Kennett's Globe

June 21, 2002

Rod and Cindi drove out to see the metal globe which Mark was helping John Kennett to construct. We had heard about it from Mark, but it seemed even more impressive that he had described. About 10 feet in diameter, it has curved longitudinal members and is wrapped with a perforated aluminum sheeting. In the construction process, the formed aluminum strips which wrapped the globe were being held on by temporary clips called klecos.

One of the specialized tools that John used to form the perforated aluminum sheet metal for the globe is called an "English wheel". The working surfaces of the machine are shown above, and they are contained in a very heavy steel framework. A set of bottom wheels with different curvatures allow the shaping of sheet metal. The spiral of aluminum sheet at the top of the globe above right shows the kind of shaping which can be done with the English wheel.

The spiral of aluminum sheet moved from the top of the globe to the equator and then tapered in again at the bottom of the globe. John and Mark were in the final stages of fitting the pieces together and making aluminum finishing strips to cover the aluminum bands where they were attached to the longitudinal ribs. It was enough to make Mark break a sweat.

They were holding the strips of aluminum onto the globe with these special clips which were inserted into blind holes with a special plier tool designed for the purpose. Assembling it this way allows them to take the whole globe apart for transporting to the Orlando hotel where it will decorate the lobby.

John and Mark had a set of ladders and platforms set up so that they could swarm over the entire surface of the globe, clamping and adjusting. We joked about how to describe John's large, open metal shop. He related that someone had come in and said "Hey, your toybox has a roof over it." The characterization of it as an adult toybox seemed very apt. It was well organized, but with an amazing variety of tools, materials, jigs and molds from previous jobs - indeed a great toybox. John actually lives there, with a room and a shower off the loft and and office/den at the corner of the ground floor.

The final stages of fabrication included a lot of fitting and trimming. Over the joints of the segments of the perforated aluminum strips were placed aluminum trim pieces. Since everything was not only on a curve, on a spherical surface, but also tapered, every piece had to be fit and trimmed individually. Mark is trimming one of the aluminum trim pieces on a porta-band saw clamped in a large vise. John is carrying the artist's conception of this globe - he had to design and dimension all aspects of the actual construction.

Another of John's current projects was sitting in the shop - a church steeple with outlines of the stained glass windows. All this is constructed from aluminum bar stock, welded to created a forced perspective of the rising steeple. At right is one of the jigs he made up for the welding of the pieces. One of John's current specialties is the welding of aluminum, but Mark considers him to be somewhat of a magician with all kinds of metal work. One of the favorite stories about John, an avid motorcylcist, is his welding of a broken motorcycle chain way out in the woods somewhere. Using the arc obtained from the battery and a couple of sharp pieces of metal, he spot-welded the chain together and rode back in. From such stories, legends are made.

We took a break for some fun and games, and one of John's tricks was the suspension of a screwdriver on an air jet from the compressor. It surprised me, but he said any round-topped screwdriver would work. I had taken out some liquid nitrogen because Mark thought John would enjoy that. So we spent some time freezing things and playing with the nitrogen.

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