Friday, 30 September 2016

It WILL go, it MUST!!!...

The last time I mowed our reasonably sized lawns (nothing like yours, James!) I used the electric cylinder mower.  Now if I were to cut them every few days, I would be fine with the lack of grunt from the electric, but I'd still have to put up with the damned cable dragging around and catching on the plants, taking the flowers off them.
So, I resolved to get a cheap petrol mower. It had to be a cylinder type because I like my stripes and I find rotaries to be vulgar.

Well, I hunted around and was sent to see overpriced broken down things, or no price forthcoming or even rotaries when I'd specified cylinder, so I gave up and resolved to continue with the electric thing.
Then, a new chum rung and actually gave me a decent price for his.  It turned out to be an earlyish Suffolk Super Colt.  Not sure what's super about it, but it is all made in England including the little 78cc sidevalve engine.
I knew it needed a new petrol tap due to leakage from the old one, so I ordered a new one which is a better rotary style tap, rather than a push-pull. The new one comes with a sintered brass filter which sits in the tank and a couple of feet of clear pipe.  I also had to get a new exhaust gasket as the old one fell to bits when I removed the exhaust can for a clean.  Put all together, new fuel from a new can and pulled.  And pulled, and......then I realised I hadn't turned the nice new fuel tap on!  Did that and pulled.....and pulled.....and.....Ah, I haven't tickled the carb., so I tickled till it leaked and pulled and pulled and....Nothing, not a peep.
So I removed the plug and tried spark, the Suffolk complaint.  This requires removal of the flywheel to clean and adjust the points.  I have neither three hands or a flywheel puller.

So, I ring up son-in-law and ask for his help for half an hour.  No problem...heart of gold, young Ian. He brings a gizmo that lights up if there's any chance of a spark.  It didn't.  It stayed dark.  This is where the third hand came in.  Whilst Ian gave the removed and lightly re-fitted crankshaft nut a sharp crack with a copper faced Thor hammer, I twisted a stubby screwdriver in the convenient gap behind the flywheel. Pop!, it just tumbled off.
All reading on forums had led me to understand that the Suffolk engines used a coil and condenser. Knowing how unreliable those components had become these days, I feared the worst, but on removal of the flywheel we were faced with a large black blob with magnets sticking out of it!  We had a magneto.  The whole thing was satisfyingly clean, but clearly hadn't turned for a long time. Magnet shaped marks were on the inside rim of the flywheel and some powdery crud was all round the points. Using a feeler gauge to further clean the gap, after we'd ascertained the lobe that operates the points, we then slid a folded piece of 1000 grit wet and dry twixt the points and gently sanded this way and that.  Checking the admittedly rather tapered gap we decided that the average gap was, more than likely 20 thou. on the feeler gauge, so left it well alone.
Put everything back, tightened nuts and bolts, turned on fuel, tickled, choke on and pulled the cord.  It fired and ran!  In fact it nearly went off across the lawn on its own!  Very shortly it ceased to turn its cutting blades and then stalled.  We checked it for stiffness.  Much too much effort to hand turn things, so off with the guards and we found the chain from engine to cutters was way too tight.  We loosened it and oiled the chain and things felt much better. Started (no problem) and off it went, but kept stalling.  It transpired that my efforts to find a motor mower had resulted in the grass being a wee bit higher than ideal.  So we adjusted the front roller down and the machine finally trundled along cutting a beautiful fine grade of cuttings.

Problem is.....the engine needs maximum choke to run, then it runs fast, but won't answer the throttle. Close the choke and fiddle with the throttle lever and it dies.  Now, apparently this means that the settings are lean, potentially dangerous, so all that remains is for experiments in further, deeper cleaning of the carburettor and adjustment of it's needle valves until we have a smooth idle and some degree of control from the throttle lever.

BUT....we have a mower that now starts, runs and mows.  Once I can do the whole lawn it will look wonderful!  But before that, I have to pick all the mushrooms on the front lawn and carefully get rid of them without spreading their spores further still.

Older mowers, with English bits are a joy. The engines, once adjusted and looked after are bullet proof.  The rest of the machine will have been made of Sheffield steel and therefore will last forever.
Over Winter when, I assume, the grass will give me a break for a while, I will strip it and repaint, so it looks better than new, next Spring.

And then I will start looking for a British Anzani Lawnrider.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Super Colt or Lawnrider?...

It will, by now, be fairly obvious that I am more gardening than I once was.  Indeed, I wrote a long blog entry about our greenhouse only 2 days ago, but it has not appeared and I can't be arsed to do it again.  Up yours Blogger.

Today, a relatively new acquaintance delivered a petrol mower to me in his lowered, blacked out, re-mapped Transit van.  Don't yer love a lairy pensioner? A score (20 quid) changed hands and we barrowed it round the back for a look.  As far as I could tell, the leaky petrol tap needed replacing and after I'd taken the exhaust off it needed a new gasket.  Together I have shelled out all of 6 quid off ebay!  I await their delivery.  By the weekend, I hope to be mowing our considerable lawns with my 60s Suffolk Super Colt.

And whilst I am I try to find, and will continue to do so,a British Anzani Lawnrider. I'll settle for an Eezimow if I have to, but only as an eventual stablemate for the ultimate mower, previously mentioned.  I mean how could you NOT fall completely for this:-
Be still, my beating heart!
Turns on a sixpence, sounds good and will be the nearest thing to a Frazer-Nash I'll ever own.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Lantern Yard back on the horizon...

About 9 years ago, when we first came off the canals and back on the bank, I had a fancy for making a mini-layout.  I actually did 2.  One was a 1/32nd scale narrow gauge effort called Havengore showing a little fisheries supply line. I loved it, but it was going to be too big so I gave it to my friend, who then died shortly afterwards. I imagine his disinterested son-in-law burned it.

The other, Lantern Yard, was the earlier effort and was intended to show off some of the model cars and locos I'd made for various customers.
I have a strong dislike for 009, so was half disinclined to use 9mm track at all, but then I did rather like the 09 stuff I'd done for N-Drive and there was no getting round the fact that I'd done a large number of 0 scale model cars too.  I also like the scenic side of 0 gauge, so I knocked up a likely base to include a canal wharf and lock and a little bit of 9mm track, to be well buried, so no evidence would remain of its Peco Crazy Track origins, which is where I think my hatred of 009 began.  Also, I don't believe in "playing trains".  I.E., nothing moves on my layouts.  They are, indeed, set-pieces...little invocations of a time and place.
Ergo...Lantern Yard.
Bear in mind this is already 9 years old and damp has not been its friend!

Canal wharf on the left, then a canal lock, for which gates are already made.
The well buried track will be part of the foreground to the buildings, which are a workshop in corrugated iron and a blacksmith's house. At the other end is a cafe, already made.  The boat will be the all pearwood model I have half made of our old boat Heather Bell, working as it normally did, as a solo motor, saving me the hassle of making a butty to go with it.  
The fact that this is coming out of hibernation tells you that despite some unseasonably late hot weather, Winter is a-comin' on, one way or tother and that's when I start to have scenic thoughts.
In the years and damp a lot of the road surface has fallen off and the hot glued card strips which form a base for the contours have also loosened.  I normally epoxy coat them, but hadn't done that this time.  They need to be changed anyway as the buildings demand a different sub-base now.

More anon.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Hoary handed man of the soil...

I seem to have become one of the above, since moving to the bungalow.  We have two largish lawns and borders.  The borders out front had been treated like most old persons' places with annual plants. Grown in a greenhouse and planted at great effort in Spring to flower all summer and start to die off about now, only to be removed and replaced by winter plants which will need replacing come spring!
What a preposterous waste of time and effort!  How do those flowers get on in the wild?  Serried ranks of old biddies with little else to do never kept them going. They somehow came to us down the millennia all on their own, unaided by generations of old farts with more money and energy than sense!

We have just dug up all the red and yellas in over 60 feet of borders as they were showing signs of impending death and have replaced them with 24 lavender bushes and today, a selection of shrubs. Yes, I have, this afternoon, planted "a Shwubberwy".  Well 7 shwubbs anyway, some of which looked a bit wan if I'm honest, but at 2 for 3 quid, worth a punt, eh?

Then, not wishing to spoil the mood of amateur horticulture, I took the sticks of the aluminium greenhouse wifey had collected for free early last year and separated them into logical piles. Naturally, for instance, an 8 x 6 greenhouse will have 5  8 foot structurals at least.  2 base lines, 2 gutters and a ridge and bugger me rigid if that ain't exactly what I found!  Then some 6 footers, some angle ended members and flat braces.  Heavens it's almost built!  A brisk scrub with a very stiff brush and a handful of new 6 mil gutter screws and nuts and we'll be growing toms like Percy Throwup.

Then there's the reshaping of the side border out back, the raised beds area on the base of the old greenhouse that the corporate vandals pulled down and sold off and the sitting area where the same vandals demolished a perfectly good shed.  We got a free 5 foot diameter smokey glass and bamboo table yesterday from a house down the road that simply put it outside with a cardboard "Free" notice attached.  The ex owner even persuaded his excellent neighbour to reattach the trailer to his car and load up said table and me to hold it and crawl back up the road with us AND help get it round the back.  That is village life as I recall it when I enjoyed same in the county of Devon in my late teens.
The table is now on the lawn, pending its final positioning and is a very useful shelf for sorting the components of the greenhouse.

What strikes me about this gardening lark is how long it all takes.  I haven't seen the inside of my shed in 2 days!  It takes 2 hours to mow the lawns.  Another to trim and clear up.  And as for digging out the 6 month biddy specials, I lost count!  Then the soil has to be rejuvenated by hoeing, then you have to sweep up AGAIN and throw stuff in the composter AGAIN.
But it is strangely compelling, as I always assumed it would be and I can now quite understand why old people do it. It's a very easy way to pass the time.  Once the greenhouse is built, the weather, even, becomes an irrelevance too. In fact a well sealed glasshouse with a comfy chair is a very welcoming bolthole.  Warmed by a sun that you can't feel outside in the breeze and comforted by that tomatoey odour, I can easily see why Gertie can almost lose Bertie for hours on end.  By the time everything has been "brought on", "pricked out" and "potted", it's time for tea and Only Connect, a TV quiz to keep the brain lively as a fly.  A doze before bed and off we go again the next day.

Ye Gods is this my future?  It actually could be worse.....

Monday, 12 September 2016

Odder still...

Is the fact that, having fought tractors and traffic to get to Felthorpe last Wednesday I find that the relevant Tiger Moth has no cockpit green in it whatsoever!  Also, some clown had taxied the poor old girl into a perimeter fence in an attempt to turn it quickly and the port lower wing had had to be repaired.  Not complaining because it meant there was a wonderful whiff of Nitrated Dope in the air!

The framing is gloss black, the door inners are matt black and having recently been recovered the inside of the bodywork is bare unpainted fabric, a kind of pale beige-ish tint.  Control rods are all silver painted. Seats are black vinyl and headboards a sort of brick red.  So there, you HAVE to look at the actual aircraft you're modelling to get the right info.

On colours alone you wouldn't guess this is a Tiger Moth!

This will also be a bit of a test of my masking skills, or is it masking luck?  I've never been too sure how much of each is involved.
But the scheme is mid blue over sky blue with silver flying surfaces, lined in mid blue and black.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Some days are just ...odd...

Needing some cockpit green and Miliput I decided to simply pop into town to pick the provisions up quickly as we now live much nearer the model shop.  When I say model shop, it's mainly a toy shop. It's called Prams and Toys and, with a few kids' bikes thrown in, that is what it is.  Up one end are plastic kits, die cast cars, a few railway items and a few materials.  The fact that they charge way over the top for Milliput is balanced by the fact that the nearest cheaper supply is at least 3 quid's worth of petrol away. They also have balsa, hardwoods, K&S Metal Centre and EMA Plastruct stuff, so are actually quite useful.  They shut on Wednesday, annoyingly, even though there are at least 3 women staff there all day, every day. Surely a rota could be designed to keep the shop open on a Wednesday? I do find Early Closing a preposterous notion where a shop is staffed by more than one person.

I looked in vain for cockpit green.  Humbrol do what they call cockpit green and it is so dark and dull that it has no place in an aircraft, so I bought a tin of "Pastel Green", which, on the colour chart, looked bang on, but the tin lid caused me to search out the sunglasses.  I'm off to mix the twain into some semblance of what is in the Tiger Moth.

Oddest of all was that on the way in I saw an immaculate scarlet MG Maestro, a lime green Austin Princess, a brand Johnny Spankers soft top Lamborghini Ausfarht or whatever the latest one is stupidly called in bright orange and nicest of all an unsupercharged (as were most) 4 1/2 Litre Bentley displaying a wonderful patina of age and use, without being a rat, like so many are these days in some kind of fashionable idiocy.  He'd just filled up at Morrisons.  Bet he got some points on his card!
Where all these rare cars live in this largely rural community I have no idea, but they're tucked away somewhere!