There are woodturners, who make nothing else, but pens. I am very new to woodworking in general – I’ve completed only a handful of projects – and I don’t want to invest into proper equipment to make pens. However, that doesn’t mean I cannot have some fun and make, let’s say, a pencil. So that is what I did and here is how.
Since I knew I am just going to have some fun without some specific goals, I did not pay much attention to the materials. I went to the office supplies store and purchased a box of leads for mechanical pencils. I asked for the thickest ones they had, but it still turned out to be pretty thin. Especially having in mind I wanted to make a fat pencil.
I cut a couple of pieces of black alder and sanded them on their flattest side. This gave me two flat surfaces for a good glue joint. Then I took a straight edge and made a faint line down the middle of one piece. I had to carve out a groove for the lead to sit in.
My method was less than perfect. The groove as not very consistent at all, but again – I was just having some fun without any specific goals. When both grooves were completed and I made sure pieces mate well enough, I glued in the lead with CA glue.
Since lead was floating around, I immediately glued both wood pieces together as well. This gave me a nice blank for my pencil. A couple of days later I mounted it on my tiny baby lathe and started thinking about the shape I should go for.
Of course, at first the blank became round. At this point I could leave it as is – it would be a very thick pencil.
Then I started looking for a shape. I didn’t really know what I wanted, but I wanted an outside and inside curves and a small bead. At least, that is what I eventually decided. I used a single fingernail gauge for the entire project.
I sanded it to 600 grit, took it off the lathe and cut of that little piece from the end. Then I was able to mount it back to the lathe and carefully sand that little bead at the end.
I could have sharpened it on the lathe, but I decided not to try. It would be quite simple, but somehow my pencil ended up having its lead not in the very centre. That, of course, is a problem. So I sharpened it using just a pencil sharpener and a small chisel to bring tiny shy lead to the surface all around.
This is nothing to be proud of, but it was a simple and fun project. Much simpler than that spoon I turned last time. Now, onto the next project – maybe it will be a pen this time?
Woodworkers know that at some point you have to start making spoons. It is a good way to experiment with different techniques and tools. Some people make nothing but spoons of different shapes and sizes. However, I don‘t have skills to do anything as impressive as these people do and so I decided to make a very simple pare of spoons using nothing, but a piece of paper, some tape, a tiny lathe and a couple of chisels. This is how they were made.
I know a couple of questions have to be answered at the very beginning. The lathe is called CNC007 Mini Lathe Beads Machine. There are several versions of the same thing in different Chinese online stores, snoop around and you will find something. It is a good toy for people, who want to woodturn in their living room (not even joking) or move a lot, or for children, or for model making. Not a substitute for a real lathe, I know. The gauge is made by Norex, wood is black alder.
So I got this idea I can woodturn a couple of spoons my tiny lathe with some wood that I had laying around. I saw somewhere online that glueing two pieces of wood together with paper in between allows for quick separation, but holds well enough while turning. So that’s what I did – I glued a couple of 14 cm long pieces of alder together with a piece of normal paper in between. I left it to dry for a couple of days (several hours would’ve been enough) and then put the blank on the lathe.
Now on a normal lathe you would likely have a proper 4-jaw chuck, which would hold a square-is blank very nicely. However, my lathe is so small I have to turn between centres. Live tailstock is also shaped like a cone. This combination got me a little worried that the piece will fall apart as both ends get wedges on a relatively weak glue-and-paper line. So I put some regular packing tape on both ends for my psychological comfort more than anything.
Lathe took asymmetrical piece rather well. There were some vibrations, but nothing dramatic and the tiny motor was spinning just fine. At first I rounded the centre between pieces of tape just to remove some mass. And then I got enough courage to make the entire piece round. It didn’t take too long and everything went very safely. At this point I had to start looking for the shape of my spoons. I knew from the very beginning it is going to be like turning a log to a toothpick, but that gave me a lot of room to see what I would like these spoons to be.
Of course, as I turned off most of the glue surface, pieces started coming apart – that was inevitable as the tailstock was wedging itself in.
However, I continued turning. Since pieces were small, I wasn’t so worried that they will fly apart and hit me to the face. I decided to go with a relatively deep, almost scoop-sized bowl, sweeping handle and a couple of decorative beads at the end.
However, I did manage to finish turning and do all the sanding on the lathe. Since pieces were small, I wasn’t so worried that they will fly apart and hit me to the face. Then I pulled it off the lathe, separated the pieces, cut off that little piece left on the drive end and sanded it to shape. By the way, paper trick worked magically, but you already know that since pieces were coming apart on the lathe already.
I sanded the paper off, but didn’t do anything else on that side. I decided to leave spoons on my desk until I have a carving chisel to hollow them out. But working get boring sometimes and I had this very sharp 2 mm straight chisel laying around so I started playing with it and in no time at all I hollowed out the spoons.
Obviously, that is not the way to do that and I didn’t plan this, but it just happened this way. If you are planning a similar project, I strongly advise you to buy proper tools, secure your work and not to get your hands in a way of a sharp edge.
Anyway, I sanded the inside surfaces to 600 grit sandpaper, because that is what I finished the outside with on the lathe. And this is the end product. Mind you, I could have sanded it better and using a proper carving gauge would’ve resulted in less deep grooves that did not want to sand away.
Nothing to be proud of, but I am glad I did it. Except the paper trick, all the ideas and techniques I came up with by myself as I was working along. This was the third thing I’ve ever turned and it turned out quite well. I already know a couple of other projects I am going to turn on this lathe and one of them is going to involve hollowing out a form on a lathe. So look forward to that.
Egon Brütsch Fahrzeugbau, commonly known as just Brütsch, is just another historic German car manufacturer. However, it was special in its own way, because it only created designs of fiberglass microcar roadsters, mostly to licence them to other manufacturers. In its short history Brütsch made several interesting tiny cars, but one stands out as the smallest. How does 2.5 litres of fuel for a 100 km sound for you?
Company’s first car was Brütsch 200. It was a tiny three wheeled roadster with a single cylinder 191 cc engine and could reach 90 km/h. Brütsch itself didn’t make too many of 200’s, but it was licenced to a Swiss company A. Grünhut & Co. Brütsch 200 was only manufactured in 1954-1955. After its production life was over, Brütsch introduced another 3-wheeler roadster Zwerg. It was only a two-seater and a little bit slower with a top speed of 85 km/h, but it was more popular. Brütsch made 12 Zwerg cars, several more were manufactured by Air Tourist Sàrl in France.
In 1955 Brütsch made Zwerg – Einsitzer – a version of Zwerg with a 74 cc engine and a continuously variable transmission. It could only do 75 km/h. Production of Zwerg – Einsitzer stopped in 1956 and Brütsch stopped making Zwerg altogether in 1957. In 1956 the tiniest Brütsch came about – the Mopetta.
It was another three-wheel automobile, but this one had a single seat. Its egg-shaped fiberglass body was extremely aerodynamically efficient, allowing the Mopetta to very little fuel – just 2.5 litres for a 100 km. Of course, this was also courtesy of 49 cc engine. Brütsch Mopetta was created to replace a moped and thus did not have much in a way of luxury or comfort. In fact, it even had moped handle bars instead of a normal automobile steering wheel. The engine had a pull start and an integral three-speed gearbox. Despite it’s extremely light 89 kg weight, Mopetta could only reach 35-45 km/h.
Interestingly enough, Mopetta was not that cheap. It did cost only £200 in UK, but that is equivalent to about 2,200 Euros in today’s money. This, and, possibly, impractical design meant that Mopetta did not enjoy huge interest from buyers, although in various car shows it was always very popular. Its cute looks and character were admirable, but Mopetta was slow, difficult to get into and priced too close to a car. Brütsch made 14 Mopettas until 1958 when production was stopped.
Only a handful of Mopettas are still alive, one of them you can see in this video
Brütsch made cars alongside the Mopetta. It was another single seat 3-wheeled Rollera roadster, powered by a 98 cc, two seat 3-wheeled roadster Bussard with a 191 cc engine, 2-seater, 4-wheeled roadster Pfeil with a 386 cc and another 2-seater, 4-wheeled roadster V2, powered by either 98, 247 or a 479 cc engine. However, none of these cars were as popular as the Mopetta and Brütsch went out of production in 1958.
Brütsch Mopetta started gaining popularity only after its production life was over. Brütsch tried striking a deal with Opel to sell Mopettas in its dealer network, but it didn’t go anywhere. Now you can only buy replicas, which are pretty good, or some other vehicles that look a little bit like the Mopetta. For example, Randy Grubb makes Decopods, but it is unknown if he would still make some for sale.
Travelling is different when you are an aviation enthusiast. While some are looking for the best places to eat, researching nightlife, trying to list all the must-see places, I am browsing the internet for something else. I like travelling through new airports, I enjoy visiting local aviation museums and I always hope I will get to sit in an aircraft I have never flown in before. However, my latest trip to Slovakia beat all of that, because I got the opportunity to visit an actual plane factory – a place where Skyper GT9 and Viper SD-4 ultralights and EASA certified Viper SD-4 RTC are born.
Visiting industrial sites is not for everyone and I fully understand people who don’t see any value in it. However, I, for once, had never been to any plane factory before, so I was very excited about this opportunity. I wanted to see how a mass-produced ultralight plane is made, what processes does it go through, how are they controlled, what drives the design decisions. So I was really glad I got to visit Tomark Aero – Prešov, a Slovakia based airplane factory.
Tomark Aero is actually part of a bigger company, called TOMARK. Its main business is metal working: manufacturing trailer subassemblies, pressure vessels and a number of other metal components for the heavy industry and agriculture. The CEO of TOMARK has been an aviation enthusiast for years, so one day he decided to form a team that would create the perfect plane for him. Long story short, the design was so good that soon the decision was made –Tomark Aero had to make airplanes for sale.
Viper SD4, the company’s first plane, took off for its maiden flight in 2006. It is a low-wing two-seater – a quite athletic design from where I’m looking. The second plane, the high-wing Skyper GT9 took off for the first time in 2014. It is a faster, more touristic type of a plane, but more about the differences between the two models later.
Tour of the Tomark Aero factory
I had never been to a plane factory before so I didn’t really know what to expect. Somehow in my head I pictured almost a laboratory setting with people rushing to complete their tasks in time and partially assembled airplanes moving along on a conveyer. Obviously, that couldn’t be further from the truth as we found out getting a personal tour guided by Tomak Aero airworthiness specialist Robert Benetin.
I wanted to see the entire process of the airplane build so the tour started in the point where both TOMARK businesses meet. Sheet metal (mostly aluminium and stainless steel) is cut into shapes using an industrial laser cutter – the exact same machine is used to cut out parts for the trailer subassemblies. The laser cuts out all the holes, so that workers in the assembly line would not have to drill or cut anything. That is pretty much the only area where these two industries meet in the entire site. Interestingly, Tomark Aero always stocks up on parts, so that the manufacturing process would not be hindered by shortages.
Then these flat parts are deburred and bent into shapes using other machines. Later they form all the needed components for the structure of the plane, including beams for the monocoque construction of the front part of the fuselage of the Viper SD4. The Skyper GT9 is a little bit different, since its front fuselage is actually constructed from thin steel tubes – a common architecture for this kind of plane.
Of course, before any of these parts get put together to form the basic structure of the plane, they are coated against corrosion and marked so that the assembly line workers would know which part goes where and what process it has to go through. Both Tomark Aero models are basically fully metal, so there are a lot of different parts. I was surprised to see how controlled the process is and to find out that quality check-ups are done at each and every stage.
When the basic structure is assembled, the engine is installed on a special frame at the nose of the plane and workers start putting the wiring in. That is a very meticulous task, because not only engine controls have to be installed, but also cables for avionics, whole-plane parachute for emergency landing, fuel tanks switch and many other devices. After that, the outside layer of aluminium is riveted on and the basic shape of the plane is complete.
At the same time, the wings are being made – also fully metal. Skyper GT9 has slightly thinner wings, but both airplanes have fuel tanks with pretty much the same capacity. Interestingly, Viper SD4 has nice wingtip devices, with a gentle curve going up and back. They are made from composite materials and serve to reduce aerodynamic drag, but, at least for my eyes, they make the entire plane look much more elegant.
Some clips from our visit
When the plane is partially assembled it is time to put it into the paintshop. Tomark Aero has the biggest closed paint booth in Central Europe. Clients can choose from a selection of paint schemes, but, if they think nothing in the catalogue represents their taste, they can opt for a custom paintjob.
Then the airplane is taken to a nearby airfield for final assembly and flight testing. At first, the plane is finished – all devices are installed, seats, cabin upholstery are put in and temporary number for testing is pasted onto the fuselage. Initial testing is done on the ground – quality control experts look over the entire airplane checking for defects. Then all controls and avionics devices are inspected and after that the plane is prepared for its maiden flight.
This job belongs to a test pilot. He follows instructions about what manoeuvres he has to do in the first flight and registers all the defects if there are any. Then they are immediately corrected so that the customer would get his/her plane in perfect condition.
Finally, when the customer decides to ship his/her airplane to aforeign country, the wings are taken off, the plane is packed into a crate and shipped to its owner. It is also possible to fly-over finished airplanes directly to the customers and there is also the option to pick-up the airplane at Tomark Aero test airfield. It typically takes around four months from order until delivery, but, in some cases, Tomark Aero can deliver an airplane quicker – stocking on parts allows for some flexibility in manufacturing time. Delivery time also depends on the customer paint-job scheme, whether it is one already available or if it is customized.
Both Skyper GT9 and Viper SD4 look mighty impressive for an outsider like me, but how do you chose which one to buy?
Skyper GT9 and Viper SD4
Skyper GT9 is a high-wing airplane, designed mostly for touristic-type of flying. Because its wings are mounted on the top of the fuselage, the ingress is simple, the luggage compartment is easily accessible from the outside and the plane sports an impressive performance. Meanwhile, the Viper SD4, although a bit slower, is a more robust airplane, which will appeal to more passionate pilots. It is more athletic looking and it is EASA certified to be used in pilot schools – that is a big part of its appeal.
Differences of variants of individual Tomark Aero Airplanes
„Viper SD-4 RTC“
„Viper SD-4 LSA“
„Viper SD4 UL“
„Skyper GT9 UL“
Rotax 912 S / ULS (100 HP)
Rotax 912 UL/A/F (80 HP)
Rotax 912 S / ULS (100 HP)
Rotax 914 UL / F (115 HP)
Rotax 912 UL/A/F
Rotax 912 S / ULS
Rotax 912 UL
Rotax 912 ULS
Maximum take-off weight
4 725 m
Runway (take off/landing)
Fuel tank capacity
70 / 100 l
70 / 100 l
In LSA specifications both planes are heavier (maximum weight reaches 600 kg), which means that a bit-longer runway is required. Also, instead of the 70l fuel tank LSA specified the Skyper GT9 and Viper SD4 get 100-litre fuel tanks.
In short, Skyper GT9 is easier to use and maintain and to live with. It is also faster than Viper SD4, although a little less rigid. Meanwhile, Viper SD4 is a sportier airplane. It is strong, reliable and looks good. It is also very easy to fly – a perfect choice for pilot schools. Viper SD4 can be also used as a great towing machine for gliders or banners. Ideal for flight clubs.
By the way, I asked about the safety record of these planes. This really not-polite question was met with a smile – while there have been several crashes, none of them were caused by mechanical faults nor factory defects.
It is the first airplane factory I’ve ever been to. While I was expecting a busy and almost laboratory-like setting, it was much simpler – just an industrial site where everyone fulfils their functions. There are no robots as far as I could see and every plane was caressed by human hands on every step of the way. Kind of a romantic image, to be honest, but it is very technical.
Everything regarding the airplane manufacturing is done to the highest possible standards. The quality control is meticulous and watches over every airplane at every stage. However, make no mistake – Tomark Aero airplanes do have some passion about them. They appeared in this world because the CEO of the company simply loves aviation and this sense is visible throughout the factory. I saw posters with fighter jets in one of the stations where the cabin and interior get installed – these people just love what they are doing. And I loved visiting the factory, learning a lot about manufacturing of ultralight airplanes and seeing these birds before the wind touches their wings.
We don‘t have to tell you what TopGear is – everyone knows this extremely popular TV show. However, did you know that it actually did some damage to Tesla at the beginning of its history? And it wasn‘t done unintentionally with some bad joke – Tesla is still not happy about one potentially dishonest review.
Tesla Roadster, which entered production in 2008, was a very interesting car. Electric sports cars were not that famous back in a day and people were still cautious about range anxiety and charging times. However, Tesla Roadster was exciting and had pretty serious people behind it. Notably, Elon Musk, who was already a famous business man at that time. Naturally, media was writing about Tesla Roadster and it found its way to TopGear.
The review in question appeared in 2008. Jeremy Clarkson started by highlighting good points, such as acceleration and modern electric drive. He said that the car does feel like it’s the future, comparing it to broadband, as opposed to dial-up. However, later he started criticising the car. At first he said it doesn’t feel as good through the corners, which is legit criticism as the car was much heavier than Lotus Elise on which is it was heavily based.
Then it was said that the car ran out of battery in just 55 miles (89 kilometres), even though Tesla promised a 200 mile (322 km) range. Tesla Roadster was pushed off the track into the shed. Top Gear had two cars to test and eventually both of them were down with empty batteries and brake problems. The test was concluded by saying that Tesla Roadster may still not be ready for the road. Clarkson even pointed at a stationary wind turbine implying that the car takes time to charge, but Tesla roadster could be charged at home in just 3.5 hours.
Not only that. Tesla data logged both vehicles from the test and said that neither of them went below 20 % of energy left in the batteries. Therefore, none of Tesla’s cars had to be pushed off the track into the shed. BBC later admitted that it was just to show what would happen if the car ran out of energy. Brakes were not broken down either – we cannot know what was TopGear about.
What Musk thinks about Jeremy Clarkson?
You may think that this is basically irrelevant. TopGear is just an entertaining show with a little bit of automotive journalism. You can see that its clips have been scripted and reviews are subjective. That partially is what makes them so fun to watch. In fact, Elon Musk said that Tesla employee, who delivered cars for testing saw the script, which said that the car is going to break down – he was that even before tests started.
However, it is very much relevant when you are a small company trying to enter the market. Elon Musk said that many potential investors later asked why cars were breaking down on TopGear track. It actually could have caused significant damage to the company. In 2011 Tesla sued BBC, but the court figured out BBC is not guilty in this case. Tesla even had to cover BBC’s legal costs.
So what can we learn from this story? Well, a lot if you’re a new company in the automotive market. Also, don’t believe everything on car reviews – some things are subjective and some shows are mean for entertainment purposes only.
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