Free Flight Update – 2018 NATS Flying Aces Club

Okay, it’s been a while since I posted on my blog, Instagram has seems to be my go to forum these days. Rest assured, when I return to making some worthwhile woodworking or carving projects you’ll be sure to find them here (as well). As many of you know I’ve been spending my spare time submerging myself in the world of rubber motor, balsa and tissue free flight airplanes.

2018 NATS (Flying Aces Club)

For the past two years every second of my free time has been spent building balsa wood, tissue paper, and rubber band powered model airplanes. The Flying Aces Club is one of the few remaining clubs for this fascinating hobby. Each July the Flying Aces Club hosts a contest in Geneseo, NY. The contest is called the NATS on even numbered years, and NON-NATS on odd numbered years, don’t ask me why. If you’re new to the hobby, or to the Flying Aces you’ll find lots of language and terms sure to bewilder you. This year the NATS were Wednesday July 18 through Saturday July 21.

Since I’m relatively new to the hobby and the Flying Aces Club I thought I’d share my personal experience at the NATS. Heading into the contest my only goal was to register my planes, get one official time on the books and learn as much about the event as I possibly could to prepare for 2019 NON-NATS. I brought five models with me:

  1.  Flying Ace Moth (short nose from Bill Warner’s book)
  2. Peerless Junior Endurance
  3. Prairie Bird
  4. Peanut Scale Farman Mosquito
  5. Peanut Scale Lacey M-10

map of Geneseo NATS contest

NATS Day 1 – Wednesday July 18, 2018

I arrived at the Geneseo, NY Airport on Wednesday around 2 PM. Registration was in the hangar, marked with a red X on the map above. Clueless as to what to expect I left my models in the car and headed to registration. The hangar was bustling with excited modelers carrying their planes and chatting with one another. After walking around a bit I found the line for registration. I registered online prior to the event so it was easy to get my name tag and scoring sheet. I asked the nice gentleman who registered me what I was supposed to do next. He instructed me to speak to another nice guy who, unknown to me, was Dave Mitchell a big name in the hobby.

Let me digress a second. I’ve been a member of the Flying Aces Club for a year. I’ve perused the newsletter, but mostly looked at the plans and browsed some of the articles. There are several names that you quickly familiarize yourself with through reading the newsletter. But I’m not big on putting these names to faces – besides I’m in the club to learn about planes and tips on building and flying these works of art.

So Dave, as he was introduced, told me I needed to place my peanut scale models (and scale documentation) on the Peanuts table. I also needed to place a tag on the propeller with my contestant number on the propeller. I easily and dutifully completed the task. Dave also instructed me to take my remaining three non-scale planes to another table to be checked for compliance. One by one I took my Moth, Junior Endurance and Prairie Bird to the table to be examined.

I knew I needed documentation and 3-view drawings for my peanut scale models, and I brought that information. What I didn’t know was I needed to bring the plans I used for my non-scale endurance models. A judge asked me, “Are you Blue Max?” to which I replied, “I don’t know what that is, ” “Then you’re probably not.” was the reply. Because I was a new guy and my models were common the judges accommodated my lack of documents, most of which I provided as images on my phone. Next year I will most certainly bring all necessary documentation.

It’s important to remember the Flying Aces Club is not for vicious competitiveness, instead, it is to enjoy the hobby, have fun and to interact with other people excited about the hobby.  I found it quite encouraging that the club was understanding of my naiveté.

From the hangar I noticed a row of shade shelters along the edge of a field (tent icons on map). It wasn’t until day 2 that I learned this is where everyone sets up and practices flying on the first day. I didn’t want to go poking around somewhere I shouldn’t be so I didn’t explore that area until the second day. I was all registered, I asked a few people if I needed to do anything else to which the response was “no”.  So I headed off to the hotel.

NATS Day 2 – Thursday July 19, 2018

My sister texted me the morning of the second day and expressed interest in visiting me at the contest. I told her she was more than welcome to visit because it seemed pretty low-key and I didn’t have any planes that qualified for contest times on Thursday. Lucky for me I remembered to bring my EZ Up shelter, just in case I was allowed to put it up to escape the sun. By the time I arrived at the contest, at 8 AM, it was clear everyone had set up their spots the day prior. I drove to end of the line of tent canopies, backed my car into the end of the line and set up my shelter.

For an hour or two I sat in the shade of my canopy and watched people flying their planes. Every once and a while I’d glance over to the hanger, which was wide open on Wednesday, to see when the doors would open so I could reclaim my peanut models. By 11 AM the hangar was still closed up. I walked over to the museum Welcome Center and asked if I could get into the hangar to retrieve my models. Confused, they explained how to get into the hangar and encouraged me to remove any personal belongings still inside.

When I entered the hangar it was void of any Flying Aces Club tables and bric-a-brac that adorned the hangar the day prior. Hmm. I returned to the field and found the Flying Aces Club HQ tent. I was welcomed to HQ by Sky, the President of the club, who has always been helpful to me when I’ve emailed him questions in the past. I inquired about my peanut models. As my question was leaving my lips I saw my Lacey and Farman on a table toward the back of HQ.

Sky then informed me that I was to stay at the hangar on the first day in order to retrieve my models after they were judged. Lesson learned.

I had spent most of the day trimming my planes with some test flights and socializing with the other pilots on the field. I must say, everyone is very helpful and friendly. Each and every person I met was happy, attentive and interested. Fun and love of freeflight is definitely at the forefront of each pilot’s attitude.

My sister arrived around 3 PM. She was fascinated about the wonderful hobby she didn’t know existed, reclined on a blanket watching the planes glide quietly through the air for what seemed forever. At the conclusion of the day’s event we attended the BBQ at the event and enjoyed the delicious pork sandwiches and beans.

NATS Day 3 – Friday July 20, 2018

The day started with brisk winds that continued throughout the day. The only plane I had which qualified for an official contest flight was my Farman. I unpacked it from my car and gave it a few anxious test flights. The wind did not cooperate with my Farman, and it’s one of my favorite models, so I was not interested in attempting an official flight.

During registration I asked someone how to perform an official flight. I was unsure if certain categories had different times schedules, etc. I was told find someone with a stop watch and ask them to time your flight. My over-analytic brain changed that statement into something much more involved that it actually is. I imagined referee dressed guys mandating specific launch times. Nope. All a pilot needs to do is find another pilot and politely ask if they would time your flight.

My sister enjoyed the morning and the early afternoon watching everyone fly their works of art. I enjoyed the sights as well. When my sister headed for home I unpacked a few planes for test flights. My greatest chance at a good time was my FA Moth. Well, I didn’t use a winding tube to protect my plane in case the rubber broke while winding. Guess what? The rubber broke during winding and gashed a whole in the right side of the fuselage, and the “Hungorilla” of tightly wound rubber dangerously taunted me like a bomb wrapped around the rear hook inside the rear of the fuselage. I managed to get the rubber removed without much further damage.

Luckily I was able to purchase more tissue from Easy Built. They had a very robust selection of plane making (and repairing) materials available. When I returned to the hotel I repaired the FA Moth good as new. Whew!

NATS Day 4 – Saturday July 21, 2018

The morning started calm. I should have arrived much earlier and trimmed my planes for contest flying. By the time I was ready to get some contest times the wind really picked up. Lucky for me, a longtime flyer took my under his wing, taught me the ropes and timed my flights officially. I accomplished my goal and clocked in a few official flights. The wind picked up early in the day which made it hard to fly – and the wind didn’t take it easy on my models either. I’m pretty sure each one of my planes was damaged one way or another. But that’s all par for the course.

All in all the NATS proved to be an enjoyable, fun and educational experience. I made a lot of new friends and learned so much. I’ll admit attending a contest such as this alone was a little intimidating. To my relief I found everyone at the event to be helpful, friendly and excited about the hobby. I’m not sure I’ll ever set the world on fire and take first place in any category, but for me that’s not what this hobby is all about. The challenge of building a plane that actually flies is all the reward I require. Watching a group of people so focused at a task and seeing these works of art quietly move through the sky is truly a marvel in itself.

Frank Ehling Dart-Too Rubber Powered Flying Model Plan and Article

Rubber Powered Model AircraftFrank Ehling Dart-Too

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on my site, apologies for that. As you probably know, I’ve been obsessing over rubber powered flying models. Also, I’m preparing to begin teaching young pilots on how to build their very own flying models as part of a Maker program in my town.

I’ve thought long and hard about the best projects to introduce young pilots to the hobby. I recently came across an article on Frank Ehling’s Dart-Too plane while browsing the AMA website. The Dart-Too is a follow up project to the popular Delta Dart / AMA Cub that Mr. Ehling designed. When I found this project I knew it would be a great starter project.

After downloading the plan, however, I found the plan was incomplete. What I mean by this is, when the two pages of the plan are joined together a large gap appeared in the middle of the plan.

Frank Ehling Free Flight
The original plan downloaded from the AMA site with missing design information in the center.

I took it upon myself to draw in the missing information and recompile the PDF, the downloadable plan and article are found here. The AMA logo and “Dart-Too” text were removed in order to provide space for the future pilots to add their names and custom designs.

I found this project easy to build and fun to fly. I used regular copy paper for my build, and yes, it adds quite a bit of extra weight. I will likely build it again using tissue paper to examine the potentially improved flight times. Feel free to download the plan and build a few for yourself!

My 2018 AMA Expo East Review

For a little more than a year I’ve been interested in making old fashioned stick and tissue free flight airplanes. I made a few as a youngster, but I can’t say they ever actually took flight. I’ve been building Peanut Scale and other smaller flying models focusing on making them fly. I joined the AMA (Academy of Model Aeronautics) and the Flying Aces Club and devouring as much information about free flight models as possible. I was excited to learn the 2018 AMA Expo East was practically in my backyard. I purchased a two-day ticket and anxiously awaited the event.

Friday February 23 finally arrived. I filled out the Static Display Entry Form, packed up my recently completed Farman Mosquito peanut and I headed out to the Meadowlands Exposition Center. Light rain greeted my arrival and no close parking was to be found. I eventually parked the car, grabbed the shoe box with the Farman and started the walk to the Expo Center. Once inside I picked up my tickets at the Will Call window and headed off to enter my plane.

AMA Static Display Model Contest

I glanced at the other entries, beautiful and large RC planes, and chucked to myself when I thought about the peanut Farman I held in my hands. Aware I wasn’t going to set the world on fire with my model I was simply happy to support the event and participate. I was greeted by two nice gentlemen at the entry table. I removed my model from the box and placed it on the table. “Wow! You already filled out the entry form.” one of the men said,  “You checked Post World War I, that’s not the correct category – that one is for scale. Not quite sure what category yours should be.” One of the men stood up and walked to ask the man in charge.

AMA Power System
How many RC planes use Rubber motors?

When the man returned he said, ” You can’t enter your plane, it’s not RC.” The other gentleman said, “Well, can’t we just put it on the table to offer inspiration?” “No. It can’t be entered. Sorry.” I thought to myself, “But I could enter a BOAT or a CAR as long as they’re RC – at the Model Aeronautics Expo.”

Farman Moustique Micro-X Peanut Scale Plane
Back in the shoe box and into the car you go.

I know if my type of plane was permitted in the competition it would stand little chance of winning. There are much better modelers out there than me. My beef with the AMA is how little they care about the very types of model craft that started the whole hobby! Model shops are closing, clubs have all but disappeared and all the information the AMA provides is written for the handful of master modelers that are still around. Where does someone new to the hobby learn the basics? The AMA provides the simple die cut balsa and rubber band models to children, and the old timers that know what they’re doing can make these simple models fly. Most children (myself included) have a lot of trouble trimming the planes to fly well.

The AMA forgets all of the intermediate steps between the simple die cut planes and the beautifully crafted RC masterpieces. Look no further for reasons why membership is diminishing.

Speaker Series East 2018

The AMA Expo East included three different speaker presentations. The first, How To Make A Spaceship. Start By Building Model Planes, presented by Author Julian Guthrie and Space Ship One Structural Engineer Dan Kreigh was an inspiring for all ages look at the history of Spack Ship One. The second Designing And Building Scale Models From Scratch, presented by Mr. Top Gun Dave Wigley, would have been more aptly titled Here’s A Few Extremely Complicated Parts I’ve Built For My Beautiful Masterpieces. I was one of a handful of people to sit through the entire lecture. When Mr. Wigley concluded and asked for questions he addressed each person with a question by name. The third and final presentation, Building A Flying Football Field, An Insider’s Scoop on Stratolaunch, presented by Mason Hutchison from Scaled Composites, was an very interesting look at building the world’s largest plane and an inspiring company. It was refreshing to see innovative and open minded companies like Scaled Composites still existed.

Exhibitors

There was a wide variety of exhibitors / vendors at the 2018 AMA Expo East. Just about every aspect of scale models was represented. I spent the most money at the National Balsa booth. They were very helpful with finding everything I needed. I had a nice time speaking with the good people at Micro Fasteners and I picked up a few miscellaneous bits and bobs I needed around the workshop. In my opinion the best booth was Stevens Aeromodel, their kits were beautiful and well packaged all around. I’m not interested in RC planes (yet) so I didn’t make any purchases from Stevens Aeromodel, but I was very tempted.

My Take Away from 2018 AMA Expo East

I wasn’t allowed to enter my flying stick and tissue airplane model into the airplane model contest. I only attended the event on Friday, even though I purchased a two day ticket. Several times I overheard vendors speaking about how turnout is low, membership is down and the only people at the Expo were other vendors. The first and third speakers in the series were interesting and inspiring. The vendors were friendly and helpful, although there wasn’t much along the lines of my primary interest, old fashioned stick and tissue rubber powered planes. The Society of Antique Modelers had three or four stick and tissue planes on exhibit which were interesting to examine.

It’s a shame that the AMA has all but forgotten where the hobby started. There is a charm to the old fashioned rubber planes and they provide a platform to affordably explore and experiment with little risk of damaging the plane or something else. Rubber powered planes are quiet and can be flown just about anywhere without causing a disturbance. I suppose the AMA goes where the money goes, and it seems the new thing is drones. Drones are fun, but in my opinion they are the exact opposite of building something beautiful that flies on its own power. Perhaps when the old fellers running the AMA retire from the organization someone will come to their senses.

Unused AMA Expo East TIcketIf anyone is interested in my remaining one day pass, for collecting sake, I’ll be happy to mail it to you.

 

How to Replace The Gem Roller Organ Bellows Part Two

Installing The Feeder Bellows Hinge Cloth and Valves

Feeder Bellows Hinge Cloth

This is a continuation of my previous post about replacing the bellows of The Gem Roller Organ. At this point the all the bellows cloth has been removed and the wood surfaces have been sanded completely clean of previous debris.

To begin installing the feeder bellows cloth, start with the hinge cloth. The hinge cloth is cut about 1 1/2″ longer than the length of the gap (the width was about 1 3/8″). The extra material must be cut to create two tabs at each end in order to fold over the feeder bellows cloth after it’s installed (see image above). I used a piece of bellow cloth from a previous project to create the hinge, not the material from the repair kit I purchased. The repair kit cloth will work just as effectively.

Using a double-boiler I combined about two tablespoons of dry hide glue and water in a small jelly jar. Once the glue reached 160°F (I monitored the temperature with a candy thermometer in the water of the double-boiler) I went to work. A disposable craft brush was used to apply the glue both to the centered hinge gap in the wood and the area of the cloth that’s inside the gap. The hinge cloth was installed with the help of a butter knife to push the cloth to the bottom of the gap.

New leather valves were cut from the leather from the kit and installed with hide glue. Remember, only the ends of the valve leather are glued! Be sure to keep the leather tight against the wood, for an air tight seal, before moving onto something else.

I added a little surprise for someone to find in a hundred years when they’re replacing my bellows cloth. It’s a photo of Lana Wood  (Natalie’s sister) from a 1961 Playboy magazine. I made sure it was fastened good with spray mount.

The image to the right (above) is me adding shellac to the hinge cloth. As I mentioned in the previous post, shellac helps to seal up little leaks that most certainly will occur.

Installing the Feeder Bellows Cloth

Feeder Bellows Cloth

Installing the feeder bellows cloth is fairly straightforward. Use the cloth you removed as a template for cutting the new material or download the pattern I created from mine. I recommend making a template out of paper to test the fit before cutting the replacement cloth.

Working one small area at a time, I applied hide glue to both the edges of the bellows wood and the cloth. I used some push pins to hold things in place while I worked, and while the glue set. In the end I used many more pins that are in the image above. The possible leaks the pin holes create are minuscule compared the leaks they’re preventing. I used a butter knife (image above) to press the cloth against the platform wood.

One word of caution. There is a finish applied to the wood in the push rod hole on the platform (red rectangle above) where the bellows attach. The original bellows were not stuck in this area, and it was very hard to make the new cloth stick as well. I permanently attached a few tiny tacks, applied with needle nose pliers, through the cloth and into the wood to keep the bellows sealed in this area.

When the cloth is completely attached remember to glue, fold over and tack the little tabs from the hinge cloth (red circles above). Leave the pins in overnight to allow the glue to cure. Resist the temptation to “test” the bellows until you’re sure the glue is set. I also sealed all the seams with a few coats of shellac.

Installing the Reservoir Bellows Cloth

Replace the reservoir bellows cloth following the same technique used to replace the feeder bellows cloth. Start by installing the hinge cloth. The hinge cloth for the reservoir bellows does not have tabs that wrap around the sides like the feeder bellows do. Instead, the main reservoir bellows cloth has tabs wrapping around the hinge cloth. Use plenty of pins to keep the cloth in place until the glue is cured. Use a razor blade to trim any access cloth protruding over the top edge of the lid.

Assembling the Gem Roller Organ Cabinet and Push Rod

Gem Roller Organ Push Rod

Now would be a good time to inspect the reeds. With the reed block detached from the front of the cabinet gently blow on the reeds. It’s not a trumpet, you’re lips shouldn’t need to touch the block to sound each reed. I forgot to make certain all the reeds were in working order before assembling my Gem, and a few don’t sound. Reviewing some photos of my reeds, it is clear some are bent out of position. One day I’ll go back and adjust them.

Use bellows cloth, or I used black craft foam, to create a gasket for the front of the cabinet (photo above). Install the front of the cabinet and attach the mechanism. Then guide the wooden push rod from under the platform and attach it to the crank. Tighten the screw, then attach the other end of the push rod to the feeder bellows. With the push rod installed, attach the platform to the four sided base.

A note about the push rod. The original push rod on my organ withstood several attachments and detachments. During one assembly it broke (#1 in photo above). I crafted a new one out of random black walnut and it broke while being attached (#2). Next I tried a piece of Douglas fir (#3). It broke as well.

It was then I looked closely the wood grain of the original. The grain was tight and quartersawn, meaning the grain was parallel to the block (green check mark above). The red X in the image above shows bad wood grain for the push rod. The gran is bad because cracks occur with the grain.

A scrounged around my stockpile of wood scraps and found a suitable piece of black walnut. The resulting push rod (#4) installed with easy success.

Replacing the Valve Pads

Replacing the valve pads was an easy task. I used a dental hook to remove the old pads, they basically fell off. I used Q-Tips soaked with denatured alcohol to clean the metal surface. My patience was wearing thin so I decided to use CA glue (super glue) to fasten the new pads. Nothing stressful or unpredictable to report about the process.

The Gem Roller Organ Performance

With The Gem Roller Organ fully assembled (and somewhat adjusted) it was time for its first performance! I put on one of the cobs that shipped with the organ and started cranking. Strong and clear music filled the room. As I mentioned earlier, some of the reeds aren’t adjusted, so they sound weak or not at all. Regardless, the melody was clear and very familiar.

After sharing this video with my parents they immediately knew the name of the song, “Nearer, My God, to Thee”. My parents also knew this as the song the band played as the Titanic sunk.

Conclusion

I hope you’ve found my posts about The Gem Roller Organ helpful. I know it’s far from comprehensive, but it’s a lot more information than what’s on the internet. If you’d like me to post other specific information, or if you’ve found any errors in the text please let me know. I had a fun time restoring my Gem Roller Organ. If you decide to restore a Gem on your own, take your time, don’t rush or set any deadlines. It’s a slow process that’s best suited for deliberate and careful work.

How to Replace The Gem Roller Organ Bellows Part One

Repairing the bellows of the gem organ

The Gem Roller Organ

I’ve been enchanted by The Gem Roller Organ for many years. I’ve scoured the web for every nugget of information I could about this mechanical marvel and I’ve learned just about everything there is to know. The two things that fascinate me most about The Gem Roller Organ are:

1. The bellows create a vacuum to pull air through the reeds (as opposed to pushing pressurized air through reeds, whistles or pipes).

2. The drive mechanism not only rotates the cob, but slowly offsets to the left. This increases the duration of a tune to three rotations of the cob. When the tune is complete a spring loaded release mechanism pushes the cob to the right, which resets the cob to the start of the tune. It’s amazing how much is going on in such a small mechanism! (more on that at John Wolff’s Web Museum)

Loaded with everything I’ve learned about the Gem, it was time to get one of my own! I purchased mine on Ebay for a handsome fee, even though the listing clearly stated the unit didn’t “create much sound”.  Examining the images of the Ebay listing I knew the mechanism was complete and in undamaged condition.

It was clear, however, someone tried to repair the unit by gluing the sheepskin valves on the feeder bellows completely closed! Knowing full well that there was certainly an underlying problem that caused this repair, I suspected fixing the valves would not return the unit to its original glory. Long story short, the bellows cloth and valves needed to be replaced.

Things to Consider Before Starting a Restoration

Restoring my Gem Roller Organ required about twenty hours of effort using the CONCERT ROLLER ORGAN REPAIR KIT from Roller Organ Restorations for eighty dollars. This company will restore a Gem for as little as $255. The repair kit includes an instruction sheet that, personally, I found confusing and of little use. I say this because it is assumed the reader already understands the name and function of every part and there are no illustrations. If you aren’t comfortable with working with tiny parts, hot hide glue and tight spaces with awkward bits you may want to seek the help of a professional.

The cotton based bellows cloth included in the kit functions well, but looks like neoprene and nothing like the original cloth backed black rubber of the original. I prefer the aesthetics of the original cloth and there are other downsides to the kit’s cloth which I’ll explain later. However, it’s great that someone provides a quality kit to replace the bellows and pallet valve pads in one kit.

If you decide to replace the bellows I recommend carefully disassembling the unit, storing screws and small parts small labeled Ziploc bags and record the order in which the unit was dismantled. When all the parts are clean, the original bellows material is completely removed and the wood surfaces are sanded clean the unit should be assembled in reverse order.

Hide glue is the way to go when working with bellows cloth. If you’ve never worked with hide glue before, it can be intimidating at first. It’s not as complicated as it seems and I find hide glue much easier to use than any other suggested replacement adhesive. I purchased my hide glue from Tools For Working Wood. The site has a clear explanation of the various strengths, I use 315 gram strength. While your shopping for supplies I recommend picking up some shellac flakes as well. Dissolve the shellac flakes in denatured alcohol (not rubbing alcohol) and you’re good to go.

“Good to go where,” you ask? Shellac works well for sealing up any leaks that unavoidably occur between the bellows cloth and the wood it’s attached to. A few coats around the perimeter helps keep leaks to a minimum. Shellac is not mentioned in the Organ Repair Kit Instruction Sheet, and with good reason. Shellac discolors the cotton based material, so care must be used when applying shellac. The discoloration of the cloth on the feeder bellows (under the cabinet) doesn’t matter much because it’s hidden. The shellac needs to be applied to the reservoir bellows from inside the cabinet to prevent discoloring the outside of the fabric.

Opening the case of the Gem Roller Organ

Replacing the Bellows on The Gem Roller Organ

Opening the cabinet is fairly straightforward. The feeder bellows push rod is attached to the crankshaft by the springiness of the wood and locked into place with screw #1. Loosen screw #1 enough to gently release the push rod from the crankshaft. Well done! The hard part of opening the cabinet is complete.

Now remove screws #2 and #3 to detach the crankshaft bearing from the case.  The crankshaft assembly can be removed by gently guiding it out of the bearing in the rear of the mechanism. Remove screws #4-8 in no particular order. The front panel can now be removed by sliding it forward.

A Look Inside the Reservoir Bellows

Bellows Springs, Push Rod, Reed Block
We’re finally getting a view of things my internet searches failed to reveal! The top half of the image is the inside of the reservoir bellows. The springs hold the bellows open against the vacuum created by the feeder bellows below. When the vacuum compresses the reservoir too much the lid touches the relief valve push rod which opens a valve on the underside of the cabinet, temporarily allowing air into the reservoir to reduce the vacuum.

The lower half of the image shows the reed block attached to the front panel. The reed block can be detached and gently cleaned. To do so,  remove the two remaining screws on the front panel to the left and right of the palette valves. A word of caution: In my haste to attach the reed block after cleaning, I mistakenly attached it upside down.  The resulting music was not very good.

Remove The Gem Roller Organ Reservoir Bellows

Remove Reservoir Bellows Gem Roller Organ
Using a heat gun (top left) to remove the bellows cloth.

Notice the little tabs on the large, three-sided bellows cloth that wrap around to the front at the corners and cover the “hinge cloth” across the front of the unit. These tabs are important to include with the replacement cloth.

I started the process of removing the reservoir bellows cloth by gently poking, prodding and cutting at the tabs with and x-acto blade and small dental hook/pick. This process worked well where the glue was compromised. However, the bellows cloth was stuck extremely well on the corners and a few other areas. That’s when I got out the heat gun.

With the heat gun on a low setting the flow of hot air was swept side to side on the areas that were stuck solid. To my surprise just as the temperature of the wood got almost too hot to touch, the bellows cloth easily peeled away from the lid and cabinet.

Be careful with the heat gun. Too much heat will ruin the finish of the wood cabinet! A heat gun, after all, is a great tool for doing exactly that, removing paint and finish. Those uncomfortable using a heat gun should start with a hair dryer with low heat.

Remove the two valve leather strips as well.

Accessing the Feeder Bellows

Gem Organ Feeder Bellows

Accessing the feeder bellows of The Gem Roller Organ was something that had me stumped. After a brief study of the construction of the cabinet I believed the feeder bellows were simply glued to the underside of the platform. “Perhaps a sharp downward drop would knock the bellows loose?” was the general theme of my thinking.

This is NOT the reality, so please don’t try it! The bellows do not disconnect from the underside of the platform, the platform disconnects from the sides of the cabinet. The image above has four red circles highlighting the screws to be removed to accomplish this. I suppose these screws were invisible to me because the construction of the unit was not as I originally expected.

Removing the Feeder Bellows Cloth

Building on the experience you’ve gained by removing the reservoir bellows cloth, removing the feeder bellows cloth is mostly an easy task. Start by removing  the spring and the three tacks to remove the relief valve (already removed in image). Next remove the two screws on the wooden feeder bar and remove the bar (a little heat should loosen the glue.  Remove the eight feeder bellows tacks (four on each side), I used needle-nosed pliers for the task.

Removing the Feeder BellowsNotice the tacks are binding  down tabs connected to the hinge cloth. This tab configuration is opposite of the reservoir cloth. Remember, the tabs on the reservoir cloth cover the hinge cloth, the tabs on the feeder bellows stem from the hinge cloth and cover the side of each feeder bellows. This must be replicated with the replacement cloth.

I removed the bellows cloth using heat, x-acto blade and small dental hook/pick. The hinge cloth is the most problematic to remove. I ended up using a rotary tool with tiny diamond burrs like these. The hinge cloth and glue need to be completely removed down to the wood! It took me two hours to remove the hinge cloth down to the wood.

The two valve leather strips should be removed as well.

Make sure all of the old bellows cloth and glue is removed on all surfaces! I will admit I used this Sanding Disc Kit quite a bit to accomplish the task. Don’t be fooled, these little sanding discs are hungry little buggers! A careful and gentle touch is all that’s required, slow and steady wins the race. A little side note about the sanding discs, I use them all the time on countless things. I’ve owned the set for more than ten years and I still have most of the discs. They last forever before they need to be replaced.

My next post How to Replace The Gem Roller Organ Bellows Part Two coming soon. I will provide downloadable patterns for the replacement bellows cloth. And yes, I’ll share the experience of replacing the bellows cloth and reassembly. If I’m feeling ambitious a video performance will be included as well!

Embryo Endurance Prairie Bird : Designed by Rob Peck : Peck-Polymers

free flight rubber powered model airplane

Summer of Free-Flight

My “Summer of Free-Flight” has been a lot of fun! It’s been a learning experience, not always smooth going, but always fun! I’ve built and flown a few really fun balsa wood stick and tissue paper airplanes this summer.  The latest plane added to my fleet of planes is Rob Peck’s classic design, the Prairie Bird.

free flight rubber powered model airplane

Peck Polymers Prairie Bird Airplane

A friend recommended I build the Prairie Bird because of its reputation as a great flyer. He was correct; more on that later. I searched around on the internet and downloaded the plan. The plan was formatted to print nicely on 11″x17″ paper – so I uploaded the file to Staples and had them print me a few on some quite nice card stock. I believe five copies cost me under $3 total. I pinned the plan to my building board, covered it with Saran Wrap and got to work.

free flight rubber powered model airplane
Carved balsa wood exhaust pipes and a front shot of the assembled fuselage.

I really took my time on this project making certain everything was as perfect as could be. The straightforward design of the plane made it easy to construct a straight and square fuselage. I practically glued the cross-braces one at a time and waited for the glue to set before I adding the next one.

Adding tissue paper was a snap because there isn’t too many compound angles and curves to the parts. The tissue on everything except the rudder and stabilizer was shrunk with 50/50 water/alcohol mixture. Following the shrinking I added a three coats of 50/50 SIG Lite-Coat/Thinner. The windshield is made with clear plastic from a salad container. I used plastic Peck wheels, a Peck Nylon Bearing and Peck propeller. The propeller was balanced by gently sanding away material until an even balance was achieved (a lot more sanding than I expected).

free flight rubber powered model airplane
The Prairie Bird over Watsessing Park.

My test flights were a great success. At first I was flying with approximately 300 turns on the motor, eventually increasing to about 600. Many more turns are possible, but I didn’t have a helper or a stooge to help me stretch wind the motor. I didn’t want to press my luck.

free flight rubber powered model airplaneThe Prairie Bird performed wonderfully and was a champion at catching thermals. One of the flights concluded in a tree. Lucky for me it was low enough to the ground that I whacked it loose with a six foot long stick.

The thrill that is achieved from flying these little beauties is beyond words. The careful work and attention is forgotten – and happiness consumes me when they take to the air, and when they land where they can be easily retrieved.

Download Vintage Universal Model Airplane News · 1932 1933 1934 1935

Vintage Model Airplane News Magazine

My recent interest in building old fashioned balsa wood and tissue model airplanes inspired me to visit a local estate sale featuring model building and model train supplies. I immediately focused my attention of a few stacks of magazines of all sorts. Lucky for me I found a few issues of Universal Model Airplane News spanning from 1932 to 1935.

The magazines are in “less than ideal” condition. Several of the magazines crumbled into pieces during the process of flatbed scanning their contents. Also, these magazines were owned by someone who enjoyed scrap-booking, resulting with square holes of missing information and photos. With that said, plenty of useful information and plans remain in these little gems. Each magazine has regular columns such as: The Aerodynamic Design of the Model Plane (by Charles Hampson Grant), Aviation Advisory Board, Model Kinx (by J. G. Marinac), “Whats” and What Nots” of Model Plane Building (by Howard G. McEntee) and Air Ways – Here and There.

Even if you’re not interested in model airplanes, you should download them and give them a read – for history’s sake!

1932 September Universal Model Airplane News:

Vintage Model Airplane News Magazine
Click to download PDF
  • The Landing Field Goes To Sea
    by Lieut. (j.g.) H. B. Miller
  • Georges Madon of France
    by F. Conde Ott
  • How Well Do You Know Your Airplanes?
    Junkers and the Armored Plane
    by Robert Fencl
  • The Lockheed Orion (Modern 3 View)
    by Stockton Ferris, Jr.
  • The Lockheed Orion To Test Your Skill
    by Robert Morrison
  • Endurance – “And How”
    by Carl Goldberg
  • The Pfalz Scout (War Time 3 View)
    by Stockton Ferris, Jr.
  • Building the Boeing Bomber
    by Howard McEntee

1933 April Universal Model Airplane News:

Vintage Model Airplane News Magazine
Click to download PDF
  • Bail Out!
    by H. Latane Lewis II
  • The Aeronca Collegian (Detail 3 View)
    by Orville H. Kneen
  • Blaze Air Trails With This Howard Pete
    by Stockton Ferris, Jr.
  • Maneuver Contest
  • Foreign Model Plane Activities
  • Modern Fighters of the U. S. Navy and the
    British Army (3 Views)
    by James W Hawkins, Jr.
  • The Voisin L.A.S. (3 View)
    by E. Tabio
  • A miniature F.9 C.2 Fighter
    by Joseph Battaglia
  • Machine Guns For Your Scale Model
    by Joseph F. Morris

1933 May Universal Model Airplane News:

Vintage Model Airplane News Magazine
Click to download PDF
  • The Siemens-Halske D4 Pursuit
    by Willis L. Nye
  • New Wings For Our Airplanes
    by Fletcher Pratt
  • Helpful Hints for the Model Builder
    by Alan D. Booton
  • Fighting Wings
    by Orville H. Kneen
  • Build This World Record Fuselage Model
    by Gordon S. Light
  • Who Developed the Airplane?
    by Alan R. Moulton
  • The Fokker F-10-A
    by Robert L. Anderson
  • Let the Glide Improve Your Flights
    by Gene F. Rose
  • 1933 Official National Championship Model Airplane Meet
  • A Twin Tractor That Amazed Experts
    by Charles H. Grant
  • The New Curtiss-Wright Condor and The Beechcraft (3 View)
    by Stockton Ferris, Jr.
  • Airplane Maneuver Contest

1933 June Universal Model Airplane News:

Vintage Model Airplane News Magazine
Click to download PDF
  • Flying Boats vs. The Atlantic
    by Alexander Klemin
  • The Hall-Springfield Racer
    by Howard F. Schmidt
  • Fighting Wings (Part 4)
    by Orville H. Kneen
  • Building A Flying Stinson “R”
    by C. L. Bristol
  • The New Waco Cabin Plane (3 View)
    by Stockton Ferris, Jr.
  • The Barrel Sprouts Wings
    by Richard Rioux
  • The German L.V.G. – C5 (3 View)
    by E. Tabio
  • The National Model Airplane Championships
  • An All-Weather Twin Pusher
    by Stockton Ferris, Jr.
  • Airplane Maneuver Contest
  • National Aeronautic Association Model Airplane
    Definitions and Competition Rules

1933 November Universal Model Airplane News:

Vintage Model Airplane News Magazine
Click to download PDF
  • Wings of the Navy
    by H. Latane Lewis II
  • The Pfalz Scout D.12
    by Barnett Feinberg
  • The Development of the Fokker Fighters
    by Robert C. Hare
  • Keeping Pace with Model Science
    by Carl Goldberg
  • Build A Flying Scale Model of Wiley Posts’s Lockheed Vega
    by J. D. Bunch
  • Model News from Other Countries
  • New N.A.A. Model Plane Records
  • Helpful Hints for the Model Builder
    by Alan D. Boonton
  • Maneuver Contest Winners
  • The U.S. Army X-B1A (3 View)
    by Willis L. Nye
  • How You Can Build A Solid Scale Douglas Dolphin Amphibian
    by Burton Kemp
  • The I.A.A.P.E. On Parade
  • The British Short “Singapore II”
    by John I. Roe

1934 May Universal Model Airplane News:

Vintage Model Airplane News Magazine
Click to download PDF
  • Sky Fighters of the Rising Sun
    by Fletcher Pratt
  • Fundamentals of Model Airplane Building
    by Edwin T. Hamilton
  • On the Frontiers of Aviation
  • Including Plans to Build Solid Scale Models of:
    – The Lockheed Electra
    The B/J Mail Plane
    by Robert C. Morrison
  • Build the Kawasaki Fighter
    by Elmer Pilzer
  • How the Aeroplane Was Created (Part 5)
    by David Cooper
  • The Eastern States Outdoor Contest
  • How You Can Make Hydrogen
    by Herbert Greenberg
  • N.A.A. Junior Membership News
  • Including Plans for a World’s Record of:
    – Outdoor Fuselage Model

1935 February Universal Model Airplane News:

Vintage Model Airplane News Magazine
Click to download PDF
  • Acrobats of the Sky
    by Lieut. H. B. Miller
  • Build This World Record Glider
    by Robert File
  • The Le Pere Fighter (3 View)
    by Willis L. Nye
  • The Albatros Fighters on Parade
    by Joseph Nieto
  • Fundamentals of Model Airplane Building
    by Edwin T. Hamilton
  • On the Frontiers of Aviation – Including
    How to Build Solid Scale Models of the
    DeHavilland Comet and the Bellanca Racer
    by Robert C. Morrison
  • More About Microfilm
    by Herbert Greenberg
  • Building the Dewoitine D-33
    by Stephen Faynor
  • Illustrated Aviation Dictionary
    by Edwin T. Hamilton
  • The Midget Indoor Tractor
    by Frank Helm

1935 March Universal Model Airplane News:

Vintage Model Airplane News Magazine
Click to download PDF
  • New Developments in Blind Flying
    by H. Latane Lewis II
  • The Development of the Fokker Fighters
    by Robert C. Hare
  • Building the Famous Udet Flamingo
    by William Winter and Walter McBride
  • On the Frontiers of Aviation Including:
    How to Build Scale Models of the G.A.38 Transport
    and the Boeing XF7B-1
    by Robert C. Morrison
  • How to Build a Smoke Screen Model
    by Marshall Mulvany
  • Slipstreams
  • N.A.A. Junior Membership News

1935 April Universal Model Airplane News:

Sorry ahead of time, this one has lots of clippings removed.

Vintage Model Airplane News Magazine
Click to download PDF
  • Speed Wings
    by H. Latane Lewis II
  • Northrop Fighter – Three View
    by F. T. Roberts
  • The Albatros Fighters on Parade
    by Joseph Nieto
  • Brandenburg Fighter – Three View
    by John E. Roe
  • Building the Grumman Fighter
    by Lawrence McCready
  • On The Frontiers of Aviation
    Including: – How to Build a Scale Model of the Martin Clipper No. 7
    by Robert C. Morrison
  • How to Build a Reliable Gas Engine Model – Part No. 1
    by Joseph Kovel

2017 Summer Update – I know I haven’t posted in a while!

The summer of 2017 is flying by! Pun intended. I’ve been busy building free-flight rubber powered Peanut Scale airplanes (and some other styles as well). Sadly I haven’t been spending much time flying them – it’s either windy or dark outside when I find time for actually flying! For relaxation and inspiration I took a long weekend road trip to the AMA (Academy of Model Aeronautics) Museum in Muncie, Indiana, the National Museum of the USAF as well as the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park in Dayton, Ohio. I highly recommend all of these destinations!

The Labor Day 2017 weekend bring the Long’s Park Art Festival  in Lancaster, PA. I don’t present any of my work at the festival, but I always look forward to seeing the various crafts on display. My favorite, without a doubt, is the great stuff Lohr Woodworking Studio showcases! For the past few years they’ve been kind enough to allow me to help pack up their trailer at the end of the show. It’s my once-a-year workout.

Speaking of the awesome folks at Lohr Woodworking, I’ve been invited (okay, I invited myself) to be a teacher’s assistant during the Sold Out Sept 18-23, 2017 Practical Woodworking Course. The kind hearts of Jeff, Larissa, Rob and Eoin provide me a relaxing getaway, to be surrounded by big power tools and reeling minds excited about learning the craft of furniture making. For the most part I catch up on my woodcarving projects quietly in the corner.

The plan was to attend the Barron Field Air Races in Wawayanda, NY Oct 22-23. I was going to try my hand at entering a few of my peanut planes into some friendly Flying Aces Club contests for the very first time. However, on one recent evening as I nodded off to sleep I was thinking “October. October… When is the…?” Instead of racing planes I’ll in Wayne, NJ at the North Jersey Woodcarvers Woodcarving & Art Show Oct 22-23 2017. It’s been a few years since I’ve had a table at the show – and I really miss the gang from the club and the American Woodcarving School.

Attending the show will give me an excuse to complete some of the carvings I started with enthusiasm several years ago. I guess I’ll be putting the planes on hold until November. I have a lot of carving to do if I stand a chance at finishing two or three of those carving projects!

Sorry it’s been a while since I posted on the blog. I have been keeping my status up to date on Instagram if you’re interested. Until next time!

Sterling Models Peanut Scale Monocoupe – Vintage Rubber Powered Free Flight Model Plane

jchismar Sterling Models Kit P-2

Canarsie Courier and Canarsie Canary
The Canarsie Courier (top) and Canary (bottom) From the Don Ross book.

I’ve been busy making good old fashioned balsa stick and tissue rubber powered free flight planes. As I likely mentioned in an earlier post I’ve decided to take some time from woodworking and carving to relax and explore the hobby of flying model planes. My focus is primarily on Peanut Scale fliers, but instead of jumping right in I wanted to do it right and take some time to learn the nuts and bolts of making planes that fly. I’ve worked my way (mostly) through Don Ross’s book on rubber powered planes, with some success with building and flying these airborne works of art.

stick and tissue model airplane
The complete SIG AMA Racer

I assembled and flew a few of the SIG Models beginner planes: AMA Cub, AMA Racer, etc and had fun flying these sticks with wings. These projects helped me gain an understanding of how to trim (adjust) model planes for flight. Because these planes are so light their flight times are long and magical! I moved onto building and flying my own (no longer produced) SIG Uncle Sam plane which flew well until I accidentally locked it in the hot car too long and warped the stabilizer and rudder.

After completing the prior projects I decided I was ready to assemble my first Peanut Scale plane, which is the whole reason why I started on this journey. I was a busy boy online snatching up vintage Peanut Scale kits. For whatever reason Sterling kits (manufactured in Philadelphia, PA) captured my interest. My plan is to complete all six kits, twelve planes in all. I started the process with Kit #2: Monocoupe – Citabria. I laid out the plans for both on my building board and got to work.

stick and tissue rubber powered
Sterling Models Monocoupe in progress

I completed the Monocoupe first. At first I wasn’t interested in decorating the planes, I was simply going to apply white tissue and call it done. As the Monocoupe was taking shape, something clicked in my psyche and suddenly I was interested in applying all the details.  Because of this they project took about twice as long as expected (a few weekends).

I’ve had an opportunity to take the complete Monocoupe out for a few test flights. To my surprise, it flew straight as an arrow. There are a few adjustments I’d like to make to balance the model better and improve the performance of the propeller. However, I think I’m going to hold off on any ambitious changes until I get more experience building and flying these wonderful Peanut Scale marvels.

Canarsie Canary Rubber Powered Free Flight Airplane Part 2

The Canarsie Canary In Flight

The video above is of the Canarsie Canary I built using the plans from the Don Ross book Rubber Powered Model Airplanes. My previous post shared some of the construction of this model. I mentioned the first few flights were encouraging, but subsequent flights continued to get worse. This was because the propeller bracket was slowly tipping downward with each winding of the rubber band. I shimmed the bracket and the plane flies great!

Moving on to the next plane in the book. The Canarsie Courier. My model of this plane still isn’t flying as it should. I’m pretty sure I need to add weight to the nose, even though the weight of the plane is balanced as it should be. In the meantime I will share a little of my experience working through the book Rubber Powered Model Airplanes.

My Introduction to Building Balsa Airplanes

When I recently made the decision to start the hobby of building model airplanes I started with research. Despite how long this pastime has been around I quickly learned there isn’t a thorough Beginner’s Guide available for the novice. There is a wealth of information online but it assumes the reader has building experience and an understanding of the terminology. Because I am most interested in free flight rubber powered airplanes I’ve started with the aptly titled book Rubber Powered Model Airplanes by the late Don Ross.

The book is a fantastic introduction to the hobby and shares a wealth of tips and information for every newcomer. It isn’t, however, without shortcomings. The book instructs the reader to read the text multiple times and to have a complete understand of the plans before building the projects. There are many disparities throughout the text and illustrations which directly contradict each other. According to the author the plans are drawn in various scales to improve the reader’s competency with model plans. However, the plans don’t match.

Canarsie Courier Pylon Don Ross
Canarsie Courier pylon from plans

The plans for this pylon are taken directly from the Canarsie Courier plans. Here the pylon illustration on the right is reduced to match the illustration on the left. It’s not hard to notice the illustrated height is different between the two, also no height measurement is provided in the plans or the text. Another inconsistent example is the length of the  motor stick. The plan stipulates a length of eighteen inches; if the plans are properly enlarged they motor stick is actually drawn to a length of seventeen inches.

I assume the plane will fly, to some degree, regardless of the length chosen by the modeler. However, this is a book for beginners. I’ve already learned enough to know these planes are tricky to build and fly with meticulous effort. It’s easy to become frustrated when inconsistencies such as these are discovered.

Therefore I’m taking a break from working through this book and exploring a few other options on building free flight planes.