Steaming Ahead

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Steaming Ahead

Since I have been a member of the Club I have gathered various spares to keep my V-twin trike mobile.
A couple of years ago I managed to get a spare post-1932 chassis. Looking at my ‘spares’, I decided that I had enough bits to build another trike, this time however it would be a four cylinder version. The only parts that I didn’t have were (i) a body, and (ii) an engine. This is the story of how I built my body.
I decided to start with a simple plywood floor. I needed a sheet of ½” ply.I tried builders’ merchants, timber importers, and specialist board manufacturers.I found that ply in this thickness varied from £17.00 to over £120.00, depending on quality and finish. After many hours of thought I chose the cheapest marine plywhich was approved to the ‘Lloyds Insurance’ standard. This was of Far Eastern origin but with the approval mark stamped on both sides. Incidentally, this was ofa 7ply construction and of an obviously much higher quality than ordinary ‘builder’s’ plywood. My plywood cost £43.00 (including VAT).
I next raided my kitchen (thanks Jen) and borrowed a roll of rice paper(apparently used to stop cakes sticking to baking trays), an excellent substitute for tracing paper. I traced out the existing edges of my body and transferred them t omy new sheet of plywood. A hand held electric jigsaw was then used to cut out thenew floor. Stage one was now complete.
The trike floor has two ‘keels’ of ash running along the outside edge of the floor.Those on my trike were 4’W in ash. I talked to a local forester and explained that I needed some very freshly cut ash, not kiln dried, approximately 10×4 x7, .He provided six lengths in exchange for a service on his motorcycle. The ash hadto be green as I intended to steam bend the keels to fit my floor.
I made a former by tracing the outline of my new floor on to some 3/4″ shuttering plywood. I did this six times and placed the layers on top of each other to provide a solid former. I bolted this to a piece of old board. I then begged and borrowed as many G clamps as I could from anybody I knew.
My steamer was a five gallon Burco boiler with a length of 6″ diameter metal air ducting pipe. I turned the Burco to maximum and left the ash in the pipe for four hours.
After this period, wearing gloves, the ash must be bent round the former and secured with the clamps within about a minute, or the ash complains! I foundthis procedure easier if a strip of thin (approx1/16″) mild steel was used to bend the wood round the former. I left the ash clamped for two days, however literature I have subsequently read suggests that only about 20 minutes would have been enough. I secured the keels to the edge of the floor with W N08 stainless steel screws (very expensive, I’m afraid).
Stage two now complete.
I treated my new floor assembly with many coats of wood preserver while I contemplated my next move. Help came in the form of an advert in ‘FrontWheels’. Graham Skillen had advertised two trike doors. These were a godsend.I carefully measured their position in the body of my original trike and G clamped them to my new floor. This gave me the correct angle and positioning for all my bulkhead and door pillar uprights on the keels. I ordered some kiln dried ash froma local timber wholesaler. I used mainly l”xl”. I found that it came in 20 foot lengths but was priced by the cubic metre. This added another £38.00 to my bill.
I found that the bulkhead and door pillar uprights tapered by ½”, giving an across the body increase in width of about 1″ between the body width at the floor and at the top of the body. This I copied with my jigsaw. The crosspieces of the bulkhead and bonnet supports I cut from 4″xl” ash, again using the tracing with rice paper method, copying the curve from my original body. Things were going well until I came across a problem with the front top edge of the doors where they meet the door pillar and second bulkhead. At this point there is a double curve.I am not a carpenter, work stopped for a week of thought.
I contacted Mike Scott-Coomber who I knew had previously built his own body.He sent me a set of photographs of his body during construction and gave me valuable advice about a Black ∓ Decker drill attachment. It consists of a cylinderof foam approximately 5″ in diameter and 4″ long, covered with an abrasive strip.It is fantastic for shaping wood and is the exact diameter for the double curve ona BSA trike body (cost about £6). End of stage three.
I had now a complete floor and bulkheads, these I had bolted and screwed to the keels This left spaces between the uprights along the keel. I returned to my friendly forester and he cut me a quantity of 4″x3/16″ ash. I laminated these to the keels using a fantastic glue called Cascophen made by Humbrol. The top read body rail on which the boot lid sits was similarly made from laminated ash. Endof stage four.
I returned to my not so friendly timber wholesaler (he’s a bit fed up of selling me single sheets of specialised plywoods) and bought two sheets of 3mm Finnish birch plywood. This I pinned and glued to the section of body behind the doors (as permy original body, the section at the front is simply clad in alloy sheet with no plywood).
The sourcing of the alloy was a tedious job. Unlike plywood it doesn’t come in standard 8’x4′ sheets, but varies from 6’x4′ to 2m x 1m, depending on the supplier.There is also a minimum order value of £100 from some outlets. I eventually got three 2m x 1m sheets of half hard 1mm thick aluminium for £45 from a local engineering firm. Half hard alloy ‘cold hardens’ once shaped over the body and becomes quite rigid. When covering the front half of the body I decided to use two sections with a piece of alloy strip covering the join, which runs along the centre of the car in a line with the bonnet hinge. The alloy skinning was a job I started with very little confidence but found taking things slowly and carefully the job was done in a weekend!
If anybody wishes to build a body along the same lines, I still have my former,steamer, trike doors, and some ash which I would gladly donate/lend to a serious coachbuilder!


Dave Howard

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