Sunday, November 27, 2011

Check Back In January

Hello All! It has been a month or so since I have updated, so I thought I should give some insight into what's going on with the project.

As stated in the previous post, I have the envelope basically completed and I am waiting to purchase the materials for the chariot lower end. This wont happen until January. I have been quite busy with the holidays, work related activities and I am graduating from the University of California Davis in the beginning of December. Needless to say it has been hard to focus on building the rest of the experimental. But, January is the month!

In my next few posts I will be listing items that I will be purchasing and hopefully have a final drawing of how I am going to construct the chariot frame. Check back in a month and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Inflator fan

The final touches on the envelope will be completed upon its first cold inflation (IE: installing the thermistor wire and turning vent lines). I am unsure of the exact length needed for the turning vent lines since I changed the location of the stainless steel rings to avoid the parachute line and turning vent lines possibly getting tangled. I am going to cold inflate the envelope, string the turning vent lines through the appropriate rings and tie them in. I will cut the final length once I have the balloon inflated and stood up.
Now that I have the envelope pretty much finished, I have a few new projects to start on. The first and most important being to build the gondola (chariot lower end). Unfortunately I don't think I will manage to get to that project till the beginning of December. However, I do have some smaller projects that I can start working on in the mean time.

I knew I would be needing an inflation fan for my balloon and was contemplating purchasing one from either Tempest or from Klein Fans. Tempest makes a fantastic safe and VERY effective fan which I have been lucky enough to have used on numerous occasions. I have not had the opportunity to use a Klein fan yet, but I have heard great things about their compact size and light weight design. So as I was contemplating which one to purchase, I stumbled upon an amazing deal through a customer of mine, Chuck Reynolds, who wanted to contribute to my balloon project. I was speaking to Chuck about what he liked about his fairly new 5hp Tempest fan and explained how I was in search of a fan for my experimental balloon. After a few minutes of conversation about how the Tempest was a great choice, Chuck offered up his old fan for next to nothing. I gladly accepted and am now the proud owner of this beast of a fan:

As you can see, it needs a little TLC. But, if you didn't notice from the has a brand new 8HP motor! Yes it is OVERKILL for my little balloon, but who cares?! Ill be able to cold pack my balloon on idle!

My game plan is to purchase a 6 blade propeller to replace the damaged wooden prop currently on the fan. I will remove the motor from the frame, weld up my own which will be a little smaller and will be easier to move around. In addition to building a new frame I am going to construct a shroud for the fan and I plan on using the existing cage to seal up the front and back of the unit. Of course...there are plans to paint the entire unit some form of gray, pink and lime green. I will wait till it is finished being built before I come up with a color design though.

That's it for now. Check back in a couple weeks for another update.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

In the Bag!

There are some things I just cant resist putting personal touches on. Having things custom made or altered to be truly unique is a great way to stand out from the crowd and can make all the difference in how you treat your equipment. At least, that's what I believe...

So, it got me thinking...the envelope spends most of its life INSIDE its bag. Why not make the bag just as impressive as the envelope itself? So without further adieu...

The bag is made from VERY durable ballistic nylon. The pink and green fabric is from some cold air scraps we had laying around. I constructed the bag to be comfortable to carry and to last the abuse of being tossed, dropped or dragged around. Here are a few other pictures of the construction process.

 The diamonds are overlaid on the envelope bag.

 Some 5/8 inch rubber hose makes the bag handles much more comfortable to hang onto

As for the envelope, I still have to tie in my thermistor wire and turning vent lines. That should only take me about 30 minutes...which means...I am basically done with the envelope. All in all I am happy with how it has turned out (without seeing it inflated yet). The envelope has a few extra pounds here and there, but overall it should fly nicely when paired with the lower end I will construct over the next few months. I will be purchasing some of the materials to start building soon.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Installed the Parachute

Over the last few days I have managed to sneak in a few hours to cut my parachute lines and tie the whole thing in (with assistance of my trainee/coworker Angel). My fingers are SORE. In just a few hours, we tied nearly 70 knots and 70 back up knots. I also installed the upper and lower parachute lines. After the entire parachute assembly was completed, I installed the suspension cables (minus my four carabiners which I still need to get) and started working on the envelope bag. Here are some random pics AND a short video of us putting some air inside of it for the first time inside the shop.

Here is the link to the VIDEO

Hanging up the valve edge to partially inflate the balloon for tying in the parachute
 A little air anyone?
 Finished tying in the top.
 Upper and Lower parachute line with pulley and bridle lines.
 Interior shot of the balloons first partial inflation
 Inside my balloon
 Attached the suspension cables

 Another shot inside the balloon

The beginning of my envelope bag. It will be made of ballistic nylon and will have green and pink diamonds on the sides.

I only have three final things to install on the balloon! My carabiners, my turning vent lines and my thermistor wire. Those should only take me about two hours to complete. Once I have that done, I will complete my envelope bag and pack it up. It might take a few weeks to begin working on my lower end but I look forward to working with the stainless steel tubing. Check back in a few days for another update.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Zipping It Up

Today I installed all 16 stickmen, all 16 Velcro (hook) on the envelope and closed up my last gore seam! It is so close to having its first cold inflation! I was hoping to have it done this weekend, but all my "free time" suddenly disappeared. There is still a chance I could finish it, but it might have to wait till next weekend.

Here's the new list of what is left to do on the envelope:

1) Cut and tie in parachute lines and turning vent lines
2) Install the (3) pulleys/rings for the turning vent and parachute lines
3) Install ties for the thermistor wire and install thermistor wire
4) Install gore ID numbers
5) Sew in the crown ring to the top webbing & tie on crown line
6) Attach suspension cables
7) Purchase 4 steel carabiners
8) Trim any extra loose threads
9) Complete a gore by gore

I actually have 10th thing to do, install my N number. Unfortunately, I have to wait till I have the airworthiness inspection before I can install it...legally.

*Once I complete 1-9 I will do a cold inflation, take a few pictures and then start making the time lapse video for the envelope*

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Building The Man....Stickman That Is...

I managed to drag the balloon out again yesterday to finish putting on all (4) of the horizontal load tapes. It was quite the experience forcing the fabric through the throat of the sewing machine on the horizontal load tapes at the equator. It may be a small balloon, but there is still a lot of fabric to handle at that section. After I had the last one installed, I was happy to check off another item from my "to do list".

Pictured: Finishing the throat of the balloon...and my dog giving me moral support like he always does.

Once I pulled the balloon out of the sewing machine, I was contemplating if I should start my stickmen or just wait until this Friday/weekend. The sewing machine was acting up a little bit (bobbin casing was catching my top thread and jamming the machine every 20-30 feet or so) and I didn't want to deal with the frustration of that happening while I put in 16 stickmen. So instead, I prepared all the pieces I needed and just installed one. I doubled up the load tape to give the tie off loop a little more strength. It probably wasn't necessary, but then again, why not?

So here is my first stickman:


I placed the stickmen on the half gore seam (not on the vertical load tape) mainly because of how the colors of the parachute would line up. In the picture below, the blue dots are my Velcro tabs which are on the seams of the parachute. If I were to have the Velcro tabs line up with the envelope vertical load tapes, the colored points of the parachute wouldn't line up with the diamonds on the envelope.

So instead, I installed the stickmen and Velcro on the half gore seam so the pattern will line up like this:
It might be a subtle difference in the drawing, but I know it will make a big difference once the balloon is inflated.

I plan on installing the remaining 15 stickmen, 16 envelope Velcro, gore numbers and closing up the last gore seam this weekend. Once it is closed up I'm going to partially cold inflate it in the shop to take a few interior pictures. Check back in the next few days for another progress update!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Dee Ring Install

I found an extra hour or two during the day to install the Dee Rings at the throat (to attach the skirt and suspension cables). Before I slid the ring onto the load tape to create my loop, I added an extra piece of load tape to the inside of the gore load tape to serve as a friction pad for the Dee Rings. I highly doubt the rings would cause any damage from rubbing (I haven't seen any damage on other balloons in all my years working at the repair station) but I figure the simple addition couldn't hurt. Now, if the rings do begin to damage the load tape, I can simply open up the loop, remove the extra piece of load tape and sew in a new one. It sure beats having to splice in a couple feet of load tape on each (potentially) damaged loop. Here are a few pictures:

The extra piece of load tape
 Here it is sewn into place
 A closer view
 Here is the Dee rings installed on the loop
 A better view of the loop and Dee Rings
 A side view of the loop, friction load tape and two Dee Rings installed

I have 15 of the 16 loops with Dee Rings done. I haven't closed up the balloon yet so I still have one more gore seam to complete. I wont close it until I add my circumferential load tapes. I installed 1 of them today and will hopefully install the other three on Wednesday the 28th.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Within Reach

Ill keep this one short....

Over the last two days I have manged to sew together all of the gores, and assemble my turning vent. I have one last gore seam till the balloon is closed up (besides the throat and valve of course). I am so close to being finished, I can taste it! Here is a few pictures of what Ive done since the last update.

Outer turning vent cut
 Inner turning vent
Inner and outer turning vent sewn together
 Another view of the turning vent. It is hard to see the outer turning vent from the inner. I am hoping it stays that way when it is inflated!
 A better view of the turning vent edge.
 Bottom edge of the turning vent...
I added the load tape to the valve edge.
 Intersection of the gore tape and valve edge.
 The mass of fabric which is almost a balloon!
 The PFAFF is a beast of a machine and hasn't let me down!

Here is a list of what I have left to complete on the envelope:
1) Close up the last gore seam
2) Sew on the (5) circumferential tapes
3) Cut and tie in parachute lines and turning vent lines.
4) Install the (3) pulleys/rings for the turning vent and parachute lines
5) Install ties for the thermistor wire
6) Install gore ID numbers
7) Sew in the crown ring
8) Sew in Dee Rings at the throat & hook up suspension cables

I estimate I have about 15-20 more hours of work before the envelope is completed. Once that is done, Ill begin on building the lower end. Check back soon...I may have the envelope done by the end of the month!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What. A. Month...or Two?

There are many words which could describe the last two months of this project. "Inactive", "dead" and "dormant" are all viable choices. Possibly the most appropriate descriptive word is "interrupted". My progress has been interrupted by work, time conflicts and non-existent floor space...but it hasn't been interrupted by a lack of motivation.

It wasn't until yesterday that I realized it has been two months since I have updated this blog (or journal?) with anything of real substance. Not one substantial piece of progress had been made on my project. This aggravates me. Each and every day I see the pieces of my balloon sitting in the corner of the shop, folded neatly, awaiting assembly. I hadn't forgotten about the balloon by any means. Most days I wondered how I could manage to clear the floor for a significant amount of time to get one more seam sewn together. Those delusional dreams were usually crushed by the arrival of another balloon which would be placed inconveniently where I was going to lay out my fabric... such is life...

But today was different. My day dream lasted longer than usual. I was thinking about how great it would be to have a full day to work on putting together the 16 gores and be able to finally have an update for the people anxiously awaiting news on the build (right?). Then something unusual happened...absolutely nothing! Nobody was coming in today, the floor was clear, and I had the entire shop to myself! Let the PROGRESS BEGIN!

The short and sweet of assembling the gores:
Each seam (with load tape) takes approximately 40 minutes to sew. This is without a folder or a tape guide. Unfortunately the coating on my 1.9oz fabric does not like to slide through the seam folder, nor on the sewing machine table. This causes my sewing time to increase because the fabric drags a considerable amount. The occasional application of dry silicon spray helps, but doesn't last very long.

I have left 18 inches of extra load tape at the throat of the balloon so I can double it back to create a 1 inch loop which will contain two 5000lb Dee Rings and the remaining 16 inches will be sewn to itself to provide structural support. Some might wonder why I chose 5000lb Dee Rings for such a small balloon and the answer is simple...they were cheaper than the lower load rated ones. One ring will serve as the skirt attachment point and the other will attach to a rapid link which connects my suspension cables (seen towards the end of this post). As of today, I have managed to assemble a total of 8 gores. HALF THE BALLOON! I greatly exceeded any and all expectations of work to be completed today. My passion for the project has been reignited, and it feels great!

Here are a few photos of 6 gores sewn together. I have said it before, and Ill say it again! "The colors pop so well against the dark fabric" I cant wait to see it inflated!"

Sewing the fabric wasn't the only thing I manged to get done today. I also made my stainless steel suspension cables. 8 double sets of 1/8 inch cable. They are strong, sturdy and weight tested. The rapide links will attach to the Dee Ring on each gore tape of the balloon.

Pictured: Nicropress tool, a small thimble which attaches to the rapide link, a large thimble which attaches to a carabiner, 1/8 inch SS cable and a copper ferrule.

16 Rapide Links which will attach to the Dee Rings on the envelope throat edge.

Completed thimble ends with rapide links attached.

All 8 double sets completed.

With any luck, I will be able to begin working on the remainder of the envelope tomorrow. Hopefully the floor will remain cleared for me...check back soon!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Longer Delay

Well...nothing to report. Business has been great at the repair station and we have had 2 or more balloons on the floor every day for the last month. It doesn't look like I will have the free floor space available for a while. I'm growing very anxious to get the balloon finished. Unfortunately I have no way of predicting when that will happen. Thanks for being patient!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Short Delay

A few of you have asked if I have anything new to update. Unfortunately I don't. We have too many balloons on the floor (of the repair station) right now and there just isn't enough space for me to work. I'm expecting to begin working on the project again around August 5th. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Slow and Steady

This is one of the biggest projects I have ever attempted in my life. When I was 16 years old I built a 1928 Ford Model A rolling chassis and completed a good amount of the body work as well. That project started off as two halves of a bare frame and a rusted out body. I spent countless hours working in the garage on the project and loved every minute of it. Around age 19 I bought a 1968 rag-top Camaro. The car ran (barely) and was in rough shape all around. In 2 weeks I tore the whole car down in my dads back yard (he loved that). Over the next 3 months I completed some engine work, replaced the transmission, installed an aftermarket air conditioning kit, replaced the interior, installed a stereo system, new suspension bushings, shocks and tires etc....My point is that I would get obsessed with my projects. I would often rush through the work so I could enjoy the finished product. This isn't to say I sacrificed quality to finish faster...just... it never occurred to me that I should slow down and enjoy my work. This balloon build has been different. I have enjoyed every moment of this project. Maybe it's because I haven't done anything like it before or maybe it's because I have a true passion for anything and everything ballooning. Either way, I am extremely excited the closer I get to having completed my first experimental hot air balloon.

I have completed quite a bit of work this week. More than I was expecting. As of today I have 16 individual gores completed! Having the gores laid out on the floor gave me a real sense of what this balloon is going to look like. Here are a few pictures of me sewing the half gores together and the completed pink and green gores.

70 feet of sewing....

Completed pinks!

Completed green!

And here is my completed gore piles. 8 green, 8 pink....

While I have been working on the balloon, my boss and our trainee built me a flag for the chase vehicle.

That's it for now! Sometime next week I will update with my progress of building my turning vent and assembling the balloon. Check back soon!