Kiwi Dave

A few years ago I worked with an English guy who had migrated to New Zealand many, many years ago. Let’s call him Kiwi Dave.
One day over morning tea, we got talking about “the good old days” and he told me a bit about his early days.
In his words …

It was 1957 when I entered the Shipyard as a young Engineer. Fresh from school, enthusiastic and full of dreams. I would have been at Rolls Royce, but in those days, the apprentice paid the company for the privilege of being taught and that sum of money was way beyond my fathers means. So there I was – In the shipyard – and a few memories immediately come to mind —
I can remember that the Workshop foremen wore a bowler hat, and 3 piece suit to work , complete with fob watch – such was his esteem and authority in the workplace
I can remember fitters and machinists wearing starched collars and ties to work and their labourers cleaning and preparing the jobs for them to work on
I can remember being taught the art of drawing with ink on linen
I can remember spending hours practicing hand printing skills on a drawing board and my printing is still pretty good
I can remember the Chief Draughtsman would come around and measure the thickness of our lines using a feeler gauge. Such was the attention to detail. At the time, I hated him with a vengeance because if it was the wrong thickness – it was erase and start again.
I can remember an enormous machine shop with every machine being driven by belts from a central shaft arrangement. Quite an imposing sight
I can remember that as indentured apprentices, we could never addressed our journeyman by first name – it was always Mr. Or it was the wroth of his tongue followed by a swift clip across the back of the head
Try telling that to the young Engineers today and they would never believe you !!!
Happy days indeed – very character forming



Damaged FRP (Fibreglass Reinforced Plastic)

Damaged FRP (Fibreglass Reinforced Plastic)

Just under the railway bridge between Rhodes and Meadowbank (Sydney, Australia) there is an area with odd shapes of concrete at strange angles and sort of linked together with sections of GRP.
There are also benches which overlook the water.

I don’t often go there, but a few weeks ago I was in the area and thought that I would sit on one of the benches, look at the river and mull over some issues.

I noticed that there was a hole in the FRP . I have never seen anything like this before and thought it very strange.

Although I’ve used the product on several occasions with great success, I’m not an expert.
I generally regard this product as bullet proof.

Maybe this is a common occurrence – but would be very interested, purely for my own knowledge, to know what has caused the FRP to degrade like this.



You Know That You’re An Old Engineer – Number 8

You Know That You’re An Old Engineer – Number 8

1. When you can remember that gloves were for wimps – guys on the shop floor had gnarly battered hands.

2. When you can remember that hearing protection was for wimps – which is why all of your buddies now have hearing problems – WHAT DID YOU SAY?
3. When you can remember that the steel plate guillotine operators all had fingers or thumbs missing from their hands – it was part of the job – before guarding and safety came into vogue.
4. When you can remember that bumper bars/fenders on automobiles were practical bump bars, designed to protect the vehicle when it hit a solid object – not like todays excuses – were a slight bump can be a major rebuild of the vehicle.
5. When you can remember tractor feed printers were attached to the computer system and they would churn through mountains of paper for even the most minor data to be printed – if the tractor mechanism didn’t foul up.

6. When you can remember getting lectured on Japanese manufacturing methodology and why they were taking over the world and local industry was closing down – yeah, yeah, yeah – Kan Ban – 5S – JIT – SMED – what is this gobbledygook?
7. When you can remember that companies ran on mainframe computers with slave modules at each desk.
8. When you can remember the 286 computer was state of the art and the experts said they would never replace the mainframe computers. And you still have irreplaceable data on 5 1/4 ” floppy discs – Tho’ you will never be able to read them.  And you can’t remember exactly what it is – but you know that it is very important.

9. When you can remember all welding was stick welding – whats with this tig and mig stuff.

10. When you can remember that steel was cut by hand, with a hacksaw and cleaned up with a file– not an angle grinder.

A Hostile Trivia Quiz – Maybe ?

A Hostile Trivia Quiz – Maybe ?

The Coffee Break Quiz – A challenging selection of General Engineering questions and answers -
sometimes you just don’t know what you don’t know, but you’re sure that you did know or that you should know and when you see the answers you know that once upon a time you probably did know !

Challenge your colleagues – can they answer more than you ?


The name for Shrapnel was derived from the Greek word for “shatter and spread in many directions” – True or False

Shrapnel was named after British army officer Lieutenant General Henry Shrapnel

The Maginot Line was the secure telephone line used between the French President and the British Prime Minister at the beginning of WWII – True or False

The Maginot Line was a series of fortifications constructed along the French - German border during the 1930’s

Mulberry Harbours were temporary portable harbours developed by the British during World War II - True or False

Gunpowder was invented by the Greeks – True or False

Gunpowder was invented by the Chinese in the 9th century

The WWII Manhattan Project was created to produce …

The Bailey Bridge was designed to transport live shells from a stockpile to an artillery field gun thus eliminating the need for manual handling – True or False

The Bailey Bridge was a prefabricated, portable, temporary truss bridge, designed to be used where a permanent bridge had been destroyed

The Gatling Gun is named after its inventor R.J.Gatling – True or False

In the Roman army a Ballista was a …

The Tank is an armoured fighting vehicle designed for front line combat. Designed and first used in WW1, the name “Tank” was used by the British as a security measure to fool enemy spies – True or False

The word Ballistic is derived from the Greek word for violent explosion – True or False

The word Ballistic pertains to the science of motion – specifically under its own momentum

You Know That You’re An Old Engineer – Number 6

⁃ When you can remember tuning the carburetor on your car
⁃ You still have your first (and only) set of drawing instruments and they are in pristine condition
⁃ You still use these drawing instruments
⁃ You can remember when there was more waste product on the factory floor than good product in the machine and the company (you worked for) was happy to throw labour at cleaning up the mess, but not to assign an Engineering resource to design out the problems
⁃ You can remember reading about some guy called Demming who had some radical ideas on quality and production techniques and you knew that they would never take off
⁃ You can remember when your best Engineering Designs were formulated on the back of a drink coaster/cigarette packet/napkin – in the bar after work – the designs always got better as the evening went on
⁃ You can remember when all trains where big and shiny, gave off lots of smoke and were driven by steam
⁃ You can remember the old style earth moving excavators which had jibs and buckets activated by wire rope. (I know that because I worked on them)
⁃ You can remember when SNAFU was the favorite saying
⁃ You can remember when there was an office full of (predominantly) females sitting in front of loud, manual, mechanical typewriters and they had to manually hit the return at the end of each line



Is A Better Bicycle Really Worth It ?

Is A Better Bicycle Really Worth It ?

I admit it – I like to ride a bicycle. I think that it’s good exercise and I like to get out into the fresh air. Let me say at this point that I don’t ride on roads with high traffic, as I think that it’s too dangerous. My riding is on dedicated cycleways and paths and its all about “smell the roses” along the way. A nice steady ride. None of the “head down tail up” stuff you see from the hard riding dedicated cyclists.

I recently bought a new bike and this has caused me to ask a few questions and ponder “the meaning of life”.

My old bike was bought back in about 2005 and over the years there have been many parts replaced due to to wear and tear and the occasional spill.
But – just like soft brakes on an automobile can creep up on you, many things had started to creep up on my bike without me paying much attention to them.

Let me also say that I’m not big on bike maintenance – I know that I should be – but I always seem to have too many other, more important things to do – So I adopt the “If it ain’t broke – Don’t try and fix it” approach.
I think that I did clean it once over the 12 years or so – but normally relied on the next shower of rain that I got caught in to wash it down.
After all – Its only a bike and with fairly simple mechanical components – I always gave the chain and sprockets a good dose of lubricant – what could possibly go wrong.
I would have my ride and put the bike in the shed until the next ride. All Good

I won’t bore you with all of the details, but when I finally did give it the attention it needed I was looking at replacing wheel bearings, the sprocket assembly, the chain, various wheel spokes and there was a split in the wheel rim, a buckled wheel etc etc.
Obviously just not worth spending the money to fix it when compared with the cost of a new, similar bike.
So I bought a new bike.

Now – This is where the conundrum starts

With my old bike I was riding about 60 km (38miles) and after the ride there was a fair degree of aching in the legs and I generally would feel fairly whacked. This would carry over into the next day and it was only on the third day that I was back to normal.
Now with my new bike I am riding the same distance, but with none of the aching and feeling whacked afterwards. So – obviously the old bike was in pretty poor shape and fairly inefficient – to say the least.

But I’m not getting the “workout” that I was getting before !!!

• I could try and ride faster and with more intensity – but I ride on a shared path and there is always a steady stream of pedestrians (including children and dogs) and at 67 years of age I really don’t know that I’m capable of pushing the speed.

• I could ride further – i.e. a longer ride, but do I want to commit to more time in the saddle ?

• I could look at making the bike less efficient with maybe a slight steady brake on the wheel – but this is a bit radical and probably an impractical/stupid idea!

• I could try and get in more, maybe shorter rides – but this would not make up for intensity.

I know that some people will say – buy an exercise bike or go to the gym and adjust the resistance but:-

1 – I have tried these exercise bikes and I don’t like them – I like to get out in the fresh air and see things.
2 – I’m lazy – if I’m riding a machine and get tired I will find an excuse to stop and get off – If I’m 30 km from home and get tired theres no couch nearby, it’s grit your teeth and keep going.

Mmmmmm – So it’s back to the Drawing Board

Then again ………

Maybe having an easier ride isn’t such a bad thing after all !!



Weekly Engineering Trivia Quiz – Mar 20th 2017

Weekly Engineering Trivia Quiz – Mar 20th 2017

The Coffee Break Quiz – A challenging selection of General Engineering questions and answers -
sometimes you just don’t know what you don’t know, but you’re sure that you did know or that you should know and when you see the answers you know that once upon a time you probably did know !

Challenge your colleagues – can they answer more than you ?


Who's law states - The magnitude of the electrostatic force between two point electric charges is directly proportional to the product of the magnitudes of each of the charges and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between the two charges….

The earliest version of the Cathode Ray Tube was invented by the German physicist Ferdinand Braun in 1955 - True or False

It was invented by Ferdinand Braun in 1897

Spark Machining, Spark Eroding, Burning, Die Sinking and Wire Erosion are all colloquial names for Electric Discharge Milling – True or False

A device used to measure and regulate the speed of a machine, such as a steam engine is called a …

Lignite is often referred to as what colour coal…

A cubit is one of the first recorded units of measurement - What did a cubit measure ...

A polygon with 50 sides is called a …

In architecture, what name is given to a small tower  that projects vertically from the wall of a building such as a medieval castle…

The female taper on a Lathe Centre or a Drill Press is called a Morse Taper – True or False

The cubed root of 512 = 8 – True or False – (without a calculator please)

You Know That You’re An Old Engineer – Number 5

1. When you can remember using a hole template for drafting work
2. When you can remember using a sanding board to produce chisel points which were “works of art” As was the Calligraphy you produced on each drawing !!!
3. When you can remember asbestos being widely used in all sorts of engineering applications
4. When you CAN NOT remember any hazardous stuff (at all) being used in the workplace !!!!
5. When you can remember when a Steam Roller was actually driven by steam
6. When you can remember British motor cycles dominating on the roads
7. When you can remember either owning a British motor cycle or wanting to own one
8. When you can remember always carrying a full tool kit in your car – just in case it would break down
9. When you can remember always carrying a Swiss army knife type tool kit with you – just in case something else would break down and need to be repaired
10. When you can remember when almost everyone rode bicycles to work and the bicycle racks far outnumbered car parking spaces