Practical Airship Design Analysis of a Real System!

Sunday, November 22, 2015 0 comments

Steam Plants for Aircraft analysed in 1926!

I found an interesting report from NACA (NASA's original name) concerning the analysis and experimentation of light weight steamplants for use in aircraft.

The paper is entitled "Steam Power Plants in Aircraft" and compiled by  E.E. Wilson at the Bureau of Aeronautics in 1926, and you can get the paper in PDF format here.

In this paper the author analyses a lightweight boiler setup capable of generating sufficient steam at high enough pressures to power an aircraft. He then estimates the weight and efficiency of a complete system model using this boiler and compares it to the current internal combustion power plants used in the heavier than air craft of the time.

The result of the analysis is that with the current state of the art in 1926, using steam power for heavier than air craft was NOT practical. This is not really a surprise given the power/weight ratio of even an efficient boiler and turbine setup. However there were two constraints that really tipped the analysis over against the use of steam power for aircraft.

  1. Fuel consumption/efficiency of steam power compared to internal combustion power plants.
  2. Weight and area of the system for condensing the steam for re-use.
If you have been reading the other parts of my Practical Airship Design series you will note that neither of those constraints exist in the design of our airship!

First the fuel consumption issue doesn't exist because of our fantastical core, which uses no fuel but produces steam at potentially very high temperatures and pressures. Second the condensation issue is moot because the exhaust steam can simply be added to the lift system and condensed on the hull condenser as described in Part 4.

Interestingly enough the author concludes something similar and even postulates a turbine electric propulsion system, which was very cool to read indeed!

Again we do not have any worries about efficiency in our design.

Fascinating to see this analysis and it is an interesting read if you are curious about the analysis of a real system that could be implemented in an airship like I have been describing.

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

Here is the table of contents for the whole series of Practical Airship Design posts.

You can see all the posts related airships an airship design here.

Role Play Serial Story from the Messdeck Part VI

Friday, November 20, 2015 0 comments

Remember those chickens I mentioned?

Here is the next part of the serialized tale from our role play group "The Messdeck".

You can start from the beginning here.

Previously, Lt Cmdr Maxwell MacDonald-Smythe (Max), and his crew aboard the aged HMAS Doris, had arrived at the remote manor of their shipmate Doctor Christine Pearse. The good doctor, in addition to her duties as Ships Doctor aboard the experimental airship the HMAS Velvet Brush, is also the Duchess of Argylle.

The journey north in the old Doris in the dead of winter was icy cold, so Max and the crew are happy indeed to spend the evening enjoying the hospitality of the good Doctor.

Lost at Sea
A serial story from The Messdeck.
Part VI
Collected and edited by Kevin Jepson 
What follows is a slightly edited transcript of the role playing we did for our visit to the Manor at Davaar.
The crew settles onto the couches and chairs in the elegant parlour, enjoying the warmth and the food which the servants bring steaming hot from the kitchen.
Christine says, smiling broadly, "Since the Doris doesn't have a 'Bubble Bath Room' I'm sure you'll enjoy the bathroom adjoining your room Miss BB...the tub is very relaxing."

Miss BB overhearing Max's comment about counting chickens says, "There's chickens? I don't see any chickens?" then turning to Christine she asks, "Doctor, are you sure that all those rats and things are gone gone gone?"

Iveta smiles, "If need be, we can find some books for the rats."

Christine sips her tea and nods. "Yes, we've not seen a trace of them. The tunnels have been sealed off and with the improvements and upgrades to the Manor, I think it's safe to say that the rats are gone."

BB smiles back at Iveta and pats her bag on her lap. "Oh, I brought my book. I sure did."

Cpl Cooke moves to meat pie #3. "I have my jamming equipment with me too if it is needed."

Sgt Fraser looks to Cooke and laughs. "Slow down lad or you won't be able to get back on board!"

Max looks around the parlour and says, "Ma'am, it seems everything got put back together pretty well, it were a shame we had to make such a mess."

"Ah Commander, that's what happens when you are set upon by villains. I have to say, it was a blessing in disguise really. Much needed improvements were able to be made during the repairs, so it wasn't such a bad thing after all I suppose."

"Glad to hear it Ma'am." Max stretches his bad leg and says, "Oooh it is lovely and warm in here."

Fraser looks up from a sandwich. "Sorry about the front gate Ma'am, did they ever manage to get it fixed?"

"So much has happened since then..." Christine is momentarily lost in thought and then comes back to the room at Fraser's question. "Oh, yes, the gate has been fixed with some new technology. It's quite impressive, if you want to go out and take a look later, feel free."

Fraser nods. "Thank you Ma'am, I will do a walk around later when Cooke and I do our ship check."

Miss BB reaching for another slice of steaming meat pie says, "Doctor, you know what we did? We went to a Parasol Duel. It was wonderful. They had all kinds of outfits and parasols. Did you ever go?"

Christine raises her eyebrows, "Parasol dueling? My word! I've not been to London since before Christmas, so I'm afraid I'm terribly out of step with the new fashions. Might I assume that you've participated?"

"Oh I wanted to. But Madame wouldn't let me. She said I needed training. Hmmm. There was lots and lots of ladies."

Iveta winks at BB. "In time I think you'll be quite a natural."[1]

Christine smiles at BB and says, "I would imagine so. Very sensible sport, parasol dueling. Combines fashion and defense nicely."

"And you have the best parasols, anyway." says Iveta, grinning at Miss BB.

"Oh I hope so. It is just ever such a wonderful thing to see." says BB as she starts in on her meat pie.

Max says, "It is quite the thing now Ma'am, the clerk at the Officer's hostel his mum is a judge. Heard all about it, seems fascinating. I'm going to read up on it in me spare time."

"And when we were there, I saw a Lady who we knew, and when I yelled, she just kept walking like she didn't even hear me. But I yelled real loud." says BB.

Fraser takes out a small pipe. "I heard that even Private Mitchell was looking into it."[2]

Looking at her half empty tea cup Miss BB whispers to Iveta, "Just tea. no medicine yet."

Overhearing, Christine smiles and says, "If you think your tea might need some fortification in order to thaw the marrow of your bones, that could be arranged."

Iveta turning to the Doctor says "The small parasols are what intrigue me most. They are held in twin holsters at the hips. Fascinating!"

"Oh? There are different classes of parasol? How very interesting! What is the reasoning behind that?"

*Cooke moves on to the pastries.*

Iveta says, "The small ones were used for, something called street dueling I think."

Miss BB nods. "Ya, street duels are the best thing ever. You can even do them at pokooor games."

Fraser raises an eyebrow and chuckles. "Street duels? Yep Mitchell is going to love that."

"Oh my!" says Christine. "That sounds so very wild west! How exciting! The Metropolitan Police have turned a blind eye to this? I'm surprised Parliament hasn't passed a bill outlawing this new sport. They'll think that such behaviour will cause the women to think they should vote next." she says grinning broadly.

"Oh, they don't let you poke anyones eye out. So the police just watch." says BB.

Iveta says, "I'm interested in studying the craft, myself. Who knows? It may prove useful sometime."

Miss BB looks thoughtful and then nods. "Vote? yes we should vote. That is a great idea."

Carefully pouring another cup of tea for Iveta, Christine says, "Well, I must say, that any sort of self defense a lady can have is a good one. Especially one that uses such a lovely accessory as a parasol."

Fraser pipes up, "Wait. There's no contact I thought."

"No" says Miss BB, "They say it is too dangerous. Can you imagine that? Bah. Sometimes though, you can show your ankles."

Christine nearly chokes on her tea, trying not to laugh. "Good gracious!"

Cooke looks up from a pastry and says to Fraser "Mitchell won't like that."

"Mitchell has nice ankles." says Miss BB.

Max chokes on his tea. "Er sorry, wrong pipe."

Christine laughs. "And how would you know Miss BB?"

"Bubble bath room." says BB, "That's all I will say."

Watkins looks over at Simpson who is blushing and grins at him "Eer Simpson steady on."

Christine smothers a laugh and tries to compose her face, eyes twinkling.

Iveta grins. "I'm sure the British don't know what to do with me, as I show mine all the time. I think it's a perfect way to disguise a warrior's skill, even if they have to wear dresses."

Miss BB carefully puts a spare meat pie in her bag.

Fraser chokes again and nudges Cooke. Who, trying not to laugh, goes back to eating.

The crew and their hostess continue in their pleasantries enjoying the warmth, good food and companionship.

While out in the cloakroom, by the great front doors, several tiny metal insects crawl from under the bands of the crew's hats. They unfold wings and begin to rise. Spreading far to the outer walls of the vast foyer, they keep near the edges of paneling joins and tapestries, all but invisible against the dark wood, with only the rarest, briefest glints of light on metal to betray their whereabouts. They spread room to room, seeking the sound of human voices, sending their tiny beacon signals to the cloaked airship hovering not far away in the grey icy winter skies.

[1] Miss BB, known in real life as Karen Siemens, was in fact the very first Parasol Duelling Word Champion of modern times.
[2] Private Camile Mitchell is the only female member of the Royal Marine detachment aboard the HMAS Velvet Brush.

2015 Parasol Duelling World Championships

Thursday, October 15, 2015 0 comments

A beautiful day for duelling!

The Second Annual World Parasol Duelling Championships took place on September 19th, 2015, in Calgary Alberta Canada.

Central Memorial Park in Calgary AB Canada
Central Memorial Park
The Championships were held in Calgary's elegant Central Memorial Park which was the site of one of this year's Beakerhead installations, "Intrude" by Australian artist Amanda Parer.

The park had three giant inflated white rabbits, a quirky and exotic back ground for the World's greatest Parasol Duellists.
 On the Thursday evening before the competition the Rabbits were lit up with coloured lights and synchronized music which made for a magical evening.
We added a little parasol fun to the event.

Cover illustration by
Kipling West
As part of Calgary's annual Beakerhead event we had great coverage leading up to the day, even making it onto the cover of one of Calgary's regular "things to do" magazines.

On Saturday afternoon the results of the coverage showed in the excited crowd that was gathering to watch the Ladies compete.

Soon the Chief Judge Madame Saffron Taxus-Hemlock arrived and was escorted to the Judges table by Doctor Adler joining the other judges for this year's World Championships.
Madame Saffron Taxus-Hemlock, Chief Judge, arrives and is greeted by Doctor Adler

Judges for the event were:
Photo by MetallYZA
L to R seated at the Judges table:
Her Grace, Christine Pearse the Duchess of Argylle, aka Christie Vanderloh.
Virgo Vermeil, aka Char-Min Wade-Creller.
Chief Judge and Black Sash, Madame Saffron Taxus-Hemlock, aka Jayne Barnard.

The Doctors for the event were:
Photo by Peter Justine

Left: Maxwell MacDonald-Smythe, aka Kevin Jepson (me).
Right: Doctor Johann Portsmouth Adler, aka Stewart MacPhee.

We had nine contestants for this year's World Championships.
L to R
Sarafina Kain, Josanna Justine, Nicki Brown, Cindy Bedford, Katherine Eleanor Lingwood, Cali Brewer, Deanne Robbins, Monica Willard and Raven Hawthorne (missing)
Photo by Karlo Keet

After a brief demonstration of the rules for the audience and an explanation of how the afternoon would proceed, we asked if anybody in the audience would like to try it out. Two young Ladies leapt at the chance!

Being shown the ropes by Raven Hawthorne
Photo by MetallYZA
Future Duelists try their hands at doing Snubs
Photo by Karlo Keet

 This year Street Duelling was included for the first time as an exhibition sport. The exhibition was conducted in the form of a "hold the field" type challenge. After each bout the victor held the field against a new challenger.

Steely gazes and intense action ensued!

Monica Willard
Photo by MetallYZA

Here is the bout between the 2014 Compulsory Figures Champion Josanna Justine and one of the most famous Street Duelists, Monica Willard with dual parasols always at the ready.
Photo by Karlo Keet

After a short break while the judges finished their paper work, the formal competitions began with the Compulsory Figures.

 The Ladies were paired off and each pair did three sets of the figures, the order being determined in advance by the judges. The sharpness of the completed figures and the smoothness of the transitions were notably better this year.

Deanne Robbins with a perfect Snub
Photo by MetallYZA
Raven Hawthorne with an elegant Twirl
Photo by MetallYZA

Raven Hawthorne and Sarafina Kain
Photo by Karlo Keet

Josanna Justine and Monica Willard
Plant and Plant with Ankling!
Photo by Katie Edwards
The Flirtation Trials, always a crowd favourite, demonstrated the artistic interpretations, and flirtatious stylings of the competitors. The competition was also done in pairs. In addition to the judges score, one point came from a vote from the audience by way of applause at the end of each round.

There was a lot of applause!
Nicki Brown and Raven Hawthorne
Photo by Katie Edwards
Cindy Bedford
An elegant Oriental Twirl
Photo by MetallYZA


Monica Willard in mid flirtation
Photo by Clare Gibson

The formal Parasol Duelling competition had only eight contestants as one Lady had to leave to attend a family wedding. Timing is everything wot?

The first rounds of the competition showed the speed and intensity increase noted at every competition since last year's Worlds! The Ladies really showed their skills and both the Doctors and the Judges needed to keep a sharp eye on the competitors to make sure each figure was complete at the hold.

Parasol Duelling in the Streets!

Monday, October 12, 2015 0 comments

Anytime and any place!

At the 2015 World Championships on Sept 19th  Street Duelling was included as a demonstration sport!

Since then I have had some questions about what Street Duelling is and how it compares to the usual Parasol Duelling we are all familiar with.

Street Duelling first appeared in the later years of Queen Victoria's reign and likely originated somewhere in the American West. The reasons for its popularity probably have to do as much with how "exotic" and a bit "unladylike" it was, in comparison to the more stately and formal duelling of the British Duelling Schools as with anything else :-)

Street Duelling is based on the Brandenburg Variations rules that we normally use but with a couple of changes that result in a strong resemblance to an Old West gunfight. Tales of such rough gun play were popular in England long after the real "Olde West" had passed into history.

 A Street Duel is conducted with miniature parasols, typically 8" or so long. These are kept in holsters, like that for a gunfighter's revolver, or tucked into a belt. They can also be kept in a "Parasol Pocket" sewn into a Lady's skirts.The figures are the familiar Twirl, Snub, and Plant. Because the Street Duelling parasol is so short the plant is just held straight down, and the twirl only has to go to the side.

There are some Street Duelling parasols that are even smaller that can be operated with one hand which can make for a very fast duel indeed!

The Duels themselves are typically conducted without a Doctor, the count being done by the duelists themselves. This meant that Ladies could duel anywhere! It also meant grudges and "duels for cause" between Ladies could be conducted in private.

Under Her Majesty's Rules any "duel for cause" must be conducted with a Doctor present.

Street Duels start with the Ladies facing each other, rather than back to back. They stand closer too, only a few paces apart just out of reach of an extended arm holding the short parasol. Much better for giving your opponent the "look".

Monica Willard
Photo by MetallYZA
The Duelists start with their parasols holstered, their arms at their side. Then like a gunfight the Ladies "draw" their parasols quickly and bring them upright in front of their face. The first Lady to get her parasol into position starts the count and the other Lady must follow that count.

From there the duel proceeds like normal.

This sequence of photos from Twitter user MetallYZA, taken at the 2015 World Championships, captures the intensity of the "draw".

Monica Willard is one of the best Street Duelists in the world and carries dual Street Parasols in her tooled leather holster.

Monica Willard
Photo by MetallYZA
The Draw! 

She draws the parasol and holds it up in front of her face.

Her eyes never leave her opponent's face!

Speed is important but so is being able to move smoothly into the figures once the count begins.
Monica Willard
Photo by MetallYZA

Here she has moved into a well executed snub still focused intently on her opponent.

From this position she could easily move into a plant or a twirl as needed.

Two things to keep in mind here:

1) There is no start signal for the draw like there is when the Ladies turn from their paces in a normal duel. This gives great opportunities to try to psyche out the opponent.

2) Counting while doing the figures is trickier than it seems :-)

At first Street Duelling was not permitted in formal competition because it was considered rather unladylike. It was very popular however and many Ladies carried Street Duelling parasols, even sporting elegant leather holsters on finely tooled leather belts imported from the American South West.

In a nod to this popularity Her Majesty decided to allow Street Duelling in competition. However Her Majesty decreed that the duels must be conducted with a Doctor present to do the count. The duelists still face each other and do the draw on their own time but, in competition, the Doctor starts the count when the first Lady gets her parasol into position upright in font of her face.

Street Duelling was never included in the scoring for the World Championships but there were still prizes and awards given for the best duelists.

The Street Duelling at this year's World Parasol Duelling Championships was very well received and the Ladies demonstrated great intensity and speed.

Next year's competition will include a formal Street Duelling tournament and is going to be very exciting indeed.

Keep your sightglass filled, your firebox trimmed, and your water iced.

To find out more about this great sport go to:
Madame Saffron Hemlock’s Parasol Duelling League for Steampunk Ladies
Click here for information on the history and development of Parasol Duelling
or click the Parasol Duelling tag.

The Rules for Parasol Duelling are here.

Graphical calculations

Sunday, September 6, 2015 0 comments

Graphs, straight edges, and math oh my!

An interesting "Pie in the Sky Project"

Back in the days before the availability of ubiquitous computing capabilities complex mathematical relationships and rules of thumb were often calculated using graphical computations known as Nomograms or Abacs.

These graphs were laid out in a way that using a straightedge one could determine the result of often complex multi-variable calculations. They were used in everything from engineering and navigation to accounting. They were also used in business and government where there was only a vague mathematical relationship between inputs.

This one for example, is used for "quantitative risk assessment of food to guide sampling/analysis for the purposes of official control of food and to support the enforcement of food safety/consumer protection law."


This series of posts by Ron Doerfler describes the process by which such graphs are generated:…/the-art-of-nomography-i-geometri…/

So what is the Pie in the Sky Project here?

  • Why not create our own Steampunk Nomograms?
  • What kind of Nomograms would our Steampunk Mad Scientists use?
  • Would they be complex and arcanely illuminated or simple and elegant?
  • Would they be kept in massive bound books chained in our laboratories or kept in our pockets in miniature books with fold out pages?
  • Would they have pockets in the covers to hold exotic curves and circular slide rules or would they have a simple straightedge that would also work as a bookmark.
  • What kinds or equations and nomograms would a Dr Frankenstein use?
  • What about an Airship Engineer? 
  • What would the Abac book of an Aetherwave operator look like?

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

P.S. This book from 1918 has an amazing amount of info and examples of interesting nomograms. The math isn't too bad but it does need some concentration to follow :-)
Graphical and Mechanical Computation

P.P.S Lots of good Nomography tools and some interesting examples here:
Society for the Conservation and Advancement of Nomography

Who will be the new World Champion!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015 0 comments

Coming soon!

To find out more about this great sport go to:
Madame Saffron Hemlock’s Parasol Duelling League for Steampunk Ladies
Click here for information on the history and development of Parasol Duelling
or click the Parasol Duelling tag.

The Rules for Parasol Duelling are here.

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed, and your water iced.

Join the corp!

Monday, August 24, 2015 0 comments

Her Majesty's Airship Corp Huzzah!

Lots of images of real and movie airships plus a very catchy tune.
Even though in our Roleplay the Airships are part of the Royal Navy I think Max and his crew would approve of this message!

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

About Gears, Goggles, and Steam oh My!

Here I collect interesting bits of information related to the world of Steampunk.

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