Thursday, July 30, 2009

Oshkosh: Day 4 - Fun That Sticks to Your Ribs

The wonderful weather was too good to last. Here's today's Weather-out-the-Windshield&trade to give you an idea of what Wisconsin summer weather had in store for us today:

Fortunately Egg works indoors at the booth and I had saved a couple of sheltered events in reserve for just such an eventuality. I had also thought ahead far enough while packing for the trip to bring not just one but two water resistant jackets. Of course, by the time I took this picture about halfway through our morning commute to Wittman Field, both jackets were safe and dry hanging in the closet back in the hotel room. My only hope was that we'd get through the worst of the weather before arriving at the airfield.

And yet again the fundamental truth that Hope is not a strategy was proven true. The weather remained every bit as cruddy throughout the remainder of the drive. We had umbrellas in the car so all was not lost, although Egg's favorite pass time of spinning her umbrella and drenching me with the resulting horizontal rain ensured that I was wet and cold by the time I dropped her off at work.

It was 0825 by that time and my special "dry" activity for the morning started at 0830 so I had to boogie on over to the Workshop area to get there in time for the start of the Gas Welding program. As I was just about the last to arrive, the best I could get was a seat that was only 78% under shelter. Some is better than none, so I counted my blessings (final answer: 12.3) and endured the discomfort. It helped that gas welding is a completely new endeavor for me and was therefore engrossing enough to at least partially (roughly 61%) distract me from the cold rain dripping down my back.

The lecture was scheduled to take an hour but was needlessly slowed by the "there's one in every class" jackass that wanted to spend our time arguing with the presenter on the topic of whether (or 'weather'? No, @tendancer, I'll avoid the temptation) or not oxygen - propane welding is as suited to the task of airplane building as oxygen - acetylene welding. Happily the argument was ended when the pompous jerk stormed (heh, I couldn't help that one) off in disgust.

Once the lecture was completed, it was time for the hands-on portion of the class. We worked through the ins and outs of properly lighting the torch and how to "run a bead" on a piece of scrap metal. When my turn came, the older guy tutoring me felt that I was having a hard time holding the welding torch still because I was too tense. He said that I was so tense that my hands were shaking. I had to point out that stress had nothing to do with it - my hands were shaking because I was freezing! Figuring that a quality welding experience was a lost cause under the conditions, I apologized and beat a hasty face-saving retreat to the EAA merchandise building where I hoped to procure an appropriate outer garment for the inclement conditions.

As luck would have it I found a nice nylon zipper jacket with a hood and an embroidered EAA logo on sale marked down $20. Even at the reduced price it was still fairly expensive, so I had to forgo a purchase of an EAA sun hat that I had hoped to make. Maybe next year. As I was paying the nice lady at the cash register I was unable to resist pointing out the lack of retail acumen on display in the store. It's Business 101, really. When it's cold and rainy outside, you mark the price of water resistant jackets up, not down. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. The jacket made all the difference and I ended up wearing it for the rest of the day.

As I was heading back to the gas welding workshop, I realized that I didn't really want to try again. Unlike my positive experience with fabric covering, I realized that I simply didn't have a burning (really, I can't help it!) desire to weld. Maybe I'll feel differently if I ever get a chance to try it again under better conditions, but for now I'm going to forget about it.

I reached this conclusion just as I was passing the Adult Rib Workshop. The 'adult' in this case is not to be taken in the same sense as, say, Adult Bookstore. What it refers to in this context is that it is not the same wing rib workshop as the one where kids are allowed to play along. This one is restricted to age 13+ (and really, one could argue that a 13 year old is still a kid) with the further restriction that only those 16 and above may operate the power belt sanders. Building a wooden wing rib seemed like a fun thing to do and I thought Egg might be interested in participating as well.

We had a great time cutting lengths of wood and arranging them into the proper arrangement using the templates provided by EAA. We used T-88 epoxy to glue the joints, then glued gussets on top of each joint to add strength. It was still cold, so the epoxy was slower than usual to set up. With the glue still sticky, we couldn't use the power sanders to sand off the overhanging gusset material so these still look pretty rough:

It was fun. It was relaxing. And you know what's coming next... I simply must build a wooden airplane. Fortunately, wooden airplanes are fabric covered so it's not a matter of shifting priorities yet again.

Being at Oshkosh has a very distinct advantage in this kind of scenario. No matter what idea comes into your head, it's a simply matter to search out a solution. In this case it was the Fisher Flying Products booth. FFP sells complete kits for all-wood, fairly low cost airplanes. I particularly like The Youngster:

Here's an example of the typical wing construction technique:

The cost? $8,500 for the kit, about $4,000 for a VW engine conversion. Not bad!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the Oshkosh coverage! Much appreciated. I even laughed at some of the jokes. And what a cool hat! :-) Speaking of cheap wooden airplanes, what about a Taylor Monoplane? Looks a bit cartoon-ish, especially if you do not build the canopy in, but probably the highest fun-to-power ratio around!