Balsa Wood Super Cub Build Part 4: Tissue!

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Here in the UK we’ve been snowed in and I thought I’d take advantage of the down time to crack on with my Balsa Super Cub which has probably stood for about 18 months!

When we left it we had completely built the frame and installed the rubber band which will propel it. You can read about that part of the process here.


Today’s mission will be covering the frame with tissue. The tissue sort of acts as a skin which will later be covered in a material called dope. During the First World War aircraft would be made out of a wooden frame then covered in canvas and then it would have this thick dope painted over it to stretch the canvas to the frame and harden it. The goal for me with this project is to be able to build model aircraft of that era in the same way that they would have been originally. A Piper Cub was a much easier place to start than a bi-plane though. Less wings!

The easiest bits to cover were the rudder and elevator as they are flat surfaces. One simply traces the shapes onto the tissue paper, then you cut it out and stick it on. Some people pre-dope the frames and then stick it on like that. I must admit I haven’t been so professional. I’ve pritt sticked the tissue on and then used  watered down PVA to stick the edges down. I’ve left the paper ever so slightly baggy so when the dope stretches it it should (fingers crossed) work out fine.

The bottoms of the wings were also flat surfaces and thus were also easy to cover.

wing bottom

The tops were a little more difficult as they have a curve in the top and then the tips are a sort of awkward shape. I did this in two stages; firstly I did the main section of the wing, I just stretched the tissue over the frame and stuck in to either end of the wing. The tips were a little more awkward but manageable with a bit of manipulation.

wing top

Now for the scary bit! The fuselage!

pre skin

I started at the bottom. I couldn’t really trace this as it’s a 3D shape so I took measurements, added a tiny bit just in case, cut it out, stuck it on and trimmed off the excess. I did the bottom in two sections. From the end of the tail to, what would be, the firewall between the engine and cockpit and then the firewall forward. Again with the forward piece I took a rough measurement and stretched it across. At the front though there are solid balsa sides so I glued the tissue to that rather than to the edge of the frame.

lower section 2nd

The top was pretty much the same principle. Obviously I had to put the skin on in two sections. The cowling:


Then the rest of the back:

fuselage upper

I impressed myself with my own genius when it came to doing the sides. When you put the sides of the aircraft together they are flat pieces and they form the curved shape using the inner bulkheads as a guide. Now, you use the instructions as templates to pin the bits of the plane too as you are building them. They are 1/1 scale. So I took a template from them!

side 1

Stuck to the side:

side 2

Finally, cut out the windows:

side 3

Then repeat on the other side:

side complete

That’s the frame covered! I’ve ordered some dope and a couple of other bits and bobs so we should be doping it next time!


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By Richard Francis


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