Kauno Bianalė (Kaunas Biennial) is a very interesting event that takes places in Kaunas, Lithuania, every two years. It is very interesting in a way that you don’t have to notice it, even if you live in Kaunas, but the entire city centre becomes an art gallery of sorts. All the pieces were very interesting this year, but two of them were met with so many surprised faces we had to write about them.
Kaunas has its own Statue of Liberty – it is our “Laisvė” (“Freedom”), standing proudly on a tall pedestal in the very heart of Kaunas. It was created by a famous artist Juozas Zikaras back in 1921, but was demolished in 1950 by soviets, who did not want any symbols of freedom in Lithuanian eyes.
This is quite important piece of the story, because for 39 years Kaunas’ “Laisvė” was gone from the square, but not from the memory. In 1989 it was rebuilt as Lithuanian hopes for independence were growing stronger. Now it is one of the most important symbols of Kaunas, which is here to stay forever.
However, being 12 meters from the ground “Laisvė” doesn’t have a chance to meet people of Kaunas. And that is where Kaunas Biennial comes along. Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi created and installation, which basically puts “Laisvė” in a soviet-design kitchen. A mock-up of a room was built on some construction-grade scaffolding and it was decorated with furniture, wallpaper and utilities from the period, when “Laisvė” was taken away from Kaunas and Lithuania.
This very special art piece represents the time shockingly well and the symbolism is both deep and understandable. During that period when the subject of freedom was taken away from the public, people could only speak about it in their own privacy in their own kitchens. “Laisvė” lived on the tables of every Lithuanian house. Until it accumulated, grew stronger and emerged with such power no one could stop it. Not even Lenin’s in our squares and in our eyes. So they fell.
There is another piece of Tatzu Nishi in Kaunas. This one, called “Flat for rent”, is even more surprising. It is a small room for rent, typically used by tourists. But not for now. Now there is a Lenin sculpture, a copy of one that used to stand nearby “Laisvė’s” spot, lying on the floor.
The appartment is completely contemporary, but the sculpture is not. The contrast is almost eye-openning. It was explained to us that it can be interpreted as remains of soviet mentality that are living within us despite our modernized exterior. Hopefully, they Lithuanian will get rid of those too.
Here is a little video we shot to remember these two impressive pieces of art
It is interesting that it took a Japanese artist to introduce us to our “Freedom” eye to eye. That’s the result of Lithuania breaking free and a good remainder of the times, when people were just dreaming of “Laisvės” return to the city of Kaunas. Seeing it up close was simply astonishing, but it is time to let it come out again and look upon us from up high – both installations will be removed this Thursday already.
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.
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.
Martynas is restoring his E30 and sharing his experience with you. This time we are going to show and tell how he prepared and painted his car without professional equipment and a ton of money. While Martynas certainly has his hands growing from the right place, he had no experience in restoring cars. So hopefully this will be somewhat inspirational for you – you can do this too!
This is a second part of article series dedicated to Martynas’ E30. In the first article we looked over the condition of the car, main defects and Martynas’ vision of how it will look like when restoration project is completed. We invite you to read that article first.
In short, this E30 was not in a good shape. However, it is an old car and it could certainly be worse. While some rust was immediately visible, it was only an indication of what can be found underneath some of the body pannels and the layer of paint. So the first step in preparation for a new paintjob was removing fenders to inspect for rust.
And, of course, there was rust. All plastic components that were on the way, such as the grill and the rear lights, were removed and then Martynas could start sanding old paint away. This, of course, revealed even more rust that was not previously visible as well as some pretty deep dents.
Rust was sanded away completely and bigger spots as well as dents were filled with autobody filler. As you can see in the picture, there were many spots that had to be filled and sanded flush with the rest of the body, but eventually, after several days, work was finished.
Then it was time to spray the primer. Most people think that this has to be done professionally in a painting booth. And it’s true – results should be better if you take your car to a paint shop. However, Martynas wanted to do it himself and there really is no reason not to try. While it is easy to mess up, you can always sand little drips or dust away. So Martynas sprayed his E30 just on his lawn outside of the garage. All wheels and windows were masked before this operation.
While results were not perfect – several insects and some dust landed on wet primer – proper sanding fixed everything. And then it was time for painting. This, of course, cannot be done outdoors.
Martynas put up a temporary painting booth in a garage using just some plastic sheets. The goal is to let the paint cure uninterrupted by dust, insects or rain. His make-shift painting booth worked just fine. He did buy a good quality spray gun, but didn’t spend a fortune on it. The colour is called “Extra Black” and it seems to live up to its name.
One layer of paint and a couple of layers of lacquer were sprayed on the car. Paint layer was pretty much perfect, but there are some drips in the clear coat. It was made thicker for this exact purpose – imperfections will be gone in polishing.
This is how the car looked like after it was assembled back together.
And this is what the new exhaust looks like.
With this exterior restoration is almost done. It does still require some polishing, but the clear coat is still not cured enough for that. However, E30 is already up on its feet – it is mechanically well and safe to drive. By the way, speaking of the feet, this came in the mail –
But more about the wheels and how the car looks with them in the next article. Soon it will be time to start working on the interior of the E30, which is not in a good shape at all.
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