12th October 2006 - 12:45

I remember standing by the water's edge watching a body liquefy before my eyes. The smell was indescribable. It had been submerged for a few weeks awaiting recovery and now seemed desperately anxious to get on with decomposing.
In a perverse moment of political correctness someone had the brilliant idea of renaming body bags 'disaster pouches', the standard method of screening such horrors from the curious and yet the one beneath our victim remained unzipped, its occupant staring sightlessly skyward.
That was until a tall, smartly dressed man walked purposefully down the beach, considered for a moment then declared life officially extinct. The doctor gave his nod to confirm that our victim had died. It was official.

*

I had yet another dismal discussion with one of those tweed-types last week and was taken to task again for allegedly 'destroying history'.
Yawn.
I was told that straightening bent metal was little more than an effort to eradicate Donald's accident from the history books, (anyone got a number for Harry Potter as we may need some of those memory modification charms for the older folks?)
Our consolation prize, I was informed with the hypocrisy typical of the breed, is that the recovery of K7 actually represents a very important part of her history and so ought to be celebrated.
So we've been making history all this time?
"But the hole in the mud that we pulled Bluebird out of has backfilled itself," I argued, "thus destroying that particular bit of muddy history. And we trashed the lake's opportunity to finish dissolving K7 too - cut that particular chapter dead in its tracks, didn't we."
Tweed-types never have an answer for that one because their argument is flawed from its foundations upwards and sways perilously in the face of common sense.
The only way I can see us destroying history is that if on some past afternoon, when I wasn't looking, an official like the doctor at the water's edge sneaked into Bluebird's workshop and declared her history officially ended thereby ensuring that any subsequent work other than museologically-correct conservation was an act of vandalism.
But then what's conservation if not destroying the very same history? There's nature happily having its timeless way with whatever the object is and then a load of do-gooders turn up with their Paraloid B73 consolidating lotion and glass-bristle brushes to clean away the bits of history they don't like and leave something suitable for their museum display. If you want history to do its work without interruption then leave it alone, you bunch of hypocrites!
I've enquired as to who decides when history goes on hold and how to contact their department so we can beg an extension for Bluebird but no one seems to know how to reach them.
So working on the theory that we're actually making history rather than destroying it we got cracking with the rebuild on Saturday.
We only really intended to sweep out the workshop and go through what needed to be done but our relief at being back at it; the camaraderie with the crew and our determination to get something done meant that we made great progress.
As usual, we set poor Rob to work making the workshop habitable. He's fitted loads of lights now so we asked him to put up shelves this time.

 


Which he got to admire for about five minutes before.


.we filled them with crap.
In the meantime, Dave decided to challenge himself by trying to remove the skin from the broken off cockpit floor.
Bluebird's underside comprises two sheets of 16 SWG alloy that run the entire length of the boat with a butted joint running down the centerline. The forward quarter of the boat's floor was smashed off in the accident and recovered separately. If we can reattach this piece of the floor skin we'll have the complete section - front to back, so Dave set about getting it free.
Alain, in the meantime, managed to be useful and do sod-all. What a talent!


The rivets are easy enough to remove, they're countersunk jobs with a central steel mandrel like a pop-rivet that you can punch out then you carefully drill the head until it spins and breaks off. It's just that there're billions of them.

*

I spent the day taking the wrecked skins off the cockpit frame.
More rivet removal practice.
These were a different type and I only had half as many to deal with but the buckled skins made most of them inaccessible so it took a while.


Above is the entire, right-hand cockpit wall from the break at the rear spar to the tip of the bow. Notice the rectangular closing plate where the front spar originally passed through the frame.


Dave drilled some more rivets - this time helped by Novie who'd been up all night cleaning the start-bottles 'til they shone.


2006-10-12-6


I finally managed to get the skins off the cockpit and stowed them away upstairs. The underlying frame was then hung together to see how much we're missing. Most of the left hand side as it happens but we'll either get it out of the lake or make a new bit.


At least we have the greater part of it and it'll repair easily but more of that plot later in the week.


Dave drilled more rivets, Novie was sick of rivets by now but Rob was delighted to be finally given a job that involved the boat itself.
They had to use one of those plastic fibre wheels to shift the bodge that Don & Co had slapped on there to keep the water out.
Whilst this was all going on, the newest member of our team was sorting the hydraulic pump.


Gav Rebair-Brown is ex-Royal Navy. He used to mend warships so he's a good hand; he's a diver too and is so young, fit and pretty that he makes us sick every time we take him anywhere as every barmaid in town wants his phone number.
Not today though, he spent hours very carefully cleaning Bluebird's engine-driven hydraulic pump. It turns freely, pumps oil but has some corrosion damage to one of the casings that may turn out to be serious. We'll come back to that problem.


Then a cheer went up as the rivet-removal team finally won the day and the skin came free, check out Rob's grin.
And guess what - it matches nicely to the broken remainder still attached to the hull so we don't have any missing pieces.


Notice also that we've turned K7 almost onto her side to let us get at the ten billion rivets holding the rest of the floor skin. Yep, that has to come off too.


Now we need to consult with Airframe Assemblies to see whether this bit will save.
Keep tuning in.

18th October 2006 - 14:55

Another successful weekend. We'd decided long ago that K7 has too many inaccessible corners and voids to simply paint over the problems and hope for the best.
'Le grand fromage' understands this, which is why we so badly wanted Chris to join the team. His solutions are conservation-led but practical too.

"Reality dictates," he often tells us when we're faced with a major dilemma.

.so when we asked about removing all the mud that had crept beneath the corrugated floor panels through corroded holes we believe pre-date the 67 accident the answer was simple - take the floor off.

"What! Have you seen how many rivets are holding it on?"

But he was right.
Something we were never able to get across to the Tweedies is that the only way to properly conserve K7 is to take her back to the metal. They love the idea of keeping all that flaking paint but can't seem to appreciate that it's hiding a nightmare. All the time K7 sat on the bottom of the lake galvanic corrosion was munching merrily on the metals.
Bolt a piece of steel to a lump of aluminium then get it wet and what you get is a battery that strips one metal to feed the other. Ask a Land-Rover enthusiast.
Interestingly, it's probably the corroded engine that saved K7 as one of the most effective means of staying ahead of galvanic corrosion is by using sacrificial anodes such as the chunks of zinc seen bolted to ship's hulls. The action of moving salt water around steel plates and bronze propellers would quickly damage both metals if not for the zinc from which electrons are stripped to replenish those lost from the other materials. The zinc is gradually corroded but the important metals are spared.
Magnesium makes an excellent sacrificial anode and no doubt the engine's slow decomposition over thirty-four years contributed to the excellent condition of much of K7's structure.
Get rid of the water though and it all stops - at least in theory - but two problems persist. Firstly we can't get rid of the water without tearing everything down, and secondly, ask anyone who's ever worked with alloy and they'll tell you that corrosion is like cancer - water or not.
Cut it out, blast it with chemicals and poison it out of existence. You have to be brutal or it'll keep coming back. It's slow but insidious and deadly.
K7 is not only covered with flaking paint but much of that paint is on top of filler, which is on top of Lord-knows-what. If we don't get back to the metal and inhibit every surface the problem will not go away. Cancer - remember?
We still have water in some of the frame tubes too, you can hear it sloshing about and it continues to drip when the boat is at certain angles on the rollover jig, so drill some holes, we thought.
A few of us even dared speak of it out loud when out of earshot of the 'experts'. It's the obvious solution but not without flaunting the purist's ethics.
Theoretically, we can't let the water out because they'll soil their underwear when the drilling begins and that's without inviting a raid by the Ministry of History Termination.
Chris' answer was simple and practical - thank goodness!
Of course we can drill holes because if we don't, we'll ultimately lose the frame so a few openings here and there are a small price to pay for saving the object. I can get my head around that.
But why, people keep asking, isn't the water out of there yet? After all, Bluebird was last submerged in 2001; surely she'll dry out soon?
That water was thirty-four years getting in there, and worse, it was forced in under a pressure of five atmospheres. It's not interested in getting out. There's no similar pressure gradient in the other direction so unless we drain the voids it'll be trapped until Vicky comes into work one morning to find a nasty little puddle on the floor of her museum. There'd likely be two nasty little puddles before we could get there and start drilling.
We need to get some inhibitor into the tubes too. Something oily and sticky that'll coat all the surfaces and ensure the frame is still solid a hundred years from now.
Now then, back to the plot - taking the floor off. You see, there is a double reason behind our thinking. Stripping that skin off allows us to get at the mud between the panels, as mentioned, but it also gives us access to the lowest point of the frame tubes. We can't get at them any other way because the furthest down we could drill a hole from inside the hull would be about an inch above the bottom due to the raised corrugations. The drillings would be visible too.
And so.
Dave kicked off Friday afternoon by sanding that strange graphite paint off to expose the rivet lines while I phoned Steve Vizard at Airframe Assemblies for some in-depth disassembling advice.


There were rather a lot of rivets - several thousand as it happens but the way K7 is constructed means that everything leads to the floor. The whole structure meets there and Ken wasn't having it come to bits under any circumstances - including a 200 + mph accident. It's absolutely bombproof.
I'm sure that good old Ken decided on a design to meet Donald's criteria then made it another five times stronger just for good measure.
This is another reason why Bluebird is such a great candidate for a rebuild. Even if she only retains half of her original strength, and I suspect the figure is quite a bit higher than that and certainly will be when we're finished, she's still twice as strong as necessary to remain fit for purpose.
I kept popping down from my office on Friday afternoon to put Steve's theory into careful practice.

 


.and by late Friday evening we'd got the hang of it. (Lordy! how I need to stop eating pies and take up diving again.)
Saturday morning saw the usual suspects back at work with the rivet drilling reaching peak efficiency by lunchtime, which came and went without any thought of food.
The trick is to gently push a 3.2mm drill down the precise centre of the countersunk head until it spins off. Steve wasn't best fussed that we went all metric on Donald's boat but 3.2mm is a bit smaller that an eighth of an inch, which is what we should have been using, so we made extra work for ourselves but provided an additional safety margin. We don't all drill the wings off a couple of Spitfires before breakfast, you know.
These are different rivets to the ones we took out last week because the cockpit floor had an inner skin for Donald to rest his feet on making it impossible to get on the backs of the rivets to set them. This week's version were a solid affair with a tail and a shank, which Alain popped through with a pin punch after we'd drilled the heads.
What's even more important is to make sure you don't bugger up the hole or the countersink because we have to put an identical rivet back in when the time comes.

 


With all the rivets out of the, hmmmm, which side is it? The right hand side of the floor, we then flipped her over to get at the rest and went at it again.


until well into the afternoon when.


the last rivet came out of the last hole and the skin just lifted off. Simple as that.


Alain took the opportunity to look useful whilst doing sod-all again, told you it was a talent.
I'd voiced my concerns that the frame might sag as we gradually took away an important part of the boat's rigidity. Being hung from either end it would have soon become apparent if the old girl had begun to flex but she didn't give so much as half a millimetre and we soon had the skin on the workshop floor.


Now to find out what we're working with under there.


Hmmmmmm.

23rd October 2006 - 12:35

We may not be the biggest fans of museology over here but one thing has always been fundamental to rebuilding this historic craft. We have insisted since the off that as much as possible of the original structure goes back into the rebuild.
Nor do we want to destroy history unnecessarily. Paint, rot and rivets will be merrily cast into the skip but solid metal causes furious thought as to how we can hang onto it and the forward spaceframe is a perfect example.
The overall frame design had a bit of a flaw (uh-oh, I'm in trouble now) in that the area where the rear spar passes through has immense strength with steel bulkheads, gussets in the corners and plates that bolt solidly into both the frame and the spar. and then they hung the entire cockpit onto the front with only four welded joints.
It was just asking to break at that point.
To make matters worse, what would otherwise be a continuous floor has an interruption at that frame too and from the back of the cockpit to the tip of the bow it is of a completely different internal construction. What this amounts to is that in the event of that frame getting a smack, which it did, it was always going to exploit the weakest point and break at the cockpit bulkhead, which it did. See below - chopped off cleanly as though with a knife.

Another interesting feature of the damage is that the steel failed at the heat-affected-zones of the welds. It's great to use high tensile box section in your construction but where it's been hot enough to fuse into the surrounding metal, i.e. at the welds, its properties are altered. Again this was exploited by the forces involved in the accident to the point where the frame didn't bother to bend anywhere, it just split at every weld and flat-packed itself.

Now we have the delicious task of sticking it all back together.
Simple, you'd imagine - weld it.
Well that's sort of OK except that the broken ends are a bit raggedy and aren't exactly what you'd call a perfect weld-prep. Nor can we cut half an inch off the end of each broken piece of tube to get back to good material because the frame will end up both too short and too narrow at the front.
We can't sleeve it internally because we're talking awkward shapes on virtually every fracture and there are a couple of cross-members at the very front that are like old Mrs Miggins' lace curtains and desperately need consigning to the skip.
We could make a new front. but apart from the fractures, the original frame tubes are spot-on. We've had them x-rayed and given a clean bill of health so it would be a real shame not to use them.
But by far the worst problem is how to get it past the museologists because there is always the possibility that a hundred years from now some student of fractures will dig out a file on us and say,
"Ooohh, wouldn't it be grand to examine Bluebird's broken frame tubes with my new particle accelerating scanning orgasmitron and see what Leo had for breakfast." only to find that we'd melted the fracture faces back into one smooth weld pool.
I can just about see where they're coming from this time but it doesn't help us sort Bluebird's frame. Then we had a brainwave but first it needed checking out and to do that we called once again on the services of Dr Julian Happian-Smith MSc BTech (hons) MSAE, the man with as many letters after his name as are actually in it. For those who've not met Julian, he's the crash investigator who analysed the accident on behalf of the Barrow coroner for the inquest. But back to that in a minute as the frame repairs cropped up in a different way, also worthy of a mention.

*


I did a quick post mortem on the HLF 'experts' advisors reports the other day and won't bore you with the ins and outs this time but true to form, they failed to see the fantastic opportunity that lay beyond all their bureaucracy.
For a mere million - a snip at HLF prices - they could have basked in public glory for at least a couple of years, healed a few self inflicted wounds and feasted their reputation off the back of all our hard work. Then later, if everyone lost interest and K7 ended up in the science museum, it probably wouldn't even make the papers.
Bargain!
But they never opened their eyes far enough - or weren't brave enough.
Nor were they going to be caught with the old, 'your experts haven't ever visited the wreck', trick again so two of them paid a perfunctory visit one afternoon, smiled encouragingly in all the right places then went home to write bad things about us.
One visitor was the mud-infatuated archaeologist, the other wanted to lump our tiny museum with the initial cost and resulting overhead of fancy climate control equipment and a special cloakroom for wet coats rather than give the boat a decent coat of stabilising paint.
There seems to be at least one more who did things by the book and never clapped eyes on Bluebird.
Those who did attend sat in our meeting room quietly forming opinions, which they then worked into their reports without ever checking whether or not they'd got it right.
The entire document demonstrates that they were crapping themselves about us simply knuckling down and doing the job - which their time wasting has now brought about - and oozed desperate hope that Vicky would rein us all in and enforce museologist's law.
Their efforts to get around Chris' conservation management plan are amusing because he's a genuine museum-sort at the pinnacle of his profession and they have to consider that one day in their fickle world they may have to kiss his backside. So they hedged in a big way by saying that although Chris' work was good, there was no evidence that the rest of us were signed up to it.
Hadn't read our diary, had they. But then you'd not expect them to, they're experts, so having experienced difficulty with finding the required evidence you have to wonder why they didn't simply ask? Yet they never did, not then and not at any time since - sound familiar?
Common sense would suggest that we had to be signed up to Chris' plan otherwise it wouldn't have gone into our application. Do these 'experts' imagine that we just said, "Thanks Chris," then stuffed the unopened file amongst the rest of our hard work?
They rant about the Ruskin not rolling in cash then add unnecessary expense to the plan with their fancy ideas only to declare it poor value for money later on. We know the Ruskin is marginal, on paper at least, but we want to make the difference. If we fail then it doesn't harm Bluebird in any way and she'd have to be displayed elsewhere but let's bloody-well have a good crack at it. Anyone have a good reason not to?
They accused us of having an incoherent project. Damn right we did! It was almost dribbling by the time they'd finished running us in circles. Though it made perfect sense when we started and does again now that HLF have been given the sack but for a while in the middle I honestly thought I was losing it.
They contradict themselves for fun it seems, a perquisite for getting a job with HLF, methinks and is mostly why they're so impossible to deal with.
Where was I going with this rant? Ah yes, the frame. At one point they decided that building a new forward section wasn't to their taste even though we'd never wanted to in the first place. We've always maintained that the original frame is perfectly suitable once properly repaired but still the new steelwork idea wouldn't go away so they said,
"As noted in our guidance we do not fund replicas and we should not fund this element of the work."
Were this an attempt to stop us putting Bluebird's front end back then they clearly understood less than we imagined and had they paid attention when we'd said refurbish the original they'd not have come out with anything so stupid in the first place.
But then, in the final summing up it says,
"The general opinion was that reconstruction of the wreck was not the best way forward, and that instead a replica should be made."
What an opportunity they missed but they passed it up. I'd love the chance to ask them how they planned to overcome some of the obstacles we're about to face without taking the thing to bits.

*

Talk, talk, talk, it's all they know but nothing's been achieved so let's get back to mending the boat.
What we proposed is this. We can clad the outside of the box section tubes in a similar material to that which comprises the tube itself, TIG weld it to minimise heat distortion and the heat affected zone yet leave the original fracture unmolested inside.
Then if our museologists of the future shows with his particle accelerating scanning orgasmitron all he / she has to do is carefully dress the welds off (Proprietary fastener, remember?) then peel away the cladding to reveal the trashed joints inside.
Nifty idea, I thought, but first I had to get it past the conservation director so I was delighted when Chris said we could do it without breaking any rules.
Next I had to prove it in engineering terms which caused a dilemma between digging out my old textbooks and spending weeks flinging crumpled pages of dodgy calculations into the litterbin or asking Dr Julian, (MSc BTech (hons) MSAE) to do it in his head - easy decision, that one.
So that's how he came to be poring over piles of X-rays kindly produced FOC by Argos Inspection who remain committed as ever to helping us succeed with this project.

Julian concluded that the frame tubes were good to go, that our repair process could be made to work and that he'd best take a look when we'd done the computer models and obtained material spec's for the job.
Thanks to Julian for giving of his valuable time and additional thanks to Martin Bowman of Kearsley Airways too, who as well as organising our fuel pump rebuild, is also sending over the overhaul manual for that and the hydraulic pump so we can strip and inspect both items properly - another diary entry in the making.

26th October 2006 - 10:25

More progress last weekend. We're properly on the rampage now as our target is to get the boat back to the frame by Christmas, a realistic target that we can easily beat without hurrying.
Remember we reported that John Getty of PDS Engineering was on board to conduct our frame repairs? Well John remains as solid as ever and as his company's pedigree includes building the frame for Richard Noble's Thrust II, making lots of bits for SSC and being a major presence in the new steam car project, we're in very safe hands. Oh, almost forgot, he also built a box section spaceframe for Quicksilver that came off the jig true to about three quarters of a millmetre over a ten metre length!
But it's no good sending him a complete hull because it has to be firmly clamped into the same jig and repaired in various places so we're taking all the aluminium bits off.
In the meantime, our mate Rob, having finally got his hands on the boat last week found his delight short lived as he was requisitioned for joinery work this time.

We urgently need a workbench as there are loads next door but you miss out on the laughs when working so far away so Rob was joined by another of our volunteers, Tony Dargavel, who's a local lad and delighted to lend a hand, in building the much needed bench.
Alain, er. aided too.

He assured anyone who would listen that the joinery would have collapsed if he'd not held it 'til the screws went in. The commentary from the bench-building team was hilarious.
Meanwhile, Dave 'the rivet' Aldred and his mate Steve, who restored cars professionally for many years, went at the bodywork and soon had the panel from immediately behind the main spar removed.

Looking good in there - all in nice condition though every face where the panels meet is white with surface corrosion.
Next came an odd, little closing panel atop the small deck. It's held in by a disproportionate number of rivets of all shapes and sizes. Some holes were full of filler with no rivet at all and there must be half a dozen different sizes where repairs have been made. In once instance Don's team had given up with rivets completely and stuffed a screw in there instead.

Novie worked tirelessly to get that panel off and without hurting a singe rivet hole. Yes, Mr Knapp, we know that using a metal scraper on an alloy boat is contrary to our museological training but it wasn't being used for scraping. It proved ideal for finding hidden rivets without harming either skin.
Then came the main flute, the biggest single panel on the boat.
Bill Smith Snr called in to see what all the fuss was about whilst modeling our BBP polo shirt and baseball cap. He's a great supporter of his boy's madness but isn't in the habit of getting scruffy with the lads.

He purred into the yard in his Mercedes sports car, shook his head at the enormity of our task then fled, quickly! He tells me that one day it'll all be mine - hopefully his superior wisdom comes as part of the package.
I went numbly back to work and drilled for the rest of the afternoon as the main flute consumed an incredible number of drill bits and we turned the air bluebird-blue with expletives until it finally yielded at about 5.00pm to reveal the underlying structure.

Notice the profusion of white corrosion on the aftermost bulkhead.
We also discovered a new bit of crash damage. I'd long wondered about the buckle in the outer skin on the left hand side aft of the spar. It's visible at bottom right of the pic below, showing as a brown, elliptical line either side of the vertical seam.

It's a compression buckle suggesting that the boat had been violently shortened on that side and then sprang back into shape leaving the skin creased but there was no obvious damage to the frame. all very odd.
Then we found it, the damage, that is. The frame appears to have been punched dead-square along its length and it's failed, again at a heat affected zone, where a small square of metal is welded to it that attaches the alloy skin.
Fascinating, localized and easily repaired.

Other side to sort next.
On a slightly different note.

We took the rusty fuel tanks to the local shot blasting facility to find out what we're working with. Remember we mentioned the small additional fuel tanks? Well here they are, above, being blasted and below, in a clean condition ready to stop the leaks and make them serviceable. Thanks to Bettablast for cleaning them up. Bettablast are with us on this project too. They've very kindly blasted and painted a pile of recovered components including both sets of engine bearers (Orpheus and Beryl) the battery boxes and a host of small brackets from deep inside the hull. We're looking forward to working with them as the rebuild progresses.

2nd November 2006 - 13:35

It's easy now - at least this stage has become less daunting as we can now drill rivets in our sleep and if you keep taking them out things keep falling loose in your hands. We've de-skinned both sides now with the left hand side back to the frame along half the length.

The outriggers are tricky to shift, they involve drilling left handedly at ninety degrees to the way you're facing.

But with a bit of care they come away nicely.

Lots of fizzy corrosion between the faces but we can stop that now with some clever deoxidizing chemical treatment - more of that in a mo - then a good coat of etch-primer and silver paint. It'll be good as new.
We took those top rails off too and what a bitch of a job that was! They're put down with hundreds of the biggest rivets you ever saw straight into the top frame tube. It took two days to get them free.

Rob, in the meantime, got away with fitting a few sockets for the cordless drill chargers then went to work loosening the steering shaft bearings. The shaft runs through the internal bulkheads down the left hand side of the boat. It was ground steel but now its rusty steel and it'll take some shifting. Tony lent a hand but they didn't get it loose - not this time.

Notice we've numbered the frames. We've started at the back and worked forwards to frame fourteen only the drawings are numbered in the opposite direction so we'll have to convert everything when we start putting things back - don't ask.
Some interesting things turned up though. For example, when the body shape was altered it seems all they did was to lop the bottoms off the original outriggers and stick a new bit on the end.

And look at this (below) - the aft tethering point.
In its finished form it's made of three layers. The one riveted to the frame seems to be the original. Then there's an aluminium one with lots of holes (roughly) drilled in it to fit over the rivet heads (in Rob's left hand) then a steel one, which was bolted into the frame with an odd wedge and spreader plate arrangement, both of which seem to have been added later. Wonder if it's an Orpheus related mod?

We had a visit too, from Trevor Wright of a company called Chemettal. Most companies we talk to are delighted to try and help so we swap some e-mails, get on famously and scrounge a few things through the post.
But Trevor quickly dispensed with the niceties, chucked his car full of stuff and came over.

"Our first load" he tells us.
Laid out on the workshop floor it was like finding treasure.

It's inhibiting gloop to stop our corrosion dead in its tracks and finally kill the water problem in the frame. Then, Trevor rolled up his sleeves and demonstrated how to use the stuff. No ordinary rep' this bloke.

A liberal coating of brown sticky stuff (haven't read the data sheets yet so not sure what it is exactly) and this bit won't deteriorate any further until we can get the frame blasted and a fresh coat of paint applied.
Then it was paint stripper lessons - look away now if you're a purist - 'cause the paint is coming off.

We tried a small area first; this is the closing plate from above where Bluebird's stabilizing fin is fitted. There was supposed to be a second rudder, I believe.
Trevor slapped some nasty, green gunk all over it.

.left it to ferment for a while (or whatever it does) then ran it under the tap.

It's sparkling. Now it needs dipping in a deoxidizing chemical, etch priming and painting.

6th November 2006 - 15:35

Yep, we've been taking things to bits again but now with increasing thought as to how we put it all back together again.
We have most of the boat in perfectly repairable condition so about eighty percent merely needs stripping down, cleaning then lots of new rivets. Some is beyond repair and will be conserved for display or storage at the museum and a further proportion must be fabricated from scratch.
We recovered enough of the original cockpit to recreate most of it from the crashed remains and many of its smaller parts can be repaired and re-incorporated when we put the pointy end back on.
We have both spars plus drawings for the frame and most of the hull.
There's also an outside chance that we can recover Bluebird's original sponsons but it really is an outside chance, which may turn out to be excessively difficult or threaten to involve money in which case it'll be abandoned in favour of building new ones. They're a bolt-on item anyway so if the originals should come available in the future it'll take us an afternoon to swap them and we have detailed drawings at our end so constructing new ones ought to be straightforward enough.

*

But back to the spannering. We've almost got all of the water out of the frame. You'd not believe it but more than five years after we hauled Bluebird out of the lake we're still getting the occasional soaking because what's happened is that the frame members have partially filled via the rivet heads and pressurized the trapped air above the rising water.
This means that when you punch the mandrel of one of the many thousands of Avdel-type rivets, it's not uncommon to have a high-pressure jet fire out and soak you. All very entertaining but not too comfortable whilst the quantity of trapped water makes a bit of a joke of the special cloakroom for damp coats idea in the museum.

This one hosed Rob down, you can see him on the left there looking a bit wet.
We had a surprise visit this week too from a founder member of the Bluebird Project. To our delight on Saturday, Paul Hannaford (The Hannarack) walked through the door, donned his overalls and immediately requested membership of the planing wedge removal crew.
It's a flippin' long way from Somerset (on English roads) but not being content to merely to leaf through his scrap book and talk a good job at the weekend, Paul makes the trip to be hands-on whenever he can.
He and his old mate, Novie, led by Dave A, set about removing the planing wedge prior to taking the floor corrugations off.

The job ticked along nicely and threw up no nasty surprises - for a change - so they soon had the wedge removed.

And what a piece of kit it is, beautifully machined from a solid billet of something or other, it's absolutely immaculate apart from a stinking mixture of mud and jetfuel inside that we immediately cleaned out.
The structure beneath it was tricky though. They'd stuck an extra skin outboard of the bottom corrugations but beneath the wedge so assuming that a few thousand rivets wouldn't do him any harm we gave Hannarack a drill and left him to it.

No bother - he had the panel off in a couple of hours without hurting a single rivet hole.
Rob, meanwhile, was working at the other end on the knackered floor section from beneath the main spar and fuel tank. This part of the underside suffered worse damage than the rest put together.
The two sections under the cockpit simply broke off and sank so both are completely salvageable as a result but the bit under the spar and tank was taken along for the ride when Bluebird tumbled after the crash and is not in good shape.

Rob persevered (as he does) for most of the day until.

.like everything else it came free. I wonder whether Airframes can fix that bit.
The floor was Rob's second triumph this week because on Wednesday he and Tony Dargavel went at that steering rod problem again. None of us believed they'd ever get the rusted shaft out of so many seized bearings in one piece but they did it!

You might also spot Gav 'Boy-Band' Brown in the far corner twiddling with his hydraulics.
He arrived with a clever ultrasonic cleaning gizmo and set up his stall on the new workbench so that with reference to the genuine rebuild manual, kindly supplied by Martin at Kearsley Airways, he could take the pump apart and begin its overhaul.
It's looking good inside.

Kearsley have also generously offered to give it a function test when Gav's finished so he'll not be able to hand it back and tell us it's OK if it isn't. Alain was conspicuous by his absence this week. He married his first wife exactly a year ago expectant of free fireworks at the wedding and so has been cajoled into temporary domesticity until the event was suitably celebrated.
Doubtless we'll have him propping something up again shortly.

10th November 2006 - 15:35 (click on an image to see it in a hi-res pop-up window)

We're on the home straight now with the dismantling and it's not been too bad. The frame is almost free so we alerted John at PDS who traveled all the way up here (again) with his daughter, Annette to take a look.

The frame is mostly de-skinned so we had a stroll around it, marveled at its general condition then retired to the office to pore over the drawings.

I can't speak too highly of John, a great bloke with a fantastic sense of humour. An immensely successful businessman, he's been right behind this project since we proposed the rebuild back in 2001 and it was a delight to finally sit down with Annette and him to plan a repair strategy. It wasn't too demanding either as we've got off lightly and sticking the front back on is tried and tested fabrication practice but the standard to which PDS carry out this sort of work is truly stunning.
To keep the museologists' faces on straight, we all agreed to make the repairs visible so we can paint the new bits a different colour thus making them visible for future students of K7 whilst there'll be no compromising the finished strength of the frame. If anything is beyond repair it's coming out and the museum can have a pile of rusty scrap to put on display.

*



We found a bit of a naughty in K7's construction this week too - at least that's how it appears. I checked the drawings just in case there was a design intent behind what we discovered but what it seems has happened is that someone, way back when, was given the job of making the corrugated floors and duly ran off to bend a large panel into the ribbed sheet you see in the foreground below. only they got it wrong.

If you study the hi-res version of the above pic you'll just be able to see that the floor tucks under the bottom edge of the bulkhead. The floor is riveted to the transverse frame tube with blind Avdel rivets then the bulkhead has been fitted over the top then the outer skin outside of that. The outer skin was riveted to both the bulkhead and the end of the corrugated floor through all three thicknesses. Very strong.
Not at the other end, it wasn't. They seem to have 'dropped a bollock', as we say up here, and made the corrugated section about an inch short. Oops!
This how it's s'posed to go, corrugations neatly tucked under the turned lip of the transverse bulkhead.



.and this is what they built. (below)



Notice how the corrugated skin stops short of the turned edge of the bulkhead and doesn't tuck underneath. This means that there's now only enough length on the panel to get two rivets instead of the usual four into the frame tube. Then they've made a small additional corrugated strip about an inch wide and shoved it under the lip of the bulkhead with a few doubler plates.
Slap the outer skin over the top and clash it down with several thousand rivets - no one will ever know.
I may have this wrong, of course. And reserve the right to eat humble pie if we discover differently but Ken's original drawings for the floor support the bodge-job theory.

*

Here's one for the museologists - let's be devilish and mess with their ethics for five minutes.
K7's original hydraulic pump looked like this when we found it eighteen inches under the mud in the hull.



But its internals looked like this when we took it apart.



About the only bit that worried us was the front casing, which had corroded to the point where a circlip groove was lost and couldn't be used as it was.



Hmmm, not in good shape. So what to do with it?
It'll run and pump oil perfectly if we rebuild its twiddly bits - no loss of original fabric there - but it won't bolt accurately onto the new engine and would be unreliable because we'd not be able to retain the seals without the circlip.
The museologists would likely declare life extinct, bag and tag it whereupon it would doubtless languish in a cabinet somewhere until the end of time because no one would be bothered to look at a slightly knackered Dowty hydraulic pump.
Or they might work its decomposed remains into the corpse of a boat they'd love to build for us...
We could use a new pump after bagging and tagging the original, it's not a particularly scarce item but that would be one more item of original equipment not going back into the finished craft.
We could replace the casing, that's a museologically-correct option too as long as it's all properly recorded, and Martin at Kearsley even sent us a spare - good bloke that he is - but we'd still be leaving a repairable part on the shelf, which is contrary to our 'conserveering' approach. We had a radical idea.

Take one die-grinder with an aluminium cutter installed at the sharp end.



.lose all that nasty corrosion then whip out the TIG torch and some alloy welding rods and get some decent material stuck back on.



There we go - enough new alloy to make about half a coat hanger. Next, off to visit my mate, Jimmy Dalziel, a genius with his machine shop.



Jimmy legged-it at the sight of a camera so we almost got a pic of him. He handed the job to Phil instead who did a bit of clocking-in on the lathe followed by an hour's careful machining.



Now our pump housing will live to fight another day.



It needs a little bit of titivating but Boy-Band-Brown will fiddle 'til it's spot on and build the pump with all the bits that moved oil for Donald on Jan 4th 67.

Did we destroy history? You tell me.

17th November 2006 - 16:45 (click on an image to see it in a hi-res pop-up window)

A very quick diary entry because I'm simply out of time this week.
In a nutshell, Bluebird has begun the final stage of her journey at last. After several weeks of removing rivets, Tony Dargavel punched the last few tails through the frame tube wall and we finally had a bare steel frame.

Our next job was to make all 6 metres of it easy to handle so we stuck some wheels on the bottom. This, we've decided, now makes her closer to a tram than a boat and as Dave 'The Rivet' lives in Blackpool and has volunteered to push her up and down the sea front if only to see whether the HLF might take a fresh interest.

A quiet word with our local vehicle dismantler and good pal, Colin Rowley, otherwise known as 'Rolie' to everyone, procured us the use of a flatbed and a Hiab and K7 was soon airborne and on her way.


We've got the bows up!
We next pootled through the countryside with K7's frame safely strapped to the truck and delivered her to this bloke.



The dialogue when we first met went something like -

"Hi, my name is Bill Smith."
We shook hands then he looked at me and said,
"Bill Smith."
"Yes," I nodded. "Sorry, didn't catch your name."
"Bill Smith," he repeated.
"Yeah, that's me."
I thought he was a bit mad until I discovered he's called Bill Smith. Baffling, eh?
Bill runs Bettablast with his missus, Debbie, who fled when I whipped out my camera but thanks to their commitment to the project, Bluebird's frame now sits in their blasting cabinet awaiting cleaning commencing Monday.
Loads of thanks to Bill and Debbie for putting up with my outrageous restoration projects. Yesterday it was lawnmowers, Bluebird today, wonder if we can lift the Titanic?
We'll do a proper diary update next week when I have more time.

23rd November 2006 - 14:00 

What a great couple of weeks. We're now into the sort of work where progress isn't so obvious but it's unrelenting nonetheless - pulling the twiddly bits off the frame and punching rivet tails through.
We'll need to open inspection holes to get the debris out and vacuum the insides of the frame members at some point too. Those alloy rivet tails are still dissimilar metal so they have to come out. We'll inhibit the new ones as they go in.
In must go the long term inhibitor and we need a means of making periodic inspections inside the voids.
But one thing at a time.
K7's frame is about to be returned to full working condition. It forms the backbone of the boat; the rest is fairly straightforward aluminium cladding, which without the frame is useless.
We're only going to get one chance to bring the steelwork back to life so it has to be right at the first attempt.
Bluebird spent one more night up on her rollover jig before we had to get her down to shift the last panel.



Remember the Heritage Lottery Fund's 'experts' and their uninformed whining about 'loss of original fabric'. That one irresponsible statement swept away three years of hard work then wasted another year of our time, yet had the culprit been suitably qualified, and / or, set aside their conceit long enough to come and have a look they might at least have noticed the condition of the frame.
Those few ill-informed words could have bankrupted the museum and demoralized the project team until we gave up and lost this priceless piece of heritage to creeping water but we're all a bit tougher than that.



Nothing daunted, the frame, apart from having the cockpit section broken off, is virtually good as new and now that it's stripped there are several stages to go through before we begin the reassembly work.
The steel had to be cleaned externally before we went any further so that's how it ended up with the other Bill in his blasting facility.
You might imagine the process to be simple but believe me, it's quite a bit trickier than you'd imagine especially on something so complex.
The blast medium will easily eat through old paint and corrosion but it'll carry on through the tube if you're careless enough to let it and ensuring that every crevice is properly treated is a nightmare.
It's a harsh environment too; heavy work in bulky protective clothing but Bill (the slim one) is a past master and spent a full day amongst violently swirling grit making sure that every nook and cranny was cleaned to absolute perfection.


Someone actually commiserated with us today after mistakenly thinking we'd had to build a new frame and even my dad, who usually views metal with grave suspicion after a lifetime amongst bricks and mortar, was openly gobsmacked.

The severed cockpit sections came up equally well.



Next job was to get some inhibitor onto the bare steel. She'll remain coated throughout the x-ray process and during the re-attachment of her original front end. The covering will only come off when it's time to paint the frame.

We'll need to make a few repairs here and there but. had your granddad hobbled home from the war with a wooden leg would he still be your granddad?

We worked late spraying the frame with Dinitrol-Ardrox AV8, a moisture repelling CIC, or corrosion inhibiting compound generously given to us by Trevor from Chemmetal.
It sticks like sh*t to a blanket and you can see by looking that it's not going to let the underlying metal go rusty.
You can go to the local hardware place and buy some cheap stuff in an aerosol to keep the water off but working with the real aerospace chemicals really makes you appreciate how it should be done.



After a thorough coating of Ardrox and being left overnight to dry we loaded her up next morning and took her back to her workshop.


What can I say. huge thanks to Bill and Debbie for such a fantastic job and the beers are on me if the pair of you ever choose to take an hour off!

So, that's the outside sorted - now to the inside.
Peter Bauckham of Argos Inspection promised way back in 2001 that he'd be aboard when the time came and he's proved as good as his word.
Peter is another great bloke who's dedicated to helping us make this project a success, Bluebird's frame leaves for his facility on Monday.
Argos have already x-rayed the cockpit frame. This digital, gamma-radiography is about as good as it gets in terms of NDT (non-destructive testing) and allows us to check inside the hollow sections as readily as we can examine the outside. Take a look at this, one of K7's cockpit frame tubes from within. Clever, or what?



Using this technique we can pinpoint any internal corrosion and deal with it accordingly. We'll let you know how we get on.

12th November 2006 - 16:15 As the frame is slowly wheeled through the various stages needed to bring it back to full serviceability there are a million and one other jobs to be getting on with so Saturday saw us make a start on some of them. There were only three of us this week as I'd suggested a week off in the hope that the fanatics would stay home and spend a few hours with their neglected families. Dave went crackers when he found out! Tony, Alain and I quietly met up and got through a fair amount of work. Boy-band came over on Friday afternoon too and finished building the hydraulic pump but that's another story. Tony set about cleaning two of the outriggers - frame 2, port and starboard, and absorbed himself in the application of some evil-looking paint stripper that 'Chemettal Trevor' left on his last visit. It doesn't take any prisoners, I can tell you!

This is how the panel looked before he started; a bit muddy with flaking paint until liberally slapped over with green gunk.

Tony then gave it a scrape with a plastic scrapey-thing as per Chris' conservator training.

.whereupon it came up looking like this.

Now this is important - look carefully down the left hand edge (Tony's right) and you'll see a line about half an inch wide that's less reflective than the rest of the metal. This dull region then turns through ninety-degrees and runs along the top of the panel just above the oval hole where the steering shaft passes through. What you're looking at is where the alloy was riveted to the steel frame and where galvanic corrosion has etched the surface. We've conclusively proved how much water remained in the frame and now here's evidence of the effect it's been having - maybe one day someone will believe us. We'll now chemically kill the corrosion then etch-prime and paint each panel in preparation for putting them back.

*

In the meantime, while Tony was stripping paint, I set about the other fuel boost pump. Remember how Martin at Kearsley had the first one worked on until it came back in airworthy condition. Amazing stuff but there's only a limited reserve of spares for such an old piece of kit and asking for two overhauls was just plain greedy so having been shown how it should be done then provided with the manual I stripped the other one to see what we had. It was a bit sorry looking to begin with.

What we think happened is that by the time we came looking for Bluebird, the tank in which this one lived, the one deep in the hull, had rotted through many years previously and had rusted internally thus coating the workings of the pump with red iron oxide and seizing it solid. The other tank, the small one on the bulkhead where the filter used to live, was still full of jetfuel because it's more heavily built and hadn't rotted through. That pump wasn't so bad whereas this one seemed in a rather sorry condition. I took it apart.

Next its innards went in Boy-band's ultrasonic bath where they buzzed away for half the afternoon.

What an absolute joy Bluebird is to work on; such a departure from the modern world of throwaway machinery where machines are assembled rather than built. It's almost as though someone back then prepared the old girl against the worst scenario - what if she had to lie neglected for forty years? Metal-spray everything, anodize, paint and protect it all just in case. It's a rare privilege to pick up their work half a century later and find that such thoroughness has saved this unique machine. To think that all this metal has been under water for thirty-four years.

Whilst all this was going on, Alain went about removing a most horrible looking conglomeration of scrap from beneath engine number 711.

It's actually the fuel pump, filter and delivery unit. If you think of the engine as the heart of the boat then this is the heart of the engine. The bulk of the powerplant is little more than a tube full of spinning blades into which the above piece of equipment accurately meters fuel to make the engine a controllable machine rather than a horribly dangerous explosion-in-waiting. It's another mechanical work of art that's been in waterlogged hibernation for the best part of forty years. What Alain salvaged from under there is Bluebird's original set up and we're determined that given a sprinkling of luck plus lots of time and hard work it'll run her new engine as it did the old one when the time comes. More on this part of the rebuild as we progress it.

*

One truly heartwarming aspect of this project is the unyielding support from both industry and individuals. Bill and Debbie at Bettablast worked hard to give us a beautifully cleaned frame onto which we applied those serious chemicals donated by 'Chemmetal Trevor', the list goes on and on and the latest rock on our journey to completing this project is Peter Bauckham, MD of Argos Inspection.

I can't remember how it went but I think I picked up the phone book back in 2001, looked up 'non-destructive testing', and asked for the boss of the first company I found. They put me through to Peter and he immediately pledged his support. How lucky was that! Today, five years later, we finally delivered K7's frame to his facility and found him as committed today as he was back then. "We're going to make this happen," he told me. A proud and gratifying moment indeed. thanks, Peter.

I've spoken with Steve at Airframes this week too, his crew are currently wincing at a buckled floor section as I try to reassure them that it never has to fly again and only needs a spot of straightening so we can put it back whilst Le grand fromage, Mr Knapp, keeps checking on me to see that we're being true to our conservation training as we re-engineer our heap of scrap into something that'll live and breathe once more. Truth-be-told, I'm driving the engineers nuts with my tortuous schemes for saving what ought to be dead metal but we've said from the off that we'd put back every possible piece of original material and where that's not possible we'll display the wrecked bit in the museum with the reason behind its knackeredness (is that a word?) so the purists can gnash their teeth and curse us freely.

14th December 2006 - 11:30 (click on an image to see it in a hi-res pop-up window)

So as we head into the closing days of 2006 we can at last enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that the rebuild is well on the way and there's nothing to stop us now.
One of the big doubts we had about involving the Hopeless Lottery Fund was that once the boat was signed over to the museum they might try to thwart the project (into which we invited them as full partners) and this caused us a real dilemma.
The bureaucrats were always jittery about the boat being in our impatient, non-museological hands whilst we were jittery about the tweedies possibly conspiring with HLF in one of their classic u-turns to leave K7 as a corroding heap of scrap rather that rebuild her if the deal wasn't properly structured.
Answer - sack the Hopeless Lottery Fund, sack the museologists (with the exception of Chris who knows what he's doing) and so eliminate any worries about getting less than a proper job done.
Oh, and get the boat safely into the museum's ownership, which is exactly what happened on Thursday - the day a freak tornado flattened half of London, which is why you most likely missed Gina formally giving K7 to the people of Coniston. We also planned Donald's funeral for 12th September 2001. yet another quiet news day, we hoped.


Bluebird has now been returned to the care of those who watched over her for those thirty-four silent years.
Now we need an extended museum too so good job my dad is a building consultant with about 50 years in the trade. Dave is also a specialist surveyor so between us all we know more architects, quantity surveyors, structural engineers and skilled tradesmen than you can shake a stick at. It'll be sorted.
Life without bureaucracy - very empowering!
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the team have been hard at it.


Chemmetal Trevor dropped by with some paint stripper that could only have come from Hogwarts. You mix a clear oily liquid with water - except that it doesn't mix and instead sits sulkily on the bottom until you insert an air hose to get it moving. Add a heater to warm it up then blend in half a dozen outriggers.
Simmer on low heat for half an hour, wipe with a sponge then garnish with dry paper towels.


Weird! The chemicals don't burn your skin either and only smell faintly of Semtex, which I'm told makes their use somewhat challenging in the world of commercial aviation, at least if you're a sniffer-dog handler.
In the meantime, our frame remains with Peter Baukham at Argos and with one thing and another I've not had time to go for a look-see but it's due out of there this coming Wednesday so we'll get the verdict then. However I did speak to him today and with certain trepidation enquired as to the frame's internal condition.
"Fine," I was assured. "Some of the welds are crap though."
PDS are all set to take it away to reattach the original front end. We've agreed that work will begin on the 4th January and depending on what Peter's report throws up we'll either be on Coniston looking for scrap in the deepest depths of winter or its slightly warmer shallows if we're very lucky.
We've been back to school too. Having been taught how to take rivets out and honed our skills to perfection we thought we'd best learn about putting them back again.
Brian Dixon is ex-84 squadron (I think) knows all about rivets and teaches at Newcastle College. He's a pal of Chris' and something big in the BAPC (British Aircraft Preservation Council). Being as enthusiastic as us on his subject as we are on ours he offered to take us under his wing (good pun eh?) and give us a private course in rivetology. What a fun day out with the lads.
It was back to the classroom for us all, especially Tony, who studied in the same building many years ago as an apprentice and suffered traumatic flashbacks for most of the day. He informed us with a wink where we could expect the girls to be congregated though we saw little sign of them and were finally thrown out by a security guard late in the evening after most of the doors had been locked.


Brian sat us down and explained about pitch, lands, spheres of influence, snaps, bucking-bars and 'yak-sh*t'. Fascinating.
Next - to the workshop where we all had a go.


The bottom line is that as a process it's not too difficult, it'll just take a bit of care and practice 'til we get good at it.
Even the otherwise desk-bound Hannarack did OK though we mostly agreed that we'd not want to try and break any speed records in anything held together with Paul's early attempts at riveting.
True to form, just as things were reaching a peak of excitement, Rob's phone rang and he was called away. This seems to happen with a regularity beyond coincidence leading Tony to remark that we ought to call him Clark Kent as he's conspicuous by his absence whenever something crucial is going on.
He's always there when improvements around the workshop are needed however, and these continued this week with the addition of a small blasting cabinet..


.which Alain immediately identified as another place to lean. The truth was even more ridiculous.
Notice the electrical conduit disappearing behind his right shoulder. It leads to a double socket on the wall but Alain had failed to consider this when bolting the steel framework to the floor so he discovered too late that the enclosure badly fouled the blast-cabinet when he placed it atop the frame. He then stood in front of his cock-up grinning madly and trying to dream up a fix before we found out.
It's not natural, and surprisingly difficult, to insert a plug at thirty degrees off the vertical as he's now repositioned the socket.
Notice also the new bench in the background with a couple of sparkling outriggers glinting nicely. Progress!
The process for refurbishment of the outriggers is as follows - half an hour in the Harry Potter paint stripping bath until the paint has mysteriously vanished followed by rinsing and drying.
Then into the blast cabinet to have any corrosion and tenacious bits of paint removed with a fine ali-oxide blast medium (donated FOC by Hogg Pneumatics, by the way).
Finally, twenty minutes in a hydrofluoric / phosphoric acid cocktail, that's so evil it ought to sport a picture of Hannibal Lechter on the barrel, before rinsing in de-ionized water and drying again.
Trevor made doubly sure that sure we knew this acid is the real-deal so no one is allowed near it until they've written a thousand-word essay on the ways in which it can dissolve your skeleton from the inside out and been quizzed on the data safety sheet.
We installed a small wheeling machine too - an 'English Wheel' a clever little contraption. You can buy this one on e-bay in kit form.
Its designer wants the world to know that his creation is being used on our project so we were able to obtain ours rather more easily.
It took a bit of jigging straight and a lot of tricky welding but once assembled we gave it to Alain to bolt onto the bench (no sockets in the way this time), left him to it then had a play once it was fastened down.
Dave and I were thoroughly impressed at our instant ability to wheel a double curvature panel (not that it would fit anywhere on the boat - much practice needed) and by the resilience of the little machine. Most pleased.


Once we get all the panels cleaned up we can paint the floor and get the workshop spic and span for the return of the frame. Meanwhile, anyone know where there's a small foot operated guillotine, a set of rolls and a box and pan folder going spare?


22nd December 2006 - 12:00

The last week before Christmas and things are ramping down for the holidays but the mood is jubilant. We're making great progress. We did a spot of tin-bashing this week.



See all those nifty, little panels sticking out from the side of the main frame. we call them outriggers. Now see what happened, below.
There was a huge dig in the starboard side of K7 immediately aft of the main spar where the sponson came back through the hull.

"Must fix that," I said to Chris one day.
"Why?" he asked.
"Because the water will p*ss in when we put her back on the lake," I replied as though it were the most obvious thing ever said.
He scowled and said,
"Justify it."

Chris always does that to me, conservator that he is.
So here goes.
The choice is to leave a big hole like I said but she'll not float for long and floating is a must - she's a boat.
Alternatively we could scrap loads of material in favour of new and have the tweedies say, 'told you so'.
Or. adventurous as it seems we could fix what we have.
Seemed obvious enough to the lads.


Above you can see the dent and when we got behind the wrecked skin it became obvious that the outrigger in the centre of this outrage had been blasted almost in half.
This is by far the most badly damaged example on the boat. Everything other one is in better condition so we're looking at a worst-case.
Try to ignore the large hammer I'm wielding and the chisel (knocking the pre-drilled heads off the rivets) but if you look instead immediately to my right and in the middle foreground you'll see an outrigger that's almost ripped in two.


Removed and cleaned of its paint it looked like this.


Not hopeful but when clamped to the bench and considered carefully things began to improve.


Several hours of careful dressing and heat-shrinking ensued until the knackered outrigger began to relax and behave - it'd been stressed for many years, after all.


A spot of welding next - this stuff welds very nicely and one day last week when the guy from our welding suppliers popped in with next year's girlie calendar we tapped him for some proper TIG rods to weld 5000 series alloys.
He sort of smiled wistfully at being captured but next day we had exactly the right kit for the job. Thanks to Alan of Leengate Welding Supplies - owe you one.
So now the outrigger is back in one piece.


'Rebuilding this craft will result in considerable and imaginative use of what would otherwise have been scrap metal'



That's what the 'experts' should have written.


Getting there now (above). Ali-oxide blasting and acid to follow.


Right - now we have something we can work with.
What would have become a piece of scrap had we heeded museological law will now be reborn when we add a doubler-plate to replace its stiffness and we'll pick up on the existing rivet holes to avoid drilling any new ones because we care about the Tweedies.
It'll take a lot of tweaking and fettling to make it fit exactly as before but if it takes a week or a month then so what? We're not on a deadline here. It would take half a minute to put it in the bin.
Structural integrity will be ensured as the doubler will easily do the work whilst our outrigger, like a war veteran taken back to the scene of a famous campaign, will be expected to do no more.
It has proved its point on seven previous successful WWSR challenges and will travel next time as our structurally-supported guest of honour.
Would you rather it ended its days as a twisted curiosity in the museum or perhaps melted down for souvenirs? How about a boat that won't float?
Answers please, museologists.

*

Back to the main story. Yet another good week in the world of the Bluebird Project and Saturday found most of the team hard at work.
Novie was under the weather whilst Alain was under the thumb but Tony, Rob, 'Dave the Rivet' and I showed for work and cracked-on cleaning the outriggers and transverse bulkhead panels.
Well, kind of.
You see, the bulkheads won't fit into the Hogwarts paint-stripping bath (which is still working!) so we need another of our imaginative engineering ideas to get the paint off.
So, in true Clark Kent style, but without wearing his underpants on the outside, Rob stripped off his coat and got down to constructing what immediately became known as 'Rob's paddling pool.'
We soon caught him impersonating a garden gnome.


The paddling pool will be fibreglassed internally and we'll set it up as the second stripping bath.
Dave 'the rivet' did what he does best.


.and drilled rivets from the bulkheads ahead of getting them into the pot.
We had a new bloke join us this week too and he's destined to keep popping up from here on.
His name is Keith, I went to school with him and he's a professional cameraman who, though he can't drill rivets, can work all the latest cameras, produce movies, direct the evening news and otherwise talk a good job as a luvvie when it comes to TV work.
We were treated to an explanation of Digi-Beta, HD, PAL and NTSC, which I'm assured stands for,


'Never Twice the Same Colour.'


He remained the most unobtrusive cameraman we've ever worked with for about half an hour but soon had us repeating conversations, pretending to work when we weren't and carefully noting which pair of gloves we were wearing and when so as not to mess up his continuity. TV types, they're all the same!


We've absolutely no idea what we're going to do with the footage as Keith, like the rest of us, is indulging his hobby on his own time and voluntarily shooting miles of tape to chronicle the laughs and the fun.
But be assured that everything's going in the can for someday in the future.

Speaking of cans.
If you look carefully at the above you'll notice it was supplied by


'Indestructible Paint Ltd'


What a fantastic name for a company! (http://www.indestructible.co.uk/)
They're not kidding either and have promised to help us out, which is fantastic as I more fully understand the effect of oestrogen on my wife's moods than I do paint chemistry.
(Wait 'til she reads that!)
Their products are used on everything from narrow-boats to Blackhawk helicopters and what you see above is a three-part aluminium filler that's good for 100 hours at 200 degrees Celsius!
Indestructible - and perfect to fill the surface corrosion on our panels prior to painting (not that we ever plan to get them hot - it was just an example of the filler's capabilities)
We hope to be working closely with Indestructible Paint Ltd. in the coming weeks as they are one of those companies who do the nine-to-five thing effortlessly whilst reserving the capacity to pull something special out of the stores for a project such as ours.
Thanks to Indestructible Paint for good advice and yet more astonishing chemicals - early days and we're extremely impressed.
Back to the yarn.
Prior to filling, but after stripping, blasting and acid-etching our panels tend to look like this, excellent overall condition with just some surface pitting.


And here are a few bits after cleaning and a slap of filler - looking good - put the paint on soon.


Now then, to give context to what you're looking at, if you study the 'n' shaped panel top left (ignore the grey-painted chunk of steel it's standing on, that's a leftover from when we built the rollover jig) you can that see exactly where the piece in question used to live in the pic' below.
It's from where the steering shaft emerges through the transom and you can see that the shaft actually passes through the panel we're looking at above.
We think it's a water baffle as it lends nothing useful to the structure and is one of the more fiddly pieces of the hull.
Its partner from the opposite side of the boat is also shown above.


Below is the skin into which it fits.


Lots of outriggers to munch through now and as I keep reiterating - nothing difficult, just lots of it!
Think of our job as cutting a big lawn. A simple process - stretching away into the distance.
At this point I must say a special thank you to everyone at Argos Inspection especially Peter Bauckham, Eve and Malcolm, the unsung hero on the tools.
Peter is the bloke, you'll remember, whom I called up in 2001 and said, 'will you look after all our non-destructive testing?'
He said yes then watched over the job five years later. Below is Malcolm getting his hands dirty.


He's the guy who actually did the knife and fork work that's provided me with a powerful and welcome excuse to shove a CD full of scientific data up the next archaeologist's nose who dares so much as breathe the words, 'loss of original fabric'.
It's one thing for me to spout over-confident bullsh*t - quite another to have irrefutable scientific data to back it up.
Here's the frame being x-rayed.


What you're looking at is a phosphor plate (the black rectangular thing behind the tubes) that can be exposed like a photograph using x-rays then scanned as a digital image by an unobtrusive machine the size and shape of a fridge that likely cost a million quid.
The images can then be post-processed using dedicated software, not unlike the system we use on our sonar data, to determine the precise extent of any corrosion.
The green-coloured strip taped to the frame tube contains a series of numbers made of lead that show against the x-ray image. They're positioned relative to a datum on each tube and are set at 50mm centres so if you spot so much as a scratch in the metal you can pin it down to the millimetre and deal with it.
Here's the other side of things.


The x-ray source is positioned opposite the plate, bit like when you end up in A&E and they send you down to shoot an image of your broken bones.
The team at Argos did a fantastic job, extremely professional yet easy to work with and friendly throughout. I did, however, have to laugh at the final irony.
Remember Donald and his, "advanced engineering - rocketry, what have you."
And the myth that Bluebird was made of the best materials by the finest of craftsmen.
Well she failed her NDT survey miserably.
Condemned - on the quality of the welds!
But the frame tubes are fine.
Next on the list is a full survey and refurbishment by PDS and then we'll be talking to another sponsor who have just come aboard, Bristol Metal Spraying. But more of them in the New Year.
We'll be working over the holidays so we'll post the latest developments in January. Hopefully we'll see a few of you in Coniston this coming January too so in the meantime, the Bluebird Project is signing off and all that's left is to wish you all a great Christmas.