The Dale C. Maley Family Web Site

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1934 Stearman Biplane in Yellowheart Wood

Several years ago, I made a bunch of these neat planes.  The neatest looking one was made from yellowheart wood.  I gave that one away as a gift.  I think I made them in January of 2014, or 6 years ago.  I want to make another one out of yellowheart, and keep it for myself.

I documented how I built these on my website, but then my free company that hosted my images went out of the text is still there, but no pictures.   I have forgotten how I built these, except I remember I made a special lathe fixture, which worked very well, and another fixture for the landing gear.

The pattern came from this book.

Here is what the finished yellowheart plane looked like from 2014 photo.....

Yellowheart Wood

Rockler used to sell this all the time, then they discontinued it.   I think I have enough to make 1 plane, I have to check my inventory.

In 2018, I bought some from Woodcraft.  I checked today, 4/21/2020, Woodcraft only has 1/4" thick yellowheart, no 3/4" thick is available.

I checked my inventory, and I have 7 yellowheart boards, each is 3x24 inches. Should be enough to build a biplane.  I also use this wood to make small parts for my other projects.


My first Sketchup file was in 2011 when I made the first ones............then in 2014 I made some more with the special lathe chuck set-up.

Found my old patterns

1st Step is Making main body blank

I noticed on the earlier planes, I made the blank 1/2" longer than the finished length, so I will do that again.

The blank has to fit in my lathe fixture............which is 2.25 by 2.50 inches..........per drawing below........

   From my previous builds................"The build sequence is very important. First I glued up the rectangular blanks, making them 1/2" taller than finished dimension. This gives Forstner bit some stock for the center to work in. Then table saw the blank to finished size."

So my lumber is 3 inches wide, so I glue those up to give 2.25 inches wide.  Three boards each 3/4" thick glued up gives exactly 2.25 which is what I need. Blank needs to be 10 inches long.

Blank making process

-Glued up 3 of the yellowheart boards.

-made blank about 11 inches long, will trim to 10 after gluing

-using cardboard pattern, marked where the 2 holes 1.75" diameter need to be drilled. Slide pattern down to leave extra 1/2" above or top of the blank.
   This 1/2" gives more space for center of Forstner bit.  Board starts out 3.5 inches wide anyway.

-drilled 2 holes with Forstner bit

-flat spot for wing was not easy.  Tried 3/4" router bit in drill press, but it kicked the wood out.
  -removed lot of stock using Dremel and green wood removal bit

  -also sawed at each end to give a good stopping place

  -used round bottom router bit in slow steps to remove rest of material

-I went ahead and made the 2 tapered cuts on the back end of the body.   

    -I did not read my old instructions carefully enough, I should have not made the tapered band saw cuts yet,
       -I should have qualified the front only of the body in the lathe, then made the tapered cuts, oh well :(

-Now I will try driving the front with a flat plate and screw to remove that material

Round bottom bit worked better than flat bottom router bit

Wrong end in wood rectangular faceplate....Ooops

Use flat plate with screw to finish front end turning work

Sand to 220 grit, apply 1st coat poly in lathe

Main Body Done

2 Wings

Because yellowheart is so expensive and hard to get, I decided to re-saw my 3/4 inch thick boards down to 1/2 of that using the bandsaw.  That operation went fine.  I planed the 2 pieces to the max thickness I could get, a little less than 3/8" thick.

I didn't take any pictures of resawing the yellowheart, but here is an old picture showing my set-up for sawing walnut......

Oven speed drying stain on oak motor

Drilling (8) holes 1/2" diameter  in motor

Using string & nail method to clamp engine to body of Plane

Drilling holes in wings

1st Attempt at landing wheels too wide

Boy, it was very time consuming to make the landing gear.  If I make any more planes, I should make an angled fixture to drill the 1/4" diameter axle holes in the 2 dowels.  

Then a bunch of hand filing to enlarge the holes, so a 1/4" dowel would fit easily through both holes.

Used old fixture to drill angled holes for wheels

New Wheel assembly

I just put linseed oil on the 2 wheels, to avoid issues with polyurethane sticking up the wheels.

Pin Nailer

The joint between the 4 dowels and the 2 wings is naturally a weak joint. After I glued them up, 2 of the joints were loose.  I decided to try my new pin nailer and shoot horizontal small gage nails through the edge of the wings into the dowels.  A couple pins blew out into the wood, but I nipped and sanded them off.

Assembly about done

Added 2 brass screws to attach lower wings to body

There is not much surface area to glue the 2 pieces together.  I added 2 brass screws to improve the strength of the joint.

All patterns

I need to buy a plastic box to keep all of these in......

Label changed on Zar clear Glass quart can at Ace Hardware

1st coat of Poly applied

Finished 1934 Stearman Biplane in Yellowheart

Closing thoughts on this project

This project took a lot more labor hours than I remembered from the last time I made some...........but I really like how it turned out.  I'm keeping this one for myself!

If I ever make anymore, couple of things to remember:

-don't cut the tapered sides of the body on the bandsaw, until you have rough turned and qualified the front end of body.
  [I messed up on this one, I bandsawed the body, so I had no choice but to put the front end of the body in the lathe,
     it worked out, but it's easier to rough turn the big end first]

-make a fixture to drill the axles at an angle versus holding them in a vise.