Covering of Ressu's (Snoopy) rudder

Maanantai 6.5.2024 - Tuesday Club member


When the preliminary tasks concerning the covering of the experimental aircraft Hietanen OH-XEA rudder had been done, the proper covering could be commenced. The rudder covering is done with cotton fabric meant for covering aircraft. The covering will be done the same way it had originally been done in the 1960s.




The covering got started by setting the metal-framed rudder on the fabric, which was spread on the table. The edge of the fabric was wrapped around the right-hand side metal tube of the leading edge and sewed onto it.  The sewing was done with thin cotton thread, using a suitable curved or hooked needle.


After the fabric had been sewn to the leading edge right-hand tube, the rudder was turned over on the table, so that the metal frame of the rudder was left under the fabric. The fabric that was attached to the right-hand leading edge, was drawn over the leading edge and left-hand side to the trailing edge the of the rudder, where the lapel of the fabric was left hanging over the table edge.



A metal bar was attached to the hem of the fabric hanging over the table edge. With the aid of the bar the fabric, resting on the left-hand side of the rudder, was tightened. At the top and bottom edges of the rudder the lapels of the fabric were tightened with small clamps to the edge of the table. When the fabric was tightened this way, the water tightening of the fabric was started. The fabric was soaked through with boiled water. When drying, the fabric shrinks a little. The proper tightening of the covering fabric will be done after the water tightening with nitrocellulose lacquer.


The tightening lacquering of aircraft covering fabrics is carried out in a process with several phases. The tightening lacquering is started with a 25 % thinned nitrocellulose lacquer. From that the process continues with intermittent sanding to 50, 75,100 -% nitro lacquer. After each phase the fabric is sanded free of the fuzz brought to the surface by the lacquer. From phase to phase the covering fabric will shrink more and more. The end result is a covering fabric tight as a drum head. The sufficient degree of tightening is easy to verify by tapping the surface. It’s customary to pigment or colour red the lacquer with iron oxide powder. This will help to recognize which area has been dealt with the lacquer and which not.




When the water-soaked fabric on the left-hand side of Ressu’s rudder had dried, 25 % thinned NC-Speed nitrocellulose lacquer was applied on the surface of the fabric. As a thinner NC-Speeds’s own Thinner-8 was used. The lacquer was tinted red with red iron oxide powder. After the lacquer had dried, the weights were detached and the rudder was turned around, after which the unlacquered side of covering fabric was drawn tightly under the right-hand side of the rudder. The lapel of the fabric was sewn to the leading edge of the right-hand side metal tube, i.e. the same, where the lapel of the fabric had been sewn in the first place. The covering fabric was now around the rudder like a bag.




Now the right-hand side fabric of the rudder in its turn was water-soaked. After that this side, too, was lacquered with 25% NC-Speed tightening lacquer. After the lacquer had been dried, the rudder’s lower edge, triangular shaped in cross section, was covered by sewing the lapels of the fabric onto the tubes in the rudder’s lower edge.



The tightening of the covering fabric continued with applying a second layer of 25 % lacquer on the rudder surfaces. Because the fabric didn’t start to tighten in the manner we had hoped, the rudder was lacquered a third time over with 25% lacquer. From this point on we advanced in stages to three times applied 50% and twice applied 75% NC Speed lacquering. In this manner a sufficient level of tightness was achieved, so that the fabric strips protecting the stiches of the covering fabric at the edges of the rudder can be fastened. The protecting strips will be glued to the leading, upper, and bottom edges of the rudder. No strip will be needed at the trailing edge because there’s no seam in the fabric there. Of course we could glue a strip there, too, because it would make it more resilient.


The protective strips were cut off the same covering fabric with which the rudder was covered.


The cutting was done with serrated zig-zag scissors. The serrated edge of the protective strip will stick better to its base, i.e. the lacquered surface of the covering fabric compared to the straight edge.


The protective strips were glued to the rudder with 75% nitrocellulose lacquer. First the area of the protective strip was lacquered, after which the strip was pressed onto the wet lacquer. The strip was applied with lacquer so that it became thoroughly soaked with lacquer. The strip was pressed against is base and brushing away air pockets or bubbles from under the strip. At the same time it was made certain that the serrated edges were tightly glued to the surface of the covering fabric.


After the strips had dried, their surfaces were sanded smooth paying attention especially to the serrated edges. The lacquering and sanding were repeated three times, after which the protective strips and especially their serrated edges were worked so smooth, that feeling with your finger gave you no sensation of the strip edge on the surface of the covering fabric.




After fastening the protective strips, the whole rudder was lacquered once with 100% nitrocellulose NC Speed lacquer. The covering fabric of the rudder had now reached the stage where it was as tight as a drum head and thus ready for painting. According to Ressu’s original colour scheme it will be light bluish grey.

Photos by Lassi Karivalo.

Translation by Matti Liuskallio.

Avainsanat: aviation history, restoration, Tuesday Club, Hietanen HEA-23b, OH-XEA, "Ressu"