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Old 06-02-2012, 07:50 AM   #1
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bending landing gear piano wire

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I have to make several landing gears from piano wire 5/32" or 3/16" There are 5 bends in each. I have had some problem with the wire breaking at the right angle bends. What am I doing wrong? If I use heat will it destroy the strength of the gear?
Thanks Glenn
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Old 06-02-2012, 09:04 AM   #2
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Re: bending landing gear piano wire

In my 4" vise I used a chain saw sharpening file to file a radiused groove in the jaws. A 1/8" to 3/16 radius is fine. Clamp the wire in the vise at that point and pull, then tap it down with a soft face hammer. The other device I use is a 8" piece of aluminum or steel rod say 1/2", drill a hole close to one end, radius the edge of the hole. Pre plan your bends so you do not get the bender trapped on the L/G. I designed and made a bender that will also make N/L/G's. Use good quality piano wire.

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Last edited by kip51035; 06-02-2012 at 09:06 AM. Reason: Added something
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Old 06-02-2012, 10:12 AM   #3
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Re: bending landing gear piano wire

Heat the metal and then make the bend. After bending, quench the metal in a pail of water.
Quenching after heating should restore most of the temper in the spring steel .
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Old 06-02-2012, 03:29 PM   #4
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Re: bending landing gear piano wire

You will have a hard time getting the temper back into piano wire since it gets its temper from cold working. You will be a lot better off setting up to cold bend it over a radius.

I can be done but unless you do it uniformly over the whole piece you will end up with hard and soft spots.

Heat Treating Music Wire - by Roy Vaillancourt

The music wire used by modelers to make landing gear and cabin struts is medium carbon steel heat-treated to spring temper or about 45 on the Rockwell C scale of hardness (RC45). On this scale,RC20 is soft,RC45 is tough,and RC60 is hard. Tough wire can be bent and cut using the proper tools and techniques, but sometimes it's just too difficult to work with.

One way to soften steel music wire is to heat it, which makes it easy to bend and form. But after heating and form- ing, the subsequent cooling often at an uncontrolled rate can make the finished wire too hard or too soft since its hardness is determined by the rate at which it cools. For some parts, the final hardness isn't critical. But a land- ing gear formed from wire softened too much won't spring back to its original position; and a gear made from wire cooled to a harder than normal state will snap on its first use. To restore the wire to its original specific spring temper, it must be heat-treated a second time and cooled at a controlled rate.

To form wire easily, first anneal it; next, form or bend it to the desired shape; and then heat- treat the part back to spring condition that is, temper it. First the wire should be annealed at the location to be bent. To anneal it, heat the wire with a torch until it becomes a bright cherry red about 1400 degrees Fahrenheit. Let it cool completely to the touch. Don't quench it or blow on it. Just let it cool naturally away from any drafts. The wire should now be in the RC25 soft range, and it will bend easily. After forming once again heat the wire with a torch until it becomes bright cherry red, but this time quench it that is, cool it rapidly by immersing it in room tem- perature water. Plunge the steel into the water with a twisting, swirling motion to keep water vapor from insulating the wire against the cooling action of the water.

At this point the wire should be very hard, probably above RC60. To test the hardness, try to make a mark on the worked area with a file. The file should slide off without cutting into the steel at all. If it cuts the wire, try the heat and quench cycle again. If the file still cuts the wire, it isn't high carbon steel. Get another piece of wire and start over you won't be able to add the neces- sary carbon to low-carbon steel.

When the file test signals success, the wire is ready for the final step, but not for use, because it's very hard and quite brittle, and will probably snap off. The final step is to temper the wire back to the desired hardness. Tempering is a form of annealing but is controlled so that the steel achieves a specific hardness.

Start by sanding the wire with steel wool or emery cloth. Then heat it gradually with the torch. Watch for the following colors as a guide:straw color (350 degrees), followed by dark blue (600 degrees), and then medium blue (750 degrees). At this point, remove the wire from the heat and allow it to cool slowly. Don't quench it or blow on it; just let it cool naturally in still air. Once the steel returns to room temperature, it should be at the target RC45 hardness, which has a good spring temper.

Try the file test again. You should be able to make a mark now, but only with some effort. If it passes this test, the wire is properly tempered. Besides parts for model planes, tempered music wire can also be used to make special pur- pose tools. Instead of tempering to 750 degrees (medium blue), stop at the straw color stage. The wire will be at about RC60, which is still very hard, but not brittle. Wire at this temper can be used to drill wood and plastics, and most aluminum and copper.

1. Rockwell hardness testing, named after Stanley Rockwell who made his first testing machine in 1921, is a gen- eral method for measuring the bulk hardness of metallic and polymer mate- rials. Although hardness testing does not measure performance properties, hard- ness correlates with strength, wear resis- tance, and other properties. Rockwell hardness testing is an inden- tation testing method. An indenter is impressed into the test sample at a pre- scribed load to measure the material's resistance to deformation. A Rockwell hardness number is calculated from the depth of permanent deformation of the sample after application and removal of the test load. Various indenter shapes and sizes combined with a range of test loads form a matrix of Rockwell hardness scales that are applicable to a wide variety of materials. The Rockwell B and C scales are used for metallic substances.

2. Anneal:To heat and then cool (as steel or glass)usually for softening and making less brittle.

3. Quench:To cool (as heated metal) suddenly by immersion (as in oil or water).
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Old 06-02-2012, 06:51 PM   #5
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Re: bending landing gear piano wire

Wow! Thanks for the great answers Kip, Bob and Dave. I knew someone on RCC would be able to tell me how to do this job. I'll give it a try.
Note the treads below Very good reading,Thanks again RCC.
Cheers Glenn

Last edited by Glenn Nigh; 06-02-2012 at 07:41 PM. Reason: See threads below
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Old 06-02-2012, 09:26 PM   #6
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Re: bending landing gear piano wire

I'll toss in one stupid question, but it's meant in the best way: how were you working the wire? Was it a steady pull or did you jerk it? Steady pull is good but a jerk can put a sharp sudden stress that leads to a failure.

Also, how tight a bend are you going for. A really tightn 90 degree bend can bee too much, even if you're putting a gentle pull into it.

Finally, practice makes perfect. Keep plugging away and doing reaserch on the internet on how to use a wire bender.

Oh yes, you do have a wire bender -- mine come from Harry Higley.
See picture 3 onwards.

Here's another refence on jigs.
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Old 06-02-2012, 10:10 PM   #7
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Re: bending landing gear piano wire

I have the article by Roy Vaillancourt as published in the thread by davidmc36 as 3 posts above.

I have followed that method since I saved the article in 2008 and it is flawless in it's method and description. If you follow it you will not go wrong.
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Old 06-02-2012, 10:45 PM   #8
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Re: bending landing gear piano wire

Just bent 5 landing gears for the Jack Stafford Aircoupe . Using the info above I didn't break any bends. Ground an edge on my vise and used an old sheet metal bending tool modified by rounding a corner and bent everything cold. Worked great!
Thanks to everyone for the help. I'm sure by looking at the originals they were bent cold too. ( could be wrong)
Cheers Glenn
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Old 06-03-2012, 10:29 PM   #9
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Re: bending landing gear piano wire

I once made a new nose gear wire using the procedure in the article by Roy Vaillancourt. I followed it precisely, but on my first attempt I got as far as the hardening step and then for some reason I tried to flex it a bit. It shattered like glass, it was so hard!!

I had to start all over and the second time I didn't try flexing it until after the final step.
Much better!
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