24 February, 2014

Airplane Sewing

We are re-covering the wings of our Stearman biplane.  We're using Stits Polyfiber and some felt for the leading edges. I kinda wish we had stits fabric for garment sewing because you basically drape it on, secure it with dope and then use the iron to shrink it to shape. Wouldn't that make sewing so  much easier - shrink to shape!

The fabric is rough-cut and secured with the dope (glue), shrunk with the iron until it forms the wing surface. Yes, the wings, fuselage and elevator are all fabric.
This keeps the plane lighter by covering the wood & metal frame with fabric.

After shrinking it, it gets a coat of dope, then the sewing begins: Rib-lacing.
Basically, you are sewing with an extra long needle to secure the fabric over the ribs. 

A wing has over a dozen ribs. There are two wings to the left & right of the center section (fuel tank (made of metal)) plus the lower wings (left & right). Four wings in total. We are just recovering the top wings this winter.

Those vertical lines are the ribs under the cloth.

Close-up of one of the rib supports.
The fabric on one side comes to the edge and another strip goes along the edge covering the first fabric edge.

You have to cut the fabric away from working metal surfaces. This fabric frays a bit but not much and the dope keeps it in great shape. There will be additional coats of dope (Poly-brush), an UV coat, then three top coats. I think there are 8 coats in all. This fabric will be pretty substantial by the time we are done. Taut as a drum!

Here's my sewing! 

The rudder needed a rough sewing to fit an envelope around the shape. The iron shrinks it the rest of the way. This one has already gotten the pink coat of poly brush.

This fabric has been laid on and clamped to keep it from slithering around.

The bottom wing, which is not going to be re-covered is in the background. The tail feathers are in the fore-ground.

And, here's our other project: J-5 piper cub. Much smaller, enclosed, fits two people, but uses much less fuel to get somewhere. Both pilot and passenger can fly: they sit tandem (one behind the other).

Both cockpits in the Stearman can be piloted, however, when there is only one person, they must fly from the back cockpit. {weight & balance: I tried to find an easy-to-understand description but failed. Basically, you need to pay attention to the center of gravity for an airplane, calculate your load and the stearman is designed to be flown from the rear cockpit.}

The J-5 is also a fabric covered airplane. The photo below shows the rear portion with my luggage compartment.

The wood lid pops up to reveal approximately 1 ft x 2 ft x 1 ft space. The stearman has a wee bit more luggage space. (Pack light)

I had some of my auto-immune issues the last few days but I have picked out my pendleton fabrics to get a tote bag done for SewExpo (FRIDAY!!!!).  

One of my symptoms is a very weepy eye with goobers which makes sewing and reading difficult.

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