Plan. Cotton Flannel Removed

The Construction Of The Air-Cushion

The expense of such an air-cushion seemed at first likely to prevent its being used; but a method of construction suggested itself, the expense of which proved to be very slight. The wooden back-board, as constructed, is made in one piece containing no wide cracks. It has laid upon it some thick brown Manila paper, the upper surface of which has been previously shellacked to make it entirely air-tight. Upon this shellacked surface is laid a single thickness of thin paper of any kind; even newspaper will answer. Its object is simply to prevent the sheet rubber, which forms the top of the air-cushion, from sticking to the shellacked paper. The heat of the sun is often sufficient to bring the shellac to a sticky state. It would probably answer as well to shellac the under side of the paper, and to use but one sheet, but I have not tried this plan. Around the periphery of the pad, there is laid a piece of rubber gasket about one and a half inches wide, and about one-eighth of an inch thick. In order that the gasket may not be too expensive, it is cut from two strips about three inches wide. One of them is as long as the outside length of the frame, and the other is as long as the outside width of the frame.

Each of these strips is cut into two L-shaped pieces, an inch and a half in width, with the shorter leg of each L three inches long. When the four pieces are put together a scarf joint is made near each corner, having an inch and one-half lap. It is somewhat difficult to cut such a scarf joint as perfectly as one would wish, and it is best to use rubber cement at the joints. Over the gasket is laid a sheet of the thinnest grade of what is called pure rubber or elastic gum. Above this, and over the gasket, is placed a single thickness of cotton cloth, of the same dimensions as the gasket, and yet above this are strips of ordinary strap iron, an inch and a half wide and nearly one eighth of an inch thick. These strips are filed square at the ends and butt against each other at right angles. As the edges of the strips are slightly rounded, they are filed away sufficiently to form good joints wherever the others butt against them. The whole combination is bound together by ordinary stove bolts, one quarter of an inch in diameter, placed near the center of the width of the iron strips, and at a distance apart of about two and one-half inches. Their heads are countersunk into the strap iron.

In making the holes for the stove bolts through the thin rubber, care should be taken to make them sufficiently large to enable the bolt to pass through without touching the rubber, otherwise the rubber may cling to the bolts, and if they are turned in their holes the rubber may be torn near the bolts and made to leak. A rough washer, under each nut, prevents it from cutting into the back-board. For the purpose of introducing air to, or removing air from, the pad, a three-eighths of an inch lock nut nipple is introduced through the back-board, the shellacked paper, and its thin paper covering. Without the back-board a T connects with the nipple. One of its branches leads, by a rubber tube, to the pressure gauge, which is a U-tube of glass containing mercury. The other branch has upon it an ordinary plug cock, and, beyond this, a rubber tube terminating in a glass mouth-piece. When it is desired to inflate the air-cushion, it is only necessary to blow into the mouth-piece. A pressure of one inch of mercury is sufficient for any work that I have yet undertaken. With particularly good paper, a lower pressure is sufficient.

Upon the top of the pad is laid a piece of common cotton flannel with the nap outward, and with its edges tacked along the under edge of the back-board. The cotton flannel is not drawn tight across the top of the pad. The reason for employing a cotton flannel covering is this: When the sheet rubber has been exposed for a few days to the strong sunlight, it loses its strength and becomes worthless. The cotton flannel is a protection against the destruction of the rubber by the sunlight. I first observed this destruction while experimenting with a cheap and convenient form of gauge. I used, as an inexpensive gauge, an ordinary toy balloon, and I could tell, with sufficient accuracy, how much pressure I had applied, by the swelling of the balloon. This balloon ruptured from some unknown cause, and I made a substitute for it out of a round sheet of thin flat rubber, gathered all around the circumference. I made holes about one-quarter of an inch apart, and passing a string in and out drew it tight upon the outside of a piece of three eighths of an inch pipe, I then wound a string tightly over the rubber, on the pipe, and found the whole to be air-tight. This served me for some time, but one day, on applying the pressure, I found a hole in the balloon which looked as if it had been cut with a very sharp knife.

That it had been so cut was not to be imagined, and on further examination I found that the fracture had occured at a line which separated a surface in the strong sunlight from a surface in the shade, at a fold in the rubber. I saw that all of the rubber which had been continuously exposed to the intense sunlight had changed color and had become whiter than before, and that that portion of the balloon had lost its strength. I then returned to the use of the mercury gauge, and took the precaution to cover my pad with cotton flannel, as a protection from the light and from other sources of destruction. This pad is upon the roof of the Institute; and is exposed to all weathers. As a protection from the rain and the snow, the whole is covered again with a rubber blanket. It has withstood the exposure perfectly well for a year, without injury. The gauge, made from flat rubber, is altogether so cheap and so convenient that I am now experimenting with one of this description having a black cloth covering upon the outside. The balloon is of spherical shape, the black cloth covering is of cylindrical shape, and I hope that this device will serve every necessary purpose.