July 30, 2009

Dreadful July!

What appalling weather we’ve had here in South-East England this month. Cold, wet and windy – more like Autumn. I applied a little bit of gel coat filler to try to finish off late yesterday afternoon and just after I did it, it began to rain. So I moved the pod into my garage and when I got it out this morning it had been so cold that it still hadn’t cured.

And after predicting that we would have a ‘long, hot ‘barbecue’ summer’, the Weather Men now say that they got it wrong and that we’ll have more of the same of what we got in July, in August too.

Will we ever have a Summer? 😕

July 27, 2009

Tricky decision

But I think I’ve done the right thing and I’ll come back to that in a moment or two. I’m still working on the pod – I had hoped to be finished by yesterday but the weather was just not good enough. We had steady light rain almost all day which meant I couldn’t work outside and my space to work inside in my conservatory is rather restricted. I managed to get a bit done but not enough 😕

So I grabbed the opportunity to do a bit more from late this aftenoon through into the early evening. I won’t show any pics until I’m ready but work both inside and outside is now nearly complete. I have had to reluctantly come to the conclusion that I will be unable to achieve the level of perfection that I would have liked. It is, after all, an old pod that has been round the block a few times. It has got marks, areas of discolouration, scrapes, digs and imperfections almost all over and much as I would have liked to deal with them all and make them perfect again, this just will not be possible.

I originally intended to hack out and repair all of the gel coat cobweb crazing on the top of the pod but I now realise after doing the repairs to the bottom that this would be an impossible task. For a start, the gel coat filler I’ve got isn’t a sufficiently good match to the exisiting colour. It’s close, especially if you rub down to the original, unfaded gel but not quite close enough. It doesn’t matter on the bottom because nobody will ever see that close up, but it would be a terrible eyesore on the top. So I’ll just have to live with the crazing, which is not that bad and is a natural thing anyway. And I’ve seen much worse on some much newer microlight pods, I can tell you.

At least the pod is now good and solid with no cracks or splits. I found one last small one today just under ther lower mounting hole for the electric fuel pump where the nut when tightened pulls the curve of the pod side flat. I whacked a few layers of cloth on the inside which will sort that problem out and I’ll add a bit of gel coat filler on the outside tomorrow. And that’s when I had to make my tricky decision.

Ever since I’ve known MYRO, it has had the words ‘Cyclone AX3’ in non-standard vinyl lettering on either side of the pod nose as you can see in the header image. Now, unless your alternative is very good (and I don’t think this was) it’s never a good idea to use anything non-standard in a prominent place – like the nose of a microlight for instance 😀

I had started to remove the lettering a while back and I finished the job yesterday. Shock horror. Because the lettering had been on years and the gel coat underneath was still practically as good as new, it was as though the lettering was still there and had just changed colour 😯

My initial reaction was one of despair. I couldn’t see any way out other than having the outside of the pod sprayed which is precisely what I’ve been trying to avoid. Then I had a couple of thoughts. Where I’ve rubbed and buffed the gel coat on and around the repairs I’ve done, it’s come up much brighter. So I thought, to heck with it – if I have the pod sprayed I’ll have to rub it down all over, so why not rub it done anyway but with fine wet-and-dry, and try to remove the outline of the lettering while doing so. So that’s what I did this evening. I used 400 and (finer) 600 and carefully rubbed down the whole of the top of the pod. Why was it a tricky decision? Because if I’d got a bit over-enthusiastic at any point and rubbed through the gel coat, then it would have been ruined and would have had to be sprayed.

However, that didn’t happen and on initial appearances, the idea seems to have more or less worked. I’ll know for sure tomorrow when I’ve finished repairing that little split I’ve mentioned, finished the pod rubbing down with 600 and 800 grade wet-and-dry and buffed it up. So watch this space – and see if your face is reflected in the shine 😉

July 23, 2009

A step forward

We’ve had awful weather since I last did anything on MYRO and as I have to work outside I’ve been unable to make much progress at all. As it was quiet, I managed to make a start on sorting out the pod problems late yesterday afternoon and by the evening I was more happy. I managed to get rid of all of the excess gel coat filler and get another application done so I was in a much more positive frame of mind when I put the pod back in the garage for the night.

And today I got some more done. I’m finding that the gel coat filler is not sticking to the underlying fibreglass as well as I would like it to. I made and used two mixes today. I was just about to start applying the first one when it began raining out of a clear blue sky! Before I knew it the pod was covered in rain drops so I had to leave the mixed filler and get it under cover a bit smartish. By the time the rain had stopped and I’d managed to get going, the mixed filler had been standing for over 5 minutes, so I lost that amount of work time and the filler began to go hard in the pot before I’d finished. That was annoying enough but the second batch, as I was adding the catalyst, my hand was jogged and I put a bit too much in. So that went off too quickly too.

It also became very hard quite quickly and when I came to rub it down, I found it almost impossible to do so by hand. Fortunately I got hold of a little 180W electric detail sander. I was sceptical to start off with as I thought it would sand very quickly and be through the gel coat in no time. But no! It worked incredibly well and was an excellent way to get the excess filler down to the level of the main coat. Unfortunately, as tends to happen though, I got a bit too confident and while I was sanding the last tricky area (one of the two splits) I didn’t pay enough attention and managed to rub the gel coat next to my repair. I applied some more afterwards and if the weather’s fine I’ll have to see how it looks tomorrow when I get the sander going again.

I have to say that as a result of getting that little sander, I was much more pleased with the appearance of the results of my work than I had been up to then. So that’s good. I feel as though I’ve made another positive step forward 😀

July 19, 2009

Mixed day

Our Trike was collected and went off with its new owner today. He’s a very nice chap, Les from Shropshire, and I think he’ll finish what we started and get Our Trike in the air where it belongs. At least I hope so, very much. So that’s good. 🙂

First attempt at doing the work to the coloured gel coat on the bottom of MYRO’s pod was almost an unmitigated total disaster. Temperature was too low today and I should never have started it. Coloured filler on and all round the areas I want to fix and it wouldn’t go off properly. Then when I tried to remove the excess from the existing good surface, that was impossible to do completely and in the process much of the filler that I’d applied came out, especially from the two main cracks that I really wanted to fix. So that’s bad, very bad. 🙁

I’ve now made more work and I’m very annoyed with myself for pressing on when the conditions just weren’t good enough, and really I knew that 😡

July 16, 2009

Disorganised chaos

I kept toying with the idea of doing the fibreglassing inside the pod this evening but then deciding not to because of a dodgy weather forecast. But the weather kept staying warm and bright with not too much wind so I thought I’d make a start and see how much I could get done. I began by taking some coarse sandpaper and roughening up all the areas inside that pod that I’d removed the paint from to give the new resin a better key. Then it was time to prepare the fibreglass.

On the advice of Ted Snook and Laurie Hurman on the BMAA forums, I’d gone for fibreglass cloth rather than matting because it has a higher strength/weight factor. Rather than just blast ahead, cut the cloth and start sticking, I decided to take my time. First of all I put masking tape over the openings in all the areas where I was going to fibreglass so the resin couldn’t run through or round onto the outer gel coat. Then I made newspaper patterns for all the main sections of mat that I would be applying to the pod. There were 6 in all and something like 10 pieces in total including the little holes and other small areas that I will be repairing. Then I used the newspaper patterns to cut the pieces I needed out of the square metre of cloth that I had purchased. So far so good.

I looked up at the sky and it was a bit cloudy, but still sunny and bright, so I decided to go the whole hog and mix up some resin. From previous experience I estimated that I could get the whole job done in 45 minutes or less and it looked like the weather would be kind to me. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I decided to go for Epoxy resin for the internal pod work. It comes in 2 parts just like Polyester but doesn’t have anything like the smell. I took a paper cup and mixed up a reasonable measure. The ratio is a maximum of 5:1 (resin to hardener) and I would think my mix was a bit less than that.

The pod was on my back lawn and I started by laying in the mat around the nose wheel opening. Then, as if like magic, after about 30 seconds just as I’d got a nice old resin mess going with the cloth half in, it began to rain. Just what I needed. I grabbed the fibreglass cloth that was out on the patio table and sprinted with it into the conservatory. Then I grabbed the pod and did the same with that, the whole time with the dog closely on my heels, first into the conservatory, then out again, then back in. I placed the pod on the floor – not much room at all – and by now the rain was falling pretty hard and it had become quite dark. Far from ideal working conditions! Then the dog tried to push past me, the pod and the wet resin – he was very upset when he got a big flea in his ear and went off to lie down on his bed 🙁

To cut a long story short, somehow I managed to get the job finished and it didn’t end up looking too bad either. I didn’t like working with Epoxy initially but I warmed to it more as the job went on and I got more used to it. Certainly the relative lack of smell is a big bonus – especially as now because of lack of space, the pod is on the floor of my lounge while the resin hardens 😀

So having started off totally organised and with everything planned out nicely, because of the weather, the job and the evening descended into almost total chaos. But we got there in the end – leastways I think so. Haven’t checked whether the resin has gone off yet 😕

July 15, 2009

Get stripping..

I want to keep things moving along even if I can only do a little bit every day so today I wanted to make a start on stripping areas of paint off the inside of the pod where I want to do repairs and add a bit of strengthening. The eco-friendly paint stripper that I’m using turned out to be a a white gel that looks a lot like wallpaper paste. I put the pod on my lawn and set to brushing the stripper onto the areas I want to clear and after leaving it for half an hour or so – ie not that long – gave it a go with a paint scraper. I was actually quite surprised to find that a great deal of the paint had been attacked and was coming off so then I gave it a go with a piece of wire wool.

Then I moved the pod to where I could give it a wash off and hose down and was pleased to see that in the area of lawn where I’d done the job, a quick hosing removed all traces of the stripper and paint. The following pictures show how well the stripper worked.

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They show that the method does work quite well. Obviously I’ll need to apply another application and although I have to be very careful about adding weight, I’ll probably expand and join up some of the areas. It’s not late as I type this so I’ll maybe have a quick bite and then give it another go.

July 14, 2009

It’s the pod, stupid…

The weather was hot and sunny late this afternoon so I decided I’d sneak off as it was quiet and start work on the pod. I really wanted to get some of the paint inside stripped off but almost as soon as I started, clouds began to brew and it began raining before I could get that far.

Even so, I managed to make some good progress. First job was to get the pod thoroughly clean and free of grease inside and out and get any bits and pieces of tape and stuff that had been stuck onto it over the years, off again. After the initial gunking, I took a few pics showing some of the fibreglass problems I’ve got to deal with.

This one shows some splits that have been caused by people climbing in and out and missing the cross-tube. The pic is taken from underneath and the rear of the pod is at the bottom.

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The splits had just been gaffa taped over and the pic was taken just after the tape had been removed – with some difficulty I might add 😕

This next pic shows the same splits but from the inside.

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The next shot shows two problems – a small jagged hole that penetrates through to the inside and two smaller round holes one above the other at the top of the pic near to the pod edge that were possibly used at some time to take a small bracket.

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And again, here’s a pic of the same small hole but taken from the inside this time.

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This next shot shows a different kind of problem. Here the gel coat has been damaged, probably as the result of an impact, and over time it has begun to delaminate from the underlying fibre matting. This was taken from quite close up and the problem is by no means as big as it appears in the picture 🙂

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To finish off, a couple of pics showing the front of the pod. In the next shot which is taken from underneath, the nose is towards the top and it shows the hole where the pivot tube for the front forks enters. There has at some time been some damage to the pivot tube hole which once again was gaffa taped over.

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Here’s the same area of the pod, from the inside showing the pivot tube hole and also the slots where the extensions from the rudder pedals emerge to connect with the linkages that operate the front wheel steering. At some time something has been fixed to the steering slots, probably letter box draught excluders, to stop wind and muck entering the pod. Unnecessary you think? I have to say that when I was flying MYRO last year we landed on a strip where there were sheep and several lumps of sheep poo chose precisely that route to enter the pod and came straight at us at quite a few MPH, so I have to disagree 🙁

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Although the above pics make the problems look pretty bad, in fact in fibreglass terms they are not too serious at all. After the shots had been taken I finished off washing the pod inside and out and its appearance immediately improved. Having now taken a close look though, I’m really glad I decided to completely remove the pod and do the work as it’s obvious that some of the things needing attention go back several years. Dealing with them can only make MYRO much, much better as a result 😀

July 13, 2009

Going going…

Our Trike sold on Ebay yesterday, for quite a bit less than it has cost us, but I feel as though I have ‘won’ with MYRO and you can’t have it all ways. The buyer was in touch earlier this evening and I’ll phone him tomorrow about arranging the pick up, so the deal will probably be done by the week-end as he lives in Shropshire.

Late this afternoon I nipped out to buy some large black and white cable ties as the ones I already have are a bit thin and short, and I also managed to find a tub of the special gel based paint stripper that you can use on fibreglass. So now I’m all set to make a start on the pod as soon as I get the chance. The feedback I’ve had on this paint stripper is a bit mixed to say the least. Some people have said it doesn’t work very well at all, but I have to give it a try as the normal solvent based stuff definitely cannot be used on fibreglass. I found another spray-on stripper that is fibreglass-safe on the Internet but that’s quite a bit more expensive, so I have to give this one a go first. Anyway, I’ll know in a day or so if it works or not and I’m looking forward now to getting cracking on the pod. If it comes up as well as I expect it will be a major leap forward 😉

July 12, 2009

Going back together

Slowly but surely 😉

The day started damp as expected but it brightened up and became warmer by mid-morning. There was still an annoying breeze which got quite strong on several occasions during the day but I just had to live with that. My target today was to get all of the white tubing in the fuselage area finished so I could make a start on refitting some of the items I had removed and I’m glad to say that I succeeded in doing that.

I lightly rubbed down the areas where I had applied primer with a very, very fine wet-and-dry paper and wiped them dry as I went. These included the small areas that had been deeply rubbed by the screen and pod and I wish that I’d thought to use white brushing primer rather than grey. Grey is difficult to cover with only a few light spray coats and as I’ve mentioned already, I want to keep the amount of paint I apply to the minimum for weight reasons. It wasn’t critical, though, because of course, the same areas will be covered again in due course by the screen and pod.

I masked the closely adjacent areas with masking tape and set to it. The paint I’m using is spray-on radiator white (yes, the stuff you get for household radiators) because I think that will hold its brightness well. It’s also a very close match to the existing tube colour and has pretty good covering power as it’s supposed to work without primer, although I never believe that 😕

Anyway, I was happy with the results that I achieved and after leaving the paint to harden off a bit in the hot sun, eventually I gave it a light T-Cutting. All a bit too soon, really, but it looked fine when I’d finished. Then I was able to start putting a few bits back on. I started with the seat bases, then the pedals and finally the throttle lever. I connected the brake and rudder cables to the pedals and I was glad that I’d thought to take pictures previously to remind myself how the cables were routed. I also had to decide which throttle lever to use, because I’ve got two. Rosie gave me the one from MZEL which is a standard lever but is a bit thin and flimsy to my mind. The BMAA must think so too because they recommend (insist on?) a modded version for aircraft used for training which is heavier and made from larger diameter tubing. MYRO had it when I last flew it but Rosie moved it into MZEL. Luckily, the one from MYME that I got off Mark at Galaxy was also a training version and that’s the one I decided to fit. It has an end plug missing from the passenger side but that should not be difficult to sort out.

So to finish off, here are a few pics taken at the end of my day’s work.

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So things are now beginning to come back together and if the weather holds, it can only get quicker. The reason is that the next job is the pod and once that’s back on things will really start to get a shift on 😀

July 11, 2009

What a difference a week makes

Last Saturday was fine and hot and I made great progress on refurbishing MYRO’s front fuselage tubes. But as usual, things didn’t last. This year there was a glorious Wimbledon fortnight but immediately after on the Monday, the weather began to change and by Wednesday the weather turned really nasty. So we paid dearly for our few days of sunshine and since then the days have been cooler, cloudier and more blustery.

Today has continued in the same theme. After finishing off a couple of household jobs earlier in the day, I was looking forward to getting MYRO out and hopefully finishing off all the tube work. No chance. As I pulled MYRO out of my garage I could feel a light drizzle starting. So back in went MYRO and although I did manage to do a bit, it was in the confines of my garage. That meant I had very little room to work in, had to keep stepping over and around things all the time, kept banging my head on the pedals which I decided to give a hand-coat of white Hammerite and then hung from the roof while they dried and also had the wind blowing straight in through the front garage door while I was trying to spray-prime small sections of tube. I more or less managed but it wasn’t very satisfying and certainly wasn’t much fun.

It looks as though we could have a slightly damp start tomorrow but although the wind will still be with us, it should hopefully be dry during the daytime. I hope I’ll be able to finish off the tube work and be able to think about starting on the pod.

Incidentally, Our Trike is on Ebay and the auction ends tomorrow. It is £10 short of its reserve price and hasn’t budged for almost a day now. Usually with microlight auctions, nearly all the action comes on the last day and often in the last few minutes, so it looks as though Our Trike will be sold. Quite often, having been sold, microlights find their way back onto Ebay because of ‘time-wasters’ who bid but do not (or cannot) go through with the purchase. I hope that doesn’t happen with Our Trike, that it goes to a good new home and finds its way back into the air where it belongs.

July 6, 2009

After all this time

Although I’ve been saying I will do so for a long time, when I look back I haven’t posted a single picture of Our Trike almost since the very beginning. It’s rather ironic then that after all this time, this posting should contain the first and also what will probably be the last, as the ones I’ve included were taken to get a few to show in the Ebay listing that will hopefully allow us to find a new owner for Our Trike. But more of that in a moment.

As I expected, the fibreglassing items that I ordered at the end of last week to do the work on MYRO’s pod didn’t arrive in time for the weekend. That didn’t matter though as I still had plenty to do getting the paintwork on the fuselage tubes finished. So with the weather on Saturday still fine and hot, that’s what I got cracking on.

The main undercarriage beams on which the main wheels are mounted were in a rather scrappy state and after my previous de-greasing work I’d already rubbed them down and given them a light coat of primer. I have to remember at all times to be careful about adding excessive weight and painting is an easy source of that. I was going to finish them with an aerosol spray but access is a bit tricky, even with MYRO raised up on car ramps. The wind was making things even more difficult, so I decided to paint them by hand with White Hammerite. I was very happy with the result when I’d finished so I think I made the right choice. For once 🙂

I made good progress elsewhere too. I completely finished repainting the pedal assembly which ended up looking very good, and prepared all the sections of tube which had had their paint badly scratched or rubbed. And that was it for Saturday – another very satisfactory day’s work.

My plan for Sunday was to go out to Ken’s, re-fit Our Trike’s pod skirts, take it outside to take some pics and finally get an Ebay listing done. In the event I managed to do all that but with a bit of a break to watch some of the Wimbledon Men’s Singles Tennis Final, it was 1.30am before I eventually got to bed. A rather long day 😕

The first couple of pics show the workshop where Our Trike has resided for the last couple of years and the last ones were taken on Ken’s back lawn.

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If you CLICK HERE you can see the page I created for Our Trike’s Ebay listing. And as I type this, it seems to be working pretty well. The listing went up just after midnight last night so hardly anyone would have seen it for several hours as they would have been in bed! I’ve just checked and after only 22 hours, there have been 4 bids (but all still under the reserve price), 323 visits and there are 43 watchers!

It’s encouraging and I hope that at the end of it Our Trike will go off to a good new home. Even so, after all this time I will miss her…