trailers & hand wagons & other useless junk wherewith we have each cluttered our sheds.

So I am the Def. Favourite, and will def. win, & Mr Knight will have to eat humble pie and grovel before me when I have finished and he still hasn't burnished the 54th spoke nipple to his exacting satisfaction.

Mrs Knight's 1904 Royal Enfield after she had indulged in some over-vigorous pedalling

Mrs Knight's 1904 Royal Enfield after Mr Knight attended to Routine Maintenance

Right, here's the brief. He (John, that is) wants it as simple as possible, so it has to be short wheelbase and handlebars over the knees. He dislikes being run over & killed so he wants it to be reasonably high. He wants to be fast so the BB has to be about 5 or 6 inches above the Seat Angle. He wants low rolling resistance so we'll go for dual 700c wheels. - Tyres, in the Colonies, can be a bit of a problem unless you go for what's commonly available. - He can manage a high seat because he's now substantially taller than me. (Yes you can say 'taller than me' because 'taller than I' is pedantick and cumbersome.)

In addition he shall be given rear suspension because I don't want him beating his brain to death with a million road bumps, and carrier racks because a recumbent that can only carry a-person-and-his-Lycra isn't a vehicle, it's a racing machine and only a racing machine and nothing but a r. machine. - Here speaks the wisdom of the years. It's the compensation for grey hair and baldness. -


Okay, where do we start? - Wheelbase of 45 inches because I know it's stable, trail of 1.75 inches ditto, frame of 2 inch 18g mild steel tubing because it's not as expensive as chromoly, fork with 1.75 inches of rake (they generally do) and 15 inches from axle to base of head tube. Pivot of rear swing arm in the middle of the putative chain run so it doesn't interfere. The seat will as ever be the biggest problem because we'll need to fiddle with it to get the lumbar and neck support right but we'll start with the base pointing at the middle of BB because I know that works, and we'll give him 37.5 inches from the seat angle to the BB because his legs are 3 inches longer than mine, and we'll allow some adjustment for growth because he's only sixteen. Coo! What would it be to be sixteen again. You'd have sex to look forward to, instead of only remember.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011 8:40:00 AM Categories: Bob Knight's fairing High Racer

Mr Knight's Geared Facile Blog 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Mr Knight's Geared Facile Blog

Today there was an auction of the Deceased Estate of a Mr Watson, according to the Motueka and Golden Bay News, so I went along to see what a deceased estate of a (presumably) living man might be. The Motueka and Golden Bay News is a weekly source of enjoyable solecisms, most famous among which has been the advertisement concerning the Pasta of the Church of Christ.

Mr Watson, it seemed, was a car restorer: his Deceased Estate largely comprised tools and I had the feeling there would be a large turnout of large people, there often being a correlation between car enthusiasm and girth. Just as I was arriving a 4WD swung out from a driveway opposite forcing me off the otherwise empty road - the driver hadn't spotted my fluorescent jersey - turned left and immediately parked, a journey of a good three hundred metres, and as I dismounted two vast people were struggling their way out of the seats to join the gathered throng. There were fifty-six bidders and twice that number of spectators. The bidders fully met my hopes. A taxonomist would have got all excited and written down a) skinny; b) massive; c) young; d) moribund and immediately drawn a Venn diagram.

One lot was 'an old engineers lathe' and another was 'old push bikes'. On inspection the lathe was a worn-out Chinese affair with a flimsy cross-slide and a knobbly dead centre welded to the tailstock chuck. The two push bikes were of 1970s vintage, one of them the puzzlingly ubiquitous Raleigh Twenty. Nobody has ever satisfactorily explained why so many Raleigh Twenties exist in the Colonies nor why they fetch high prices, but since every one I lay my hands on is addressed with a hacksaw I am doing my best to increase their rarity value.

I returned home to my emails and found a photograph taken of the corner of Mr Knight's drawing-room. Mr Knight like Mr Watson has a shed but there isn't quite enough space for his twenty-eight-plus bicycles, so some have strayed indoors. Should there ever be an auction of the Deceased Estate of Mr Knight it too will feature old push bikes, but I doubt if it will feature any Raleigh Twenties.

When Mr Knight is at work these bicycles double as clothes-drying racks like my astronomical refractor does when my wife's sister comes to visit. You and I of course would never do such an evil thing, for a quick glance tells us that - from the front - we are looking at

a 54" 1883 Bayliss, Thomas & Co. DEHF (Duplex Excelsior Hollow Fork); a 55" c1885/6 racing model of unknowen make; and a pair of c1920. 28 x 1 3/8 (ETRTO 37-642) wooden rimmed wheels on BSA hubs.

I did not spot Mr Knight among the bidders for Mr Watson's workshop effects, but I do know he is building himself quite a useful Geared Facile, and since not many other people are I have spoken firmly to him about recording the matter for posterity. You and I know what a Geared Facile is, of course, but everyone else will have to go to his new blog and keep track of events as they unfold.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011 8:38:00 AM Categories: Bob Knight's fairing penny farthing

Trike basket 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Trike basket

Just come back from stealing apple logs and I find my wife watching Magic Roundabout on Youtube. I don't know if any children did but in the Olden Days all the students used to watch Magic Roundabout after lectures. It numbed their brains. Damn, there's an opportunity missed - we had the new medical students round - one was shaven-headed and competent and the other was an idiot whose teeth stuck out like a fantail - a small but representative sample - and I forgot to ask them what they did to numb their brains. - Blimey, now she's watching Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men (1953, so it even predates me). - Now John's watching it. He'll start feeling sorry for us in a minute, and then he'll move on to realising why we don't have a TV. - Good gracious me now she's onto Andy Pandy. *uck. Watch Andy Pandy and you'll know why suicide was invented. Five minutes of a swinging puppet along with some of the least scintillating commentary ever heard on television, occasionally breaking into song. *uuuuuuuuuck. Hang on - I'll just check she hasn't gone and killed herself.

Right, I'm back at my computer and she's just made some remarks to me to tidy my desk and whole area. I nearly tidied my workshop but got distracted by my new trike basket which is so fantastick and so wonderful and so brilliant that I have to keep going back into the workshop to admire it.

In the market there was a man selling scythes - no there was - I would'v'e bought one too except I have three scythes, though the truth is when you have three nobody notices a fourth appearing - and another man selling baskets. Baskets I can get away with: we like baskets. Real ones that is. Plastic ones break and end up choking turtles in the Pacific Gyre. I immediately bought one and commissioned another.

'If I bring you my trike, can you make one for that?'

'Trike? What is trike?'

The basketmaker was a Foreigner, from Abroad. Trike had him baffled. But I made him tell me where he lived and called later with the trike in question and beams of sunshine fell on his face. And not long afterwards I had a phone call:

'Oh Ree-chard, I haff made. You a bas. Ket.'

And he had. And here it is. And I'm dead pleased. Because cardboard boxes, however exquisitely formed, aren't - sort of - well anyway, baskets are. On trikes, that is. A cardboard box is Loughborough. A basket is Stamford.

A basket on a trike is unf. not terribly good for the collection of compost. Sarah said that her daughter Alex says we can have her horseshit for free if we gather it up but if she, Alex, has to gather it up she, Sarah, will sell it to 'lots of other people who want it' and when you do the sums you can see why. Because horses aren't cheap.

For compost two 75 litre plastic dustbins are employed and I hope they last longer than washing baskets and don't end up in the gullets of dead albatross chicks. With containers of Known Volume and visits of Known Frequency one discovers that 350 litres of horse compost are generated in 7 horse-days, which = 50 litres of compost per horse per day. In the olden days stage coaches required a horse per mile: a proprietor of one coaching firm owned (I have just read) 68 coaches, 2,000 horses, and 2,000 employees to manage the hundred thousand daily litres of compost. Though as a coach travelled at 10mph, I calculate the roads received 833 cubic centimetres per mile. Plus wagon-horse compost, of course, and that of the local squire and all the other horsemen. Of which there wouldn't have been all that many, because Amber was being shod and the farrier told me that shoeing a horse is $100 and takes place every 8 weeks starting from when the horse is 4 years old. So if a horse lasts 20 years it will cost $10,400 in tyres, so to speak. Sarah recoups $2 a bag for compost but my researches have not extended to buying such a bag and weighing it. My researches extend to building trailers for my two 75-litre bins. - I can't pull more than that. I'm down to 5mph as it is.

Nevertheless I strongly commend compost collection on a bike as a means of personal weight control but you mustn't trust me because I'm an evangelical on the subject of bicycle haulage. In fact I'm a Bicyclist's Witness. I put on a smart suit and carry a small leather-bound copy of Bicycling Science Third Edition and knock on doors and ask people if they've been Saved.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011 8:35:00 AM Categories: trikes

Schroder Idler 

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Schroder Idler

The following adventures have taken place this week.

First, my wife & son went skiing. She opines that standing on top of a mountain covered with snow, with planks strapped to her boots calculated to minimise her attachment to Mother Earth, and thereafter surrendering herself to the laws of physics, is done in the certainty that the entertainment will outweigh the broken legs.

I did not ski but rather loaded my recumbent into the van and, the following morning, set out to ride home. It had occurred to me to annoy Mr Knight by telling him of the expedition, because he likes long rides and I knew he'd be mad.

Now then, m'boy, I graciously grant you permission anxiously to check the weather every two minutes tomorrow between St Arnaud and Motueka, because Mrs My Wife is going skiing and I am lugging a recumbent in the back of the van and am going to jolly ride it home tomorrow, with this much training behind me: zero. I am fearful and full of fear because I do not do rides longer than 20 miles. I am going to hypermile. My brother told me about hypermiling: he did it in the Shell Mileage Marathon back in the early 80s. They had to power a person (tiny girl, surprise surprise) at a minimum of 15mph round a figure-of-eight track. The other day I hypermiled in the van, and found the most economical way was to accelerate hard to 70kph, which took 5 seconds, and knock it out of gear, and let it coast down to 50kph which took 15 seconds. Ignoring calculus, I was therefore using fuel for .25 of the distance and since the van does about 38mpg driven normally and probably a lot less when accelerating hard, there is the possibility I was getting lots more than 38 mpg. So tomorrow I shall roll down every single hill and pedal languorously the rest of the time and see if I can get home without my legs turning into jelly. Yes I know you'd do it in three hours - kindly *uck off and die - I think I'm Jolly Brave and need prayers to help me, like the Governor of Oklahoma has got the population to pray for rain, the utter moron. (Google it if you don't believe me. Amazing but true.)


Mr Knight, thus apprised, instantly emailed me. (I knew he would.):

I've just checked this route on and it's mostly downhill with two notable uphill bits at 13 and 37 miles assuming that you are going from the centre of St. Arnaud via Tophouse road. I've ridden all of it except for the bit from Tophouse to the junction near that firing range. I know the second hill just outside Tapawera at 37 miles and it's quite hard but mercifully short, I know nothing about the first hill at 13 miles which looks worserer. Tophouse is the high point at 2450 feet (!) and your house is the low point. I've attached a picture of the elevation over the route to help ease your troubled brow.

Take lots of food and drink with you and drink before you're thirsty and eat before you're hungry. I usually eat something every 30 minutes on a long ride, sometimes it's hard to do.

I'm very jealous and would love to do it instead of sitting here pretending to program but typing to you instead. We have a fablious day here and I'd much rather be riding.

If it goes badly and you die, can I have your hand shaper?


It did not go badly. I did not die. He can't have my hand shaper.

I set off at 8.44 am and the snow was a foot deep at the side of the road and I wore 2 pairs of long cycling trousers and 2 pairs of gloves and 3 cycling jerseys and a teeshirt and I wore earwarmers and I was *ucking Cold. There was an icy headwind all the way to the Tophouse turning and there were patches of black ice all over the St Arnaud roads and there was a mass of fog, but luckily this blew away and I was only in fog for very brief periods. I cranked my way gingerly out of St Arnaud to Tophouse at about 7mph and wondered if I was in fact a Stupid Person. There were black ice patches all the way along the Tophouse road to the Kikiwa junction, and indeed all along the Kikiwa road to Korere. I got very frightened several times when approaching black ice at over 30mph on narrow hard tyres, and did quite a lot less hypermiling and quite a lot more pre-emptive braking than I'd anticipated. Once a car came towards me at about seventy miles (miles) an hour with black ice just round the corner where the driver couldn't see it though she'd obviously passed over some beforehand because I encountered it later. Much better driver than me, obviously, because I would have either driven more cautiously or skidded off and been killed. - I did pass a couple of women placing flowers on a roadside white cross. They were in a car which later passed me with several inches to spare on an open clear road. -

I didn't do the Kerr Hill route past the gun club because I've done that before and it almost killed me. It's a lot steeper and more persistent than it looks on the map, is Kerr Hill. It is in fact *ucking horrible.

There was lots of fog on SH6 to Kohatu and indeed from Kohatu to Tapawera and I once got run off the road by a petrol tanker who very obviously wasn't going to slow down or pull out for me. I stopped at Nutbrown's farm because I saw him fiddling outside his barn and he let me lie down on his kitchen floor with my feet against the wood-burner, and then my feet stopped being as cold as very cold feet. Nutbrown isn't his real name but - well, anyway, - he's a tramper, and I think, doesn't spend excessively on sunblock. - He nearly jumped out of his overalls when I rode up behind him and called his name. (I didn't say "Hi Nutbrown.")

That hill outside Tapawera has a name and I was reminded what it was and I forgot it the moment I was on the bike again. But it's 0.6 miles to the top at 4mph, and a rather terrifying 40mph on the descent before I started squeezing the brakes. At Ngatimoti I ate half a cheese sandwich and drank a litre of water, at which point my average speed was 16.1 mph, but at 50 miles I was tired, and ended up with an average of 15.9mph, having bravely pedalled hard at the end to stop it nudging down to 15.8 which is what the computer was threatening to do.

Arrived home at 1.42. The forecast was for light rain, but I didn't get any at all. The sun was a pallid harrier behind the clouds and I didn't have to wear sunglasses once. A possum ran away from me on the West Bank Road, which surprised me very much because it was half-past one in the afternoon and possums don't do daytime. It wasn't a rabbit because it had a long tail and it wasn't a pig because nobody was shooting it or stabbing it to death.

Trip 67.21 miles

Average 15.9 mph

Max 41.0 mph

Calories 2190.7 (yeah, right)

Time 4hrs 13 mins 23 sec

Odo 7012.6

Then my wife telephoned. Somebody found her on the ski-field and took her to see John who had inexplicably put one of his skis through his trouser-leg and gouged his knee open. It needed stitching but she had no stitches in St Arnaud so she came home. This meant I had to clean the bathroom instead of checking my emails, or I'd have found out that

a) Mr Knight had been in touch to say

We don't get black ice here, we get very cold mornings but no rain ever (except this morning) so very, very seldom any ice, which means that when we do get ice, nobody has a clue how to drive on it. We did have freezing fog last week and when I got to work I resembled a snow man, only colder. And no carrots. Or coal.


b) Mr Schroder has one of those idlers on his new FWD too, so he and Young McLeod of McLeod have obviously been collaborating more than I know.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011 8:33:00 AM Categories: front wheel drive James McLeod Nigel Schroder

Idler video 

Monday, July 11, 2011

McLeod Idler Video

Occasionally, when feeling bored, I like to command Mr Larrington very kindly to put his fag out and his beer down and get on with the task that I set him about ten years ago which is to write a book entitled 'The History of the British Human Power Movement from when I was Eighteen' and I am dismayed daily to find he continues to treat the commandment with disdain. It would be jolly int'resting because he was right in there at the beginning, a mere boy then but a keen observer of the Purple Nasty and other vehicles of the early days, and probably even knows the origin owner and inventor of the red trike that caused the global inch-and-an-eighth tubing shortage in 1985.

However, it's perhaps just as well his book hasn't been completed yet because I now have the video evidence of Mr McLeod's Idler to hand, and this is so jolly excellent an advance that it were a shame to miss it out of said History. (Yes there are those who idly claim that New Zealand doesn't come under the auspices of British but we ignore them, Empire sun never sets, pink across the globe, William to visit etc etc etc.)

Anyway, here we are, Mr McLeod's Idler wheel in action. You have to pay fairly close attention to see what's going on. Of the two idlers at the steering head, the front is the relevant one. The track rod end, from which it hangs, is visible at ten o'clock to the idler wheel itself. As the front wheel is turned to steer the bike there is only a small amount of movement of the idler and it's quite hard to discern, but it allows a full forty-five degree movement of the front wheel in either direction without throwing the chain off.

Mr McLeod does not require any gratitude for giving the world this invention, natch. It is merely his way of thanking the Duke for encouraging his ancestors to emigrate when His Grace, who was terribly, terribly poor had all the houses burnt in the Highland Clearances. - Aye, the McLeods' hame is Sutherland, where the bonny heather hides the wee cleggies. - We used to know Johnnie McLeod. - 'Hoo're you the dee?' he'd ask except when he said stuff like 'Feasgar math dhuibh' but then he never said 'Feasgar math dhuibh' to us because he knew we didn't have the Gaelic, and he never said 'Tha coltas uisge oirre' because it always did.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011 8:31:00 AM Categories: front wheel drive James McLeod

McLeod Idler 

Monday, July 4, 2011

McLeod Idler

It is my birthday, and I am surprised once more by the vast number of people who have marked the event by carrying on as normal. The list of people ignoring it is fairly long. It includes the Queen Mother who is dead and can be forgiven, the Duchess of Cambridge who isn't and can't, and, oh, another 6,999,999,994 people one of whom is my daughter. But I don't mind because I'm Elderly and anyway Barack Obama, at least, emailed me last week. (No I know you don't believe me, but it happens to be true.) -

Over in the Parish of Richmond Mr McLeod has been un-busy not-filming his new idler wheel, and his suggestion as to what to call it - 'The McLeod Twiddly Bit' - is so rubbish that I have immediately vetoed it. I have toyed with calling it 'The Middleton Twiddly Bit' instead, but that's rubbish too. It's not rubbish because I eliminated Mr McLeod's name and substituted my own. That at least has many precedents, starting perhaps with Ackerman Steering, which was invented by Lankensperger, improved by Jeantard, and patented by Ackerman, who was the agent. His real name was Ackermann but we all spell it wrongly on purpose.

Anyway, it is going to be called the McLeod Idler because then even serious people can use it. We do not want to discourage the serious people. They have rights, too.

Here is another picture of it, and eventually, when Mr McLeod and Mr Schroder manage to arrange a time mutually convenient to their wives or helmet cams, I shall post a link to a Youtube showing it actually working, whereupon crowds of front wheel drive recumbent builders may both fall down in astonishment and send me a thousand billion dollars in royalties whenever they copy it. I will pass on a suitable proportion to Mr McLeod every time they do, rest assured. Say, sixpence. I will keep the remainder for my friend Mr Xenothobo who has offered me a similar sum if I lend him my bank account details to withdraw certain monies from a Nigerian company in which he has business interests.

(It isn't my birthday today. It's my birthday today, tomorrow. It's just that tomorrow's already here in New Zealand, and Blogger is still in yesterday mode on account of being American or some such nonsense.)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011 7:31:00 AM Categories: front wheel drive James McLeod

Mr McLeod's idler hanger 

26 June 2011

It's cold. It's very cold. It's so cold that I'm as cold as a person in the shade in the middle of winter and not as hot as a person is in the sun in the middle of summer. English viewers of this blog must needs recall when winter is in the southern hemisphere.

Yesterday I went to Richmond to collect my wife from her hockey game. She was cold. She has been inveigled to play goalkeeper, and these days the goalkeeper in hockey dresses up in a series of mattresses and stands about idly as a sort of human obstacle, but even when attired in clothing several feet thick, she tells me you get cold standing around for thirty-five minutes each half in the middle of winter with nothing to do. (Her team are currently top in the region. She is Dead Proud. But at least three of the team are, or have been, in the national squad so it doesn't count.)

Watching hockey involves standing about and since you do this without mattresses on and since Mr McLeod lives next to the Saxton playing fields, I popped in on him for five minutes and he revealed his new machine.

I hate Mr McLeod intensely. I hate him because a) his machines are masterpieces of design b) his machines are masterpieces of craftsmanship c) he thinks up completely new ideas d) and they *loody well work, too.

The thing about this new one is this. It's a front wheel drive and of course that limits and restricts things that you can do with the front wheel, such as steer. This tends to dismay many designers, incl. me, but Mr McLeod, who doesn't know you can't get a FWD machine to steer, has cunningly put the idler wheel on a universal joint. It's the sneakiest thing I've seen in ages. Dead simple, like all really clever things. It holds the idler wheel, and hence the chain, in tension, but allows enough movement for the wheel to be turned virtually to full lock. I was amazed. Clearances, as ever, are remarkably tight with barely a millimetre anywhere between chain and front brake, but it all seems to work.

Unf. the poor chap has slipped a lumbar disc, so testing has yet to commence, but he has already planned a series of modifications - disc brake etc. - to while away any idle hours that come his way.

Mrs McLeod mentioned that this is his last machine but she caught my eye as she said it and there was a wicked twinkle in her eye. I did not say anything. Master McLeod is four, and a Big Boy Now (he told me so himself) and I have a feeling he will come to express firm views on whether Mr McLeod should forever more desist from building recumbents.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 8:39:00 AM Categories: James McLeod Nigel Schroder


19 June 2011

Have you ever in your life invented anything useful? I have invented three things, all of them vices. Their usefulness is, unfortunately, inversely proportional to their originality.

First, I invented the strip of rubber cut from an inner-tube. Man I'm clever. Actually I nicked this from a bow laminating technique, and how it got there I do not know. Your fourteenth-century Turkish bow laminator did not have rubber inner tubes. Laminating fibreglass to make a leaf-spring - which is what a bow is - is difficult. While the epoxy sets the leaves must be held firmly together with more clamps than anyone possesses. So the bowmakers lash everything to a form with innertube strips and the pressure increases with every lashing. I took to lashing roof racks onto cars with inner-tube, and the lashing is stronger than the steel clamps made for the purpose. Now I lash anything I can think of with inner-tube strips. You get the inner-tubes from your bike shop. Ask and you shall receive, esp. if you have a pair of scissors with you and cut straight through each tube as they watch, because they always suspect you of taking the tubes home and patching them. Bike shops make their profits from inner tubes and cables, and if you deprive them of this income they would have to charge a fortune for their bikes, which they very kindly don't.

Second I invented the horizontal vice. How many times has that been invented elsewhere? - I don't know. - But it suddenly occurred to me that, not having six hands, it would make it easier to grip several things together if gravity wasn't trying to disassemble them while I was doing up the vice. And it jolly works, too.

Third, I invented the free-standing vice so angle-grinder dust wouldn't go all over my lathe bed. This was pre-invented by Ron Hickman who eventually called it the Black and Decker Workmate. Hickman's first was a free-standing bench with a vice on it, and he - and subsequently I - found this tremendously useful. Hickman tried to sell it to Black and Decker but their Board of Directors, all wearing smart grey business suits, dismissed him contemptuously, and a few years later they gratifyingly had to crawl to him on hands and knees, salivating all over the carpet, for permission to produce it.


I did once invent sumpthingk else, sort of another vice I have, a vice with a different sort of meaning, sort of thing, like. It's gloriously illustrated on pages 135 to 138 of a certain book that we never mention. You could use it to remove warts from your middle finger, if you live in Doncaster.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011 8:36:00 AM Categories: workshop

Earthquake 1331 

13 June 2011

Now I've discovered how to work the Stats button I see there is only ever one pageview, and since I haven't found out how to disable the wretched blog's monitoring of my own vanity viewing, this means it's going to be quite easy to write entries cos I'm the only reader. One's ego is suitably deflated.

Anyway we have bought a car, a 660cc tardis, minute on the outside and like a cathedral inside.

After listening to her valiantly trying to describe it to him, I emailed my wife's brother-in-law, Dr Morrison.

Suzuki Wagon R is what my wife was groping about in her rather limited grasp of the English tongue to tell you. It is a Kei Car, pronounced, presumably by the Japanese, Kay, though given that you as a splendid Australian would pronounce that Kye, this information can only be of limited linguistical assistance. They are a Japanese tax dodge, limited to 660cc motors, 11 feet long, and 1.6 metres wide. - Feet? Metres? - Must have been an American giving the details. - We filled it with petrol to the very, very top, drove 44.8 kilometres, refilled it, and just managed to squeeze 2.03 litres in, so that's 62 and a third miles per gallon. Imperial gallon, not the curious measures used by American gentlemen. The man in the petrol station was disgusted with me for buying so little. (Luckily I had my rifle with me so I shot him.) It looks exactly like a box. Absolutely hideous. When we next c'llect you from the airport, bring a brown paper bag for Maggie to wear because she will be so ashamed. You will enjoy it though because the headroom is vast, sufficient for a short person like me to wear a busby in comfort. If we painted it red we could probably install a mezzanine, paint '186 Harrow and Wealdstone' on the front, and drive round London gathering passengers. Me, I can't *wait* for Peak Oil so that while I sit in misery I can chuckle at all the other people sitting in even greater misery in their Pajero or Land Cruiser.

Dr Morrison failed to respond so I mentioned the purchase to Mr Knight, who did reply:

Hurrah, you have a Suzuki Vagina.
At my last job I worked with an Indian bloke who drove one of these 'toasters'. Somebody asked him one day what it was called and in a thick Indian accent he replied a Suzuki 'Vagin Uh'. Excuse me, every body swore he said Vagina. He has been in NZ for a long time and is a lovely bloke but still has trouble with W's and R's. -
That's pretty good fuel consumption btw. - In other news we had an exciting 5.5 yesterday morning; we had at least 5 seconds warning as we both heard it coming. We had time to look at each other and ask "Is that a truck or an earthquake" then listen some more before it hit. We had shite weather this weekend, I hardly rode at all. That is all.

It looks, as Mr Knight has mentioned, like an electric toaster but:

Yea! we shall all (esp the children) call it a Vagin Uh henceforth. - I spotted your 5.5. I thought, 'That'll liven up their morning.' - You didn't have shite weather this weekend, because we had it all and there wouldn't have been enough left for you. We are still having it, too. They specially arranged it for the bank holiday. We did, however, manage a little tandem ride but I am finding all upright bikes give me sores on my sit-bones, so the long-talked-of recumbent tandem has to conjure itself into being. I also *need* to build a wet-weather-recumbent to cope with the trauma of exercise for when my wife chooses not to accompany me.

What neither of us knew was that my possession of a new microcar was not going to dominate our immediate conversations, because at lunchtime today I had a perky note to the effect that Christchurch had just had another 5.5:

I see you're having an eventful lunchtime according to eqnews.

Mr Knight was almost at once at his keyboard -

Yes, I was very scared. I may have to go and change my troosers. We had a mild foreshock and then a big *ucking 5.5 that *everybody* is saying was closer to a 6.0 and then lots of aftershocks of the aftershock that Geonet aren't bothering to report.
I was in an electronics store on Colombo street near the centre of town and *everything* ended up on the floor. It was like in one of those videos of an earthquake in a shop.
- Oh *uck, I've just come back into the office after another massive aftershock that seemed to go on forever. Sirens everywhere, dust etc. I saw a concrete building opposite flex and move relative to its neighbour. The traffic is now horrendous and I chose today to take the motorbike in rather than cycle. I'll have a look to see what it was. Geonet haven't posted it yet but the quake drum trace is much bigger than the previous 5.5 Still having big aftershocks, here's another one...

Well of course it turned out to be a 6, so all the news channels switched onto overdrive and the earthquake minister flew down to hold everybody's hand. On the phone, Mr Knight told me that the aftershocks were more-or-less continuous, and all the interested nerds - which is me, given that I'm now the sole reader - can rush to the website to watch the seismic drum recorder. As before there's been lots of liquifaction, and the drains, all newly repaired, have bubbled up to the surface once more. Until someone mentions it, you don't realise that an air-filled drain underground, during an earthquake, is like a balloon in water, and as soon as the soil behaves like a liquid, the drains all float to the top.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 8:33:00 AM Categories: comparative energy use, cars Earthquake

Popular Mechanics 

4 June 2011

It was raining hard 'smorning so we took ourselves to Nelson where they celebrate Queen's Birthday Weekend with a second-hand book fair at Founders' Park.

Hurray! I bought an entire set of Popular Mechanics do-it-yourself Encyclopedia for ten dollars.

However often I looked the second-hand bookshops only ever had volumes 1, 2 and 3. Any number of times I've come across A-B. Luckily this contained the useful Rolling Patio Bar, which I've always wanted to make. 'Sure to lend a touch of elegance to your next patio party, this handsome beverage center is made almost entirely of ¾-in. plywood.' I had lusted over the throwaway bar for a one-night stand to 'add a touch of color to your next party and provide you with an inexpensive, practical way to serve guests.' Unf. I should have needed seven cartons and a large piece of checkered oilcloth, and lacking checkered oilcloth I was stumped. The instructions told me that the 'morning after the party, you can carry the entire construction into a storage area until your next party. Or, if you prefer, you can simply burn it or throw it away.' (I love being given these options. They certainly address the difficult problem of whether or not to leave the *ucking ghastly thing right in the middle of the room for the next three months.)

Volume 3 gave seven variations on a basic cart - 'You won't have to wear a lampshade to be the hit of your next party. All you have to do is wait for the right moment and then roll out your host cart. And the whistles are your cue to remark in an offhand fashion, "oh, I made it last week." ' - Very easily pleased, Americans of 1968. - The men would have wanted 'to know how you did it, and the ladies will be trying to find a way of motivating their husbands into performing the same miracle.'

But in this find I've solved the mystery of why nothing beyond Volume 3 ever appears in the junk shops. Tucked into one of the volumes was a letter from K Horspool, General Manager at Grolier Enterprises (NZ) Ltd. The very next month, I read, I'd have been sent the remaining 13 volumes in one shipment, for which I would have had the privilege of continuing to pay monthly while having use of the complete set. I suspect your New Zealand amateur handyman balked at the prospect of paying for another thirteen volumes on how to impress his dinner-party guests with home-made mobile kitchen appliances, and suspended his subscription accordingly.

Anyway, I now have the complete set, and if she's lucky, I shall 'give your wife a break. Here are two work centers to make her housework easier.' Imagine the delight on her face as she kneels down in front of her End cabinet and finds 'a handy place to store detergents and bleach'.

I'll let you know if we're divorced by next week.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 8:28:00 AM
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