The Megalith Movers Prehistoric Engineering
Blog 6th December 2014    The last couple of weeks has been a time for problem solving. Very often solving one problem presented us with another and so we have made almost no real progress at all. We have however learned a great deal about erecting an Obelisk and now I am more confident than ever that we will succeed eventually.    The main problem all along as been a shortage of manpower and this was never more apparent the on Monday the 24th when the total workforce consisted of Steve and myself.    We continued with the work on the buttress frames and completed the first on Tuesday. On Wednesday we had the luxury of a 5 man team and were confident that we would make good progress. We now planned to lift about 1 inch or maybe a little more at a time before inserting a length of timber of the corresponding thickness all the way across the underside of the barn door and on top of the crib. The first lift went well and I was able to slide the packing timber in place without effort. No more swinging the sledgehammer to drive in reluctant wedges, my job was going to be easy now. The new plan was working well and the barn door was supported across it's whole width.    The first lift had been so clean and easy I could see that a 2 inch lift would be possible. So I raised the height of the fulcrum by two inches and on Thursday we reset the levers. The handle ends of the levers were now almost out of reach and it was obvious that we needed some some scaffold before we could continue further.      As Steve was due to renew his visa the next day he would be going into town the next morning so I arranged to meet him in the afternoon and we would go to the the scaffold hire place and order some scaffolding. As Steve would be unavailable we decided to call Friday a rest day.    That evening I was still pondering on why the ends of the levers were becoming out of reach so rapidly and went to bed thinking about it.    Friday morning I awoke early with the problem solved. There wasn't just one reason but two.    We were only raising the fulcrum by the same amount as the previous lift but the angle of the barn door was also increasing by the same amount and while a small increase in the angle at the business end made little difference at that end, it made a great deal of difference at the handle end of the lever.    Immediately I could see the problem clearly, the solution followed, instead of raising the height of the crib with each lift, lower the the contact point on the door and at the same time change the angle of the contact point back to horizontal.    I emailed Steve and cancelled the trip to the scaffold yard. If my new solution worked as well as I hoped it would we may not need the scaffold for some time yet.    Next day Saturday, I met Sean in the bar we both frequent and received more bad news. Although Sean was off till Christmas he would be unavailable most of the time as he had family visitors from Australia.  More unwelcome news arrived Sunday when I received an email from Ewan informing me he had had an accident on his motorcycle, nothing serious but he would be using crutches for a while. Things were going from bad to worse, but never mind, even with just four of us we could try out my new idea of both lowering the bottom face of the barn door and changing the angle back to horizontal.    However on Monday it was just Steve and myself again but we made a start on the barn door anyway. The idea was to bolt a piece of 3 by 3 across the underside of the top barn door with a wedge in between which would change the angle of the underside back to horizontal. On Tuesday we were joined by Brian and on Wednesday Joe also joined us.    After completing the alterations the four of us set the levers in position, the alterations were working beautifully, setting the levers was as easy as it had been on the very first lift weeks before and the handle ends were now within easy reach.    Getting a six man team together was now the only problem and with Ewan injured and Sean with visitors for the next month, after which he will be going back to sea, this was going to be a problem for some time.    OK I thought, if we don't have enough live men then we must use dead men, and with the levers now sitting lower it was a simple matter to balance a length of timber across and on top of the levers. And then another and another.    After the addition of the fifth the ends of the levers were now within reach of the men watching from ground lever and a couple of the men decided to help the dead men. The result can be seen below:    We broke both the new lifting bar and the top barn door. It had been a mistake to think that we could lift this amount of weight just using the flimsy top barn door. Time for a rethink.    We would have to revert to positioning the ends of the levers under the bottom barn door which was directly under the Obelisk. In that position the pressure was transferred through the barn doors directly to the obelisk preventing any strain on the barn doors.    As we didn't have long enough bolts to go through both barn doors and the lifting bar we decided to hold the lifting bar in place with Spanish Windlasses.    Although breaking the lifting bar had seemed like a disaster at the time, I was elated, changing the angle of the underside contact point had been a tremendous success, we had solved a problem I hadn't even  envisaged when I came up with the Barn Door method of erecting an Obelisk. A problem which I could now see would become more and more acute as we progressed. But we could now complete several lifts by raising the crib as required and when the levers became too high, we could simply replace the wedges with steeper ones and bring the bottom face of the lifting bar back to horizontal.    On Thursday we changed the lifting bar and reset the levers again, this was very easy to do although the levers were now at a steeper angle than before as we were lifting from under the bottom barn door and the handles were now out of reach. The team were now unanimous that we needed a full team and scaffold and no-one was very keen on my idea of using dead men. I had sensed that this was coming and under the pretext of enlarging the working surface on top of the crib I had carried a number of timbers across and laid them on top of the crib. I was now standing on a ready supply of dead men, I put the first one in place on top of the levers and because of the steepness of the levers had to hold it in place with a couple of nails. I added another and another which brought the levers into line and everything was now looking better balanced and the ends of the levers were now indisputably lower.    It was now time to finish for the day so we retired for a well earned beer. As we conducted the inevitable inquest afterwards it was still apparent that enthusiasm for the dead men was still in short supply. In the end I declared that I would carry on loading on dead men even if I had to work alone, in fact I would finish the project alone if I had to, I knew that dead men could do the job it would just be harder work that’s all. At last Steve declared he would give me a hand next day.    Next day Steve and myself were joined by Brian and we loaded on dead men until the levers had come all the way down to the crib and we had completed the lift using dead men only, it had been easier than I thought and the dead men held the Obelisk in it's new position while I slid in new packing all the way along the width of the barn door. Then one of the levers broke, but with the packing in place everything was safe.    As I looked at the broken lever I could see another problem I hadn't noticed till then, the lifting bar had been twisted as we had applied the pressure from the levers, the Spanish Windlasses weren't strong enough to hold the bar secure. It would be dangerous to continue in this manner we had been lucky to complete the lift without incident.    I looked from the twisted lifting bar back to the broken lever, “OK” I thought, “cut a length from the broken lever and use that as a lifting bar, bolt it flat-wise under the barn door with four bolts which will hold it secure and stop it from twisting”. Twisted lifting bar, potentially dangerous <<previous blog page next blog page >> To read & post comments click here return to top of this page
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