The Mountain Wheelchair project is no longer active. Seeing Ada stand up again for the first time, I turned my focus away from building the wheelchair to instead helping Ada to build up her health. She is still in a lot of pain and struggles on a daily basis, but... She has returned to school and achieved many A's/A*s in her GCSEs, takes "Outdoor Recreation" as one of her subjects, and is currently attending the Duke of Edinburgh Award. To top it off, she has since walked up the highest mountains in England, Wales, and Scotland!
As for myself, my energies are now going into delivering outdoor activities for Climb Wales where I get to help other young people (as well as adults) get out and enjoy the great outdoors. Primarily based in Snowdonia, North Wales, we work as mountain guides and also deliver a number of outdoor courses, such as:
Whenever I’m sat at home and I turn on the TV, my first port of call is almost always The Discovery Chanel. Many of their shows feature experienced mechanics running beautiful welds as they build custom cars, bikes and such.
Unlike the splattered messes that I’ve been making with my arc welder, this weld is a thing of beauty:
Example of a perfect TIG welded bead
To achieve welds like this, a process called TIG welding (Tungsten Inert Gas) is used. As far as I know, TIG welding is also the only suitable method for welding alloy (the material which is being used to build the mountain wheelchair frame).
The only problem with this is that TIG is generally considered to be the most difficult welding process to learn.
Last week, Dan from Coastal Welding very kindly gave up some of his time to help set up my welder and get me started with TIG welding.
It was clear from the off that Dan is a very skilled craftsman and he was instantly able to get perfect results. The same couldn’t be said for my efforts:
My first attempt at TIG welding
My first attempt at TIG welding
My first TIG welded joint
In amongst all of this mess, there are actually some welds which aren’t too bad. For a brief moment I almost felt like I knew what I was doing :)
Lots more practice required but this a big step towards building the actual frame for the mountain wheelchair.
Some really good news for the mountain wheelchair project…
I’ve purchased a welder which is capable of welding aluminium, and… wait for it… found somebody who is not only willing to spend a day teaching me how to use it, but also to look over my welds when it’s all done. I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome, especially when you consider that Dan (of Coastal Welding) not only manufactures parts for DMM climbing, but also has experience of building custom wheelchairs!!!
Although it was the cheapest I could find, the welding equipment has still cost about £1,000 once gas, fittings, accessories and supplies have been included. So long as it lasts long enough to build the frame, then I’ll be happy.
It lasted less than 5 minutes! I was in the process of building myself a steel welding table thinking it would make things easier, and give me a chance to practice with the welder. I did the first tack-weld and the welder threw in the towel.
The welder has been returned to the seller, fixed (loose connection apparently) and has now been able to finish all of my tack-welds. This means that I can actually start building the mountain wheelchair!
In other news, the motors have made the journey from China and are currently in Northampton. Exciting!
Yesterday I’d spent considerable time trying to weld aluminium to steel to create some mounts for the motors. Having Googled it afterwards, it’s not surprising that it didn’t work, so today was all about cleaning up yesterday’s mess:
A Fresh Start
Yesterday wasn’t a complete waste of time though because it provided more welding experience and it actually seems like I might be starting to get the hang of it:
Steel Motor Mount
With all of the welding done, I gave it a quick coat of paint, mounted the motors and added a temporary remote control.
Last night I also tried sitting on it and it had no problem whatsoever moving my weight, and that was with just one motor connected. The paint’s still a bit tacky so no sitting on it at the moment.
Even with me sat on it though, and with only one motor connected, it’s quick! I’ve decided that walking behind it is not a viable option and have ordered the parts to make it radio controlled. It’s also only two-wheel-drive at the moment because I need to print more sprocket mounts but one of the 3D-printers is busy working on another project and my other printer is currently having a major overhaul.
What’s really pleasing though is that I had built this just to experiment with batteries and motors but the fact that’s able to easily carry a full grown man opens up far more possibilities. Can’t wait to get it out for some “field tests”.
Just before midnight last night I decided to bring the welder into my living-room and have a go. As you do. I’m certainly no blacksmith but to be honest, I’m quite pleased with the result:
The weld didn’t seem to want to stick tot he zinc bolt though so just before posting this I did a quick Google search. Apparently the fumes from welding zinc are highly toxic. Oops! I won’t be doing it in my living room again then!