The Megalith Movers Prehistoric Engineering
Blog 15th August 2015    Having had all weekend to think about it, and almost a full team to test our latest our latest plan, on Monday we failed again.    Tuesday was much the same, although we were gaining a little each day, but it was three steps forward and two steps back every day. I couldn't understand it! What was happening! Why were two parallel surfaces behaving differently just because they were no longer two horizontal parallel surfaces?    On Wednesday morning I awoke early from a strange dream. In the dream I was watching and listening to some kind of presenter announcing the opening of a new version of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the strange thing was the stage for this new drama was Steve's back garden, and our obelisk and plinth were clearly visible and obviously part of the set. “And playing the male lead today we have the famous Freddy Fulcrum, and for the female lead we have none other than Mother Earth.”    Almost instantly I was awake, and thinking of the trials and tribulations we had been suffering the past weeks. Every time the fulcrum had been used anywhere far from direct contact with the earth, we had almost met disaster. The solution seemed to be, keep Romeo and Juliet closely connected. When I arrived at Steve's place later, I rather theatrically played out my dream by taking the fulcrum from the top of the working platform and placing it at the base of the working platform, before sliding a lever over the fulcrum and under the platform. Saying dramatically, “Romeo and Juliet must never be parted again!” Steve was clearly unimpressed by my acting, but he seemed to like the idea, “Seems so obvious when you think about it, yes, I think you may have something Gordon.” When Sean arrived a while later, he was none-committal but prepared to give it a try. We beefed up the working platform and made it part of the support column, in order to make it suitable for lifting. Tomorrow we would, weather permitting, give it a try.    Thursday morning arrived, again overcast but dry, and remained so for the rest of the morning. The first lift achieved nothing, but just compacted the working platform which we were now using as a lifting frame. We drove wedges underneath each corner to maintain the compression while we unloaded the levers. The second lift was better, we had replaced the fulcrum with a thicker one, so allowing the levers more travel and achieved a lift of about one inch. Now the packings on the fail-safe tower were also becoming loose, Steve re-tightened them and consolidated the lift. I was growing more confident, even if we gained just one inch with each lift we would have the obelisk upright eventually. Each lift was easily and quickly accomplished, no reason to believe we couldn't do six or more each working session. My growing confidence was quickly dented however, when Sean said, “The bottom of the tower moved forward again Gordon, I saw it move.” “It's bound to move forward as the angle of the obelisk changes, as long as the cross timbers are hard against the obelisk, it is where it needs to be.” I replied, pointing to the cross timbers. “Yes it is on this side but go take a look at the starboard side.” was Sean's crushing reply. It was true, a small gap had appeared on that side, somehow we had twisted the tower. “I think we had better take a break and think about this.” I said.    Half an hour later, Steve, Sean and Joe were deep into a conversation about different countries and cultures, all three during the course of their work had travelled widely, while I had only occasionally travelled outside England on holiday. So, somewhat left out of the conversation, I remained deep in thought about the project. I got up from the table, and walked over towards the partially erected obelisk. As I stood staring at the tower and obelisk, I thought the tower reminded me of a giant table leg fastened to the obelisk, like a leg to a table top. The only fastening being the windlasses. That was it, we needed to fasten the leg to a frame, and fasten the frame to the table top. I was thinking like the carpenter I once was. I picked up a ten-foot length of three inch by three inch timber. If I took a couple of these and slid them between the gaps in the giant leg, I could fasten the whole ten- foot length to the table top with a whole series of windlasses, and will have created one of the strongest carpentry joints known to man, at the point were the timbers pass through the leg: the mortice and tenon joint.    I wandered back over to the rest of the team and explained my thinking. Sean was first to grasp what I meant, I walked back to the tower and demonstrated “Oh, that way through. I thought you meant vertically,” exclaimed Steve. “I will have to skim a little off these three by threes, in order for them to pass through the gap. I can do that on the bench saw,” I continued. “Well, you'll have to wait till the power is back on. We're having a power cut, it happens regularly round here,” rejoined Steve. “In that case Steve, I think I'll call it a day and have a beer, it's almost ten-thirty anyway.”    On Friday we created our giant mortice and tenon joint, and lashed it to the obelisk. Just to be on the safe side, Steve used some more three by threes, to provide a some buttress props against the fail-safe tower.    I was taking a leg-rest, Steve was having a smoke-break, while Sean continued to set the levers for the first lift. We rejoined Sean, it was impossible not to. Sean now had six levers set, and continued slowly and carefully loading on the sandbags. The packings under the lifting tower had now loosened, I lightly tapped the packing in the starboard side further in, while indicating to Sean to do the same on the port side. Steve, who had stationed himself by the fail-safe tower, shouted that the obelisk was lifting clear of the fail-safe. He tapped his packings home. Little by little, we tapped in the wedges on the port and starboard sides. It was incredible, we were lifting a ten ton obelisk by lightly tapping in two wooden wedges. With every tap, the sandbags on the levers sank lower and lower. Suddenly there was a moaning and groaning of timber about to break, an alarming sound when you don't know where it's coming from, and you have ten tons of concrete above your head. Then the sandbags came down, the obelisk shot up, and the fulcrum broke.    The suddenness and ferocity of it all had been nerve-racking. However, with the fulcrum safely on the ground at the time, it had nowhere to fall and we were all safe. Steve continued packing the fail-safe tower, while Sean and myself surveyed the lifting tower. It was safe for the moment, but would need some improvement before we tried another lift.    We were producing an alarming amount of pressure with just a few flimsy levers and a few bags of sand, we would have to learn to keep this pressure under control.    Next week we will test a few ideas on how this may be achieved. << previous blog page next blog page >> To read & post comments click here return to top of this page

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