The Airplane in a Makerspace: An Update

The Legal Eagle with tail installed. The fuselage was placed on leveled tables which acted as a reference surface in order to true and rig the landing gear.

The homebuilt airplane project at Appleton Makerspace is moving along well! With proper provisioning and support from the members, a Makerspace is proving to be an excellent environment for an ambitious project. From custom-machined engine parts, to wood CNC-routing, to 3D-printed cable fairleads & fairings practically every capability offered by Appleton Makerspace is being put to use assembling this scratch-built ultralight aircraft.

From custom-machined engine parts, to wood CNC-routing, to 3D-printed cable fairleads & fairings practically every capability offered by Appleton Makerspace is being put to use assembling this scratch-built ultralight aircraft.

One of the disk brakes installed on the main landing gear. The disk mount was designed in CAD software then fabricated with the CNC mill, the lathe, and the Diversion 180 TIG welder donated by Miller Electric in 2015.

Visitors will currently find the plane sitting proudly on its own landing gear with wings affixed. (You know you’ve made progress when a friend’s four year-old child identifies what you’re working on and exclaims “Daddy, he’s building a plane!”)


Jokes aside, build progress over the last several months has been quite rapid. Although working in a shared workshop that is open 24/7 with 40 members offers unique challenges to the aircraft builder, the opportunity for collaboration, the equipment, and the occasional hand lent by other members make for an easier (and more enjoyable) project. Having a heated facility with its own kitchen/breakroom, an assortment of tools for various disciplines, plenty of table space, a wifi connection, and the ability to use noisy powertools at 2 am without bothering anybody keeps my neighbors happy.

A nearly-complete rockershaft stand designed to lock into the cylinder head of a 1/2 VW engine. The part was designed in an EAA-member licensed copy of Solidworks and machined on the CNC mill.

Other Makerspace members have taken a serious interest in the seeing the plane fly, and having talented drafters and fabricators around has turned this two-person project into a team endeavor. Leading a small team of folks building a custom-airplane for nothing more than fun and an opportunity to learn is proving an invigorating challenge; in addition to the logistics of a build project I have to account for the skills and schedules of a team of folks that, although talented, aren’t “airplane people” (Yet!).

Brake disk mounts bolted together after machining and before welding. The bushings were cut on a lathe to ensure they ended up perfectly square, and the assembly was welded together as one unit before being cut into two mounts in order to maintain accurate alignment.

As far as large CNC equipment is concerned, Appleton Makerspace is still pretty humble (for now). Although we have a working CNC lathe, CNC mill, and a laser cutter we don’t yet own a Shopbot or other large CNC router common to most Makerspaces. Fortunately my build partner, a mechanical engineer who lives and works in Madison, is a member of Sector 67. Their facility offers some larger equipment should we want to machine anything more substantial; if you live in the Madison area definitely check them out!

We anticipate the airplane will be ready for flight-testing in June. I plan to conduct as much engine run-testing as is feasible at the Makerspace (with necessary safety precautions adhered to!) so that if tweaks are necessary they can be made in a well-equipped shop before shipping the operation out to the airfield for flight–testing. The decision that an aircraft is ready for flight is never one that should be made lightly; we’ll work as long as we have to be sure that this plane will safely fly. That being said, Appleton Makerspace has made building an airworthy airplane a far easier undertaking.

Miller Electric Donates TIG Welder

The Appleton Makerspace’s Metal Shop is a major step closer to being operable with Miller Electric’s generous donation of a Diversion 180 TIG welder. It’s awesome to see a local company like Miller Electric, whose corporate headquarters are just a few blocks away, helping their community. (Check out their Website.)

This machine adds tremendous capability to our shop as it will allow us to weld both steel AND aluminum of a wide variety of thicknesses using a relatively clean and easy to control welding process. 

We’ve been spurred by this exciting addition to hasten setting up a safe and usable Metal Shop. This, along with the previous donation of safety equipment, will bring much more utility and educational opportunity to local Makers and the community.

Please thank Makerspace Member and Miller employee Ryan Peterson for arranging this for us! 

KB9VR Antennas Donates 2-Meter J-Pole to Appleton Makerspace Hamshack

The Appleton Makerspace's J-pole  looks great in a fall sunset.
This J-pole antenna was donated by Michael Martens, who hand-makes quality, affordable antennas for Amateur Radio Enthusiasts

The Appleton Makerspace’s growing Hamshack received the welcome donation of a 2-meter J-pole antenna from KB9VBR Antennas. The antenna radiates primarily on the 2-meter band (144-148 MHz) but also radiates well on the 70 Cm band. This antenna will enable us to better participate in Fox Cities Amateur Radio Club (FCARC) nets and other VHF nets in the area. 

The antenna is made out of copper pipe, which is an excellent conductor, and is robust enough to last through Wissconsin winters. For more information on KB9VBR Antennas, check out their Website.

Currently, the Appleton Makerspace Hamshack has capabilities for: 13cm data, 70cm fm voice, 2m fm voice, and 20m all mode. We have antennas for 6m, 10m, 40m, and 75/80m that still need to be installed. 

Mini Maker Faire at Barnes and Noble

Join us and Makers across the nation at Barnes and Noble’s Mini Makerfaire! We will be exhibiting some 3D printers, talking about our various projects, and introducing ourselves to the public at the Grand Chute Barnes and Noble November 6-8. Expect Makers to be there Friday 3-7, Saturday 11am-7pm and Sunday 11am-6pm. 


We are excited to be part of an event happening nationwide that will introduce the public at large to the Maker movement, and the accomplishments of tinkerers across the United States!

Miller Electric Donates Needed Protective Equipment

Appleton Makerspace Members (left to right) Jakob Brouillette, Tim _____, and Shane Grey try on PPE graciously donated by local company Miller Electric.
Appleton Makerspace Members (left to right) Jakob Brouillette, Jean Luc Picard, Tim Bolz, and Shane Grey try on protective equipment graciously donated by local company Miller Electric.

Just this week local Company Miller Electric donated much needed protective equipment to the Appleton Makerspace! The donated equipment will be used for both day-to-day use by Makerspace members, and for regular welding classes we will offer the community as soon as we have an adequate shop and equipment.

Within the week, Makerspace members will be putting the PPE to use on various projects. This addition will allow members who cannot afford to purchase their own welding gear to use Makerspace welding equipment safely. It will also be used for welding classes offered to the public after we are able to equip our metal shop with air-handling.

The Appleton Makerspace is very grateful for the donation from Miller Electric, and will be putting all of the gear, including smocks, caps, gloves, and an auto-darkening helmet to good use!