This post is a follow up to Preserving and Displaying the “Bat-Wing Ship” published on June 24, 2011.
The Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute (MCI) Conservators and National Air and Space Museum staff spent July and August continuing to investigate the Horten H IX V3 jet fighter for preservation and preparation for display. Senior Conservator Melvin Wachowiak took the following detailed photographs on Tuesday, June 21, 2011.
Conservators are attempting to determine if the degradation of the plywood is caused by a failure of the adhesive or by biological deterioration of the wood. Understanding the cause of the deterioration will guide their immediate and long-term preservation strategies. One of the greatest challenges in this treatment will be in determining the most appropriate adhesive and finding effective methods of getting the adhesive to penetrate into deep areas of delamination. Photos 1 and 2 (seen below)—show 11 sheets of 5 cross-laminated plies each.
Photo 1. Artisans have built airplanes with plywood since well before World War I because crossing each layer, or ply, counters the weakness of a single sheet when bent with the grain rather than across the grain (Melvin Wachowiak /Smithsonian MCI photo).
Photo 2. (Melvin Wachowiak /Smithsonian MCI photo).
A robust network of welded steel tubing frames the right outer edge of the H IX V3 center section. Behind the tubing lies a maze of plumbing for one of the Jumo 004 jet engines, the fuel system, and other equipment (Melvin Wachowiak /Smithsonian MCI photo).
German artisans formed the wood around the nose of the H IX center section using steam to make it soft and pliable, and then bending it to shape. Said Melvin Wachowiak , Senior Conservator, Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute, "I am still impressed by the bending of the laminated plywood into a conical section without cracks. Nearly 70 years on! The degradation of the broken plys is more like a form of brown rot, but we will have to see what turns up (after further analysis)." (Melvin Wachowiak /Smithsonian MCI photo).
This photograph by Kenneth S. Kik shows the outer wing panels attached to the center section of the H IX V3 now in treatment at the Paul E. Garber Facility. (Photo credit: Mr. Kenneth S. Kik, 1950. Copyright unknown)
Russ Lee is a curator in the Aeronautics Division of the National Air and Space Museum, and Melvin Wachowiak is a Senior Conservator at the National Air and Space Museum.