Qantas 747 Jumbo Float


Qantas 747 jumbo float

The Qantas 747 Jumbo Float of Gayviation from the 1997 Mardi Gras parade

There were many creative entries in the recent 2016 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade in Sydney. One that caught my eye was the Qantas #gay380 float which brought back memories from almost 20 years ago when the original idea of a Qantas 747 Jumbo float was first realized by the Qantas social group, Gayviation.

Gayviation’s 1997 entry (one of 200 that year!) was the forerunner of the later large marching entries in the parade with almost two hundred people doing an airline safety demonstration dance routine to the music of Paul Capsis singing “I still call Australia home”. The entry won “Best of Parade” at the 1997 Mardi Gras Awards Night.

This was a time before the ubiquity of digital cameras and social media so the only record of the time was predominately on film and VHS video. I went through my old negatives and scanned the photos taken in preparation for the 1997 parade and share them here with a brief narrative on the lead up to the parade. Click on any photo for the full size version.

The concept

Qantas 747 Jumbo front truck

The front truck of the Qantas 747 Jumbo was christened COCKATOO DREAMIMG.

Gayviation’s concept was very simple. Tony Baker, their president, told me they wanted a Qantas 747 Jumbo float consisting of a front truck, being the nose and cockpit of the aircraft, and a rear truck being the tail. It was to go up Oxford Street with a large marching troupe between the two floats, representing the passengers, doing an airline safety demonstration dance routine to a dance track produced by Tiger Recording with Paul Capsis singing “I still call Australia home”. There were to be generators on both trucks to power lighting for the marchers and a complex sound system.

Because of the length of the entry the marchers at the rear couldn’t hear the music from the front truck so a radio link was planned to feed the music from the front truck to the rear truck so those at the back could hear and stay in time with the music of the routine.

The Design

I set about designing a metal framework with the shape of a 747 fuselage that completely enclosed a tabletop truck. I was Head of Props at Opera Australia at the time and was allowed to use the workshop facilities in Surry Hills to build the float. It was built in five sections that bolted together to form the shape of the fuselage. All the metal frameworks and wooden fuselage side panels were built at the Opera workshop and fitted to the truck. Once this was completed everything was transferred to the Mardi Gras workshop in Erskineville.

Mardi Gras workshop 1997

Main cabin frame covered and painted in the Mardi Gras workshop

Full Mardi Gras workshop 1997

Top cabin section hanging from the Mardi Gras workshop roof

At the Mardi Gras workshop the steel frames were covered with chicken wire and then glued over with newspaper. Once it had dried it was painted white and had the signage applied. The tail section was built at the Mardi Gras workshop and consisted of a large inverted “V” shape made of plywood which would conceal the generator and sound system. The logo on the tail of the flying kangaroo in a stiletto heel was the brainchild of one of the flight attendants at the time. The rest of the tail truck was masked with black fabric to highlight the tail fin.

Parade Day

On the morning of parade day the front and rear trucks were assembled for the first time in the petrol station outside the Mardi Gras workshop and then driven to Jands lighting in Alexandria to have the lighting and sound systems installed. The installation of all the lights took a particularly long time which became quite stressful as the afternoon wore on.

Sound and lighting installation

Fitting lighting and sound systems to the front and rear trucks at Jands warehouse

Front truck Mardi Gras 97 stressing

My anxiety levels were beginning to show as time was running out to get to the parade start

The removable front nose cone was covered in an open mesh material so that the driver of the truck could see out when it was fitted to the front of the fuselage frame. The side passenger windows were also aligned so that those next to the truck cabin could be used to see out to the side.

Qanta 747 "Cockatoo Dreaming" leaving the warehouse

COCKATOO DREAMING being driven out of its “hanger” for the first time was an exciting moment for all.

Eventually all the lighting rigs and sound systems were finally connected up and tested. Qantas 747 Jumbo “Cockatoo Dreaming” was ready to see the light of day.

It was an exciting and memorable moment for everyone to see it being driven out of the warehouse at Jands Lighting for the first time.

The picture below is the only time that the front and rear trucks were set front to back to show how the complete Qantas 747 Jumbo float looked before being driven to the parade marshaling area in the city.

Qantas 747 Jumbo complete float

The front and rear trucks of “Cockatoo Dreaming” ready to go to the parade.

traveling to the parade

The two trucks on the way to the parade

Qantas 747 float in Redfern

Qantas 747 Jumbo Float passing through Redfern.

As is generally the case, the best laid plans of mice and men go oft awry. After the Sun had set we discovered it was difficult for the driver to see through the nose cone section so a segment of material had to be cut out to give a clear view. The radio link with the rear truck also failed on the night so the marchers at the rear had to rely on visual cues to keep in time with the front marchers during the safety demonstration routine.

Good luck kiss

Tony Baker and myself wishing “Cockatoo Dreaming” good luck just before the parade start.

Mardi Gras 1997 parade official video poster

Qantas 747 Jumbo featured on the Mardi Gras 1997 Parade Video promotional poster

The parade was a blur of colour and sound and a terrific time was had by all. All the effort was worth the once in a lifetime experience of taking a Qantas 747 Jumbo up Oxford Street. The video below shows the parade entry on the night. Great memory 🙂


Buggery's Creek International Airport railway station - 1998 Mardi Gras parade

Buggery’s Creek International Airport railway station – 1998 Mardi Gras parade

The following year Gayviation did another parade entry. The Qantas 747 Jumbo float from the previous year was ressurected with new livery and I built another float consisting of an illuminated rainbow coloured control tower which led the entry up Oxford Street.

The float represented Buggery’s Creek International airport railway station and along with the illuminated model of the Sydney airport control tower featured a classic Sydney Rail railway platform built over the truck cabin. The power generator was concealed by several bushes behind the cabin. Two large power line towers, typical of Western Sydney, completed the picture and supported the lighting.

At the time there was hot debate about a new airport at Badgery’s Creek with a new rail link which is *still* going on as I write this post. I hope they end up putting in a fast rail link as it is “out to buggery” – an Australian colloquialism for a very long way away. Another one, “go to buggery”, is an impolite way to tell someone to “get lost” or “go away”.

Below is a video of the Control Tower and 747 Jumbo in the 1998 Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras parade.

Armillary Sphere Support

armillary sphere

Armillary sphere fitted onto new support

A client who had previously commissioned a DecoWorks polished stainless steel armillary sphere recently moved to a new, larger house. They wanted to remove the armillary sphere from the garden wall of the old house and have it re-installed in the garden of their new home. We were approached to design a new support for the armillary sphere so it could be placed in the garden of the new house.

In keeping with the materials used for the armillary sphere the support was constructed from stainless steel to ensure a long life in its seaside environment. Stained Merbau timber strips were cut and attached to the support framework to form the outer *skin* of the support.

Top of new support

Top of new support

Detail of timber clad armillary support

Detail of timber clad armillary support

After the new support had been concreted into position in the garden the armillary sphere simply bolted onto the top. It makes a great focal point in the garden and adds a unique visual addition to an already beautiful outlook.

Stainless steel armillary sphere on new support

Stainless steel armillary sphere on new support

Artistic Security Bars

Artistic security grille painted and ready for installation

Artistic security grille painted and ready for installation

Started work making artistic security bars for a front window today. The client did not want anything resembling security bars to avoid that *caged in* feeling. It was particularly important for the this window as it is quite large at 2.2m x 1.5m and looks out from the lounge room onto the street. The final design evolved into a sinuos group of ivy vines with no straight lines.

Long term corrosion was of concern for the client so these artistic security bars are made from stainless steel. They will outlive the house.

Stainless steel is an excellent material to use for custom security doors and bars which, because they are one-offs, are more expensive to build. By spending a bit more for stainless steel materials the client is guaranteed a product that will stand the test of time and be a sound long term investment for their property.

Welding the stainless steel parts together proved to be a difficult job. The design is all curves which had to be joined together seamlessly. Each weld was executed and smoothed one at a time because most of the welds would be inaccessible in the completed grille. To reduce warping the grille was welded in sections with the outer frame being the last part attached. The welding process took three days.

Starting work cutting and bending curves

Starting work cutting and bending curves for the artistic security grille

artistic security bars welding setup

All the stainless steel parts setup ready for welding

Welding artistic security bars

Welding the artistic security grille in sections to reduce warping

Completed artistic security bars

Completed artistic security grille with primer coat.


Kitchen Security Bars

Kitchen window security bars

External view of the kitchen window security bars

This kitchen security bars installation features an arched motif and is known as the “Princess” design.

Each section of the kitchen security bars has its own arch motif. This approach looks much better than the usual vertical bars spread across the entire width of the window.

The view from inside the kitchen security bars (shown below) has a pleasing outlook and doesn’t give the impression of looking out of a cage.

The “Princess” design can be easily adapted to suit any window or door and makes a stylish addition to your home.

Kitchen security bars inside view

Inside view of the kitchen window security bars

Arch Theme Security Bars

Here are some photos of a recent Princess arch theme security bars installation. These arch themed security bars were inspired by the arched windows and door on the front facade of the Sydney terrace house pictured below. Other windows in the house also have arched sections which have been mirrored in their respective security bars.

Bedroom doors closed

Double bedroom doors closed

View of the double arch balcony doors

View of the double arch balcony doors

View of the double arched dining room window bars

View of the double arched dining room window bars

Front view of house

Front view of terrace with bars fitted

The Princess arch theme in these DecoWorks designs is uncommon due to the extra work involved in making several concentric curves of various diameters. Usually there is a single arch within a rectangular door frame. In our designs the arch theme is emphasised by using an arched door frame instead of a rectangular one.

Curved Cabinet Doors

Custom side cabinet design

3D rendering of custom side cabinet design

There are several steps required to make the curved cabinet doors required for the custom design shown on the right. What complicates this design is that the curved doors are also tapered. This makes the join line between the sides of the cabinet and the curved doors non-linear. The join line is further complicated because it needs to taper in to hide the end grain of the sides and the doors.

The first step is to make a curved panel that can be cut to the required shape. The only way to make this is to make a form that has the same radius as the door, and laminate several sheets of 3 ply together inside the form.

The glued sandwich of plywood is placed into the form and clamped in place with heavy weights until the laminate dries. When the panel is removed it is the same shape as the form.

The following photos illustrate the steps involved in making the curved cabinet doors panel.

Bottom form frame

Completed bottom form section with the required radius ready for cladding

Framework for upper form section

Completed framework for upper form section ready for cladding

Form frames covered in plywood

Form frames covered in plywood

Upper and lower form sections

Completed laminating form.

Glueing laminates

Applying glue to both faces of the plywood sheets with a roller prior to placing them in the form

Ply sandwich in weighted form

Five glued plywood sheets clamped into the form and weighed down with 700kg of pavers

curved panel

The completed laminated curved panel for the front of the side cabinet after removal from the form

Routing the jig frame

Routing the radius for the curved panel support frame. This will make the curved panel easier to handle.

Panel support frame

The completed panel support frame ready for cladding in ply

Cutting the curved panel

curved panel clamped to the support frame ready for cutting

The next step is to cut the two doors and drawer fronts from the tapered curved panel. This requires a special jig to be built so the elliptical curve between the sides and the door can be accurately cut. These in turn will need to be held in position for the mating of the side panels and central hinge support. The next blog post will illustrate the steps involved in this process to make the curved cabinet doors.

Wurlitzer Illuminated Console Surround

Preliminary illuminated surround proposal for Wurlitzer organ console

Preliminary illuminated surround proposal for Wurlitzer organ console

Several months ago DecoWorks was approached by Theatre Historian and designer, John Love, about the possibility of building an illuminated surround for the Wurlitzer organ at the Cremorne Orpheum in Mosman. Illuminated surrounds were hugely popular during the 1930’s and 40’s in England largely due to the creativity of the John Compton Organ Company who built around 260 instruments in their heyday.

John’s passion for the Orpheum was infectious and a great inspiration to explore the possibility of building an illuminated surround that would capture the feeling of those early illuminated surrounds built by the John Compton Organ Company.

3D CAD model of the Orpheum Wurlitzer

3D CAD model of the Orpheum Wurlitzer

The only design constraint was that it couldn’t be larger in diameter than the revolve on which the organ console sat (so it could rise up through the hole in the stage floor and rotate) and the height was critical as there was virtually no clearance from under the stage floor to the top of the console when it was in its lowered position.

The first task was to accurately measure the available space and the organ console itself. John organised for access to the under stage area where the organ was located and, from the measurements taken, a 3D CAD model of the console and revolve was produced. Using this 3D model the design of the surround could proceed so that it was a snug fit around the console so as to use all the available space. The main problem was the configuration of the light boxes and how to fit them aesthetically to the console.

The Cascade style surround from the Odeon at Haverstock Hill

The Cascade style surround from the Odeon at Haverstock Hill.
(From the Ivor Buckingham Collection)

Inspiration for the design came from an early Compton example of the Cascade style with the surrounds fitted either side of the console. Some of these surrounds were quite large and impressive as can be seen in this post.

A different configuration was needed to accommodate the restrictions imposed by the revolve. To make the most efficient use of the available space an illuminated stepped platform plinth with a built-in illuminated seat was devised. This integrated the surround with the organ console rather than being a separate *add-on*.

The limited space above the console meant the illuminated top section would have to be manually moved into position after the stage trapdoor opened. Likewise when the console was lowered the top section would need to slide down into its stowed position for the trap door to close.

Illumination of the shallow light boxes would be achieved using modern LED technology. This has the advantage of infinite colour variation and also lends itself to DMX programming to produce quite complicated lighting effects. This will be further enhanced by having each section of the surround, including the stepped base platform, on separate programmable circuits which could produce some spectacular effects.

Pictured below are the final illuminated surround 3D renderings.

Orpheum Wurlitzer illuminated surround - front view

Hayden Orpheum Wurlitzer illuminated surround – front view

Orpheum Wurlitzer illuminated surround

Orpheum Wurlitzer illuminated surround

Hayden Orpheum Wurlitzer illuminated surround - back view

Hayden Orpheum Wurlitzer illuminated surround – back view

Hayden Orpheum Wurlitzer illuminated surround - configuration

Hayden Orpheum Wurlitzer illuminated surround – configuration

Only time will tell if this concept ever leaves the page and becomes a reality.

Steel Mosaic Table Base

Ethel Rhind mosaic steel table base

Ethel Rhind mosaic steel table

A steel table base was needed by a client who had a beautiful early 20th century mosaic table top made by the prominent Dublin stained glass artist Ethel Rhind.

The mosaic plaque was in two halves and was originally used as a wall plaque for an unknown company in Hong Kong. Somehow it then ended up in Singapore and, as nobody wanted it, would have been discarded if not salvaged by the current owner many years ago.

Round table base support

The mosaic was very heavy and, having a cement back, prone to being broken if treated roughly. To give the mosaic as much support as possible a circular table base was designed to offer uniform support around its circumference.

The existing two brackets that had been fibreglassed to the back of both halves were utilised to fix the mosaic to the new table base frame. Additional steel brackets were made and fibreglassed down the middle edge of both halves to stop the halves flexing when the table was lifted by the edge.

While cleaning the mosaic with the client after it had been fitted to the table base Ethel Rhind’s signature was discovered on the edge of the mosaic. It had gone unnoticed for years and was an unexpected bonus for the owner who now has a steel mosaic table with a history as colourful as its theme.

Fitting table frame to mosaic

Fitting frame to mosaic

Completed steel table base

Completed steel mosaic table base

Original Ethel Rhind Mosaic table top

View of the Ethel Rhind mosaic table top

Ethel Rhind signature on the mosaic top

Ethel Rhind signature of the mosaic top