I want to make a towing handle for the ex-pat X-air for when I do eventually manage to get it to France. The one I had made for the Savannah has proven to be very useful and effective and even though I might only have the X-air for a few weeks or months, being able to move it around using a towing handle will be equally valuable.

I bought the steel tubing for it a few weeks ago and tried to get someone to send me the measurement across the X-air’s forks so I could go ahead, but without success, so although I can’t fabricate the complete towing handle in advance, I can make a start, albeit a small one, while I’m hanging around at home, by attaching the handle to the main bar. So that’s what I did today.

I bought a cheap mini Chinese electric welder some time ago but apart from doing a test weld on an old mower blade, I haven’t had the chance to try it on anything else. So welding the towbar’s handle would be my first real test. I started by setting up my Workmate in my workshop with a thin plate of metal on its worksurface to which I clamped the two pieces of tube that I wanted to weld after I’d cleaned and prepared them and then I got started.



The next few shots show the final results after I’d (ahem) cleaned the welds up a bit to make them as presentable as possible.





I learnt a few things along the way, mostly from what went wrong.

* Work in good light. I didn’t and ended up with some welds on the metal above or beside the joint and not on the joint itself. You need to see clearly where the end of the welding rod is touching the metal to be joined when you strike the arc.

* Don’t turn the current up too high. I got frustrated and did so while trying to get the arc to start and quickly burnt a hole through 2mm wall tube even with a small diameter welding rod. My little welder goes up to 200 amps. I reckon that’s enough to weld a plate on the side of a ship. 60 amps was plenty.

* When you’ve started welding don’t stop. If you do it’s hard to get a nice clean restart on the line of the weld. I might go back later and see if I can over-weld and clean up the joints I did today.

I’m afraid that the results leave a lot to be desired so I’ve still some way to go before I’ll be able to produce decent quality welds but what I’ve got will be perfectly OK for what I need and won’t look too bad with a coat of paint. It’s just a pity that I can’t do anymore without the measurement that I need as I’d have liked to see the whole job through in one go. That makes cleaning the cars the next Covid-19 job 😉

4 thoughts on “Er, yessss……

  1. Hi John, thanks for the reply and good to hear from you again after all this time. A couple of people have told me about X-air towbars that sort-of clip over the axle nut and bolt head and there was one for sale on AFORS a little while ago that someone had had made up, but I don’t much like the design. It always looks to me as though it can damage the bolt head and nut and/or come off in use possibly damaging the aircraft, which is why I like the idea of fitting either a cross-piece as I did on the Savannah or the brackets I’m adding for the X-air that take pins to take the wear and also give a positive fit that can’t come off. I take your comments about drilling the forks which I guess wouldn’t be allowed in the UK but is here and I don’t think that it will be a problem so long as I keep the holes small. The reason is that I only intend to drill one wall of the forks, not go right through two opposing ones. By keeping the little brackets towards the front end of each fork leg I’ll be able to hold the securing nuts up inside the forks and tighten them up by turning the bolts from the outside and I don’t think that this will compromise the fork strength by very much at all. I’m going to give it a go anyway and I just wish I had the ruddy measurement so I could go ahead with the whole job. I had a spare pair of forks but passed them on to the new owner when I sold my old French X-air. These things always come back to bite you, don’t they.

  2. Hi Rog, my biggest mistake was not doing the work outside in the sunlight where I could see what I was doing. I was in my workshop, didn’t have a good light over me and also had my back to the open door so although I’ve got one of those snazzy auto-darkening helmets, I couldn’t clearly see where I was touching the rod before striking the arc. Stupid mistake because sometimes I even touched it in totally the wrong place by accident and then when it started tried to carry on. It’s called ‘learning the hard way’. I do it all the time 🙂

  3. I’m still following your blogs! I’ve no experience in welding but that towbar looks ok! The joints certainly look like they’re not going to fall apart just hand pulling an X’air around a field.

    I sold my X’air (G-****) some 18 months ago but I had some bits of metal made into a towbar a little similar to your design. There was a different way of attaching it to the aircraft though.

    I had a fork with one tang hinged and with a diagonal brace and split pin to keep it in position when closed. I had each tang drilled on their inside faces to accept the nosewheel axle head on one side and the nut on the other (they’re different sizes and drilled to across the corners dimensions of the hexagons).

    It was quite crude, didn’t fit very well and I think your design is far superior. I would caution against drilling the X’air’s front fork because the tubing seems to be not much different to the mild steel you have been welding. It is quite malleable and prone to bending as I found out on a ‘whoopsie’! The cross-piece shown in the picture of the strip bolted to the Savannah’s nose leg (your blog February 19, 2020) could be used on the X’air fork forward face. I think I’d try broad Ty-Raps to hold it in position, they will be certainly good enough for pulling an X’air around.

    On my first use of my towbar, the aircraft sat on it’s tail bumper as quick as a flash and there was no stopping it! A factor that I never thought of was that the empty CoG is over the mainwheel and I was not only pulling the aircraft forward because the handle was above the nosewheel axle, I was pulling that aloft too! There’s no appreciable weight on the nosewheel.

    The fix for that was a gash piece of blue polyprop rope with a large loop at each end. I’d sling the rope over the propeller shaft and pass it through the first loop then the second loop went to the handle of the towbar which was a plastic spade handle – the triangular sort. It passed through the spade handle’s triangle and turned back on itself. Then when I pulled, I was able to keep the nosewheel on the ground while at the same time, move the aircraft forward.

    I hope you get a picture from the words and that the info about the bit of rope as a brace comes in useful.

    At this point I’d normally wish you blue skies etc but instead, I wish you prolonged good health, don’t catch the bug and you’ll get your aircraft over to France eventually, of that I’m sure!

  4. Hi Rog,
    If you start at about 80 A, this will go to 3 mm rods. Also warm and dry out the rods in the oven for 15 mins before using as the coating is hydroscopic and they get damp and wont start-. Another good investment is these automatic welding helmets. Mine is from Lidl and has given superb service.


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