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The Other Fellow's Shop
July 1954 Popular Science

June 1941 Popular Science
June 1941 Science Popular Science - RF Cafe[Table of Contents]

Wax nostalgic over early technology. See articles from Popular Science, published 1872 - 2021. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.


The Other Fellow's Shop

Henry Struck's hobby is flying model planes, but it takes a lot of groundwork in his shop before they can take off.

By Herbert O. Johansen

It takes two workshops to enable Henry Struck, 38-year-old aviation enthusiast of Hamburg, Conn., to indulge in his main hobby of flying powered model planes. There is a "brawn" shop, which includes power tools; and a "brain" shop, in which he designs the models and builds cardboard mock-ups of new, experimental types.

These twin shops are the birthplaces of Struck's prize-winning, radio-controlled airplanes. The brawn shop has crowded his one car out of his two-car garage. But before the tools begin to buzz there, he spends many hours at his drawing board in his "brain" shop.

If the board is sometimes thumb tacked with plans for a desk, chair or cabinet, that is to appease Mrs. Struck.

The Struck workshop is far from fancy, but it has the basic power tools he needs to "chop up wood, cut it to the right shapes and drill holes in it." It's a growing shop, though. Struck now has a 10" tilting-arbor circular saw, a 12" bandsaw, a 14" drill press, a 2 1/2" belt sander, electric hand drills, a bench grinder, and an air compressor for spray-painting.

As yet he has no lathe. One reason is that the shaping of delicate balsa-wood parts for model planes is razor-blade craftsmanship. In fact, Struck could build his models without power tools, but they enable him to do it more quickly and easily, giving him more outdoor flying time. It's important, too, for him to have the right piece of balsa wood for each part of a plane. Buying small pieces and then discarding them if they aren't quite right is costly. With power saws he can buy the wood in large blocks and chop them up until he gets just the right piece.


This is the third of a series of articles about outstanding home workshops, from which everyone who has a shop may pick up a few helpful pointers.

See Popular Science monthly next issue for a story on another fellow's shop.


Struck's workshopping and plane flying have to be squeezed into nights, Sundays and holidays because he works six days a week for the Chalker . Manufacturing Co., in nearby Clinton, as an engineer-designer on precision sheet-metal fabrication. He has had no formal engineering training. "Drawing and working with tools just came naturally to me," he says.

It all started with a fret saw that a friend of his family gave him when he was about eight years old.

"To get some fun out of it," Struck recalls, "I learned to do delicate, almost embroidery-like woodwork. I would soak the paper off cigar boxes and cut out parts for locomotives, cars and a lot of other stuff. Most of it came out of Popular Science Monthly. When I got pretty good, I tried my hand at making unpowered model planes and gliders."

Keeping pace with the progress of aviation, Struck designs and engineers new types in his "brain" workshop. Below, he is shown holding a cardboard mock-up of the air intake and fuselage of a jet-type plane. Rotors and engine that will turn them are on the table.

A drafting machine, shown in use above, is an important brain-power tool in designing planes and the occasional piece of furniture that keeps Mrs. Struck happy with his hobby. Above the cleanup brush is a swept-wing job that is powered by a miniature rocket engine.

Flying the model planes is Struck's real hobby and the reason for his build-them workshop. His Hamburg, Conn., home has plenty of water around for the take-offs and landings of his favorites-seaplanes, like the Seacat he is shown launching. A radio-controlled prize winner, it is 44" long and has a wing span of 68". This model once made an international flight across the Detroit River, from Detroit, Mich., to Windsor, Canada, carrying air-mail letters. It has survived several "forced" landings that sent it back to the shop for major overhauls.

Stepping into his garage workshop, Struck changes clothes and jobs - from a design engineer to a plane-building craftsman. Here he is shown measuring a piece of balsa wood to replace a damaged longeron on a plane that has been crippled in an emergency landing.

Building a boat is simplified by an ingenious rig Struck devised so that the framework can be tilted to comfortable work angles. The tilt rig is a 14'-long by 1'-square plywood box to which uprights are nailed, supporting the staions, or ribs, of the boat during construction.

Winding the rubber-band power plant of this super-light plane could be tedious work. Struck does it the easy way, using the gear unit of an old clock. On the bench is a flying-boat model without its wings and a Struck-designed voltmeter with self-winding reels.

Cabin-type model flies over a desk designed and built by Struck. The plane, weighing 1/10 of an ounce, is flying at about three miles an hour, powered by a single-loop rubber band. It set a record some years ago by staying in the air for 16 minutes, five seconds.

Then came the Lindbergh influence, and at the age of 12, Struck built his first rubber-band-powered pusher plane from plans that appeared in the July, 1928, issue of Popular Science Monthly. When that plane took off and flew, he was a confirmed model-plane builder and flier. He had a bureau workbench in one corner of his room, and he built six- and seven-foot models there.

Since that time, Struck figures he has built and flown at least 1,000 model planes, from tiny models weighing 1/10 of an ounce to the 54-ounce radio-controlled Seacat shown on page 167. He has won dozens of trophies at model-plane meets.

Hobby Led to Air Force Research

In 1940, his hobby led to a job with Ludington-Griswold, an aeronautical research group that had a small wind tunnel at Saybrook, Conn. It was a temporary job, building free-flight plane models and model wing sections to be tested in the tunnel.

He stayed nine years, doing a lot of secret work for the Army Air Forces.

The move to Connecticut was responsible for switching Struck's main interest from land models to seaplanes. Hamburg (population 265) is near the mouth of the Connecticut River on Long Island Sound, and there is more water around than open, level ground.

For newcomers to his hobby, Struck has some words of advice based on 26 years of experience with model planes.

"One trouble," he says, "is that beginners want to start too fancy. Simple, rubber-band-powered models are fun to build and fly. Your mistakes are inexpensive and will teach you to build them strong so that they can crash and still fly again. In that way you learn how they behave in the air and how to make adjustments. When you have mastered the building and flying of these types, you are ready to go on to gasoline-powered, radio-controlled jobs."

Struck, keeping up with the progress of aviation, has built and flown a swept-wing, rocket-powered plane, and is working on a ducted-fan jet-type model.




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