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Wood h a s beer1 the main constructioll material for man for thousands of years

a n d , hence when aircraft were invented (about 100 years ago), i t was used for
a ~ r f r a m econstruction

Compared with metal it h a s many advantages including:

* Light (density of spruce between 300 and 600kg/rrl" ((aumirlium
2800kg/m3). But wood densities vary - some car] be so dense that
they are over 1000kg/m"rid will not float on water.
* Readily available, inexpensive and a renewable resource.
Easily machined, drilled, filed, screwed, planed, sanded

Easily joined using wood-screws, n u t s and bolts, nails/panel pins,

adhesives, staples etc.
* Good thermal insulation.
* Nearly as strong a s alumirhiurn - but some aluminium alloys c a n
be over 10 times stronger than wood, a n d steel c a n be over 6 0
times stronger.

Ilisadvantages include:
* Quality not consistent. Ever1 taking a specific type of wood, say
sitka spruce. Depending on where the tree was grown and the rate
of growth in any one year the wood quality can vary.
* Quality within a single plank of wood c a n vary d u e to knots, grain
inclination, defects etc.
* The mechanical properties of wood are said to be anisotropic. In
other words the strength and elastic properties are different
whether they are measured along the grain or across the grain.
Wood is m u c h stronger in tension and compression along the grain
than across it and stronger across the grain in shear.
* Wood can shrink and warp, is liable to rot, can deteriorate with age
and is subject to insect attack.

Timbers for commerce a r e obtained from exogenous trees (grow outwards in

plan view, by the addition of layers or rings) Timber is divided into softwoods
(coniferous or vvergreen trees) and hardwoods (deciduous). Trees are dormant
In winter and cornmenee their growth in sprlng. The s a p ascends the tree
causing the gro~utklof t h e 'springwood' and causing the tree to bud. The s a p
undergoes chenlical changes in the leaves due to the action of the sunlight and
the carbon dioxide In t h e air. The sap returns down the tree during summer
and wlnter and t h ~ cs a u s e s the growth of the 'autumn-wood'.




The tree trunk is rnade u p from Sapwood - the unripe part of the woody layers,
porous and full of sap, h a s little strength, sugaraxy and invites decay and
insects. The Bark - which consists of two layers - the outer layer being the
protective cork-like covering and the inner layer termed the inner bark or
phloem which is soft. Between the phloem and the wood is a skin-like layer
termed the c a m b i u n ~The
. tissue of the cambiurn combines with the rising and
falling s a p to form new growth rings each year. It is most active during the
spring; the wood forming during that time i s light in colour and of open
texture. During the auturrin the cambium is less active a n d the wood formed is
darker and denser. The difference between the a u t u m n a n d springwood is
clearly visible in trees such as firs and pines but is hardly noticeable in tre
such a s teak a n d mahogany.

Medullary rays convey the moisture from the sapwood to the heartwood while
the tree is growing. These are thin sheets of cellular tissue that radiate from
the pith and extend lengthwise through the timber. The rays that extend right
across (from pith to the bark) are termed primary rays a n d those that extend
partially across are termed secondary rays. Medullary rays are more
pronounced in such woods a s oak and beech.


'I'rees sllould be felled at the beginning of wir~terin temperate climates and

during the t l r j season in tropical climates.
During these t i ~ n e sthe s a p is a t rest. At other times the wood contains too
much sap which is difficult to dry out wlthout damaging ihe propertics o f the
wood. When a tree is felled is governed by its state of maturity, which can be
found by the state of its foliage Oak matures a t 120 - 200 years Firs and
pines mature a t 70 - 100 years. Trees that are felled too young or too old have
timber of inferior quality.

A tree 1s felled a n d stripped of its branches. Some logs are squared for ease of
transportation. These are termed 'baulks'. Sawing logs a n d baulks into planks,
deals, battens etc is termed conversion. The timber is square sawn.

Maxinlum shrinkage occurs along the lines of the annual rings. Timber used
in aircraft is rift sawn to lesson the possibility of shrinkage.



indicated at ;ic l






On felling a tree may contain u p to 50% molsture Most of this must be

rerrioved to obtain erio~lghhardness, stiffness and resistance to decay, and to
reduce shrinkage to acceptable levels. The degree of seasoning is measured by
thc rnolsture content of the timber and is expressed as % moisture content of
the dry weight of the timber. The moisture content may be measured using the
Marconi Moisture Meter (or other commercially ava~lablemeters) or by the
following method:
normal moisture
content in wood is A small sarrlple of the timber is removed, weighted arid dried in a n
oven a t 1 OOC (212F) until two successive weightings are the
same. Thc (YO moisture is then calculated as:
the moisture meter
has precedence loss of weight x 100 = O/o moisture content

over the drying dry weight

'There are several ways of seasoning timber including the 3 listed below

Note: Natural Seasoning - Slow b u t gives the best results. Planks are stacked
for fungus to cause undercover in such a manner as to allow maximunl ventilation and shielded
wood decay from wind, s u n a n d rain. The wood is stacked in a Dutch barn (a roofed barn
moisture content without sides), the first planks laid on wooden skids (keeps planks away from
should be at least d a m p grass etc), a n d successive layers are interspaced by slats placed above
20 % one another to prevent warping of the planks. To prevent the ends of the
planks splitting a s the timber dries, strips of hoop iron or wooden slats are
nailed on. 'This seasoning takes from 1 to 9 years depending on the size of the
planks and whether it is softwood or hardwood. I t is a n expensive process.

Water Seasoning -- This is applied to logs or baulks and although quick is liable
to diminish the strength a n d durability of the wood. The timber is put in a
strearn of fresh sunning water with one end of the log towards the flow. Thus
some of the s a p is washed o u t by the force of the water going through. This
takes about 10 days. After removing the log the internal water evaporates, '' :
timber is then c u t u p a n d seasoned the natural way for half the normal per-qd.

Artificial Seasoning - Kiln dried (hot air). Softwood boards can be seasoned in
10 to 14 days. The stacked planks are placed in a kiln in which the
temperature is raised to 80 - 220F (27 - 105C) according to the type of
timber. 'The steam h e a t (from pipes), warm air currents and the humidity is
controlled to prevent the timber from drying too quickly and developing shakes
(a type of split).


Trees, subject a s they a r e to the hazards of nature, develop imperfect~ons

during growth. Defects which occur in sawn timer can rnostly be elirnlrlated by
usirig correct methods of conversion, seasoning, storage and preservation, but
d ~ s c a s e smay be present in the tree a n d remain active after the timber h a s
beer] converted anti seasoned. These diseases are caused by the action of fungi.
A fungus is a kind of plant which can only live by feeding on organic material.
These thread llke cells penetrate the wood, boring minute holes invisible to the
eye, a n d absorb the substance of the wood as food, wkieh disintegrates the
wood to a state called decay. Attack by fungi may be identified by discoloration
of the timber, by mildew, by the reduction of the wood to a powder or by the
wood turning into a soft spongy mass.

Dry Rot

This does not attack a living tree but attacks timber subjected to humid
conditions combined with poor ventilation. Sapwood and unseasoned timber
are most susceptible to this disease, which turns wood to a powder. This
disease spreads rapidly a n d may be identified by a fungoid growth on the
surface of the wood.

Wet Rot

This may occur in a living tree or sawn timber and is a decomposition of the
fibres. In a living tree this may occur by water finding its way through the bark
a n d in sawn timber by subjecting it to alternate wet and dry conditions. Wet
rot transforms the timber into a soft spongy mass. A similar disease to wet rot
is Druxiness, b u t in this instance the water does not enter into circulation with
the s a p b u t becomes stagnant, setting u p decomposition of the surrounding

Causcd by a fungus growth. May be present in unseasoned timber and

remains active after seasoning. It appears a s a stain or a group of speckled
patches a n d reduces the wood to a very soft state. It is contagious and spreads
through thc timber rapidly. When detected, the affected part most be rerrloved
a n d burnt. If found in spruce planks intended for aircraft construction, the
wood either side of the infection must be removed for a distance of a t least 8
inchcs (203mm) in a longitudinal direction either side of the dote area

This 1s thc decay of over-rnature trees. C)n converted t~rnberit appears ;is a
reddish brown stain.
Kind Galls

These are swellirlgs on the trunk and branches of a tree caused by the growth
of new layers over a wound made by the attack of lrlsects or by a branch
having been br-oketl off. Rind galls reduce strength because they cause
divergence of the grain.


These are the roots of the branches of the main tree trunk.

Live knots arp the roots of braches which were growing when the tree was felled
ancl although all knots are a source of weakness, wood containing live knots
can he accepted provided judgement is used to determine whether it is suitable
for the work in h a n d . In sawn timber a dead knot can be identified by a dark
ring of wood around its outer edge. If dead knots cannot be eliminated the
timber should not be used.

Other types of knots include bud knots, pin knots arid spike knots.

All knots should be no more than 0.25" in diameter and if clustered too close
together the wood should not be used.

Karnmy Grain

This is the narne given to wood w ~ t ha curly grain. S u c h wood is difficult to

work and unsuitable fro structural members.

Incorrect Grain Inclination

The limit of grain inclination for spruce is 1 in 15 for grade A and 1 in 12 fr

grade B. Grade A is used for aircraft structural work a n d the inclination s h * \ u l d
be checked to ensure that the above limit is not exceeded. The most usual
method of determining the inclination of the grain is by examining the flower-
face of the timber to find the resin ducts. It will readily be seen whether they
are straight or inclined. If the inclination exceeds the limits specified, the
timber should be classified to a lower grade.

Cross and Spiral Grain

Cross grain is caused by a bcnd in the tree, a knot or incarrcct conversion. To

prevent this through the latter reason, timber should be sawn so that the grain
r u n s a s nearly a s possible parallel to the edge of the material. (Timber is
stronger along the grain than in any other direction). Spiral grain is caused by
high winds twisting the trunk.

Shakes are small splits In the tirriber a n d should not be present in sectlons of
timber intended for structural use on atrcraft

A heart shake usually follows the course of a sap duct long~tudinallyanti is

usually visible on the tangential surface 'The use of a small size feeler gauge
will assist in finding the depth of the shake The defect sho~lldhe cut out of the


This defect is indicated by a parting of the annular rings. Ring-shakes are

usually caused by frost, particularly after a heavy rainfall. The defect should
also be cut out of the timber.

Compression-Sha ke

This defect appears on a cross-section and usually takes the form of a thin
wavy line. Compression-shakes are most dangerous a s they are a partial
fracture of the timber a n d any future loads may cause the fracture line to

Pitch Holes

There are two kinds of pitch holes, one being the horizontal type which usually
appears a t the base of a knot, and the other the vertical type which is
sometimes referred to as a gum pocket. Gum pockets may either be 'alive' (the
gum-seam h a s not dried out) or 'dead', and in the case of the latter, the timber
should be rejected. 'rests on 'live' gum pockets have shown that the timber in
the region of the gum pocket usually gives a better result than the remainder of
the timber.

Blue Stain

This defect only occurs in sapwood which should not be used in aircraft parts.

Insect Attack

Shows u p as the timber having small holes in the surface. Such woods rrlust
not be used on aircraft.
most commonly
Sitka Spruce used

A soft~roodfrorn Canada a n d U S A . Bright-brownlsh yellow with little or no

odour. Straight grained and easy to work. Its stiffness, bending strength,
wood is
hardness a n d its resistance tc) splitting are hlgh in relation to its weight.
Because of this it is used on aircraft (spares, struts, longerons, ribs etc). It is
according to grain
seasoned to a rnoisture coritent of 15 to 17%.


Hardwood. Grown in the UK. Whitish-yellow, close and fairly straight grained.
Tough a n d strong and h a s good shock resistance qualities but is not a s light a s
Sitka Spruce. Used for longerons, trestle beams, bearing blocks etc. Moisture
content 15 - 16%.


A hardwood from Central America. Reddish-brown to dull red in colour.

Straight grained, strong and elastic with good bending strength, stiffness a n d
corripressive strength along the grain. Also resistant to shrinking, swelling a n d
lvarplng arid good glue retaining properties. Used for propellers, bearing
blocks, rigging boards etc. Moisture content 14%.

American Black Walnut

A hardwood from Canada a n d USA. The heartwood is a rich chocolate brown

colour a n d the sapwood is nearly white. It is a medium dense wood, hard a n d
mostly straight grained. Good weather resistant properties a n d retains its
shape well. Used for propellers and bearing blocks etc. Moisture content rr -st
not exceed 13%.

Douglas Fir

A softwood from Canada and USA. Colour from pale reddish-yellow to deep
orange-brown. Has prominent growth rings and mostly straight grained, is
somewhat resinous and h a s a distinctive odour when worked. It is strong and
tough and is used in aircraft coristruction that is highly stressed in bending
and compression. Moisture content 10 - 17%.
A hartJwood from Tropical America Soft mrit11 no strength I t js the lightest
tirnber in general u s e a n d is pinkish-white to pale brown in colour. Must be
stored carefully as moist conditions cause rapid deteriorat~on. Used sometimes
for the core of sandwiched ply. About a quarter of the weight of other woods.

Note The weight of the timber (density) is governed by rate of development,

moist~xrecontent and part of the tree from which it was cut


Adhesives a r e better for joining wood than, say, wood screws because its u s e
avoids the stress concentration that the screws would produce. Also the wood
is not damaged locally. The disadvantages of using adhesives are that
subsequent dismantling of the joint is not possible a n d stricter process control
is required to produce a satisfactory joint.

Glues fall into two main groups:

h Casein glues
* Resin glues

Any glue t h a t meets the requirements of the approved specification a s laid

down by the C M a n d other authorities s u c h as the FAA is satisfactory for u s e
in civil aircraft. Synthetic resin adhesives should comply with British Standard
1204 in the UK for Weather and Boil Proof (WBP) a n d Moisture Resistance
(MR). In all cases, glues are to be used strictly in accordance with the glue
manufacturer's recommendations.

Casein glues are water-based and made from milk; they were used widely in
wooden aircraft repair work. Modern casein glues for u s e in aircraft should
contain suitable preservatives, such as chlorinated phenols a n d their sodium
ialts, to increase their resistance to organic deterioration under high-humidity
conditions. Most casein glues are sold in powder form ready to be mixed with
water a t ordinary room temperatures, but some are supplied in liquid form.

Synthetic resin glues a r e more widely used now a n d usually consist of a two
part nlix - a resin a n d a hardener. Once rriixed there is a chemical reaction
that callses the adhesive to commence to harden. Synthetic resins are better in
that they retain their strength and durability under molst conditions and after
exposilre to water. The most comalonly used synthetic resin glues :ire the
phenol -formaldehyde, resorcinol-formaldehyde and urea- formaldehyde types.

'The rc.sorcino1-formaldehyde type glue is recommended for wood aircraft

applic a t lons.
Inert fillers are often added by the glue manufacturer to the resin, such a s
walnut shell flour, to give better working characteristics a n d joint-forxning
properties (increased viscosity and gap filling properties).

The most suitable curing temperatures for both urea-formaldehyde a n d

resorcinol glues are from 21C (90F) to 24C (75F) (room temperature).
Temperatures below 15C (60F) are not recommended a n d electric blankets
(80C - 176F) can be used to provide rnore rapid setting times. Gluing times
can take u p to 2 to 3 weeks

Some terms used are as follows:

Cold Setting Adhesive. An adhesive which sets and hardens a t room

temperature, ic 10C to 32C (50F to 86F) within a reasorlable period.

Close Contact Adhesive. A non gap-filling adhesive suitable for u s e only with
those joints where the surfaces to be joined can be fabricated accurately and
brought into close contact by means of adequate pressure a n d where glue 1 :s
exceeding 0.005in (0.125mm) can be avoided.

Closed Assembly Time. The time between the assembly of the joints and the
application of pressure.

Double Spread. The spread of adhesive equally divided between the two
s ~ ~ r f a c to
e s be joined.

Gap-filling Adhesive. An adhesive suitable for use in those joints where the
surfaces to be joined may or may not be in close or continuous contact, owing
either to the impossibility of applying adequate pressure or to slight
inaccuracies in machining. Unless otherwise stated by the manufacturer, gap-
filling adhesives are not suitable for glue lines exceeding 0.050in (1.25mm) in

Glue Line. The resultant layer of adhesive joining any two adjacent wood
layers in the assembly.

Hardener. A material used to promote the setting of the glue. It may be

supplied separately in either liquid or powder form, or it may have been
incorporated with the resin by the manufacturer. It is a n essential part of the
adhesive, the properties of which depend on using the resin and hardener as

Open Assembly Time. The period of time between the application of the
adhesive and the assembly of the joint.

Single Spread. The spread o f adhesive to one surfa:ace only

Spread of Adhesive. Thc amount of adhesive applied per unit area. Expressrd
a s g / m l or lb/ lOOft? Can be asccrtained by weighing a piece of scrap plywootl
t~eforcapplication and n-cigh~ngafter application
Synthetic Resin. A synthetic resm (phenolic) is derlved from the reaction of a
phenol with a n aldehyde A synthetic resin (amino plastlc) is derived from the
reaction of urea, thiourea, melamine or allied compounds with formaldehyde.

Synthetic Resin Adhesive. A composition substantially consisting of a

synthetic resin, either the phenolic or amino type, but including any hardening
agent or modifier which may have been added by the manufacturer or which
must be added before use, according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Synthetic resins can be obtained either in liquid or powder form. In general,

powder resins have the longest storage life, since they are less susceptible to
de terloi-ation from high ambient temperatures.

Powder resins must be mixed with water in accordance with the

manufacturer's instructions before they can be used in conjunction with a
hardener. To obtain satisfactory results, it is essential that they be properly
mixed. Once mixed, the adhesive must not be diluted unless this is permitted
by the manufacturer's instructions. In many instances, manufacturers specify
3 definite period of time which must elapse between the mixing and the
application of the adhesive. During this period, the adhesive should be covered
to prevent contamination. When resins are supplied in liquid form, they are
ready for immediate use in conjunction with the hardener. Liquid resin must
not be diluted unless this is permitted by the manufacturer's instructions.

When mixing the hardener with the resin, the proportions must be in
accortlance with the manufacturer's instructions. Hardeners should riot be
permitted to come into contact with the resin except when the adhesive is
mixed prior to use.

Any utensils used in the hardener should not subsequently be used in the
resin and vice versa. After use utensils should be washed in water containing
5% sodium carbonate (washing powder). Typical synthetic resin adhesives

4raldite. General glue and used for bonding timber to metal or fibreglass.
Supplied in two parts - a liquid resin and a liquid hardener. When mixed in the
correct proportions is applied to both surfaces, the surfaces are clamped
togethcr and setting time depends on temperature.

Aerodux. Also supplied in two parts, a liquid resin and a liquid or powder
hardener. The joint is made a s for Araldite but curing times can be long.

Aerolzte. The resin is supplied in powder form to be mixed with water or already
in liql~idform. The hardener is an acid and comes in three strengths. Medium
strcngth (coloured green) is usually used. The resin is applied to one surface,
the hardener to the other and the surfaces are brought together and clamped.
C ~ ~ r i rtjme
i g can be as short a s one hour when heating is applied.

The surface to be p i n e d rnrlst be clean, dry and free from grease, oil, wax,
paint, etc. It is important that the parts to be joined have approximately the
same r n o i s t ~ ~ content,
re since variations will cause stresses to be set u p
because of swelling or shrinkage which rnay lead to the failure of the joint. A
safe range for moisture content js between 8 and 16%.

The wood to be glued should be at room temperature. The surfaces to be

joined should not be overheated since this affects the surface of the wood and
reduces the efficiency of most synthetic resin adhesives.

Synthetic resin adhesives are sensitive to variations in temperature. The

usable (pot) life of the adhesive, proportion of hardener to u s e and clamping
time all depend largely on the temperature of the room a t the time of gluing.

The Wood Surface

Plywood surfaces should be lightly sanded either in the direction of the gral,~or
diagonally across it.

Timber surfaces should be sanded using a medium grade glass paper or a

wood scraper. To ensure a good fit the parts can be assembled first, dry with a
layer of chalk on one surface. It the joint is a good fit the chalk will transfer
over the whole area to the other surfzce. The chalk must be completely
removed before the glue is applied.

Glue Application

It is generally desirable to apply adhesive to both surfaces of the material. This

applies particularly where the glue line is likely to be variable or when it is not
possible to apply uniform pressure.

Adhesive can be applied by a brush, glue spreaders or rubber rollers that b - e

slightly grooved. The amount of adhesive required depends largely on the type
of wood a n d the accuracy of machining. Dense wood requires less adhesive
than soft or porous types. Adhesive should be applied generously to any end
grain. Smooth, side-grained surfaces may be satisfactorily glued with a
thinner spread. The general rule is that the adhesive should completely cover
the surfaces to be glued and remain tacky until pressure is applied to the joint.

Difficult gluing conditioiis may occur when a soft wood is to be glued to a

much denser wood because the adhesive tends to flow into the more porous
wood. I n such instances, rxnless otherwise specified by the manufacturer of the
adhesive pre-coating and partial drying of the softer surface, before normal
spreading, is recomrnenclec-l.
It is advised that the joint is first assembled dry t o check for correct assembly,
glue line clearances, clamp positions etc - then disxnantled and assem bled
correctly using glue. The interval between the applicat~onof the adheslve to
thc surfaces and the assembly of the joint should be kept a s short as possible.
Sorne adhesives contain solvents which should be allowed to evaporate before
the joint is assembled If this is not done, bubbles may be created and result
in a weak joint. For adhesives of this type, the manufacturer will specify a time
interval which should elapse before the joint is closed.

To ensure that the two surfaces bind properly, pressure must be applied to the
joint. This pressure should be applled evenly over the complete joint using
clamps and blocks of wood to provide an even pressure and prevent local
compression damage to the joint itself.

The pressure is used to squeeze the glue out into a thin continuous film
between the wood layers, to force air from the joint, to bring the wood surfaces
into intimate contact with the glue and to hold them in this posation during the
setting of the glue.

Pressure should be applied to the joint before the glue becomes too thick to
flow and is accomplished by means of mechanical clamps, hydraulic clamps,
screw presses, electric power presses, brads (a sort of nail), nails and screws.

Non--uniformgluing pressure commonly results in weak and strong areas

within the same joint. The amount of pressure required to produce slrong
joints may vary from 125 to 150psi for softwoods and 150 to 200psi for
hardwoods. Insufficient pressure and/or poorly machined contact surfaces
results in thick glue lines, which are weak and should be avoided.

On small joints such a s those found in wood ribs, the pressure is usually
applied only by nailing the joint gussets in place after spreading the glue.
Since small nails must be used to avoid splitting, the gussets should be
comparatively large in area to compensate for the relative lack of pressure. At
least four nails (cement-coated or galvanised and barbed) per square inch are
"o be used and in no event must nails be more than 3hin (19mm) apart. Small
orass screws may also be used.

Use handspring clamps only when gluing softwood. Because of their llnlited
pressure area, they should be applied with a block of wood a t least twice a s
thick as the member to be clamped.

High clamping pressures are neither essential nor desirable, provided good
contact between the surfaces being joined is obtained. When pressurt. is
applied, a small quantity of glue should be squeezed from the joint. ' T h ~ s
should be wiped off before it dries. The pressure mrlst be mainta~neddur-ang
the full setting time. This is important since the adhesive will not reunite if
disturbed before it is fully set.

C l a m p tightness should be re-checked 10 minutes after the joint is assernblecl.

The s e t t ~ n gtime depends on the temperature a t which the operation is carried
out. An increase in temperature results in a decrease in tlic setting period.

Full jolnl strength a n d resistar.lce to moisture will develop only after

conditioning for at least 2' days In some cases a period m u s t elapse of u p to 3
weeks for the chemical reaction ta be fully completed. Again, this depends on
the a m b ~ e n temperature
t and tlre type of hardener used. Usually when repairs
are made, the joint will be of reasonable strength after 1 day.

When gluing large areas (areas of ply for example) the drawing may specify
drillings at intervals in one ply rriernber to allow any trapped air to escape.

Local warmth may be applied using electric blankets, electric fires, electric
lamps, kilns etc. Remember, DO NOT EVER HEAT the joint - this can scorch
the wood a n d / o r bubble the glue - in either case a weakened joint results.

Testing Glued Joints

Glued j o ~ n t sare impossible to examine properly. The only access to the joirlL,
once assembled, is along the glue line - a n d only then if it is visible. So, just
like the adhesive bonding of metal structures, strict control of the gluing
process is required a t all times with test pieces produced - to be tested to
destruction to ascertain the strength of the joint.

Ideally, the test piece should be cut from the actual cornponent being
assembled (make the part that much longer to allow for the removal of the test

The test sample should be 1 inch (25mm) wide and a t least 2 inches (50mm)
long. The test pieces should be joined with a n overlap of Y2 to 3/4 inch (13 to
19mm). The glued test sample should be placed in a vice a n d the joint broken
by exerting pressure on the overlapping member.



Ideally the wood should break and not the glue line, but a t any rate the
fractured glue face should show a t least '75% of the wood fibres broken evenly
disl ributed over the glue surfaces (figure 4).

Where repairs are to be made on old aircraft in which the wooden structure is
joined with a casein cement, all traces of the casein cement must be removed
from the joint, since this material is alkaline and is liable to affect the setting
of a synthetic resin adhesive. Local staining of the wood by the casein cement
c a n , however, be disregarded.

Wet Tests

When specified, wet tests should be rnade for testing the efficiency of the
adhesive after immersing the test samples in water a t different temperatures
and for different times. Such tests are prescribed in British Standard 1204,
but the results are only valid if BS 1204 test pieces are used. However, testing
joints, in a manner similar to that already outlined, after immersion in cold
water (15" to 25C [GO0 to 77"FI) for 24 hours, will give a good indication of
whether they are satisfactory. Such tests should only be carried out on joints
which have been conditioned for 2 to 3 weeks.

Failure of Glued Joints

Glued joints are designed to provide their maximum strength under shear
loading. If a glued joint is known to have failed in tension it is difficult to
assess the quality of the joint, as these joints may often show a n apparent lack
of adhesion. Tension failures often appear to strip the glue from one surface
leaving the bare wood; in such cases, the glue should be examined with a
magnifying glass, which should reveal a fine layer of wood fibres on the glued
surface, the presence of which will indicate that the joint itself was not a t fault.

If examination of the glue under magnification does not reveal any wood fibres
but shows a n imprint of the wood grain, this could be the result of either pre-
a r e of the glue prior to the application of pressure during the manufacture of
the joint, or the use of surface-hardened timber. This latter condition is
particularly common with plywood and with other timbers which have been
worked by high-speed machinery and have not been the surface correctly

If the glue exhibits an irregular appearance with star-shaped patterns, this

m a y be an indication that the pot-life of the glue had expired before thc joint
was made or that pressure had been incorrectly applied or maintained. In all
such instances other jo~rltsin the aircraft knowri to have been made at the
sarne time should be considered a s suspect.
Old Aircraft Repajrs

Where repairs are to be carried out on old aircraft in which the structure is
joined with a casein glue, all traces of the casein should be removed from the
joint since this material is alkaline and is liable to affcct the setting of a
synthetic resin adhesive. Local staining of the wood by the casein can,
however, be disregarded Where urea formaldehyde (UF)glues are to be used,
the surface should be wlped wath a solution of 10940w / w acetic acid in water,
and allowed to dry before the glue 1s applied.

Note. This process must. only be used with urea formaldehyde (UF) glues. If
used prior to the application of, for example, resorcinol formaldehyde (RF)
glues, the joint strength could be seriously impaired.


Mixed adhesives have a very limited pot-life and any spare mixture left over
after the completion of a task should be discarded straight away.

Unmixed resins a n d hardeners have a shelf life and this should not be
exceeded. Resins in powder form which show signs of caking or corrosion of the
container and liquid resins which show signs of 'gelling' or have become
excessively viscous, should be rejected even if shelf life h a s not been exceeded.

Glues and resins should be stored in their original containers in clean dry
conditions out of direct sunlight. The temperature should not exceed 2 1"C
('70F).Glues and resins should be used on a "first in first out7'basis.


The basic structure of a n aircraft made of wood is not too unlike a n aircraf
made from metal or composite - in principle.

The structure can either be:

* Non-monocoque
-k Monocoque
A Semi-monocoque

Non monococpe structures are those built on the beam principle. The
fuselage, for example, is made u p of longerons and struts made of wood. These
are compression members. Any tensile loads in the strrrct ure are normally
accommodated by tension wires. The whole structure is covered with fabric
(natural or synthetic) to provide a n aerodynamic shape. Secondary structure
may be added to improve the stxeamlining.
Figury 5 shows a typical wood structure rear fuselagt. whcre all the strength is
taken by the longerons and vertical and horizontal cross nlembers. Figure 6
shows a typical wing structure with a frorit and rear spare (with somctirnes a n
intermediate spar) to take the rnain bending loads and ribs to give strength and
shape to the aerofoil. The whole wmg is covered with f a b r ~ ca n d it is quite
common to cover the leading edge with plywood.

Figure 7 shows two examples of main spars. A s with all spar construction the
main principle is to get as much structure a t the top and bottorn of the spar,
To this end spars may be constructed using a web to support to support cap
strips or flanges a t the top and bottom - or the spar constructed as a box with
the main strength (spruce) members separated by ply webs.

Some spars may be made as a sirnple rectangular cross section - less

expensive but with a poorer strengthlweight ratio. Tailplanes and fins will
normally be constructed similar to the mainplanes.








Figure H shows two examples of the construction of ribs. These are both truss
type ribs made u p of square cross section spruce cap strips glued and p ~ n n e d
to each other using ply gussets. Some ribs may not be of open construction
(top rib ln figure 8) b u t m a y have a complete ply covering - in some cases with
lightening holes to reduce the overall weight.



pizmzq (IBEAiSPARl





Monocoque structures are rare but do exist - a t least for fuselages. Normally
made of plywood which is formed into a hoop to provide all the structural
reqrrire~nentsof the fuselage as well a s all the aerodynamic requirements. With
rnonococlue structure there is no internal bracing.

The de-Havilland Mosquito's rear fuselage is made of a plywood-balsawood -

plywood sandwich construct ion that forms a monocoque structure with no
internal support (the same principle a s a chicken's egg). The inside of the
fuselage is quite smooth except where brackets and 0thr.r fittings are attached
to take supports for flying control cables, electrical and radio cables,



Semj monocoque structure (where the skin takes some of the load) is common
with metal aircraft. For wooden aircraft i t would involve the aircraft's skin
k i n g strong enough to take some of the load and this could only happen if the
skin was made of plywood with some internal support such a s frames a n d



Figurc 10 shows the rear fuselage of the de-Havilland Rapide. It has four
longerons with vertical and horizontal spacers/strnts. I t is basically syllnre in
cross- section with a complete covering of plywood.

'I'kte joining of wooden parts of the structure has already been dealt with but
little h a s been said of h o w the fabric is attached. It rnay be fitted to the
skeleton of the airframe by:

Tying o n WI th string.
* Fitting thr fabric covering a s a 'sock' over the wing/fuselage.
Clamplrlg on with special metal clamps.

Once the fabric is fitted on the airframe it is tautened by doping or the

application of heat a n d weatherproofed - using paints.

Fabric covering - and repairs -- will be dealt with in more detail later.

What follows is a general guide a s to the checks and inspections to be carried

out on wooden structures.


When inspecting wooden structures it is most important that the relevant

aircraft maintenance manual be consulted.

'This part of the book gives guidance on the inspection of wooden aircraft
structures for evidence of deterioration of the timber a n d glued joints. I t should
be read in conjunction with the relevant aircraft manuals, approved
Maintenance Schedules and manufacturer's instructions.

Glued Structures

Provided that protective varnish was applied to all exposed wood surfaces after
gluing a n d the aircraft satisfactorily maintained, deterioration of the timber
and glued joints is unlikely. However, deterioration is possibly for many
reasons a n d the structure should be inspected regularly. Factors which m:Ad
cause deterioration include:

a) Chemical reactions of the glue itself due to ageing or moisture, or

to extremes of temperature or to a combination of these.
b) Stresses set u p due mainly to timber shrinkage.
c) Development of mycological growths (ie fungus).
(1) Oil corltamination from the engines, hydraulic systems etc.
c) Fuel coritamination due to fuel system leaks or spillage in the tank
f) Rain water jrigress and blockage of drainage holes.

Alr-craft which are exposed to large cyclic changes of temperature and humidity
arc. especially prone t o timber sl-~rinkagewhich in turn rnay lead to glue
The amount of movement of timbers due to these changes varies with the
volume of each structure member, the rate of growth of the tree from wh1c.h the
timber was cut and the way in which the timber was converted. Thus, turo
large members secured to each other by glue, are unlikely to have identical
characteristics and differential loads will, therefore, be transmitted across the
glue joint due to humidity changes. This will impose stresses on the glued joint
which, in temperate zones, can normally be accommodated when the aircraft is
new and for some years afterwards. However, with age the glue tends to
deteriorate, even when the aircraft is maintained under ideal conditions a n d
these stresses may cause joint failure.

In most wooden aircraft of monoplane construction the main spars are of box
formation consisting of long top and bottom transverse members (ie spar
booms) joined by plywood webs. The spar booms may be built u p from
laminations glued together and a t intervals vertical wooden blocks are
positioned between the two booms to add support to the plywood sides.

The main spars carry most of the loads in flight and are, a t times, subject to
flexing. The glued joints should, therefore, be free from deterioration but,
unless the spar is dismantled or holes cut in the webs, internal inspection may
be virtually impossible.

Long exposure to inclement weather or strong sunlight will tend to deteriorate

the weatherproofing qualities of fabric coverings and of surface finishes. If
fabric covered ply structures are neglected under these conditions the surface
finish will crack, allowing moisture to get to the wooden structure resulting in
deterioration through water soakage.

Aircraft General Structural Survey

Before commencing a detailed exarnination of the aircraft structure, the

structure should be inspected externally for signs of deformation, such a s
warped wing structures, tail surfaces out of alignment or evidence of obvious
structural failure. It may be prudent to carry out an airframe rigging check (see
the appropriate book in module 7).

The aircraft should be housed in a dry, well-ventilated hangar and all

inspect.ion panels, covers and hatches removed. It may be necessary to rernove
sections of fabric. (There is a CAA requirement [AN501 that all older wooden
aircraft are dismantled/opened-up from time to time to inspect a
representative sample of the wooden structure and any unserviceable wood
replaced.) The aircraft should be thoroughly dried out before examining glued
joints or carrying out repairs.

Should any defects be found in the opened-up section of the airframe t h Y n

further parts will have to be inspected by removing fabric covering fron~niore
parts of the airframe. It is possible that, if significant deterioration is fourrtl, the
aircraft will have to be completely uncovered and, after suitable rectificat Ion,
completely recovered.
Immediately on opening a n inspection panel, or any enclosed area a check
should be made for smell. Each component should be sniffed. A musty smell
indicates fungoid growth or dampness and, if present, necessitates a further
examination to establish which areas are affected.



Where the wings, fuselage or tail unit are designed a s integral stressed
structures, such as inner and outer ply skins glued and screwed to s t r u c t ~ .1
members (figure 11) no appreciable departure from the original contour or
shape is acceptable.

Where single skin plywood structures are concerned, some slight sectional
undulation or panting between panels may be permissible (check SRM)
provided the timber and glue Joints are sound. However, where such
conditions exist, a careful check must be made of the attachment of the ply to
its supporting structure. To check this, apply a moderate force by hand to
push the ply from the structure. A typical example of a single skin structure is
illustrated in figure 1 2.




The contours and alignment of leading and trailing edges are susceptible to
deformation and should be checked carefully. Any distortion of these light ply
and spruce structures could indicate deterioration and a careful internal
inspection should be made. lf a general, check for security and any
deterioration - if found check the main wing structure also.
Where there are access panels or inspection covers on the top surfaces o I
fuselages, wings or tailplane, check that water has not entered. If it has, heck

for internal deterioration and when refitting the inspection panels ensure that
they are waterproof.

Splits in the proofed fabric covering on plywood surfaces should be invest gated
by removing the defective fabric in order to ascertain whether the ply is
serviceable. It is common for a split in the ply skin to be the cause of a s~rnilar
defect in the fabric covering.

Fabric having age cracks and thick with repeated dopings, may indicate that
the structure underneath h a s not been critically examined for some time.
Insertion patches in the fabric could also indicate that structural repairs liave
been made a t that point.

Whilst a preliminary external survey may be useful in obtaining a general

assessment of the condition of the aircraft, it should be remembered that
timber and glued joint deterioration often takes place inside a structure
without any external indications. Where moisture enters a structure, it will
cend to find the lowest point, where it could stagnate and promote rapid

Inspection of Timber and Glued Joints

Assessment of the integrity of glued joints in aircraft structures presents

difficulties since there is no positive NDT method of examination which will give
a clear indication of the condition of the glue and timber inside a joint. The
position is made more difficult by the lack of accessibility for visual inspection.

The inspection of a complete aircraft for glue or wood deterioration will

necessitate checks on remote parts of the structure which may be known, or
suspected trouble spots and, in many instances, are boxed in or otherwise
inaccessible. In such instances, considerable dismantling is required and it
may be necessary to remove all the fabric and to cut access holes in ply
structures to facilitate the inspection. This must be done only in accordance
with approved drawings or the Structure Repair Manual (SRM) for the aircraft
concerned and, after the inspection has been completed, the structure must be
made good and re-protected.

All known or suspected trouble spots must be closely inspected regardless of

log book records indicating that the aircraft has been well maintained ancl
properly housed throughout its life.

Note. Where access is required and no approved scheme exists, approval

should be obtained from the aircraft manufacturer or a n organisation
approved by the C M for such work.
Ply Access Holes

In general, access holes are circular in shape and should be cut with a sharp
trepanning tool to avoid jagged edges. It is essential to avoid applying undue
pressure to the cutting tool, especially towards the end of the cut, otherwise
damage may be caused to the inner face of the panel by stripping off the edge
fibres or the ply laminations.

Where rectangular access holes are prescribed care is necessary to ensure that
they are correctly located and that corner radii are in accordance with drawing





The edges of all access holes must be smoothed with fine glasspaper, prefc ,bly
before inspection is commenced, since contact with the rough edges may
damage fingers (cuts and splinters) and cause wood fibres to be pulled away.

It is important that the whole of the aircraft structure - front fuselage, rear
fuselage, tailplane, fin, elevators, rudder, ailerons, flaps, slats, struts, etc - is
inspected in detail before any decision is reached regarding its general

Remember, when cutting an access hole it is most important that damage is

not done to structure (or components) the other side of the hole.
Glue Line

When checking a glue line (at the edge of the glued joint), all protective paint
coating should be removed by careful scraping. It is important not to damage
the wood in any way nor to mark or damage the glue line.

A good source of light is needed together with a magnifying glass, feeler gauges
and remote viewing mirrors, intra-scopes etc,

Where the glue line appears to tend to part, or where the presence of an actual
glue line cannot be detected or it is suspect, then, providing the wood is d r y ,
the glue line should be probed with a thin feeler gauge and, if any penetration
is possible, the joint should be regarded a s defective.


1. It is important to ensure that the surrounding wood is dry,

otherwise a false impression of the glue line would be obtained due
to closure of the joint by the wood swelling.
2. Where pressure is exerted on the joint, either by the surrounding
structure or by bolts or screws, this pressure should be relieved so
a better assessment of the glue line may be made.

The choice of feeler gauge thickness will vary with the type of structure, Gut a
rough guide is that the thinnest possible gauge should be used. Figure 13
indicates the points where checks with a feeler gauge should be made.

Timber Condition

Dry rot and decay are usually easy to detect. Dry rot is indicated by small
patches of crumbling wood, whilst a dark discolouration of the wood surface or
grey streaks of stain running along the grain are indicative of water
penetration. Where such discolouration cannot be removed by light scraping
+he part should be rejected or repaired a s per the AMM. Staining of the wood
~y the dye from a synthetic adhesive hardener can be disregarded.

Water Penetration of Structure

If this js suspect in an area where there are some wood screws remove one or
two and check if they are corroded (figure 14).

Slight corrosion of the screw due to the adhesive may occur during original
construction, so the condition of the screw should be compared with that of a
similar screw, removed from another part of the structure known to be 11-ee
frorn water ingress.

Excess corrosion will warrant further investigation a s to the cause.



CORROSION caused by
moisture ingress and
possibly indicating glued
joint failure



Note. Plain brass screws are normally used for reinforcing glued wooden
members, although zinc coated brass is sometimes used. Where hard woods
such a s mahogany or a s h are concerned, steel screws are sometimes used.
Unless otherwise specified by the aircraft manufacturer, it is usual to replace
screws with new screws of identical length but one size larger.

The removal of bolts, bushes, support brackets, metal fittings etc can also
provide a means whereby water ingress can be checked. Be careful to ensure
that any items attached to the airframe by these bolts etc are properly
supported before the bolt, bush etc is removed.

Main/rear spar bolts/ bushes may be removed (again ensuring adequate

support of fuselage/wing, tailplane etc). Primary joints may have bushed holes
and the bushes should also be withdrawn. Corrosion on the surface of these
bolts and bushes and timber discolouration, will provide a useful indicatiol ,f
any water penetration. Bolts and bushes should be smeared with an appr zd
protective treatment before being refitted through wooden members.

Note. When refitting bolts it is important to ensure that the same number of
shrinkage washers are fitted as were fitted originally.

Experience of a particular aircraft will indicate those parts of the structure

most prone to water penetration and entrapment (eg a t window rails or the
bottom lower structure of entry doors), but it must be remembered that this is
not necessarily indicative of the condition of the whole aircraft.

All drain holes should be kept clear of debris, paint, dope etc.
Water Penetration of Top Surfaces

The condition of the weather-proofed fabric covering must be checked (set. later
text). If in any doubt about its weather-proofing or if are any signs of poor
adhesion, cracks or other damage, it should be peeled back to allow a more
thorough inspection.

Where the fabric covers a plywood layer the condition of the exposed ply
surface should be examined and if water penetration has occurred, this will be
shown by dark grey streaks along the grain and a dark discolouration at ply
joints or screw countersunk holes, together with patches of discolouratior~.If
these marks cannot be removed by light scraping, or in the case of advanced
deterioration, where there are small surface cracks or separation of the ply
laminations, then the ply should be replacedlrepaired iaw the SRM.

The fabric can be replaced/repaired after the ply repair.

Qther Defects

Of course, water/moisture penetration is not the only defect that can occur to
wooden structures. Below are listed others that should be examined for.

Shrinkage. This can induce stresses in glued joints and cause looseness of
metal fittings or bolts and, if fluctuating loads are present, can result in
damage to the wood fibres a t the edges of the fittings or around the bolt holes.
Shrinkage can be detected by removing any paint or varnish as described
above and attempting to insert a thin feeler gauge between the timber and the
fitting or bolt head.

Elongated Bolt Holes. All bolt holes should be examined for elongation or local
surface crushing of the wood fibres. The bolts should be removed to facilitate
the examination and, in some cases, the bolt itself may be found to be strained.
Rectification of elongated bolt holes is carried out in accordance with the SRM,
'-he usual method being to open out the holes and fit steel bushes.

Remember, when removing bolts to support the structure that the bolt is

Bruising and Crushing. Bruising or crushing of structural members can be

caused by over-tightening of bolts, excessive loads being placed on the
structure during maintenance etc. Repair schemes for such damage arc
governed by the extent and depth of the defect and given in the SRM.

Compression Failures. Sometimes referred to as compression shakes, art: due

to rupture across the wood fibres. This is a serious defect which at times is
difficult to detect and special care is necessary when inspecting any wood(:n
member which has been subjected to abnormal bending or compressive loads
which may occur during a heavy landing.
In the case of a member having been subjected to an excessive bending load,
the failure will appear on the surface which has been compressed, usually at a
position of concentrated stress such a s a t the end of a hardwood packing
block. The surface subject to tension will normally not show any defect. For a
member taking an excessive direct compressive load, the failure will usually
show on all surfaces.

Where a compression failure is suspected, a strong light source shone along

the member, in line with the grain, will assist in revealing the disruption of the
grain lines.

Previous Repairs. Not really a defect, but when carrying out a structural
examination always inspect repairs carefully for integrity.

,Joint Failure

A glued joint may fail in service a s a result of a n accident, poor workmanshi-,

or due to excessive loads being imposed. It is often difficult to decide the n? ire
of the load which caused the failure, but it should be borne in mind that g l ~ c d
joints are generally designed to take shear loads.

If a joint is designed to take a tension load, it will be secured by a number of

bolts or screws (or both) fairly closely pitched in the area of the loading. If a
failure occurs in this area, it is usually difficult to form an opinion of the actual
reasons for it, due to the break-up of the timber occurring close to the bolts.

In all cases of glued joint failure, whatever the direction of loading, there
should be a fine layer of wood fibres adhering to the glue, whether or not the
glue has come away completely from one section of the wood member. If there
is no evidence of fibre adhesion, this may indicate glue deterioration, but if the
imprint of wood gain is visible in the glue this is generally due to 'case
hardening' of the glue during construction of the joint and the joint has always
been below strength. If the glue exhibits a certain amount of crazing or sta-
shaped patterns, this indicates a too rapid setting time, or the pot life of th,
glue has been exceeded. In these cases, the other glued joints in the aircrh,,
should be considered suspect.

Damage caused by a heavy landing may be found some distance away from the
landing gear attachment points. Secondary damage can be introduced by
transmitted shock from one end of a strut or bracing to the other, causing
damage well away from the point of impact. A thorough inspection of the
existing paint or varnish a t suspected primary or secondary impact points may
reveal, by cracks or flaking, whether damage has actually occurred.


If the aircraft is stored outside or in hot dry conditions then special checks will
be required for deterioration of wood, joints, fabric and painting and doping

Whenever wooden parts sustain damage, a detailed inspection must be carried

out - firstly around the primary damage area (where the initial impact
occurred) and then the surrounding area to check for secondary damage
Secondary damage in the form of cracks, bowing and splitting sometimes
occurs a distance away from the primary damage area caused by shock
transmission along members.

Repairs are carried out to damaged areas and to areas where deterioration has
occurred strictly iaw the repair manual (SRM).If a repair scheme is not
specified by the manufacture for a particular part of the structure/particular
type of damage then the manufacturer should be contacted for detail of how to

The purpose of a repair is to obtain a structure a t least a s strong a s the

original. Severe damage may require replacement of the entire damaged
assembly, but minor damage can be repaired by cutting away the damaged
members and replacing them with new sections. This replacement is
accomplished by glue, or glue and nails, or glued and screw splicing.

Damage may be classed as:

* Negligible - small areas of wood damage that might just need
blending out and a varnish treatment.
* Damage repairable by patching. A plywood patch or length of
timber applied over the damaged area (after the damage has been
cut to a regular shape). Fitted using glue, nails and/or screws.
* Damage repairable by insertion. The damage is c u t to a regular
shape and a n insertion is spliced in.
* Damage repairable by replacement. The whole section is removed
and a new section fitted.


Standard wood working tools are required to include hammers, mallets, saws
(hand and powered), wood chisels, planes, spoke shaves (a sort of small hand
plane) drill bits, screwdrivers, sanding equipment, scrapers, rasps, glue pots,
glue mixing equipment, clamps etc.


These include various sizes of nails, panel pins, woodscrews and glue resins
and hardeners.
Safety equipment includes overalls, gloves, breathing equipment and goggles.

Several types of wood are commonly used. Solid wood such a s beams or planks
will be needed and also various thicknesses of plywood (sometimes just ply or
laminated wood) will be required.

Laminated wood is an assembly of two or more thin layers (veneers) of wood,

which have been glued together with the grain of all layers approximately
parallel. or layers or plies and can have
up to 5 plies or more
Plywood is usually made of a n odd number of veneers with the grain of each
layer a t an angle of 90" with the adjacent ply or plies. High-density material
includes compreg, impreg or similar commercial products, heat stabilised wood
or any of the hardwood plywoods commonly used a s bearing or reinforcement
plates. The woods listed below are used for structural purposes. For interior
trim, any of the decorative woods such a s maple or walnut can be used.

WOOD USES (Only where specified in the SRM)

Spruce All structural members.

Douglas Fir May be used a s substitute for spruce in same

sizes or in slightly reduced sizes.

Noble Fir May be used as substitute for spruce.

Western Hemlock May be used a s substitute for spruce.

Northern White Pine Cannot be used a s substitute for spruce without

increase in sizes to compensate for reduced

White Cedar May be used a s substitute for spruce in same

sizes or in slightly reduced sizes.

Yellow Poplar Should only be used a s a substitute for spruce

after accounting for reduced strength properties.

All wood and plywood used in the repair of aircraft structures must be of
aircraft quality. Ideally the wood used to repair a part should be the same as
that of the original whenever possible. If it is necessary to substitute a different
wood, always follow the recommendations a s laid down in the SRM.

Maximum grain inclination shollld not exceed 1: 15

Permitted Defects

Ideally the wood should be defect free but often this is not possible and some
defects will be present. Some defects are allowed - other are not.

Cross grain. Spiral grain, diagonal grain or a combination of the two is

acceptable providing the grain does not diverge from the longitudinal axis of
the material more than 1:15. A check of all four faces of the board is necessary.
The direction of free-flowing ink will assist in determining grain direction

Wavy, curly and interlocked grain. Acceptable if irregularities do not exceed

limitations specified a s above.

Hard knots. Sound hard knots u p to 3/8" (10mm) diameter are acceptable
providing: (1) they are not in projecting portions of the I-beams, along the edges
of rectangular or bevelled unrouted beams, or along the edges of flanges of box
beams (except in lowly stressed portions) and (2) they do not cause grain
divergence a t the edges of the board or in the flanges of a beam more than
1 : 15.

They should not be in the centre third of the beam and should not be closer
than 20" (508mm) to another knot or other defect (applies to lOmm knots -
smaller knots may be proportionately closer).

Pin knot clusters. Small clusters are acceptable providing they produce only a
small effect on grain direction.

Pitch pockets. Acceptable in the centre portion of a beam providing they are a t
least 14" (356mm) apart where they are in the same growth ring and do not
exceed 1%'' (38mm) in length by %" (3mm)width by 1/8" depth and providirig
they are not along the projecting portions of I-beams, along the edges of
rectangular or bevelled unrouted beams, or along the edges of the flanges of
box beams.

Mineral streaks. Acceptable providing there is no decay.

Defects Not Permitted

Spike knots. These are knots running completely through the depth of the
beam perpendicular to the annual rings and appear most frequently in
quartersawed lumber.

Checks, shakes and splits. Checks are longitudinal cracks extending,

generally, across the annular rings. Shakes are longitudinal cracks usually
between two annular rings. Splits are longitudinal cracks induced by induced
Compression wood. This defect reduces the strength of the wood and is difficult
to recognise. It is characterised by its high specific gravity (heavy) and it has
the appearance of a n excessive growth of summer wood. In most woods it
shows little contrast in colour between the spring wood and the summer wood,
If in doubt reject the wood, or subject samples to a toughness test.

Compression failures. This is caused by the wood being overstressed in

compression by natural forces during the growth of the tree, felling trees on
rough or irregular ground, or rough handling of logs. Compression failures are
characterised by a buckling of the fibres that appear as streaks on the surface
substantially a t right angles to the grain and can show as pronounced failures
to very fine hairlines. In doubtful cases carry out a toughness test.

Decay. Examine all stains and discolorations to determine whether or not they
decay. All wood must be free from decay.

Spliced Joints

This a process of inserting a piece of solid wood or ply into a n existing w o o ~ c n


The scarf joint is generally used in splicing structural members. The two pieces
to be joined are cut a t a n angle (bevelled) and glued. The slope of the bevel
should be not less than 10 to 1 in solid wood and 12 to 1 in plywood. The scarf
is cut in the general direction of the grain.




When making the scarf it is important to ensure that the two mating edges are
in close contact. The best method for doing this is to cut the two scarf mating
edges separately then clamp them together using G clamps and 2 strong
timbers (two by four - 2in x 4in). Then a fine toothed saw is run down the joint
to act similar to a router.

The process may need repeating after tapping the timbers closer together. The
edges are then given a light plane.

The scarf may not be exactly 1 in 10 (though it should be close) but a t least the
two mating surfaces will be exactly parallel to provide a sound glued joint.
If softwood, subsequent sanding should not be carried out but is recomnlr.nded
for some hard plyu~oodsurfaces, wood that has been compressed through
exposure to high pressure and temperatures, resin-impregnated wood (irr~pr-eg
and compreg), or laminated paper plastic (papreg)

It is recommended that no more than 8 hours elapse between final surhc:e

finishing and gluing.

Plywood Skin Repairs

Most skin repairs can be made using:

* The surface or overlay patch - a rectangular, triangular, oral c.)r
round patch fitted over the cleaned out damaged area.
* The splayed or flush fitting patch - for use with smaller damaged
The scarf patch - similar to the splayed patch but uses a scarf of 1
in 12 and used for bigger repairs.
* A plug patch - similar to an insertion repair for metal airframes.
* A fabric patch - for very small holes.

The Surface Patch

Should not be used on plywood over l/s inch (3mm) thick and the general
procedure is:

1. Consult the SRM for repair details and the AMM for details of
systems and equipment that may need removing to gain access.

2. Bring aircraft and materials into hangar for 24 hours to allow to

get to correct temperature for gluing (if in cold climate).

3. Trim the damage rectangular or triangular shape depending on the

location of the damage relative to other structure such a s frarnes
and formers. The corners of the cutout should be rounded with a
radius of a t least five times the thickness of the skin.

4. Classify the damage - this is always carried out after cleaning out
the damage to a regular shape.

5. Manufact~x-ethe backing plates (doublers) from ply a t least a s

thick a s the skin. These are reinforcements placed under thc edge
of the hole inside the skin.
The doubler should extended from one framing member to another
and are strengthened at the ends by saddle gussets attached to the

6. Cut the patch to extend a t least 12 times the skin thickness

beyond the edges of the opening from material of the same kind
and thickness a s the original skin. The edges of the patch are
bevelled (scarfed).

7. Apply glue to a.11 surfaces (refer to the adhesives section in this

book) and nail to prevent any movement. Clamp together if
possible --if not apply weights to ensure surfaces are held tightly

8. After the glue has dried the area should be covered with fabric if on
the outside of the aircraft. The fabric should overlap the original
ply skin by a t least 2 inches (51mm).

9. The fabric should be doped and any paint schemes reapplied.

10. Any disturbed systems refitted and function tested.

11. The appropriate documentation cleared eg the CRS completed.




3T 114" MIN

-- i


The leading edge of a surface patch should be bevelled with an angle of at least
four times the skin thickness. The face-grain direction of the ply patch must be
in the same direction a s the original skin.
The Splayed or Flush Patch

A splayed patch is a patch fitted into the plywood to provide a flush surface.
The term 'splayed' denotes that the edges of the patch are tapered, but thy
slope is steeper than is allowed in scarfing joints. The slope of the edges is cut
at an angle of five times the thickness of the skin.

Splayed patches are used for small holes where the largest dimension of the
hole to be repaired is not greater than 15 times the skin thickness and t.hy skin
thickness is not more than 0.1" (2.5mm).

After trimming the damage to a regular shape, tack a small piece of plywood
under the hole to provide a centre point for a compass. Draw two concentric
circles around the damaged area on the aircraft skin. The difference between
the radii is five times the skin thickness. The inner circle marks the limit of the
actual hole and the outer one marks the limit of the taper.

Cut out the inner circle and taper the hole evenly to the outer mark with a.
-,hisel, knife or rasp. Prepare a circular patch, cut and tapered to match the
nole. The patch is of the same type and thickness as the plywood being

Apply glue to the bevelled surfaces and place the patch into place with the
face-grain direction matching that of the original surface.

After the patch is in place, a pressure plate cut to the same size of the patch is
centred over the patch, with waxed paper between the two and pressed firmly
against the patch with a weight or clamp to provide pressure. Do not use
excessive pressure. After the glue has set, fill, sand and finish the patch to
match the original surface.



I 4 I- \ \


Scarf Patch

Scarf patches are preferred for most skin repairs as they provide a smooth
outer finish. The scarf patch differs from the splayed patch in that it car1 be
larger (limits laid down in SRM) and the edges are scarfed to a 10 to 1 slope
instead of the 5 to 1 used with the splayed patch. The scarf patch also uses
reinforcements under the patch where the glue joints occur.
Scarfed patches are used on flat surfaces or curved surfaces provided they are
not too curved (greater than 100 times the skin thickness). Backing blocks or
other reinforcements must be shaped to fit any skin curvature.


/ / 1


Whenever possible, the scarf edge of the patch should be supported internally.

A backing block is shaped from solid wood and fitted to the inside surface of
the skin and is temporarily held in place with nails. A hole, the same size as
the inside circle of the scarf patch, is made in the block and is centered ove-
the trimmed area of damage. The block is removed after the glue on the pa' -1
has set, leaving a flush surface to the repaired skin.

When the back of a damaged plywood skin is not accessible, it should be

repaired a s follows: After removing the damaged sections, install backing
strips along all edges that are not fully backed by a rib or spar. To prevent
warping of the skin, backing strips should be made of a soft textured plywood,
such a s yellow poplar or spruce rather than solid wood. All junctions between
backing strips and ribs or spars should have the end of the backing strip
supported by a saddle plywood gusset.

If needed, nail and glue the new gusset plate to the rib or frame. It may be
necessary to replace the old gusset plate with a new saddle gusset, or it may be
necessary to nail a saddle gusset over the original.

Attach nailing strips to hold backing strips in place while the glue sets. U s , 3
bucking bar if necessary to provide support when nailing. After the glue SF. i,
fill and finish to match the original skin.

Plug Patches

Similar to an insertion patch, they may be oval or round and are used on
plywood skins. They are used only for damage that does not involve the
supporting structure under the skin.

The plug patch is made u p of a plug or insert with edges cut square and a
backing piece or doubler.

/ \\ /



The skin is cut out to a clean round or oval hole with square edges. The patch
is cut to the same size and when installed, the edge of the patch forms a butt
joint with the edge of the hole.

A round patch can be used where the cutout is no larger than 6" (152mrn) in
diameter. The general procedure is not too unlike that described for a si-lrface
repair with the following main points of difference:

1. A plug patch is cut of same material and thickness a s the original

skin with square edges.

2. Cut insert and hole in skin the same size.

3. Cut the doubler or backing piece of %" (6mm) plywood.

4. Apply a coat of glue to the outer half of the doubler surface where
it will bear against the inner surface of the skin.

5. Centre doubler a t back of skin hole. Nail in place using a bxlcking

bar or similar support for backing and clamp.

6. After the glue has set, apply glue to the centre surface of the
doubler and insert. Place the insert in hole and screw with No 4
wood screws a t 1" (25mm) pitch.

7. Apply pressure to patch by means of a pressure plate. Place waxed

paper or cellophane between plate and patch to prevent glue from
sealing plate to the patch.

9. After the glue has set, remove pressure plate, waxed paper, nails
and screws. Fill nail and screw holes, sand and finish to match the
original surface.

The steps for making an oval plug patch are similar to those for making the
round patch. The maximum dimensions for oval patches are 7" by 5" (178mrn x
Fabric Patch

Small holes that do not exceed more than 1" (25mm) in diameter, after being
trimmed to a smooth outline, can be repaired by doping a fabric patch on the
outside of the plywood skin. The edges of the trimmed hole should first be
sealed and the fabric patch should overlap the plywood skin by at least 1".
Holes closer than 1 inch to any frame, or in the wing leading edge or frontal
area of the fuselage, should not be repaired with fabric patches. The patch
should have a serrated edge.

Spar And Rib Repairs (Solid Wood Repairs)

For minor damage the web members of a spar or rib can be repaired by
applying a n external or flush patch, provided the damaged area is small.
Planks of spruce or plywood of sufficient thickness to develop the longitudinal
shear strength can be glued to both sides of the spar. Extend the planks well
beyond the termination of any damage - a s laid down in the SRM.

If more extensive damage has occurred, the web should be cut back to
structural members and repaired with a scarf patch or joint. Not more than
two splices should be made in any one spar.

A spar may be spliced at any point except near highly stressed areas such as
wing attachment fittings, landing- gear fittings, engine mountings, or lift and
inter-plane strut fittings. Splicing under minor fittings such a s drag wires,
anti-drag wires or compression strut fittings is acceptable provided that the
reinforcement plates of the splice should not interfere with the proper
attachment or alignment of the fittings. For other fittings any measurements a s
to proximity/overlapping of reinforcing backing pieces etc are not exceeded.

Always splice and reinforce plywood webs with the same type of plywood as the
original. Do not use solid wood to replace plywood. Plywood is stronger in
shear than solid wood of the same thickness because of the variation in
grain direction of the individual plies. The face-grain of plywood replaceme.
webs and reinforcement plates must be in the same direction a s that of the.
original member to ensure that the new web will have the required strength.

Bolt and Bushing Holes

All bolts and bushings used in aircraft structures must fit tightly into the
holes. Looseness allows the bolt or fitting to work back and forth which will
enlarge the hole. In cases of elongated bolt holes in a spar or cracks in the
vicinity of boltholes, splice in a new section of spar or replace the spar entirely.

Holes drilled to receive bolts should be of such a size that the bolt can be
inserted by light tapping with a mallet. If the hole is so tight that heavy blows
are necessary to insert the bolt, deformation of the wood may cause splitting or
unequal load distribution.
Well-sharpened twist drills produce smooth holes in both solid wood and
plywood. The twist drill should be sharpened to approximately a 60" c u t t ~ n g

Bushings made of plastic or light alloy provide additional bearing surfacv area
without any significant increase in weight. Sometimes steel bushings are used
to prevent crushing the wood when bolts are tightened.

Rib Repairs

A cap strip of a rib can be repaired using a scarf splice. The repair is reinforced
on the side opposite the wing covering by a spruce block, which extends
beyond the scarf joint not less than three times the thickness of the strips
being repaired. The entire splice, including the reinforcing block, is rei~lforced
on each side by a plywood plate.

When the cap strip is to be repaired a t a point where there is a joint between it
and cross members of the rib, the repair is made by reinforcing the scarf joint
with plywood gussets.

When it is necessary to repair a cap strip a t a spar, the joint should be

reinforced by a continuous gusset extending over the spar.

Edge damage, cracks, or other local damage to a spar can be repaired by

removing the damaged portion and gluing in a properly fitted block, reinforcing
the joint by means of plywood or spruce blocks glued into place.

The trailing edge of a rib can be replaced and repaired by removing the
damaged portion of the cap strip and inserting a softwood block of white pine
or spruce. The entire repair is then reinforced with plywood gussets and nailed
and glued.

Compression ribs (the members fitted between the top and bottom of a rib)
come in many different forms and their repair will be specified in the S R M .

Ideally smaller items structural members such a s glue blocks, filler blocks,
compression members, braces and rib diagonals should be replaced.


The fabric covering of a n airframe is to provide a n aerodynamic airtight and

weatherproof covering (achieved after doping and painting). The fabric has
some strength in tension but non in compression.

If a large area of the aircraft is to be covered (or the whole aircraft) an

opportunity presents itself for the inspection of the complete skeleton of t /le
airframe and a visually inspection of all the systems, pipelines, cables, c-ot i trol
runs etc.
at manufacture,
aircraft fabric is
Fabric type and weight is determined by speed of the stretched
aircraft and the maximum wing loading
All foreign matter is removed and protective treatments (as prescribed in the
relevant drawings/AMM) must be applied. It may be necessary to install flying
control cables, electric cables, fuel tanks and other syst~ems/components
before covering large areas and these should be inspected as necessary and
checked for security. The most suitable conditions for fabric covering are -
room temperature [16"C to 2 1O C (61O F to 70F)]and a relative humidity of not
more than 70%.


This part of the book describes the materials used in the covering of UK
manufactured aircraft. Non UK fabric-covered aircraft use these or similar
materials manufactured in accordance with equivalent specifications.

Natural Fabrics

Supplied in bolts, rather like large toilet rolls. These fabrics are woven frorr
spun threads or 'yarns'; those running lengthwise are termed the Warp YalLis
and those running crosswise are termed Weft Yarns (they run from weft to
white - a play on words 'Left to Right').

After manufacture the fabric is inspected by being passed over a light-box and
any defects noted. These are marked by sewing a small piece of red cotton on
the selvedge of the fabric. The fabric is then wound on a spindle to form the

The selvedge is the non-fraying edge of the fabric where the weft yarns are
'turned around' during the weaving process.

When in use the bolt is hung from a steel bar suspended from the ceiling and
the fabric is pulled down in a similar way to how toilet paper is pulled from a
toilet roll. Where a defect is noted (by the red cotton on the self-edge) that 2--a
is c u t away and is not used for aircraft work.

The number of yarns per centimetre (or per inch) varies with different weights
of fabric and is not necessarily the same in both the warp and the weft

When an unsupported fabric covering is required to carry air loads,

unbleached linen to British Standards (BS) F1 is normally used, but some
aircraft have coverings of cotton fabric complying with BS F8, BS F57, BS F116
or DTD 575A.

A light cotton fabric complying with BS F 114 (referred to a s Madapolam) is

generally used for covering plywood surfaces. This acts as a key to the doping
scheme, giving added strength, weather proofing and improved surface finish.







Linen tapes complying with B8 F1 and cotton tapes complying with BS F8 are
available in various widths. They are used to cover leading edges, trailing
edges, ribs, stitching and for repair work. They are usually doped into position
- the dope acting as an adhesive. The tapes are supplied with serrated edges
sometimes called pinked edges.

If linen tape is not available then I t may be cut from a bolt of fabric using a soft
pencil and rule for marking out and cutting using pinking shears (serrated
edge scissors). If serrated edge scissors are not available the edges of the fabric
must have their wrap yarns removed (teased away) to leave only the weft yarns
for a %" (6mm) on each side.

The reason why the edges of the tape are serrated is that the zigzag edge
effectively lengthens the edge (compared to if it was straight) - and this
provides a longer edge to give better adhesion.

Cotton tape complying with BS F47 (referred to as 'Egyptian Tape') is generally

used on those members where chafing may occur between the structure and
the fabric and is also used externally to protect the fabric against damage by
the stringing cord (stringing = tying the fabric onto ribs etc).

Egyptian tape (which is quite expensive) has three thread inclinations - weft,
warp and bias - with the bias thread being woven a t 45'. Both edges are
selvedges and therefore it cannot be made u p by cutting from the bolt but must
be ordered in from stores.
Thread. Used for hand or machine sewing. Linen thread complying with BS
F34 is normally used. For hand sewing, No 40 thread (minimum breaking
strength 3 kg [7 lb]) is used double, or No 18 thread (minimum breaking
strength 7.25 kg [ l 6 Ib]) is used single. For machine sewing, No 30 thread
(minimum breaking strength 4.5 kg [ l o lb]) or No 40 thread is used.

Sewing machines are not too unlike domestic sewing machines - but often
have a longer arm to allow for sewing greater amounts of material. They are
used to sew together pieces or fabric prior to putting on the aircraft.


Flax cordage complying with BS F35 or braided nylon cord (coreless) complying
with DTD 5620 is normally used. Used to tie the fabric to the structure.

Eyeleted Fuselage Webbing

On a number of older aircraft, cotton-webbing braid with hooks, or lacing

eyelets and kite cord, are used for securing the fabric to the fuselage.

Man-Made Fabrics

Natural fabrics, such as cotton or linen, deteriorate in use a s a result of the

effects of sunlight, mildew or atmospheric pollution and may require
replacement several times during the life of the aircraft.

Man-made fabrics are rlow approved and used extensively on many aircraft
which makes fabric recovering less frequent.

The two main types of materials are polyester-fibre and glass-fibre, which are
marketed under various trade names (Dacron etc). The general procedure for
the use of these fabric is given below but, of course, you should always cor, ~ l t
the AMM/SRM for the aircraft concerned -- and follow the fabric
manufacturer's recommendations.

Polyester-Fibre Materials. These may be attached to the structure by the

methods described later under the heading "Covering Methods" or by use of
pre-sewn envelopes ("sock" method) or by use of an approved adhesive a t the
points of contact with the structure. The materials used for attachment and
stringing must be compatible with the main fabric.

Before stringing, polyester fibre covers are tautened by the application of heat,
the degree of shrinkage being proportional to the heat applied. The most
common method of applying heat is a household iron set a t about 120C ('wool'
setting) and used in an ironing motion. Care is necessary to prevent the
application of excessive heat as this may melt the fibre, or overtauten the fabric:
and distort the airframe structure.
Where non-tautening dope is used after fabric fitting, the fabric may be fully
tautened prior to doping (check by tapping the fabric with the fingers - it
should be tight - similar to a drum, but not too tight), but where tauteri~rrg
dope is used the initial shrinkage should leave the cover fairly slack, since
tautenir~gwill continue over- a period of months after the dope has bee11

(If in doubt as to how much tautening is needed - make u p a wooden frame

about a metre square - cover it with fabric - and use it a s a test piece. One can
always do this some days before the planned time for the actual doping so as to
be ready when the time comes.)

Repairs within the specified limits may be carried out (as described later), a n d /
or patches may be stuck on, using a suitable adhesive. Large patches should
be tautened in the same way as the main covering fabric.

Glass-Fibre Materials. Glass-fibre fabric is normally fitted to mainplanes and

tailplanes in a spanwise direction, being attached a t the leading and trailing
.edges with a 50mm (2 in) doped seam. Fuselages may conveniently be covered
using four pieces of material a t the top, bottom and sides, doped seams again
being employed. Some glass-fibre material is pre-treated to make it compatible
with cellulose acetate butyrate dope and is not suitable for use with cellulose
nitrate dope.

Glass-fi'bre material is only slightly tautened by doping and must be a good

initial fit, after which glass-fibre stringing should be fitted in the appropr-ia.te

Repairs within the specified limits may be made by cutting out the damaged
area of fabric and doping on a cover patch which overlaps 50mm (2 in) a11


All materials used for fabric covering should be stored at a temperature of'
about 20C (68F)in dry, clean conditions and away from direct sunlight.
When required for use, the materials should be inspected for possible flaws (eg
iron mould discolouration, signs of insect, rodent or other damage) and any
affected parts rejected.


The structure should be prepared by removing all sharp edges from any parts
which will be in contact with the fabric. Wood should be lightly sanded a11d
metal edges taped with Egyptian tape to prevent chafing. Where any covering
tape is wound on structure it is important to ensure that the covered parts are
suitable protected from corrosion (metal parts) or deterioration generally
(wooden parts) - and all carried out in accordance with (iaw) the SRM.
The structure to be covered should be inspected as outlined above. Corners,
- projections,
- -
bolt or screw heads etc should be suitable protected. Where
serious chafing may occur and a strong reinforcement is required, a canvas or
leather patch may be sewn to a fabric patch, then doped into position.

In order to prevent dope from reacting with any protective treatment and to
prevent fabric from adhering to wooden structure (where it should not adhere),
all aerofoil members whlch will be in contact with the fabric are normally
covered with adhesive cellulose or aluminium tape, or painted with dope-
resistance white paint. Exceptions to this requirement are described later.

On some aircraft, which have a tubular metal fuselage frame (primary

structure), the fuselage shape is made u p with wooden formers attached to the
main framework and to these wooden formers are secured stringers onto which
the fabric covering is doped. This secondary structure must be inspected for
security and any sharp edges removed with fine glass paper.

Where stringing is likely to be chafed by parts of the structure, protection

should be provided by wrapping such parts with Egyptian tape. Before the
tape is applied the structure should be treated with varnish to protect it fr~.,n
corrosion should the tape become wet.

Flying/other controls and cables should be tensioned to assume their normal

positions and secured by cont.ro1 locks.


An aircraft fabric may be fitted with the warp or weft running a t 45" to the
slipstream, or in line with the slipstream. The former (bias) method is generally
considered to be stronger and more resistant to tearing, but the latter method
is used on most light aircraft. Two covering methods are described below, but
the actual method used will depend on the SRM.

The Prefabricated Envelope

Sometimes called the "sock method" where a fabric envelope is made u p on the
bench using machine sewing etc. Each envelope is made u p from a pattern
using accurate measurements (rule, pencil etc). An envelope is made u p for the
for the mainplanes, fuselage, tailplane, fin, flying control surfaces etc.

The envelopes are made loose enough (but not too loose) to facilitate slipping
them over the structure and to achieve the proper tautness after doping. They
are attached to the structure by stringing or other approved methods. Some
fixtures may be fitted and the material doped, painted etc.

On mainplanes the envelope is drawn over the wing tip and gradually pulled
down towards the root, generally keeping the spanwise seam in line with the
trailing edge.
When the cover is located it is secured (by stitching, cementing, or retaining
strip) to the inboard end of the mainplane, and necessary openings for cables,
struts, tank caps, etc are cut and stringing is applied a s necessary.

For the fuselage the envelope may be open, or partially open, a t the bottom, to
simplify fitting. The fin envelope is usually fitted first; then the fuselage
envelope is stretched forwards over the fuselage and secured in the same way
a s the original fabric. The cover is usually cemented or doped to the fuselage

Control surface envelopes are usually left open at. the hinge line, where tliey
are secured by cementing, doping or stitching.

The Blanket Method

With this method the fabric is cut to shape, and machined together to forrn
larger areas and then attached to the structure.

$or the mainplanes a n d tailplanes the cover is normally made-up from lengths
of fabric machine stitched together. This is wrapped around the mainplane
from front to rear starting and finishing a t the trailing edge and joined by hand
stitching using the Trailing Edge stitch. On some aircraft with light alloy
structure, hand stitching is dispensed with and the edges are doped into
position. The fabric is then attached to the ribs by stringing.

A number of different methods are used to attach fabric to the fuselage. The
fabric is not normally attached in one piece, but usually consists of several
pieces (eg sides, top a n d bottom), which are doped separately onto the frame or
sewn together a t their edges. Joins or seams are covered with doped-on tape.
Since the air loads on the fuselage are not as great a s on the mainplanes, it is
not usual to employ stringing, although it may be specified in some instances.

Control surfaces are covered in a similar way to the mainplanes and usually
require stringing. The fabric is normally folded round the hinge line and sewn
cogether round the remaining contour of the surface a t the trailing edge.


This may be carried out by a sewing machine (off the aircraft) or hand sewing
(off or on the aircraft). Obviously machine sewing is significantly faster arltl
more accurate, but when it comes to accuracy all sewing is carried out by first
marking out with a rule and soft pencil. A line is drawn on the fabric along
which the line of stitches is to run and, for hand stitching, the pitch of eac:h
individual stitch is marked (not too unlike the marking out used when
Before commencing the actual stitching the two pieces of fabric are 'tack
stitched' together. This entails the temporary stitching of the fabric at fairly
widely spaced intervals just to hold the fabric pieces in place. As the normal
stitching progresses so the tack stitches are removed.

Hand stitching (and stringing) requires a lot of patience.


The seams in the fabric covering should be either parallel to the fore-and-aft
line of the aircraft or on the bias, depending on the covering method used.
With the exception of trailing edge or leading edge joints (where such action
cannot be avoided) seams should never be made at right angles to the direction
of airflow. Two types of machine seams are employed, the balloon seam and the
lap seam.

The balloon seam or French Fell (figure 22), is normally specified for all fabr'-
joints. To make the seam, the edges of the fabric are folded back 16mm (0 .A5
in) and are then fitted into each other as shown, tacked together and then
machine sewn with four stitches per centimetre (nine per inch) in two parallel
lines 9mm (0.375in) apart and 3mm (0.125in) from either edge.



After completion, the seam should be examined over a strong electric light
(preferably a light-box) to ensure that the inside edges of the fabric have not
been missed during sewing.

The lap seam (figure 23) should only be used when specified in the SRM.
Unless the selvedges are present, the edges of the fabric should be serrated
with 'pinking' shears. The edges should overlap each other by 31mm (1-25")
and should be machine sewn with four stitches per centimetre (nine stitches
per inch), the stitch lines being 12mm (0.5")apart and 9mm (0.375")from the
edges. After stitching, a 75mm (3")wide serrated-edge fabric strip should be
doped in position. Note the conversion discrepancies.




Hand sewing includes:

* The Trailing Edge stitch.
* Stringing.
A The Herringbone stitch.
* Darning.
The Boot stitch.

The first two will be dealt with in this section with the remainder being dealt
with in the section headed Fabric Repairs.


All threads used for hand sewing and all cord used for stringing (when not pre-
waxed), should be given a liberal coating of beeswax. This protects the thread,
facilitates sewing and reduces the likelihood of damaging the fabric or
:nlarging the stitch holes when it is pulled through.

The thread is waxed by holding the beeswax in one hand (it is not unlike a bar
of soap) and pulling the thread or cord over the bar. It will wear a small grove
in the bar a n d the process is repeated 2 or 3 times to ensure complete waxing.

Overhand Stitch

Sometimes called the Trailing Edge stitch (figure 24) and is used a t trailing
edges, wing tips and wherever a sudden change in cross section occurs.
Sufficient fabric should be allowed for, for turning under before the fabric is
cut. 12mm (0.5in)turn-under is usually sufficient. An even gap of about 6mm
(0.25in) (usually) should be allowed for pulling up the two edges to obtain the
correct fabric tension, but this figure can only be determined finally by
. . . .. - . FABRIC





The sewing should follow the contour of the component evenly to ensure a good
finish after doping. The number of stitches should be three per centimetre
(eight per inch), with a lock stitch being included about every 50mm (2in). : '

lock is shown a s the last stitch in figure 24.


Flax cord complying with BS F35 is normally used for stringing purposes and
is generally applied in single strands a s shown in figure 25. As a n alternative,
but only when approved by the manufacturer, doubled No 18 thread may be
used during repair work.








When the fabric covering of the component has been completed, cotton ariti-
chafing tape to BS F47 is stretched centrally over the fabric along each rill, top
and bottom and stitched into position a t the trailing edge.

Using a stringing needle (if access cannot be obtained to the rib inside thy
aerofoil the needle must be long enough to pass through the thickness of the
aerofoil) and commencing a t the top surface, the stringing cord should be
passed through the tape and fabric as close to the rib a s possible, out through
the bottom fabric and tape, round the lower rib boom and back u p through
both surfaces again. A double knot is used to secure the first and last stringing
loops and after each 450mm (18") section. In between, single knots are used.

The stringing pitch is normally 75mm (3")but in the slipstream area, or on

aircraft of more than 9 10kg (20001b) weight, the pitch is often reduced to
38mm (1.5").

Variations from these may be stipulated in the relevant SRM and it may be
necessary to vary the pitch in order to avoid internal structure or system

After completion a strip of serrated tape, 37mm (1.5")wide, should be doped

over the stringing line on both surfaces, care being taken to ensure that no air
is trapped under the tape and that the tape is securely attached to the main

Note. The knots shown in figure 25 are typical but different knots may be
specified in the SRM.

Boom Stringing

This type of stringing is used on deep aerofoil sections where it might be

difficult to thread the cord the long distance from the top of the wing to the
bottom. The procedure is similar to that described for ordinary stringing,
except that the cord is passed round the rib boom a t the top and bottom
of round the entire rib.

Top and bottom fabric are therefore attached separately and the inside of each
boom must be taped to prevent chafing of the stringing cord. Alternate rill and
boom stringing is sometimes used on aerofoils of medium depth, ie between
150 and 300mm (6 to 12").

Care must be taken to ensure that all stringing is maintained a t a satisfactory

tension and that it is not so tight a s to cause distortion of the ribs.
The Slip Stream

For stringing purposes, the slipstream area is considered to be the diameter of

the propeller plus one rib on either side. In the case of multi-engined aircraft,
the entire gap between the slipstreams, regardless of its width, is also
considered to be slipstream area.

Miscellaneous Methods of Fabric Attachment

In addition t.o the standard methods of fabric attachment, other methods

maybe employed. Some methods are described below.

Strip Attachment. Attachment of the fabric by wrapping it around a light alloy

strip or rod, which is then secured in a channel or groove is sometimes used
with metal structures (figure 26).







Special Boom Attachment or Special Stringing. These methods can vary

depending on the aircraft. The process shown in figure 27 involves pressing the
fabric into special rib booms using aluminium alloy channel pieces with the
covering fabric protected top and bottom by protective tape. The metal strip is
attached to the boom by screws and the "channel" produced by the fixing is
covered over by a doped on length of tape.
Screws into caged (anchor) nut fixed EDGE STRIP DOPED ON
to underside of rib
\ /





4dhesives. On some small aircraft, where air loads are light, stringing is not
used on the wing and tail surfaces and the fabric is fixed to the structure by
means of a proprietary adhesive. This method produces a much smoother
surface on the fabric and saves time during construction and repair.

Attachment of Fabric to Plywood

Dope is generally used for the attachment of fabric to plywood, but before the
fabric is applied, the wood surface should be smoothed with fine glass paper
and any cavities, such as those caused by the countersinking for screwheads,
filled and allowed to set. The filled area should be kept to the absolute
minimum because of the reduced adhesion of the doped fabric onto filler.

The wood surface should be treated with one coat of tautening dope, followed
by a further coat after the first one has dried. After the second coat of dope has
Iried, the fabric should be spread over the wood and stretched evenly to avoid
wrinkling. A coat of tautening dope should then be brushed into the fabric
making sure that it penetrates through the fabric. For this purpose a fabric
pad is useful for rubbing in the dope.

After the dope has dried it should be lightly rubbed down to remove small
spikes that might have formed using 'wet and dry' rubbing paper (grade 0 or
00). Then the required paint finishing scheme is applied (see later notes on

Attachment of Fabric to Metal Surfaces

Where aluminium alloy is used a s part of the structure (such a s the leatf~ng
edge profile) the fabric is generally doped into position. Alternatively, a
thermoplastic adhesive may be used and guidance on the use of this xn;itt.rial
may be obtained from the SRM.
To ensure satisfactory adhesion of the fabric, the metal surfaces should be
thoroughly cleaned and primed with an etch primer.

Drainage and Verl tilation

Drainage and ventilation holes are necessary on all aircraft particularly fabric
covered ones to minimise corrosion of metal parts, rotting of wood, fabric, etc.

Drainage holes are usually positioned on the lower surfaces of fuselages,

nacelles, mainplanes, tailplanes, control surfaces etc and the AMM will show
their location. After fabric covering the aircraft, these must be replaced by
punching the correct diameter hole in the fabric and doping on a drainage
eyelet. It is common practice to clear the eyelet using a n ice pick once the final
finish has dried.

When holes are used for ventilating purposes, the holes may be located in
sheltered positions regardless of drainage qualities.

Drainage eyelets are usually oval or circular in shape and are doped onto t,,;
surface of the fabric. In some cases they may be secured by stitching through
pre-pierced holes in the eyelets before the finishing scheme is applied.

Shielded or shrouded eyelets may be used to improve either the drainage or the
ventilation, or to prevent the ingress of driving rain or the entry of sea spray
(on marine aircraft). These eyelets must only be used in positions laid down in
the S R M / A M M and must not be used a s an alternative to standard eyelets. It is
also important that the shroud is facing in the correct direction - usually
rearwards for draining and forwards for ventilation - but not necessarily so.



Inspection Panels

Inspection panels are usually cut into the fabric after the completion of fabric
covering. The actual panels employed will vary on the aircraft. Three methods
commonly used are described below.

Woods Frame. These are light circular or square frames, made from celluloid
sheet, which are doped onto the fabric covering at the required positions. The
fabric covering is then cut away from inside the frame and a serrated edged
fabric patch doped over the whole area a s shown in figure 29.

12mm RADII

To use the inspection panel the patch is removed and after the inspection is
carried out a new patch is doped on and the finishing scheme re-applied.

Zip panels. These consist of two zips machine sewn into the fabric in the form
of a vee, the open ends of each zip being a t the apex of the vee. This type of
access is suitable for positions where frequent inspection or servicing is

Sips tend to get clogged u p by dopes, paints etc and can be very difficult to
open so care should be taken to keep the sips clean a t all times.

Spring Panels. This is particularly suitable for use on light aircraft. It consists
of a circular plastic ring and a dished light alloy cover. The ring is doped into
position in the same way a s the Woods Frame and the fabric cut away from the
inside. The cover is fitted by pressing the centre of the cover with the thumbs
whilst holding it in both hands.





The dish shape is reversed away from the clip allowing the clip to be inserted
diagonally in the hole. The complete cover with the clip is rotated to align the
clip under the ring and the pressure is released from the cover. The dishr:d
cover reverts to its normal shape and closes onto the plastic ring a s shown in
figure 30.

If the fabric has been damaged extensively, it is usually impractical and

uneconomical to make repairs by sewing and patching. The extent and
location of damage to the fabric that may be repaired will be detailed in the
SRM, but extensive damage is often made good by replacing the complete fabrlr:
panel. However, the replacement of a large fabric panel, particularly on one
side of a component, may lead to distortion of the structure and it may be
advisable to completely re-cover the component.

Before commencing any repair, the cause of the damage should be ascertained
and rectified - if possible. The internal structure should be inspected for direct.
damage and secondary damage (damage caused by transmitted shock). The
inspection should also include a check for loose objects such a s stones (thrown
u p by tyres), remains of birds, insects, etc. These should be removes and any
structural damage made good.

All dope should be removed by using thinners from the fabric surrounding +%e
damaged area before any stitching is carried out, since doped fabric will t e ~if
any tension is applied to the repair stitches.

Repair to Cuts and Tears

If a straight or L shaped tear it may be repaired using the herringbone stitch

doping a length of tape over it afterwards. If the damage is larger it may be
repaired by darning, if larger still it may be repaired by a n insertion repair.
Outside these limits (all laid down in the SRM) the area will have to be

Herringbone Stitch

The herringbone stitch (also known a s the Ladder Stitch) should be used fc--
repairing straight cuts or tears, which have sound edges and for insertion
repairs. The stitches should be made as shown in figure 3 1, with a lock k - _ ~ t
every 150 mm (6").

There should be a minimum of two stitches to the centimetre (four stitches to

the inch) and the stitches should be 6mm (0.25") from the edge of the cut or
tear. The thread used should be that a s stated earlier in the book and needles
should be just big enough to allow the thread to be threaded through the eye.
Some needles are curved to allow for stitching back u p through the material.
1. Start with 2. Pass thread CUT OR TEAR Finish with a
a thumb under fabric IN FABRIC thumb knot FABRIC
knot , / / \ /

3' Then
over 4.Then through cut & under etc

After the stitching has been completed on a straight tear, a 25mm (1")wide
serrated edge tape should be doped over the length of the stitching.

After a patch repair using the herringbone stitch a square or rectangular fabric
serrated edge patch should be doped over the whole repair, ensuring that the
edges of the patch are parallel to the warp and weft of the fabric covering and
that they overlap the repair by 37mm (1.5").

In both cases the original doping scheme (and paint scheme) should be

Repairs using Woods Frames

This is a recognised method of repair. Damage greater than simple cuts and
tears which cannot be repaired using the herringbone stitch can be repaired by
using the Woods Frame method. The process is similar to that described for
fitting a Woods Frame as a n inspection panel. Repairs of u p to 50mm (2in)
;quare may be made, provided they are clear of seams or attachments by a
distance of not less than 50mm (2in).The affected area should be cleaned with
thinners or acetone and repaired a s follows:

The Woods Frame should be doped into position surrounding the damaged
area and, if the frame is of the square type, the edges should be parallel to the
weft and warp of the covering. When the dope has dried, the damaged portion
of the fabric is cut out and the aperture covered by a fabric patch as previously

If a Woods Frame is not available one can be made from cellulose sheet 0.8mrn
(0.030in)thick with a minimum frame width of 25mm (lin). In the case of the
square type the minimum corner radii should be 12 mm (0.5in).In somt.
cases, aircraft manufacturers use 2mm plywood complying with British
Standard V3 for the manufacture of the frames, in which case it is import-dn t to
chamfcr the outer edges o f the frame to blend with the aerofoil contour.
Repair by Darning

Irregular holes or jagged tears in fabric may be repaired by darning provided

the hole is not more than 50mm (2")wide a t any point. The stitches should
follow the lines of the warp and weft and should be closely spaced as shown in
figure 32. The first darn (weft) should follow the fabric weft yarns a s near a s
possible picking up on sound fabric about 0.25" (6mm) away from the edge of
the damage. The second darn (warp) should follow the warp yarns of the fabric
and the first line should pass OVER - UNDER - OVER etc the weft darns. The
second line should pass UNDER - OVER - UNDER etc the weft yarns with each
successive line alternating the OVER - UNDER - OVER sequence.





The whole repair should be covered with a serrated fabric patch in the usual
way, with a n overlap of 37mm (1.5")from the start of the edge of the darn.

Repair by Insertion

For damage over lOOmm (4") square, insertion repairs are generally used. I NO
methods are described.

Note that when cutting the fabric for repair the corners are not radiised (as in
metal repairs) and, except for round holes the edges of any cuts are in line with
the weft and warp yarns of the covering material. All square and rectangular
patches are cut parallel to the weft and warp yarns.

Normal Insertion Repair

The damaged area of the fabric is cut out to form a square or rectangular hole
with the edges parallel to the weft and warp. Each corner of the hole should
then be cut diagonally (at 45O), to allow a 12mm (0.5")wide edge of the covering
fabric to be folded back under the fabric. This should be held in position with
tacking or hemming stitches.
The patch should be made 25mm (I")larger (in both length and width) than
the cut-out area and each edge should be folded under for 12mm (0.5") and
tacked in position in a manner similar to that described above. In this
condition the size of the insertion patch should be similar to, or slightly smaller
than, that of the cut-out area. Note that none of these edges have pinked
edges .

The insertion patch should be held in position inside the cut-out area with a
few tacking stitches and then sewn in position using a herringbone stitch of
not less than two stitches to the centimetre (four stitches to the inch), as
shown in figures 31 and 33. A 25mm (1")wide tape should then be doped over
the seams.

Important. Before commencing the cutting away of the damage you shoc~l(l
work out the exact size of the repair on a piece of paper noting the pitch of the
stitches being %" (very similar to how a metal repair is carried out). Once
worked out the SRM should be consulted to see if the resulting cut away is
within the repairable (repair by insertion) limits. If it is outside the limits then
there is no need to proceed with the insertion and recovering the whole area
should be considered.

For small repairs a square or rectangular cover patch, with frayed or serrated
edges, is doped in position to overlap the edge of the tape by 3 l m m (1.25").
Where the size of the insertion is more than 225mm (9") square, a 75mm
(3")wide fabric serrated edge tape is used. The tape should be mitred
(a 45"cut) a t the corners and doped in position.

The original finish is then restored.

Pitch of 114" is modified at
the corners 8 the diagonal
stitch forms a figure of 8 &
the inside hole is used



An Alternative Insertion Repair

Consists of cutting away the damaged fabric a s described above, but the edges
of the covering fabric as well as the edges of the insertion patch are turned
upwards (12mm for the covering fabric and 37mm for the insertion).

The insertion is tack stitched in position and a boot stitch is used to stitch it
in correctly. The boot stitch (figure 35) is hand sewn taken along the folded
edges a t Y4" (6mm) pitch (stage 1 in figure 34).



, .' :ITCH , , , , " ,


pizq /,
r I

lf -
r '..-'!--,



Stage 2 entails laying the edges down outwards from the centre of the repair
(folding down) a n d doping in position. A fabric patch is then cut with a 2 5
overlap on all edges a n d doped into position.

Edges of insertion repair a n d patch should be frayed or pinked.

No 18 waxed thread to BS F34 is used for boot stitching. Two threads with two
needles are used crossing past each other through the same hole (or very close
to). The threads are tied together a t the ends a n d with a lock knot every
150mm (6").

Checking Fabric Condition

The fabric covering of a n aircraft will deteriorate with time. The rate of
deterioration depends on the type of operation, climate, storage conditions and
the maintenance of a satisfactory surface finish. Because of water penetration,
oil contamination, chafing and local wear, the covering will deteriorate quicker
in some areas than others.


Fabric & stitches shown before

the stitches are pulled tight



In some cases a n arbitrary life may be placed on the fabric, but fabric coverings
should be checked a t the periods specified in the maintenance schedule and
prior to renewal of the Certificate of Airworthiness.

4 visual examination is carried out on the fabric, inside and out, as far as
possible checking areas where deterioration is likely to occur, or is known to
occur on that particular aircraft. Unless defects are found this is usually
sufficient to warrant acceptance of the condition of the fabric as a whole. If the
strength of the fabric is in doubt then further tests will be necessary.

Fabric Strength Testing

A "rule of thumb" test for checking the strength of the fabric is to push the
fabric hard with the thumb (on an open area of unsupported fabric). If the
thumb pushes through, then the fabric is definitely too weak.

If the thumb moves the fabric in, causing the paint covering to crack, then
further tests are required. If there is little movement of the fabric then it is
likely to be satisfactory. Warning - this method is not reliable and not
satisfactory a s a definitive test.

Note. Any locally cracked paintldope finish can be locally repaired by removing
with an approved solvent and the re-application of the doping/painting
scheme. Make sure the fabric is serviceable first.

A more reliable method is to use a portable tester such as the one shown In
figure 36. These testers are, generally, only suitable for checking the condition
of fabric where the dope finish has penetrated the fabric. Finishes such a s
cellulose acetate butyrate dope do no normally penetrate the fabric and
experience h a s shown that the absorption of moisture in humid c o n d i t i o ~ ~
produce unreliable test results.
In addition, butyrate dope, even when some penetration of the fabric has
occurred, produces a finish which hardens with age, a s a result the conical
point on the tester will not readily penetrate the covering and the test will tend
to indicate that the fabric is stronger than it actually is. Thus where butyrate
dope is used, or where the dope has not penetrated the fabric, laboratory tests
should be tests should be carried out.

For a laboratory test (see later text in this book) a piece of fabric is cut from the
aircraft and the dope is rerrloved using a suitable solvent where necessary. The
test piece is given a tensile test and if it has a strength of a t least 70% of the
strength of new piece of fabric to the appropriate specification then it is
considered airworthy.

Portable Tester. The tester shown consists of a spring loaded penetrating cone
and plunger housed within a sleeve. When pressed against a surface the cone
is forced u p through the sleeve against the spring and the plunger projects
through the top. The tester should be used on single layer unsupported fabric
only and should be held a t 90" to the surface with pressure applied toward?
the fabric in a rotary motion, until the sleeve flange touches the surface (fip. ~ . e

The amount of penetration is indicated by the length of plunger showing above

the sleeve and is marked by coloured bands or a graduated scale.

A table is provided with the tester giving the colour or scale reading required
for a particular type of fabric.

Note. This tester is of American manufacturer and the table supplied refers to
fabric complying with American specifications (AMS, TSO and MIL). It can be
adapted for use on fabrics complying with DTD and BS specifications by
comparing the strength requirement specifications of US and UK fabrics.

The test should be repeated a t various positions locally on the aircraft and the
lowest reading obtained should be taken a s representative of the fabric a s s

All punctures produced by the tester should be repaired with a 50 or 75mm

(2 or 3") diameter doped fabric patch.

Laborato y Tests. These are normally associated with testing for tensile
strength and uses tensile tests and bursting strength tests.

Tensile tests are used on new fabric and require the use of six warp and six
weft samples, each 62mm x 300 to 400mm (2.5in x 12 to 16in) in area. These
test are not generally used for fabric coverings on aircraft, a s they would
necessitate significant areas of fabric removal (and partial re-covering of the
aircraft) - and the fabric might turn out to be serviceable.

maule tester



On aircraft, therefore, it is recommended that the portable tester be used first.

and if the results are not satisfactory, or in-conclusive, samples of fabric
should be sent to a laboratory for bursting strength tests in accordance with
the specification for that particular type of fabric. These tests require small
samples approximately 87mm (3.5") in diameter.

Bursting strength tests can be carried out on a machine operating on the

principle of applying force to a polished steel ball of 25.40mm ( I ") diameter, the
ball being in contact with the test sample, which is clamped between two
circular brass plates having coaxial apertures of 44.45mm (1.75") diameter.
The load is applied a t a constant rate and the load a t the breaking point of the
fabric is the bursting strength of the fabric.

An Instron machine, which operates on this principle, is suitable for

conducting tests on used aircraft fabric. A s an alternative, a machine operating
on hydraulic principles can be used. In this machine, hydraulic pressure is
applied a t a constant rate to a rubber diaphragm, which is positioned to
expand through a clamp aperture of 30.99mm (1.22") diameter, exerting a force
gain st the fabric sample held between the clamps.

Note. The test methods referred to above are in accordance with the American
Federal Test Method Standard No 191, Methods 5120 and 5122 respectively.
All tests must be carried out by an approved test establishment.


This particular subject, doping, is not actually specified in the syllabus but the
CAA has informed u s that it is considered a s an integral part of structural
fabric covering (which it is of course) so questions will be included in the C:AA
examination paper.
Natural fabrics, such as cotton or linen, deteriorate in use a s a result of the
effects of sunlight, mildew and atmospheric pollution. Ma-n-made fibres resist
some of these agents better than natural fabrics but still require protection.

The dope film provides following functions:

a) Tautening of natural fabrics.

b) Waterproofing.
c) Air-proofing.
d) Light-proofing.


Dopes. Dope consists of a number of resins dissolved in a solvent to permit

application by brush or spray. This is modified with plasticisers and pigments
to add flexibility and the required colour (see figure 37). There are two types of
dope in use, namely, cellulose nitrate and cellulose acetate butyrate. The
former is usually known simply as nitrate dope and the latter a s butyrate 0.:
CAB dope. The main difference between the two is the film base.

In nitrate dope a special cotton is dissolved in nitric acid, whilst in butyrate

dope cellulose fibres are dissolved in acetic acid and mixed with butyl alcohols.
The plasticisers in the two dopes are also different, a s are the resin and solvent
balances. Dope must be stored under suitable conditions and has a tendency
to become acid with age. If old dope is used it will quickly rot the fabric. Only
fresh dope should be used, preferably buying it in for the job in hand.

Dope-Proof Paints. Due to the nature of the solvents used in dope, many paints
will be attacked and softened by dopes. Dope-proof paint must be used to coat
structure, which will be in contact with the doped fabric. Spar varnish is used
for wooden structure and a n epoxy primer is suitable for metal structures.

Aluminium Dope. To make the fabric lightproof, preventing damage from ult--7-
violet radiation, a n aluminium dope is used. This is usually supplied readv
mixed but can be prepared by mixing aluminium paste or powder in clear , - ~ p e
but it is essential that the materials are obtained from a n approved supplier
and mixed in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions.

Thinners. Dopes are formulated so that the solid constituents are suspended in
the appropriate solvents. For spraying purposes it will normally be necessary to
thin (reduce the viscosity) of the dope.

It is important that only the thinners a s recommended by the manufacturer of

the dope be used. The amount of thinners required is specified by the
manufacturer and modified by experience t.o take account of the equipment
used, atmospheric conditions etc.
The viscosity can be measured by using a Viscosity Cup, which a cup with a
small hole in the bottom. In use, the cup is dipped into the dope to fill it with
dope. It is then lifted in the air to let. the dope flow out. The flow is timed from
when the c u p is lifted from the container to the first break in the flow.

In this way subsequent batches of dope can be mixed to exactly the same
viscosity as the first batch. It is important that nitrate and butyrate dopes are
mixed only with their own specialised thinners. A retarder, or anti-blush
thinners, is a special type of thinners with slow-drying solvents. By drying
more slowly they prevent the temperature drop and consequent moisture
condensation that cause blushing in a dope finish. In use, the retarder
replaces some of the standard thinners and can be used in a ratio of u p to one
part retarder to four parts of thinners.



Cleaning Agent. Methyl-ethyl-ketone (MEK)is a solvent similar to acetone. I t is

used as a cleaning agent to remove wax and dirt and to prepare surfaces for
2ainting or re-doping. It is also used for cleaning spray guns and other

Fungicides. Since natural fabrics can be attacked by various forms of mildew

and fungus, it may be necessary to provide protection for cottons and linens
when doping. This is achieved a fungicide being added to the first coat of dope.
The dope is usually supplied ready mixed but can be prepared by using a
fungicidal paste obtained from an approved supplier (mixed with the clear dope
in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions).

The first coat of dope should completely penetrate the fabric.

Caution. All fungicides are poisonous. Avoid contact and do not inhale t h e
fumes -- this applies to all solvents, paints etc anyway.
Tack Rags. A tack rag is a rag dampened with thinners and is used to wipe a
surface clean after it h a s been sanded to prepare it for the application of the
next coat. Proprietary cloths are also available.

Sandpaper. Sanding is carried out using wet-or-dry (sometimes called "wet-and

-dry7') paper. This is a waterproof sandpaper supplied in various grades - eg:
280, 360 and 600 (the finest grade).

Safety Precautions

The storage and use of dopes in the UK is covered by various Government

regulations made under the Factories Act.

Solvents are highly flammability. They have a low flash point and the vapour
produced is heavier than air. Once ignited a serious fire, which can spread
rapidly is produced.

A common cause of ignition is the shorting discharge of static electricity

Static electricity can be generated by brushing, sanding and wiping large areas
of fabric (and many other materials) a s when applying dopes, paints and
sanding down and cleaning. Ordinarily this may not be a problem but when
doping etc there are usually large amounts of inflammable fumes in the
atmosphere ready to ignite with the smallest spark.

For example: if an operator is sanding a large area and wearing rubber soled
shoes and not earthed in any way he/she will be a t the same electrical
potential a s the surface. Should the charge on the operator be lost through
bodily contact with some earthed metal part in the hangarlspray shop and
he/she touches the aircraft structure being worked on the static charge will
jump to earth creating a spark and igniting the fumes.

The best way to prevent happening is to eliminate the static charge by

grounding the structure being doped. An earth wire connected between the
structure to a clean metal part of the spray shoplhangar will do the job.

Clothing that is made of synthetic fibres will build u p a static charge more
readily than clothing made from cotton. Leather soled shoes will allow the
static charge to earth to ground.

When spraying (particularly nitrate dope) ensure that the spray gun, the
operator and the structure being doped are all grounded together.

In the spray shop, floors should be kept clean by being doused with water and
swept whilst still wet. Remember, spontaneous combustion can occur if dope
and zinc chromate oversprays are mixed.
The fumes created during the spraying process are hazardous to health ;is well
as being a fire risk. Correct operator protection must be provided a s
recommended by the dope manufacturer's. At the first sign of any irritation of
the skin or eyes, difficulty in breathing or a dry cough, the operator should
stop work and seek medical advice.

All electrical equipment used in the shop must be designed so that it canriot
ignite any fumes. Lead lamps must be of the explosion proof type.

Working Conditions

It is important to control both the temperature and humidity of the air in the
spray shop. It is also necessary to maintain sufficient airflow through the shop
to remove the fumes.

Electric driven explosion proof extractor fans are installed a t floor level in the
shop to extract all the fumes. The rate of airflow is dictated by the size of the
spray shop and is the subject of various Government regulations. The
discharge of the vapours may also be the subject of further requirements and
the advice of the Factory Inspectorate should be sought. The air inlet to the
spray shop should preferably be via a n adjoining room, or behind a baffle to
reduce draughts to a minimum.

Ideally the air and humidity of the incoming air can be controlled in the
adjoining room before it enters the spray shop (cooling with a n air conditioning
unit to remove the moisture then reheating to obtain the correct temperature).

Many problems associated with doping can be traced to incorrect temperature

or humidity of the air and/or the dope. Dope (and any other materials) brought
into the shop from the outside store-room must be allowed to stand overrlight
in the temperature controlled shop. The air temperature should be between 2 1"
and 26C (70" to 79F). If the temperature is too low the rapid evaporation of
the solvents will lower the temperature of the surface to the point where
moisture will condense and be trapped in the finish. Too high a temperature
causes too rapid drying of the dope, which can result in pinholes and blisters.

Ideally the relative humidity should be between 45 and 50% but satisfactory
results can be obtained with relative humidity a s high as 70% or a s low a s 20%
depending on temperature and airflow, but doping is more difficult a t these

Relative humidity can be measured with a hygrometer and although direct

reading instruments are available, the wet and dry bulb type is still the most
common. In this instrument two thermometers are mounted side by side, the
bulb of one being kept wet by water evaporating through a wick.

To take a reading of relative humidity, both thermometers should be reat1 and

the difference between them noted; the wet bulb thermometer will be the lower.
Wet Bulb reaaing away Irom Lne ury DUID reaulrlg g i v ~ r ~Lrlc
g ucprcaslurl V ~ ~ U G

of the Wet Bulb.

The Wet Bulb reading and the Depression Value reading are read off against
each other on a table - where the two columns meet will indicate the % relative

All brushes, spray equipment, cups, containers etc should be kept clean using
thinners before the dope has had time to dry. Oil and water traps in the
airlines should be cleaned regularly and air bottles drained of accumulated
moisture. If equipment has any dried dope, it should be dismantled and the
parts soaked in methyl-ethyl-ketone or a similar solvent. Packings and seals
should never be soaked in solvents or they will harden and become useless.

Preparation Prior To Doping

The area to be doped should be thoroughly cleaned. The correct temperatur

and humidity should be achieved with the atmosphere and all materials.

An inspection should be made of the fabric-covered component to verify the

following points:

a) The structure has been painted with dope-proof paint where

b) Correct and secure attachment of the fabric to the structure.
c) Correct allowance for tautening of the cover where this is a
natural fabric such a s cotton or linen. If the cover is too slack, no
amount of doping will rectify this, if it is too tight, the structure
could easily be distorted.
d) All dust h a s been removed from the fabric.
e) The fabric has reached the correct temperature.
f) Plastics components, such a s windows and windscreens, are
adequately protected against solvent attack. Use solvent proof
masking and masking covers,

With the dope a t the correct temperature, it should be mixed and thinned to
the correct consistency for brush or spray application as appropriate.

Whilst the dope is in storage the solid materials tend to settle and the purpose
of mixing is to make sure these are brought back into suspension.

To mix the dope, half the contents of the tin are poured into a clean tin of the
same size. The remaining dope is stirred until all the solid material is in
suspension. The contents of the first tin are then poured into the contents of
the second and a check made that all pigment has been loosened from the
bottom. Then the dope from one tin is poured into the other and back again,
until it is thoroughly mixed.
Application to Natural Fabric

The best-looking and most durable film is produced by using multiple (.o;its of
a dope that is low in solids. A large number of thin coats, however, requires a
great deal of time and modern dope schemes tend to use fewer, but thicker:
coats than the earlier schemes. The dope scheme is a schedule listing the
number and order of coats of each type of dope.

The standard aircraft doping schemes are 752 (medium tautening), 751 (lrght
tautening - used on light structures that would be distorted by over tautening)
and 753 (heavy tautening - used where a n extra taut cover is required).

Priming Coats. This first coat of dope provides the foundation for all the
subsequent coats. It forms a mechanical attachment by the dope encaps~rlating
the fibres. The dope should be thinned by 25 to 50% and applied by brush.
The dope is worked into the fabric to ensure adequate penetration, but it
should not drip through the other side.

4 fungicide should be added this first coat. When applying the first coat to the
wings, the entire wing should first be doped on both sides aft of the front spar.
The dope should be allowed to shrink the fabric before doping the 1eadir:g edge.
In this way the fabric will tauten evenly and adjust itself over the leading edge
cap without forming wrinkles.

There are three tautness levels available; a low tautness scheme, a medium
tautness scheme and a high tautness scheme. The main difference being the
number of coats of dope. Given below, a s a n example, is shown the medium
tautness scheme.


Dope Weight Normally obtained in the

g/m2 oz/yd2 following number of coats

*ied oxide tautening dope 68 2.0

Aluminium tautening finish 34 1.0
Pigmented non-tautening finishes 34 1.0

Where an aluminium finish is

required the scheme should be:

Red oxide tautening dope 102 3.0

Aluminium non-tautening finish 34 1.0

Where a glossy finish is required

follow with:

Transparent non-tautening finish 34 1.0 1 or 2

Note: A tolerance of + 20% is permissible on any of the weights given above.

After a 1 hour rninimum drying time, apply tapes, drainage eyelets, grommets,
inspection panel rings etc. A heavy coat of nitrate dope should be brushed on
where required and the tape laid on, working it down onto the surface and
rubbing out any air pockets a s the tape is laid. A further coat of clear dope is
brushed over the top of the tapes. Drainage eyelets or grommets and
inspection rings are attached in a similar manner.

To ensure good adhesion eyelets, grommets and rings may be soaked in dope
thinners for no more than two minutes to allow them to soften. Holes in eyelets
and rings are opened with a sharp, pointed knife after doping is complete.
Taping is followed by a further coat of clear dope, which may be butyrate and
may be applied by a spray gun.

Filling Coats. When the first butyrate coat has dried, the fabric will feel rough
due to the short fibre ends (the nap) standing u p and being hardened by the
dope. This nap can be sharp and should be lightly sanded off, using dry
sandpaper. The surface should then be rinsed clean with water and dried.

Two full wet cross-coats of butyrate dope should now be applied one sprayel I

on in one direction and the other a t right angles to it - before the first coat
dries. These in turn should be followed with one good cross-coat of aluminium
dope after light sanding of the clear dope to improve adhesion. The aluminium
coat is in its turn wet sanded lightly to produce a smooth surface and the
residue rinsed off with water. Once the aluminium coat h a s dried, it should be
checked for continuity by shining a light inside the structure. The film should
be completely lightproof.

Finishing Coats. The finishing coats of pigmented butyrate dope may now be
sprayed on. The number of coats should not be less than three. A high gloss
finish is obtained by lightly sanding each coat when dry and spraying multiple
thin coats rather than several thick coats.

The use of a retarder in the colour coats will allow the dope to flow out and
form a smoother film. The final coat should be allowed to dry for a t least a
month before it is polished with rubbing compound and then waxed. The
surface should be waxed a t least once a year with a hard wax to reduce th.
possibility of oxidation of the finish.

Application to Polyester-Fibre Fa.bric

Polyester-fibre fabrics are being increasingly widely used for covering aircraft
because of their long life and resistance to deterioration. For this reason it is
important that the dope film is of the highest quality so that its life will match
that of the fabric.

Priming Coats. Polyester-fibre fabrics are heat shrunk to provide a good smooth
finish and tautening of the fabric is not a function of doping, although all
dopes will tauten to some extent.
The most notable difference in doping a synthetic cover is the difficulty, when
compared with natural fabrics, of obtaining a good mechanical bond betmreen
the dope and the fibres. Unlike natural fibres the polyester filaments are riot
wetted by the dope and the security of attachment depends on them being
totally encapsulated by the first coat. This must be nitrate dope thinned In the
ratio of two or three parts dope to one part thinners. This is then brushed into
the fabric to completely encapsulate the fibres.

The dope should form a wet film through the fabric but it should not drip
through to the opposite side. The initial coat should be followed by two rnore
brush coats thinned to a brushing consistency.

Since polyester is not organic, there is no need for a fungicide to be added to

the first coat.

Filling Coats. Taping and attaching of drainage eyelets or grommets and

inspection rings follow the same procedure as for natural fabrics. Priming coats
should be followed by spraying two full-bodied cross-coats of clear butyrate
dope. After these have dried they should be lightly sanded (400 grit) and
cleaned with a tack rag. One full cross-coat of aluminium dope should then be
sprayed on and lightly wet sanded when dry, the residue being rinsed off with
water. This coat should be tested to verify that it is lightproof.

Finishing Coats. The finishing coats should now be applied in the same manner
a s for natural fabrics. It should be noted that with a properly finished polyester
cover the weave of the fabric will still show through the dope film. Any attempt
to completely hide them with additional coats will result in a finish that does
not have sufficient flexibility to resist cracking.

Application to Glass-fibre Fabric

Glass-fibre fabric has a loose weave, which tends to make it difficult to apply to
aircraft structures. To overcome this problem it is pre-treated with butyrate
dope and the covering and doping must be carried out in accordance wit.h the
manufacturer's instructions.

Priming Coats. Nitrate dope must not be used under any circumstances with
this type of fabric. The first coat of clear butyrate dope is sprayed on with the
dope being thinned only enough to permit spraying. The atomising pressure
must be set to the lowest possible that will permit atomisation without the
dope being blown through the fabric. The coat should be heavy enough to
thoroughly wet the fabric and soften the dope in the fabric, but must not be so
heavy that it causes the dope to run on the reverse side of the fabric.

If the dope is allowed to run in this way an orange peel finish will develop and
the fabric will not tauten properly.
After the first coat has dried, further coats of butyrate dope should be sprayed
on, each a little heavier than the one before, until the weave fills and the fabric
tautens; this may take a s many a s five coats.

Tapes, drainage eyelets/ grommets and inspection rings are applied with a coat
of butyrate dope.

Filling Coats. Once the fabric is taut and the weave has been filled, two full-
bodied brush coats of clear butyrate dope should be applied and allowed t.o
dry. The film should then be carefully sanded, making sure that it is not
sanded through to the fabric.

Whilst the fabric is not damaged by ultra-violet radiation, the clear dope can
deteriorate as a result of exposure and therefore, a coat of aluminium dope
should be sprayed on for protect.ion and lightly wet-sanded smooth.

After the aluminium dope has been sanded, the residue should be removed '-v
washing with water and then the surface dried.

Finishing Coats. These are applied in the same manner a s for natural fabrics.
Several thin, wet coats of coloured butyrate dope will allow the surface to flow
out to a glossy finish.

Doping Problems

If not carefully controlled some doping faults can occur (some of these faults
can also occur with painting). These are listed below.

Poor Adhesion. Adhesion may be poor between the fabric and the first coat of
dope and between the aluminium coat and subsequent coats. Adhesion to the
fabric, particularly polyester fabric, is largely dependent on the technique used
to ensure the encapsulation of the fibres. Adhesion to the aluminium coat r q y
be impaired if too much aluminium powder was used or if the surface was r?dt
thoroughly cleaned after sanding. The use of a tack rag to finally clean a
surface before applying the next coat is always recommended.

Blushing. Blushing is a white or greyish colouration that forms on a doped

surface. If the humidity of the air is too high, or if the solvents evaporate too
quickly, the temperature of the surface drops below the dew-point of the air
and moisture condenses on the surface. This water causes the nitrocellulose
to precipitate out. Moisture in the spray system or on the surface can also
cause blushing. Blushing can be controlled by reducing the humidity in the
air (raising the temperature by several degrees may help) or by using a retarder
in the place of some of the thinners. during the drying of
the dope
A blushed area can be salvaged by spraying another coat over the area using a
retarder instead of some of the thinners; the solvents attack the surface and
cause it to flow out.
Bubbles or Blisters. Caused by the surface of the dope drying before all i.11i:
solvents have had time to evaporate. This may happen if a heavy coat of tiope is
applied over a previous coat that has not dried.

Dull Finish. The gloss of butyrate dope may be improved by the addition (.)i'up
to 20% retarder in the last coat. Excessive dullness may be caused by I-xolding
the spray gun too far from the surface so that the dope settles a s a semi-dry
mist. Small dull spots may be due to a porous surface.

Fisheyes. These are isolated areas which have not dried due to contamir~ation
of the surface with oil, wax or a silicone product. Cleanliness is important with
all wax removed using a suitable solvent before re-doping the area.

Orange Peel. Caused by insufficient thinning of the dope or holding the spray
gun too far from the surface. It can also be caused by too high a n atomising
pressure, use of thinners that dries too fast or by cold damp draughts.

Pinholes. Smaller versions of a blister. Apart from the causes listed above, they
can be caused by water or oil in the spray system. An air temperature that is
too high can also be a cause.

Roping. This is a condition in which the surface dries a s the dope is being
brushed on causing a n uneven surface. Common when the dope is cold. When
applying with a brush, dope should not be over-brushed. The pressure applied
to the brush should be sufficient to ensure the penetration of the dope through
the fabric.

Rough Finish. Dirt and dust on the surface, insufficient sanding and too low a
working temperature can all cause a rough finish.

Runs and Sags. This type of defect is caused by too thick a coat, especially on
vertical surfaces. This causes the dope to run and sag.

Seneral Considerations

The weight of the dope applied to the fabric is a n indication that the scheme
has been correctly applied. In the BS X26 doping schemes the weight per unit
area is given and should be checked by doping a test panel a t the same time a s
the structure. The fabric is weighed before doping and then again after doping,
the difference being the weight of the dope film. Mil Specs call for a minimum
dope weight of 161g/m2 (4.75 oz/yd2) with a tolerance of + 20%.

When an aircraft is re-covered and re-doped it is essential that it is re-weighed

and a new Weight and Centre of Gravity Schedule raised, it is also import.ant
that control surfaces are balanced and checked against the AMM.