Monday, 16 March 2009

Al Fresco

Sunshine and signs of life in the garden at Diplo Hall mean al fresco dining. (The picture above was actually taken last July). It has to be said that it's often colder than it looks ! Top solution in these circumstances is to set fire to everything combustible and get a few glasses down you. I have found myself deserted on more than one occasion as less hardy diners retreat indoors. The sound of laughter and music waft across from the East wing to the preferred outdoor eating place under the fruit trees. Wrapped in many layers with a fine Izmir smoke on, clutching a glass and tipping one's head back to take in the night sky is a solitary pass time. I feel very happy to be out here. Gradually the candles dwindle, the last one expiring with a little flurry, and then darkness - as I look around the sky, the roof line of Diplo hall stands out, dark against a soft whitish glow, what's this ? - more light pollution ! Closer inspection following a lurching stroll around to the front of the house - horror, they've fixed the bloody street light again. This is getting serious. Somebody's calling this in to the local feds and we need it stopped. MORE DARKNESS !

Saturday, 14 March 2009

On The Road Again...

Job done then. I really must get some fresh brake shoes! We'll certainly need some before MOT time. Preliminary road tests complete and we're tidying up the 'shop with a view to making a serious start on the next project. MORE STOPPING POWER !

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Make Do & Mend

When I picked this bike up from Cornwall last December I hadn't really given much thought to what I was letting myself in for. It immediately became apparent that the machine was in a dire state. It didn't occur to me to question what I was up to, I simply let the the sub-conscious analyser process it all and by the time we had the bike at Diplo HQ there were no questions to ask, no deliberation - we simply set about taking the thing to bits. There was no feeling of low spirits, concern over the huge hill we had to climb or the slightest glimmer of defeat.
The beauty, to me, of these mechanical challenges is that they contain all the answers for you - "what state'll the brakes be in ?" - simply take the bugger to bits and have a look. The less demanding approach is to start from scratch with a stack of replacement parts - this may not be appropriate on economic grounds, but it does mean you are dealing with no more than a complicated Airfix kit. This is all very well but requires cash, lots of parts ordering and seems a bit of a cheat. I've always had an irrational desire to fix things that don't work - I really don't like to be defeated by a motor that won't run or a door that doesn't shut properly. I had thought the wheels on the CB Special were shot and even bid on some replacements on e-bay. Tinkering in the 'shop between coats of paint, I took a wheel to one side and set about cleaning it up - 1/2 an hour later I had a pretty presentable rim and a pile of rust, the spokes received the same treatment and it transpired that only two or three were bent and a little pitted. I couldn't shift the adjusters in the rim so applied a bit of heat and left them soaking in the patent cure-all juice. A week later a bit more gas heat and some pressure from the spoke spanner and they all came free - whipped out the offending items, straightened them up, a bit of a polish and reassembled. I've repeated this exercise on the second wheel and the pair of scrap rims and spokes are now back in service. I'm particularly pleased with rim tapes I made up out of some strips of old butyl pond liner and a bit of vulcanising. The wheels don't look new but are fit for purpose, leaving me feeling quite smug and confirmed in my "fix it" approach. There's really very little that can't be fixed - the limiting factor, more often than not, being our own failure to see the problem for what it is. MORE RECYCLING !

Monday, 9 March 2009

Ballistic Cuisine

Preliminary tests on KNO3 solid fuel rocket motor have been interesting. I'm not sure I was quite prepared for the volume of smoke to be generated - neighbours certainly weren't - Diploville was briefly plunged into a dense smog Sunday afternoon but a stiff breeze soon cleared things enough for us to inspect the damage. The copper tube is being used for test purposes,to be replaced in production by cardboard tube lined with aluminium foil to save weight. Since this shot of a 7.3 second burn we've been experimenting with nozzle geometry and a little bit of venturi effect. No thrust details as yet. We're making a rig for tests using a spring balance. Slightly blurred image due to a combination of factors!

Accurate, digital scales are a great help - brilliant for these sort of projects as they are zero-able at the touch of a button. Very expensive Swiss stainless cookware is optional but it's always a pleasure to use good kit. MORE SMOKE !

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Ham, Egg & Chips

Always been a fan of Geo Ham (Georges Hamel) for his fantastic '20s and '30s automobile paintings. Came across this great little scene of a 1928 Australian dirt track race. No idea who the riders are, suffice to say they would have been hard as nails. GH started his career penning catalogue illustrations for a cyclecar manufacturer in the mid '20s but quickly became seduced by the glamour and romance of motor racing. I had no idea he had done any bike stuff - wouldn't mind some of his work on the office wall. MORE ART !

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Double Clutch

CB Special is up and running - no surprise to find the clutch not clearing and failing to respond to all the usual dodges. Having stripped the offending item down, the stack of plain and friction plates came out as one lump and only let go their Atlantic Ocean rusty grip after a good soak in my patent cure-all vat - that and a few taps from a blunt object. Back together now.
The Series has had clutch problems to coincide, as if we didn't have enough to do. Slave cylinder failure, necessitating an interesting clutchless drive back to HQ.
The wiring loom's out of the CB again - earlier electrical tests gave us a clean bill of health but the charging system eccentricities only became apparent with the machine complete and the engine running ! The smoke emitting from under the gas tank was mostly a blue colour with that distinctive electrical fire hum to it. It seems the generator is having a go but the regulator was struggling to cope with some misdirected OPE. The loom's suffered a bit so is on the bench for repair. MORE REGULATION !

Monday, 2 March 2009

Geological Anomalies Part 2

Northamptonshire is blessed with a spine of fine limestones running from South West to North East through the county and on up into Lincolnshire. Along the margins of the Welland valley there are very localised deposits in the bottom beds of the Lower Lincolnshire Limestones where the sandy stone can be split into thin plates suitable for producing a roofing slate. The fine layers running at a slight angle to the main bedding contain mica flakes and some shelly deposits and are strongly calcite-cemented to produce a strong, brittle, durable stone. These plates are separated above ground by a simple process of de-lamination by frost action. Depths of these old workings vary, this one is under about 30 feet of overlying limestones and is accessd via a vertical shaft. The roof of the mine is a bed of some 18 inches, supported at random intervals with walls of waste stone and the arisings from the "sand" excavation. The slate bearing rock conveniently rests on a partially cemented sandy Limestone which can be excavated by hand with a very sharp pick, allowing the material we want to be under-mined. This involves lying on your side and burrowing away until a natural fault in the bed is reached, this may be up to 12 feet horizontally so the bed is propped with stacks of waste stone. The limit of progress is identified by the sound of cracking stones as the small props take the weight - time to get out from under the "log", pull away the props and instigate a fall. In the bigger picture of this country's geology the slate producing limestone of North East Northamptonshire is a tiny anomaly, yet it has had a massive effect on the appearance of the built environment in this neck of the woods. MORE EXCAVATION !