On the Workbench

Here are the latest photos of the half-finished models in the Stuart workshop. At least when they are in the uncovered state, you can see some of the construction methods more clearly than when they are finished. I tend to have several planes on the go at any one time, which prevents boredom setting in, but does mean they tend to take a long time to finish!

As time has gone on I've noticed how much smaller this page has become, indicative of the fact that I have made an effort to finish off some long-standing projects. I also took a hard look at my bones collection and threw out a few that I knew would never get finished!

Dornier Do 335

Not much to say about this one - it is the West Wings kit, started in a fit of enthusiasm when it first came out, and sitting around in this state now for many years. I am planning to power it with two rubber motors, one driving each propeller. The kit is very well designed, but there is plenty of scope for weight reduction.

Hawker Hart

I won the this old West Wings kit in a raffle (it has the original peel-off paper patterns on the parts sheets) and for no obvious reason took it away on one of our trips up north to cut some bits out. Before I knew what had happened, I got to this stage.

You might notice in the photo that as the design does not feature side keels for the fuselage, I have attempted to keep everything straight when adding the stringers by temporarily gluing scraps of balsa sheet between each former on both sides.

Fast forward a whole 12 years to April 2021 and finally there has been some movement on this project! I took the kit away on another trip up north and spent the evenings working on it. The fuselage is now almost complete, with all the metal areas of the full size aircraft filled between the stringers with soft balsa sheet - mostly 1/16" but 3/32" and occasionally 1/8" in the most curved sections near the nose. The tailplane was also completed. There is a lot of wood in this kit, but it is a very enjoyable build.

Peanut scale Heinkel He 45

The story behind this one is a little unusual. My next peanut scale model was going to be a Blackburn Dart, but during a clear out of my cupboards and drawers prior to moving to a new modelling den at the other end of the house I found these old wing ribs and wingtip laminations. I had absolutely no idea what model they were for! Trawling through the many reference folders on the computer I eventually discovered one dedicated to the Heinkel He 45 with a partly drawn peanut scale plan created back in 2008. It seemed a shame to waste all that work, so construction commenced!

Here are both wings completed. They aren't constructed exactly as I would do them today, but they came out pretty well. In view of the new BMFA peanut scale rules for 2020, keeping weight down is even more important than before (you need to get a 50 second max to stand a chance of placing well) I didn't build in separate ailerons. Upper wing frame came out at 1.3 grams and the pair of lower wings 0.8 grams.

The basic fuselage box with upper sheeting applied, plus the tail surfaces, posed with a picture of the colour scheme I plan to do. To save weight at the rear I have not constructed hinged elevators, though I did fit a hinged rudder to avoid an unsightly trim tab later.

With the fuselage now complete, here are the bones ready for covering. Weight at this stage 6.8 grams.

Weight after covering and applying a coat of banana oil 8.9 grams.

Grumman Avenger

it's hard to not have a Dave Diels kit on the go - sometimes I just feel like cutting out a pile of balsa bits and assembling an airframe that somebody else has designed. Its quite a big beast in 1/24th scale and has a good chance of flying well. I may increase the dihedral by adding a bit to the centre section panels but but otherwise will build straight from the box. well, apart from sheeting in the first two fuselage bays. As to a colour scheme, I have a Fleet Air Arm camouflaged example in mind.

Nakajima Ki 27 "Nate"

And another one... I enjoyed building the Walt Mooney peanut version of the Ki 27 so fancied giving the much more accurate Diels 1/24 scale version a go. It has a reputation as a good flier and I wanted to finish it in the same scheme as my peanut.

The filling in of the first two nose bays was very satisfying. The fuselage is an interesting shape in that it becomes very slim indeed behind the cowling.

Peanut scale Vought OS2U Kingfisher

While building the Mike Nassise Kingfisher I noticed how good the proportions were for peanut scale and started drawing up a plan with the aim of keeping it as light as possible, yet still buildable by my rather clumsy hands. Structure is generally 1/20" square balsa strips and 1/32" sheet for ribs and formers (Ignore the Heinkel He 45 bits at the left). Wings are of the cracked rib type with a single turbulator spar. the main spar is 1/32" balsa. Weight of bones shown here 4.7 grams.

The model was covered using Martin Dilly's Japanese tissue, then steam shrunk and finished with a single coat of banana oil. Weight after covering had increased to 6.4 grams. The uncovered area on the wing centre section is to give clearance for the rubber motor which passes just above the wing.

Veron Tru-Flite North American Harvard/Texan

While having a bit of a sort out I found some light 1/16" sheet balsa that had all the parts for this model printed on to it. I had done it many years ago using a photocopy of the parts sheets and cellulose thinners. Seemed too good an oportunity to miss, so I started cutting the bits out and before I knew it ended up with what you see here.

I remember Andrew Darby building and flying one of these at the Indoor Nats a few years back, so asked his advice about things to look out for. As with a lot of Phil Smith's designs, the wings and tailplane are both set at zero degrees, so I thought I would need to alter the angle of one of these. Andrew told me that his model was longitudinally unstable until he added negative incidence to the tailplane, after which it flew well. I chose to achieve the same effect by adding three degrees to the wing incidence. This meant changing the angle of the fuselage wing saddle, which then meant I then had a step to fill under the wing. It also meant I had to cut away the wheel well fairings to clear the fuselage as the front of the wing now sat higher.

The other change I made was to end the fuselage a former early and make a separate, sheeted cowling with parallel sides to glue on the front. This looks much better than the tapered shape shown on the plan. Everything else was as per the original design.

Thomas Designs 1/12 scale Nieuport 27

This wonderful kit has been out of production for many years but they do come up occasionally on Ebay in the USA. I am very grateful to Dave Mitchell for successfully bidding on one for me a few years back, which I was able to bring back from one of my Geneseo trips. It was a retirement project, which has only now got started a mere four years after I retired.

Unlike the more more recent laser cut Bristol Scout, the Nieuport is a printwood kit. In the photo you can see the various bags of parts that I spent many happy hours cutting out (I really do enjoy it!)

The quality of the materials in the kit is second to none, including round spruce strips for the leading and trailing edges of the wings, lovely light balsa sheet, 1/64" basswood strips in two different widths for the flying surface laminated outlines and an injection moulded kit for the Le Rhone rotary engine.

There are three very detailed plan sheets - this one deals with the flying surfaces. Construction is pretty much exactly as per the full size aircraft. I decided to start with the lower wings.

I'd never used spruce for the leading and trailing edges of a wing before - the leading edges are 1/16" round and the trailing edges 3/64" round. They look very fragile but are surprisingly strong. I'd also never laminated basswood for wingtip outlines before, but it was very straightforward, and they are definitely stronger than balsa. The leading edge sheeting is specially cut 0.020" balsa, which was a real pleasure to use - you just have to be very gentle with the sanding as it is so thin.

The upper wing was a liitle more complex, having two spars and separate ailerons. The spars are C section constructed from 1/32" balsa. The real aircraft had no dihedral, but in the interest of stability I decided to sneak in 3 mm at each outermost rib. As flat wings always seem to look droopy to me anyway, this added dihedral is not particularly obvious. The only other change I made was to add some extra balsa sheet supports for my aluminium sheet aileron hinges.

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