What makes a boomerang perform like it does? This was the question I put to my old friend, George Moorin. George was the craftsman who I was put to work with during my forth year as an apprentice.
George was a genius with figures and anything that flew and his tales of his early life were spell binding to listen to. Ten minutes with a pencil and sheet of paper and George had a drawing of a Moorin Boomerang.
The boomerang had two wings set at an angle of about sixty degrees to each other. Each blade was nearly three inches wide and shaped like an aeroplanes wing. As it turned through the air the thick edge of the blade had to go first, this was the leading edge, the thin edge, the trailing edge followed. This configuration meant that if the boomerang was thrown with both blades flat to the ground it would have lift, as with an aeroplane wing.
I had the drawing and the instructions, so next it was to make it. Quarter inch plywood was to be used. As a young teenager I lived in Bridlington and it was there that I learned the principals of lift in flight as I spent many happy hours with balsa wood, tissue paper, balsa cement and dope. Gliders were my thing, some flew, some crashed. But back to boomerangs.
I cut out the boomerang shape on the band saw in the Watery Lane body shop. Using a plane, spoke shave and sand paper I put the correct shape into each blade. Once finished a couple of coats of varnish were applied.
George gave me instructions on how to throw the boomerang and I listened carefully. Lunch time came, I had 30 minutes to experiment. My flying field was next door to the works, as the workshops were out in the country and surrounded by fields on all sides.
I entered the field, walked to the middle, this took me well away from the works and the road. Standing so that I faced the wind I then did a small turn to my right. Holding the boomerang by one of its wings I pulled back my arm and launched it. George had said to try and launch it at about twenty degrees. Not sure if I ever achieved this.
The boomerang flew forward, turned across the wind and turned back towards me. It was flying that fast that it flew straight by and landed some fifty yards away, but the trial flight, to me, was a success.
This first flight was one of the best I had for quite awhile. I experimented with different launch angles. I tried throwing the boomerang level to the ground, this nearly resulted in my decapitation. As the boomerang left my hand it went into a steep climb, which then turned into a loop the loop, my head being at the bottom of the loop.
Many happy half hours were spent coming to grips with this weapon, but each minute spent meant that I improved my skills. One of the best results I got was to get one of the blades to just touch the ground as it spun around. This made the boomerang spin faster, but slowed down its forward speed, it was almost like a slow moving hover.
Another successful project, and it looked like George was already planning my next one.
I first came into contact with boomerangs in the sixth form at Woodlands School in 1961. One of my friends had discovered that you could buy 5-ply off-cuts from a timber yard on the corner of Earlsdon Avenue and Broomfield Road for a few pence. Each was a triangle cut from a rectangular sheet, measuring about 2 feet along each side. By cutting progressively smaller triangles from the off-cut, we could make a several boomerangs, of decreasing size. We would use a Surform to shape the leading and trailing edge. We painted them with Humbrol: the small ones sold for a shilling and the largest for half a crown. My, how the big ones flew! We could launch them in the vertical plane at the top of the Rugby field and they could make all the way round the posts at the far end before flattening out and circling round and back to us. The idea of catching one would have been lethal. When they did hit anything they did a tremendous amount of damage. Our little commercial venture didn't last long - they were banned by the school on the grounds of safety. Although we were disappointed, it was probably a good decision, because someone would have been seriously injured before too long!