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Wood Toy Airplane

The Dec 2010 issue of Woodworker's Journal has a plan for building a wood toy airplane:

I like to enter my projects into Google sketchup, even though the magazine article has patterns. Here is my Google Sketchup of the model plane:

I have trouble with Sketchup when it comes to blended curves. For the body of the airplane, I gave up on radiusing the blend between the thick front of the body and the skinnier rear...I just made it tapered.

I have the same problem on the is tapered and blends into the rounded outside edges of the wing. I drew it one thickness first with the curved ends. Then I drew a triangular cross section piece which is the tapered section I want to remove. I moved the tapered piece into position on the wing..........then did an intersection function.  I removed the tapered component........then patched up the wing.  It came out ok using this technique.

I ordered the pilot and 2 sizes of axle pins from the magazine.

Next step is cutting out the pieces and assembly.  I plan on making 2 planes at the same time.


I decided to make a toy wooden airplane.......make two and give one away as a Christmas 2010 gift to a child.

The December 2010 issue of has a pattern I decided to follow. Unfortunately, the pattern is not available online, only in the print magazine.

I found an error in my Google Sketchup drawing of the model airplane...I had the main body too thick, so I corrected it:

The author did not make the main body thickness equal to 1.5", which can be easily made by glueing two pieces of 3/4" stock together.  He chose 1.75" thickness. To get the 1/4" thick piece, I ran the 3" wide piece of 3/4" thick stock thru my table saw in the vertical position.....then turned it upside down and ran it thru again....with the table saw set at 1/4" thickness.  Similar to how this picture shows:

I used the band saw to finish cutting thru the board. I used the rotary planer on my drill press and my belt sander to finish both boards to 1/4" thickness.

Here are the 2 main bodies glued up.  A fellow can never own too many clamps

For the wings, the author set high table saw at 7 degrees and cut the angle on the wing. I tried this but it did not work. My board started to run down into the gap between the blade and the fence. This is not safe.  I switched to my drill press using the Wagner Saf-T-Planer and turning the drill press table to about a 10 degree angle:

Use the Wagner Saf-T-Planer is much safer than trying to saw on the table saw!

Once the main bodies were drying from glueing and clamping, I sawed them to finished size. Then, as the author advised, I drilled all the holes in the main body before I band sawed them. You can't locate to drill the holes once they are band-sawed.

I again used the Wagner Saf-T-Planer to plane back the back end of each plane to narrow up the body:

I wondered how to support the main body after 1 side was planed then turned over to plane the other side. The dummy board shown above worked great.

I used my drill press drum sander to sand all the curved surfaces on the main body and to blend the wide front to the skinny rear section of the plane.

I used my circle cutter to cut out the wheels:

I had the cutter in the position shown on the box, so the outside edge of the wheel tapers back to center. Always be careful using circle cutters because of their big swing which can hit your hand!

I sanded the wheels by putting them on a 1/4" dia bolt in the lathe:

Here are the finished plane wings and wheels:

I made patterns for the main body, wing, and propellor from 3/16" stock, so I can easily make more planes in the future.

Here is the red-winged plane ready to glue up:

Here are both planes with wings being blued to bodies:

To keep the wood pilot from falling out when the plane is flown upside down, a screw is put into the bottom of the pilot and a magnet is epoxied into the bottom of the pilot hole in the body.


I got some US flag decals from Hobby Lobby and the epoxy came from Ace.

I did my usual finishing process on these 2 planes:

-sand 220
-coat 1 of polyurethane
-sand 220
-2nd coat of polyurethane 

Here are the finished planes:


Closing Thoughts on This Project:

There was more work than I thought making these planes. They turned out to be very nice. They are very sturdy and should survive much abuse when children play with them. 


1934 Stearman Biplanes

The next model I tackled was a Spearman biplane.


The original plan came from this book:

I entered the plans into Google Sketchup.

I made the engine first. I glued up white oak then used a hole saw to cut out the circle. Then I put it on my lathe to bring the OD to finished size. 

The tough part is figuring out how to shape the fuselage. On the first plane, I held the fuselage vertical in the drill press and used a drum sander to make the front end smooth. I then routed the other edges of the fuselage.  This worked, but the finished plane looks too chunky.

On the 2nd and 3rd planes, I put a scrap piece of wood in the drill press, and drilled about a 1 inch hole to hole the rear of the fuselage. I again manually moved the front of the fuselage around the 3 inch long by 3/4 dia drum sander under it was round. I then chucked the fuselage in the lathe, and was able to turn the fuselage...making it look very aerodynamic.  The lathe also allows you to sand the fuselage very smooth. I then did 3 cycles of lathe sanding and polyurethane to get a super smooth looking fuselage.

Below is the fuselage vertical in the drill press with the 3 inch long drum sander. I used the coarsest drum I had.


I sawed the corners off first to reduce the time to sand the front round:


Here is the fuselage in the lathe:


Below is the jig I used to drill the angled holes for the landing gear. I should probably buy an angled vise to make this easier:


Next are photos at various stages of assembly:






 And now for the finished planes:





Closing Thoughts:

Once you figure out how to finish the fuselage, these planes are not that tough to build. They really turned out very nicely when done.


Round #2 of Making Stearman Biplanes

I decided to build 3 more Stearman Biplanes. Two for Christmas gifts and one to keep. I made the two gifts from mape, and the keeper I tried something new, South American yellow heart wood from Rockler.

On the first biplanes I built, I sanded to 220 grit using the lathe on low speed, applied polyurethane to the fuselage. I repeated this process 3 times or for 3 coats. The fuselages really looked smooth and very nice. I repeated this process on the fuselages, and to all other parts. It takes more time for drying, but the finshed planes look and feel much smoother.

The first time I made the biplanes, it was a dirty and nasty job to qualify or make the front end of the rectangular bland round, so I could chuck it into the lathe. To make this qualification process easier, I decided to make a wood piece for the lathe faceplate that would drive the rectangular wood blank. I added a live center on the tailstock of the lathe to support it.

Here is the Sketchup design of the wood faceplate:




And here is concept drawing of the lathe set-up:


 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.

Below is a photo of drilling out the yellow heart. Note the bright yellow chips!


Next cut out the rectangular notch for the wing. Cut the 2 vertical notches with a bandsaw, then use a 3/4" router bit to clean out the notch. You can not get a consistent depth notch using the bandsaw.


Next, put the blank into the lathe:

 I turned the right hand side from the end back to the center of the rear cockpit to qualify it:


 Once the front end is qualified or turned round, then the taper cuts must be made first vertically then horizontally. You must tape the pieces back on so the blank has a place to rest during the horizontal cuts:


 The first biplanes I made, I struggled with setting up the drill press to drill the 30 degree angles for the struts in the strut support. This time, I designed up a jig so no angle adjustment of the drill press was required:


 I first made the strut support pieces using the table saw and a clamp:


 Then I used my new jig in the drill press:


 The new jig saves a lot of time and frustration!


Here are parts drying in the drying rack:


 Here is assembly of the motor to the fuselage:


 I made a jig to set the height between the biplane wings when being assembled:


 I had trouble with the glue working between the dowels and the wings. Next time, be sure and coat both sides of the joint before assembly. The thickness jig worked great.


Here is the armada of 3 finished biplanes:


 Here are some other shots of the yellow heart wood plane:



 I really like the yellow heartwood plane 


Closing Thoughts

 The new faceplate set up really worked nicely in the lathe. The wing strut jig and wing thickness jigs also worked very well.

Even with these jigs, these planes are very labor intensive to build. There are roughly 30 parts in each plane.

The South American yellow heartwood machined and finished very well. It did give off a strange odor during machining. It really finished nicely as you can see in the photo.



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