Focus on Workshops: Kilkenny

MACI visits the Byrne aeromodelling workshop in Kilkenny. (Reporter Paul Fetherstonhaugh)

Kikenny City is a well known landmark and thriving centre of history and legend, and for your scale pilot the best of it all is outside the City gates, a short drive to the home of John Byrne, a flying legend and scale builder of consummate skill.

The port of call was the renowned Byrne workshop, a converted garage in two divides, one the workshop proper for reading plans, cutting ribs, setting up and aircraft construction, and the other for aircraft storage and paint spraying. Both John Byrne and his son Paul Byrne, another accomplished scale pilot par excellence, share the workshop, with agreed ground rules as to working arrangements.

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Of interest, are a number of features, which while undoubtedly obvious to the "Mr Know It All", and worthy of mention, are the laid carpets in the operations workshop and use of fire doors for sturdy and perfectly flat benches. The laid carpet, which was perfectly hovered, not only helps to keep the workshop warm, is also easier on the feet when standing at work.

The photographs amply display the neat and tidy set up for tool storage, everything within easy reach, and any specialised tool or self locking nut catalogued and found in seconds. Many scale builders spend the best part of their time looking for such items, and often in a state of agitation and desperation use whatever comes to hand in lieu. This frequently leads to unintended consequences, as when a scale builder unable to find his steel edge instead used a standard ruler, and then found to his horror on cutting the desired edge a meandering wobble line on the intended balsa now ruined, and his ruler pared of it's previous straight edge. This doesn't happen in the Byrne workshop, everything is where it should be.

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The end product coming from this workshop is second to none, scale pilots around the country are undeniably green with envy of the first class craftsmanship and finished aircraft turned out by Byrne & Byrne, to name but a few, Jungmeister biplane in silver, Waco in yellow with red trim, Fly Baby, Christian Eagle at half scale and more recently the Flybaby biplane.

Power tools are high tech these days, and John made special mention of his fret saw and orbital sander, essential for accurate wood cutting and sanding straight edges when building from plans. Both machines photographed feature built in fan extractors which carry away the balsa dust and particles, and the fret saw has the added feature of a telescopic light which shines on the working blade.

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The storage workshop keeps safe the largest scale aircraft, Christian Eagle, Fly Baby and some experimental aircraft stored in roof timbers. The patent spray gun and equipment is purpose built by John and Paul, using a domestic fridge pump for cycling air, a large gas tank of the old gas car variety plumbed to a water trap, car spray gun and airbrush.

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You can't but be impressed by the design, tools and features in this the Byrne workshop, and my thanks to both John and Paul for letting us and other lesser scale mortals see and share their methods of expertise in the science of scale building.

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