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.

Grumman Avenger

It's hard not to 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.

A bit more progress now with the wings and tailplanes done - there is a lot of wing area which will keep the wing loading down. I'm a bit worried about the strength of the fuselage in the wing root area - a wingtip cartwheel could be really messy. Thus I have glued in hard 3/32" square cross braces at three locations below the wing to transmit loads across the fuselage. I'll be doing the model wheels up, so no undercarriage to worry about.

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 only 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 little 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.

Here is the tailplane, again with a scale structure and lots and lots of gussets. The laminated outline is so fine that I am worried about the covering touching and sticking to the opposite side because they will be so close together. I'll have to be very careful. Elevators are hinged of course.

Time to move onto the fuselage now - as you can see from the plan, this a very detailed reproduction of the full size aircraft and definitely not to be rushed.

This was a very satisfying structure to build, helped by the excellent wood supplied in the kit. The basic box is 1/16" sq. with mostly 1/32" formers and hard 1/32 x 1/16" stringers, on edge. Fit of parts was great and the stringer runs needed very little adjustment to make them dead straight. I really liked the idea of having internal gussets at every former position, which stiffens the cross section considerably at the cost of very little additional weight. Next step is the nose sheeting.

Fuselage sheeting now complete - that headrest was tricky! The vac-form cowling has been cut out and carefully trimmed, the wheels assembled and the engine crankcase constructed. This is a departure from the kit plan and was facilitated by Mike Mulholland who sent me a set of vac-formed parts he created when he built his Thomas Designs Bristol Scout, which also features a Le Rhone engine at the same scale.

Here you can see the completed engine, which features injection moulded cylinders by Williams Brothers. These are well detailed and really look the part after painting. Wheel covers are from 10 thou plastic card rather than paper.

The model was covered with Esaki tissue apart from the tail surfaces, where I used Martin Dilly's Japanese tissue due to its lower shrinkage, hence less risk of distortion when steam shrinking. Two brushed coats of banana oil were applied before painting. The white painted areas corresponded to areas where various markings would be applied. These were later accurately masked off before applying the camouflage. I decided to use Tamiya acrylics for the first time for this model, because then I could use the colour matches given by Wingnut Wings for their Salmson 2-A2 kit, which carries the same camouflage scheme. Compared to my usual enamel paints, acrylics have a tendency to cause the tissue to go limp, so thin layers have to be carefully built up, letting the tissue tighten between coats. So, a bit more time consuming, but on the other hand I really liked the water clean up of the airbrush - so much less messy and smelly than when using enamels.

This close-up shot shows a few more details. The strip of stitching is made from notepaper - a backing piece, plus two strips on the front with a small gap between them. Holes were pierced and the stitching pattern reproduced using thread.

Paper patterns for the forward fuselage access panels are supplied in the kit, but I decided to use 10 thou plastic card instead. The fasteners were reproduced by pushing the tip of a round needle file into the back of the plastic. Plastic card was also used for the two cowl siffeners.

The cockpit coaming was shaped from Crayola "Model Magic" air drying clay.

After a considerable amount of tedious masking, here are the main components ready for assembly. The red and blue sections of the roundels and rudder stripes were cut from painted decal sheet and the black spades on the playing cards were laser printed onto clear decal sheet. The "81" numbers were masked and airbrushed white when the camouflage was finished. If the model had been finished with gloss enamel paint, I would have cut these from white decal sheet, but the extreme matt finish of the Tamiya paints would have lead to problems with poor decal adhesion.

Keil Kraft Beechcraft Bonanza

After finishing the Veron Tru-Flite N.27 I grabbed an old Replikit Keil Kraft Beechcraft Bonanza out of my stash and started it as another possible kit scale entry. Although it went together quite quickly, I rather wished the kit had been printwood rather than laser cut. It seemed that too much balsa had been removed by the laser, so for example, the rear of the ribs were only about 1/32" thick, so half the thickness of the trailing edge. I added gussets at every rib to strengthen the joins. There was just no spare balsa to trim anywhere - I'd much rather parts were slightly oversize to allow trimming to fit. Some building challenges lie ahead as the instructions tell you to cover the tops of the wings, then attach them to the fuselage and only then fit in the undercarriage mount, which also acts as a dihedral keeper, from underneath. We'll see how that goes!

Morane Saulnier Type AI

With my electric D.H.5 needing a Voodoo 25 motor to get it going, I now had a spare Voodoo 15 without a home. So, I thought I’d try again to build a model weighing 30 grams for it to go in. I’m building the DPC Models Morane Saulnier A.1 parasol which is 18” span, but rather less bulky than the D.H.5. Also a monoplane of course, so less draggy.

There are some changes to the kit design, including hinged tail surfaces and balsa fill in around the forward fuselage instead of paper panels.

It was a tight fit in the cowl to fit in the electrics – in fact the Zombie controller has to sit vertically.

The model was covered with Martin Dilly Japanese tissue, steam shrunk and finished with two coats of banana oil. I shrunk in 3/32" wash-out at each wing tip.

I’m a glutton for punishment because the colour scheme I chose was the same labour-intensive French camouflage that I had done on the Thomas Designs Nieuport 27. Markings were put on the same way as the Nieuport, apart from the fuselage squadron insignia on a yellow background which was a laser-printed decal placed over a carefully masked white panel.

Peanut Scale Currie Wot

I thought it would be a fun exercise to build a 1970's style peanut using my 46 year old Andrew Moorhouse kit, so here we go. The wood sections may be mostly thicker than I use in my current designs, but the balsa is of excellent quality and with the shape of the plane being fairly simple I suspect the weight will not come out any heavier than a modern design.

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