Block progress.

February 4th, 2017

I need to be quick with this update as I am expecting the Vodafone man to come and upgrade my Internet to fibre sometime this morning.

Since we have lots of free time at work I got playing with my 3D software and did a 2D design for some little metal bits to cut out on the plasma cutting table. I wanted to make a valve spring compressor. I started with a cheap G clamp and cut off the bottom.


I then drew up and cut out some arms. I actually did two sets, the first in 2mm steel which was too thin so I went up to 3mm. Luckily we have a job on at the moment using tons (literally!) of 3mm steel cut into funny shapes so there are plenty of useful offcuts that just go for recycling. The plasma cutting table is just a big table with a motorised X and Y head on it with the torch attached. You send it the files, do a little jiggery pokery on the ancient software it is running to work out tool paths and then it just follows the path cutting the pieces out. Very handy! I am going to use that to make a windage tray for the crankcase when the time comes. And possibly cut out pieces for making the Riley brackets I need.

The 3mm steel arms are bolted to the clamp body with two bolts. Attached to the bottom of the arms I found a 25mm brass core plug that I machined on the little lathe to fit the valve spring holder. I drilled a holed in it to provide a place to get the keepers into. I bent the 3mm steel arms to wrap around that and brazed it in place. I got a little careless and melted part of the core plug (brass melts easily with Oxy-acetylene) but it didn’t affect it’s use in the end.

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I ground down the arms where they wrap around the core plug to make them thin enough to not foul on the block. The compressor works very well, just like a proper Austin one and I was able to finally get the valves fitted, not forgetting to first fit the tappets and cam followers first!

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So the block is done now. I next need to start on the crankcase. I need to make sure it is clean, insert all the plugs and oil take offs. Add in the oil jets and work out the windage tray. I also need to install the cam so I can work out where I need to machine a little clearance into the two long studs I am fitting to help keep the block on.

I’ve been busy cleaning more parts too. I found the toggles for the clutch and also found a complete set of usable tappets and followers I forgot I had so I could have saved myself some money there. I do need to get the clutch linings and rivets but they should be available from the local spares department. I should really start thinking about the release bearing and the gearbox too. Still no money for close ratio gears so I will have to hope the box I have is serviceable.

I was cleaning up more Riley parts too. I went into work last weekend to use the big sandblaster and did the  front axle and hubs and so on. They came up great. Of course everything flash rusts quickly but I finally managed to track down some Kephos to wipe on the metal until I can paint things. I have the details of where I have it but they are at work of course (and I am not). Apparently it is a mixture of phosphoric acid and xylene. I used gloves and try to use it outside while wearing a mask as the fumes of it are very strong.

The hubs came up great. There seem to be two diameters but the wheels I have only fit the smaller ones. I had to use the 12T press at work to remove the end cap from one of them as the ends of the hub were a bit battered. That popped it out easily and cleaned up the hole nicely. Interestingly the hubs are handed as the threads of the wheel studs are handed depending on what side of the car they are on.

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Unfortunately the hub retaining plates are well battered (with hammer and chisel by the looks of it) but I should be able to clean them up and press them flat again.

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You can see the flash rusting on some of the parts. I simply wire brush it off (again using the cheap dollar shop hand brushes) then wipe it in Kephos.

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As an alternative to sandblasting I am putting other parts into the molasses tank to see how that works. I took apart the Riley brake assembly (and I really hope I can get it back together as it is as bad a puzzle as the Austin brake cross shaft) and put the pieces of that and also the brake drums into the tank. I removed the non steel pulley wheels as the molasses can affect non ferrous metals. I will pull the parts out today and see how they look (that will be 2 weeks later).

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You can see how much rust there is on then so it will be interesting to see how they come out. They need a good water blasting to get the (stinky) molasses off then a wire brush then Kephos again. It is nice to start collecting a pile of clean metal parts that are ready for paint then storage until it is time to use them!


More progress.

January 25th, 2017

Am slowly getting back into it. I made this little film showing my current (lack of) progress. It’s more about the Riley but there is some Austin stuff there too. I was going to have a separate blog for the Riley but that’s too much work so it’s all going to be lumped in here I am afraid!

Because things are so quiet at work (i.e. there is none but I go in anyway to pick up odd jobs and work on my own things) I have been spending my time cleaning up various bits in the blasting cabinet there.

And today my parts arrived (new tappets, fan, other odds and sods and used but good sump) so I was busy sand blasting things today. I took in the Austin flywheel and clutch and did them then just after doing that the parts arrived so I did the sump too. I would like an alloy sump but no work means no money so that luxury has to wait!

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I did have to machine a few thou off the fan pulley I had made so the new fan would slide on but that only took a second in the lathe. Now I have the tappets I can finish assembling the block so I will do that tomorrow evening hopefully. I have a valve spring compressor but it is a large, modern one and awkward to use. I really need one of the proper old Austin 7 ones. Will keep an eye out on TradeMe for one.

I also did some more on the Riley. I have been busy sandblasting bits of that while I try to work out the missing brackets I need. Tonight I stripped the front axle so I can start cleaning and rebuilding that. I will fit new king pins and bushes (I am assuming these are easily available like they are for Austin 7s!). The pins holding the king pins in are standard cotters, not the half moon ones the A7 has so you can just remove them. Once came out easily with a few hits with a steel drift but the other side was well stuck so I ended up drilling down the centre of the cotter pin then knocking it out. The king pins themselves came out easily (thank goodness). One interesting thing is the thrust washers. One side looks original. There is a pin in the axle and the washer has a locating hole in it. The other side was bodged. It looks like the pin was filed down and the washer on that side is smaller and thinner than the other side. It also seems that the hole was hand filed to fit (badly). Hopefully I can get replacement washers and might look at drilling and replacing the bodged locating pin.

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The bushes were able to be pressed out with the vice and with a C clamp and some suitably sized sockets. One bush on the bodged side was a bit battered but in general both sides didn’t seem too worn out. But I will replace everything anyway when I rebuild it. Tomorrow I will take the stub axles to work to media blast them and I might take the axle itself in on Saturday to use the large blasting cabinet on that. It’s kind of nice to be working on something like the Riley. It isn’t a huge car by any means but everything on it is somewhat more substantial than the little Austin 7.

I also forgot to post these photos last time. These are some film pics I took at Southwards Car Museum some time ago! Photography is something else I am trying to get back into.

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Oohh, it’s been a while…

January 8th, 2017

I realised recently my last update was more than a year ago. Apologies for that. I’ve been busy! Well, not on car stuff.

I moved from Auckland, sold my house and bought a new one here. I’ve been at Weta for over a year now and, as you’d expect, I’ve worked on some cool stuff. Animatronics for the new Ghost in the Shell film, the electronics and code for the animatronic tiger for World of Wearable Art  (we spent hours recording the face and lip sync movements on that and I ended up in that tiger on stage a few times debugging during the shows!) and finally a bunch of electronics and code for the Bug Lab Exhibition on at Te Papa currently. I worked on the giant zoetrope, several interactives and a farting kids slide! There we other little interesting bits and pieces too. It was a very busy year.

Work is either full on or dead quiet and now is one of the quiet times so we all had a good break over christmas/new years. I go back tomorrow but I have finally started working on the cars again. I’ve been busy looking at building the Austin engine as I have everything I need to do that, or so I thought.

Before I left Auckland I had the block machined and some modes done to the crankcase so I can fit the blower drive. That included a mod to the front nose cone to add extra mounting lugs. The welding done on these (not done by me) was solid but not pretty so I used some of the aluminium solder available to add more metal I could then grind back to make things tidy. This is before I soldered over it and smoothed it off.


I also completed what Ian had started for me on my block which was fitting larger intake valves and porting the block. The cutter he uses leaves a step in the block so you need to grind that out and blend things in smoothly.

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I finished smoothing things out using tungsten carbide burrs on my Dremel. I recently bought a cheap, 2 speed Dremel I was going to use on my 3D printer to CNC cut things (I decided not to because of the dust) and it works great for grinding the cast iron of the block. I just have a cheap set of burrs but they work fine. I got mine locally but then realised they are cheaper direct from China.


Ian had done the first half of the block for me so I just copied what he did on the other side. It’s just a matter of removing any steps or rough spots and opening things up slightly. You do end up with two small pockets at the back of the inlet track that apparently you can fill with epoxy (JB Weld would probably work well) but I would worry about that coming loose and the engine injecting it so I will leave them. I just smoothed things out as best I could. I was cautious as I am not sure where the water jacket goes to so I didn’t want to make things too thin.


After grinding the ports I also equalised the combustion chamber volumes on the head. I am not sure how much difference this will make on a side valve but I did it anyway! To do this you measure the volume of the chamber using a liquid, I use Methylated Spirit. You use a flat piece of clear perspex over the chamber as a cover so you can completely fill it. In the perspex are two holes, one to inject fluid and one to let the air escape. You seal the perspex to the head with smear of grease. I used Vaseline.


You fill each chamber in turn and find the volumes then you carefully remove material from each until the volumes all match the largest one. It’s a very long process. Measure, clean up, grind, clean up, re-measure. To do this properly you use a burette. I don’t have one so I used a syringe. All I had was a 10CC one so it took multiple squirts to fill the chamber. I did multiple measurements so I could average things out to help remove errors.

In the end, after much messing about, I got all the chambers to measure 33.5CC volume which I think is close to what it should be, maybe a little less?

Of course on a side valve other things affect the chamber volume, like how far into the chamber the valves sit. It didn’t hurt to do it though and it is more in the interests of balancing things out so they engine runs more smoothly.


I also fitted the cam follower guides. The guides hold the followers which are what actually rest on the cam and are moved by it. This is fairly easy but you do need to make sure they are aligned correctly. I used a clamp to push them home and seated them firmly with a hammer and a block of hardwood. I used a square to check things were straight and made tweaks with an adjustable spanner to turn the guides if needed. The cam followers have straight sides and you want these perpendicular with the cam. Mr McW had previously ground the followers for me to suit my new cam but I moved before I could get them of him so he kindly sent them down to me.

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After doing all that I realised I had forgotten to drill the hole for the extra stud I had fitted to the crankcase to help hold the block down. I put some engineers blue on the hole and some masking tape on the block and dropped it into position over the studs. That left a mark on the tape I  could use to find the middle of the hole to punch then drill.

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The other thing I did was refit the code plugs into the head. Since there was a little pitting I used some epoxy around the plugs that I hope will help seal them. I only installed 2 of the 3 plugs. I left the back most one free since I am doing a small mod to help with cooling here that I will describe further down.


I then painted the block with engine paint. I used a non gloss black Duplicolor paint (with ceramic apparently?!) from Repco. I masked things using the same technique you use for making paper gaskets by tapping around the edges of what I wanted to mask with a hammer (I use my curved panelbeating hammer) to cut the tape. I used some old spark plugs to block those holes and tin foil stuffed into the tappet chest to mask that.

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After painting I baked the paint in my oven. I let the block get to just over 110 C and left it for 1 hour.


The fumes weren’t too bad!

After the paint dried I was going to fit the tappets but I discovered that mine are very worn and some are pitted. I did try grinding them back to flat but I think they are a bit too far gone. I tried a punch test and that left a mark so I think the hardening has gone on them.


I will need to get new ones from the UK. Until they arrive I can’t finish the block.  You have to insert the followers then the tappets screws and lock nuts before you install the valve springs. If you put the springs in first I don’t think there is then room to get the tappets in and you can’t insert them from underneath. The tappets themselves will fit up the guide but the lock nuts don’t. Unfortunately there is no Haynes manual for assembling an A7 engine and the books there are are somewhat vague. A lot of it seems to be knowledge you just have to have so I am not sure I am doing things correctly. I am just going by what seems sensible. Please let me know if I am going wrong!

So today I spent some time working on the head rear water takeoff. I drew the correct shape on the computer so I can use it to laser cut the gasket and also so I could make a template to cut out some aluminium to make a water take off plate. I started making the plate by hand and had roughed it out then realised I have the drawing on the computer now and I work somewhere that has CNC machines. With little work on at the moment it might be a good chance to learn how to use them and CNC the plate at the workshop.

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The other thing I did today was spend quite a bit of time cleaning the crankcase and nose piece. The crankcase was full of swarf from the mods I have had done and, even though I have cleaned it before, it was still dirty. I used some oven cleaner to remove the tough burnt on oil then scrubbed everything with a Simple Green solution and a stainless steel brush. After much washing and rubbing I finished up with a brass brush and some steel wool. It came up rather well! A better solution would be have it soda blasted as that leaves no residue to get into oil galleries as sand blasting of glass bead blasting would do but with no work on (so no income) I have to watch my spending and a few hours hard work was much cheaper and easier! I need to save my pennies to get the new tappets.

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I still need to make assemble the block and also insert and set up the oil jets in the crankcase as well as make an oil windage tray to fit in the bottom of it. I also need to work out how I will mount the blower and make a manifold for it. I also need to get a new fan. I had a new fan pulley made to suit the blower drive that runs off a V belt instead of the normal flat belt. Because the blower drive is off another gear driven off the cam gear it means the fan actually goes the other way around to normal. On a coil engine the fan goes anti-clockwise from the front. I need one to go clockwise. As it happens the fan off a magneto car goes clockwise. So I thought be able to use one of them. I think. I need to work all this through again. As well as the ratios to make sure I don’t overdrive the blower or the fan. I am sure I must have worked all this out before but I should probably check it all!

I have also started doing some research into the Riley. I have started cataloguing all the parts I have (and don’t have).  I know what brackets I am missing, I just need to work out how to make them. I’ve been in touch with some of the UK Riley people and they’ve sent me some helpful photos. From them, as well as others I have, I can see more or less what the brackets need to do. I can make out some of the details. I just need to make something suitable.


The first to tackle are the brackets that go into the chassis rails at the front as shown above. These brackets are where the engine mounts sit as well as where the back of the front spring shackle mounts. The RHS side one also holds the steering box in place via the circular clamp bracket you can just see on the steering box on the left  in the picture. I have lots of photos as well as detailed body drawings showing the mounting points in the chassis so I know exactly where the brackets need to be. I will 3D model them first so I know what I am making.  If I get really keen I can 3D print mockups on my printer to check they fit properly.

The Riley engine is still seized up. I keep squirting diesel down the bores and onto the bearings. It will need totally stripping at some point though but I want to get the Austin engine done before I tackle that one.

In the mean time I will finish cataloguing and start cleaning up some of the parts I do have. We have sandblasters in the workshop I can use to start cleaning up steering arms and linkages and rear axle mounts and so on.

I also need to start working on finishing the Austin body. Still to do is boot, bonnet, wings, seat, petrol tank and some of the floor in the firewall. I did buy myself a bead roller earlier in the year and I have my English Wheel and slip rollers as well as all the aluminium I need so no excuse for not starting.

Chummy sold! And other news…

November 14th, 2015

Yes, the Chummy has gone. I also have some news on a new project and some other news of a more interesting nature.

First the new project. Anyone recognise this?

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Here are some more parts.

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What I have there are most of the bits to make a Riley Nine Brooklands. The chassis is an exact copy of an original Brooklands, chassis 8075, which was a car that was in NZ for many years and in which Arthur Dexter won the Prosperity Week Grand Prix in 1933. I have the door skin of that car hanging on my garage wall apparently.

When that car was restored the chance was taken to have several exact copy replica chassis made. This is one of them. Also alloy copied of the rear axle casing were made and I have one of those too. The other parts are all Riley Nine including the engine, which was rebuilt some time ago but not run. The gearbox has close ratio gears in it. And the engine has four Amal carbs.

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When I had the Chummy wheels blasted I had the Riley ones done as well.

There are a few bits missing. Some of the chassis mounts for the engine and suspension and I am trying to find out details of them now. Real Brooklands are few and far between. I think there are between 100 – 200 originals. But there are quite a number of replicas and recreations about.

The lights I got from TradeMe and were the first purchase for that car (although I did pick up a black out light earlier that might make a nice instrument panel lamp). I had also started to clean up and examine the parts and workout what was there. The Riley isn’t much bigger than an Austin 7 but it is a much more substantial car. And they were very well built. A lot of the parts are interchangeable between models which is why many replicas are around. I think Rileys look good with big lights so those should work well.

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The Riley rear suspension is interesting. For a start it is under slung, that is the chassis rails go under the rear axle. And the rear axle is on a torque tube. The Austin is too but it has a drive shaft between the gearbox and torque tube with universals on it. In the Riley the torque tube attaches at the back of the gearbox. On the sevens the axle attaches to the end of the springs on a pin running in a bush to allow for the rotation of the axle in relation to the springs as it moves up and down. On the Riley the axles on top of the springs in special blocks that hold the axle but let it rotate as the axle travels. The whole car is low. You sit just above the and the top of the body is about 36 inches off the ground (less than 1m).

So this will be an exciting project and I was looking forward to doing some simple clean up on it while finishing off the Austin Seven special.

But then life does have a way of taking funny turns. I had mentioned I had lost my a few posts back. I also mentioned finishing the Turing Bombe. I ended up sending a link to that to Richard Taylor, he’d seen an earlier project of mine via my boss at a previous company who knows him. I knew he’d be interested. We chatted a bit and I mentioned I was between jobs and, half jokingly, said I had always thought I should ask him for a job. He said if I was serious I should come down to visit them in Wellington.

So, booked a train ticket (I prefer the train to flying although it does take all day), packed my Steed puppet that Richard said he was interested in seeing, and arranged to stay with a friend for the week and went to visit them. We had a chat, they showed me around for an afternoon then the next day the offered me a job! I said yes of course. I then spent the rest of the week figuring out how to make that work. I found a flat on The Terrace, arranged to lockup my house, shipped down a few essentials (tools, camera and film developing gear, model making stuff and a microscope!) and basically moved to Wellington a week later to start work. I also sold the Chummy. I didn’t want it sitting unused and someone was very keen so the timing all worked out. The money helps too.

Because now I am working as an independent contractor to Weta Workshop doing animatronics!

If people have followed my other blog and projects they’ll know this is pretty much my dream job. Quite a change from IT I must say. The salary is about 1/3 of what I am used to. The hours are much longer (10 hour days) too. But I am loving it, and the time just flies by.

Unfortunately I can’t say what I am working on exactly for confidentially reasons but this project has about 6 months work. After that I am not sure. Weta work depends very much on what projects they have on. And it can be very feast or famine.  But I can see how it goes for six months and then see. I always have the chance to go back into IT as well of course. Wellington being the only other place in NZ that has a lot of good (high paying) IT jobs.

It’s very little risk for me. No dependents, bugger all mortgage, the perfect opportunity. There was no way I could pass it up!

So, all car projects are on hold for now. Actually life is somewhat on hold. I am liking Wellington. I’ve never really liked Auckland and over the years have been liking it less and less as it grows and the character changes. Wellington suits me more. I could see myself selling up there and moving. In fact my sister just has, leaving Auckland for Hamilton of all places. If my parents follow to be close to Sophie, their granddaughter, there is no family to keep me there anymore. Will see how it goes early next year I guess! Selling my over priced Auckland house to move somewhere cheaper where I could maybe build a big garage/workshop (and have money in the bank) is starting to appeal!

I will keep writing in my other blog about what I am doing and how I am going here in Wellington.

Here are some final pictures of the state of the special.

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And even though I am away from my Austin there is a reminder just down the road!


Chummy back on the road.

October 4th, 2015

This weekend I finished fitting the new (although it was months ago we got them!) tyres on the Chummy. That didn’t work out to be too hard. No tyre irons needed, just walking them on a  big, rubber mallet to help them along. Hardest thing was getting the inner tubes in place. I ended up trying a string to the valve and feeding that through the rim hole so I could pull it though. That worked well.

I then had to touch up the paint on the rims, not from damaging them getting the tyres on, but because of all the places I had missed when I painted them before! If you think painting spoked wheels is a going to be tricky you’d be right! Since I had the paint spraying gear out I cleaned up and touched up the inside of the wheel wells.

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I finally got them back on the car today. I was supposed to go on a club run but I had other things on in the morning and couldn’t get there in time. I wouldn’t have been able to take the Chummy anyway as it’s been off it’s wheels so long the warrant expired! With the wheels on I drove it outside for the first time in months and gave it a bath.


I then went for a quick (naughty) drive around the block to make sure everything was still fine. I’d like to say the new tyres have transformed the handling and roadholding but those are two words that don’t really apply to a Chummy! Nothing fell off, no noticeable vibrations or wobbles, no spokes broke (I think, better check!) so we’ll call that good. One day I really must take the thing on the motorway and see what it’s top speed is. Can’t be too many cars around where you can say and do that and still be under the legal speed limit (100kph here). Not sure this one will reach that although there is a big down hill a few miles up the road from me, perhaps if the wind is just right….

I still need to rebuild the spare wheel but I don’t need that for the WOF so I will go do that tomorrow and be all legal again.

People probably wonder why these things take me so long. It’s because I have too many other hobbies so I chop and change what I do. I also do things like this:



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