How to carve wood propellers

Written by david weedmark Google
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How to carve wood propellers
Before carving a wood propeller like this, practice on a scale model first. (propeller image by Tomasz Pawlowski from

In the early days of aviation, most propellers were carved from wood. With some patience, you can carve a wood propeller too. For your first propeller, it is a good idea to have a propeller design template to work with. If your goal is to carve a propeller for a real aeroplane, carving a model propeller from balsa wood the first time will give you some good experience before trying to tackle much larger scales. The following steps are based on a two-bladed propeller with a diameter of 10 inches.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Balsa wood
  • Wood carving blade
  • Sandpaper
  • jigsaw
  • White glue
  • Wood clamp

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  1. 1

    Calculate the size of balsa wood needed based on the dimensions of your plans or template. The length of the wood should be 0.5 inches larger than the diameter of the propeller. To determine the width, divide the diameter of the propeller by 7. For the height, divide the diameter by 1.7. For example, a 10-inch diameter propeller requires a piece of wood 10.5 inches long, 1.4 inches high, and 5.9 inches wide.

  2. 2

    Place the wood flat on your table and draw a diagonal line across the width of the wood. Then cut the wood along the diagonal line so that you have two triangular shaped halves.

  3. 3

    Position the two halves as they were before you cut them. Then slide the two halves apart along the cut line until only half an inch overlaps. This is the position the halves will be when they are glued together. Mark the overlap on each piece with a pencil.

  4. 4

    Apply a thin layer of white glue to the last half inch of the tip of each triangle, then reassemble them as they were at the end of step 3, overlapping by half an inch. Clamp the two pieces together and let the glue dry overnight.

  5. 5

    Turn the propeller so that one end is facing you. This will be the tip of the propeller when it is carved, but it is still rectangular at this stage. Draw a diagonal line from the bottom left to the top right corners of the end.

  6. 6

    Carve off a sliver of wood from the top left corner of the edge. This will remind you which side of the wood to begin carving.

  7. 7

    Turn the propeller around, without flipping it upside down, and repeat Steps 5 and 6 for the opposite end of the propeller.

  8. 8

    Carve the edge of the wood from the centre of the propeller outward, in a curving shape, towards the corners you shaved off. Refer to your plans as you carve.

  9. 9

    Turn the wood upside down and carve the bottom of the wood according to the plans for your propeller.

  10. 10

    Carve the corners of both tips until they are rounded into a shape shown by your plans.

  11. 11

    Drill a hole through the centre of the propeller to a size required for the model's prop shaft.

  12. 12

    Sand the propeller with sandpaper. Your propeller is now ready for painting, or for a test run.

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