Pilot's knee board

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Project by MalcolmLaurel posted 03-21-2017 02:22 AM 1380 views 3 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is far from fine woodworking, just utilitarian, but something different… Many airplane pilots use a “knee board” strapped to their leg, which has a clip to hold maps or other information. I’ve never felt the need for one myself. Anyway, I just bought a new biplane (no, unlike my old one, this one isn’t made of wood), which is currently 1000 miles away from my home. I enjoy “old school” navigation with nothing more than a map and compass, but dealing with paper charts, in a windy open cockpit, in an unfamiliar airplane, over unfamiliar terrain, so modern equipment (i.e. GPS) seems a good idea. The plane actually has a GPS receiver, but it’s old, and even a basic smartphone with an aeronautical navigation app is far superior to an old dedicated GPS. I’ve mostly used my phone before, but for this flight, I wanted to use a larger (7”) android tablet, and with nowhere to mount it, I figured I’d make a custom knee board to hold it.

My tablet’s case has a magnetic cover (the magnets hold it closed as well as turning it on or off). The magnets are surprisingly strong, they’ll even hold the tablet stuck on the refrigerator. I decided to make a wooden (because that’s what I do) knee board, with a piece of sheet metal for the magnets to stick to (first, I checked that it wouldn’t interfere with the plane’s magnetic compass). The back is 1/8” plywood, the sides and the pieces on the back to hold it on my leg are ripped from a piece of 2×6, and a piece of .012” thick galvanized steel provides the surface for the magnets to stick to. The side strips are undercut underneath so none of the sheet metal edges are exposed Two small pieces of 1/16” plywood hold the right side down since the tablet is attached to the magnetic cover only on the left (hinge) side. A couple of notches for the power cord and buttons, and a piece of elastic with velcro to hold it to my leg. Glued together with Titebond II, a few coats of shellac (my standard finish) and I’m all set for the flight next month.

-- Malcolm Laurel -

5 comments so far

View woodchuckerNJ's profile


1411 posts in 2519 days

#1 posted 03-21-2017 07:22 PM

That’s nice.

-- Jeff NJ

View AJ1104's profile


1127 posts in 2544 days

#2 posted 03-22-2017 12:32 AM

Wow. A it went into this. A great idea.

-- AJ

View Desert_Woodworker's profile


3592 posts in 2100 days

#3 posted 03-22-2017 02:44 AM

Fantastic! In woodworking all markets are open to what is presented to them. Enjoy! and if the plane goes down this will go with you.

-- Desert_Woodworker

View NormG's profile


6507 posts in 3889 days

#4 posted 03-23-2017 01:36 AM

Great idea, keep it in the air

-- Norman - I never never make a mistake, I just change the design.

View SuperCubber's profile


1145 posts in 3170 days

#5 posted 04-01-2017 12:51 AM

Nice knee board. Where are the pictures of the airplane?! :)

-- Joe | Spartanburg, SC | "To give anything less than your best is to sacrafice the gift." - Steve Prefontaine

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