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I made a pencil – simple and rather boring woodturning project had unexpected challenges

There are woodturners, who make nothing else, but pens. I am very new to woodworking in general – I’ve completed only a handful of projects – and I don’t want to invest into proper equipment to make pens. However, that doesn’t mean I cannot have some fun and make, let’s say, a pencil. So that is what I did and here is how.

Since I knew I am just going to have some fun without some specific goals, I did not pay much attention to the materials. I went to the office supplies store and purchased a box of leads for mechanical pencils. I asked for the thickest ones they had, but it still turned out to be pretty thin. Especially having in mind I wanted to make a fat pencil.



I cut a couple of pieces of black alder and sanded them on their flattest side. This gave me two flat surfaces for a good glue joint. Then I took a straight edge and made a faint line down the middle of one piece. I had to carve out a groove for the lead to sit in.

Wood is black alder

My method was less than perfect. The groove as not very consistent at all, but again – I was just having some fun without any specific goals. When both grooves were completed and I made sure pieces mate well enough, I glued in the lead with CA glue.

I glued in the lead using CA glue.

Since lead was floating around, I immediately glued both wood pieces together as well. This gave me a nice blank for my pencil. A couple of days later I mounted it on my tiny baby lathe and started thinking about the shape I should go for.

Ready for turning.

Of course, at first the blank became round. At this point I could leave it as is – it would be a very thick pencil.

Making it round produced a lot of shavings.

Then I started looking for a shape. I didn’t really know what I wanted, but I wanted an outside and inside curves and a small bead. At least, that is what I eventually decided. I used a single fingernail gauge for the entire project.

 




I sanded it to 600 grit, took it off the lathe and cut of that little piece from the end. Then I was able to mount it back to the lathe and carefully sand that little bead at the end.

I could have sharpened it on the lathe, but I decided not to try. It would be quite simple, but somehow my pencil ended up having its lead not in the very centre. That, of course, is a problem. So I sharpened it using just a pencil sharpener and a small chisel to bring tiny shy lead to the surface all around.

Weird shape fat pencil.
I had to sharpen it with a chisel too, since the lead was not in the centre at all.
Finished product does work.

This is nothing to be proud of, but it was a simple and fun project. Much simpler than that spoon I turned last time. Now, onto the next project – maybe it will be a pen this time?



Woodturning two spoons at once – good old paper trick worked

Woodworkers know that at some point you have to start making spoons. It is a good way to experiment with different techniques and tools. Some people make nothing but spoons of different shapes and sizes. However, I don‘t have skills to do anything as impressive as these people do and so I decided to make a very simple pare of spoons using nothing, but a piece of paper, some tape, a tiny lathe and a couple of chisels. This is how they were made.

I know a couple of questions have to be answered at the very beginning. The lathe is called CNC007 Mini Lathe Beads Machine. There are several versions of the same thing in different Chinese online stores, snoop around and you will find something. It is a good toy for people, who want to woodturn in their living room (not even joking) or move a lot, or for children, or for model making. Not a substitute for a real lathe, I know. The gauge is made by Norex, wood is black alder.



So I got this idea I can woodturn a couple of spoons my tiny lathe with some wood that I had laying around. I saw somewhere online that glueing two pieces of wood together with paper in between allows for quick separation, but holds well enough while turning. So that’s what I did – I glued a couple of 14 cm long pieces of alder together with a piece of normal paper in between. I left it to dry for a couple of days (several hours would’ve been enough) and then put the blank on the lathe.

 

 

Now on a normal lathe you would likely have a proper 4-jaw chuck, which would hold a square-is blank very nicely. However, my lathe is so small I have to turn between centres. Live tailstock is also shaped like a cone. This combination got me a little worried that the piece will fall apart as both ends get wedges on a relatively weak glue-and-paper line. So I put some regular packing tape on both ends for my psychological comfort more than anything.

Lathe took asymmetrical piece rather well. There were some vibrations, but nothing dramatic and the tiny motor was spinning just fine. At first I rounded the centre between pieces of tape just to remove some mass. And then I got enough courage to make the entire piece round. It didn’t take too long and everything went very safely. At this point I had to start looking for the shape of my spoons. I knew from the very beginning it is going to be like turning a log to a toothpick, but that gave me a lot of room to see what I would like these spoons to be.

 

Of course, as I turned off most of the glue surface, pieces started coming apart – that was inevitable as the tailstock was wedging itself in.

However, I continued turning. Since pieces were small, I wasn’t so worried that they will fly apart and hit me to the face. I decided to go with a relatively deep, almost scoop-sized bowl, sweeping handle and a couple of decorative beads at the end.

 

However, I did manage to finish turning and do all the sanding on the lathe. Since pieces were small, I wasn’t so worried that they will fly apart and hit me to the face. Then I pulled it off the lathe, separated the pieces, cut off that little piece left on the drive end and sanded it to shape. By the way, paper trick worked magically, but you already know that since pieces were coming apart on the lathe already.

I sanded the paper off, but didn’t do anything else on that side. I decided to leave spoons on my desk until I have a carving chisel to hollow them out. But working get boring sometimes and I had this very sharp 2 mm straight chisel laying around so I started playing with it and in no time at all I hollowed out the spoons.

Obviously, that is not the way to do that and I didn’t plan this, but it just happened this way. If you are planning a similar project, I strongly advise you to buy proper tools, secure your work and not to get your hands in a way of a sharp edge.

Anyway, I sanded the inside surfaces to 600 grit sandpaper, because that is what I finished the outside with on the lathe. And this is the end product. Mind you, I could have sanded it better and using a proper carving gauge would’ve resulted in less deep grooves that did not want to sand away.

 

Nothing to be proud of, but I am glad I did it. Except the paper trick, all the ideas and techniques I came up with by myself as I was working along. This was the third thing I’ve ever turned and it turned out quite well. I already know a couple of other projects I am going to turn on this lathe and one of them is going to involve hollowing out a form on a lathe. So look forward to that.



Adorable city car from the 1950’s – egg-shaped vehicle is turning more heads than a supercar (Video)

Egon Brütsch Fahrzeugbau, commonly known as just Brütsch, is just another historic German car manufacturer. However, it was special in its own way, because it only created designs of  fiberglass microcar roadsters, mostly to licence them to other manufacturers. In its short history Brütsch made several interesting tiny cars, but one stands out as the smallest. How does 2.5 litres of fuel for a 100 km sound for you?

Company’s first car was Brütsch 200. It was a tiny three wheeled roadster with a single cylinder 191 cc engine and could reach 90 km/h. Brütsch itself didn’t make too many of 200’s, but it was licenced to a Swiss company A. Grünhut & Co. Brütsch 200 was only manufactured in 1954-1955. After its production life was over, Brütsch introduced another 3-wheeler roadster Zwerg. It was only a two-seater and a little bit slower with a top speed of 85 km/h, but it was more popular. Brütsch made 12 Zwerg cars, several more were manufactured by  Air Tourist Sàrl in France.



In 1955 Brütsch made Zwerg – Einsitzer – a version of Zwerg with a 74 cc engine and a continuously variable transmission. It could only do 75 km/h. Production of Zwerg – Einsitzer stopped in 1956 and Brütsch stopped making Zwerg altogether in 1957. In 1956 the tiniest Brütsch came about – the Mopetta.

Brütsch Mopetta was only 1,765 mm long and 910 mm wide. (Martin V., Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 4.0)

It was another three-wheel automobile, but this one had a single seat. Its egg-shaped fiberglass body was extremely aerodynamically efficient, allowing the Mopetta to very little fuel – just 2.5 litres for a 100 km. Of course, this was also courtesy of 49 cc engine. Brütsch Mopetta was created to replace a moped and thus did not have much in a way of luxury or comfort. In fact, it even had moped handle bars instead of a normal automobile steering wheel. The engine had a pull start and an integral three-speed gearbox. Despite it’s extremely light 89 kg weight, Mopetta could only reach 35-45 km/h.

Only 5 examples are known to survive. (Michael Stern, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 2.0)

Interestingly enough, Mopetta was not that cheap. It did cost only £200 in UK, but that is equivalent to about 2,200 Euros in today’s money. This, and, possibly, impractical design meant that Mopetta did not enjoy huge interest from buyers, although in various car shows it was always very popular. Its cute looks and character were admirable, but Mopetta was slow, difficult to get into and priced too close to a car. Brütsch made 14 Mopettas until 1958 when production was stopped.

Only a handful of Mopettas are still alive, one of them you can see in this video

Brütsch made cars alongside the Mopetta. It was another single seat 3-wheeled Rollera roadster, powered by a 98 cc, two seat 3-wheeled roadster Bussard with a 191 cc engine, 2-seater, 4-wheeled roadster Pfeil with a 386 cc and another 2-seater, 4-wheeled roadster V2, powered by either 98, 247 or a 479 cc engine. However, none of these cars were as popular as the Mopetta and Brütsch went out of production in 1958.

No gauges and handle bars for a steering wheel. (Alf van Beem, Wikimedia)

Brütsch Mopetta started gaining popularity only after its production life was over. Brütsch tried striking a deal with Opel to sell Mopettas in its dealer network, but it didn’t go anywhere. Now you can only buy replicas, which are pretty good, or some other vehicles that look a little bit like the Mopetta. For example, Randy Grubb  makes Decopods, but it is unknown if he would still make some for sale.



Tour in Tomark Aero factory: how two-seater planes are born (Video)

Travelling is different when you are an aviation enthusiast. While some are looking for the best places to eat, researching nightlife, trying to list all the must-see places, I am browsing the internet for something else. I like travelling through new airports, I enjoy visiting local aviation museums and I always hope I will get to sit in an aircraft I have never flown in before. However, my latest trip to Slovakia beat all of that, because I got the opportunity to visit an actual plane factory – a place where Skyper GT9 and Viper SD-4 ultralights and EASA certified Viper SD-4 RTC are born.

Visiting industrial sites is not for everyone and I fully understand people who don’t see any value in it. However, I, for once, had never been to any plane factory before, so I was very excited about this opportunity. I wanted to see how a mass-produced ultralight plane is made, what processes does it go through, how are they controlled, what drives the design decisions. So I was really glad I got to visit Tomark Aero – Prešov, a Slovakia based airplane factory.



Tomark Aero is actually part of a bigger company, called TOMARK. Its main business is metal working: manufacturing trailer subassemblies, pressure vessels and a number of other metal components for the heavy industry and agriculture. The CEO of TOMARK has been an aviation enthusiast for years, so one day he decided to form a team that would create the perfect plane for him. Long story short, the design was so good that soon the decision was made –Tomark Aero had to make airplanes for sale.

Tomark Aero factory is located in Prešov, Slovakia.

Viper SD4, the company’s first plane, took off for its maiden flight in 2006. It is a low-wing two-seater – a quite athletic design from where I’m looking. The second plane, the high-wing Skyper GT9 took off for the first time in 2014. It is a faster, more touristic type of a plane, but more about the differences between the two models later.

Viper – is a low-wing two-seater – you can easilly recognize it by its wingtips.

Tour of the Tomark Aero factory

I had never been to a plane factory before so I didn’t really know what to expect. Somehow in my head I pictured almost a laboratory setting with people rushing to complete their tasks in time and partially assembled airplanes moving along on a conveyer. Obviously, that couldn’t be further from the truth as we found out getting a personal tour guided by Tomak Aero airworthiness specialist Robert Benetin.

Skyper is a high-wing model. It is not just the placement of wings, it is an entirely different airplane.

I wanted to see the entire process of the airplane build so the tour started in the point where both TOMARK businesses meet. Sheet metal (mostly aluminium and stainless steel) is cut into shapes using an industrial laser cutter – the exact same machine is used to cut out parts for the trailer subassemblies. The laser cuts out all the holes, so that workers in the assembly line would not have to drill or cut anything. That is pretty much the only area where these two industries meet in the entire site. Interestingly, Tomark Aero always stocks up on parts, so that the manufacturing process would not be hindered by shortages.

Entering into the factory you see an unfinished Viper.

Then these flat parts are deburred and bent into shapes using other machines. Later they form all the needed components for the structure of the plane, including beams for the monocoque construction of the front part of the fuselage of the Viper SD4. The Skyper GT9 is a little bit different, since its front fuselage is actually constructed from thin steel tubes – a common architecture for this kind of plane.

This is where the engine is fitted. You can see the bare metal construction of the Viper.

Of course, before any of these parts get put together to form the basic structure of the plane, they are coated against corrosion and marked so that the assembly line workers would know which part goes where and what process it has to go through. Both Tomark Aero models are basically fully metal, so there are a lot of different parts. I was surprised to see how controlled the process is and to find out that quality check-ups are done at each and every stage.

You can simply feel these people love aviation.

When the basic structure is assembled, the engine is installed on a special frame at the nose of the plane and workers start putting the wiring in. That is a very meticulous task, because not only engine controls have to be installed, but also cables for avionics, whole-plane parachute for emergency landing, fuel tanks switch and many other devices. After that, the outside layer of aluminium is riveted on and the basic shape of the plane is complete.

In the main assembly room the wings of Tomark Airplanes are finished and stored before installation.

At the same time, the wings are being made – also fully metal. Skyper GT9 has slightly thinner wings, but both airplanes have fuel tanks with pretty much the same capacity. Interestingly, Viper SD4 has nice wingtip devices, with a gentle curve going up and back. They are made from composite materials and serve to reduce aerodynamic drag, but, at least for my eyes, they make the entire plane look much more elegant.

Some clips from our visit

When the plane is partially assembled it is time to put it into the paintshop. Tomark Aero has the biggest closed paint booth in Central Europe. Clients can choose from a selection of paint schemes, but, if they think nothing in the catalogue represents their taste, they can opt for a custom paintjob.

Viper with its canopy and engine cover in place.

Then the airplane is taken to a nearby airfield for final assembly and flight testing. At first, the plane is finished – all devices are installed, seats, cabin upholstery are put in and temporary number for testing is pasted onto the fuselage. Initial testing is done on the ground – quality control experts look over the entire airplane checking for defects. Then all controls and avionics devices are inspected and after that the plane is prepared for its maiden flight.

Preparation for the paintjob – planes are painted in-house and customers are allowed to choose whatever paint schemes they like.

This job belongs to a test pilot. He follows instructions about what manoeuvres he has to do in the first flight and registers all the defects if there are any. Then they are immediately corrected so that the customer would get his/her plane in perfect condition.

Tomark Aero planes have an emergency landing system – a parachute that shoots out of the plane in case of a technical problem or other potentially catastrofic issue.

Finally, when the customer decides to ship his/her airplane to aforeign country, the wings are taken off, the plane is packed into a crate and shipped to its owner. It is also possible to fly-over finished airplanes directly to the customers and there is also the option to pick-up the airplane at Tomark Aero test airfield. It typically takes around four months from order until delivery, but, in some cases, Tomark Aero can deliver an airplane quicker – stocking on parts allows for some flexibility in manufacturing time. Delivery time also depends on the customer paint-job scheme, whether it is one already available or if it is customized.

Skyper’s cabin is constructed from tubes.

Both Skyper GT9 and Viper SD4 look mighty impressive for an outsider like me, but how do you chose which one to buy?

Tail structure of the Skyper.

Skyper GT9 and Viper SD4

Skyper GT9 is a high-wing airplane, designed mostly for touristic-type of flying. Because its wings are mounted on the top of the fuselage, the ingress is simple, the luggage compartment is easily accessible from the outside and the plane sports an impressive performance. Meanwhile, the Viper SD4, although a bit slower, is a more robust airplane, which will appeal to more passionate pilots. It is more athletic looking and it is EASA certified to be used in pilot schools – that is a big part of its appeal.

 

Differences of variants of individual Tomark Aero Airplanes

  „Viper SD-4 RTC“ „Viper SD-4 LSA“ „Viper SD4 UL“ „Skyper GT9 UL“
Wing span 8,4 m 8,4 m 8,4 m 9 m
Length 6,4 m 6,4 m 6,4 m 6,3 m
Height 2,2 m 2,2 m 2,2 m 2,1 m
Engine Rotax 912 S / ULS (100 HP) Rotax 912 UL/A/F (80 HP)

Rotax 912 S / ULS (100 HP)

Rotax 914 UL / F (115 HP)

Rotax 912 UL/A/F

(80 HP)

Rotax 912 S / ULS

(100 HP)

Rotax 912 UL

(80 HP)

Rotax 912 ULS

(100 HP)

Maximum take-off weight 600 kg 600 kg 472,5 kg
Cruise speed 195 km/h 195 km/h 195 km/h 220 km/h
Maximum speed 240 km/h 240 km/h 240 km/h 250 km/h
Ceiling 4 725 m 5000 m
Runway (take off/landing) 240/ 176 240/ 176 150/140 m 120/80 m
Fuel tank capacity 100 l 70 / 100 l 70 / 100 l 88 l





In LSA specifications both planes are heavier (maximum weight reaches 600 kg), which means that a bit-longer runway is required. Also, instead of the 70l fuel tank LSA specified the Skyper GT9 and Viper SD4 get 100-litre fuel tanks.

In short, Skyper GT9 is easier to use and maintain and to live with. It is also faster than Viper SD4, although a little less rigid. Meanwhile, Viper SD4 is a sportier airplane. It is strong, reliable and looks good. It is also very easy to fly – a perfect choice for pilot schools. Viper SD4 can be also used as a great towing machine for gliders or banners. Ideal for flight clubs.

Wingtips of the Viper look very elegant, but are also functional – they reduce aerodynamic drag.

By the way, I asked about the safety record of these planes. This really not-polite question was met with a smile – while there have been several crashes, none of them were caused by mechanical faults nor factory defects.

Summing up

It is the first airplane factory I’ve ever been to. While I was expecting a busy and almost laboratory-like setting, it was much simpler – just an industrial site where everyone fulfils their functions. There are no robots as far as I could see and every plane was caressed by human hands on every step of the way. Kind of a romantic image, to be honest, but it is very technical.

Assembly is completed in a nearby airfield where flight testing is done as well.

Everything regarding the airplane manufacturing is done to the highest possible standards. The quality control is meticulous and watches over every airplane at every stage. However, make no mistake – Tomark Aero airplanes do have some passion about them. They appeared in this world because the CEO of the company simply loves aviation and this sense is visible throughout the factory. I saw posters with fighter jets in one of the stations where the cabin and interior get installed – these people just love what they are doing. And I loved visiting the factory, learning a lot about manufacturing of ultralight airplanes and seeing these birds before the wind touches their wings.


Huge THANKS to Tomark Aero for allowing us to visit their factory. Definately visit their website – Tomarkaero.com.

Tesla vs. TopGear: the beginning of now famous company was hindered by dishonest review (Video)

We don‘t have to tell you what TopGear is – everyone knows this extremely popular TV show. However, did you know that it actually did some damage to Tesla at the beginning of its history? And it wasn‘t done unintentionally with some bad joke – Tesla is still not happy about one potentially dishonest review.

Tesla Roadster, which entered production in 2008, was a very interesting car. Electric sports cars were not that famous back in a day and people were still cautious about range anxiety and charging times. However, Tesla Roadster was exciting and had pretty serious people behind it. Notably, Elon Musk, who was already a famous business man at that time. Naturally, media was writing about Tesla Roadster and it found its way to TopGear.



The review in question appeared in 2008. Jeremy Clarkson started by highlighting good points, such as acceleration and modern electric drive. He said that the car does feel like it’s the future, comparing it to broadband, as opposed to dial-up. However, later he started criticising the car. At first he said it doesn’t feel as good through the corners, which is legit criticism as the car was much heavier than Lotus Elise on which is it was heavily based.

Tesla Roadster was the brand’s first automobile, created using Lotus Elise as a base. (Thomas doerfer, Wikimedia(CC BY 3.0)

Then it was said that the car ran out of battery in just 55 miles (89 kilometres), even though Tesla promised a 200 mile (322 km) range. Tesla Roadster was pushed off the track into the shed. Top Gear had two cars to test and eventually both of them were down with empty batteries and brake problems. The test was concluded by saying that Tesla Roadster may still not be ready for the road. Clarkson even pointed at a stationary wind turbine implying that the car takes time to charge, but Tesla roadster could be charged at home in just 3.5 hours.

Not only that. Tesla data logged both vehicles from the test and said that neither of them went below 20 % of energy left in the batteries. Therefore, none of Tesla’s cars had to be pushed off the track into the shed. BBC later admitted that it was just to show what would happen if the car ran out of energy. Brakes were not broken down either – we cannot know what was TopGear about.

What Musk thinks about Jeremy Clarkson?

You may think that this is basically irrelevant. TopGear is just an entertaining show with a little bit of automotive journalism. You can see that its clips have been scripted and reviews are subjective. That partially is what makes them so fun to watch. In fact, Elon Musk said that Tesla employee, who delivered cars for testing saw the script, which said that the car is going to break down – he was that even before tests started.

However, it is very much relevant when you are a small company trying to enter the market. Elon Musk said that many potential investors later asked why cars were breaking down on TopGear track. It actually could have caused significant damage to the company. In 2011 Tesla sued BBC, but the court figured out BBC is not guilty in this case. Tesla even had to cover BBC’s legal costs.



So what can we learn from this story? Well, a lot if you’re a new company in the automotive market. Also, don’t believe everything on car reviews – some things are subjective and some shows are mean for entertainment purposes only.

Adorable city car from the 1950’s – egg-shaped vehicle is turning more heads than a supercar (Video)
October 23rd, 2017

Egon Brütsch Fahrzeugbau, commonly known as just Brütsch, is just another historic German car manufacturer. However, it was special in its own way, because it only created designs of  fiberglass microcar roadsters, mostly to licence them to other manufacturers. In its short history Brütsch made several interesting tiny cars, but one stands out as the smallest. How does 2.5 litres of fuel for a 100 km sound for you?

Company’s first car was Brütsch 200. It was a tiny three wheeled roadster with a single cylinder 191 cc engine and could reach 90 km/h. Brütsch itself didn’t make too many of 200’s, but it was licenced to a Swiss company A. Grünhut & Co. Brütsch 200 was only manufactured in 1954-1955. After its production life was over, Brütsch introduced another 3-wheeler roadster Zwerg. It was only a two-seater and a little bit slower with a top speed of 85 km/h, but it was more popular. Brütsch made 12 Zwerg cars, several more were manufactured by  Air Tourist Sàrl in France.



In 1955 Brütsch made Zwerg – Einsitzer – a version of Zwerg with a 74 cc engine and a continuously variable transmission. It could only do 75 km/h. Production of Zwerg – Einsitzer stopped in 1956 and Brütsch stopped making Zwerg altogether in 1957. In 1956 the tiniest Brütsch came about – the Mopetta.

Brütsch Mopetta was only 1,765 mm long and 910 mm wide. (Martin V., Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 4.0)

It was another three-wheel automobile, but this one had a single seat. Its egg-shaped fiberglass body was extremely aerodynamically efficient, allowing the Mopetta to very little fuel – just 2.5 litres for a 100 km. Of course, this was also courtesy of 49 cc engine. Brütsch Mopetta was created to replace a moped and thus did not have much in a way of luxury or comfort. In fact, it even had moped handle bars instead of a normal automobile steering wheel. The engine had a pull start and an integral three-speed gearbox. Despite it’s extremely light 89 kg weight, Mopetta could only reach 35-45 km/h.

Only 5 examples are known to survive. (Michael Stern, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 2.0)

Interestingly enough, Mopetta was not that cheap. It did cost only £200 in UK, but that is equivalent to about 2,200 Euros in today’s money. This, and, possibly, impractical design meant that Mopetta did not enjoy huge interest from buyers, although in various car shows it was always very popular. Its cute looks and character were admirable, but Mopetta was slow, difficult to get into and priced too close to a car. Brütsch made 14 Mopettas until 1958 when production was stopped.

Only a handful of Mopettas are still alive, one of them you can see in this video

Brütsch made cars alongside the Mopetta. It was another single seat 3-wheeled Rollera roadster, powered by a 98 cc, two seat 3-wheeled roadster Bussard with a 191 cc engine, 2-seater, 4-wheeled roadster Pfeil with a 386 cc and another 2-seater, 4-wheeled roadster V2, powered by either 98, 247 or a 479 cc engine. However, none of these cars were as popular as the Mopetta and Brütsch went out of production in 1958.

No gauges and handle bars for a steering wheel. (Alf van Beem, Wikimedia)

Brütsch Mopetta started gaining popularity only after its production life was over. Brütsch tried striking a deal with Opel to sell Mopettas in its dealer network, but it didn’t go anywhere. Now you can only buy replicas, which are pretty good, or some other vehicles that look a little bit like the Mopetta. For example, Randy Grubb  makes Decopods, but it is unknown if he would still make some for sale.



Tesla vs. TopGear: the beginning of now famous company was hindered by dishonest review (Video)
October 5th, 2017

We don‘t have to tell you what TopGear is – everyone knows this extremely popular TV show. However, did you know that it actually did some damage to Tesla at the beginning of its history? And it wasn‘t done unintentionally with some bad joke – Tesla is still not happy about one potentially dishonest review.

Tesla Roadster, which entered production in 2008, was a very interesting car. Electric sports cars were not that famous back in a day and people were still cautious about range anxiety and charging times. However, Tesla Roadster was exciting and had pretty serious people behind it. Notably, Elon Musk, who was already a famous business man at that time. Naturally, media was writing about Tesla Roadster and it found its way to TopGear.



The review in question appeared in 2008. Jeremy Clarkson started by highlighting good points, such as acceleration and modern electric drive. He said that the car does feel like it’s the future, comparing it to broadband, as opposed to dial-up. However, later he started criticising the car. At first he said it doesn’t feel as good through the corners, which is legit criticism as the car was much heavier than Lotus Elise on which is it was heavily based.

Tesla Roadster was the brand’s first automobile, created using Lotus Elise as a base. (Thomas doerfer, Wikimedia(CC BY 3.0)

Then it was said that the car ran out of battery in just 55 miles (89 kilometres), even though Tesla promised a 200 mile (322 km) range. Tesla Roadster was pushed off the track into the shed. Top Gear had two cars to test and eventually both of them were down with empty batteries and brake problems. The test was concluded by saying that Tesla Roadster may still not be ready for the road. Clarkson even pointed at a stationary wind turbine implying that the car takes time to charge, but Tesla roadster could be charged at home in just 3.5 hours.

Not only that. Tesla data logged both vehicles from the test and said that neither of them went below 20 % of energy left in the batteries. Therefore, none of Tesla’s cars had to be pushed off the track into the shed. BBC later admitted that it was just to show what would happen if the car ran out of energy. Brakes were not broken down either – we cannot know what was TopGear about.

What Musk thinks about Jeremy Clarkson?

You may think that this is basically irrelevant. TopGear is just an entertaining show with a little bit of automotive journalism. You can see that its clips have been scripted and reviews are subjective. That partially is what makes them so fun to watch. In fact, Elon Musk said that Tesla employee, who delivered cars for testing saw the script, which said that the car is going to break down – he was that even before tests started.

However, it is very much relevant when you are a small company trying to enter the market. Elon Musk said that many potential investors later asked why cars were breaking down on TopGear track. It actually could have caused significant damage to the company. In 2011 Tesla sued BBC, but the court figured out BBC is not guilty in this case. Tesla even had to cover BBC’s legal costs.



So what can we learn from this story? Well, a lot if you’re a new company in the automotive market. Also, don’t believe everything on car reviews – some things are subjective and some shows are mean for entertainment purposes only.

5 weird and funny car commercials of the past: Volvo’s sexism, wheels of Enzo Ferrari and the legendary E30 (Video)
September 14th, 2017

Why do we like vintage car commercials so much? Couple of decades ago art of visual effects and videography was not where it is now. Therefore, creators had to use different approach to make their clips interesting and dynamic. While car commercials of today are definitely cool, we like to look back at how some already classic cars used to be advertised. So that is what we are doing here today – we present you 5 interesting car commercials from the past.

This article is part of the series we have going on about old car commercials, you can find the entire list of articles at the very bottom of this one. Meanwhile today we are looking at how BMW E30, Volvo 145, Toyota pickup trucks, Fiat 128 and were advertised.



There is no denying that we love E30. We are following one restoration project and we’ve already covered 7 interesting facts about this car. However, while now it is gaining its classic status, back in a day it was just another car on the market. This is kind of a lengthy, but it is full of good stuff. For starts, there is a nice example of old commercial weirdness – some boats and 80’s graphics.

If you watched entire clip, you really saw everything. Nice convertible, fast M3 and, of course, an off-roading scene on the snow. By the way, if you like E30, here you can read 7 interesting facts about this famous BMW.

There is no denying that today the world is more about equality than ever. Back in a day a little bit of sexism didn’t really bother anyone. This Volvo 145 commercial is a perfect example of how different the world was back in a way.

To be completely honest, we have to admit that this was the lifestyle of choice in those days. And both men and women struggled with those massive estate cars. Comparably tiny Volvo 145 looks so refreshing squeezed in between those American monsters.

Ford F150 is the most popular car in USA. In fact, pickup trucks are immensely popular throughout the country. Of course, American manufacturers are dominating the market, but Toyota is not humble about its presence either. This is how it introduced its new line in 1985.

You can see how competitor trucks are standing on their back axles from… shock, maybe? Regardless, Toyota makes pretty much the finest pickups on the market – they are extremely reliable, unbeatable off-road and full of technology.




“When it comes to cars, you can’t fool the Ferrari” – a funny ad for a humble Fiat 128. Enzo Ferrari is a legendary name in automotive business, who founded the coolest brand in the world. However, according to this commercial, Mr. Ferrari himself used different cars for his own commute.

Enzo Ferrari drove many cars throughout his lifetime and Fiat 128 is actually not that weird. However, we don’t thing Ferrari drew a lot of inspiration from humble Fiats when creating his own masterpieces.

Finally, just look at how dreamy Mazda Miata (MX-5) commercial was. This little sports car is probably the most optimistic vehicle on the road and it seems like people behind this clip grasped its character very well. Just take a look.

Mazda MX-5 is the most popular sports car in the world. We are starting to think – maybe it is time that NODUM buys one…

These were all commercials we had for this time. Are there any vintage car commercials YOU would include into our list?



If you enjoy vintage car commercials, we offer two other parts of this series:

In the first article we showed creative clips about Ford Model T, classic MINI, SAAB 900 Turbo, first generation Volkswagen Golf GTI and Lada Niva

In the second we took a look at how Audi 100, Golf MkII, Volkswagen Passat, Opel Calibra and Fiat Multipla were advertised;

And in the third we watched M5 (E39), Porsche, Ford Mustang, Mercedes-Benz and Lambroghini commercials.

Martynas’ E30 – preparation and painting
August 28th, 2017

Martynas is restoring his E30 and sharing his experience with you. This time we are going to show and tell how he prepared and painted his car without professional equipment and a ton of money. While Martynas certainly has his hands growing from the right place, he had no experience in restoring cars. So hopefully this will be somewhat inspirational for you – you can do this too!

This is a second part of article series dedicated to Martynas’ E30. In the first article we looked over the condition of the car, main defects and Martynas’ vision of how it will look like when restoration project is completed. We invite you to read that article first.



In short, this E30 was not in a good shape. However, it is an old car and it could certainly be worse. While some rust was immediately visible, it was only an indication of what can be found underneath some of the body pannels and the layer of paint. So the first step in preparation for a new paintjob was removing fenders to inspect for rust.

E30 had to be partially disasembled to inspect for rust.

And, of course, there was rust. All plastic components that were on the way, such as the grill and the rear lights, were removed and then Martynas could start sanding old paint away. This, of course, revealed even more rust that was not previously visible as well as some pretty deep dents.

Deep dents and spots that rusted out were filled with autobody filler.

Rust was sanded away completely and bigger spots as well as dents were filled with autobody filler. As you can see in the picture, there were many spots that had to be filled and sanded flush with the rest of the body, but eventually, after several days, work was finished.

Car was primed outdoors – if weather is right, you can do that without a problem.

Then it was time to spray the primer. Most people think that this has to be done professionally in a painting booth. And it’s true – results should be better if you take your car to a paint shop. However, Martynas wanted to do it himself and there really is no reason not to try. While it is easy to mess up, you can always sand little drips or dust away. So Martynas sprayed his E30 just on his lawn outside of the garage. All wheels and windows were masked before this operation.

Preparations for a minor modification.

While results were not perfect – several insects and some dust landed on wet primer – proper sanding fixed everything. And then it was time for painting. This, of course, cannot be done outdoors.




Martynas put up a temporary painting booth in a garage using just some plastic sheets. The goal is to let the paint cure uninterrupted by dust, insects or rain. His make-shift painting booth worked just fine. He did buy a good quality spray gun, but didn’t spend a fortune on it. The colour is called “Extra Black” and it seems to live up to its name.

In the painting booth – just a normal garage space.

 

Almost done

One layer of paint and a couple of layers of lacquer were sprayed on the car. Paint layer was pretty much perfect, but there are some drips in the clear coat. It was made thicker for this exact purpose – imperfections will be gone in polishing.

Before plastic parts were put back into place.

This is how the car looked like after it was assembled back together.

Car mostly put back together

And this is what the new exhaust looks like.

E30 now has double a double tip exhaust.

With this exterior restoration is almost done. It does still require some polishing, but the clear coat is still not cured enough for that. However, E30 is already up on its feet – it is mechanically well and safe to drive. By the way, speaking of the feet, this came in the mail –

Brand new wheels.

But more about the wheels and how the car looks with them in the next article. Soon it will be time to start working on the interior of the E30, which is not in a good shape at all.




If you have any questions about the build, you can ask them on our Facebook page or via email nodum2017@gmail.com.

Audi S1 with tracks – a tiny tank is strong enough to destroy an entire beach (Video)
August 17th, 2017

While SUV’s are good at going off-road, sometimes they are also stopped by some natural obstacles, such as deep snow or fine sand. Solution – tracks instead of wheels. Obviously, this transformation doesn’t really have a practical purpose, but some enthusiasts just enjoy looking different and driving in places where it shouldn’t be possible. Just look at this Audi S1 have fun on some beach in Europe.

You can simply buy snow tracks for a pickup truck or SUV. The conversion kit is simple to install and, if done properly, will not damage the car. However, in some cases some minor modifications will be needed. For example, we can see that bumpers of this Audi S1 have been cut to accommodate large tracks. Other than that, the car looks pretty stock, but we cannot say for certain. Have a look.

Obviously, these tracks are meant to be used in snow. We recon, this tracked S1 would probably look better in snow too – a standard Audi with a Quattro all-wheel drive system could drive around this beach without a problem. We definitely don’t know another S1 like this, so we can congratulate the owner for having such a unique little vehicle.




5 mistakes that prevented Allied from winning WW2 sooner
September 7th, 2017

Alternative history is a tricky business. We cannot objectively judge decisions from the past using categories of today. However, now after more than 70 years have passed we can look at WW2 from a different perspective. We can see mistakes opponents made in their efforts to reach the ultimate victory. In this article we are going to briefly look into 5 mistakes that did allow the Allies to reach ultimate victory sooner.

One has to keep in mind that this is not a serious scientific article and it does not pretend to be one. We have information about consequences that people making decisions during the Second World War did not. Therefore, we are breaching the principle of historism, which does not necessarily bring any value to the field. However, it is a fun thing to do, so let’s just jump into it.



Underrating military power of Japan

You all know how it went – Japan attacked Pearl Harbor without declaring war. This later was considered a war crime and the success of the operation was attributed to the surprise factor. But why was it such a surprise? Partly because US completely underestimated what Japanese military was capable of.

Japanese submarine B1-type I-15 (N. Polmar, D. Carpenter, Wikimedia)

Japan was consider severely underdeveloped and people were thought to be somewhat of savages. However, this view had to change quickly as Japan started occupying one island over the other. Japanese submarines proved to be quite advanced and soldiers – devoted and brave. History enthusiast Dougas Stychas says that there is nothing as vast as Japanese advance in the beginning of WW2 – it was the biggest offensive operation in history.

If US evaluated Japan better, maybe it was possible to prevent Pearl Harbor attack? Or maybe the entire war could’ve been prevented if US with allies closed Japan preventing it from expanding its territory and power?

Demanding “unconditional surrender”

So called “unconditional surrender” doctrine came out of Casablanca conference. It was somewhat of a surprise to Winston Churchill and it is not entirely clear if Franklin D. Roosevelt fully understood his demand. But after it was said, it was basically set in stone, meaning that the war had to end with Germany surrendering unconditionally.

Casablanca Conference, where Roosevelt schocked the world with his ‘unconditional surrender’ statement.

This worked on the side of German propaganda. Joseph Goebbels, propaganda minister, used this as an opportunity to mobilize Germany, saying that the state is going to be drawn into slavery if it loses the war. This demand really prolonged the WW2 and made negotiations completely impossible.

Late introduction of convoy system

German U-Boats were notoriously attacking American merchant and supply ships sinking one after another. The reason why this hunt was so easy was lack of protection – convoy system was not in place at the beginning of the Battle of the Atlantic. Once it was introduced and war ships started protecting ships carrying important supplies, German Navy has a much more difficult job attacking and sinking them.

Convoy system helps protecting important merchant shipt against German U-Boats. (U.S. Navy Naval History Center, Wikimedia)

However, some historians say that convoy system could not have been introduced earlier, because of lack of war ships. Unsuitable convoy is worse than merchant ships sailing alone. On the other hand, if convoy system was introduced, assuming it was possible, a lot of ship losses could have been avoided and supply chain to Europe would have been reliable from the beginning.




Defending Philippines in 1942

Philippines were essentially lost in 1942, but General Douglas MacArthur decided to defend these islands for as long as possible. This caused a major loss for US forces, 76 thousand American and Filipino soldiers being captured. Abandoning the plan to defend Philippines in such a difficult situation could have saved these people and a lot of resources.

American POW carrying their fallen comrades in Philippenes, in 1942. (Wikimedia)

Operation Torch

While we can’t say that the entire operation was a mistake, the beginning of it was marked with some questionable decisions. In 1942 Allies understood the strategic value of Tunisia. Occupying these lands could help secure Egypt and pressurize Germany from the South. British wanted to start the operation from Algeria – as close to Tunisia as possible. Meanwhile US feared that Gibraltar is going to be lost as Spain may enter the war on German side. This would mean isolation of forces in Northern Africa and supply ships could not enter Mediterranean. Compromised was reached and in November 8 of 1942 US forces landed in Casablanca, and British – in Orano and Algiers. Germany took over Tunisia and defended until May 1943. Spain, of course, never entered the war.

Scheme of the Operation Torch. (Wikimedia)

But who knew that Spain is not going to stand side by side with Germany? While operation Torch was successful, it did not ensure quick domination in Northern Africa.

That is all we have for this article. What other mistakes Allies made that you would include in this list?




We invite you to read other articles about alternative history of WW2:

5 ways Hitler could’ve won the Second World War

5 mistakes that prevented Axis from winning the Second World War

Who made the first airplane? The answer is not that easy to tell
September 6th, 2017

It should be relatively easy to recognize first inventions, especially if they were made already during the era of journalism. However, do you really know who made the first functional airplane? The default answer is Wright brothers from U.S. but many people from around the world disagree. Here are some competing versions about the first real airplane inventor.

First of all, we have to say that birthday of an airplane is not when it is completed, but when it takes off for the first time. And so, who was the one to take off with an airplane for the first time? Of course, if you look at the history books, it was Wright brothers.



Orville Wright and Wilbur Wright made an aircraft called Wright Flyer I. It was an elegant machine, which took off for the first time in December 17th, 1903. This is the official birthday of an airplane, although that day brothers could only fly for some seconds and not very far at all. However, this is not the reason why some claim that Gustave Whitehead, German engineer, was the actual inventor of an airplane.

Whitehead’s Condor No.21 (Valerian Gribayedoff, Wikimedia)

The story goes that Gustave Whitehead took off with his Condor airplane sometime in August 1901 – two years before the Wright brothers. Whitehead, whose original name was Weisskopf, wanted to make a flying car, which is essentially what he did in 1900. Condor No.21 had two engines – 20 hp for flying and 10 hp for driving on streets. Wings could be folded away like a traditional hand fan and were not in a way when Condor was driving as a normal car. But it wasn’t a normal car – some sources claim that it actually took off.

In August 1901 Whitehead took his Condor No.21 out on a field and took off in front of several witnesses. He completed several flights, the most successful of which lasted for about a mile (1.6 km). Whitehead managed to reach impressive altitude of 15 metres. Early next year Whitehead took off again with his airplane in front of 17 witnesses. However, today no one believes he was actually the first one to do it. Why? There is no evidence.

Alberto Santos-Dumont flying his 14-bis (Nerika, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 3.0)

One journalist from Bridgeport Herald saw the first flight and was swearing that Whitehead really took off. However, there are no pictures. While some remember seeing them, you just cannot find any, except some sketch once printed in a newspaper. Furthermore, even Whitehead’s wife did not see the machine flying, although she remembered her husband telling her that he successfully took off with his Condor No.21. But it just doesn’t sound believable. Why no one took pictures of the event? Why he never completed another flying machine? Some experts looked at the pictures of the Condor No.21 (why are there pictures of it standing, but not flying) and determined that wings are not the right shape and construction to lift such machine.




Another candidate to claim position of the airplane inventor was Karl Jatho – yet another German engineer. He supposedly took off in August 18th 1903 – months before the Wright brothers. The first flight only lasted for 18 metre distance at 1 metre altitude, but first flight is the first flight. Furthermore, it is said that Jatho continued to conduct regular flights until November, flying further and further every time. And we know he was actually flying – this is not some potentially made up story like the one of Whitehead’s flight. So why no one considers Jatho the actual inventor of the airplane?

The problem here is that Jatho’s flights were not that impressive. In fact, common opinion is that they were not controlled and biplanes and triplanes that he tested were just gliding. It can be confirmed by Jatho’s own statement – he stopped flying because he could not improve his distance anymore because of weak engines. But even a short distance flight should be considered the first, shouldn’t it? Some experts say that despite the engine running, Jatho’s planes could not be considered examples of a powered flight.

Finally, Brazilians and many European people believe that some credit for invention of the plane should go to Alberto Santos-Dumont, who took off with his 14-Bis in November 1906. It is because this Brazilian inventor took off from the ground without assistance and flew for solid 220 metres in his demonstration in Paris. Wright brothers took off using some tracks and a catapult, wind was necessary for their success as well. However, when Santos-Dumont performed his graceful flight, Wright brothers could stay in the air for more than half an hour.




Regardless of these stories, it is still hard to believe how far we’ve came from those days. Flight is cheap and attainable for virtually everyone. And aviation moved on so quickly – Orville Wright lived to see the first supersonic flight.

How to talk to your children about nuclear war?
August 17th, 2017

Media is full of messages about a possibility of a nuclear war. We all hope it is not going to happen, but nothing is certain at this point. Instructions are also circling around various media outlets, but one really got our attention.  Sophie Yohani, a psychologist and professor from the University of Alberta, shared some ideas how to talk to your children about the threat of nuclear war.

You may think that’s unnecessary, but children are like sponges – they absorb everything from their surroundings. You would not be scaring them talking about a possibility of a war, because media already does that. Hey hear about pretty much every day and it is parents who have to deal with their anxiety and fear. This is how you should talk about this threat with your children.



First of all, you shouldn’t say that there will be no war, because you don’t know that. However, you should be hopeful and tell your children that it’s not the first time the world got so close to World War 3. In fact, several decades ago humanity managed to avoid breaking out into a conflict and it is likely we will avoid it now.

Secondly, you should involve grandparents, if possible. Grandparents have an image of experience and wisdom in children’s mind. And they really did live through a lot of historically significant events. And so their opinion would help very much to calm down children and tell them that there is nothing new that’s happening now.

Thirdly, adapt your speech to your child. Every child is different and you certainly know yours. You have to know his fears and thoughts and speak accordingly. While younger children may fear coming new semester, when they will have to leave the safety of their home, older ones may have some doubts about the future. You have to speak accordingly. And avoid confusion – children may not be interested in international relations, you have to speak in a way they understand what is happening.

Fourthly, don’t show too much that you’re worried as well. Children hear you having conversations and they may pick up that you’re afraid yourself. That is not good. They have to be able to draw some strength from you.

You also have to watch for signs of anxiety in your children, especially if they have some disorders. It could be some fidgeting, thumb sucking, insomnia and other symptoms. Just be calm – sometimes peacefulness is contagious.

Finally, seek for help when needed. If children are interested, allow them to read books about the Cold War. And, if you see a need for it, don’t hesitate to consult a child psychologist or paediatrician.




You may think that there will be no war – all of us are hopeful and it looks like we may be able to avoid it this time as well. However, for children this threat is real and you have to make sure they understand it and are not afraid to talk with you about it.

5 mistakes that prevented Axis from winning the Second World War
August 15th, 2017

Alternative history is not the most productive hobby to have. It also sort of goes against main principles of historism. We stand on our pile of books and look down on historical decisions, judging them using information that people at that time simply didn‘t have. However, some pieces of alternative history are actually quite interesting. We introduce 5 mistakes Axis made that contributed to its ultimate loss in the war.

It is note the first time we indulge in alternative history – we already listed 5 ways Hitler could’ve won the Second World War. However, this time we will look at the matter a little more serious and will include other Axis states as well. So what were those 5 mistakes that prevented Axis from winning?



Invasion of Greece

Mussolini, a loyal Hitler’s companion, was feeling left out of the war in 1940. He wanted to contribute to the ultimate victory of Axis, so he devised an invasion to Greece. The problem was that he did so without consulting Hitler, being obsessed with an idea of having his on achievement. Mussolini said that Hitler will find out about the occupation of Greece from newspapers.

Mussolini decided to start invasion of Greece without Hitler’s help – this decision eventually cost Germany several weeks and precious resources. (Muzej Revolucije Narodnosti Jugoslavije, Wikimedia)

Italy invaded Greece in October 28, 1940. Italian forces were motivated to move forward, but were soon pushed back. Battles continued, but Italy could try again breaching forward only in March 1941 only to be pushed back again. Situation was not pleasant for anyone and did not help settling situation in Balkans. So Germany had to invade Greece in April and by June the country was occupied completely. This, of course, had impact on Hitler’s plans of invading Soviet Union. It is said that this unplanned operation postponed invasion for about 5 weeks.

Attack on Pearl Harbor

At the beginning of WW2 Japan’s situation was not good. It had several newly occupied territories, but pushing forward to obtain more was very difficult. Japanese ambitions were hindered by lack of resources, economic sanctions, U.S. supporting China and some other factors. It was decided that one blow could eliminate U.S. Navy from the Pacific theatre, which would allow Japan to concur more islands and to strengthen its dominance in the region.

Attack on Pearl Harbor was a mistake in itself,
but a third wave could’ve prolonged the war for 1-2 years. (Wikimedia)

On 7th of December, 1941, such blow was delivered on Pearl Harbor, but, as you know, it wasn’t successful and U.S. Navy quickly regained its power to soon rule world’s oceans again. Japan created a wave that it could not withstand and was thus defeated. Furthermore, because attack on Pearl Harbor was carried out without officially declaring a war and with no warning, it was later considered a war crime.

Even if you don’t think attack on Pearl Harbor was a mistake, there is another mistake that was done during this operation. Three waves were planned, but after the second wave Japanese aircraft carriers, submarines and battleships decided to withdraw from the scene. American anti-aircraft defence was getting stronger – two thirds of Japanese losses happened during the second wave. Also, location of U.S. aircraft carriers was unknown and they could’ve came back unexpectedly.




Third wave was planned to demolish ground targets – dry dock, torpedo warehouse and so on. Now historians agree that if third wave was carried out, war would’ve been longer at least by 1-2 years. 14 out of 16 ships damaged during the attack came back to service.

Failure to involve Turkey and Spain

Turkey was fighting side by side with Germany during WW1 and Hitler aided Francisco Franco during Spanish Civil War. However, neither of these two states got involved in the Second World War. It is difficult to say it was Axis mistake, since they could not control everyone, but the war could have developed much differently, if Spain and Turkey got involved.

Searchlights in Gibraltar in 1942 (Dallison G W (Lieut), Wikimedia)

Spain could’ve helped Germany to deal with Gibraltar – a territory of Great Britain, which controlled the passage between Atlantic and Mediterranean. As it was, Spain remained neutral and didn’t even allow German troops to cross its territory (for example, Sweden did). Meanwhile Turkey could’ve helped establishing dominance in Caucasus, which was rich in resources. But instead Turkey declared war on Germany when WW2 was already almost over.

If these two states got involved, German dominance in southern Europe would’ve been immense and operations in Northern Africa would’ve been easier.

Treating people like slaves in Japan’s occupied territories

When Japan occupied islands in Philippines and Indonesia, locals considered Japanese liberators. They were sick of European rule and thought that Japan is going to be a much better ally. However, Japan blew this image to pieces when it introduced forced labour, regular physical abuse and capital punishment for small crimes. People were treated like slaves and so could not possibly be loyal to Japanese rule.

American POW carrying their fallen comrades in Philippenes, in 1942. (Wikimedia)

And so, as war progressed, some people from Philippines and Indonesia started guerrilla operations against Japanese forces. Others were informing Allied about Japanese positions and plans. If Japan was treating people properly, we could imagine that it would’ve had stronger support, which would result in a strong resistance to coming U.S. forces.

Hitler’s decision to start a war in first place

This one is kind of weird – how one of the biggest mistakes in a war can be starting it? But the truth of the matter is that Germany was expanding its influence without any military action already. It was growing and its influence was getting stronger. History professor Robert Citino thinks that Hitler wanted a war from the very beginning, but did not realise his goals can be achieved without an active conflict. Sometimes a bluff is strong enough.

It is known that Hitler did not always use information provided by his generals if he didn’t like it. Opposing Hitler’s view was never a good option. (Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-L18678, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 3.0 de)

However, Hitler wanted a war as a tool, regardless of what a goal was. Victory without a massive war was not satisfactory for him. If he settled with smart, aggressive diplomacy, who knows where he would stop. Citino thinks that using diplomatic measures alone would’ve helped Hitler achieve everything Wehrmacht did in the first three years. Now we can only imagine what could’ve been, but we will never know for certain.




What other mistakes of the Axis would you include?

Bell P-39 Airacobra fighter plane recovered from the bottom of the lake in Russia (Video)
July 27th, 2017

It‘s been more than 70 years since the Second World War ended. However, traces of the biggest humanity‘s conflict can still be discovered. Just recently a Bell P-39 Airacobra fighter has been retrieved from the Lake Shukozero in Russia and a year ago a couple of Sherman tanks have been recovered from the bottom of the sea almost in the same place.

Bell P-39 Airacobra was mid-engined and therefore required a long shaft to spin its propeller. (US government, Wikimedia)

Bell P-39 Airacobra is a peculiar airplane. It took off for its amiden flight back in 1938 and entered service in 1941. It featured one unusual construction solution – its engine was mounted behind the pilot, which meant that a long shaft was required to spin a traction propeller. However, it was a good fighter plane – it is often said that together with P-63 Kingcobra, the P-39 was one of the most successful fixed-wing aircraft manufactured by Bell. But it did have one issue – its engine was not turbocharged or supercharged.

It is likely that the plane will go to the museum as is – it is just more authentic that way. (Минобороны России)

It meant that it could not operate at high altitude very well and therefore RAF did not want it. Meanwhile soviets took it gladly – 4,746 P-39s Airacobras were sent to Soviet Union to aid its efforts of fighting Nazi Germany. However, this one did not fall into a lake because of some intensive fighting – this accident occurred on a training mission.

As it was said, Fyodor Varavik lost control of his airplane and crashed into Shukozero Lake in northern Russia. Since it was March of 1945, lake was covered with ice so it could’ve been that Varavik performed emergency landing, but at the result is clear – P-39 Airacobra sunk to the depth of 45 metres. Recently this plane has been discovered and Russian Navy personnel assigned to the Northern Fleet organized the recovery operation.

Divers reached the plane, but no human remains were found – only a boot of the pilot was inside of the plane, together with 37 mm ammunition and oxygen tanks. Bell P-39 Airacobra was retrieved and now will find its way in a museum. Very likely, it will not be restored – it will remain authentic with its own story.

Plane was found in a lake in Murmansk region. Not too far away last year Russian Navy recovered a couple of American Sherman tanks. They went down with the SS Thomas Donaldson ship, when it was torpedoed by a German U-Boat.  Tanks were also meant to help Soviet Union – in total 4,102 M4 Sherman medium tanks were sent to the Eastern Front. Interestingly, despite spending 71 years in salty water, tanks were in decently good condition. Some say it is because they were packed very good and could resist water damage for some time.

People love stories about tanks and planes sunken to the bottom of the sea and later discovered by some enthusiasts. But the truth is that most of it is just some legends and myths that are completely made up or got distorted through the years of going from one person to another. However, it is very satisfying to see these gracious machines emerge from their watery grave, because some more years and nature will claim what is hers. Soon all of the lost WW2 weapons will simply be rotten away.



The fastest propeller-driven airplane was developed during the Second World War?
August 10th, 2017

Science and technology is constantly moving forward, but that doesn’t mean that some records will just continue to be broken. While planes with piston engines are still being developed, many roles nowadays are being fulfilled by jets. Therefore, it doesn’t really come as a surprise that the fastest propeller-driven airplane was actually born during the Second World War. However, we’re not really sure which one would it be.

You may think that describing such record is simple – whichever one was the fastest is the record holder. But there are some layers to this question that we’d like to explore. But, first things first, the official record holder is Grumman F8F Bearcat – American single-engine carrier-based fighter aircraft.

Rare Bear, heavilly modified Grumman F8F Bearcat, is the fastest piston-engined airplane in the world. (Don Sleeter, Wikimedia)

It took off for its maiden flight in August 1944 and was a mighty impressive aircraft. It was so potent, so quick and so versatile it managed to stay in service up until 1963, but even then it never stopped flying. AT this point enthusiasts wanted to get their hands on one and many did.  Grumman F8F Bearcat became popular between acrobatic flying pilots and air racers. Of course, for these purposes plane had to be heavily modified. That was how the fastest of them all – the Rare Bear – was born.

Rare Bear, extremely modified F8F Bearcat, dominated Reno Air Races for decades. It was just too fast for others to even think of competing with it. Its official record is 850.24 km/h and so it is the fastest airplane with piston engine in the world. Or is it?

Hawker Sea Fury was fast in service already, but people have modified these planes for air racing. (Don Ramey Logan, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 4.0)

Rare Bear holds the official record, but another heavily modified airplane, based on British Hawker Sea Fury. This fighter plane was also born at the end of the Second World War. Seeing that war is pretty much over, RAF lost interest in Hawker Fury, but the Royal Navy still wanted the fighter, so a Sea Fury version was developed. It was amazingly quick for its time, but, when got even quicker after it finished its service and got into hands of acrobatic pilots and air racers. Unofficial record of highest speed of propeller-driven airplane belongs to a heavily modified Hawker Sea Fury – 880 km/h.




So we know which airplane holds the record. But both of the contenders were heavily modified and it is kind of interesting to see, which airplane was the fastest straight from the factory. That would be German Dornier Do 335 Pfeil. It was introduced at very late stages of WW2 and didn’t manage to prove its full potential. However, we do know it was the fastest propeller-driven airplane in the entire war.

Blue Angels, United States Navy’s flight demonstration squadron, transitioned to the Grumman F8F-1 Bearcat in 1946. (USN, Wikimedia)

Dornier Do 335 Pfeil had two engines mounted in the fuselage and each one of them drove a separate propeller – one was pushing the airplane, while the other one was pulling. This peculiar arrangement meant that Do 335 Pfeil could reach speeds of up to 765 km/h and even if one of the engines was turned off or disabled it could still fly at 563 km/h. Only 11 fighter planes were delivered in 1945 until Americans took over the factory, but those Allied pilots who witnessed the Do 335 Pfeil could not believe its speed at level flight.

Dornier Do 335 Pfeil had to engines and two propellers – one was mounted on the tail of the airplane. (Guinnog, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 3.0)

Now the only surviving example is in a museum, so we will never know what speed could it reach in a dive. However, we do know that a British Supermarine Spitfire reached 1,110 km/h speed in a dive in 1952. That’s the closest propeller-driven airplane ever got to the speed of sound. That is an impressive performance, but it is far from the actual fastest plane in the world.

A similar Supermarine Spitfire got close to the speed of sound several times, but only in a dive. (RAF official photographer , Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 3.0)

That would be Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, which in 1976 reached 3,530 km/h. This strategic reconnaissance aircraft is retired from 1988, but is still regarded as one of the best airplane designs ever.



Bugs in the building – is there an antenna in the top floors of the US Embassy in Moscow?
August 7th, 2017

US Diplomatic mission in Russia is facing some issue, since a couple of weeks ago Russia announced it has to reduce its personnel by 755 people. While it is an interesting move as a reaction to the tightening of the sanctions, we are not going to talk about politics. This turn of event made us remember the building of US Embassy in Moscow. Will it be empty now? Do you know why is it called New Office Building?

First things first – US Embassy in Moscow is not going to be empty. Employees of US Diplomatic mission in Russian Federation are scattered around through a number of cities and different facilities. Also, while we’re on the subject, Russians are going to suffer from this the most. American citizens, who will be forced to leave this diplomatic mission, will go home and will receive positions somewhere else in the diplomatic corps. However, most of people who are getting fired since the 1st of September are going to be Russians. Furthermore, because of lack of human resources, some consular services will take longer to fulfil. So it is a nice publicity move, but it will mostly affect Russian people. It did bring our attention to the building though.

Existing Office Building – that is how the old building used to be called. (NVO, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 3.0)

The main building of the Embassy of the United States in Moscow, called the New Office Building, looks recently built. This is kind of odd, having in mind that US had an embassy in Soviet Union. We looked at why the building had to be changed and found out it was always getting spied. That had to be one of the motifs to move to a modern, more secure type of building.

For example, bugs were discovered in the old office building of Embassy of the United States in Moscow in 1964. It was removed and everything was checked, but the spying eye did not look away from the building.




In 1977 there was a mysterious fire on eighth floor of the building. Some valuable documents were lost. While we can be sure that some of them were lost in fire, some of them were definitely stolen. It is known that some of the fire fighters were KGB agents, who were well-informed about the structure of the building and information kept on that particular floor.

And so a new building was needed. Fire did not damage the old office building too badly, but it was too easy to spy. Constructions were officially started in 1979 and in 1985 they found bugs in the new building. They were installed by construction workers or, more precisely, KGB agents dressed like construction workers. The spread of spying equipment was so vast it actually caused a bit of a diplomatic problem. US did not let Soviet diplomats to move to their new embassy in Washington, until American workers were allowed to finish the construction of the new embassy in Moscow.

New Office Building –
are top floors used to listen to the “Moscor air”? (Pars, Wikimedia)

Of course, before the building could be finished, part of it had to be destroyed, since the possibility of spying devices was so large. The New Office Building was finally opened in 2000. The top floors, built by American construction workers, are now used to deal with classified information, while the lower ones are dedicated to consular work. Still, who knows if it is not being spied at the moment, but some believe it is actually a piece of spying equipment in itself.

The very top floors look different, because there are virtually no windows in them. Igor Korotchenko, editor of a magazine called National Defence (Национальная оборона) once commented that the top floors of the main building of the Embassy of the United States are actually an antenna listening to “Moscow air”. Although US does partake in a healthy dose of spying itself, this theory sounds funny and almost ironic, having in mind why these floors look the way they do.




Top 3 best looking headquarters of car manufacturers – why geko does not bring luck?
August 4th, 2017

Car manufacturers have to protect their image. While everyone knows that the looks of a car are very important, some companies make sure to establish their headquarters in amazingly beautiful buildings. In this article we look at three car manufacturers who are unexpectedly known for the architecture as well as good cars.

Why exterior aesthetics of a building matters for car companies? Well, as we said, it is part of company‘s image. Automakers are trying to put their best foot forward and to not be associated with something ugly or boring. While a bad car model will soon be forgotten, an ugly building is here to stay. These three, however, are anything but ugly.

BMW Headquarters

BMW Headquarters in Munich was built from 1968 till 1972 – it was finished for summer Olympics, since the building is standing very close to the Olympic village. Immediately it became recognized as one of Munich’s architectural greats and up until now people love how it blends into the skyline of the city. In fact, this 101 metre tall skyscraper has a status of a protected historic building.

BMW Towar and a museum – it is all made to look like engine components (Diego Delso, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 3.0)

BMW tower is actually composed of four big cylinders, made to mimic cylinders of the engine. Interestingly, they are not even touching the ground as they are supported by the central column. Because a four cylinder engine is very important in BMW’s history, the building is made to reflect that. There is a museum building right next to the skyscraper and it is made to represent a cylinder head. Both buildings were designed by the Austrian architect Karl Schwanzer.

McLaren Technology Centre in Woking

McLaren is a famous supercar manufacturer that has a rich history in motorsports. Its headquarters, called McLaren Technology Centre, are located in Woking, Surrey, England and consist of four buildings. Everything is accomplished here: street car production, racing car manufacturing, technology development and so on. It is also home of McLaren Formula 1 team.




The construction of the complex started in 1999 and the first building was completed in 2003. However, the automotive plant was not ready until 2011, which is also when production of MP4-12C, the first model of the reborn brand, started. The complex looks very futuristic and features clean lines and green surroundings. There are four artificial lakes in the area, the biggest one is places side by side with the main building and together they form a circle. The McLaren Technology Centre was designed by architect Norman Foster.

There are four artificial lakes around McLaren Technology Centre. (Mike Dodman, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 2.0)

While no one knows for sure how much did it cost to build this complex, the investment was huge. But McLaren says it was necessary – it is much nicer to work in a clean, beautiful and silent place. It is more inspiring and is likely to attract the best engineers and experts.

Wiesmann factory and showroom in Dülmen

Wiesmann was one of those little, unique car manufacturers that disappeared because of financial problems. It was established in 1988 and released its first car in 1993. The speciality of Wiesmann has always been little, lightweight roadsters with running gear from BMW performance cars. They were fast, high-quality and rather beautiful. Even the Wiesmann logo – a shiny gecko – was quite unique and loved by automotive enthusiasts. For the most part, factory building was a very simple industrial construction, but everything changed in 2008.

Wiesmann, arguably, had the most beautiful building, but it did not bring financial luck to the company. (WinfriedSchneider, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 3.0)

In 2008 Wiesmann built an addition to serve as a showroom. And, sure enough, it was shaped like a gecko. Many car magazines and TV shows showed this new feature of Wiesmann factory every time they were speaking about brand’s cars. However, not everyone knows that this gecko was made from wood. Sadly, it didn’t bring the company financial luck and Wiesmann was liquidated in May 2014.

Would you like to visit an automotive factory? Or maybe you already have done so? Share your experience with us via nodum2017@gmail.com




Kaunas is getting rid of old Škoda 14Tr trolleybuses – why? And 10 interesting cool facts about trolleybuses in Kaunas
July 14th, 2017

People of Kaunas have a new subject for public debates – the growing prices of public transportation tickets. While paying more for the same service is never a pleasant change, the quality of it is about to increase dramatically. Kaunas is going to get rid of old Škoda 14Tr trolleybuses, which is absolutely necessary. Why? What is the Škoda 14Tr and why it has no place in a modern city? We talked about this with “Kauno Autubusai” – the company taking care of public transport in Kaunas.

Škoda 14Tr is a familiar sight in Kaunas, but in a couple of years these trolleybuses will be gone

Kaunas, the second largest Lithuanian city, can be hardly imagined without its iconic trolleybuses. While there is nothing special or unique about public transportation in this city, trolleybuses specifically have a deep relation with Kaunas image. They have been around since 1965, when the first line was opened. Since then a lot has changed, including trolleybuses, and people grew to love them.

Made in Czechoslovakia – nowadays this sign looks a bit funny.

But it is a love-hate relationship, actually, because the majority of Kaunas trolleybuses are old and dreadful Škoda 14Tr vehicles. They are extremely noisy, very hot in summer and very cold in winter, have high floor and are very uncomfortable for the driver. All of this is about to change – Kaunas streets will be free from “Made in Czechoslovakia” trolleybuses in about two years.

“Kauno Autobusai” is doing a great job maintaining the good condition of these trolleybuses, but they are just too old and troublesome.

While brand new trolleybuses are good news for all regular users of public transport, it also means that ticket prices are increasing from 1st of August. Electronic tickets are going to cost 70 euro cents, instead of the current 58, and the paper ones you buy from the driver – 1 euro. People really disliked the change, but they will get better quality services for the money.




Not only Škoda 14Tr’s are making people laugh with their “Made in Czechoslovakia” signs on windows (despite most of them being made after the Czech Republic and Slovakia split apart), but they also torture passengers with heat, cold and sometimes water. They are technically and morally old and there is no way around it. “Kauno Autobusai” has 98 of them, their average age – 28 years. Together they covered more than 160 million kilometres and were rebuilt several times. While you can fix them up to keep them running safely, it is impossibe to introduce such things as low floor – which allows older people as well as parents with baby buggies and disabled people to get in easier -, more comfortable seating or air conditioning.

The driver’s workplace is really uncomfortable.

Škoda 14Tr trolleybuses had been manufactured since 1981, although first prototypes showed up in 1972-1974. The last trolleybuses of this model left the factory in 2004, although production was significantly reduced in 1998. In total, 3888 14Tr’s were made and delivered to various cities, mostly in Eastern Europe and Soviet Union. Currently, Kiev, Vilnius and Riga have the largest amount of these trolleybuses, but they are slowly moving away.

Technical look around

Not only Škoda 14Tr trolleybuses are pretty dreadful to ride in, they are also extremely unreliable at this point. The problem is that all electric gubbins, including the motor, are placed underneath the floor of the trolleybus (that is why the floor is so high and you have to climb some steps to get in) and is not sealed in any way. Water gets in and damages these parts all the time and workers at “Kauno Autobusai” have to race against time every night to fix trolleybuses and make sure that in the morning a sufficient number of them will be running.

On this pannel you can find turn signals, lights, doors, heater and other controls.

Škoda 14Tr has a 100 kW motor, which is enough to propel it to a speed of 65 km/h. It accelerates quite loudly, though, because gears in the final drive are basically worn out. The trollleybus has three sets of double doors, all opening to the inside. They are not very wide, which is not helping the already troubled ingress for some people. There are 29 seats and 71 people can travel standing, according to vehicle data.

The driver’s cabin is really not that great either. The steering wheel is not adjustable in any way whatsoever, so it is difficult to get comfortable. Controls are laid out randomly, although drivers find everything just out of experience. Seats are uncomfortable and the lack of air conditioning means that “Kauno Autobusai” had to fit simple fans, usually hanging above the driver’s head.

This is basically a key to the bus – a turn of this handle turns on power supply to the trolleybus, allowing it to start working.

However, as unreliable and uncomfortable as Škoda 14Tr trolleybuses may be,  “Kauno Autobusai” ensured us that they are completely safe to use. All of them have to go through thorough technical inspection twice a year and are maintained constantly. Every night workers fix minor defects and major repairs may take several days. “Kauno Autobusai” has a reserve of trolleybuses for such cases.

So where from here?

So now you know that replacing all tired Škoda 14Tr trolleybuses is absolutely necessary. And that is why ticket prices are going to increase. At the moment, it is still not decided which trolleybuses Kaunas will have, but some information is already known. They are going to be about the same capacity, but they will feature low floor, air conditioning and some other comfort equipment. And, of course, they will be much less of a problem in repair shops.

Saulius Alekna, the manager of the Kaunas’ trolleybus park, told us that in around two years Kaunas should have no Škoda 14Tr buses on the streets. All of them will be replaced with brand new units, but the manufacturer of them has not been decided yet. There is a contest under way and it is still not clear who will make the best offer. Alekna said that the company is looking forward to having electric buses as well, but only when the technology is cheaper, meaning that in the foreseeable future Kaunas will still be running trolleybuses. Think decades before they – and normal buses – are replaced with electric units.

But trolleybuses are definitely good enough. The contact network is already in place and these vehicles are very eco-friendly.




10 Interesting facts we learned while visiting “Kauno Autobusai”

  • Kaunas’s trolleybus park consists of 155 trolleybuses, 98 of them are Škoda 14Tr; 42 – Solaris Trollino 12; 15 – articulated Berkhof trolleybuses. 311 drivers are driving them.
  • Together, all these trolleybuses have covered more than 200 million kilometres in their lifetime, but 160 million of them belong to Škoda 14Tr.
  • Every day, Škoda 14Tr trolleybuses cover 14 thousand kilometres in Kaunas.
  • While new trolleybuses have only two pedals, Škoda 14Tr has three. Two of them are brakes: the central pedal engages electric brakes and the left one – pneumatic. Braking with the electric motor is useful when the trolleybus only needs to slow down a bit without coming to a complete stop.
  • While it is obvious that Škoda 14Tr is not a modern vehicle, it still has 2 kilometres of cables. “Kauno Autobusai” found out about it by themselves while repairing these trolleybuses. In modern trolleybuses this number is several times larger.
  • Not only Škoda 14Tr is an unreliable machine, it is also an easy target for pranksters who routinely pull contacts off the wires, immobilizing the trolleybus. It is easy to do so as the ropes holding contact poles are exposed. There is also a switch which can be easily deactivated from the outside, turning the trolleybus completely off. We were kindly asked not to show it to you.
  • In Lithuanian, contact poles are called “trolleybus moustache”.
  • How do trolleybuses know where to go when the lines split? There are two ways of dealing with this situation. In some spots there are switches that can connect to one or another line. There are blue arrow signs allowing the trolleybus drivers to know which one is engaged and they can change it with remote controllers. However, in not-so-modern splits, Škoda 14Tr trolleybuses have to use a different trick – when the trolleybus is coasting, it will always go left and, when it is accelerating, it will always go right. This is why it slows down so much in these splits or accelerates just before them.
  • All trolleybuses in Kaunas, except two, are painted green. “Kauno Autobusai” had an idea of painting all of them red (and they did with these two), to match the red buses. But they changed their mind, because it just didn’t look right and people seem to love trolleybuses being green and buses red. The green colour also fits the green character of the vehicle.
  • The number plates of most trolleybuses in Kaunas start with BEE, but it is just a coincidence. Most of them were registered at the same time, despite their different age. It is because some time ago trolleybuses didn’t need to have number plates at all – it is not like they can leave the city anyway.
That’s a Škoda 9Tr, specifically modified to accomodate parties – you can book it and it will take you wherever you want.

While Škoda 14Tr is by far the oldest trolleybus currently being used to carry passengers in Kaunas, sometimes you can see a much older Škoda 9Tr passing by. But it is not taking regular passengers. It is a party trolleybus, with tables, audio equipment and a light show installed inside. Anyone can book it for their personal holiday – the first hour costs 100 euros and all subsequent hours – 50. The driver will take you wherever you want to go with only one limitation – contact lines have to be available. There is also a dancing pole at the back, which, we were told, becomes the centre of the party.

Who knows, maybe someday Škoda 14Tr will become a party trolleybus too. The company said that they are going to keep at least one when the rest will be scrapped little by little with the introduction of new machines. We are not sad to see them go, but it is good we got to ride in it now so that we can better appreciate this change.




Why men’s and women’s bicycles are different?
July 7th, 2017

Have you ever thought that bicycles for men are a bit silly? If your feet slip off the pedals you’re in a big trouble as you get yourself caught on that weirdly high horizontal crossbar. But bicycles marketed for women do not have this straight horizontal piece. Why? Wouldn’t it be better if all bicycles did not have this potential safety-hazard?

No, that prominent crossbar is there for a reason. It makes the bicycle frame much stiffer and stronger. Because bicycles only touche the ground on two distant spots, there is a lot of bending force in the middle of the bike, which could actually brake it, if materials from which it was built were not so good. In the early days, bicycles often were made from wood, so that cross member was actually a crucial part for structural integrity. But why women’s bikes don’t have them then?

High crossbar helps keeping the frame of the bicycle strong and rigid. (Gajda-13, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 3.0)

In the early days of riding bicycles women enjoyed wearing skirts and dresses. Lifting one’s leg over such a high horizontal crossbar was less than desirable – it was inconvenient and also could reveal an ‘inappropriate amount’ of leg. Which, of course, was a huge no-no back in a day. That is why women’s bicycle was invented with a slanted crossbar. It made the entire frame weaker and wobblier, but girls and women were not supposed to ride their bikes as hard as men did – it was not an activity recommended for ladies.

Slanted crossbar in women’s bicycles was invented having in mind skirts and dresses. (imoni, Wikimedia)

Nowadays we have better materials for bike manufacturing and that horizontal crossbar is not necessary anymore for cyclists. Without it, you can easily mount your bicycle and face less risks of injuring your family jewels. However, the tradition of separating male and female bicycles is still very much here, if you look at the ads manufacturers are putting out.

Of course, professional bicycles still have that dangerous horizontal crossbar, because it adds stiffness without adding excess weight.



I made a pencil – simple and rather boring woodturning project had unexpected challenges
November 8th, 2017

There are woodturners, who make nothing else, but pens. I am very new to woodworking in general – I’ve completed only a handful of projects – and I don’t want to invest into proper equipment to make pens. However, that doesn’t mean I cannot have some fun and make, let’s say, a pencil. So that is what I did and here is how.

Since I knew I am just going to have some fun without some specific goals, I did not pay much attention to the materials. I went to the office supplies store and purchased a box of leads for mechanical pencils. I asked for the thickest ones they had, but it still turned out to be pretty thin. Especially having in mind I wanted to make a fat pencil.



I cut a couple of pieces of black alder and sanded them on their flattest side. This gave me two flat surfaces for a good glue joint. Then I took a straight edge and made a faint line down the middle of one piece. I had to carve out a groove for the lead to sit in.

Wood is black alder

My method was less than perfect. The groove as not very consistent at all, but again – I was just having some fun without any specific goals. When both grooves were completed and I made sure pieces mate well enough, I glued in the lead with CA glue.

I glued in the lead using CA glue.

Since lead was floating around, I immediately glued both wood pieces together as well. This gave me a nice blank for my pencil. A couple of days later I mounted it on my tiny baby lathe and started thinking about the shape I should go for.

Ready for turning.

Of course, at first the blank became round. At this point I could leave it as is – it would be a very thick pencil.

Making it round produced a lot of shavings.

Then I started looking for a shape. I didn’t really know what I wanted, but I wanted an outside and inside curves and a small bead. At least, that is what I eventually decided. I used a single fingernail gauge for the entire project.

 




I sanded it to 600 grit, took it off the lathe and cut of that little piece from the end. Then I was able to mount it back to the lathe and carefully sand that little bead at the end.

I could have sharpened it on the lathe, but I decided not to try. It would be quite simple, but somehow my pencil ended up having its lead not in the very centre. That, of course, is a problem. So I sharpened it using just a pencil sharpener and a small chisel to bring tiny shy lead to the surface all around.

Weird shape fat pencil.
I had to sharpen it with a chisel too, since the lead was not in the centre at all.
Finished product does work.

This is nothing to be proud of, but it was a simple and fun project. Much simpler than that spoon I turned last time. Now, onto the next project – maybe it will be a pen this time?



Woodturning two spoons at once – good old paper trick worked
October 27th, 2017

Woodworkers know that at some point you have to start making spoons. It is a good way to experiment with different techniques and tools. Some people make nothing but spoons of different shapes and sizes. However, I don‘t have skills to do anything as impressive as these people do and so I decided to make a very simple pare of spoons using nothing, but a piece of paper, some tape, a tiny lathe and a couple of chisels. This is how they were made.

I know a couple of questions have to be answered at the very beginning. The lathe is called CNC007 Mini Lathe Beads Machine. There are several versions of the same thing in different Chinese online stores, snoop around and you will find something. It is a good toy for people, who want to woodturn in their living room (not even joking) or move a lot, or for children, or for model making. Not a substitute for a real lathe, I know. The gauge is made by Norex, wood is black alder.



So I got this idea I can woodturn a couple of spoons my tiny lathe with some wood that I had laying around. I saw somewhere online that glueing two pieces of wood together with paper in between allows for quick separation, but holds well enough while turning. So that’s what I did – I glued a couple of 14 cm long pieces of alder together with a piece of normal paper in between. I left it to dry for a couple of days (several hours would’ve been enough) and then put the blank on the lathe.

 

 

Now on a normal lathe you would likely have a proper 4-jaw chuck, which would hold a square-is blank very nicely. However, my lathe is so small I have to turn between centres. Live tailstock is also shaped like a cone. This combination got me a little worried that the piece will fall apart as both ends get wedges on a relatively weak glue-and-paper line. So I put some regular packing tape on both ends for my psychological comfort more than anything.

Lathe took asymmetrical piece rather well. There were some vibrations, but nothing dramatic and the tiny motor was spinning just fine. At first I rounded the centre between pieces of tape just to remove some mass. And then I got enough courage to make the entire piece round. It didn’t take too long and everything went very safely. At this point I had to start looking for the shape of my spoons. I knew from the very beginning it is going to be like turning a log to a toothpick, but that gave me a lot of room to see what I would like these spoons to be.

 

Of course, as I turned off most of the glue surface, pieces started coming apart – that was inevitable as the tailstock was wedging itself in.

However, I continued turning. Since pieces were small, I wasn’t so worried that they will fly apart and hit me to the face. I decided to go with a relatively deep, almost scoop-sized bowl, sweeping handle and a couple of decorative beads at the end.

 

However, I did manage to finish turning and do all the sanding on the lathe. Since pieces were small, I wasn’t so worried that they will fly apart and hit me to the face. Then I pulled it off the lathe, separated the pieces, cut off that little piece left on the drive end and sanded it to shape. By the way, paper trick worked magically, but you already know that since pieces were coming apart on the lathe already.

I sanded the paper off, but didn’t do anything else on that side. I decided to leave spoons on my desk until I have a carving chisel to hollow them out. But working get boring sometimes and I had this very sharp 2 mm straight chisel laying around so I started playing with it and in no time at all I hollowed out the spoons.

Obviously, that is not the way to do that and I didn’t plan this, but it just happened this way. If you are planning a similar project, I strongly advise you to buy proper tools, secure your work and not to get your hands in a way of a sharp edge.

Anyway, I sanded the inside surfaces to 600 grit sandpaper, because that is what I finished the outside with on the lathe. And this is the end product. Mind you, I could have sanded it better and using a proper carving gauge would’ve resulted in less deep grooves that did not want to sand away.

 

Nothing to be proud of, but I am glad I did it. Except the paper trick, all the ideas and techniques I came up with by myself as I was working along. This was the third thing I’ve ever turned and it turned out quite well. I already know a couple of other projects I am going to turn on this lathe and one of them is going to involve hollowing out a form on a lathe. So look forward to that.



Tour in Tomark Aero factory: how two-seater planes are born (Video)
October 18th, 2017

Travelling is different when you are an aviation enthusiast. While some are looking for the best places to eat, researching nightlife, trying to list all the must-see places, I am browsing the internet for something else. I like travelling through new airports, I enjoy visiting local aviation museums and I always hope I will get to sit in an aircraft I have never flown in before. However, my latest trip to Slovakia beat all of that, because I got the opportunity to visit an actual plane factory – a place where Skyper GT9 and Viper SD-4 ultralights and EASA certified Viper SD-4 RTC are born.

Visiting industrial sites is not for everyone and I fully understand people who don’t see any value in it. However, I, for once, had never been to any plane factory before, so I was very excited about this opportunity. I wanted to see how a mass-produced ultralight plane is made, what processes does it go through, how are they controlled, what drives the design decisions. So I was really glad I got to visit Tomark Aero – Prešov, a Slovakia based airplane factory.



Tomark Aero is actually part of a bigger company, called TOMARK. Its main business is metal working: manufacturing trailer subassemblies, pressure vessels and a number of other metal components for the heavy industry and agriculture. The CEO of TOMARK has been an aviation enthusiast for years, so one day he decided to form a team that would create the perfect plane for him. Long story short, the design was so good that soon the decision was made –Tomark Aero had to make airplanes for sale.

Tomark Aero factory is located in Prešov, Slovakia.

Viper SD4, the company’s first plane, took off for its maiden flight in 2006. It is a low-wing two-seater – a quite athletic design from where I’m looking. The second plane, the high-wing Skyper GT9 took off for the first time in 2014. It is a faster, more touristic type of a plane, but more about the differences between the two models later.

Viper – is a low-wing two-seater – you can easilly recognize it by its wingtips.

Tour of the Tomark Aero factory

I had never been to a plane factory before so I didn’t really know what to expect. Somehow in my head I pictured almost a laboratory setting with people rushing to complete their tasks in time and partially assembled airplanes moving along on a conveyer. Obviously, that couldn’t be further from the truth as we found out getting a personal tour guided by Tomak Aero airworthiness specialist Robert Benetin.

Skyper is a high-wing model. It is not just the placement of wings, it is an entirely different airplane.

I wanted to see the entire process of the airplane build so the tour started in the point where both TOMARK businesses meet. Sheet metal (mostly aluminium and stainless steel) is cut into shapes using an industrial laser cutter – the exact same machine is used to cut out parts for the trailer subassemblies. The laser cuts out all the holes, so that workers in the assembly line would not have to drill or cut anything. That is pretty much the only area where these two industries meet in the entire site. Interestingly, Tomark Aero always stocks up on parts, so that the manufacturing process would not be hindered by shortages.

Entering into the factory you see an unfinished Viper.

Then these flat parts are deburred and bent into shapes using other machines. Later they form all the needed components for the structure of the plane, including beams for the monocoque construction of the front part of the fuselage of the Viper SD4. The Skyper GT9 is a little bit different, since its front fuselage is actually constructed from thin steel tubes – a common architecture for this kind of plane.

This is where the engine is fitted. You can see the bare metal construction of the Viper.

Of course, before any of these parts get put together to form the basic structure of the plane, they are coated against corrosion and marked so that the assembly line workers would know which part goes where and what process it has to go through. Both Tomark Aero models are basically fully metal, so there are a lot of different parts. I was surprised to see how controlled the process is and to find out that quality check-ups are done at each and every stage.

You can simply feel these people love aviation.

When the basic structure is assembled, the engine is installed on a special frame at the nose of the plane and workers start putting the wiring in. That is a very meticulous task, because not only engine controls have to be installed, but also cables for avionics, whole-plane parachute for emergency landing, fuel tanks switch and many other devices. After that, the outside layer of aluminium is riveted on and the basic shape of the plane is complete.

In the main assembly room the wings of Tomark Airplanes are finished and stored before installation.

At the same time, the wings are being made – also fully metal. Skyper GT9 has slightly thinner wings, but both airplanes have fuel tanks with pretty much the same capacity. Interestingly, Viper SD4 has nice wingtip devices, with a gentle curve going up and back. They are made from composite materials and serve to reduce aerodynamic drag, but, at least for my eyes, they make the entire plane look much more elegant.

Some clips from our visit

When the plane is partially assembled it is time to put it into the paintshop. Tomark Aero has the biggest closed paint booth in Central Europe. Clients can choose from a selection of paint schemes, but, if they think nothing in the catalogue represents their taste, they can opt for a custom paintjob.

Viper with its canopy and engine cover in place.

Then the airplane is taken to a nearby airfield for final assembly and flight testing. At first, the plane is finished – all devices are installed, seats, cabin upholstery are put in and temporary number for testing is pasted onto the fuselage. Initial testing is done on the ground – quality control experts look over the entire airplane checking for defects. Then all controls and avionics devices are inspected and after that the plane is prepared for its maiden flight.

Preparation for the paintjob – planes are painted in-house and customers are allowed to choose whatever paint schemes they like.

This job belongs to a test pilot. He follows instructions about what manoeuvres he has to do in the first flight and registers all the defects if there are any. Then they are immediately corrected so that the customer would get his/her plane in perfect condition.

Tomark Aero planes have an emergency landing system – a parachute that shoots out of the plane in case of a technical problem or other potentially catastrofic issue.

Finally, when the customer decides to ship his/her airplane to aforeign country, the wings are taken off, the plane is packed into a crate and shipped to its owner. It is also possible to fly-over finished airplanes directly to the customers and there is also the option to pick-up the airplane at Tomark Aero test airfield. It typically takes around four months from order until delivery, but, in some cases, Tomark Aero can deliver an airplane quicker – stocking on parts allows for some flexibility in manufacturing time. Delivery time also depends on the customer paint-job scheme, whether it is one already available or if it is customized.

Skyper’s cabin is constructed from tubes.

Both Skyper GT9 and Viper SD4 look mighty impressive for an outsider like me, but how do you chose which one to buy?

Tail structure of the Skyper.

Skyper GT9 and Viper SD4

Skyper GT9 is a high-wing airplane, designed mostly for touristic-type of flying. Because its wings are mounted on the top of the fuselage, the ingress is simple, the luggage compartment is easily accessible from the outside and the plane sports an impressive performance. Meanwhile, the Viper SD4, although a bit slower, is a more robust airplane, which will appeal to more passionate pilots. It is more athletic looking and it is EASA certified to be used in pilot schools – that is a big part of its appeal.

 

Differences of variants of individual Tomark Aero Airplanes

  „Viper SD-4 RTC“ „Viper SD-4 LSA“ „Viper SD4 UL“ „Skyper GT9 UL“
Wing span 8,4 m 8,4 m 8,4 m 9 m
Length 6,4 m 6,4 m 6,4 m 6,3 m
Height 2,2 m 2,2 m 2,2 m 2,1 m
Engine Rotax 912 S / ULS (100 HP) Rotax 912 UL/A/F (80 HP)

Rotax 912 S / ULS (100 HP)

Rotax 914 UL / F (115 HP)

Rotax 912 UL/A/F

(80 HP)

Rotax 912 S / ULS

(100 HP)

Rotax 912 UL

(80 HP)

Rotax 912 ULS

(100 HP)

Maximum take-off weight 600 kg 600 kg 472,5 kg
Cruise speed 195 km/h 195 km/h 195 km/h 220 km/h
Maximum speed 240 km/h 240 km/h 240 km/h 250 km/h
Ceiling 4 725 m 5000 m
Runway (take off/landing) 240/ 176 240/ 176 150/140 m 120/80 m
Fuel tank capacity 100 l 70 / 100 l 70 / 100 l 88 l





In LSA specifications both planes are heavier (maximum weight reaches 600 kg), which means that a bit-longer runway is required. Also, instead of the 70l fuel tank LSA specified the Skyper GT9 and Viper SD4 get 100-litre fuel tanks.

In short, Skyper GT9 is easier to use and maintain and to live with. It is also faster than Viper SD4, although a little less rigid. Meanwhile, Viper SD4 is a sportier airplane. It is strong, reliable and looks good. It is also very easy to fly – a perfect choice for pilot schools. Viper SD4 can be also used as a great towing machine for gliders or banners. Ideal for flight clubs.

Wingtips of the Viper look very elegant, but are also functional – they reduce aerodynamic drag.

By the way, I asked about the safety record of these planes. This really not-polite question was met with a smile – while there have been several crashes, none of them were caused by mechanical faults nor factory defects.

Summing up

It is the first airplane factory I’ve ever been to. While I was expecting a busy and almost laboratory-like setting, it was much simpler – just an industrial site where everyone fulfils their functions. There are no robots as far as I could see and every plane was caressed by human hands on every step of the way. Kind of a romantic image, to be honest, but it is very technical.

Assembly is completed in a nearby airfield where flight testing is done as well.

Everything regarding the airplane manufacturing is done to the highest possible standards. The quality control is meticulous and watches over every airplane at every stage. However, make no mistake – Tomark Aero airplanes do have some passion about them. They appeared in this world because the CEO of the company simply loves aviation and this sense is visible throughout the factory. I saw posters with fighter jets in one of the stations where the cabin and interior get installed – these people just love what they are doing. And I loved visiting the factory, learning a lot about manufacturing of ultralight airplanes and seeing these birds before the wind touches their wings.


Huge THANKS to Tomark Aero for allowing us to visit their factory. Definately visit their website – Tomarkaero.com.

Martynas’ E30 – preparation and painting
August 28th, 2017

Martynas is restoring his E30 and sharing his experience with you. This time we are going to show and tell how he prepared and painted his car without professional equipment and a ton of money. While Martynas certainly has his hands growing from the right place, he had no experience in restoring cars. So hopefully this will be somewhat inspirational for you – you can do this too!

This is a second part of article series dedicated to Martynas’ E30. In the first article we looked over the condition of the car, main defects and Martynas’ vision of how it will look like when restoration project is completed. We invite you to read that article first.



In short, this E30 was not in a good shape. However, it is an old car and it could certainly be worse. While some rust was immediately visible, it was only an indication of what can be found underneath some of the body pannels and the layer of paint. So the first step in preparation for a new paintjob was removing fenders to inspect for rust.

E30 had to be partially disasembled to inspect for rust.

And, of course, there was rust. All plastic components that were on the way, such as the grill and the rear lights, were removed and then Martynas could start sanding old paint away. This, of course, revealed even more rust that was not previously visible as well as some pretty deep dents.

Deep dents and spots that rusted out were filled with autobody filler.

Rust was sanded away completely and bigger spots as well as dents were filled with autobody filler. As you can see in the picture, there were many spots that had to be filled and sanded flush with the rest of the body, but eventually, after several days, work was finished.

Car was primed outdoors – if weather is right, you can do that without a problem.

Then it was time to spray the primer. Most people think that this has to be done professionally in a painting booth. And it’s true – results should be better if you take your car to a paint shop. However, Martynas wanted to do it himself and there really is no reason not to try. While it is easy to mess up, you can always sand little drips or dust away. So Martynas sprayed his E30 just on his lawn outside of the garage. All wheels and windows were masked before this operation.

Preparations for a minor modification.

While results were not perfect – several insects and some dust landed on wet primer – proper sanding fixed everything. And then it was time for painting. This, of course, cannot be done outdoors.




Martynas put up a temporary painting booth in a garage using just some plastic sheets. The goal is to let the paint cure uninterrupted by dust, insects or rain. His make-shift painting booth worked just fine. He did buy a good quality spray gun, but didn’t spend a fortune on it. The colour is called “Extra Black” and it seems to live up to its name.

In the painting booth – just a normal garage space.

 

Almost done

One layer of paint and a couple of layers of lacquer were sprayed on the car. Paint layer was pretty much perfect, but there are some drips in the clear coat. It was made thicker for this exact purpose – imperfections will be gone in polishing.

Before plastic parts were put back into place.

This is how the car looked like after it was assembled back together.

Car mostly put back together

And this is what the new exhaust looks like.

E30 now has double a double tip exhaust.

With this exterior restoration is almost done. It does still require some polishing, but the clear coat is still not cured enough for that. However, E30 is already up on its feet – it is mechanically well and safe to drive. By the way, speaking of the feet, this came in the mail –

Brand new wheels.

But more about the wheels and how the car looks with them in the next article. Soon it will be time to start working on the interior of the E30, which is not in a good shape at all.




If you have any questions about the build, you can ask them on our Facebook page or via email nodum2017@gmail.com.

Martynas’ E30. Interesting restoration project – current state and vision
August 7th, 2017

BMW 3-series E30 is kind of a weird car. While it is not rare or particularly beautiful, many car enthusiasts are craving to get their hand on one. Martynas is one of them and currently, while you are reading this article, he is working on making something that will turn out to be his dream car. And we will follow him on every step of the process.

While E30 is not a rare exotic car, enthusiasts like Martynas like it for how it looks. Its design – straight lines and sharp corners – stand out from the traffic flow in a modern city. Also, it is quite a small car, which seems to be perfectly proportioned. And because it is not rare or historically valuable, you can have fun while restomoding it to perfection. Martynas’ E30 will get its uniqueness, which it is lacking now, in the process of restoration.



What is it? It is a 1990 E30 coupe with a 1.8 litre 113 AG (83 kW) engine. During its decades of service, this car was never babied and it reflects in current state of the vehicle.

An old E30 ready to be reborn for a new life.

Current state of Martynas’ E30

We have to say, while it is old and crusty, Martynas’ E30 is definitely not too far gone. The biggest mechanical faults came from neglect – this car has been left standing outside for some time. However, it does start and drive for a little, although some of its suspension components are in urgent need of replacement. That is not really a concern as Martynas would’ve redone entire suspension anyway, since he wishes the car sits lower and handles a little bit sportier.

It is E30 from 1990.

Engine is producing some unpleasant noises. It is probably a faulty compensator, but a major overhaul is needed. Again – nothing too dramatic. Martynas is considering a new engine – something with more power and nicer singing voice. We will see if he fixes this engine and keeps it or replaces it with something more special immediately.

Engine – 1.8 l four cylinder, producing 113 AG (83 kW). Currently it is making some unpleasant noises.

The appearance of the car is a totally different story. Paint is in a pretty bad state, showing a lot of rust on the bottom portion of the body. In fact, the bottom of the car had to be patched up, because some places were completely eaten away by rust. Rust will be healed and the entire car will be repainted in the same colour – black.

Seat is just completely worn out from the decades of use.

Meanwhile interior is quite ugly at this point. Driver’s seat is torn to pieces and steering wheel is worn away too. It is a beautiful rim too, from M Division, so it has to be restored and reinstalled.

Steering wheel will soon get some new leather.

All in all, this car could be quickly up and running after decent fix-up. However, Martynas’ vision is a bit different.




Vision

While Martynas, like many other BMW fans out there, likes the lines of the body of the original E30 there is definitely some room for improvement. And, as mentioned earlier, because this car is not original, you get to do whatever you want without the sense of guilt, which comes from ruining a historic artefact. So what Martynas will do?

Nature wants to reclaim the metal – E30 is suffering from rust damage.

His E30 will wear original BBS rims, will sit closer to the road and will sport a fresh and shiny black paintjob. Wider wheels and lower stance will completely transform the looks of the car – coupe will look athletic and will leave no doubts that it belongs to a car guy. But appearance is just part of the story.

A lot of work will go into this project to refresh all the little details.

Martynas wants his BMW to be sporty. One of the ways to get more power it to install a new engine, but it is quite a complicated task and there are other options too. Because work on this E30 has already started, Nodum.org will be happy to report, which route Martynas went. What we do know is that exhaust system will be altered significantly, to let E30 breathe easier and sing nicer.

One last “before” picture.

And that’s about it as far as we know. It will unravel as it moves along and we will be happy to report on the progress. You may say that there are hundreds of E30’s with BBS rims, lowered stance and loud engine note, but we think Martynas’ one is going to be just that little bit special. And it is always interesting to see restomoding projects.




If you have any questions about the project that you would like us to answer in the upcoming article, comment on our Facebook page.

About Nodum

Nodum.org is a website dedicated to the most interesting news on the internet. Articles about automotive world, science and technology, popular history, interesting videos and many other subjects are published regularly. The biggest emphasis is put on creativity: interesting travelling destinations, hobbies, professions, places where people are not usually allowed to visit and so on. If you are doing something really interesting in your life that you would like to tell everyone about, contact us via our Facebook page, or send us an email to nodum2017@gmail.com.