The abandoned airframe remained
in the Alaskan wilderness, exposed
to the elements, for 27 years until
recovered by the museum in 1968. It
was in remarkable condition despite the
amount of exposure to the elements.
Only the wings needing extensive
restoration (see Photo 02).
As part of the exhibit, directly beneath
the restored O- 38, is a Plexiglass case
showing parts of the original, damaged
wing section, consisting of several ribs
and spars. Mounted above the original
pieces is one of the recreated ribs. I
studied that rib, paying attention to how
it was made. Suddenly it hit me like a
bolt of lightning. Instead of repurposing
expensive aircraft parts like MotoArt,
why not create something new with a
vintage, handcrafted look, and a less-expensive price tag?
I took several pictures and after a
few days of sketching and resketching, I
came up with a simple shelf unit that is
the subject of this article.
Before I continue, allow me to
address the size. My initial design was
created to fit the space available, but
also to maximize sizes of the wood
stock that was available at a local home
improvement store. I wanted to use
poplar as much as possible because of
its low cost and its straight grain with no
knots. The middle shelf is the widest of
the three. Because I had 48 x 6 x 1-inch
poplar boards available, these are what
I scaled the rib’s dimensions around,
making for 37-inch ribs.
The internal “structure” of the ribs—
the long top and bottom strips, all of
the crossbraces, and the filler piece of
the leading edge (LE)—are 3/8-inch
stock. Again, there’s no reason why they
couldn’t be 1/4-inch or 1/2-inch stock. It’s
up to you.
My reasoning for 3/8-inch stock
came about because of experiments
with forming the upper and lower
bends. In aircraft manufacturing, it’s
not uncommon to use a steamer to
relax the internal fibers of the wood,
I could obtain basically the same
results (see Photo 03).
The first part of the rib
construction is to make a jig that
not only holds the strips in place
while laminating, it also makes
each rib you build uniform in
size. To create the jig, I used
a spare piece of flat, 1-inch
plywood that was a few inches
larger than the rib and a 36-inch
dowel (1/4-inch diameter), cut
into 25 separate 11/4-inch lengths.
I printed the full-size plans on my
printer and glued them to the plywood.
On the plans, you’ll see that there are 25
holes spaced around the top and bottom
strips. These mark the spots where 1/4-
inch holes will need to be drilled. Once
drilled, pound the dowels into each
of these holes. Lay waxed paper over
the jig (making cuts so the dowels will
poke through), tape it into position, and
you’re ready to build.
The first pieces to place are the top
and bottom laminations. As I previously
mentioned, I ripped 3/8-inch stock into
3/8 x 3/16 x 48-inch strips for this part. I
found pieces of 3/8 x 4 x 48 available at
the store for just a couple bucks each, so
I used one of these to cut the strips (see
Take one of the 3/8 x 3/16 x 48-inch
strips and place a thin layer of wood
glue along the 3/8-inch side. Next, take
another 3/8 x 3/16 x 48-inch strip and
place it on top of the glue, forming a 3/8
x 3/8-inch strip.
Now comes the hard part—push this
lamination into the place on the jig,
Make sure all of the pieces of both
laminations are pushed firmly against
the board so that they are flat. Use
weights and/or clamps as needed and
put it aside to cure.
While the laminations are setting up,
take the time to cut out the doublers.
There are 13 shapes, and they’re
attached to both sides of each rib, so
you’ll need two of each piece (see Photo
Now, to accurately make these pieces,
I’ve found a new trick that can be used if
you have a laser printer. This technique
will transfer the toner from the paper to
the wood using some acetone. Simply
put, print out the templates and tape them
face down on the sheeting from which
you’ll cut the doublers (see Photo 06).
Now apply a generous amount of
acetone to a piece of paper towel and
wet the entire surface of the paper.
You’ll need to work quickly because
acetone evaporates at a rapid rate. After
you’ve wet the paper to the point
where it is becomes translucent, rub the
image onto the wood using a burnishing
30 Model Aviation JULY 2017 www.ModelAviation.com