393. Fuselage fabric

Week three of the recovering process was mostly concerned with the fuselage.

By Monday we’d stripped the old fabric off the chassis (undercarriage) and fuselage and cleaned and recovered the chassis. There was a setback in that the setting tool for the lacing hooks we were going to need fro the fuselage fabric was still in Ludlow, but I set off at around 1700 feeling pretty positive about the progress we might be able to make.

I got back late morning on Tuesday to find that Theo and Chill had got the three panels for the fuselage fabric measured, cut out and sewn together. But in offering them up to the fuselage for one of many trial fits, a partly open pair of scissors had punctured the fabric just behind the cockpit, meaning they’d had to start all over again…

Thankfully they were able to re-use most of the original fabric and carried on while I tidied up some bits inside the fuselage while we had access, and applied frayed edge tapes to the ribs of a couple of ailerons. The fuselage fabric is attached by means of lacing hooks as used on traditional hiking boots, and it’s necessary to double over the edges of the fabric and sew on a reinforcing tape. When I’d finished my jobs, I dug out the crimping tool that I’d been back to Ludlow to fetch, and looked for the big bag of lacing hooks which were in the blue bag of spares. Except they weren’t. I’d seen them in December and looked all over the house and in my car, and failed to find them. Theo and Chill did the same, and failed to find them. There was nothing for it but to order some more, which were set to arrive on Wednesday and shouldn’t hold up production much.

By Wednesday morning it was becoming clear that our optimism about the speed of the operation was misplaced, and it was going to be yet another slog of a week. Still, I was tidying up a space in the workshop when I came across the bag of lacing hooks under a box of paintbrushes…

Fuselage Fabric.JPG
The old fabric. Notice the difference in colour between the top of the fuselage and the sides, due to the difference in exposure to sunlight. We’ll be trying to replicate that in the new fabric.

You might have thought that it would be possible to use the old fabric as a pattern for the new, but you can probably see that it’s not flat enough or clean enough, and we’ve had to start from scratch with the new one. The only time we were able to take dimensions from the old was for the control cable holes. And it takes a long, long time. Theo did all of that with Chill’s assistance, and I carried on with other things; undercarriage legs, wheel discs, aileron rib tapes, cleaning the ply cover on the fuselage top, and making the frayed edge tapes for all the other ribs. I did this by tearing strips off the roll of linen fabric we had left over from four years ago. This leaves a good start for the frayed edge but you really need to unpick a couple more thread each side, and I ended up with frayed edges and a slightly frayed temper, staying up until 0020 on Friday morning to get the job done.

frayed edge threads.jpg
Here is a small selection of the threads removed from the rib tapes!
Fabric laced up.jpg
The fabric laced up. You can see the reinforced edges to take the lacing hooks, which have to be crimped up using specially modified bolt croppers.

And in fact it wasn’t until Friday afternoon we were finally able to sit the fabric in place, lace it up and iron it, the two initial coats of dope being applied on Saturday morning, after which we all felt in need of a lie down!

Doped Fuselage fabric.jpg
With the wheels off and the tail supported as high as possible, it wasn’t too difficult to apply dope to the underside.

I had hoped that we might be able to apply the rib tapes as well this week, but that hasn’t happened, and the few I did on a couple of ailerons has demonstrated that we need a method of applying tension while we apply dope, otherwise they wrinkle when dope is applied.

So we have arranged yet another week to get that done before the butyrate dope arrives in time for March, when we hope to get the final coats applied, the markings painted, and the whole thing reassembled in time for the 2019 season.

 

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6 thoughts on “393. Fuselage fabric

  1. Aaron Weaver

    Thanks for all you’ve done to share your project’s story with the rest of us. It is so interesting to see all of the details of the various processes.

  2. edward timberlake

    Soon be a month on from the las post, and was wondering what progress has been made in that time to fully cover the frame and wings, etc., also anything done on the engine in that time?

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