Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Chapter 4, Plunk Plunk Plink

Mr Biggles led the way into the kitchen. Beswick looked around the room just as he did yesterday, but today he could read the labels on the jars. Everything was written in Latin. He really couldn't understand a word.
Mr Featherstone pulled a chair from the table. "Sit down Master Beswick" he said " we will discuss the tasks at hand. I believe the first thing would be to repair your bicycle"
"I didn't see it when I came here" Beswick said.
"that's right I took it to the the workshop. Tell me Beswick, have you ever trued a wheel before?"
Beswick looked a little puzzled. "I am not sure, what does true a wheel mean?"
Mr Featherstone chuckled. "It means repair the wheel, make the shape of it a true circle with no wobbles. I think your front bicycle wheel would be a good place to start!"
"Is it hard to do?" Beswick asked.
"No, but it will let me see how patient you are." Mr Featherstone smiled. "Come now Master Beswick, lets get started."
Mr Featherstone got up from the table and started for the back door, Beswick close on his heels and Mr Biggles winding his way between them.
Through the back door Beswick could see a remarkable back yard surrounded by a stone fence. A large wooden door with strong steel hinges led out to the alley. The door was locked with an old iron padlock.
In the corner was the workshop. It was a wooden building with a roof that was staggered.
Along the length of the roof was skylights, The front of the workshop had a heavy wooden door hanging on on overhead track, beside the door was a large wooden barrel filled with water collected from the roof. With the amount of rain that fell in the past weeks the barrel was brimming.
Mr Featherstone slid back the heavy wooden door, there was a workbench up against the far wall of the shed. He had already removed the front wheel from the bicycle and placed it in an old set of forks clamped into a vice. There was an assortment of tools layed out on the bench. Beswick also noticed a piece of chalk, an old rag and a pan of water.
He followed Mr, Featherstone into the shed. Mr Featherstone took a stool down from the rafters and placed it next to the bench
"Master Beswick, sit down her so you can have a close look at the wheel."
Beswick sat down and watched as Mr Featherstone spun the wobbly wheel on the forks.
"See how much the wheel wobbles?" he asked.
"Yes, Mr Featherstone". he replied.
"I am going to take a piece of chalk and put it on the side of the fork, just away from the wheel."
Beswick watched intently.
"As the wheel spins around I will move the chalk closer and closer to the tire, When the chalk touches the tire it will rub only on the wobble" Mr Featherstone told him.
Sure enough there was a white mark only on part of the tire.
"Can you think of why we do this Master Beswick?"
Beswick thought for a minute. "To show where the wobble is" he said.
"Indeed!" Mr Featherstone replied. "And why would we need to know where the wobble is?"
Again there was a pause from Beswick. "If we know where the wobble is then we know what part of the wheel needs fixing?" he answered with the tone of someone unsure.
"precisely!" Mr Featherstone replied." You think like a scientist Master Beswick, open eyes and open mind!"
Beswick grinned, thinking "that must be the way Leonardo thought too"

Mr Featherstone, turned to the bench and picked up a small tool. He turned back to Beswick and asked, "Why do you suppose the spokes on the wheel have square ends?"
Much as Beswick thought and thought, he had no idea!
"I, don't know Mr Featherstone." he said sheepishly.

"Not to worry Master Beswick, you will figure it out soon enough." he smiled.
He placed his finger close to the spokes, resting it on them. A rhythmic plunking sound filled the shed.
Plink, plink, plink, plink, plunk, plunk, plink.
Plink, plink, plink, plink, plunk, plunk, plink.
"Do you hear the sounds? " he asked?
"Yes Mr Featherstone, some spokes sound different." Beswick replied
"That is because some spokes are tighter than others." Mr Featherstone told him.
He then took the small tool and placed it on the square end of a spoke. He gave it a twist and plucked the spoke again. This time the plunk sounded higher.
A light came on in Beswicks face "The square ends are to tighten and loosen the spokes!" he exclaimed.
"Indeed" mused Mr Featherstone. "And why would we do that?
Beswick stopped and had to think rather a long time.
"Why would we need to pull on some spokes more than others? Mr Featherstone asked.
"Oh...Oh... To make the wheel not wobble anymore" Beswick exclaimed.
"Precisely." Mr Featherstone said, handing the tool over to Beswick.
He took a rag soaked it in water and washed away the chalk.
Then he turned to Beswick and said.
"I have given you the tools, and shown you what happens with the chalk and the spoke wrench. You know the object is to make the wheel not wobble anymore. I am going inside to do some chores and I will come back from time to time to see how you are making out. Mr Biggles will keep you company. Now you can get to work and I can see just how much patience you really have." With that he turned around and marched out of the shed.

Beswick looked at Mr Biggles and smiled, He grabbed the chalk, spun the wheel and moved the chalk till it made a mark. Then he stopped the wheel. He plucked the spokes by the mark, one side of the spokes was a dull low plunk, the other side was a high pitched plink.
He place the spoke wrench on the spokes and turned. He made some spokes sound lower and some spokes sound higher. He wiped the chalk off and spun the wheel again. This time when he marked the tire the chalk line was smaller.
"This is easy he thought to himself." Back and forth he went. Chalk, tighten, loosen wipe. Chalk, tighten loosen wipe.
Mr Biggles was sitting on the bench watching him contently. Back and forth Beswick went, his fingers were getting sore from the spokes, but each time he marked with the chalk the marks got smaller and smaller.
Time went by quite quickly for Beswick, Mr Featherstone came back in half an hour to see how he was making out.
Beswick was quite pleased with his progress and was ready to show Mr Featherstone just how well he had done.
He placed the chalk on the side of the tire and spun it around. There was such a small amount of chalk on the tire he knew he was almost done!
Mr Featherstone smiled, he wiped the tire clean and placed the chalk on the other side. A rather large white stripe appeared.
Beswick looked up with a little dissapointment in his eye. Mr Featherstone winked kindly. handed the chalk back to Beswick and said "I will come back in a short time to see how you are making out"
So once more Beswick marked with chalk, tightened, loosened and wiped. This time he did one side of the wheel and then the other. The wheel would be better than new when he was finished.
Half an hour went by and out came Mr Featherstone. Beswick put the chalk and the wrench down. He wipped the tire and stepped out of the way for Mr Featherstone to examine it.
Mr Featherstone spun the wheel very fast, it whirred as it spun. He placed the chalk on one side of the wheel. A white mark spun around the entire tire. He placed the chalk on the other side. Once again the white went all around the tire.
Beswick was shocked. He said" But the marks were getting smaller and smaller!"
Mr Featherstone grinned" Yes, and the wheel now runs true. The chalk markes all of the tire because there is no wobble. Very good work Master Beswick, very good work indeed!"
"I think if we put the wheel back on the bike it will run faster than it ever did before!"

"I sure hope so" Beswick said." I wish I could make it run faster than Cedric and his bullies!"
"Well Master Beswick, we can make the bike go faster than the bullies but I dont think that will help. Sometimes we need to face our problems head on."
"I did that last time Mr Featherstone, and I got a bent wheel and broken glasses."
"That is true Beswick, but you also learned how to true a wheel and your glasses are fixed now, even better than before arent they?" Mr Featherstone replied.
"My glasses, I was going to ask you about that, I can see so much better than I could before. How is that possible?"
"All in good time Master Beswick, all in good time. Today you learned how to true a wheel, there will be lots of time to learn the other lessons I have to teach you, lots of time indeed"


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