If man were meant to fly, God would have given him wood-working tools

Bob May built this amazing replica of da Vinci's il volo instrumentale for the Weber Public Library in Ogden, Utah. If you want to try your hand at something similar but less ambitious, a smaller replica with a 34-inch wingspan is available in kit form for $130. Leonardo da Vinci Flying Machine build page [MaysDesign.com via MAKE:]
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5 Responses to If man were meant to fly, God would have given him wood-working tools

  1. Not a Doktor says:

    Well they built the frontrunner commuter train recently and I haven’t really found a reason to try it out until now.

  2. Anonymous says:

    This is not intended as flamy criticism; I think it’s great that a mock-up has been built.

    But, just FYI on medieval/renaissance crafting techniques:

    In times past, the curved members would have been created from naturally curved pieces of wood or, less commonly, from bent wood. Cutting and laminating, which exposes end grain (and does not follow the design that was created by the tree in response to real environmental forces) results in significantly weaker members that have nasty built-in shear planes. You can see the use of naturally curved wood in very old wooden tools and buildings, such as English crook houses and Norse stave churches.

    Wiring, doweling, screwing and wrapping with leather results in an extremely different joint that you will obtain with the use of raw hide and/or sinew. Rawhide bindings are stronger than wood if done properly, but they compress the fibers of the bound members rather than displacing or severing fibers and introducing a built-in splitting pin like metal fasteners do. Similarly, rawhide will not cut the surface fibers of wood like wire or monofilament bindings until after the breaking point of the wood has been reached anyway. In practice, overloaded rawhide bindings fail slowly and with less catastrophic effects than most other methods of binding wooden parts.

    I once saw an “improved” yurt hana a guy built with bolts instead of hide lacing. It self-destructed catastrophically when subjected to trivial forces that traditionally built yurts and gers weathered with ease. I have also seen apparently sturdy ash poles broken by cheap pine staves because the ash was cut without respect for the grain.

    In defense of the craftsman’s choices, rawhide binding requires very high maintenance because it is vulnerable to moisture and many types of insects, and the timber commercially available today is mostly of very poor quality.


  3. Marshall says:

    A friend of mine built one of these and it was always hanging from the ceiling in his studio. Every time I came in I was impressed in a new way. This is awesome.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The real question is who will strap it on and try flapping around while hanging from the ceiling?

  5. Takuan says:

    yeah, like kevlar versus an old Inuit kayak.

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