His Life and Interests

 


 



Michael was born in his parent's home at No. 10 Albermarle Rd, Hazendal on 11/11/1952. His mother was Doris Ethel Volkwyn (nee Essex), born in St Helena island and his father Isaac Theodore Volkwyn, born in George.

Michael went to Athlone North Primary, and later to Sunnyside Primary. He attended Athlone High School from 1966-1970. He studied Mechanical Engineering at UCT, from 1971 until 1976.

He worked briefly at Ford Motor Company in Port Elizabeth. For a few months he worked for a company in Johannesburg that installed air-conditioners in cars. He spent about 10 years lecturing at Peninsula Technikon.

After that, he travelled to the USA and UK on holiday, after which he worked a Mossgas for 4 years. After leaving Mossgas in 1994. Around 2005 he worked under contract as a part time lecturer at Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

One source said that Michael did some consulting work, including "for government". While this was not known to his family.

Engineer and tinkerer.

Michael tinkered with things from a very early age. He was around 6 years old when he fitted a cable onto a plug, put the plug in a mains socket and switched it on, causing a short and some burning of the wall socket. In primary school he experimented with static electricity and homemade electric motors.

At UCT he designed and built aluminum pedal car with 3 wheels in 1973. My dad bought a cabinet full of tools, and gas welding equipment for the building of this pedal car. The next year Michael designed and built a more conventional 4 wheeler pedal car with a chassis made of steel. He made his own welding transformer for electric arc welding. <0> From the late 1970s, when Michael was back in Cape Town after working briefly in Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg, he made several high powered amplifiers and he also made several large bass reflex and folded horn loudspeaker boxes. Some he used, and he also gave some to Diana and Roy Gentle and perhaps to others as well. Around this time he made numerous objects from fiber glass, including some bodywork for a Volkswagen Kombi that he modified.

Many years afterwards, he made crossbows and crossbow bolts from fiberglass. According to his notes, he was the first person known to have successfully made a longbow from fiberglass.

He successfully designed and built a propeller driven buggy - after the Mechanical Engineering Dept. at UCT said such a buggy would not work. It used a microlite aircraft engine, and he used wheel rims of a Porsche car. This was the last project he worked on at Peninsula Technikon, where he was a lecturer. He left the Technikon, travelled to Europe and the USA, and was unemployed for a while before he joined Mossgas, where he did refinery process optimization. He left Mossgas in 1994. Apart from a brief stint as a part time lecturer at Cape Peninsula University of Technology in the mid 2000s.

He then switched to cast concrete instead of bricklaying. He invented a spade which enabled him to mix by hand some 40% more cement or concrete per day than he could do with a conventional spade. In time he found hand mixing too taxing, so he designed and built an electric cement mixer.

I had very little contact with Michael for a few years, and had no idea what else he designed or made. I visited his home a few times during 2013, but he only enquired about my children, we did not discuss anything else.

I visited him on his birthday, on 11th November 2014. We spoke for about 6 or 7 hours. He said he had calculated how the earth's gravity was changing due to cooling of the earth, and that that caused a slight change in the moon - earth distance. His calculated figure for this change in distance was close to the value measured by scientists. He asked me if I knew or could figure out why a crocodile has thin skin on its belly but very thick skin on its back. I did not have an answer. He explained that many millions of years ago, the earth's surface was much warmer. A crocodile could get all the heat it needed from the earth's surface through the thin skin on its belly. I went into the dining room and saw all the metal rods, but never asked why he had so many.

We discussed magnet motors - I only learnt that day that both he and I had a common interest in designing and making magnet motors. He asked if I knew that many crop circles have designs that resemble magnetic force fields and or rotating motors. That was news to me. I did a quick Google search and found out that indeed many crop circles hinted strongly at magnetic fields or magnet motors. Michael showed me his metal working milling machine and lathe in the garage. He said they were old machines that he had bought cheaply, and that he was manufacturing parts for these worn machines to improve their accuracy so he could machine to an accuracy of 1/1000 of an inch with these machines.

He had invented and implemented a system for rainwater harvesting, but he did not discuss that with me during that visit. I found out much later that he had shown the rainwater system to potential buyers or investors.

Around February 2015 he phoned me one morning and asked what progress I had made with magnet motors. I had made no progress since buying Neodymium magnets. Michael then said be believed he was on the verge of coming up with a single motor design that used principles of 3 very different magnet motor designs. I phoned him the day before Good Friday in 2015. All he spoke about, for 10-15 minutes, was about a special type of torroid that he was interested in making.

About 6 weeks later, he was dead.

[Author - Roy Volkwyn. Edited by Barbara Volkwyn who will add to this at a later stage.]

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