First, many sincere thanks to all who emailed last month to send get well soon wishes, prayers, commiserations and good vibes. Ruthie and I really appreciated them all and they certainly helped us keep our spirits up during the worst of the ordeal. Anyway, after almost three weeks, the hospital doctors finally let me out and my plan is to return to full time work in mid August. I feel good, although I know my "endurance" is nowhere near what it was, however I'm confident that time and long walks will fix this. My last word on the subject to all you aging males out there is to please have yourself checked for prostate cancer regularely (which now has the largest incidence of all types amongst Australian males). If you can't face the thought of some doctor's finger up the wazoo—and I don't blame you one little bit; neither could I— have a blood check and get your PSA measured regularly. For me it's too late, but if this helps even one person out there catch it early, I'll really think this web site has accomplished something.
South-east Queensland where I live is now suffering the worst cold period of the year as the westerly and south-westerly winds blow across the big, flat, and largely dead interior of Australia, resulting in temperatures falling as low on some mornings as 5°Celsius (41°F); a joke, I know, but it feels cold to us . This will be the last gasp of our so-called winter and it will get real hot, real fast come September. For all that, I must admit that it's been rather nice to stay in bed on these cold mornings, rather than doing battle with the traffic!
Hobby Mechanics Goes Web 2.0
An email arrived during July announcing that the Hobby Mechanics web site has had a total rewrite incorporating "Web 2.0" technology like shopping carts and context sensitive product options. Even though the company is essentially an Australian model engineering supplier, I feel this is worthy of note because they are also an authorized supplier of casting sets for the Quorn Tool and Cutter Grinder. While this will be of no use to UK readers, those in the USA and other places have found it is considerably cheaper to but their Quorn parts from Australia, thus taking advantage of the favourable exchange rate and lower freight costs. As well as the Quorn, Hobby Mechanics offer casting kits for many other items of workshop tooling, Queensland Government Railway (QGR) class locomotives in 5" gauge, and the usual hard to find things like tiny fasteners, taps, and dies in the British Association (BA) and Model Engineer (ME) series. The new web site truly does make it easier for you to part with your money via Visa, Mastercard, PayPal, or direct deposit.
Wire EDM Weaver
Some time back, while looking at a photo of the extrusion which David Owen designed for his Mate 2cc diesel, Dave Miner (Seattle, WA) made one of those out-of-the-box leaps which biological thinkers, as opposed to silicon, are so good at. The sections of extrusion are long gone and there will never be any more, but the shape could be sawn from thick aluminium plate, and the most accurate "saw" for this job would be wire EDM. Dave made his Mate (see MEN, December 2005), and was so pleased with the result that he emailed asking if there was another design which would be amenable to the same approach? Sure, I replied; the Weaver-Ransom 1cc diesel. The photo here shows two of Dave's Weaver crankcase blanks produced by EDM, compared to a spare Weaver case I hogged from the solid younks ago. As silent testament to both our skills, the profiles are a perfect match.
Now a wire EDM is not exactly the sort of thing you are going to find in the average machine shop. Then there's the knowledge of what allowance to make for the wire kerf when producing the codes, or DXF outline, for input to the machine. But if have access to such facilities, the end result is all you could ask for and could be applied to many other engine designs. For more photos of Dave's Weaver, visit Page 16 of the Engine Gallery.
I just could not resist including this shot which was sent in by Tom Colletta (USA). It's the Firebaby, one of the myriad of designs from the fertile mind of Jim Walker, tha man largely acknowledged as the Father of U-control, or control-line, if you prefer. I got a big buzz flying at the Jim Walker Memorial field with the Portland Fireballs while living in the area, so I knew I'd be positively predisposed to his ideas, but looking closely, the number of innovations on this simple RTF can't fail to impress (there was a biplane version too, as I recall from advertisements in Model Airplane News). Most noticeable is the "reverse, self-neutralizing bellcrank" which looks just like what we use today in all out competition F2B models. Then there's the balloon in the cockpit tank, the simple elevator hinging, the anti-warp lead-out guide, etc. It must have weighed nothing—as compared to the plastic RTFs—and probably bounced when it hit the ground. At worst, there'd be a split in the printed (and so fuel proofed) balsa, easily repaired with a trusty tube of Ambroid. Those were the days...
Just when you thought... yes, I'm sorry to say that the MARZ page has been updated, Yet Again (and never again, we promise). There are a few new paragraphs and a global edit to change "Marz" to MARZ, because it turns out that the name is an acronym, the English translation of which would be Moscow Aero Services Factory. While doing the updates, I noticed that the page makes mention of the earlier Soviet Ritm 2.5cc FAI competition diesel. By coincidence, a reader emailed a photo of his Ritm (or "Rythm", if you prefer) for identification during July—as pictured here instead of a MARZ, just to confuse you. So I've tagged the relevant section in the MARZ text and added a new entry in the Engine Finder for the Ritm 2.5cc diesel which may help others identify that odd watzit with Cyrillic writing on the front bearing housing.
It's a sad but inevitable fact that the ranks of people with first-hand knowledge of the early days of model engine manufacturing are thinning rapidly. Luckily, some far-sighted people took the opportunity to record conversations with some of these pioneers before the inevitable, so there's still a chance to transcribe the information and make it available through web search engines. Around 1990, Jim Woodside (UK) recorded a conversation with Frank Ellis, the co-founder of Aerol Engineering, the company behind the justly famous Elfin plain bearing and ball-bearing diesels that distinguished themselves in sport and competition in the middle of the last century. The tapes passed to Ron Moulton with the intention of creating a short biography for publication in Aeromodeller. This did not happen, but Adrian Duncan and Jim have now been able to prepare a much longer, in-depth profile of Frank and his work on the Elfin range of engines. As usual, click the image, or look in the People Index to locate the Frank Ellis Tribute Page.
New Books and Magazines This Month
It's a fair bet that if you are attracted to a web site devoted to model engines and model engineering, then you will probably have some interest in both model and full-size aircraft. In fact, that attraction will most likely pre-date the engine fetish—it certainly does for me. As I think I've mentioned before, I gained my private pilot's license in 1968 and began building an all-metal Thorpe T-18 in 1969. This taught me a lot about working in metal and kindled an interest in machining that would later lead to the garage full of tools I enjoy so much today. It may also explain why the title we are looking at this month caught my eye when spotted in a TEE Publications catalog.
The book is The First Home-Built Aeroplanes, by Arthur WJG Ord-Hume, Stenlake Publishing Ltd, UK, 2009, ISBN 971-84033-449-4. It is a large format, soft cover book comprising 110 pages with four full color plates depicting magazine covers. The pages are essentially very good quality reproductions of three serialized light aircraft construction features which appeared in Practical Mechanics (PM), starting in 1935, 1937, and 1959, prefaced with a most enlightening foreword, subtitled, How Practical Mechanics Made History, by the author who was also the author of the 1959 series that appears in the book.
In the foreword, Ord-Hume tells how Henri Mignet's Pou du Ciel, or "Flying Flee" design crossed the channel, eventually to appear as a six part serial in PM under the editorship of FJ Camm (brother to Hawker Hurricane designer, Sir Sydney Camm). As the first home-built Fleas began rolling out of garages and falling out of skies, PM responded with a more conventional design, the Luton LA.4 Minor. Barely had this series completed when all private flying in England was prohibited due to the outbreak of war. Never the less, Luton Minors were completed and registered, and it was one of these, G-AFIR, which was acquired after the war, damaged and engine-less, by Mr Ord-Hume and rebuilt to incorporate several improvements of his own. The author describes how he became expert in ...jacking up the registration and fitting a new airframe... and eventually made contact with the original LA.4 designer to form a company with him to promote the new LA.4a Luton Minor. The story goes full circle when the revised design was serialized in PM starting in September 1959.
Today, many would associate the home-built aircraft movement with the Oskosh Wisconson based Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), and there can be no argument that the EAA has and continues to do more to foster and support this activity than any other group. But we tend to forget that in the early days of flying, most of the innovation was taking place in France. A statement like The First Home-Built Aircraft is bound to raise an argument, unless qualified. In 1910, Alberto Santos-Dumont, an Argentinean living in Paris, was happily giving plans of his very practical little Demoiselle monoplane to any who wanted a copy. In 1926, American Ed Heath designed the Heath Parasol and sold plans for what could be termed the first Heathkit. Plans for this Heath Parasol were also published in Modern Mechanix in 1931 and over 1000 kits sold. Still in the USA, plans for the Ford model A powered Pietenpol Sky Scout were published in the 1939 Flying Manual. So a "first" claim without geospatial qualification may be subject to a certain nationalistic bias, although there is no dispute that the British Popular Flying Association (PFA) was formed before the EAA. As I say, a subject guaranteed to generate more heat than light (someone really needs to correct the Wikipedia entry which says the Demoiselle was published in PM too!)
Another thing I'm a sucker for is artfully drawn plans and illustrations. Ok, modern 3D CAD is more likely to be correct and CAD plans are far more maintainable, but to me there is a certain something about the old pen and ink plans and drawings in this book that is just magical. The page I've chosen here is a fair example and a tribute to the PM house-style draft persons (most likely female). I've no intention of building a wood aeroplane, and even if I did, it would certainly not be Flying Flea, or a Luton Minor, but I enjoyed reading the articles and the introductory history for all sorts of reasons, so I'm giving The First Home-Built Aeroplanes the full Five Stars . You can order through TEE (UK), or Amazon.
Engine Of The Month: MEC
This month it's back to the obscure, post-war English diesels, specifically, the lightweight MEC 1.2cc. Adrian Duncan has gathered as much information about this obscure little engine as possible, short of just what the letters "MEC" stood for, if anything. The engine itself was rather short lived and would make a wonderful subject for a set of plans as it is a very simple, straight-forward, side-port made entirely from bar-stock. As Adrian points out, the only negative to the design is the mounting method which uses holes in a flanged backplate. As the latter has a conventional right-hand thread, there is a danger of the engine unscrewing during starting!
Tech Tip of the Month
Here's a little tip on the removal of rust that I hope will be of value to restorers of engines, and those who return to the workshop after a short absence to find a nasty surprise waiting on some prized piece of equipment or tooling. The "before" photo here shows my test subject which some may recognize as a Dremel Moto-tool collet chuck spanner—though how anyone can recognize anything under that truly massive growth is anyone's guess. I could just show you the "after" shot and tell you how it was achieved in one paragraph, but I think this tip needs to be neatly indexed under the How-To index, so click the photo, or follow this following link to the How To Remove Rust page.
Don't Forget The Deller
While writing the introduction to this month's book review, it dawned on me that there is another connection between the book on review and to our main subject matter too; one which suddenly made me realize there is Yet Another set of (almost compete) drawings for a vintage model engine hidden away in the 940 (and growing) pages that comprise the on-line version of Model Engine News. The connection is the long gone British magazine, Practical Mechanics which published not only the plans for the Flying Flea, and Luton Minor, but also a rather unique little spark ignition engine known, after it's designer, as the Deller. This engine is indexed in the Engine Finder, but not in the Plans Index Page, an oversight that has now been rectified.