Santos Dumont Airship Instructions

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Build Instructions for the Santos Dumont Airship

Getting Started: Tools and Materials

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You'll need:

  • A sharp modeling knife, a scalpel or (at a pinch) a box-cutter for snicking the parts out of the sheet - we use Xacto knives and keep a supply of new blades handy.
  • Some wood working glue. Please don't try to use superglue, epoxy, hot-melt glue, gorilla glue or anything like that - stick to some kind of wood-working glue, preferably one that dries clear. We use "Aleene's Tacky Glue" in the gold bottle (you can buy it in the craft department at Walmart and from most craft shops). It dries clear (very handy!) and holds parts together well as it dries so you can work quickly.
  • A damp paper towel. The tight fit of our parts means that you only need a tiny amount of glue to hold the model together. You may want to wipe off any excess blobs with a damp paper towel - especially if you're using a glue that doesn't dry clear.
  • Optionally: A brown "Sharpie" pen (Walmart again!).

Note that in the instructions below, you can click on any of the pictures to see them in more detail.

Chips, soot and dangling chads

Wood is a natural material - it's not 100% uniform - so once in a while, a piece that should have been cut out and discarded will become stuck. You should be able to gently push these out from the back side of the material with the tip of a ballpoint pen. In extreme cases, you might need to help it out with a box-cutter - but that should be rare. We also (even more rarely) get small splinters on the backs of the tabs of walls and floors. These are hidden by other layers of wood when the model is assembled - so you don't need to worry about them. If a part is more severely damaged despite our fanatical quality controls - please let us know and we'll arrange for a replacement part for you.

Laser cut parts also tend to be a little brown/sooty around the edges. Most people who've seen our assembled product feel that this adds to the 'atmosphere' of a beat up old village and we strongly agree with them. Buildings that were heated by wood and peat fires and splashed by mud from unpaved roads and in an era before washable paint would have been fairly grungy. If it really bothers you, you can wipe the parts with a cotton cloth and warm water with a little washing up liquid.

Parts:

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Assembly:

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When you separate out the parts, there are a number of bulkheads in the sheet. Keep the parts in RED in the diagram below - throw away the parts in brown:

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We're going to build the envelope of the airship in two identical halves:

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IMPORTANT NOTE: There are three kinds of horizontal strip ("spars") in the kit - four thin ones - and sixteen thicker ones. Of the thick spars, eight are slightly longer than the others. All of the spars are curved more sharply at one end than the other. The sharpest curves goes towards the center of the airship, where the largest bulkheads are. <p> Glue the second-largest to the smallest bulkhead into the notches in one of the thicker, longer spars. Remember, the largest bulkhead goes at most sharply curved end of the spar:

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Take another thicker/longer spar and glue into the notches on the opposite side of the bulkheads

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Then add two more midway between the other two:

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Now, switch to using the slightly shorter spars and fill in the remaining for sets of bulkhead notches:

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Glue the largest bulkhead to the protruding ends of the spars:

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Repeat for the second half of the envelope - make sure both of them are standing up nice and straight and symmetrical - then set them aside for the glue to set completely.

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Glue the small round piece into the cutouts in the spars on the tips of each half:

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The Gondola

Locate the gondola sides and bulkheads:

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Glue the bulkheads in place - notice that the wide end of the bulkhead goes closest to the top of the gondola, where there are the most rope anchor points:

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Glue the two sides together with the top and bottom decks (make sure the slots in the decks align with the tabs on the top and bottom of the three bulkheads:

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Use plenty of masking tape (or painters tape) to hold the center of the gondola FIRMLY together...

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Bend the ends of the the two gondola sides together and glue one of the V-shaped parts to the bow and stern - aligning with the top side of the gondola sides:

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Set the gondola aside for the glue to set firmly!

Finishing the envelope

Put plenty of glue on one side of the envelope and glue the two sides together - lining up the spars on the two sides:

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Tape the two halves together FIRMLY:

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More Gondola parts:

Take the two circular disks and the two parts of the tail and laminate them together with one disk either side:

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Locate the propellor parts:

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Glue the two blades to the center section - tilt them at an angle - set aside for the glue to set:

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Glue together the four parts of the pilot's basket:

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Locate the engine parts:

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Laminate the four engine-block parts together:

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Glue onto the engine mounting plate:

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Add the radiator at one end:

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Glue between the two bulkheads that are closest together (the rear of the airship):

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Glue the two remaining engine parts to the exposed sides of the engine:

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Glue the oval fuel tank above the engine:

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Glue the pilot's basket into the front of the gondola - behind the front bulkhead (as shown):

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Glue the rudder part onto the tailplane:

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Glue the balance bars on top of the gondola...centered:

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Adding cloth to the envelope

There are five different sized pieces of cloth - two pieces of each size:

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Take one of the longest pieces - the concave side of the curve goes towards the front of the airship:

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Apply glue liberally to the largest bulkhead, the second largest and to all of the spars between them:

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Wrap the cloth around the airship - it'll overlap, put some glue under the overlap. Stretch it as tightly as you can - making sure that it covers both the edges of both bulheads:

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Repeat with the second largest piece of cloth and the next row of bulkheads. The cloth should just slightly overlap the first piece and should start and end at about the same place as the first one:

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Repeat again and a fourth and fifth time:

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Start again on the other half of the envelope:

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When it's all done, make sure to smooth it all out so that there are no gaps or serious wrinkles. The real airship was considerably wrinkly - so if you can't get it perfectly smooth - thats OK.

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Completing the Gondola

Glue the tail assembly onto the back of the gondola - the front of the shaft should go through the topmost triangle of the rear bulkhead and touch the engine block. Make sure the tail is vertical before you set it aside to set:

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Completing the Envelope

Turn the envelope over so that all of the overlaps are visible - this will eventually be the underside of the ship:

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Find the remaining four thin spars:

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Glue them onto the outside of the envelope onto the row of spars either side of where all of the cloth overlaps:

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Rigging the gondola under the envelope.

Now we need to cut the rigging wires. We provide 5 pieces of "floral wire" - which looks very much like rope in 28mm scale:

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You can cut floral wire quite easily with scissors:

  1. Cut the first piece into TWO 12cm pieces, one 11cm piece and one 8cm piece.
  2. Cut the second piece the same way (TWO 12cm pieces, one 11cm and one 8cm).
  3. Cut the third piece into one 10cm, TWO 9cm pieces, one 8cm piece and one 7cm piece.
  4. Cut the fourth piece the same way (one 10cm, TWO 9cm, one 8cm and one 7cm).
  5. Cut the fifth piece into TWO 9.5cm pieces - and keep the left-over section for spares.

Now, take each piece and bend over a 1cm section at each end, making a nice, sharp 90 degree angle.

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So you should now have:

  • 4x 10cm.
  • 2x 9cm.
  • 2x 8cm.
  • 2x 7.5cm.
  • 4x 7cm.
  • 2x 6cm.
  • 2x 5cm.

Here are the steps for rigging the airship:

1) Starting at the holes at the ends of the envelope, insert one 10cm length into the holes at the extreme ends of the gondola and the envelope and fold the ends of the wire completely around to make them fast. The gondola should now be hanging from the envelope by four wires - one in each corner.

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2) Using the next pair of holes along from the STERN of the gondola - insert the 8cm lengths (one either side) and fold the ends of those around too.

3) Using the second pair of holes from the FRONT of the gondola - insert the two 9cm lengths and fold those over.

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4) Using the next TWO pairs of holes in the stern and insert the four 7cm lengths into them and fold them over.

5) Now add the two 7.5cm wires into the next set of holes at the front of the airship and fold those over too. So now you should have eight wires holding up the stern of the gondola and six wires at the front.

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6) Now SKIP the next two holes in the front of the envelope - and use the next two holes and the two 5cm wires.

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7) Finally add the two 6cm pieces into the next set of holes at the stern.

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Use some left-over wire to attach the four ballast bags to the cross-beams on the sides of the gondola:

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Now, all of the holes in the gondola should be supported by wires.

At this point, you'll probably want to go back and adjust the bends in the wires to get them all moderately tight - and to get the gondola to hang under the balloon envelope without leaning to one side or the other.

When you're satisfied with the look, squirt a small dab of glue into each of the holes that the wire goes through.

All Done

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== All Done! ==