Sorry we’re a smidge late this month, or last month… Sometimes time just runs away with us. And there’s not much to report either but that’s not to say we haven’t been busy. For those who’ve just tuned in the deal was always that we’d continue to prepare Bluebird for her homecoming whilst using any downtime – of which there has always been very little – to build a Baddacooda. But what actually happened is that our tin aeroplane kit developed a following all of its own with new volunteers and everything so work has progressed relatively steadily whilst having no impact on the Bluebird effort.

We still send our downtime to the ‘Barra shop’ and sometimes the most dedicated Bluebirders even go in there for a little respite and the chance to recharge their battered brains away from sponsons and such.

The other, completely unforeseen advantage to all this, is that when Bluebird demands lots of helpers we just nick the entire Barra’ crew so there’s more tin boat and less aeroplane gets built and that’s what’s happened of late.

We moved the boat off her rollover jig and into the middle of the workshop so we could load the spars and have a trial fit of our sponsons. She looks rather good. We built that, you know…

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 Our Barra’, on the other hand, hasn’t changed a lot because we’ve not stuck anything on that’d make you say, flippety-blink, look what they did!

We’re busy building the underlying stringery-ribby stuff just as we did on the other side. Now and again we do manage to get all hands to the pumps and when that happens our tailplane job forges ahead.

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Our Bluebirders are so fast and efficient, and the Barra’ made of so many tiny parts that when we say go we can rattle off literally dozens of new components in an afternoon.

We’ve also built the next skin for the underside of the tailplane and that’s being bashed flat as we speak and one thing that is of note is that we’ve inserted the biggest patch used so far. There was a big lump missing, you see.

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We did ask whether the missing piece was lolling around the hangar floor down at Yeovilton but despite some effort on the part of the curatorial staff it couldn’t be located forcing us to do two things. One – assume it’s still on Jura and, two, cut the side out of the burned out tail and shove a big slice of that into the hole in the tailplane to keep the draughts out.

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Only done the easy part here – the two original pieces have been glued to the graft in the middle. Next job is to vanish all those unwanted rivet holes and after that it needs the shape put back, which will be especially difficult because the skin is now made of two different thicknesses of material. There’s not much in it, the original is 20swg whilst the graft is 16swg and that means havoc in the wheel or the big Eckhold shrinking hammer so it’s all got to be done the old fashioned way this time.

We’ll include a few more pics once Gillian and Lou have put it back together but most of what we’ve been up to of late is stripping down the tailwheelery, monkey-bar gubbins from under the tail.

Remember that Chemettal Trevor gave us a tub of clever gloop for making rust disappear in place of miles of sugary molasses? It works…

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Much of the steel on aluminium looks like this with everything jammed double-tight with corrosion product but give it a few days in the bath and the world is a whole different place.

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Only the finest coating of black iron oxide remains and that’s a good thing as it tends to protect the underlying metal but the best part is that the juice works its way right through the threads and down past the bolts and around the alloy dissolving only the rust as it goes so that with a waft of heat and some patience you can strip out all the original nuts, bolts and split pins. The bolts, by the way, are indeed BSF as was kindly pointed out last time. That in itself is a minor mystery. First of all a couple of UNF bolts somehow made it amongst our Barra’ parts and the best guess as to where they came from is our practice engine – an old, ragged Orpheus that we obtained from the ATC for taking to bits purposes. Now that definitely and without question is all UNF so how come? It’s supposedly as British as a Barra’ having been designed by Bristol Siddeley. Still much to learn about aeroplanes, methinks.

Never mind… Aerospace Rob is back in action with wood chisel and claw hammer (I’m not joking) and items like this…

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…are resolutely rendered, rivet by rivet – seized bolt by seized bolt – into manageable lumps.

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The trick is in being to see the finished article in your mind’s eye so once Rob has pulled it all down the pieces are then cleaned and wrapped on their way to becoming new components to be used in the final build. The box is filling rapidly.

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Everything is then given a final blast before being re-bagged and stored away. There’s nothing better than picking spotless-clean parts out of the bin when it comes time to start reassembling.

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No idea what this is called but it fits to the corner of the bulkhead under the front end of the sticky-up bit and collects one of its four mounting points. It’s machined from a chunk of solid and is a precision part. It’s heavy too and all the bolt holes are reamed to be a delicious fit so, of course, we had to salvage all the original nuts and bolts too. Oh, and the split pins – naturally.

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Not in the first flush of youth, admittedly, but certainly good enough to hold our non-flying Barra’ together, especially as there’s dozens of them in every corner.

We’ve lots of this still to do before we can repair the oval of tinware that is frame 26 and start putting all these pieces back onto it but it’s coming and soon we’ll also be done with the stringery-ribby things and be ready to put the rest of the skins back on too. I’d imagine that the May diary will look much the same as this one and then it’ll be a feast of building so don’t go away.