HP-24 Project

Update 15 December 2004: We'll have a barrel of fun!

Hoo, boy, I have been so busy at work and at home. And somehow, the shop has become a slo-mo zone just like it did when I was finishing up the HP-18 center stick development. Everything takes twice as long as I expect, and everything has a complication that requires two other things to be done first.

Last weekend our big adventure was the delivery of a 55-gallon drum of epoxy resin.

George Applebay, bless his heart, gave me good warning that freight charges on those drums will add half again to the total cost of the material. He told me straight that the only cost-effective way to handle them was to go to the depot and get them yourself. Which is what I did, or rather what my friend (bless his heart as well) Doug Gray did for me.

The thing is, once they forklift the drum into your pickup or van, the fun isn't even half over. The big fun is getting the drum back out at your little shop or garage where there's no forklift nor loading dock.

Now, I've been preparing for this weekend for the better part of a month. I already have an engine hoist to lift the 500-lb drum. I bought a wheeled dolly to move the drum with. And also a barrel pump to empty it with, a heater to keep it from crystalizing, and a lifting rig to grab it by the top rim so we can lift it with the engine hoist. So I wasn't totally unprepared.

Howevver, for us, there was an added complication: the low overhead clearance between the top of the drum and the ceiling of the van meant that there wasn't room to engage the lifting rig and hoist the drum straight out of the van. What we had to do is build a little platform outside the van, with a floor level with that of the van, so we could skootch the drum out to where it had clear sky overhead for the lifting rig.

The nervous-making part of this whole mess is that there was much more than the thousand dollars or so of material cost at stake. If we loosed that drum from any particular height, it would most likely burst and spew 55 gallons of sticky toxic goo all over the parking lot of my rented shop. Then we'd have to make a hazmat cleanup call, notify the landlord, get the insurance company in to assess the damage, and all that paperworky-type stuff. The cleanup would run five digits, and HP Aircraft would probably find itself packed back into my two-car garage. That's just the way it goes when you work without a net.

And further, I've never in my life had to handle full drums of stuff. So their solid threatening heft, and the machinery and procedures commensurate with it, are things I've considered only in theory, like a patent drawing with elements elegantly delineated by italic letters a through g.

So anyhow, let's go to the pictures and let them show the story.

The drum and our improvised launch platform (that's ILP in TLA-ish). The platform has two feet on the ground, and two 2x6 horizontals resting on the van's door sill.

Doug and I skootch the drum out onto the platform. The stubborn weight of such things is a force to be reckoned with. It took careful consideration of vectors and tangencies to apply the tip-and-spin nudges that proved effective.

Me and my new best friend. Yes, I normally dress like a flood victim for momentous occasions. But when I think something really embarrassing is going to happen, I wear the SparrowHawk T-shirt I bought from Greg Cole when we were both in Seattle for a glider expo. I had a premonition that it wouldn't be warranted this day.

We applied the engine hoist and drum lifter, and it gave me a solid case of the giggles when all the parts worked as expected. The way the lifter grips the rim of the drum looks a bit tenuous to me, but it's rated for about twice what this drum weighs, so it's probably just fine. By the way, this is the cheap drum lifter from Harbor Freight; we didn't use the drum sling that I bought from McMaster for twice as much and that looked half as impressive. Here, we've taken the launch platform away, and replaced it with a box of styrofoam plug cores from FlyingFoam.com. It's expensive crash padding, but I figured if the drum went inertial it might have enough give to prevent a hazmat spill.

Doug watches as I lower the drum with more patience that most praying mantises can muster. I was taking no chances.

Houston, the Epon has landed!

Me in my dorky shop glasses, and daughter Raen indulge ourselves in a well-deserved drum roll.

The drum in its new home. The orange band is a drum heater that kicks in at about 50 degrees F to keep the contents above the crystalization temperature range. I'll probably play with the heat settings some to get nice runny resin on layup days.

Next weekend, we should have Doug back up at the shop, get the molds in, and start cutting plies and applying wax.

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page updated 15 December 2004 all text and graphics copyright (c) 2004 HP Aircraft, LLC