About, Production Process

Making Memories Out Of Icons

How We Manufacture Our Products

At Icarus Originals we want to give our customers the chance to own a small piece of history. Whether it’s the fastest-ever Concorde, the classic E-Type coupé or the celebrated Japanese Bullet Train, these iconic legends of engineering, spark a feeling of excitement and progress.

We love to bring these small snapshots of history and technical achievement to life. But how do we research, design, develop and manufacture our products? It’s an intricate process that combines cutting-edge technology with traditional craftsmanship.  It’s this complete commitment to perfection that makes our pieces so distinctive and desirable.

Our signature product

In this blog, we’ll look exclusively at our signature product – our cufflinks. To illustrate our process, we’ll consider Concorde 101 (G-AXDN). There are six stages to take a project from an idea to something you can buy from our website:

1. Project research

2. Material acquisition

3. CAD/3D design & development

4. 3D printing & master production

5. Lost wax investment casting

6. Finishing

Concorde Cufflink Gift Set made from Concorde Aluminium
Concorde Cufflink Gift Set made from Concorde Aluminium

Project research

Understandably, we were very keen to offer our customers a piece of Concorde. Not just any Concorde, but the particular aircraft that set the speed record for the type at 1,450 miles per hour. We knew Concorde would be challenging to reproduce at a small scale but, given its iconic nature, it was a challenge we were up for.

Material acquisition

With so few Concordes produced, material is scarce and hard to come by. The majority of the surviving airframes reside in museums around the globe. We needed to find a surviving Concorde owed by a preservation group that was working on its restoration, and would be willing to collaborate with us on our project. This is how we usually come by our precious aircraft material, and in this instance we were lucky enough to be introduced to Duxford Aviation Society (DAS). DAS owns Concorde 101 G-AXDN and had a small amount of hiduminium aluminium alloy from the engine air intake assembly left over from its restoration efforts. This would be our ‘raw material’. Most importantly, we could complement the material with the guarantee of authenticity that comes from working with an aircraft’s owners. That guarantee is a critical element of our product offer. Where possible, we always look to collaborate with a museum or special interest group as this gives us a means of contributing back financially to supporting our beloved icons for future generations.

CAD/3D design & development

To ensure maximum accuracy of profile, we typically use a combination of 3D scanning and computer aided design (CAD).  For Concorde, this entailed taking a 3D scan of a scale model and then manually adapting the design in a CAD software package to make sure we faithfully replicate the most iconic features which is more of a challenge than it may sound given that the typical length of a cufflink is 26mm and the original aircraft is 62000mm!  This process is always difficult, since we need to thicken up certain surfaces and round off particular details to attain a delicate balance of accuracy, practicability (they will be worn, after all) and viability of manufacture.

CAD images of Concorde during the design stage.

3D printing & master production

With a finalised design, we can progress to 3D printing to allow us to cast a master component. Here, we use a high-resolution 3D printer to print, layer by layer, an exact rendering of our design. Once complete, we end up with a replica of our Concorde cufflink made of a special resin that melts away at 400 degrees centigrade This can now be used to make a master using the magic of lost wax investment casting..

This delicate rendering of Concorde will now be cast in silver using the lost wax process detailed below. Once in this precious metal, expert jewellers ensure the master is perfect and free of defects. Once we are happy, we can create the mould that lets us produce the miniature wax models we cast in aluminium reclaimed from Concorde.

Lost Wax Investment Casting

The lost wax method allows jewellery artists to copy the finest detail.  It’s as old as human history and the only major changes since its inception has been the addition of technology to allow casters to repeatedly cast without generating a high number of failed items.  Lost wax casting is no more complicated than filling a high-definition impression left within a cylinder of modelling plaster.  To do this, we take a number of the miniature wax models created in the mould and attach them via sprues (think tiny bits of wax spaghetti!), to a central wax stem.  This assembly, called a tree, is placed carefully inside a metal flask about the same size as a large thermos flask and liquid modelling plaster is poured around it so that only a tiny bit of the stem is visible above the plaster.  The flask is then vibrated rapidly for an hour to make sure any air bubbles are worked out and that every one of the wax models is completely covered by the plaster.  Once this sets, the flask is heated on a vacuum pump.  The idea here is to completely vaporise all of the wax and expel it completely from the flask, leaving with you with a perfect impression of each of the wax models and a clear route to the atmosphere via the sprues and the central stem.  Once you have reached this point, the final step is to heat up your crucible containing the aluminium alloy removed from an aircraft and very carefully pour it into the hole left by the central stem protruding through the plaster.  If you’ve heated the metal to exactly the right temperature (655 degrees centigrade for aluminium), it will pour like a viscous liquid and fill all the voids evenly meaning that the void created by what was once a wax model is filled with aluminium.  Once it’s all cooled down, the plaster is cracked off and if you’ve got everything just right, all that’s left is a central aluminium stem with lots of perfect aluminium Concordes attached to it via now little aluminium pieces of spaghetti.    

A Jeweller assembles a tree ready for lost wax casting. In this case they are making rings rather than cufflinks but the process is the same.
Industrial lost wax casting. The process of pouring for filling out plaster shells with molten aluminium from ladle.
A master jeweller hand-finishes one of our cufflinks

Finishing

The final step in the process is the finishing (or polishing). Each cast that is cut directly from the tree will appear relatively rough, and a dull metallic hue. Each casting needs to have the remaining sprue removed and then the whole piece can be polished against a special abrasive polishing wheel. The hand finishing takes a tremendous amount of skill to ensure the correct pressure is applied to every angle and surface.  The individuals who polish the Concordes have often been apprenticed since a very young age and are rightly recognised as master craftspeople within their area of expertise.  Given the nature of the process involved in creating them, each Concorde can have slight differences meaning that they are matched into perfectly complementary pairs.  The final result will be a beautifully hand polished rendering of Concorde 101, perfectly unique to the wearer.  Throughout every step of this whole process, quality control and removal of defective casts means that from start to finish perhaps as many as 35 per cent of all items will be rejected.  The whole process can be time-consuming and reliant on manual skills built up over many years. 

As you can see, there’s a lot more to turning a part of an icon into something you can wear than you might think.  Although it will hopefully become a treasured item that will be handed down to future generations, every single item we produce captures a little bit of the soul of an icon and allows you to carry on the journey of something that has affected the lives of millions of people globally.  With the extra knowledge that the item you have has helped sustain restoration activity and supported the livelihood of a wide network of artisans, there’s a lot more to our products than their superficial beauty and timeless designs.

Shop our Concorde range now to find a collectible or gift that will last a lifetime.

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Interest

Three Interesting Facts about Planes

3 interesting facts you probably didn’t know about Planes 

Planes have evolved a lot since their first inception. The vast technological advancements have created some of the best engineering designs that have defied air travel as we know it. 

Whether it’s through the creation of the Concorde airliner, which at its fastest speed – 1,354 mph – was twice faster than the speed of light. Or even the introduction of jet fighters such as the F-35 aircraft, whose major advances in aircraft design, avionics, and weapon systems have sky-rocketed the aircraft industry into a new generational shift of fighter aircraft and innovations never seen before… 

However, all of this aside, there are still a number of things you probably don’t know about this magnificent man-made machinery. Don’t believe us? Well, I can guarantee we’ll prove you wrong…

1) Airplanes are designed to withstand lightning strikes 

For safety reasons, planes hit by lightning mid-flight undergo inspection after landing, but in most cases, the aircraft is either unharmed or sustains only minor damage.

The last commercial plane airliner that was struck by lightning, according to Scientific American, was in 1967. As a consequence of the strike, the plane’s fuel tank exploded. Since then, technological advancements have been developed to reduce this risk factor. 

Indeed, airplanes are highly intricate machines. As a result of technical wiring now implemented into planes, if a lightning strike does occur, it will typically strike a sharp edge of the plane – such as a wingtip or nose. This means that electrical charges from the lightning bolt will only ever prevail around the outside of the vessel, with the electrical wiring blocking the electromagnetic fields and protecting the interior from any voltage. 

Airline giants such as Boeing 787 and the Airbus A350 are amongst the few within the industry to introduce composite materials to reduce the overall electrical conductivity of the fuselage and wings to fully withstand any lightning strikes, should they occur. 

So for anyone traveling during a storm, there’s really no need to worry, right? 

2) You don’t need both engines to fly 

Ok, some of you may all be familiar with this one. 

As aforementioned, technological advancements have continued to increase the safety of airliners. They have been thoroughly manufactured and tested to withstand a range of external and internal elements that could affect the plane during flight. As such, engineers have to meticulously create a ‘back-up’ plan should fail occur. 

As such, airplanes can function with only one of their engines properly working. Whilst two-engines allow pilots to reach higher altitudes, save fuel, and reach high speeds due to a reduction in friction if one engine fails then the plane can still continue to fly to safety! An engine failure does mean that the plane is going to have less power and will be forced to fly at a lower altitude – warranting an emergency landing. 

The same can be said for those larger commercial liners such as the Boeing 747 – equipped with 4 engines. From a safety perspective, it is not that dangerous if one engine completely fails. Pilots have reported flying a 747 with one engine malfunctioning and continuing to the destination. Both he and his 416 passengers lived to tell the tale. 

3) There is not really the safest seat on the plane 

As a general rule of thumb, there is no safe seat on a plane. 

While plane crashes on jetliners are rare, researchers have conducted tests to analyse where is the safest location on a plane itself. In 2012, researchers decided to take an uncrewed Boeing 727, fill it with crash test dummies and cameras, and fly it into the Mexican Desert.  

As expected, the results indicated that there was no safe seat on the airliner. However, passengers at the back were recorded to have less severe injuries to those located at the front of the airliner or in the cockpit. These findings align with a TIME study of plane accidents which concluded that the middle seats in the back of the plane had the lowest fatality rate in a crash. Their research indicated that the back of the aircraft had a 32% fatality rate, compared with 39% in the middle and 38% in the front third. Although, with so many variables at play, it’s difficult to draw a definitive conclusion. 

But don’t worry, crashes are incredibly rare. So on that note, enjoy your next flight!! 

Icarus Originals

For those plane-enthusiasts amongst us, At Icarus Originals, we have a range of bespoke and handmade plane cufflinks and mini models – the perfect bespoke gift or collectible item for those with a genuine passion for aviation. 

Taken from some of the most iconic aircraft that defined their generation and changed the landscape of aircraft technology as we know it, At Icarus Originals, we have afforded you the opportunity to own a slice of aviation history…

Whether you are seeking some speed and searching for a Concorde cufflink taken from the genuine aluminum of the fastest model of its kind, or from the fastest jet fighter of its generation – the F-35A, At Icarus, we have the perfect bespoke gift for your loved ones.  All our plane cufflinks and mini models blend high tech design with the best of traditional British craftsmanship.

Shop our range now to find a collectible or gift that will last a lifetime.

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Interviews

Concorde Interview

Concorde Flying

Last week we were fortunate enough to catch up with Doug Newton, a flight test engineer on the Concorde development programme. Graciously, he allowed us to delve into the mindset of what it was like to live, work and experience the magnificence of flying on the fastest aircraft to grace the skies. From inception to decommission, the Concorde was truly a homage to what was then perceived as the future of flight and we wanted to ask Doug the good, the bad and the not so elegant experiences he encountered working on this supersonic aircraft. Here’s what he had to say…

What was your role/responsibility on the Concorde Airline? How long did you do this for?

I left the RAF in 1968 and John Cockon – a DP chief test pilot on Concorde at the time – was looking for an armament tradesman. John and I had met during our time within the Forces, so I went for an interview and got accepted to work on the Concorde development programme.

I was first employed in the safety equipment section, which involved dealing with parachutes and aircraft clothing. Shortly afterwards, I began working with mainly flight recorders on the Concorde 001 prototype and the Concorde 002. I also fitted lateral thrust units to both the 002 and 101 – later the AXDN – which were fired off into the air to disturb control services and cause flutter. 

I was also responsible for manning Concorde 101’s emergency repel unit at the time, which contained monomethyl hydrazine – a rocket fuel. I have a profound memory of myself and my colleagues having to fire off the unit in mid air at one stage because the engine control tables went through a bulkhead. To get it off we had to strip off the earthing wire so that the voltage was so high it passed through the same wiring loom. 

**Side note: to put this into perspective for those non-engineers out there, a drop of hydrazine can burn a hole through your hand, so this was a fairly complex procedure to do whilst mid flight!

What’s your most memorable experience on the Concorde? (Good & Bad)

Flying from Singapore back to Bahrain was a particularly memorable experience on the Concorde; not necessarily for the best of reasons. During runway response checks on the GBBD 202, the runway was in such dire condition that when I sat down on the back of the aircraft, I just remember the fly deck rotating round and round like a wagging finger. In fact, the bumps on the runway were so bad, that shortly after we left, the government resurfaced the runway which is now why the main civil airway is in Changi airport. 

I distinctly remember on the final take off – which was a record breaking flight by the way – I was asked to sit on the flight deck and all I could hear was a bang. “Keep going, keep going” shouted Peter Baker, the captain at the time, as my headset fell off due to the rotation of the airplane caused by a tail well strike. What had happened was the tail had hit the runway and the flight ended up rotating too far, subsequently damaging the exhaust engine! That was definitely a memorable experience. Nonetheless, the flight was a success! 

What was it like to fly on the Concorde? 

Looking back now, you don’t realise how much of a pioneering aircraft the Concorde truly was. This even extends beyond the engineering of the airliner itself, but also the family dynamic and bond those of us working on the Concorde maintained throughout our careers. We were all extremely close and had immense satisfaction in what we were doing. My team in particular were extremely proud of our achievements.

 A particular highlight of mine and my team’s career was during a flight from Bahrain to Singapore, where we took off an hour after the 747, yet got back to Singapore 2 hours before it did. The 747 captain asked if we were the same Concorde plane. My response, “You don’t need a wrist watch you need a calendar”. 

The Concorde has had such a profound effect on my life that I even have memorabilia all over the house. I am also a Coordinator of the Concorde Flight Test Association which has now sadly gone quiet. It was such a special aircraft that everyone who has flown on it can appreciate its magnificence. 

Did you ever see the curvature of the earth on the Concorde?

Yes! Of course.

Where did you go on the Concorde? How long did it take you? 

I have flown to an extensive list of places on the Concorde. For example, places like Johannesburg, which took on average 9 hours to get to.  I have also flown all around the Middle East – which took about 3 and half hours. This really puts into perspective how fast the airliner was when your standard commercial flight now takes around 16h and 20m (including stops) from London to Johannesburg. 

What do you think led to the demise of the Concorde?

The crash in Paris didn’t help – but should never have happened. The French decided they didn’t want to carry on because of an engine problem back from the States but they forgot to turn off the fuel bell and realised they had to go down somewhere quickly. I believe this was a real catalyst for the decommissioning of the aircraft. 

Also, after 28 years of service, the Concorde contained what we now deem as old technology. This meant the Concorde was due inspections, which was a large expense that the government did not want to pay.

Were there any challenges as a result of developing the aircraft in conjunction with the French (i.e., language barriers?)

There were generally no complications. Although we measured in inches they measured in metrics there were no particular challenges, as aforementioned, we were one big family!

Why was Concorde G-AXDN (101) such a special aircraft?

The Concorde G-AXDN was a piece of art, a “mechanical swan” is probably the best way to describe it. 

On a more technical level, the concorde G-AXDN was a complex engineering system that was ahead of its time. Indeed, the engine did most of the air intake work. A Rolls Royce engine can only take air into itself at 500 mph, whereas the Concorde flies at 1400 mile an hour, so you have to slow the air down. This was done in about 12 ft difference, utilising the intake doors, rams and ramps to balance the shock waves to 500mph. Each engine had to be catered for, which was a highly complicated system. If it all went wrong, the intake system failed which caused surges – spitting air back out again, which wasn’t particularly nice. To rectify this, it was a case of getting on computers and experts doing their work on it. 

So as you can imagine, it was a multiplex system that required careful and meticulous engineering! 

Have you got any stories about the remarkable people who made the Concorde story one of a kind?

Claim to fame: I have flown in formation with Douglas Bader and Raymon Baxter – a fairfoot to casablanca. My main task was to look after Douglous Bader who said to me, “if I fall base over apex, bloody well leave me alone”. After the flight, I shook him by the hand and he thanked me for my work. I have also had the privilege of flying with Princess Margaret and various kings and queens.

When I was in the Middle East, the Concorde flew various sheikhs as well. A noticeable thing happened during one of my flights. Firstly, the aircraft steps were too short so I created a wooden extension so that the Sheikhs could seamlessly dismount the plane. However, when I opened the aircraft door, I knocked the extension off. For our flight homebound, I also  tripped over one of the sheikhs attire and caught him, next minute his security had a knife against my throat – a very memorable experience to say the least! 

On a lighter note, during one of my many times flying on the Concorde, one of the pilot’s stressed to us all that we would by flying Princess Anne. He stipulated that we must address her as her majesty, proceeded with ‘mam’. The captain then proceeds to go up to Princess Anne and greet her with a very formal ‘Hello your majesty’, she responds, “hey up Dock how’s it hanging today?”. 

CONCORDE G-AXDN CUFFLINKS

Have your own piece of aviation history…

With an absence from the skies forever, you can now own an iconic piece of aviation memorabilia which represents the heyday of supersonic flying.

We have developed and produced in collaboration with the Duxford Aviation Society (DAS), limited edition cufflinks, which have been cast from the air intake assembly of Concorde 101 (G AXDN) – the fastest ever example of this majestic aircraft type. T.

Limited to a worldwide production of 4,500 cufflink sets, they have been individually laser etched with the Concordes registration number and the highest ever recorded Concorde speed of 1450 mph, achieved by the aircraft these cufflinks are cast from.

Whether you are part of the Concorde G AXDN’s history, or just an admirer of the fastest commercial flight to grace the skies, our Concorde G-AXDN cufflinks are the perfect sentimental gift that will last a lifetime.

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