It Keeps Growing and Growing . . .

January 20th, 2006

More of the same today: adding vertical load tapes and joining the gores together. At this point Kevin has 5 panels joined together and 9 of the load tapes attached. At this pace he should be ready to start closing up the balloon early next week.

Some More Pictures

January 20th, 2006

Here are a couple of shots of the work in progress. The first picture is a view of the sewing area. The gores are in the plastic bags on the right. The yellow and black pile of fabric in the background is my blimp envelope waiting patiently for Spring.

shop with bags in gores

This next shot is a close-up of the gores in their bags. Don’t they look happy? They just can’t wait to be added to the balloon.

gores in bags

And He’s Into the Far Turn

January 19th, 2006

It was another long and productive day for Kevin. Well, day and night that is. He worked until 5 AM or so this morning. He’s started the process of attaching the vertical load tapes to the gores and joining the gores together to form the full envelope.

The first few load tapes took a about 3 and a half hours to attach to their respective gores. But he’s gotten the hang of it now.

Likewise, the first vertical seam also took quite a while - about 3 hours. These seams are more complicated in that there are other seams running at right angles to the edge being sewn. It takes some fiddling to get it right. But he’s also picked up considerable speed since then.

More pictures soon.

A Better Picture of the Color Scheme

January 19th, 2006

Jon Radowski, balloon builder and graphics guy, sent this nifty 2-view picture of Kevin’s color scheme. It does a much better job of showing what the balloon will look like than the first one posted earlier. The addition of a scoop is Jon’s artistic touch. Kevin’s balloon won’t have a scoop — at least at first. As usual, click on the small image below to get to the full-sized image:


Jon’s graphics website can be found at

Thanks, Jon.

Back Up to Full Speed

January 18th, 2006

The UPS truck brought a genuine bonanza of goodies this morning. Fabric, load tape, the works.

Kevin cut out the top panel #13 and together we cut out the one missing piece of panel #11. He’s sewn these last few pieces onto the gores. The gores are now all complete except for the Nomex panel at the bottom. There’s still no word on the ETA of the Nomex.

We topped off the evening with a ceremonial stowing of the cutting table. (Although we’ll need to set up a small table at some point to cut the Nomex and the pieces for the vent.)

The next step is to sew the vertical load tapes down the middle of the gores. Kevin will leave the last bit of tape loose to allow room to attach the bottom panel. After that comes the vertical seams that join the gores together into a single piece. Very exciting times indeed.

A Post from Kevin on His (Unintentional) Day Off!

January 17th, 2006

Okay, I’ve been at it for almost 10 days.

This all came about REALLY fast. Not the wanting to build a balloon,
but the actually building of the balloon. I was planning to figure
out how to string out the building over about 3 or 4 months in Ohio.
With basically none of my own equipment, it was going to be tedious
and involve a lot of borrowing and favors…then Dan re-iterated a
previous offer to let me use his shop for the month.

I instantly switched into high stakes, stay up all
night-balloon-planning/material-ordering mode. 5 days later, I was on
a plane, out of the sunny south to the snow-laden NorthEast.

With lots of cautions from my parents, not to get in a hurry and be
reckless, and with the overly-benign, and encouraging, support,
advice, and help of Dan, I have spent most of the last 10 days,
cutting and sewing, ordering and planning towards the completion of my
balloon by the end of the month. With a few (small according to Dan)
blunders in my material ordering, I am feeling quite confident that I
will leave Amherst with a completed, 58,000 cubic foot balloon

The cuttoff is the beginning of February when I trek back to Ohio with
a pit-stop at the conference for the Pennsylvania Association of
Sustainable Agriculture. I plan to make this trip lugging 95 pounds
worth of nylon fabric, cables and webbing!

Excited that I have nearly 100 percent of my own balloon in twelve
garbage bags containing 60 foot long strips? EXTREMELY!

At the beginning of February, I will have an envelope, which still
leaves the logistics of a bottom end and the FAA paperwork and
inspection to figure out. With a budget that is whittling down, it
will probably be in my best interest to wait through a few more months
of winter and exploring options before I nail down a bottom end for my
system. I’m in the market for tanks and a burner and probably will
purchase a Boland collapsable basket within a year.

It will be hard to wait to start flying again, but the winter in Ohio
isn’t ideal anyway. I’m also on the lookout for an Amateur Built DAR,
apparently, a new designation of DAR that can examine my work so I
don’t have to wait 6 months for the FAA!

Thanks for your interest. If I can answer any questions that will
help you or satisfy your curiousity, do not hesitate.

It’s Always Something …

January 16th, 2006

Kevin is “headin’ down the back stretch”. (Cutting the fabric being the “first turn”.) The 12 bags of gores continue to grow ever larger. At this point he’s got all of the gores (except one — see explanation below) completed from panels 2 thru 12. Adding panels 1 and 13 requires the arrival of the last of the fabric.

The navy blue fabric shortage issue has been solved with the quick action of two other balloon builders, specifically Bill Whelan and Greg Winker, who have appropriate stuff in their private stockpiles. Bill is sending some spiffy silver fabric to finish the tops of the gores. Greg is sending a bit more green for use in the vent. (Kevin says “Thanks guys!”)

Today’s “glitch of the day” was the discovery that we somehow managed, in spite of carefully counting as we went along, to cut one too few of panel #11. So Kevin is going to have to get his hands on some more navy blue fabric after all. (Sigh.) It is indeed always something. As a result, one gore will remain incomplete for a while. This is more of an irritant than a practical matter. The incomplete gore can be left as the last one joined to the others.

After some methodical sleuthing, Kevin managed to identify the math error that led to under-ordering the navy blue fabric in the first place. It seems that his spreadsheet for figuring the amount of fabric based its calculations upon the longer of the two horizontal edges of each panels. So far, so good. Unfortunately, the way the arithmetic in the spreadsheet was implemented, the upper edge was always taken as the longer one.

This worked fine for the green and sky blue fabric which were located on the lower part of the balloon where the diameter increases as the higher you go. But, as must be the case, the process reverses on the top (navy blue) portion of the balloon — with the lower edge being longer than the upper edge.

So, the fabric math mystery is solved. Although I don’t know if this makes Kevin feel all that much better.

What does make Kevin feel good is knowing that he is at least fairly close to having finished sewing the individual panels together.

We wait with bated breath for the arrival of the UPS truck on Tuesday. If it brings enough stuff (fabric and load tapes) then Kevin can proceed unimpeded. Otherwise, he may be forced to take a day or two off while he waits for the last of the materials.

And on and on and on . . .

January 15th, 2006

Kevin continues the sewing of the panels into gores. At this point he has 4 gores containing panels 2 thur 5, 6 gore containing panels 2 thru 9, and 2 gores containing all of the cut panels 2 thru 12. That adds up to about 60 some odd percent of the total amount of sewing needed for this first phase of the sewing.

At least he’s enjoying listening to the book-on-tape version of Thomas Friedman’s “The World is Flat” to break up the tedium

Color Scheme

January 15th, 2006

Here’s a sketch of the color scheme for the balloon. This is by no means an accurate rendering; the shape is certainly not correct, etc. (Click on the little picture below for a larger image.)
color scheme

And the Beat Goes On

January 14th, 2006

It looks like the miscalculation on the fabric is more of an issue than first imagined. The fallback supply, from my stockpile, has only marginal tear strength. It tested at 6lbs in a tongue tear test. (I didn’t purchase this lot of fabric for a balloon project and hadn’t bothered to test it before now.) Although this exceeds the 3 lbs that is the minimum reasonable, the other fabric has been testing at 12-15 lbs of tear strength. Given that this fabric is for use at the top of the balloon (the most critical location) using the best available fabric seems like a good idea.

So, Kevin is going to have to order some more nylon fabric on Monday and have it shipped via overnight freight. Given that both the Nomex and the load tapes have yet to arrive, there probably won’t be much effect on the overall construction schedule.

Sewing proceeds apace. One of the picture posted earlier today shows a gore that consists of 11 of the eventual 13 panels. Even at a fairly measured pace (by Kevin’s standards) from this point, it looks like Kevin will be ready to start joining the panels when last of the materials arrive.