While sitting indoors during those long winter months, I was often frustrated at not being able to fly my Stearman when the snow was thick. Because my hangar is not heated, I wasn’t even motivated to clean or work on the plane during those months. Consequently, it would gather dust as thick as a dirty basement floor. Each spring I would spend a day cleaning the dust and grime, but by seasons end, it would again be covered. The bottom wing would, of course, get cleaned more often. I never liked the solution of using a mop from a step ladder to clean the top wing. I needed a way to stand over the bottom wing, but closely reach the top wing from the trailing edge. Last winter while my plane was in STL at Heritage Airplane undergoing a ground up restoration, I had the spare time to build a step ladder that would solve my top wing cleaning problem. Several of my Stearman buddies have praised it and I thought other Stearman owners could make use of one as well, it is designed to neatly fit behind the trailing edge of a Stearman. and be sturdy, and stable enough so you won’t worry about it toppling over on the plane.
wood.. .6’ 8” 2x6’s
4 8’ 2x4s
I 3x5’ 314 inch plywood
4 3/8th 3 3/4 inch bolts with nuts and washers
4 2 1/2 inch castors
3 3 foot tie rods with nuts and washers
I box 3 inch wood screws, at least 50
primer paint and one quart glossy gray enamel utility paint
wing walk anti skid or non skid silicon sand to be mixed with paint
Tools: table or rotary saw, router, 3/8 inch drill, hack saw, two wood clamps.
I began with the 3×5 foot 3/4 inch plywood, by attaching the castors as near to the corners as they would fit. All wood screws were predrilled. Then from the bottom I attached 2x4’s around the edge with 3 inch wood screws. I then cut the 2x6’s at an angle such that I would get the elevation I wanted, careful not to allow them to hang beyond the forward edge of the base. I positioned the 2×6 cross members with clamps to determine the angle they should sit, to provide a space 30 inches above the ground where the trailing edge of the Stearman wing will fit. Then drilled and set two bolts in each side. Using the router I cut parallel indentations for the 2×6 inch steps and fastened them with 3 inch wood screws. I then strengthened the steps with tie rods underneath, just like a step ladder, using a hack saw to cut the ends short. The top rung was screwed on top of the ends of the 2x6s. The railings were rip cut from the 2x4s and also fastened with 3 inch screws. I then cut a curved railing from plywood to sit on top so I wouldn’t fall forward onto the plane. 3 inch screws were again used to fasten each ladder leg to the base. It was then sanded, primed, and painted with glossy gray enamel. The final touch was to use left over wing walk non skid matting that we had used on the Stearman, on the steps. Non skid silicon, mixed with paint could also be used. Now I have no excuse for not cleaning the top wing. Happy cleaning. .