Wednesday, April 25th, 2012 10:02 am GMT -6 Wednesday, April 25th, 2012 10:02 am GMT -6Wednesday, April 25th, 2012 10:02 am GMT -6
Stress Without Tears - book front cover

An unusual mix of full-scale and model airplane specific information.





Kitplanes is an enthusiast magazine for full-scale airplane homebuilders. They commissioned Tom Rhodes, the author of this book, to write a series of 42 articles in the 1980s about airplane load analysis. The articles were subsequently turned into this book.

Divided into six sections, two of the sections focus exclusively on wood model airplane design. I thought this was very unusual, given the original target audience. From the short biography on the book’s back cover, I concluded that the author must be a life-long modeler.

There are many things that this book is not. It is not for those that have only a casual interest in the subject. There is way too much detail for that. It is also not for those that are designing a full-scale airplane. There is not enough detail for that. But it is a great book for you if you are designing a model airplane and want to really understand its structural design.

Stress without Tears - book sample page


There is a lot of information in this book. The use of equations is minimal. The primary focus is on understanding the concepts. Great real world examples are used to underscore the importance of good structural design.

The title of the book is meant to underscore the approachable nature of the text. I wonder if it was intended to have a double meaning. “Tears” could also refer to tearing or breaking of structural elements. In other words, learn how to design an airplane’s structure so it can withstand flying stresses without breaking up.

The sections that focus on model airplanes are excellent. They are better than what is included in most model airplane books that discuss structures.

Stress without Tears - book back cover


I sometimes found the book harder to read than it needed to be. The desire to minimize the number of equations led to long textual explanations that could have been eliminated with a simple equation.

I have read books before that were assemblies of magazine articles. I have found them harder to read than necessary, but I could not quite put my finger on the reason why. I finally figured it out. The problem is the need to break up a subject into many equal-sized chunks. It leads to lots of awkward chapters. Simple subjects have to be padded and complex subjects get short shrift. That is also an issue with this book.

This is a serious subject, and the book requires your attention. Skimming through will likely just lead to confusion. For best results, start at the beginning and work your way through.

Reading about load testing rivets and other metal airplane features will be of minimal value if your goal is to design a model airplane. It is easy to identify and skip those sections that do not apply, though.

Stress without Tears - book front cover


This book is perfect for those budding model airplane designers that want to be able to make detailed load calculations, but are not quite ready to tackle the books that really cover the subject. In other words, it is a great stepping stone.

The book lacks many key equations that would have let it stand on its own. I learned a lot from this book, but it really works much better if you combine it with other more advanced structures books.

4 / 5 stars      

Click here to buy Stress Without Tears from Amazon.

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