Getting the Backend into Shape

We’ve had a few public holidays and long weekends in my part of the world recently and it’s been a great opportunity to spend some quality time in the man cave on the project.

I decided I’d like to have a crack at the tail fin structure and sheeting.  I’d built the outside framing ages ago, but never had a good place to store the full size tail fin.  It went together fairly smoothly, the main hurdles being the panel lines in the sheeting and getting them reasonably accurate.

With the sheeting almost done on one side I set the fin on top of the engine housing and stood back using the TLAR (That Looks About Right) method to assess accuracy:

Next I moved onto the port side engine housing.  Using the same construction as the top engine, I began forming the circular fames, and attaching stringers.  I also used some patterns to help visualise.

I then attached a skin to really put things into perspective:

While in a visual frame of mind I also made a start on the port engine intake and the wing frame.

It certainly helps me to visualise the overall size and accuracy of the shapes.

Until next time…

Main Engine Start

I’ve made some progress over the last few months on the rear section of the fuselage, and particularly the high engine.

First thing to do was to create some circular frames/bulkheads.  Rather than cut out full circular pieces of aluminium and incur a high percentage of waste, I figured I’d cut out quarter sections and join them to create the circular sections.  Here’s how I went about it:


These were then cut out and hammered into shape using plywood templates:


Three quarter circular sections were then assembled and mounted in place on the rear fuselage frame:


I then mounted the intake nozzle that I had started last year:


Then I added a further circular section and stringers, as well as the tail fin that I had started on some time ago:


Next, to work out the skins:


Now to start the skinning and shaping of the intake nozzle.  One of those critical pieces that needs to look right – here’s hoping my technique works out:


Quite happy with the way it’s looking.  Will need some filler, and plenty of elbow grease to finish but the foundations are there.

Also started on some of the engine greeblies:


Being very curious how the rear will look when joined with the front of the fuselage (but with no easy way to move them just yet), I did a quick mockup with some image editing:


Now that’s looking more like it!

Until next time…

A new year, a new beginning…

It’s been a long while since I’ve reported on the Viper build, but I finally have made some progress worthy of publishing.  A new year, a new beginning…

One of my main hurdles was a lack of space for the Viper and my various other projects.  To address this I’ve built another 12m x 7m shed.  This space will allow me to continue with the build and will eventually be the home of the completed Viper.  Always in search of a new challenge, I ended up doing the shed build myself, with some help from family and friends.  It took the best part of 12 months but I now have a great deal of extra space and a hangar in which to house and protect the whole Viper.

 In terms of the Viper, I’ve been sheeting the fuselage and almost have one side complete.  I’ve acquired a bend brake to assist with the straight edge bends and would now be lost without it.

I’ve also been working on the canopy – a combination of aluminium framing and polycarbonate.  The poly sheeting has a slight tint to it and should look great when the canopy is done.


I began some work on the high engine intake and have a plan on how to sheet it and accurately achieve the compound curves.

Starting to look more like it now:

Finally, I’ve started on the rear half of the Viper framework.


I hope my next update will much sooner this time round…  All the best for 2019 !!

Beginnings of the Cockpit

I’ve started on the layout of the cockpit panels.  Some tricky geometrical shapes to work through, but I’m slowly sorting through the issues.

I’ve also been working on shaping the outer skin panels, but these cannot be permanently attached until the cockpit is properly fitted out.  Some progress pics:

Small steps, but it’s beginning to take shape.

The Shape of Things to Come…

While waiting for one of the hottest Summer’s on record to end, I’ve been doing what I can in the morning’s or late afternoons.  I’ve started to prepare some of the larger skins for the main fuselage.




I also did some proof of concept sheeting to get an idea of the accuracy of the overall shape of the fuselage – to get a sense of the shape of things to come.  So far so good.




From the inside – looks quite authentic to me!




Before I permanently sheet the outside of the cockpit area, I’ll need to fit out the internals of the cockpit.  That oughta be interesting…

On a final sad note, RIP Richard Hatch, immortalised as Captain Apollo.  One of the great sci-fi hero’s of my childhood and played so well by Richard.  From all reports, a real good bloke who genuinely made the world a better place.  Certainly a big inspiration for me and this project.  Gone but not forgotten…

Some Fuselage Progress, at last!

It’s been well over 6 months since I last reported any progress on the project.  Time certainly gets away!

I’ve been continuing to work on the Viper’s fuselage albeit very sporadically.  My attention has been distracted by other projects and real life.  We’re now in the Summer months in my part of the world and my garage once again turns into a sauna between the hours of 10am and 4pm.  As keen as I am at the moment to get stuck into the build, it’s just no fun at all to be in the garage when it’s so hot and sticky!

I’ve been primarily concentrating on getting the nose section properly fitted and secured to the main fuselage, as well as reinforcing the majority of riveted joins.  This has presented a few engineering challenges for me, as I originally had intended for the nose section to be separable from the main fuselage, for transport purposes.

However, as the build progressed, I changed the design to secure the nose section, and make the fuselage able to separate from the tri-engine rear section instead.  By doing it this way I’ll have a 5.5 metre fuselage and 4 metre engine section to accommodate for transport purposes.

In terms of the engineering/build – this has required me to include a number of additional structural components.

I’ve also been including structural components for the mounting of the front landing gear.  The primary strut for the landing gear is a 100 mm x 5 mm galvanised section of pipe.  It won’t be retractable but I am planning on designing it so that it can be made to go lower to allow the fuselage to be more easily moved around.

The area that has most obviously changed is the addition of the top panel on the forward fuselage, in front of the cockpit:






That’s about it for the moment.  I’m hoping some cooler weather over Christmas / New Year to get a bit more done.

PS- For anyone who hasn’t seen the Youtube clip of the assembly of the X-wing for the Rogue One red carpet premiere, well worth a look.  A thing of beauty – very inspiring and motivating for me.



Fuselage Foundations

It’s been a while since I’ve updated my progress, but I’ve achieved a worthwhile milestone and thought it would be a good time to share.

I’ve been working on the main fuselage, completing the formers and working on the underside sheeting.



With this done, I began preparing to fit the nose section to the main fuselage:



A little more alignment to get it looking right:


The view from the cockpit and behind:


Next on the task list is attaching the stringers to run the length of the fuselage and then fitting out the cockpit.

Formers/Frames/Bulkheads Almost Done!

Work on the former/frames/bulkheads has continued to the point where the main fuselage is almost ready for the stringers to be attached.





The previously constructed nose section will be fitted to the front of the main fuselage.  The below shot gives some idea of the scale of the main fuselage:


The next part of the build involves attaching the stringers around the former profiles, running lengthwise along the fuselage.  The sheeting of the fuselage will follow soon after…


Formers/Frames/Bulkheads, repeat…

My recent efforts on the Viper have all been related to the fuselage formers, frames or bulkheads.  These are what gives the fuselage its shape and profile.  Very important to get right and very time consuming to build right.

Former number 1, the largest former at the rear of the cockpit section was fixed into place and then former 8 was constructed at the front.  The completed nose section will mount against this former.


Former number 4 is at the front of the cockpit section.  This was constructed in a similar fashion to former 1, double sided with a flange in between.  Strong and light weight.


View from the cockpit.

Former 5 is single sided with an inner and outer flange.



The fuselage is taking shape, but I still have another 4 formers to build.

It’s warming up in this part of the world but I’ve been lucky enough to have a few wet and cool weekends to make some progress.  I’ll continue with the formers while the weather permits, but I suspect I won’t achieve much more during the summer months.


The Main Fuselage Construction Begins

I’ve been busy setting up for construction of the Viper’s main fuselage.  I’ve built a larger and more robust rotisserie jig to assist me with this part of the build.  It will also be useful for the construction of the rear, three engine section of the ship.

I firstly set up the bulkhead/former stations, ensuring they were square and level.  I then attached my previously designed fuselage profiles to ensure everything lined up as expected.  After a few slight adjustments, it all looked pretty straight.




Next up, I began attaching the main structural fuselage beams to the jig.  I found some 65mm square x 1.8mm thickness aluminium patio posts for sale locally for a good price, so I bought these to use as my primary structural members.  I cut these to size and began attaching them.  These will carry the bulk of the load between the nose landing gear and the rear engine landing gear – approximately 4 metres apart.



I continued building the structure of the fuselage forward of the cockpit, with some 50mm square aluminium section and 40 x 25mm section.




Now to build the formers or bulkheads around the structure.  I’m using 1mm thick sheet aluminium for this purpose.  The first 3 bulkheads which surround the main cockpit area will be built up with two faces and a riveted flange.  This is similar to the construction of the WW2 Spitfire and should provide maximum strength and rigidity.





Construction of the bulkheads will continue until the summer heat hits.  Unfortunately that will slow my progress down significantly, as the tin shed becomes the equivalent of a sauna in summer.