Saturday, February 14, 2015

Chinese wheelbarrow

I have built the ugliest vehicle on earth today. I did not choose to: I was sort of asked. It was after one of those conversations concerning garden carts, the upshot of which was a neighbour bringing round a truly hideous wooden bicycle trailer he had built thirty years ago to carry his children to school: that they survived is miraculous given the wheels were bolted to slots in thin plywood in place of dropouts.

Oh god, I thought, this is one of those "Here's a 250gm packet of raspberry jelly - I thought you could use it to make me a ten-inch Dobsonian astronomical reflector" requests.

I was right.

"I thought you could use this to make a garden cart," he said.

I replaced the 26 x 13/8 wheels immediately with mountain bike wheels and for months pretended I was going to put handles and feet on it, but every time I looked afresh at it my heart sank as I thought how little time those wheels would survive in that flimsy wooden framework with heaps of compost in between.


I couldn't quite bring myself to set it on fire and this morning at 8 am I went into the shed and it broke the camel's back. I looked carefully at my finger and pulled it out.

One of the most brilliant vehicles ever invented, and waiting for civilization to collapse to come back into its own, is the Chinese wheelbarrow, but the weight rests on the axle and throwing weeds into this vile box wasn't going to be easy if its floor was 27 inches above the ground. As built the floor was 13 inches high which is okay for shovelling. I calculated that a small protrusion into the barrow would still permit the ubiquitous New Zealand house-paint bucket to go inside, and this is important cos you can pick up 10 litres of weeds, whereas a whole barrow-full gets a bit heavy to upend onto the compost heap. From experience a 20 inch wheel is the smallest you can use in the garden without too much rolling resistance, so I found a BMX wheel with a tyre and attempted to pump it up. All my track pumps refuse to have intercourse with Schrader valves these days so this is an adventure and one I could well do without. And then I spun it and found it was miles out of true. So I started fiddling with the spokes but they had rusted into the nipples and three of them broke. And I had no spares. Which meant finding a half-dead wheel and filching three spokes of-ov it instead. By which time it was 11 am and I was mad.


Then the ghastly towing handle thing had to come off. Wood screws when converted into 30 years worth of rust do not readily give themselves up to a screwdriver, and I was madder. All thought of delicacy evaporated and the angle grinder came out to cut the slot for the wheel. If ever you want to make fire with a bow-drill like a caveman then I recommend using an angle-grinder on wood instead. The smoke is ferocious and all of it goes straight up your nose.

To house the axle, I found and hacksawed and bent a suitably rusty back triangle from a bike someone had given me, and welded 1 ½ struts on it as triangulation in case Mr. Bird still reads this blog. The remaining ½ strut had to wait till I did my exercise so that I could take in Repco on my ride and replenish my 0.8mm welding wire which had vexingly run out. So that was 2pm.


The exposed joints revealed why brackets had been use at the corners. Not all of them had wood inside.

I whacked the brackets back with a hammer and put some screws in and tried to forget what lay beneath.



At 3 we were back in business after the ATM machine had unkindly and inexplicably swallowed my card, reducing me to rummaging round for cash to buy a CO2 bottle which had also freshly run out, and the remaining half of strut was welded and holes got themselves drilled for bolts.

Wheel on and rolling, and then a hunt for wood to give two handles 23" long, these being comfy on that one I made for Graeme next door. And another hunt for something to make into legs. At which point it was 6 pm.


The last bit was to box in the wheel, and a bit of precision woodwork took this to 7.30, and then the tyre had gone flat so I said the word that you say and got a bucket of water and found the hole was in a rotted patch which had to be scraped off and replaced, with lots more of that word being said, and pumped up with the track pump that nearly works, and then it was 8pm which is why the finished pictures are all dark and only lit up by the camera flash.


So that was my whole Saturday gone, making an ugly cart out of a piece of garbage for someone else, which I could easily have spent rescuing whales. And now I know why my brother always says "No" when someone says "Can you just do this for me" because as soon as the just word is used he knows they won't ever appreciate how much work is involved.


Oh, and if you're that lady with the exquisite carbon-fibre racing bike who said "scuse me" on the Mot bridge clip-on, the reason I was sweeping the cycle path in my cycling clothes and helmet was to remove a smashed beer-bottle rather than because road-cleansing is a personal hobby, and I do hope you had a nice ride even though when you'd pushed past me you rode straight through all the glass.

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1 Comments:

Blogger manxkiwi said...

Your heart is in the right place. Hard to say where your head is.

September 20, 2015 at 11:41 PM  

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