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Mystery covering?


Old 10-16-2006, 08:44 PM
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Default Mystery covering?

I bought a crashed plane to rebuild from an estate (TF P-40). It has a covering which was painted over that I have no idea as to what it is. It is an opaque whitish color, very thin, and does not appear to have any weave or particular grain. It seems to tear more like cloth. There are places that need repair and I don't know what to match it up with. It doesn't seem to adhere very well to the balsa, so I'm not sure how the builder got the stuff to tighten up-can't tell if it used heat to shrink fit. I realize this isn't much info, but wondering if anyone could hazard a guess as to what this stuff might be?
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Old 10-16-2006, 10:15 PM
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Default RE: Mystery covering?

If it is an older plane it may be silkspan. Your description sounds like it. If it is, the paint is most likely a BUTRATE dope. I doubt it is a silk/dope finish as that is a heavy covering/finish.

Silkspan is a tissue with random fibers in it for strength. Once it is doped on and painted it frequently is difficult to tell it was silkspan to begin with.

Silkspan is still available from Tower Hobbies (among others ).

Initial application is as follows:

Apply a coat of clear NITRATE dope to the airframe and let dry.
Cut the Silkspan larger that the surface to be covered.
Wet the silkspan so it is DAMP.
Lay the silkspan on the surface to be covered and stretch out all the wrinkles so it is relatively smooth.
Using NITRATE dope, dope the EDGES down. Use your fingers to work the dope into the silkspan and smooth out any minor wrinkles that may have occured.
While the silkspan is still damp, apply a coat of NITRATE dope and let everything dry.

The water and the NITRATE dope will shrink the covering to a tight finish.

To repair a hole in silkspan, cut a patch about 1/2" - 3/4" larger than the hole and dampen it. Then apply it like you would an initial installation.

For small holes you most likely will not need to dampen it.

For repairs, after the silkspan has dried, feather the edges into the remaining silkspan and paint with BUTRATE dope.

Nitrate dope is not fuel proof, but shrinks more than butrate dope, then STOPS SHRINKING.
Butrate dope is fuel proof, but never completely stops shrinking.

A silkspan finish is not as strong a a film finish, but much stronger than just the balsa. This is the covering/finish that was used (and still is used ) by many modelers prior to moneykote. Silkspan is much lighter than a silk and dope finish.
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