June 5th, 2015

Working on it

Welding Woes

Fenchurch's MOT runs out on Monday. I was too busy to get the test done in Wales last week and I'm currently in Burnley doing some work for my parents, so the original plan had been to borrow Juliet's van for the trip to Burnley and get Fenchurch MOTed when I got back to Wales. Unfortunately as I was about to pack the van I spotted he had developed a fault that I couldn't fix without ordering a replacement part, so I decided to take Fenchurch instead and get her MOTed here at a garage I used to use years ago.
An extra complicating factor is that some of the work I'm doing for my parents is at their house and some is at their static caravan about an hour's drive away near Blackpool. The MOT garage is near Burnley. With all the to-ing and fro-ing I keep finding that I have left something important (like my phone charger, or a change of clothes) at whichever place I'm not.
It seems that since I last used that garage, the owner's son has taken over the MOT testing. The new chap, presumably fresh out of MOT Testing School, seemed rather confused by many aspects of how a classic car works, and worse luck (for me), carried out the most thorough test I have ever witnessed, taking twice as long as usual and finding several rust patches in the sills by painstakingly tapping every square inch of them with his pointy rust-testing hammer. To be fair, he did find some genuine rust patches that I was unaware of (because they were hidden under the paint) and that I suspect my usual MOT tester wouldn't have noticed. He also spotted another minor issue that is technically a failure (steering rack gaiter just starting to split), which happens to be one of my least favourite jobs because they seem to fail every two or three years and changing them is always a bit of a struggle.
Unfortunately for me, my MIG welder and other welding tools were 130 miles away at Juliet's house. So that afternoon I drove there and back to collect them, via Blackpool on the way back to get some clothes and other stuff I'd left at the caravan. At some point on the journey one of her exhaust brackets came loose and started rattling, I suspect because of the MOT tester tapping it with his rust hammer.
Yesterday I tackled the trickiest part of the welding, the bottom of one of the B posts. On a Traveller the B post is made up of a metal panel screwed to a wooden frame and there's no way to separate the two without completely dismantling the back of the vehicle, so I had to keep stopping every few seconds to douse the area with water lest the wood catch fire. The metal part is a complicated shape and rust had made it wafer thin so the welder kept blowing holes through it, and to cap it off my auto-darkening welding helmet has died (it's gone sort of permanently slightly dim and doesn't get any darker when you strike up the arc).
I managed to complete the B post repair using an old passive face shield, but as a fairly mediocre amateur welder who is used to the luxury of an automatic helmet, the face shield isn't much better than welding with my eyes closed because I can't precisely control where the weld begins and can barely see anything even when the arc is lit. The results weren't up to my usual standard, even after a lot of grinding back and re-welding dodgy bits. Hence my first task this morning will be to try to find a replacement automatic helmet locally without completely breaking the bank.