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Author Topic: plastic & fiber props for FAI Power 1950s  (Read 982 times)
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« on: March 07, 2016, 01:24:27 PM »

Once again I need help in my research on the history of FAI Power/F1C.

The Frank Zaic drawing of Michael Gaster's 1955 World Champs winner shows a 9/6 H/C Plastic Prop.  I'm trying to figure out what the H/C means?

Was it a British brand? Or could it mean "home constructed"?  I have seen three-views of a 1960 FAI Power model (not Gaster's) with a note that it used a Gaster prop. 

Regarding the  word "plastic"---does that mean Nylon (those dreadful things from the 1950s) or fiberglass-reinforced plastic?  I have seen references from Aero Modeller magazines of the late 1950s-early 1960s to "fibre" power props. I assume those are fiberglass props.  Any guess who was making those back then?  I have the 1972-73 Aero Modeller Annual with the article about Jurgen Bartels, who began making fibre glass props in the early 1960s. Was there any other cottage-industry manufacturers.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. I would also be interested in hearing about what wood props were available in GB and Europe in the 1950s. I would assume that some American props would have been available (Tornado Plastcote, Top Flite) but were there any other commercial wood props available (Graupner, perhaps)?
 Louis 
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billdennis747
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« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2016, 01:53:29 PM »


Regarding the  word "plastic"---does that mean Nylon (those dreadful things from the 1950s) or fiberglass-reinforced plastic?  I have seen references from Aero Modeller magazines of the late 1950s-early 1960s to "fibre" power props. I assume those are fiberglass props.  Any guess who was making those back then?  I have the 1972-73 Aero Modeller Annual with the article about Jurgen Bartels, who began making fibre glass props in the early 1960s. Was there any other cottage-industry manufacturers.

Not my field at all, but I do know that at the time, ducted fans were being home-made out of a material labelled as 'fibre'. No idea what it was. I will stick my neck out and say I don't think they were glass fibre in the mid-fifties
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« Reply #2 on: March 07, 2016, 02:10:47 PM »

A few notes from memory and knowledge.

Mike Gaster, no clue what H/C could mean (not a good beginning for a reply  Wink ). If it was a home made prop it could have been only in polyester resin with glass reinforcement, epoxy was not available before '62-'63.

Speaking about the '60ties in Europe most flyers used wooden props, stiffer than the plastic props one could find in the hobby shop. There you could find mostly Top Flite in wood (most appreciated for thin blades and precision) and thermoplastic (PA6= Nylon). J├╝rgen Bartel was a speed flyer and, as you say, started very soon producing epoxy-glass props. Never heard of anybody else producing resin/glass reinforced propellers in the '60.

Short fibre reinforced thermoplastic appeared only after 1970, so this excludes there use in the '60.

There was more than one producer of wooden props in Europe, one surely here in Italy, sorry, forgot the name. Graupner had them in there catalogue. But many power flyer carved them with there own hands, somebody even used folding props.

Not much useful info's, maybe others remember better and more,

Urs
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« Reply #3 on: March 07, 2016, 02:36:25 PM »

Louis- H/C could be "hand carved" See this article: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_SFRYeYoVqHw/S5FTgibVGEI/AAAAAAAAFos/aUAojzG1I8o/s1600/Michel-Gaster-Gastove-nota-.jpg

Norm
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« Reply #4 on: March 07, 2016, 02:51:53 PM »

As Norm says, H/C means hand carved. Gaster and my Dad always made their own props.
My Dad used phenolic material (specifically Tufnol), which so far as I can tell is not a great choice. I'm not sure what Mike used, but his props were grey/brown in colour, and I don't remember him breaking as many as my Dad did.

There was a Kevin Lindsey article in Model Aircraft magazine that might shed more light on what was meant by the 'fibre' material sometimes ascribed to Gaster's props.

Molded glass fibre props came later, although my Dad did experiment with mold making in the early 60's.

John
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« Reply #5 on: March 07, 2016, 03:56:19 PM »

John & Norm:

Thanks for the info.  I wonder if the fiber material is similar to the brown material used for electrical parts 50-60 years ago.  Can't remember the brand name, but phenolic rings a bell. It came in a variety of thicknesses. Both faces were smooth and hard, but inside was more like very dense Masonite, as best I can remember. 

In the mid-1960s I helped my older brother make about 500 oversized clothes pins out of the stuff.  They were to replace the cheap plastic electrical clips used to test TV sets (back when they were made in the US). Lots of brown dust everywhere. Can't imagine carving props out of the stuff.

Louis
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« Reply #6 on: March 07, 2016, 04:10:03 PM »

Urs:

Thanks for the info. As near as I can tell Bartels was the only volume producer of molded props in the 60s, but evidently a lot of people in US and Europe started molding their own glass and later carbon blades.  I think that things really picked up after the intro of folding props---just needed mold for one blade.

I've also come across something in Hartill's book by Rol Anderson: They stayed with wood blades because they were lighter (about half weight) of fiberglass blades and reduced run-down by half to around .3-.4 seconds.  Then the brake came in, eliminating run-down issue.

Yes, the folding prop was first used in W/C in  1955 by 4th place flier from Cz. He also used VIT!  (was also working on a folder) I seem to remember folding props for power models in late 1930s Zaic Year Book.  Also single-blade power props----good way to recycle broken prop.

Louis
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« Reply #7 on: March 07, 2016, 04:42:26 PM »

Micarta?
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« Reply #8 on: March 07, 2016, 04:52:45 PM »

The props many people, certainly several in the Surbiton and Croydon clubs, used in the 1950s were carved from red. black or brownish fibre, about 1/4" thick.  I remember using the material in the mid-'50s as a base for soldering exercises in the Royal Air Force and it was also used for anti-scratch pads for vice jaws. I believe it was compressed paper, but certainly not phenolic-bonded, in fact it had a rather nasty smell a bit like rotten eggs when sanded. It was less breakable than props carved from Tufnol, which was phenolic-bonded cloth (well before glass cloth was generally available)  like a thick version of Paxolin citcuit boards. I still have a smallish piece somewhere.
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« Reply #9 on: March 07, 2016, 05:00:03 PM »

John,

I knew Kevin Lindsey way back in the 1960's and he used a material called Hydulignum (spelling?) for making speed and TR propellors. I don't know if he made any for FF. Hydulignum was also used to manufacture full-size prop blades, and I think it was a laminate of wood veneer bonded with a phenolic resin. Kevin's props were very well-made, and the material must have been relatively easy to carve, as I believe he actually made some from scratch at a European CL champs.

The Italian wood props mentioned by a poster were called 'Record' and were OK. Getting hold of good quality wood props for speed and TR in the late 1950's and early 1960's was never easy. The favoured prop for TR was the Tornado Plasticote, but difficult to obtain and expensive. There were manufacturers of wood props in the UK in the 1950's including PAW and Stant, but they were rough compared with US-made products. I have a couple of large Stant props and you could use them as a cudgel, no problem.

Bartels was not actually the original manufacturer of glass fibre/epoxy props. If my memory is correct another German flyer made them for TR in small quantities but I can't remember his name. There was an article by John Franklin in Aeromodeller in the late 1960's in which he flight-tested various commercial props for FAI TR (Eta 15) and the German moulded prop came out tops in all respects, much better than any of the wood ones he tested. If I remember this maker's name I'll post it.

Somewhat later, in the early 1970's, Rossi Bros marketed carbon/epoxy props for FF and TR, but these were actually made in the UK by the late Jim McCann, who flew FAI FF and was for a time the UK agent for Rossi. They were very well-made and very efficient.

G
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« Reply #10 on: March 07, 2016, 05:10:45 PM »

As a matter of interest, Mike Gaster produced a feathering prop, with some help from Pete Jellis of the Croydon club. It lasted one flight.........

As has been said before, he also had a go at a geared engine in about 1964.
I just remembered I took some pictures last time I visited him in about 1995. They're not the best, but you get the gist.....

John
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« Reply #11 on: March 07, 2016, 06:14:36 PM »

Thanks to all:

I wasn't aware of Gaster's feathering prop or geared engine. It looks very similar to the geared engine that Tom Mclaughlin was working on some years back.
(Tommy used to mill his FAI Power props out of dogwood; stayed with wood props to the end---he even had one set-up that folded with one end of the blade forward and the other aft, laying along side of crankcase.

Could the rotten-egg smell be eliminated with a small dab of Amberoid up the nostril?

The wood veneer/phenolic material sounds familiar.  Sounds better to work with then the rotten egg stuff.

I checked the 1953 price for 7-4 Tornado Plasticote props ---$.25, so about $2.00 in todays equivalent.  But that was in US, so transportation, import duties, etc would have run up the price. In 1953, when I was 8 years old, a quarter would have bought a comic book, a root beer, and a candy bar. Haven't bought a comic book in years, but a root beer and candy bar would be well over $2.00.  For two dollars back then you could have purchased a Gollywok kit and a dime tube of glue.  How much is a Gollywok kit now?

Louis
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« Reply #12 on: March 07, 2016, 06:46:37 PM »

I now remember that someone in Swiss used the same material as early printed circuit board which was Bakelite phenolic resin with cotton cloth as reinforcing fibre. Glass fibre in cloth form was not yet used or available (?). The laminations were clearly distinguished being a light color against the dark brown of the phenolic resin.

Urs
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« Reply #13 on: March 07, 2016, 07:59:57 PM »

FWIW I flew F1C as it is now using two Swiss Miss's in the '50s, with beam mount Elfin 2.49, then an Oliver Tiger powered one, and used 9X4 wooden props sanded, doped and balanced.

Still have the trophies from way way back.
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« Reply #14 on: March 07, 2016, 09:34:41 PM »

I remember Tom Mclaughlin's props,he would put a toothpic in the hub to hold it for starting and after it started the pic would fly out then after stopping the  whole blade would would swing out like a spear.Im sure there was a danger factor if his model was to glide into someone.And it was something to see at the end of the run,as the spring in the hub begins to be stronger that the centrifugal force holding it true,it would wobble like the front end was falling off.As for props we used modified Top flight nylon then Cox gray's and in about 1967 Bartel's,still have about 20 of them.I call them prop kits as it takes about two hours to carve one into a prop.After around 1973 or 74 everyone was molding there own.   
For a while NFFS sold a glass filled FAI prop but as the RPM began to go up on the new motor's they started throwing blades.One went into Earl Thompson's knee while testing a motor.And that was the end of that prop.I have about 20 of them also.
 
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« Reply #15 on: March 08, 2016, 12:06:52 AM »

Check any of Paul Lindberg's plans. He always called for fiber props. I was never able to figure out what they were.

a.
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« Reply #16 on: March 08, 2016, 04:41:16 AM »

Cox Grays could also be blade-throwers, particularly in cold weather. Graupner glass-filled props also needed to be watched. In fairness these props were never designed with the rpm engines such as Rossi's could chuck out.

Round about 1972 Aeromodeller published an article (by Jim McCann, I believe) on how to mould your own carbon/epoxy props, and once tried it was surprisingly easy.
Personally I always used wood props for speed, and still prefer them for stunt models.

G
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« Reply #17 on: March 08, 2016, 06:58:12 AM »

Thanks again!

I too had been confused about fiber props. When I first heard the term in Aero Modeller circa 1960, I immediately thought of some sort of Masonite/phenolic material, but I couldn't imagine any way to carve the stuff. So I assumed it was shorthand for fiberglass. Evidently you could carve (file?) props out of the fiber material, but it didn't sound easy. 

Since I tried to stay well-away from any power model during starting, I had never noticed Tommy's toothpick trick.  His set-up for machining the dogwood blanks involved clamping the blanks at both ends and then milling the prop to shape, leaving the two ends to be sawed off.  I remember seeing a big stack of blanks in his basement machine shop. (Tommy last addition to his shop, about a year before he passed away, was a brand new Bridgeport mill; he beamed when he told me he always wanted a Bridgeport. He already had a Taiwanese Bridgeport copy.) As far as I can remember, Bucket Johnson was the only other person to use Tommy's props. I'll try to dig up some more info.

Still can't figure out the type of plastic used in the Cox grey props---they did seem stiffer then the Nylon ones. 

Blade failure did seem common when RPMs went way up---took awhile for blade technology to catch up.  Being lighter, the wood props seemed to be less prone to failure then the Nylon ones, but I don't have any data to confirm that.

Later, when folding props started to be used, there were problems with aluminum hubs failing; switch to steel solved that one. Also folding blades were much less likely to be damaged on DT.

Yes, the various articles on molding props did help encourage many more people to experiment with new blade shapes, pitch distribution, etc. Also got people thinking about other parts that could be molded.

Again, thanks for all the information.

Louis








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« Reply #18 on: March 08, 2016, 11:09:56 AM »

I have a few of my Dads Tufnol props left, plus an uncarved blank and a partially carved one. These would be circa 1971. He used carved props at the world champs in 1971, and by the trials in 1972 he had switched over to molded carbon props. For a while he used the Cox grey hard nylon props, taking (I think) the 8x4 and carving it down to 7 1/2 x 3 1/2. He had 2 blade failures and that was the end of that experiment (Super Tigre G15s at that point).

I remember him making props, and the smell of the Tufnol, but I don't remember it being obnoxious. He would carve a 1/2 dozen props, doing most of the material removal with a hacksaw, then files, scraping with a sharp pen knife, and finishing with wet and dry paper - no power tools. At the end of the day he would make up another batch of blanks.

Breakage was a fact of life, and of interest in the 2nd picture is that this is a repaired prop. He took 2 broken props, created a scarf joint at the hub and Araldited them together. To finish, he pinned the hub in 2 places with 1/16" music wire pins. I don't remember a Tufnol prop breaking while the engine was running, but they were never used on Rossis.
John
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« Reply #19 on: March 08, 2016, 11:55:24 AM »



Yes, the various articles on molding props did help encourage many more people to experiment with new blade shapes, pitch distribution, etc. Also got people thinking about other parts that could be molded.

Again, thanks for all the information.

Louis


I would love any info on articles dealing with molding a folding power propeller. Any links or articles come to mind to anyone?
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« Reply #20 on: March 08, 2016, 11:59:36 AM »

John:

 Thanks for the photos...finally get see what a fibre prop looks like....with the laminations showing it looks a bit like a full-size laminated wood blade. Lots of work, though.

Derek:
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« Reply #21 on: March 08, 2016, 12:04:53 PM »

Quote
I would love any info on articles dealing with molding a folding power propeller.

Derek, John Cuthbert wrote a detailed article on moulding folding props for F1C which was published in the FF Forum report about 10 years ago - I don't have more details to hand.

Peter
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« Reply #22 on: March 08, 2016, 12:12:34 PM »

Quote
I would love any info on articles dealing with molding a folding power propeller.

Derek, John Cuthbert wrote a detailed article on moulding folding props for F1C which was published in the FF Forum report about 10 years ago - I don't have more details to hand.

Peter

Cool. I checked and its the 2004 FF Forum. Thanks Peter.
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« Reply #23 on: March 08, 2016, 12:29:18 PM »

I spoke to Ray Monks and John O'Donnell today and they pretty well confirmed what others have said. Ray says a lot of people used commercial wood or even nylon props because the engines were relatively low-revving. He said those hand-carving used laminated wood (Hydulignum?)  or fibre, which he says was used as insulating material in the electrical industry. John recalls that people like Gaster and Buskell made theirs from fibre, using handtools as John describes, but also a surform! These props were high aspect ratio blades and were tedious to make, but these were the top fliers so they did it.
John referenced M.A.N.  April 1956 (Gaster) and Aeromodeller  2nd half of 1954  (Buskell).
Ray said there was no 'cottage industry' in the 50s

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« Reply #24 on: March 08, 2016, 01:50:29 PM »

Bill:

Thanks for the info from Ray Monks and John O'Donnell.  Great stuff!

For those that are interested in molding your own props (that's you Derek), here is some info. What I had printed out was something I found on the internet in the late 1990s---"Making a Propeller Mold" by Bill Lee.  Since it only delt with the mold, I googled "Making a Propeller Mold Bill Lee" . A lot of good stuff popped up:

flying lines.org (NW control line group) hand links to Bill Lee article that I had, plus additional articles by other folks on making molds, casting props, etc.

eliminator props.com had article by Bill Lee on finishing props

mariofer.pagesperso-orange.fr  had article on making mold from Lee's instructions, plus other stuff.

Louis
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