Category Archives: Tools and Techniques

Catching up!

Sorry I took a little break there when I went on holiday to visit family, but I’ve been back for a little while now and I have so much news to share!

Recently I located the Certificate of Airworthiness issued to A17-370 just before she was exported to India in 1949.  This is great because it documents *exactly* what equipment was installed in the aircraft at the time of export.  It’s highly likely this is the same equipment it had when it was placed in storage by the RAAF at the end of WWII, since it remained in storage for all of the intervening years.  That’s my theory anyway, and so I’ll use this as a guide for my restoration back to RAAF configuration.  Here is the general equipment list used for weight and balance.

And here is a list specifically of instruments and cockpit equipment, which also mentions the blind flying hood!

I’ve also continued to dig through the Australian National Archives for photos and drawings.  I did find drawings of the Holt flare installation in the wings which appears to perfectly match mine, so that will be very handy.  I still have not located any photos of A17-370, but I haven’t given up yet.

I recently heard a rumor that H.A.R.S. (Historical Aircraft Restoration Society) might have de Havilland Australia Tiger Moth drawings, so I reached out and sure enough, they do!  These drawings have been VERY elusive, but H.A.R.S. has several hundred surviving sheets, and I hope I will get my hands on all of them eventually.  There will be a cost of course, but it will be worth it to have documentation for many of the unique modifications of Aussie Tigers.  I’m very grateful to them for preserving these historic documents and being willing to share them with fellow restorers.

Aside from research, I’ve mostly been working on gathering the final tools for the workshop and getting it all organized and laid out the way I want it.  This has taken a LOT of work and it isn’t done yet.  One of the drawbacks of acquiring “vintage” tools is that they often need to be rebuilt in order to work reliably and consistently.  In the process however I have learned a lot, I’ve gotten to put other tools to use and get some good practice, and I am gaining a great deal of confidence in my ability to build and rebuild things.  Sort of critical, for an aircraft restoration project, eh?  ūüėČ

Above is how I would like everything to be laid out, once it’s all in working order.  I hope to get to this point this Spring, certainly no later than the Arlington Fly-In this summer.  Once the shop gets to this point, it will be full speed ahead on the restoration!

Building a workshop

Not the most exciting update, I have some more cool things coming, but I felt this was an important one. ¬†Since moving into the hangar a month and a half ago, I have been working hard to build the workshop where the restoration work can be done. ¬†It took seven trips to relocate all of the tools and airplane parts from my apartment to the new “shop,” which made utter chaos of what little organization I had achieved at home. ¬†It all turned into piles of boxes scattered randomly on shelves, but at least now it is all here.


The next step on my agenda was to free up floor space.  Most of it was being taken up by a bunch of free wood I hoarded for future construction projects, but I needed the floor space in which to do the construction.  I used some of the wood to build a bin for the rest.


Finally, after a month, the shop is in a place where I’m ready to build some workbenches! ¬†Only… A huge windstorm is predicted to hit the next weekend. ¬†Having freed up all this space, I now had room to fit a second airplane, which meant I could shelter an aircraft that would otherwise have to weather the wind storm outdoors. ¬†Within 3 hours of making the offer I had this lovely little 1946 Cessna 140 tucked in next to the Tiger Moth.


The storm passed with no real damage luckily, the Cessna moved out, and now I could get on with building workbenches, right? ¬†Not so fast! ¬†I got an emergency call from the previous owner saying that two of my wings were in danger of being damaged if they remained in storage where they were. ¬†So, one more expedition was mounted to retrieve parts from Abbotsford. ¬†This was a pretty easy job, easily accomplished in a day, and then suddenly my shop’s floor was occupied by a pair of wings!


That’s begging for a mis-step and a *crunch* sound, they had to be gotten up off the floor. ¬†But, I don’t like hanging them on a wall, it’s difficult to examine them and wall space in this hangar is pretty valuable, so I decided my first construction project should be a rolling wing rack. ¬†After looking at the wood I have and playing in CAD a little, I put together a very sturdy rack using entirely “found” components. ¬†It does the job and more importantly gave me a chance to learn how to use power tools such as my planer, sander, and circular saw.


Ok! ¬†So, now, weeks behind schedule… I’m finally getting the shop into shape. ¬†I’ve ripped down and prepared enough wood for a workbench top, which is currently under construction, and I’ve also finally bought a big rolling toolbox that will begin to make order from the chaos of my shelves. ¬†As tools move to the toolbox, shelf space will open up for airplane parts, which will free up more floor space, and thus allow me to build more workbenches and work stations, for the restoration itself. ¬†Phew!


On that note, for those of you still reading (thank you!) I’ve decided to establish specific weekend hours during which I guarantee I will be at the hangar and working. ¬†This way, if you want to come visit or volunteer, there won’t be any uncertainty… You will definitely find me at the hangar every Saturday and Sunday between 11am and 5pm. ¬†You will still need to reach out to me to get directions, unless you’ve been before, but hopefully a fixed schedule will make it easier for you to know when is or isn’t a good time to drop in. ¬†You are all very welcome!

Paint from the Past

Entire sample - smThis old fabric sample is slowly revealing its secrets.

Using a digital microscope, I was able to closely example the cracked paint surface and actually see the different layers of paint and dope that have been applied over the years. ¬†It’s surprisingly complex.

Most of the sample as you see it here was not painted at all. ¬†The brown-colored areas are only coated with three semi-transparent layers. ¬†The bottom layer, clearly a transparent dope of some sort, is slightly yellowish. ¬†The next transparent layer looks like glass and is a sort of green/yellow color. ¬†On top, which is giving it most of its color, is a brown layer that is still semi-transparent. ¬†I don’t know which of these are true “dope” or which may be some sort of a clear coat. ¬†It’s also possible that one or more of these layers may once have had some sort of unstable pigment in them, which has since disappeared. ¬†I will have to do some real chemical analysis I think if I want to dig any deeper into their composition.


Dope - yellow dope - brown dopeDope - yellow dope - brown dope 2

Along the edge of the sample is a dark stripe, some parts look dark brown/black and others are blue.  I call it the blue stripe, just for ease of reference.  It has two more layers than the main section of the fabric, and these layers are opaque paints.

Sky blue paint - yellow dope - forest green paint - brown dope Sky blue paint - yellow dope - forest green paint - brown dope 2

The lower layer of paint, sandwiched between the bottom-most layer of dope and the¬†glass-like green/yellow layer is sky blue in color. ¬†It may not have been well mixed as I’ve seen some spots that appear white as well, but so small that they must have been irregularities in the paint rather than intentional marks.

The other pigmented layer is a forest green.  It lies between the glass-like green/yellow layer and the top-most brown layer.  Where the brown sits over the green it makes a color that looks like coal or graphite.

Sky blue paint - yellow dope - brown dope 2 Sky blue paint - yellow dope - brown dope

The final irregularity is that I have found some areas where the green paint is absent, although the blue is still there.  I need to map these out at some point in order to determine if it seems to be an intentional pattern or just sloppily-applied paint.

If anyone knows of a way I could tell the age or origin of these paints, or better differentiate between paint and dope, please do let me know.