The first aeroplanes were handmade and the propellers were made of wood. Very few aeroplanes, including antiques, still use wood propellers. That is not to say wood propellers can't be used or made at home. Some skill in carving wood with a draw knife is required to get the results you need to ensure a balanced, well-shaped design. Practice carving on scrap pine boards before trying to carve your first propeller. In this example we will use a three-bladed propeller, with the base of each blade forming the hub when assembled.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- 1-by-6-inch pine boards
- Wood glue
- Draw knife
- Drill press
- Band saw
- Aluminium tube
Purchase a propeller template or design your own using a computer-aided design (CAD) software. Take the template to a local printer to have the template printed in real (1:1) scale. Ensure the printer has made no distortions in either the length or width of the templates.
Calculate the amount of wood you need based on your templates. You will require five to nine pieces of pine wood for each of the three blades. Use No. 1 grade boards without knots.
Cut your boards according to the length of your templates using a band saw.
Glue the boards together into three sets (one for each blade) with white wood glue. Spread the glue evenly across the entire surface of both sides that are to be glued together. Clamp the boards in place using at least six clamps, evenly spaced. Allow the glue to cure according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Mark the dimensions of each blade onto the wood. Because the blade slopes in a curve, measure with calipers to ensure the dimensions are the same as the template at nine different points.
Cut each of the three blades with a band saw according to the templates to remove excess wood, including the prop area. Do not cut too closely to the edges of the blades.
Carve the propeller blades to their final shape using a draw knife. Start from the centre and work toward the tip of each blade.
Fit the three blades together, their bases forming the propeller hub, with the flat of each blade facing down. Measure the distance between the tips to ensure it is identical.
Glue the blades together at the hub, clamp them together, and allow the glue to set.
Drill a 3/4-inch hole in the centre of the prop.
Mix flox, epoxy and glue together. Then apply this to the outside of a piece of aluminium tubing, 3/4-inch in diameter and 0.058 inches in thickness.
Slide the aluminium tube into the hole in the centre of the prop. This will house the propeller shaft. Allow the glue mixture to set for at least 12 hours.
Take your propeller to an aeroplane mechanic to ensure the construction is sound before painting or varnishing your propeller.
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