Introduction: Biplane Shelf

I have been meaning to make a feature shelf for a while now, but have never found time to start, so when I saw the Shelf competition on Instructables I thought it a good time to have a go.

My basic Idea was to make a set of two shelves centered around a theme, that being a Bi-Plane. I started with a basic idea, however the finished model differs slightly from my original design in that I gave the wings more shape and added an undercarriage.

From the pictures you can see my son holding the shelf up with some of his Lego figures wing walking just before I applied the Linseed Oil finish.

Please read on and you will see what I mean, and if you like the instructable please take the time to vote in the coming competitions - It would be greate to win tools like saws and lazer cutters etc - they all help make the taks of making small intricate parts a lot simpler and accurate, but the real fun in doing creating these guids is being able to make something that you and hopefully others like, Thanks for looking and if you have time please take a look at my other guides.

I also have another themed shelf listed (Train Self) at

I also have a Web site with other ideas and downloadable designs on at

Step 1: The Start of an Idea

I started the design very professionally. That is I sketched it on a napkin along with a couple of other ideas. I decided that the Biplane offered a better look so moved on to Trimble Make (formally Google Sketchup) to design something that looked the part - you can see the design in the photos attached as well as on the following video.

I have also uploaded the design file to the 3d Warehouse so you can grab a copy if you wish. (see Link)

Step 2: Turning the Body of the Plane

All of the material used in this set of shelves has been recycled from other sources.

  • Body - Mahogany from old door frames
  • Wings - boards removed from our ceilings during decorating
  • Engine Cylinders and other parts from our childrens' old cot (there too big for it now by a number of years)

You get the idea!

I started by squaring off a section of door frame on the band-saw and then removing the corners on the lathe - this bit is a little tricky as the stock was not quite centered and vibrated quite a bit until it started to balance up. Then I cut a tenon at the end nearest the head stock of the lathe after which I removed the stock and remounted it on the lathe in the chuck.

It was then time to start turning the basic body shape, giving it an engine block a cowl and a small section of body. I left a section square at this point to make the next step easier. I also turned a new tenon behind the square section which would hold the piece during later turning and sanding. With all this complete used the Band saw to part the body at the point where I hand made the new tenon

Its important to note that ALL proportions for the shelves come from the size of the material used for the body there are very few measurements required other than to position the wings.

Step 3: Cockpit and Wing Positions

The next job was to use the band saw to two sections from the body for :

  1. The lower wing
    • The lower wing needs to sit under the cockpit and slightly behind the engine cowl - trim you lower wing board to allow for this and then mark out a section on one of the sides of the body that have been left square (its easier to mark on the flat than the curve.
  2. The cockpit
    • Mark another section to remove for the cockpit on the opposite side (above the wing). I made this approximately twice the depth of the wing cutout and gave it a slop at the front near to the cowl to imply a control panel for the plane.

With all of the sections marked use the band saw to remove the waste material, this again is helped by the previously left flat section as it keeps the piece square on the band saw table.

With the sections removed remount the part on the lathe making sure that the now cut down tenon is held securely in the jaws of the chuck, bring up the tail stock for extra support and turn the remaining body section.

As I would be applying an oil finish I sanded the body at this point.

Step 4: Engine

Next prepare the engine block and make the cylinders.

To do this a 10 mm hole was drilled at the front while still on the lathe - this ensure that it was in the middle of the block. I then used a drill press to make 8 mm holes around the circumference of the engine block.

This is where the first departure from the original plan comes in - instead of having 8 cylinders I made holes for only 6 - this was due to the size of the engine block I thought that 8 would look to cramped (remember I said the proportions would come from the stock size for the body - this is the kind of thing I meant) - I drilled all the way through to ensure that I had holes that where opposite each other.

To make the Cylinders the material of choice was beach from an old cot. Once the first cylinder was turned measurements where taken and the shape was repeated along the wood to get as many as possible from the stock.( note that the lower part of the cylinder need to be the same diameter as the 8 mm holes drilled around the block as this is where they will fit.

Working this way it is easier to get consistency between the parts as you can see them all together. Once finished they where separated n the band saw and sanding was completed by hand..

Step 5: Propeller

The propeller was made from two different woods (mahogany from the spinner and beach for the blades)

The spinner was turned from one of the off cuts left from turning the body of the plane and once sanded it was held in a set of jaws so that a 5 mm hole could be drilled through its center to allow for the attaching of the blades.

The stock for the blades was too thick so I cut a thin section onto which a rough blade shape was sketched. This was then cut out and the blade shaped on a sander, the last part for the blades was to cut a 5 mm tenon on each by hand to attach them to the spinner.

The blades where attached to the spinner and twisted slightly in opposite directions to give a better look to the prop. and held in place using some glue.

From the last two pictures you can get an idea of how it will look on the completed model.

Step 6: Wings

The lower wing was simply a length of pine to which a shallow curve was added to each end.

The lower board once cut was used to mark out the upper wing by drawing around it. At this point I made another change to the design. I added a half circular cut out in the middle of the rear edge of the wing where the pilot would sit and then used a flexible drawing curve to add curve to one side of the wing from the tip up to the half circle cut out.

I then removed the curve on the saw and used the waste material to mark out the opposing curve on the other side of the wing which was then removed. (remember to flip the waste over as the curve on one side goes in an opposite direct to the other side)

Step 7: Wing Struts

Originally I was thinking of cheating and buy some dowel to make the struts, but decided to make the dowels instead from the same beach as the other parts. To do this I set the calipers to approximately 10 mm and used then to turn a series of grooves along the stock for depth marks and then used a roughing gouge to remove the renaming material down to the thickness I wanted and finished the dowel off by sanding and applying a coat of wax.

The wings where then mocked up into something like the position I wanted for the final shelves and I measured the distances (Vertical and Horizontal) these where transfer to a piece of paper so that I could cut/shape and layout the struts prior to attaching the the plane. A sander was used to make the angles for the struts. (see pictures above)

Step 8: Under Carriage

Yet another change to the design.

If you look at the original images you will not see any wheels, but I felt that the shelf would look better with them so, back on the lathe for a basic pair of wheels complete with and axle -

  • For the wheels I drilled a piece of mahogany using the hole cutter, this gave a hole in the center to attach them later, I then turned the wheels between centers.
  • To hold the wheels onto the axle I made a couple of pins.
  • The axle was pre-drilled on the lathe, after which I thinned the center section to make it less chunky. Two holes where drilled into each end to take the dowels that would hold the undercarriage to the plane. (it did not matter how long these where as they could be cut to length during fitting.)
  • Once the lower wings had been attached the dowels on the undercarriage where adjusted toe length and and angle sanded onto the rear dowels then the assembly was glued in place.

Step 9: Brackets or Guns

The shelf would need some form of bracket to attach it to the wall, but I wanted them to be a feature as well as having function. So I made them into wing mounted machine guns by turning a pair of barrels and fixing them to the front of the shelf with a small tenon and some glue.

Step 10: Make the Pilot

For the Pilot drilled 2.5 cm hole in the body of the plane, I then rounded a piece of wood ready for the body of the pilot. This part also had an 8 mm hole drilled into it to take a tenon that would be on the head section.

The head would be made in a lighter wood, a rough sphere was formed and a tenon put on as a neck. The head was then cut off and the tenon glued into the hole previously made in the body section.

The body and head where then put back onto the lathe for final shaping and polishing, it was then parted off and you can see the finished pilot Wing Walking in the last picture.

Step 11: Finishing Off

With the plane put together it was time for a finish.

If you make one of these then you can colour or not, I decided not to paint the parts - as I had used woods that already had differing colours I simply applied Linseed Oil to help protect the wood and extend the life of the shelf in use. This smells a little for a while but this fades and disappears eventually, but more importantly is safe for children.

What do you think of the finished Toy , Model, Shelf Plane ?

Shelving Contest

Participated in the
Shelving Contest

Epilog Contest VII

Participated in the
Epilog Contest VII