Proper care and maintenance is essential to owning any type of aircraft. One of the finishing stages is the aircraft fabric covering process. Stewart Systems provides step-by-step instruction to help guide airplane gurus through the technique of aircraft fabric covering. This is a relatively simple method, but the proper tools and guidance are required in order to make aircraft fabric covering a success. Items needed for this process: aircraft fabric, EkoBond glue, a brush and a hot iron tool.
Control Surface Aircraft Fabric Covering with Stewart Systems Part 1
Note: an essential step before following this aircraft fabric covering tutorial is to adequately tape and secure different points along the frame. Tape ensures that the sharper edges of the frame will not penetrate or rip the fabric.
Step One: Pre-Cut and Position the Fabric Panels
The first step in the aircraft fabric covering process is to measure and pre-cut the fabric for each piece. Spread the fabric out on a wide table or surface, ensuring there is enough space to lay the frame of the airplane on top of the fabric. Inadequate space will result in the fabric being spread unevenly across the frame.
Step Two: Pre-Glue and Wait to Dry
Apply glue on the areas of the frame that are going to come in contact with the fabric. It is not necessary to apply the glue all the way around each part of the frame, but only about halfway to give the fabric a sticking point. When gluing, apply so that the fabric will be turned to the inside. That way the fabric will be hidden when the frame is pieced together. Allow the glue to pre-dry before beginning the next step of aircraft fabric covering.
Step Three: Wrap Fabric on Glue and Iron
Next, apply the fabric to the pre-dried glue. Gently wrap the fabric into place and rub along the edges to bond it to the glue. Take scissors and cut around hinges and other parts of the frame where the fabric could get bunched up. Use a hot iron to rub along the fabric. This will tack the fabric to the frame and iron out wrinkles along the surface. Pull tightly and straight around the frame.
Control Surface Aircraft Fabric Covering with Stewart Systems Part 2
Step Four: Apply Glue to Fabric, Wipe Away Excess & Bond using Iron
Lightly brush the glue in place over the inside portion of the fabric. Use a towel or cloth rag to wipe away excess glue. It is important to only work with small portions at a time. While wiping away excess glue is important, the wiping method also pushes the glue throughout the fabric to give deep penetration and a more secure bonding. Allow around 15 minutes for the glue to dry before proceeding. Use a pair of scissors to cut away the remaining portions of the fabric that are not used. Notice that the glue keeps the fabric in place to allow the remaining fabric to be cut away easily. Use a hot iron to bond the remaining portion of the fabric to the frame. Do this throughout the entirety of the section after cutting away unnecessary fabric. Avoid using a razor if possible and be careful when cutting so as to not puncture the fabric underneath.
Control Surface Aircraft Fabric Covering with Stewart Systems Part 3
Step Five: Prep, Glue and Iron the Top-Side of the Fabric
Using a majority of the same methods as above, take the pre-cut fabric and spread it out over the table. Then take the frame that has already been worked on and set it down on top of the fabric (with the uncovered frame on top of the fabric). Use the glue to brush small sections at a time around the frame. After the glue dries, fold the fabric up around the frame. Keep in mind that regulations require a ONE inch overlap of fabric. This shouldn’t be a problem but is a good reference around the entirety of the frame. Use a pencil and mark a one inch line around the outside perimeter. This gives a gluing reference point as the fabric bonds. Again, working in small sections and wiping away excess glue is a crucial step in the aircraft fabric covering process. Use the reference line to apply glue around the outside of the frame. Be sure to pull the slack out while moving around the perimeter.
Step Six: Cut Away Remaining Fabric and Apply Final Glue Coat
After the glue has dried, take the iron to apply the heat to the fabric, further bonding it to the frame. Take a pencil and re-draw the same pencil line as before. This will provide a reference point showing where to cut away the excess fabric. Using shears, cut away the remaining fabric. Use the iron to bond the remaining fabric into place. Apply one final coat of glue around the perimeter of the frame. Keep in mind the importance of working in small sections and wiping away the excess glue. This final coating helps to secure each layer of fabric to the frame.
As an authorized distributor of Stewart Systems, we at Eko-Tech USA Inc. don’t take aircraft finishing and maintenance lightly. We proudly provide the Stewart Systems tools, products and expertise to help with the aircraft fabric covering process and much more.