A Special Builder's Notes


The Special Builder's Breakfast Club

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09 January 2013

As If I Were Asking For The World.

The search for honeycomb mesh, not just at a convenient distance from home, but anywhere in the UK, has proven as ridiculously difficult as the time we looked for a Warner Scarab for the Avro.  At the time, according to our sources, the place was awash with Scarabs; couldn't give 'em away, but when we went to look....nothing. We ended up buying one with an aeroplane on the end of it (not its original engine so we didn't feel too bad) and pinching that. But I digress. So frustrating was the search for the mesh that I resolved to make it myself from brass strip - a relatively simple task once I'd dreamt up in the small hours, the tooling. Then I thought, well, why not ditch the honeycomb idea and put a woven steel grille over the front and dress it up with some script to take the eye off what's behind. Aha! an excellent proposal.

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And the mesh would have been the stuff had it not been a zillion £'s a square inch. I thunked again and tapped into the computer 'filtration mesh'; I remembered it from my days in the sugar beet factory as being more or less the same stuff as peddled by the car spares people. The result of this search was, as I suspected, what looked like the exact same stuff but instead of £60 for a 9" x 40" piece (not particularly useful for the average vintage radiator) it was £50 for a piece roughly 40" square. The jury's still out but it's a step in the right direction.

As I promised myself, I got out the engine-turning machine and dusted it off. It's a simple affair that I made by cutting down a cheap pedestal drill - actually the only one I had at the time but I needed to do the dashboard on the Austin Special. I made up a rigid frame and a peg board system and it's proved to be extremely successful.

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The abrasive part is just a disc of Scotch-brite super-glued to an old router cutter. Each 'turning' only takes half a second but it's essential to get whatever pattern you make, consistent. The vertical movement is set by the pegboard but the lateral movement is eyeballed.

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For woodwork, the machine also doubles as a handy scarfing device by simply screwing on the angled (roughly 15:1mm) block. When I did the Austin bodywork, I used 2 layers of 1.5mm aircraft ply. The first layer of panels, laid longitudinally, was all scarfed together to achieve a completely smooth surface ready for the top layer of 45 degree strips. The body is immensely strong and rigid - just like the wings for the aerobatic aircraft that I used to help build using the same method.

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Anyway, I'm pleased not to have forgotten how to make the basic turning pattern and so I laid out the instrument panel to see if it was going to work. There's a couple of things missing: the levers on the column, indicator buttons and the exhaust volume control; horn, Miss X's vanity mirror and so on. It's a start.

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Incidentally, I forgot to mention; I saw Learned Counsel in the yard and, passing the time of day, told him I was just slipping off to the hardware shop to see if there was anything in the gardening or hamster cage line that might do for the grille. 'What, for the Hillman Hamster you mean', he chuckled. A bit later he asked how the 'Hillman Hamster' was coming on so it's obviously hugely amusing and clearly, over the next few weeks he's going to become quite insufferable.

Would I call  his car names? As if...

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