December 2012

Yet another diary! I hear you say…

Yes, and the last of 2012. We’ve had a good year in our little workshop with a great deal achieved. Our engine systems are all working, albeit in need of some finishing off and testing, and our upper covers are built and the staggeringly complex conservation – or rather, ‘conserveering’, job – on the air intakes is now complete, more of that below.

People are forever asking us when we’ll be finished and the answer is… 2013. And if you believe that you’ll believe anything. The more astute amongst you must have, by now, spotted that we use the gentle subterfuge of ‘telling lies’. Think about it – had we said back in 2006 when the Lottery Fools got their marching orders that we were facing a six or seven year project at least, how many of you would have stopped reading there and then? But by keep saying, it’ll be finished next year, we’ve all had something to look forward to and now we’ve arrived at the point where, once the sponsons are done, and they’re well on their way, we’ll have a complete machine with only the detail work left to do so we’ll still have something to look forward too. Cool, eh?

The important thing to remember, and I am forever telling people this, is that not a single day goes by without us doing something to progress the job, even if it’s only sorting our photographs or ordering a bag of rivets. And if we keep doing that, one day we’ll wake up to discover that everything is done.

Anyway, as previously mentioned, it’s been a splendidly busy year for various reasons and there’s not been half as many updates as we ought to have turned out (though that was in part because there’s not much to write about when riveting the engine cover together) but we do try to give you good content so this time our head of ‘anal widgetry’ has penned his own account of clashing the intakes together. Once the tin-bashing was finished the rest of us went off to make sponsons and rivet the engine cover leaving Mike with a pile of painted bits that diminished with inverse proportion to his expenditure on rivets. Everyone has had a hand in the intakes but when it comes to faffing about, fannying around and generally being OCD about every detail, Mike is the man so, put your hands together and give a warm welcome to the incomparable, Micky Bullfrog!

Man, that sucks!

Mike Bull

When I joined the BBP many moons ago now the intakes were pretty much discarded under a sheet in the corner of the workshop- they’d been partly rebuilt for the dry build and then set aside while everyone got on with other things. (See recent diary, October 2012)

When the time came to pick them up again in 2010, I had the task of pulling it all out and starting the repairs on the various components. As Bill has previously explained, (and my apologies for any repetition throughout this piece) there’s quite a lot going on inside the intakes- as you might imagine with them coming from the pen of one K. Norris- so there were lots of parts that needed some care, especially considering the massive impact the intakes had suffered.

First up were the vertical bulkheads that live inside the plenum. The larger one of the two in particular was very badly damaged and ultimately needed 21 small ‘biscuit’ patches to repair it! This larger bulkhead is the next station back from the headrest, and forms the rear wall of what the original drawings call ‘the equipment bay’. We just decided it was where Donald kept his sandwiches…

Also visible here are some longitudinal stiffeners- these were part of the 1966 modifications following the intakes failure, and were added to stop the plenum walls from being able to flex outwards. They add a phenomenal amount of strength to the structure, but like everything else, they were very badly damaged and took a lot of sessions in their own right to get back to a useable condition; several of us had a few rounds on these over a long period to get them right.

Following these repairs we got on with rebuilding the formers as also detailed in previous diaries; I drew each one out on a big plywood tooling board, working from the 1954 Norris Bros. drawings, and then we had something we were able to lay the mangled formers on to for repairs.

As Bill has said, we found that what was drawn and what was built were often two different animals, and that was before things had been crashed and corroded!

Drawing things out in this manner also helped greatly in understanding the arrangement of the closing plate that the headrest cushion attaches to, and it’s other attendant pieces- there’s another piece that incorporates the canopy latch, and the piece of angle that the rear face of the canopy closes into.

All of this took some very careful interpretation to fully understand and get working, with Bill and I spending all day looking at it, only to go home and spend all night emailing about it too, all helped by Neil Sheppard and his photo archive. We’d not helped ourselves by adding our half-height bulkhead at the rear of the cockpit opening either, as this introduced a discontinuity of layers that I also had to work in so everything looked right! Here it all is seen a bit later in the process-

The green bulkhead is a permanent addition to the rear of the cockpit opening, and everything else is part of the removable intakes structure- the closing plate which holds the actual headrest cushion screws over both and brings everything back to the proper appearance. (Also of note here is the square hole in the duct roof, behind the headrest area- this was faithfully copied from the original, and is an access hole to the area underneath the radio aerial.)

It was around this time that we took a couple of shots with a helmet of the same type as Donald’s propped up in the cockpit and used it as a ‘picture of the day’- an image that a lot of people found quite poignant. Also, see the large raggedy holes in the plate at the top corners of the cushion? When the intakes first came back from repair in 1966, those holes weren’t there. Then some small, neatly drilled holes appeared. Then, these holes were roughly filed out into the form that I’ve replicated here in the new plate- clearly, there were still things going on with the intakes that were being tweaked as the runs progressed. January 4th is our snapshot- who knows how the boat may have been further tweaked on the 5th, etc?

Skipping ahead to much, much later…the formers were eventually all repaired and painted and I riveted the front edge of the duct into the front ‘spectangles’ former with a complicated system of doublers that we’d added behind the duct skin for strength. Then it was over to the lads to rivet the rest of the formers to the duct.

Then finally, new skins could be wheeled for the outsides-

These were copied form the original outer skin, which comprises two sides and a top but which came off the crashed intake structure, and remains, in one big piece-

This original outer skin, though beyond sensible reuse, was an absolute goldmine of information for the placement of fittings and rivets and so on, and was constantly referred back to.

One thing that quickly became apparent is that the lap joints in the original skins are not symmetrical– so neither are our new items. The distinctive brackets that hold the support struts for the spray deflectors are also in different places side for side- one is higher from the thrust line datum than the other, and one is nearer the lap joint in the skins than the other. The original brackets repaired beautifully, and were positioned on the new skins exactly as ‘wrong’ as they were on then original.

See the differing gap between the brackets and the joint in the skins above?

Another thing that quickly became evident from examining the original skins was that there was no common centreline through the top of the intakes where all the various fittings had been mounted. ‘Near as’ seemed to be good enough for our predecessors, so yet again to be right, we had to do it wrong- but accurately.

There are various items that live on top of the intakes- a little vent cover, a pair of steel eyelets, redundant camera mounts…then there’s the radio aerial, fuel filler flap, the old radio aerial mount, and the fuel tank breather pipe. Finally right at the back we get to the distinctive row of 2BA screws that span the back edge of the intakes, screwing into the dismountable former that encloses the fuel tank.