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What Happened to Wood?

Posted By:
Merrill Isaacson
Homebuilder or Craftsman
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#1 Posted: 3/5/2010 16:45:55

I have been an EAA member for many years (25+), and have to ask this question. What happened to the popularity of building light single place aircraft out of wood?  With the new LSA category, many of the older designs would fit into it quite nicely today.  I know that metal is king right now, but what is the psychology behind it all and not just the consistency of the material.  The cost is about the same, maybe even less expensive. So what gives in the arena of aircraft building.



Michael Johnson
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#2 Posted: 3/5/2010 17:10:55

I know many people who build with wood but they tend to be older folks. Many airplanes get built and just don't get noticed also. I do think your right however, maybe that has something to do with the fact that that many people now assemble airplanes instead of scratch build. It seems most kit type airplanes are metal these days.

 

I love wood as a material to build with and it's amazing how every so often I come across a wood airplane that's very old and it's structurally perfect.

 

Mike



Joanne Palmer
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#3 Posted: 3/5/2010 17:12:34

Two things, probably.

Wood tends to be timeconsuming as most were plans built designs and a lot were fabric covered.

Wood also tends to be process dependent as the parts need to be glued together.  The glue processing can be problematic with large changes in humidity and temperature.

And while light and cheap, there really isn't much experimentation to be done in a fabric covered wood aircraft design.  Most of the parameters of that design and construction techniques were well defined by the start of World War 2.  You could make them larger, smaller, with high power or low power and the performances were all fairly well defined.   While fun to fly, not much is learned by repeating the effort.



Bob Gish
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#4 Posted: 3/5/2010 19:09:11

Perhaps we should put a GP-4 up against an RV-7 for a performance comparison. Or for that matter even a Rocket.

CAFE anyone?



Michael Johnson
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#5 Posted: 3/5/2010 19:44:57
Bob Gish wrote:

 

Perhaps we should put a GP-4 up against an RV-7 for a performance comparison. Or for that matter even a Rocket.

CAFE anyone?

Thumbs up! Plus the GP-4 is great looking to boot!!!

 

Mike



Dan Malone
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#6 Posted: 3/6/2010 06:48:39

Why metal? Because that is what most kit manufacturers use.  I believe it is possible to make a wood aircraft available in a kit form that has good looks, good performance, and fast to build.  My wood business uses a cnc router to cuts wing ribs from aircraft plywood for a homebuilt aircraft designer who offers them as an option.  (The rest of the plane is tubing)  The builder only needs to remove the ribs from the sheet of plywood by cutting small tabs with a razor knive.  Much like a balsa wood model.  Doesn't get any faster than that.  If the aircraft design owners (like the GP-4, Spencer Aircar, Cofby Starlet...) would get with a wood manufacturere, they could refine the design to make some great kits.



Jim Heffelfinger
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#8 Posted: 3/6/2010 22:43:42

search Kitplanes aircraft kit annual listing - lots of wood still going on.

Look at Aircraft Spruce kit offerings and Wicks too.

Wood is the most friendly building material. 



Rick Pellicciotti
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#9 Posted: 3/7/2010 13:09:59

Yes, let's get this together.  I'll bring my Falco.



Rick Pellicciotti, Falco N63KC http://www.prowlerjaguar.com
Michael Johnson
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#10 Posted: 3/7/2010 17:19:53

Yeah, It's too bad ya don't see more wood airplanes being built. Makes me wonder if we have really advanced in the materials department.


Falco.jpg



Tom Hackel
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#11 Posted: 3/7/2010 21:26:20 Modified: 3/7/2010 21:28:58

NO RIVETS in wood...... I don't think I have the patients to do 40,000 of the blasted little things.

What seems to be my perception of todays "hobbyist" they like all the holes drilled, lines drawn, and cuts made. Taking big (or small) chances is driven out of the by the work place. Todays society is a cookie cutter job/task. The normal worker has set guideline that must be followed......... It stands to reason many of these same behaviors will be carried over to their daily life.

The few that run though life with wild abandon Screaming "WHY NOT" are now the non-conforming outcasts. And Visionaries

Or maybe just more total planes are being built and the focus is on the more modern materials......

****A thought crossed my mind the other day, 2.0 - 2.3oz flat weave S- glass over a good performing wood fuselage / wing. Should work out around 4+/- oz and would give a great stiffness. Too stiff?

 



Bob Gish
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#12 Posted: 3/8/2010 18:46:58

WOW! Beautiful airplane! I certainly didn't mean to leave out the Falco folks in the original reply.

I'm reminded what a strong and light material wood is every time I pick up one of the wings for my Acro Sport.

Hopefully some designer will marry the new technology of today with the advantages of wood and create some new designs.

Has anyone built a stitch-and-glue canoe or kayak? They take the compound curves of the kayak and project them onto plywood and cut them out with a cnc laser. Then you stitch the edges together with wire and cover it with a layer of glass cloth and resin. The result is a monocoque structure with compound curves, admittedly slightly facetted, but very light and strong. It might not be suitable for a wing but it would be light, fast and strong for a fuselage. I built an 18 foot canoe that has a 1000 pound capacity and only weighs 60 pounds. Just something to think about



Kent Misegades
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#13 Posted: 10/25/2010 08:48:35

You'll find more wood homebuilts in Europe, and one major kitmaker of fast wooden planes, Alpi Aviation of Italy.  The Alpi Pioneer 330Acro is one of the hottest new designs around. I see them when I attend the annual AERO show in Germany and they are gorgeous.  Their kits look easier than most metal kits.  Alas, they do not have a distributor in the US.  www.ALPIAVIATION.com       Modern epoxy-based adhesives like T-88 from System Three has pretty much solved all past adhesive issues.  Wicks and ACS can supply you with all the wood you'll need, and it does not have to be spruce.  Douglas Fir is in many ways superior, and a lot less expensive.  If you are considering a wood design (I am working on one), read the EAA's book on the subject, $16.95 online.  Look also at Bill Scheunemann's Precision Aero Marine, www.precisionam.net.  Bill uses advanced CNC machinery to cut parts for many wooden designs. The precision is as good as the best metal kit makers.  Complex curvature remains a challenge for plywood, but ALPI has tackled this by using non-load-bearing composite fairings over an internal wood structure.  Perhaps the ideal design would combine some composites, for instance foam/glass ribs, fairings & cowlings, with wood structure and plywood skins.  Major advantages of wood are relatively inexpensive materials & tools, light weight, and the fact that wood does not fatigue.    Modern coatings can protest from rot and water absorption.  Wood is, after all, nature's own composite material.



kmisegades
Anh Le
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#14 Posted: 10/25/2010 14:17:29

Hey all,

You know, I was all ready to commit to a all metal kit...then I started seeing the Menestrel and the Rand KR-2.  I put off ordering the kit while I do research on planes with wooden frames.  The Menestrel is fabric covered while th KRs are fiberglass over wood frame. 

For me at least, I thought metal is stronger=safer....which I dont think is necessary true.  I have to ask this question though...is is faster to build a all metal plane, like the Sonex, RV-12 or Zenith 601/650 versus Menestrel or KRs?

 

thanks for reading,

Anh



Bill Barker
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#15 Posted: 10/25/2010 16:39:20

Merrill,

 

I'm thinking that wooden aircraft gave way to metal in homebuilts was because of the wood building technology of decades ago.

1) The joints had to be perfect as the glue couldn't bridge gaps.  That's now fixed with modern epoxy glues.

2) The old glue dried out with age and let go of its grip. Again, fixed with modern epoxy.

3) The technology to seal the wood from moisture wasn't very good and you could get dry rot in areas not visible, yet critical.  New coatings fixed that problem.

4) I think that a good design created by an engineer schooled in modern materials should be every bit as good as metal.

I would really like to build an airplane, like the boats, with light glass cloth over the wood surface coated in clear to make the aircraft look like a fine piece of furniture.  I don't know it clear would provide enough UV protection.  I'm not an engineer schooled in modern materials.  In fact this whole opinion is based on reading EAA information.

Bill



Patrick Panzera
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#16 Posted: 10/25/2010 17:41:36

Loehle is doing well making wood kits:

http://www.eaa.org/experimenter/articles/2010-03_loehle.asp





Patrick Panzera
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#17 Posted: 10/25/2010 17:50:17

We recently started a new feature in Experimenter called "Mystery Plane." 

The idea is to bring these older, yet still relevant designs back into the spotlight since many are simple to build, affordable and meet LSA definition. 

Last month's plane was the all-wood Cygnet:

http://www.eaa.org/experimenter/articles/2010-09_mystery.asp


And the month before it was the Flying Squirrel- although not all wood, it certainly meets the spirit of an all-wood plane.

http://www.eaa.org/experimenter/articles/2010-08_mystery.asp


This month's Mystery Plane however is more of a true mystery. We're using the column to help solve a mystery about a homebuilt sailplane. So with that, maybe those in the know about LSA-type wood aircraft can submit a Mystery Plane article for us to publish in future issues?


Thanks!

Pat




Dick Anderson
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#18 Posted: 10/25/2010 19:09:42

If you are looking for light single place wooden aircraft, the MiniMax and Fisher series of designs would definitely fit the bill.



Dick Anderson
Ried Jacobsen
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#19 Posted: 11/18/2010 12:54:49

Tom,  how did you come up with 4=/- oz?  Is that fabric, coating and wood structure?  Or fabric and coating only?

Ried



Terry Warner
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#20 Posted: 11/19/2010 06:19:37

I have always loved wood airplanes. Quiet, strong, last forever if properly taken care of. Here is a photo of my Super Emeraude. These are great airplanes, but then I might be a bit biased...Terry


em1.jpg

 



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