A Special Builder's Notes


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08 February 2020

A Shoulder To The Wheel.

Having built the English Wheel, I needed some idea of how to use it. YouTube, with its massive library of videos on the subject was inspiring and I bought a couple of 'how to' books to sustain me. But, there's no substitute for hands-on experience so I elected to go on a short 3-day course with MPH Motor Panels down in Liskeard where I quickly learnt that a good measure of the information I had gleaned from these sources was at most sketchy and to a certain extent, misleading.

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The course run by Geoff Moss, owner of MPH, was a no-frills, intensive look at the fundamentals of the use of the wheeling machine. Happily, the classwork extended only to the piece of paper visible on the E-Type bonnet on which Geoff described my first task.

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I had to raise a flat panel to the shaped panel above and then return it to its original state; perfectly flat and with no 'oil-canning' - tension in the panel causing it to 'pop' when pressure was applied. I spent the first day doing this, repeating the exercise over and over. Not being used to the wheel, I had at first some difficulty in feeding the panel from side-to-side through the wheel and anvil but by the end of the day I had the method sort of weighed off and managed to produce the desired result more than once.

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The second day was taken up with raising a dome. This had to be symmetrical and again it took some time to get the right combination of wrist movement to keep the tracking of the wheel both tight and straight.

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For the first development a shrinking machine pulled the edges of the disc in to help the depth of the dome develop. By this time the centre had started to wander off so extra work was needed to pull the metal back to where it should have stayed. Once back on track, the anvil was changed for one with a slightly higher crown and a bossing hammer created larger shrinking tucks in the edge to pull the metal round even further.

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My finished dome wasn't too bad for a teenager, though I have to admit that both Geoff and his assistant, Ed, had at intervals to intervene when they saw me going down a blind alley.

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On the third day I got into a complete muddle by not properly concentrating on the job. The reverse curve was a complex shape to create and Geoff knocked up a template (on the right) for me to work to. I was doing (in my view) moderately well. The first crown (on the left) was looking good with the edge shrunk to Geoff's pattern. Turning the metal over, the reverse began to develop along encouraging lines. Then, a moments inattention (three day's wheeling makes your shoulders ache) and the valley started to flatten and lift. My finished panel was something of a team effort; the exercise pulled back from the scrap bin only by the skill of the master.



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