Only a short piece this month as we’ve been thoroughly Bluebirded-out and, as you know, the Barra’ project must fit around our primary objective to get the big tin boat working and back on the lake.

It was mentioned last time that perhaps we’d not made it obvious that we are also the Bluebird Project, though I suspect this won’t have escaped many of you. But, for the sake of being thorough, you can also find us bashing metal at

Righto, that’s that put to bed, and about the only thing we’ve been able to have a prod at lately is the fin – or as we refer to it, ‘the vertical, sticky-up bit’.

We got lucky there because the Jura example is in pretty much mint condition apart from a crushed leading edge and a smattering of corrosion. All of the captive nuts were buggered and the trailing edge where the rudder goes was lightly battered. Otherwise it was great.

One mildly squished leading edge, but no matter, we had a much better example.

 See the fin in the foreground? It has an almost unharmed leading edge (by our standards, anyway) though the side is burned away so the leading edge is about the only part we could save. It seemed a no-brainer, we nick the good leading edge and stick it onto the Jura fin – job done.

Except it wasn’t.

Back in the beginning we were told that the museum would be happy to provide a heap of new material for those parts we had to build from new.

Didn’t quite get it, did they.

We rejected the offer out of hand and set about building the elevator but we ran out of material partway through – what to do? We asked for some spare bits but what arrived was obviously the scrapings from the hangar floor. I couldn’t help thinking that we were pushing the limits of the museum’s trust and who could ever blame them?

So we climbed a hill with a fantastic view of a viaduct.

 And up there we scavenged only enough scraps of Baddacooda to finish the elevator. No, we didn’t breathe a word to the museum so leave them out of it and if anyone cares to drop by and roast us for interfering with a wreck site then please feel free to do so but bring some biscuits; and at the end of the day the point was proven.

 Now come back to the fin leading edge and our enforced eye for the path of least resistance in accordance with our brief to make a Barra’-shaped thing with the barest expenditure of effort.

“Erm… they’re different, you realise.” I was told.


It’s true too because, whereas the Jura leading edge has its bottom former, or rib, or whatever, fixed in with lots of 3/32” rivets, the burned tail has a different arrangement with dozens of captive nuts. So bloody what? Who will spot the difference?

It seems that should we put a screwy-on version on the Jura tail we’ll be beset by aero-anoraks crying foul because our MKII will include a mild transfusion of some other plane’s DNA. Aero-racists!

 The worst of it was the gentle but emphatic pressure from the museum folks, and it was those buggers who wanted to send us a crate of new tin for where things wouldn’t mend in the first place!

Seems they’ve got it now…

 I was well chuffed because the challenge is to build a Barra’ from nothing but Barra’ and going the long way around in the interests of increased originality is not only grist for our somewhat masochistic mill but also an encouraging departure from the, ‘build as much Barra’ in the shortest possible time’ philosophy.

 At last we had the green light to do a proper job and fix the original, Yay!

These museological types are a little slow on the uptake but they get there in the end.

In fairness to them, it’s only because of their painfully cautious and caring nature that most of this stuff still exists in the first place, anyone else would have weighed it in for beer tokens yonks ago.

We kept going with the leading edge.

 We were gently discouraged from putting the screwy-on leading edge into the finished job but its ribs were annealed, mended, pinned into the hole and a patch or two grafted in to put the shape and strength back.

 We added the upper section of the fin, made of a separate piece of tin for some reason and attached with a butt-strap (that just sounds wrong on so many levels) but it was relatively crash-free and mended easily. We’ve decided that inserting patches on our aeroplane is best done in small bites. On the boat we can slap in great expanses of recycled tin because it’s soft and if it comes out the wrong shape we simply hit it. But the plane is made of thin, hard, argumentative metal so it’s best to divide and conquer. Small patches, weld ‘em in, fettle the immediate area then repeat as necessary.

 And there it rests until we get the chance to give it the final round of tin-bashery. Well, almost…

If it really has to lie around then where better to store it than from whence it came.

 Until next time.