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May 09, 2019, 11:42 AM
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Making balsa wheels for P-51B


Building the P-51B takes two wheels .75 in. thick and 3” in diameter. The tail wheel is 1” in diameter and about a half-inch thick.

Yes I could have spent $12 to buy Williams Brothers excellent balloon tires. However, I could get some balsa stock for $4.

After research I built the wheels in layers. The hubcaps came from a thin sheet of modelers plastic—1/32” maybe. I used a 1/4” in. paper hole punch to make the revolver-patterned holes. They usually take 8 triangles, but I never was satisfied with test hubcaps. The plastic is crisp.

I don’t have a lathe or a way to screw these onto my drill. I cut the ply and balsa circles out using a micro-blade saw. I got close to the line. The 1/8” ply wanted to splinter. The 1/16” ply sheets were really solid.

The layers alternated left to right: 1/8” balsa, 1/16” ply, 3/32” balsa, 1/8” ply, 3/32” balsa, 1/16” ply, and 1/8” balsa. I carefully marked a center point on each circle poking they the template cut from the plans. On the outside balsa disks, I cut out holes for the hubcaps using the template from the plans. They were difficult to get truly circular.

The tailwheel was only one 1/8” ply middle and 1/8” balsa with the circles cut out. I did not add a hubcap to the tailwheel...yet.

After gluing, I stuck a T-pin thru the pre-drilled center holes and sanded the perimeter of the wheels. I taped a sheet of 100 grit sandpaper on my sork bench. I rocked the wheels while sanding. It was hard to sand the ply disks. Before painting, I used lightweight sparkling to fill in some holes—abs dry-sanded it smooth.

I spray painted the three wheels flat black and then sealed them with a dull finish rattle spray can. I brush painted the hubcaps silver using a dry brush technique to avoid brushstrokes and to keep the paint thin. I hope to add a wash to the hubcaps to weather them when working in the plane

Update: added wheel collars and bent 1/8” wire in the mains and 3/32” wire on the tail wheel. I left the wire long sticking out of the wheels until I decide what to do with the wheel cover panel.
Last edited by UpNup; May 10, 2019 at 04:51 PM.
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