I HAVE found new ways to hurt myself in the shed. Previous efforts have never left me more than slightly scarred, or only temporarily inconvenienced. Now I have discovered a much better way, and it involves my favourite piece of machinery.
Where would we be without the wire wheel on the bench grinder? Well, for a start we would have all our finger tips, and when called upon to provide prints at the crime scene we could oblige. My latest efforts have left my smart phone confused when it asks my fingers to press on the button in order to prove my identity. When next attending the embassy for a passport or a visa, the police station for bail or the manicure salon, I will be leaving all of them sadly disappointed. All because of the wire wheel.
Whether attached to the bench grinder, or an air powered device, the potential to rip off multiple layers of skin – usually from the fingers – is just unstoppable. The smallest distraction, the most momentary lapse in concentration, the almost trivial deviation from the line, the weakening of the grip for just a fraction of a second – and wham, the flesh goes flying.
In between first-aid sessions and application of multiple bandaids, I am cleaning up the leaf springs on the 1926 B2 Citroen, slowly progressing the restoration of the chassis and running gear before moving – one day – to the fabrication of a body. The plan is to get the car standing on its own axles and wheels, then build the boat-tail wooden framed steel panelled tub direct onto the chassis.
It must be finished by 2026, the year the car is due to get a telegram from King Charles. Or, more appropriately, Napoleon the Vth.
Each front wheel on the rigid axle has a single set of quarterelliptic leaf springs, and there are double sets for each rear wheel. My car came with the very flash optional extra rear friction shock absorbers, made by Andre Hartford. Oooh La La. The front axle has no shock absorbers, but a mighty eight leaves to each front wheel, and seven top and seven bottom to the rear. Upon dismantling, it would seem they have never been attended to since being first assembled by Pierre or Marcel at the factory on the River Seine in 1926. I am the first person to talk to them, to caress them, to love them. I indulge them so much I am bleeding for them.
Some are badly pitted. Some look like the day they were forged. Each bracket, nut, bolt and tab washer is relieved of its 90 and more years of grime and crud by first a gentle wire brushing, then a solid working out on the wire wheel. It takes hours, even days of nose mask, ear and eye protection and tiny particles of crap seeping through even two layers of clothing. A subtle but invaluable side effect of spending hours doing this work is that I am unaware of the phone ringing.
It is vaguely meditative, like washing dishes. The tangible evidence of your sweaty efforts are undeniable and deeply satisfying. We all know there are times on a car restoration project when you feel that although you are doing many things no progress is being made – but this is the opposite. The pile of rusty dirty stuff in one corner is being gradually transformed into a pile of clean primed and sometimes even painted stuff in the opposite corner. It is real and even my beloved has to admit that “shit is happening” in the shed. And she is hard to impress.
The steel leaves could probably benefit from being re-tempered, a visit to a friendly blacksmith being required. But remember, we are talking the 1926 B2 Caddy boasting an almighty 10hp here and there are no plans to attempt lap records at Winton or Sandown. Just a fervent hope that the next time I talk about flesh is when I am applying steel to the English wheel to skin the body.