Build a World War I "Tommy" Biplane


Do you want to practice your TIG welding skills while making a great keepsake at the same time? If so, Lincoln Electric has the perfect project for you. It is a stainless steel biplane in the style of the World War I "Tommy" planes. Mild steel may be used if your finished plane will be painted. The number of different welds made as part of this project - fillet, fusion, lap, butt and tacking - will give you ample opportunity to hone your TIG welding abilities.

Though this plane may not fly, it will surely be a way to impress your friends with your welding prowess. All you need to do is gather the correct materials and you'll be ready to go. We even allow you to print out the blueprints. So grab your Lincoln TIG welder, your DIY spirit and let's begin.


Make sure you have the following items on hand before you begin this project:

Stainless Steel Biplane Project

Items needed:     

    Complete TIG welding package
    12" x 16" stainless (preferred) or mild steel 12 gauge sheets (.100" thick)
    Approximately 20" of 3/32" diameter stainless steel filler metal
    2" of 1/8" diameter stainless steel filler metal (wire)
    Hammer
    Plasma cutter or band saw
    1/8" and 3/16" drill bits
    Two 1/4" x 20 x 1" carriage bolts
    1/8" x 1" machine bolt with four matching nuts
    Center punch
    Channel lock
    Needlenose pliers
    Clamps
    Side-cutting pliers
    Large and small heat sinks (aluminum or copper blocks)
    Small, "stainless used only" stainless wire brush
    Tape measure
    An extra set of hands or a welder's extra hand (these are very helpful, but not mandatory)


For safety, you will need:
 
    Safety glasses
    Welding gloves
    Welding helmet (probably shade #9)
    Long sleeve cotton shirt - not polyester
    Pants without cuffs
    A work area free of combustibles with adequate ventilation

 

It is important to properly attach the TIG welding work lead to the work surface. We recommend using a steel table and bolting a work cable or firmly attaching a work lead clamp from your welder directly to the table. Be sure that the plane is touching the work surface of the steel table at all times or you will not complete the welding circuit.Be careful to avoid allowing your body to be a part of the welding circuit.

Important Note: To avoid distorting the welded part, completely cool each weld after completion throughout the entire project.

 

Blueprint Drawings (jpgs)

Front Elevation (jpg)

Side Elevation (jpg)

Top View (jpg)

Insert (jpg)

Window and Wheels (jpg)

Wings (jpg)

Fuselage (jpg)

 

1. The blueprints for this project will show you how to cut the needed stainless steel pieces to size. Use a plasma cutter like Lincoln's Pro-Cut® 25 or a jigsaw to cut the pieces to match the pattern. You will also need to file all the burr edges on the cut pieces. 

Stainless Steel Biplane Project

2. There are four identical body pieces for the plane fuselage. Take two pieces and lay one flat and the other vertical, placing the long edges together (both pieces of metal need to be touching the table). Tack weld the inside corner of the front end of the plane first and then the inside corner of the back end. Then, tack weld the inside corner in the center of the seam.

Stainless Steel Biplane Project

3. Use the square front piece (the nosepiece of the plane) for alignment to make sure the angles of the welded pieces are square. Bend body pieces as necessary. 

Stainless Steel Biplane Project

4. Add your third body piece. Tack weld it as you did the first two pieces.

 Stainless Steel Biplane Project

5. Take the fourth body piece and lay it on the table. Then take the three pieces already welded and place it on top of that piece with the open side down. Proceed to tack weld both front corners, both rear corners and middle corners (in that sequence). 

Stainless Steel Biplane Project

6. Make 12 welds to hold the fuselage together. Care must be taken to weld in a sequence that will avoid warpage. We suggest making ½" long corner welds in the following order: (1) top front right, (2) bottom rear left, (3) top middle left, (4) top rear right, (5) front bottom left, and so on until all 12 welds are complete. The welds on the top middle should start 4" from the front of the plane while the bottom middle welds should start 5" from the front of the plane and go ½" toward the rear. Once these welds have been completed, your fuselage should be in place.

Stainless Steel Biplane Project

7. Now it's time to make the propeller. You have two options for completing this portion of this project:

1) The blueprints show how to cut out each propeller blade and weld it to a flat washer. Though the cutting is easier, the welding is more difficult.
2) If you are a better cutter than welder, you may want to follow the example shown in the photo where a propeller is cut out of one piece of metal.

Once you have the propeller complete, mount it onto the 1/8" machine bolt and assemble two nuts behind it. Be sure to leave space for the propeller to move freely.

Stainless Steel Biplane Project

8. Drill a 3/16" diameter hole in the center of the square nosepiece. Place one nut on the bolt. Next place the prop on the bolt against the nut. Then add two nuts on to the bolt before slipping the prop assembly through the 3/16" hole you drilled in the square nosepiece. Add another nut on the opposite side of the nose plate, tighten the nuts on both sides and again check that the propeller spins freely. Lastly, tack weld the single nut you placed on the backside opposite from the prop to the square nosepiece.

Stainless Steel Biplane Project

9. Place the nosepiece at the front of the fuselage assembly and tack weld all four corners. Next, weld the four sides. Start with welding the opposite sides to minimize distortion. Let it cool completely between each weld pass.

Stainless Steel Biplane Project

10. Your completed fuselage, nose and propeller assembly should look similar to what is pictured.

Stainless Steel Biplane Project

11. At this point, take a stainless steel wire brush, which has been used only on stainless steel and clean all of your welds.

Stainless Steel Biplane Project

12 Use the blueprint to locate positions for struts, which need to be center punched and drilled before you can go any further. Center punch (as shown) so when you remove the blueprint template, there is a mark to show you where to drill.

Stainless Steel Biplane Project

13. Using the 1/8" drill bit, carefully drill approximately 1/3 of the way through the thickness of the wing at the center-punched locations. This will enable you to countersink the struts. Repeat this procedure on the opposite side of the second wing. Make certain that the final assembly has the rounded part of the wing facing the rear. Check to be sure that you are countersinking the top surface of the bottom wing and the bottom surface of the upper wing.

Stainless Steel Biplane Project

14. Position the bottom wing on the table with the countersinks facing down and place the fuselage on top. Center the fuselage on the wing from left to right (it should measure 4" from body to tip of wing on each side). Be sure the distance from the front edge of the plane wing to the nose is 1 ½". Before welding, make sure that everything is properly in place and then tack weld the four corners together. Use fillet welds (full length) to attach the wing to the fuselage. A heat sink is recommended, however, if warpage does occur, bend the wing to make sure it is flat before going to the next step. Be careful not to overweld, keep the weld as small as possible.  

Stainless Steel Biplane Project

15. Tack weld the four stainless steel filler rod struts (cut to 2 1/8" in length) into countersunk holes on the upper wing. Be sure to add the diagonal strut to each side of the wing (see photo for proper placement).

 Stainless Steel Biplane Project

16. Now let's move to the pilot's cockpit windshield. Lay the windshield piece flat and tack weld the two triangular sidepieces the rectangular windshield pieces along the corner edges. (Be careful to keep them all perpendicular). If you feel comfortable welding full seams, go ahead and do so. If not, tacks will suffice.

Next, prepare to weld the windshield assembly to the fuselage. To do this, center the front of the windshield 1 7/8" from the front of the plane. Tack weld the windshield to the fuselage on all three sides. For a more attractive appearance, weld the full length of all three seams.

Stainless Steel Biplane Project

17. Tack the vertical stabilizer (top rudder wing) perpendicular to the fuselage at the back edge of the plane. Then tack the left and right horizontal stabilizers (tail wings) to each side of the fuselage. Check alignment and weld the full length of all seams. Allow each weld to cool completely before going on to the next weld.

Stainless Steel Biplane Project

18. Attach the upper wing to the plane body, like the lower wing. Place the struts in countersunk holes on the lower wings. Tack weld all struts into place.

Stainless Steel Biplane Project

19. Grind flush the ends of the two 1/4" x 20 x 1" carriage bolts. Then, weld the two carriage bolts together, being sure to use filler metal. The complete bolt assembly will be 2" in length. Since most bolts are cadmium plated, allow for proper ventilation for this particular weld or remove the plating prior to welding.

Stainless Steel Biplane Project

20. Take a 2" long 1/8" diameter piece of stainless steel filler rod material used for the struts and bend it into a V (as shown). Weld the two ends just inside the bolt heads on your landing gear assembly.

Stainless Steel Biplane Project

21. Weld the bottom V to the bottom of the plane. Center your landing gear at the front edge of the bottom wing. Be sure to add adequate filler metal to provide stability for the landing gear.

Stainless Steel Biplane Project

22. Tack one of the nuts vertically to the bottom rear of the plane to create the rear landing gear.

Stainless Steel Biplane Project

23. Cut two, 1 1/8" struts. Place the plane upside down. Center the strut from the side of the windshield assembly to the top wing at an angle and then weld it in place on the bottom of the top wing.

Stainless Steel Biplane Project

24. Turn the plane right side up and then weld the struts to the sides of the windshield.

Stainless Steel Biplane Project

25. Weld the tail section opening to fill the void in the back of the plane. Carefully add filler metal to the seal the square opening. This is an optional step.

Stainless Steel Biplane Project

26. Paint if you used mild steel.

Stainless Steel Biplane Project

 Congratulations! You have now practiced some TIG welding skills and also have a great piece of aircraft history to show off your efforts.

 

 

*This project has been published to show how individuals used their ingenuity for their own needs, convenience and enjoyment. Only limited details are available and the projects have NOT been engineered by the Lincoln Electric Company. Therefore, when you use the ideas for projects of your own, you must develop your own details and plans and the safety and performance of your work is your responsibility.