Piper PA 18 Supercub clone build

Ever dream of doing something really different – daring even? Here is a prime example of such a dream…

Build a real aeroplane that really flies!

The aircraft of my choice is the Piper PA-18, better known as the Supercub. Well, pretty darned close anyway, as I have ordered complete plans and construction manual for a ‘Light Miniature Aircraft’ clone of the original Piper (one of many clones that exist) on the internet and hope to receive them soon 🙂

I am 65 now and can expect around 2500 hrs of building-time spread over probably at least five years (finances notwithstanding), so whether I ever get to fly the bird is another, unimportant, question. By that time 70 years old, maybe one of my children will finish the project and learn to fly in the cub if I go soft in the head in the meantime; maybe it will be sold on unfinished (I really would expect to finish it, though, as far as finances allow).

Of course, in order to build something like this, there are a few things to consider.

First off on the practical side is the problem of space and the equipment to do it, neither of which I have – yet! On the equipment side, I need a drop-saw, bandsaw, a drill-stand, face-sander and a TIG-welding setup. I have most of the hand-tools, drills, measuring tools and such like already 🙂

The necessary manual skills I believe to have acquired over the years – ‘advanced’ woodworking as a qualified industrial patternmaker to the foundry industry and a few of years of very exacting  TIG-welding for a living (still). I spent years in Australia working in an aircraft museum restoring warbirds, a bit on a P-38, quite a lot on a P-39 and some more on an F4U Corsair. Electrics and avionics shouldn’t be a problem, covering the frame will probably be a challenge.

I also flew everything I had a chance to, as well, while I was there; training mostly in a Cessna 152 Aerobat, but also in a C172 and a “gutless Cutlass”.

Chances to fly taken up notably in a Harvard, PT 17, Tiger Moth, AN-2 and a Trojan, taildragger endorsement in a Supercub. There’s the link!

A lovely little aircraft for low and slow and with excellent manners and short-field capability built in 🙂

So here, as time goes by, I will note my progress, failures and successes. The Start will be SLOW, as there are things at home that have to be addressed as well – particularly Armstrong, who is completely aircraft crazy at the tender age of 14 months and is actually the one who planted the seed in my brain 🙂


Masspacher finals :)

Now at last I am approaching the time to assemble everything and try out the bridge that I made (of ebony, of course!), string it up and try it out for the first time…

The new machine heads – without screws (still waiting for the correct domed slotted ones instead of the modern cross-head-screws)

Nice and simple inlay work on the ‘rosette’

Ready for the bindings/purfling and the frets and nut already fitted – notice the subtle difference in the colour of the top where the original bridge would have sat for years, shielding the wood from darkening (more obvious in the photos below this one).

Here with one side taped to glue the bindings.

The second side being glued…

After fitting the bindings, all could be finally assembled… Here is the binding at the bottom showing the corrective build-up of veneer around the bottom end of the top. I can’t claim that it is invisible, but at ‘player’s distance’ hardly noticeable. It retains the the original top without replacement, retaining the idea of using as much of the original as possible. Putting a new top on would have defeated the object and to my mind, ruined the guitar.

The finished article after shellacking and rubbing the front with 0000 wire wool and applying furniture wax. It will still need a little work and a few more applications of wax before it gets a proper sheen, but hey, this is a 100-year-old guitar and doesn’t have to look like it just rolled out of the factory!  The back and sides were shellacked and de-nibbed with wire-wool and left in the gloss that remained

Its place on the wall at home (camera-distorted angle to the bridge, by the way!) next to an old Ukrainian ‘Trembita’ (Epiphone copy?) and a ’70s Höfner bottom-of-the-range (¾?) classical. The bass also (now) works active and passive, but was an electronic mess when I got it 🙂

A new day dawns on the Masspacher which played very nicely from the word ‘Go!’. I may have to adjust it a bit as time goes by and it settles, but despite the gargantuan thickness of the neck, it plays with a light touch and strong tone – the sustain is great, of course!Maybe at a later date I will even post a sound sample, who knows!

Ca 1915 Masspacher guitar resto 2

And so it was, that Maryna and I went off to England on a false hope and the belief that we could settle there for my retirement. Well, that didn’t materialise (in retrospect I can only say ‘Thank God!’) and so we returned to Germany in August 2017 to Plön in the north and were there until the work (and the owner of the Boatbuilding yard) I was doing there proved unfruitful and so the die was set to return to the Bielefeld area, where at least three of my children were near. We landed here in mid March, just before lockdown – but that is another story!

Vincent had looked after the Masspacher for me and returned it soon after our arrival here and the original work restarted. It had neither deteriorated nor improved, so I scraped off all the old shellack to allow it to breathe and gave it a regular good soaking, inside and out. After a few weeks, that paid off and the width-dimension of the top and back were very close, but there was another problem: the length had hardly changed at all, so the top was about ⅛” or 3mm too short. Added to that, the cross-spars inside had to be shortened at the ends to compensate for the change in dimensions of the sides and edging, so the top had to be pried free and reglued after shortening the spars. Although it doesn’t show on the photos, the top was not just split down the middle, either.

Here is the back after the scraping – beautiful, even if ‘only’ veneer over ply 🙂

The soundhole after securing the loose pieces…

After carefully fiddling all that together without actually removing the top altogether, that was when the difference in the length of the top (along the grain) became really evident at the bottom and a plan had to made, to make the whole thing go back together playable again.

First the edging/purfling had to be removed as non-destructively as possible to ascertain the exact amount of ‘fill’ required. Thankfully a little gentle heating had the desired effect, even though the ebony had become very brittle and was showing the stress of the original bending around the curves of the body by being unfortunately rather flaky.

I decided to use some 40-year-old old spruce and ebony veneer that ‘I had lying about’ to fill the lost space, carefully feathering the ends and building up to the final dimension at the bottom of the curve of the top. The cut was lengthwise along the grain, as cross-cutting would have been very difficult to keep together and would never have matched the pattern and rhythm of the original grain anyway.

After having done that, it was time to carefully layer it all together while keeping the measurement close enough to put the original purfling back without steps in either direction – not quite always possible, but close enough. The white was celluloid, so easy enough to scrape down – carefully!

The difference can best be seen from the centre to the bottom of this photo, where the ply of the top and the sides is better revealed. That is the space that had to be ‘veneered-up’

Here are the first plies being tried. You can see how the gap at the bottom (on the right) is wider and narrows towards the sides, in this case on the left of the pic.

First one in place (on the other side):

Layered up and ready for the final check with the purfling.

Now have to turn my attention to the top near the fingerboard on each side and the ‘waist’, where the shrinkage of the sides was most apparent

Now pretty much ready to fix the edges back on

Taping the purfling on to double-check dimensions

The purfling at the top has separated, so needed special care when fitting, so as not to lose any of the brittle veneer in-between the celluloid strips

Here it is a bit more obvious, but the top is not looking bad for 100 years old! It can also be seen that the celluloid has lost some ‘length’, resulting in a gap in the middle, which will be covered by the rather nice (and typical of the French guitars of the period) tailpiece – or string-holder – 

Temporarily arrested developement

Well, things regarding modelling etc. have come to a virtual standstill, at least with regards to production 🙂

On the 15th August (my mum’s Birthday!), our son, Armstrong Oleksiyj Gouws was born at 00:07h in Herford, Germany, weighing in at 3740 g. and at 50 cm long. All are well (if a little lacking in sleep!), Maryna is well knackered after the Cæsarian and he has in the meantime put on around a Kilo in four weeks and 6 cm – rather over the average, we fear! ‘Relative normality’ will return at some time after 3 Months, so we are crossing our fingers that all goes well.

His arrival has caused a certain amount of turmoil  for us all and my tinkering will have to be temporarily postponed… HOWEVER

I have not stopped thinking and planning about how it will further develop. I searched for useful books and information, that might help to make a more accurate rendering of the Diana and I came accross this publication. Expensive if bought new (€60+), I dragged the net and came up with one for €20, which was more like it! Absolutely fabulous publication with oodles of never-befroe bublished archival photos and technical drawings, not to mention a great deal of history about the trio and some separate technical drawings (unfortunately to 1:300 scale) of all three ships and their innards. An absolute bargain at the money paid. Here an impression of the tome, for those interested in buying!

Interesting is that in the title, the AVRORA is correctly transliterated, but in the text in the book, the same ship is continually alluded to as the AURORA, which is technically incorrect but commonly so written.

Ca 1915 Masspacher guitar resto 1

The story of this guitar as far as my ownership is concerned, goes back about two and a half years. I bought it on eBay ‘for a song’ in France, where it was made – in Paris. As far as I can work out from research, it was made between 1915 and 1920, which makes it about 100 years old 🙂 Masspacher was a retailer and manufacturer, with a shop and workshop and was better known for its accordions. This particular guitar is unusual and quite rare, as they were made in their own ‘artisanal’ workshop and preempted the gypsy-jazz or manouche style, which they also made later on in ‘petit-bouche’ after the Selmer/Macaferri makers in the late 20s and 30s.

It was in a sad state when I received it, damaged from being too long in too dry an environment (centrally-heated?) and as such the wood of the top was split and had shrunk in all directions. I started by stripping it down as far as possible, also removing the frets and the varnish/laquer, so that it could breathe again and the top could take up some moisture from the atmosphere. I made a simple humidifier and hung it in the wash-cellar for months on end in an attempt to humidify it. Here are a few pics of it in it’s condition as I received it back then in 2017? It looks a lot better in the pics than it really was, as the shrinkage was everywhere…

There was a sponge inside the pot which was wetted every day and the whole thing was hung in the wash teller foe a few months, until we left for the UK…

Diana large davits Part 2

The construction of the davit block was fiddly, requiring more than two hands and ten (fat) fingers, so I need time to work out a better way to do the other three with more precision and less luck. In the meantime I managed to steal a few minutes to cut out the hatches for the hull, which required some accuracy:

To complete the topside of the davit block, I decided to have a go at the blocks that the launch sits on. As proposed in the kit, these are flat-sided and so not very true to life, so I decided to make them  three-dimensional as they should be, to improve their appearance in the rather prominent position that they sit in!

This is what they should look like:

They were primed for folding as originally planned and carefully lined up on both sides. In between I placed a third sheet (made of two printed layers back-to-back after thinning them down by wetting, rolling and stripping the printed side from the white back). You will see that the sheet is both cut and punched to give the right shape, here only part-finished.

Look at the difference between what was originally intended and my extra effort:

After that the pair I made were mounted on the davit-block:

At this stage, after trying it out for size on the ship, I discovered that the curve of davits themselves was a bit flat, meaning that the launch wouldn’t be able to sit on the blocks at all, so that has been corrected and the others have been corrected to suit. The davit-heads still have to be addressed as well as other details before the davits are fitted properly later.

Like other protruding and/or fragile items that might become damaged while handling the ship during the build, these will be fitted near the end when I consider it safe to do so.

Some of these parts were included in the acid etch sheet, but would have been difficult if not impossible to incorporate, due to the construction. The whole sheet I find was filled with unnecessary parts and omitted many more that would have been far more useful – the wheels for the Lafetten, for example, that are missing altogether and would have been more appropriate. I shall use those left over from my Bogatyr 🙂

For the full report, please go to https://thingummybob.com/modelmaking/building-dom-bumagis-diana/

Diana large davits

Well, what a fiddle! Keeping all those bits together without squashing and distortion while they glue! One part was missing (28a, which was simple to make)but otherwise fitted together remarkably well for the first try. The next ones will rely on some spacers while building…. which is what the toothpick is for, by the way. EVERY time I picked it up, I somehow managed to squash the ends together 🙁 The part number 28a was nowhere to be found, but was easily made – the front panel, a squared ‘U’ shape.

Carefully placed (it’s not finished yet!) where it will go along with the other three large davits.

Edges painted and tried out with the David arm for fit:

For the full report, please go to https://thingummybob.com/modelmaking/building-dom-bumagis-diana/

Diana storage boxes on deck and companionways 2

A little progress has been made, all the storage boxes are now fitted on the starboard side and another of the companionways, still without the tubular frame for the canvas cover or the hatch – they will come in due time.

Here is the step-by-step building process for the companionways: I noticed that the steps were too wide as drawn to allow the companionway to fit in the holes provided on the decks, If they would simply be glued on to the cheeks, so the only way to fit them would be to cut out the sides and fit them like one would with a real wooden staircase, captured between the cheek-pieces! See below:

Folded together and glued, without the top frame, but the front of the box left open:

So here are the other 4 assembled and ready to be fitted – all lined up like peas in a pod 🙂

Below with and without frames…

And here they are with the top frames and the edges painted appropriately (with Aquarell paints) and with a 1 Euro-Cent piece for size comparison. The footprint of the staircase is ca. 8mm long.

For the full report so far, go to https://thingummybob.com/modelmaking/building-dom-bumagis-diana/

First companionway, storage boxes on the port side, strengthening ribs and aft superstructure.

Here is the first companionway, as yet without painted edges etc.

Here a couple more pics from different angles (the same companionway)

And here installed in the forward deck, as yet without hatch and wire frame, but with the edges touched up!

Next comes the addition of the strengthening ribs around the inside of the hull ‘walls’, the storage boxes on deck and the aft superstructure, again not yet fitted with its railings – mind your step!

Oh well, the lighting isn’t great, but you get the idea 🙂

For the full report, please go to https://thingummybob.com/modelmaking/building-dom-bumagis-diana/

75mm Gun platform buttresses on deck

The 75mm gun platforms have to be done on the upper deck, which turned out to be a real pain. On all the other models and drawings I have, these outriggers are drawn and constructed as a plain buttress, without reverse curves at the sides. Take a look at the pics and you will see what I mean. Definitely a challenge to build – at least the aft ones only have one side with the reversed curves.

Here is a construction series of that rear one, to show the difference between the straight and the curved side (huge magnification, about 4x life Size?)

And now with the ‘wing’ formed and stuck down from the inside and out.

And how it fits on the starboard side, prior to fitting the tubes through to the portholes and prior to touching up the white edges:

Now the other side is also done!

Slowly, slowly I move forwards. Our baby is due in a few weeks, so I’d better get on with it!

For the full report, please go to https://thingummybob.com/modelmaking/building-dom-bumagis-diana/