Click any picture for a larger image
Blackburn 1909 Heavy Monoplane

This will be my most challenging scratch build to date as very little information is available for this particular aeroplane. I have a few period black and white archive photos and some very basic plans, the engine is a 35hp Green which I have three good photos but only of one side. The aircraft itself did actually fly but only made a few short hops before crashing, it was damaged beyond repair. Like most of the early attempts to fly this aircraft was overweight and underpowered.

The fuselage frame is made from 1.0mm x 1.0mm styrene strips, they were laid on the plans for assembly to ensure they were square. The small brackets are cut from 0.25mm styrene sheet, in these first two photos the brackets are just sitting in place on the frame without glue.

All the little brackets have now been glued to the top and bottom fuselage frames. Once the glue was dry I drill three 0.3mm holes into the brackets and frame and fitted 0.5mm Master Club 0.5mm resin bolts on a washer, these are held in place with a small drop of CA.

The remainder of the frame pieces were cut and fitted to the top and bottom frames to form a box section. I also made and fitted the rest of the small brackets and added the three bolts to each bracket.

I made the floor of the “cockpit” from 0.5mm styrene sheet and scribed some board lines. The skids are 1.0mm x 1.0mm styrene, the forward fuselage supports are from 2.5mm x 1.0mm styrene strips while the rear fuselage supports are made from 1.5mm x 1.0mm styrene strips. The large brackets forward and aft of the floor are made from 0.25mm styrene sheet cut to shape and once fitted, 0.3mm holes were drilled and the resin bolts fitted. I also fitted 1.7mm brass tubes to the front and rear of the floor, I don’t know their purpose yet. There is also a 0.9mm brass tube fitted part way up the rear supports, this will hold part of the rear wheel frame work. It is a most unusual fuselage/cockpit arrangement and at the moment doesn’t look much like an aeroplane.

I made the brackets that hold the fuselage frame to the four uprights, they are made from coke can metal, bent to shape, cut and drilled for the bolts. I also made and fitted the four wing mounting posts, the two rear ones are longer to take the wing rigging wires. I sprayed the entire frame with Gunze yellow in preparation for the wood finish.

Wood colour was added by using oil paints. I mixed 1/3 Raw Sienna + 2/3 Burnt Sienna and a tad of Liquin, the Liquin is to accelerate drying time. I painted the oils paint on using a reasonably stiff brush going over and over removing the excess paint onto a paper towel until I was happy with the result. Once dry I will decide if it needs a coat of clear orange before the clear coat is applied.

Robert Blackburn needed a seat for his craft so he took the cane chair from his fathers yard, I suppose he thought it a good idea at the time. I have made the seat using a combination of styrene strips, copper wire and brass wire, I still need to add a lot of weaving on the back, seat and front of the chair, once finished the chair will be painted a cane colour.

All the fuselage frame brackets have been painted using Mr Metal Color Stainless and when dry slightly buffed. The seat has had the weaving done, for some strange reason the seat on the original aeroplane was only partially woven so I copied the photo I have. I used knit-in elastic thread for the weave then painted the entire seat with Gunze Middlestone H71.

The fuselage frame rigging is now complete, I used 0.12mm monofilament and tiny brass tubes, all the rigging passes through the small frame brackets and held together using CA. I painted the rigging using Mr Metal Color Stainless which gives a nice sheen if buffed. The fuel tank was made from the top of an old biro with the small end blocked off and a rounded nose added by using styrene sheet. Once the styrene was set firm I sanded it to shape, I then added the four mounting eyelets made from small twisted 0.13mm copper wire. The tank was painted satin black and once dry was suspended on four cables from the four eyelets to mounting holes in the fuselage frame. The fuel tank is directly above the pilot.

These three pictures show the completed seat sitting in position on the floor below the fuel tank and the fully rigged frame. At this stage in the construction it still doesn’t look anything like an aeroplane.

The two radiators were made from styrene sheet, brass tube and wavy radiator mesh, they have been painted with a mix of brass and stainless Mr Metal Color paint. Still need to add the radiator hoses once the engine is made and fitted. The propeller shaft is a length of 1.6mm brass tube fitted to styrene sheets drilled and cut to shape. The drive sprocket is from the chain set I have, it is actually for a motor bike but it’s close enough. The propeller is only sitting there for getting the levels, the prop shaft actually goes appears to go uphill towards the rear but this is to compensate for the top of the fuselage frame sloping down towards the rear. The propeller used here is not the correct shape for this aeroplane, I may have to laminate and make my own paddle style propeller  

For the propeller drive chain from the engine I am using Model Factory Hiro motor bike chain set No. P-941. There are enough parts in the set to make three full lengths of chain which is a lot more than what is required for my build. I found that when it was time to melt the pins I used my small soldering station with the temperature set at 187ºC, this is not an excessively hot temperature that would melt the pins away completely.

I started making the engine by knocking together a crank case. This is made from pieces of styrene sheet glued together then cut and sanded to size. The mounting flanges are also made from styrene sheet cut to size and glued to the crank case. The propeller shaft is a length of 3.0mm plastic rod glued into a hole drilled in the front of the case.

I used 3.2mm styrene rod for the cylinders, they will have brass sleeves slipped over the top of each cylinder to replicate the cooling jackets. The crank case is a simple box section with a curved sump, this particular engine had an outside fly wheel.

All the various engine components are made from styrene, brass tube and copper wire, the fly wheel is cut from the bottom of an small empty plastic container. The sprocket on the engine drive shaft is for the roller chain which drives the sprocket on the propeller shaft.

Here are the obligatory match and palm of hand shots to give a comparison to size of this engine, it is not overly large but big enough to work on quite comfortably, as usual the rocker assembly is always the most difficult items to make and fit.

The seat is now fixed in position, I also made the “steering wheel” and it is also fixed in position. The engine is only sitting in its position for the purpose of the photos. The engine has to be lined up with the top sprocket before it can be fixed so the roller chain will be running straight.

I completed making the roller chain and added it to the model, it fitted over the top sprocket very well then wrapped around the bottom sprocket, I need to remove about half a dozen links to get the correct length. The engine is now fixed in position. I added the radiator pipes from the radiator to the engine, inlet and outlet, for these I used brass tube. I also added the fuel line from the fuel tank to the engine carburettor, this was made from 0.3mm brass wire. I highly recommend the Model Factory Hiro bike chain set P-941, even though slightly oversize for 1:32 scale application it fits in quite well and looks the part. This chain set is very easy to assemble and is quite strong once completed, the secret is the temperature setting on the soldering iron to melt the little plastic pins, I found that 187ºC is the perfect temperature, it will melt the pins without melting them off.

I made the tail from 0.8mm styrene sheet cut to the required size and shape. I fitted 0.5mm Bob’s Strippers to simulate the ribs then sprayed the entire tail assembly. Once dry I removed the tapes which reveal the lighter colour styrene which now simulated the ribs. The universal joint for the fully moveable cruciform tail assembly was made from 1.0mm brass tube drilled, pinned and super glued. I have very very little information on the rigging of the tail assembly so most of it will be guess work, all of my information does not show control horns or control rigging wires, this is one of the drawbacks of scratch building with little information. I know that the steering wheel controlled the rudder, elevator and wing warping, there was no rudder bar.

The wing shape and size were cut from two pieces of 0.4mm styrene sheet. These two sheets where then glued together using a good quality liquid plastic glue, the glued wing was then wrapped around a length of 56.0mm outside diameter PVC tubing. To form the airfoil shape I need I used duct tape, this holds the styrene to the PVC very well, I left if for a full 24 hours before removing the duct tape, this ensured that the glue was completely cured. Once the tape was removed the wing retained its shape and the curved section adds a lot of strength to the wing. The photos show the wing just sitting in position, the leading and trailing edges need shaping as does the wing tips, then the ribs will need to be added. As there are no struts the wings will be supported by rigging wires only. It is only a small wing and will not have any dihedral, it did have wing warping though. I suppose in a way it is starting to look a little like an aeroplane.

I purchased the wheels from John Vojtech at Scale Spokes, they are wheels made to suit the Spad aircraft and come with a good variety of tyres plus a weighted tyre set in resin. I have fitted the light grey thin rubber tyre as these are very close to the wheels shown in the photos I have of the original aircraft. The tyres are very easy to change off the rims. These wheels were on special at $20 per set, usual price is $26 per set, even at full price they are excellent value for a quality product.

I used 1.5mm half round styrene strips for the ribs on top of the wing then multiple layers of auto body primer sprayed onto the wing with sanding between each coat, eventually this gave me the scallops between the ribs which was a common feature on these old aircraft. I removed the tail plane elevator and rudder and repainted them, then I add 0.5mm Bob’s Strippers to simulate the ribs. Under the main wing I used 0.75mm Bob’s Strippers for the ribs and the spars. The wing rigging buckles are my single ended turnbuckles which are glued directly into 0.4mm holes drilled into the wing, they are held in place with super glue. I need to make two wing rigging brackets which will fit either side of the main rigging mast, these will be made from brass sheet. Rigging on the wing will be done using 0.13mm Modelkasten elastic rigging thread, because the wing is very thin using monofilament may pull the wing out of shape.

I have started work on the main undercarriage assembly, I have very little data to follow apart from a few old photos which don’t show all the detail needed. The main frame is made from 0.9mm brass tube bent to the appropriate shape, I then inserted lengths of 0.4mm brass wire into the tubes to form the shape required, this is held together with super glue which does a tremendous job. There will be a bungee cord set-up on either side running up to the top fuselage frame bracket, this will run back down to the connection point at the rear of the undercarriage frame. This is a really unusual suspension set-up but looking at it all together I can now see the function of each part for the operation. I still need to add a lot more to this assembly before the wheels can be fitted permanently. The Scale Spoke wheels fit in very well and are the correct size with the rubber tyres being roughly the correct colour, I painted the wheels with Mr Metal Color Stainless.

The front undercarriage assembly is now painted and the wheels fitted. I also made the sprung rear undercarriage assembly and fitted the wheel, the assembly has also been painted. I sat the wing in position just to give an indication of what the completed model will look like. I will fit the front suspension bungee cords then the single ended turnbuckles for under the wing, then it will just be a matter to rig the model and it will be completed.

The Completed Model

This has been a very interesting build, like a few of my scratch builds very little information is available which makes building an exact 1:32 scale replica near impossible. My main source of data came from half a dozen black and white archive photos plus some very basic drawings. The engine looked like it was going to pose problems but I came across a book on the Green engines, there were some really good photos and drawings of the actual engine I needed, this helped me tremendously. It doesn’t matter which way you look at this model it is not a pretty aeroplane but it does show the attempts that were made in the early days of aviation to achieve flight.