Gibson Desert - Sandy Blight Junction Road - A day of outback welding & bush mechanics.

Thursday, Jul 24, 2008 at 00:00


Thursday 24th July
Sandy Blight Junction Road - Not too far from last nights camp
23 42 7.801 129 17 39.191

It was a funny day today, a day of fortunate chance and one where we tested ourselves with new skills. It was a bloody cold night though! I arose to find the water in the wash basin frozen over and the billy lid frozen to the bonnet of the car...but more on that later. Having woken before birdsong I was out of bed early and coaxing the much needed fire into life, turned my attention to getting the Darlings moving, a feat usually requiring a pitchfork and burning brands. Scott and I had decided to drop two leafs out of the trailer springs on my quad trailer to match the work we had done on Scotties trailer at DQB in Rudall a week earlier. Unfortunately (or thankfully depending on how you look at it), when we climbed under the trailer, we found that the main frame of the trailer was cracking just in front of the rear spring mounts. It had cracked all the way along the bottom of the steel RHS chassis and then marched 10 mm up the sides…. bleep !!!! Righto, first things first;

After breakfast, Scott and I dropped out the two leafs either side. Having built upon our experience from Rudall River-DQB, we used the channel grips and a vice grip to clamp the leafs together as we removed the retaining bolt which prevented a lot of the horrendous thread stripping of the retaining bolt. That process having worked well, we decided that it really was time to try our skills at bush welding to remedy the cracked trailer frame. Thus three batteries were removed from our vehicles, my main cranker, my engine mounted Auxillary AGM and Scott’s auxiliary deep cycle that was god only knows how old. Thankfully, the foresight in having made up a bush welding kit came into play here. I'd only planned on using 24 volts though (2 batteries) so to move from 24 volts to 36 (2 batteries to 3) we required an extra length of cable, a problem solved by cutting one of the connector cables in half and used vice grips and washers to clamp the three batteries into the loop in series (Neg to positive etc).

Returning to the crack, we used a self taper and a screw driver to slowly and painfully drill a hole across the top of the crack to prevent it spreading further, then cleaned the paint off the steel using a sharp wood chisel, a bastard file and wire brush. We grooved out the crack as best as possible using a small triangle file and then gave it a go using a 3.2 mm welding rod. "Phhtt".... and on the first attempt, Scotty blew a BIG hole in the base metal of the 3mm RHS used in the main frame (it was more like bloody 2mm!). bleep I was getting worried now! Our main problem seemed to be in regulating the amp-age we were getting from the batteries. Having prepped them by running the vehicles for an hour, we knew they were fairly well charged. so we attempted to regulate the ampage by using three jumper cables to increase the resistance between the number one and number two (in sequence of connection) batteries. This worked to some effect but it was still pretty hit and miss. To cover the holes and reinforce both the crack and damage, we welded a plate across the bottom of the mainframe directly in front of the rear spring mount. The heavier metal of the mounts made it easier to weld across to the frame without melting a hole. It then came down to a matter of refining use of cables to vary resistance and deliver the appropriate ampage, rod type (satin craft 3.2mm - general) and letting the rig cool between cycles. We also found that it helped to cut the rods in half and work with the shorter rod, using the bastard file to clean an end of the cut half so it could fit into the handle.

We managed to use scraps of 20mm right angle to bolster and reinforce the guard mounts. It certainly wasn‘t pretty and the welds were blowing all over the place but it got the job done. As you could imagine we were all both stressed and tired by lunch time. We took the break sitting on the tow bar of the other trailer and looking at each other, the three of us just began laughing uncontrollably. I tell you it was the most amazing stress reliever ever. No one could speak for five minutes as every time we looked at each other, the camp, the trailer, the tools…in fact anything, we’d just break out in peels of uncontrollable laughter. Anyway………

After lunch we greased all the shackle pins, checked Scotties Trailer and at 3:20 p.m. rolled out on the track intent on getting a few kilometers further south. Corrugations, what corrugations? We encountered two more Len Beadell plaques, countless rusting HQ’s and a the occassional school bus (as you do out here!). We met two journo’s from Sydney, both Sri Lankin boys doing an article for "Australian Traveller" September edition. We took a couple of short cuts, filled with water at midway bore, had to retighten the jerry cans and then settled for the night in a clearing late in the day. I was feeling pretty bloody dirty and opted for a shower finding that the bore water we'd gotten during the day was extremely salty. A wise man would probably have tasted it before adding it to his drinking water. Thankfully I was only using the near empty GP ('General Purpose') container. We were all fairly stuffed after a day of hard yakka so a can night was called. I love the Canadian tradition of "can night", no dishes tonight but for spoons. We rang Drew and Mark and I imposed upon Mark to book accommodation for us in Alice. The old McDonald Ranges Caravan Park once again.

''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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