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!

Albatros D.V



This is the Golden Age kit, which I can highly recommend, in the process of conversion to CO2 power. The motor is a Gasparin GM 120, and I am hoping to hide the filler nozzle inside a removable pilot. You can see the tank between the motor and nozzle. I have built in a lower access hatch under the motor so I can get at the mounting bolts, and will have a removable nose block behind the propellor. Scale is close to 1/16th. As usual, I could not resist putting in a couple of extra fuselage stringers. This should not be a problem, as I will have no weight of rubber in the rear fuselage to worry about.


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 Audax


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. These will come out anytime soon.

I plan to finish the model as an Audax in desert colours, just to be different.



Consolidated Fleetster


The Consolidated Fleetster has been on my to-do list for many years, particularly because of the gorgeous red and gold TWA livery it wore. Plus it isn't often modelled. Dave Mitchell built one a couple of years ago for the Flying Aces Spanish civil war event and it proved such a good performer it flew away. He very kindly sent me a copy of the plan in CAD format so I could build one myself. Inevitably I have fiddled with it a bit so it better suits the BMFA scale rules, for instance I have ruined Dave's thin high performance wing section to better reproduce the fatter scale section near the centre. This has the added benefit that the wing taper in the front view helps to disguise the slightly over-scale dihedral. Span is a touch under 24".



Some more progress and the appearance of a bigger brother now in October 2019. After building the fuselage for the 24" model I began to think that a bigger version might make an excellent outdoor rubber model for BMFA competitions. Thus, I blew the plan up to 37" (so also legal for FAC Jumbo Scale) and played around with the structure some more, putting in a few more formers, ribs and stringers. To make the fuselage look as accurate as possible, I wanted to do away with visible stringers. I considered Ivan Taylor's filler on tissue method as used on his marvellous Zero, but eventually decided to go with a more labour intensive method that I was more comfortable with, namely filling between the stringers with balsa. You can see a test bay I did at the far side of the big fuselage to check feasability. I am using very light 1mm balsa sheet, cut to fit then moistened on the outside to give a bit of curve before gluing into place. Using such thin balsa means you have to be very accurate fitting the panels, but the results look good so far. I'll be covering the whole fuselage with tissue before painting.

On the smaller model you will spot that I've modified the wing to now have sheeting between the leading edge and the front spar. This gives it a more authentic look I feel.



Here we are in February 2020 and the sheeting on the big Fleetster fuselage is complete. I'll be using a bit of lightweight filler to fill a few irregularities where the formers sit before sanding everything completely smooth. I'm happy with the way it has come out, but this model definitely won't be a lightweight - the sheeted fuselage weighs 46 grams already! Probably no bad thing for an outdoor scale contest model to be flown in UK conditions though.



Here are both Fleetsters together. The larger wing is in three parts, with the outer panels fitting to the centre section using tongues and boxes. the struts are reinforced with wire and ply to encourage the centre section to stay attached in the event of a crash.



Curtiss SOC-1 Seagull


This is another project that has been waiting to get off the ground for many years. I started drawing it up back in 2011 at 1/20th scale and since then I have redrawn it twice. The final iteration has been enlarged to 29" span (my new sweet spot for indoor rubber models) and includes Rees style wings. I'm surprised nobody has tried it as an open model before - Pres Bruning did a peanut, but as far as I know there has never been another rubber powered version.

You all know I have a soft spot for pre-war U.S. aircraft with yellow wings, and the Seagull has plenty of charactor. Not a bad layout for free flight either, with a decent amount of dihedral, a bit of sweepback and just about the biggest tailplane I have ever seen. It's a bit close coupled, but the huge tailplane should offset this.

The scheme I have chosen is shown in the open book - there are several good photos of this particular aircraft for documentation. The fuselage is traditional half former construction with the majority of the keels laminated from two strips of 1/16" square. The lower wing to fuselage fairing is going to be a challenge - I'll probably use soft balsa block like I did on my Sparrowhawk.



Here is the upper wing very nearly finished Only the outer ailerons are hinged, the flaps will be glued in position. I made these separate so they would look more scale. What you see here weighs 12 grams.



This bones shot was taken in August 2020 just before covering. The wing fairings did indeed prove very laborious to make. I let in hollow soft balsa blocks between the formers to achieve the desired shape. Then plenty of lightweight filler to smooth it all out. Note also plenty of fill-in sheeting at the nose to simulate the metal areas of the original. The parts in this photo weigh a total of 63 grams, indicating that the finished model will be much heavier than the Fox Moth and Redwing.



Here are all the components covered and doped ready for painting.

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.



Fuselage stringers fitted and nose block and cowl sheeting added.


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.


Handley Page Herald




As many of you know I have a soft spot for rubber twins, particularly civil aircraft. My first successful rubber twin was Chis Starleaf's DHC Dash 8 and its design has influenced all my subsequent twin designs. I fancied doing another airliner of a similar size and layout to the Dash 8 and decided to go for a Handley Page Herald. As always with a rubber twin, a certain amount of fiddling about with the 3-view was needed in order to swing big enough props - I felt I needed at least 7 inch diameter. In the end I plumped for 33 inch span and the nacelles moved a whole inch away from the fuselage. Also a slight increase in tailplane area. The nacelles are not massively long, but I will be running motors at least 3 times the peg to hook distance. The nacelles are a rather complex shape but at least they are simply mounted under the wings, so no need to pass the rubber through the wing structure.



I spend quite a lot of time filling in round the canopy bulge with bits of hollow soft block to get the distinctive shape correct. I have used my lightest wood for this one, as keeping the weight down will be critical to success. Fuselage stringers are 1/16" square.



Wings are a classic cracked rib construction, as per the Chris Starleaf Dash 8 plan, with a single turbulator spar between the main full-depth spar and the leading edge. The local light 1/32" sheeting next to the trailing edge is seating for the prominent flap track fairings which sit mostly above the wing surface. Wingtips are carved from light 1/4"sheet. The complete balsa structure weighs 35 grams.





Previous page

Next page

Back to home page