Monday, January 30, 2012

Specialty Tools

Well Sunday at the Hook was interesting to say the least. My last trip there with Bill Jackson left us with one main fin to be removed. We had removed the bolts we could, drilled out the rest and *still* couldn't budge it. Sandy took pity on me and covered the puppy classes I was supposed to take Quincy to Sunday morning so I headed south. I was anxious to get down to the project. I brought an air chisel with assorted bits for the fin and I'd gotten a panel cutter to work on the booster. After setting up and wailing on the fin for over 30 minutes (and feeling half deaf having forgotten my ear protectors) I finally gave up on the chisel. I mean this damn thing would not budge! I heaved, I tugged, I pushed and nothing happened. With all the other main fins off there was no way to work around this thing. I was getting really frustrated and more than a little angry. That's when I started looking around for "something different" and I found it:

Yeah, that's it - a 40 pound gas cylinder. The ring at the top and the ring at the bottom allow you to lift this thing horizontally in a clean and jerk motion and then bring it down as hard as I could on the fin. It took three shots with a lot of bellowing but I got the fin off!!! Interestingly the Park Rangers stopped by just afterwards and asked what all the "noise" was. I was just grinning like an idiot and said I was just  removing a fin.

The next task made use of the new panel cutter. Similar to the last main fin, we had removed all the attaching hardware to the booster fins but thay too would not budge. These are held in with a single central pin but I could not determine how to get them loose. Working on a seam that I ground down last trip I used the panel cutter to open the area around the fins:

You can get a great view of the booster's rocket motor venturi. Anyway, there are three brackets which I will attempt to remove (gingerly at first <g>). At this point, I soaked all fasteners down with Kroil and started to wind down the day's work.

Here's another view of the brackets:

It wasn't too cold on Sunday (you know, a balmy 40 degrees with an onshore breeze) but I had gotten a radiant propane heater and I wanted to have it assembled in the event that the next trip were really cold. Hey, it's winter and it's bound to happen at the worst possible time, right? So I got this unit from Home Depot:

The canopy is movable so I can direct the heat to the work area. It may not be as comfortable as Mario and Dominick have it out at Floyd Bennett but it's what I've got. They have an Ajax out there that they are restoring.  <Hi guys!> 

All in all not a bad day. Til the next time, Blazing Skies!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Starting 2012 with a little help from my friends

With the holidays behind us and Spring coming up fast it was time to get back to the twin Ajax missiles. Sandy Hook in January is a fiercely beautiful place. There were white-caps on the bay spraying up on the road and the wind was whipping around. Spending time banging on old missiles in an unheated building can lose some of its allure in the Winter months. However, I had the privilege of having Bill Jackson lending a hand. For those of you who do not not know him, Bill is the President of the Fort Hancock Nike Site Volunteer Association. He is a hellava tour guide and one of the primary driving forces of the Nike Site. He is also a great guy to have working with you on any project - and with things like this restoration there is a wide variety of unusual stuff that continually crops up. We changed lightbulbs, drilled out frozen bolts and chuckled about seeing our breath in the A&S building.

All in all it was a very productive day. We are down to the last Main Fin on the second Ajax. All the bolts  (which were frozen) were drilled out and the doggone thing still wouldn't let go (and by God we tried)! Ripped up a bunch of drill bits. Uncle Sam sure used great bolts! Next trip I'll be taking an air-chisel to it. We setup a secure area for the tool storage and developed a working plan for the removal of the booster fins.  A few more workdays like this and we will be ready to start some of the smaller component refinishing. I like to call it "Visual Progress". It doesn't so much move the project ahead (though it all adds up) as much as it gives you a sense of project direction, and more than a little satisfaction at seeing some parts nearing completion. It helps me to visualize where this is all going.

'Til next time.... Blazing Skies!