Intro: Airplane Shelf
The story... As a little boy I collected key chains. I would get them on family vacations, and family members would bring them back for me when they went somewhere new. My dad made me two long wooden keys, and each time I got a new key chain we would put in a small nail and hang it. My dad passed away four years ago and I kept the keys to make something for my future kids. With a little boy on the way, I'm making a small shelf for his bedroom, using the wood from one of the keys.
Supplies I Used:
- Wooden Keys, but you can use a 1"x6"x8'
- Acrylic paint (I used blue, red, white, and black to mix the colors I wanted)
- 1/2" copper pipe, 5' length
- 5/16" threaded rod, 36" length
- 5/16" washers, need 16
- 5/16" nuts, need 16
- 1" corner bracket and screw, need 1
- 1/2" wood screws and washers, need 2 of each
- Loctite gel glue
- Propeller for an RC plane (mine is 10" diameter)
- Two wheels for an RC plane (mine are 2" diameter)
- White vinegar
- Table salt
- Sawtooth wall hanger, need 2
Propeller Specific: Dependent on the shaft opening for the propeller you choose
- 5/16" bolt, 2" length
- 5/16" cap nut
- 5/16" washers, need 2
- 5/16" nut, need 1
- Small wood screw, 5/8" length
Landing Gear Specific: Dependent on the landing gear you choose
- #4-40 1" machine screws, need 2
- #4-40 nuts, need 2
Tools I Used:
- Table saw
- Miter saw
- Angle Grinder w/ cutting wheel
- Sander (220 and 120 grit paper)
- Drill w/ bits for wood and metal
- 1" and 1/4" paint brushes
- Wood clamps
- Metal file
- Speed Square
- Tape Measure
- Drill and bits for wood and metal
Step 1: Wings & Prop Hub
Determine the length of your shelf. Or, you can think of it as the wingspan. It's more fun that way. For mine, I cut my wood down to two pieces of 20" in length using the table saw, and then the miter saw.
You also need a round piece of wood for the propeller hub. For mine, I cut a circle that is 3" diameter.
On the propeller hub, I chose to sand the front edge to be slightly rounded. You may not choose to do so, but I liked the look.
Step 2: Holes in Your Wings
Your wings will eventually be put together using the threaded rod and copper pipe. But, that comes later. For now, you need to drill the holes.
Using a speed square, mark a spot 3/4" in from both sides. Do this for all four corners.
Clamp your wings together, making sure they are perfectly lined up in all four corners. Now drill your holes, starting with a smaller size and stepping up to 5/16". Yes, this takes more time, but you don't want the larger bit punching out a chunk of wood from the underside of your wings.
Step 3: Copper Time!
Using an angle grinder with a cutting wheel, cut 6 pieces of copper pipe. Each piece should be 6" long. If you don't have an angle grinder, a hack saw will do just fine. And, you will burn a few extra calories cutting by hand. Bonus!
WARNING: Be careful where you use the angle grinder! You don't want sparks catching anything on fire.
With each piece cut, you'll want to clean up the ends. The ends will be visible, so you want them looking flat and nice. I used a metal file and some scrap sand paper. Be careful to not sand the sides of the pipe.
Line up all of your pieces to ensure they are the exact same length. Use a metal file or sand paper to make minor size adjustments until they are all equal. If they aren't, your wings will be crooked and I know none of you want your plane to crash on its first flight.
Step 4: Threaded Rod Supports
The copper pipe you cut in the last step is just for looks. The wings will be held in place using a threaded rod, that is hidden inside the pipe.
Using the angle grinder with a cutting wheel, cut four pieces. Each piece should be 8.5" long.
WARNING: Be careful where you use the angle grinder! You don't want sparks catching anything on fire.
If in cutting you end up with a little variation in length, that's ok for now. You'll make adjustments in the next step.
Step 5: Test Fit the Pieces
Gather all your pieces. It's time to make sure everything fits as it should.
If you were wondering why I chose 5/16" for the threaded rod, here is where you get your answer. When you put the wings together as shown in the picture, the 1/2" copper pipe sits perfectly over the 5/16" nuts. This keeps the copper pipe from shifting between the wings and sitting crooked.
Here are the steps to assemble, doing the step for each corner at the same time:
- Place a nut and washer on each piece of threaded rod, making sure the nut sits at the very end
- Feed each threaded rod through one wing piece, so the washer is against the wood
- Place another washer, then nut, to secure that wing piece, only tightening with your fingers until snug
- Slide a copper pipe over each threaded rod
- Place another nut, threading it down until it sits flush inside the copper pipe, then place a washer on top
- Place the second wing on top
- Place the last washer, then nut, to secure the second wing
Tada! Your wings are assembled.
If you followed the steps above, you'll now be able to see if any of your threaded rods need some extra length cut off. Mark where the cut needs to be on each rod, disassemble the wings, then cut the rods as needed.
Step 6: Create Landing Gear
Those additional two pieces of copper pipe you cut are going to allow your aircraft to land safely. But first, we need to shape them.
3/4" of each end need needs to be flattened. This will give you a flat surface for securing to the bottom wing and attaching your wheels.
To do this, I secured both pieces between two pieces of scrap wood using some painter's tape and wood clamp. Then I hammered the end flat between two additional pieces of wood. I then used rubber ended pliers to bend the pieces 45 degrees. The end results can be seen in the image.
Step 7: Make It Shine!
When you brought home the copper pipe, I'm sure it didn't have the same shine as a brand new penny. That's due to some oxidization on the surface. Fortunately, that's easy to take care of.
Mix 1/4 cup of white vinegar with 3/4 teaspoon spoon of table salt. Using a wash rag, sponge, or paper towel, scrub each piece of copper pipe. It doesn't take much effort to remove the oxidation. In fact, you'll see a difference on the first swipe of the solution. Wipe off any excess, then place on a towel to dry.
The two pieces you bent for the landing gear may have trouble draining. To ensure any water inside has evaporated, place the two pieces on a towel and use a hair dryer to get them nice and hot. That should evaporate any water trapped inside.
Step 8: Add Some Color
You may choose to paint, stain, or simply seal the bare wood. Your choice! No matter what you choose, it's time to prepare the wings and prop hub for their finished look.
I mixed some acrylic paint I already had to match colors we were using in the nursery, using a test piece of wood to find just the right color.
NOTE: If you choose to mix your own paint colors, be sure you mix enough for two coats. You don’t want to get part way done and find out you don’t have enough. It will be quite challenging to mix more and have it match exactly. I mixed and stored mine in a small plastic container that had a lid, to keep it viable between each coat.
TIP: If your paint is from a tube, like the acrylic paint I used, use a ratio of “drops” for your mixed color (i.e., 3 drops blue to 1 drop white). This will make it easy to scale up when you make enough for your project.
Step 9: Propellor, Assemble!
Yes, it's time to give your aircraft some power and assemble the propeller assembly.
First, determine the diameter of the shaft opening on your propeller. The shaft opening is the hole in the center of your propeller. You need to drill a hole in the center of your propeller hub (the round piece of wood) to match this size. If the hole is large, like you drilled in the wings, I suggest you start with a small drill bit and work your way up so you don't damage the wood.
You may also need to drill a larger hole in the corner bracket, as I did, so your bolt fits through the hole. Use an appropriate bit to drill metal.
Now follow these steps:
- Place a washer on the bolt and push the bolt through the corner bracket, so it's sticking out the front
- Push the bolt through the prop hub from the back
- Place a washer on the bolt from the front, so it sits against the prop hub
- Secure the bolt in place with a nut
- Put on the propeller
- Put on the cap nut
If you have too much length to your nut, determine the excess, remove it from the prop hub, cut as needed, then reassemble. Like I said, much of this depends on the propeller you chose.
NOTE: You want the propeller to spin, so be sure the cap nut is tight on bolt, but doesn't put pressure on the propeller.There should be a very slight gap.
You may want to put some Loctite on the cap nut to make sure it doesn't wiggle lose.
Step 10: Attach the Propeller
Grab the lower wing of your aircraft and make a small mark on the top to indicate the center. This is where you will center the propeller assembly you just put together.
Attach the corner bracket, as shown in the picture. You want the front of the bracket to be flush with the front of the shelf.
You can now attach the propeller assembly to the front of the corner bracket.
Step 11: Cleared for Landing
It will be easier to attach the landing gear before attaching the top wing.
For my wheels, I used a pair of 2" RC airplane wheels I purchased on Amazon. Grab your last two pieces of copper and drill a hole in the center of the top and bottom sections. Drill your holes to match the screws you will be using to secure the landing gear to the bottom of the shelf and your wheels to the bottom of the copper pipe.
To attach the wheels, I used #4-40 machine screws (1" long) with matching nuts. This size screw fit into the shaft of my wheels, without having to drill the shaft opening to a larger size. As I couldn't find a locking nut this small, I used some Loctite gel glue to secure the nut. Since I want the wheels to be able to spin, I made sure to not tighten them too tightly.
Before attaching the landing gear to the bottom of the shelf, I pre-drilled two holes to make things a little easier. I then secured them to the bottom with two wood screws and washers.
Step 12: Hanging Hardware
You have many ways you can hang your shelf. I purchased a pair of sawtooth hangers and nailed them into the back of the top wing.
This is easier to do before you attach the top wing!!!
Step 13: Final Assembly
You now have all your sub-assemblies done! Time to put everything together.
- Secure the threaded rod to the lower wing using two nuts and two washers
- Slide the copper pipe onto each threaded rod
- Place a nut on each threaded rod and thread it down until it is flush into the pipe (see image)
- Place a washer on top of each pipe
- Slide the shelf in place
- Secure the shelf with a washer and nut on each threaded rod, and tighten
Step 14: Sappy Stuff
I've gotten into two habits when making nicer things (vs things like garage shelves). The first is to date them.
The second thing I've started doing it to put my thumb print on the back. "Why do you do this?" you might ask. Well, as I looked at a few things my dad made I literally found his fingerprints in places you wouldn't have found unless you were refinishing. It was fun to think about my dad using his hands to make something for me, and I want to leave that memory for my son.
Step 15: Time to Fly
Now go hang that shelf to make it fly!