The Hughes H-4 Hercules, made of birch ply Duramold
Samples of Duramold at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum

Duramold is a composite material process developed by Virginius E. Clark. Birch plies are impregnated with phenolic resin, such as Haskelite and laminated together in a mold under heat (280 °F, 138 °C) and pressure for use as a lightweight structural material.[1] Similar to plywood, Duramold and other lightweight composite materials were considered critical during periods of material shortage in World War II, replacing scarce materials like aluminum alloys and steel.[2][3]

The material has some advantages over metal in strength, construction technique, and weight. A cylinder made of duramold is 80% stronger than a cylinder made of aluminum.[4] There are over 17 varieties of Duramold, using various quantities of birch or poplar wood, with as many as seven plies.[5] The Duramold process has also been used to make radomes for aircraft as well as missile bodies.[6]

The Fairchild Aircraft Corporation patented the process, designing and constructing the AT-21, (NX/NC19131) as the first aircraft made using the Duramold process.[7] Several aircraft used Duramold in parts of their structure but the largest aircraft manufactured with the process is the Hughes H-4 Hercules designed by Howard Hughes and Glenn Odekirk, which was almost completely built with Duramold in very large sections.[8] Hughes Aircraft had purchased rights to the process for this use.

The Duramold and Haskelite process was first developed in 1937, followed by Gene Vidal's Weldwood and later the Aeromold process produced by the Timm Aircraft Company. In the United Kingdom, the De Havilland Aircraft Company (founded by Geoffrey de Havilland, a cousin of Olivia de Havilland, the actress who dated Howard Hughes in 1938) used similar composite construction for aircraft including the DH.88 Comet, DH.91 Albatross, the Mosquito, and Vampire. The aeromold process differs in that it is baked at a low 100 °F (38°C) at cutting and forming, and 180 °F (82°C) for fusing together sections after the resins are added.[9]

See also


  1. ^ United Service and Royal Aero Club (Great Britain), Royal Aero Club of the United Kingdom, United Service and Royal Aero Club. Flight International. 42. {{cite journal}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ Popular Science. Sep 1943. {{cite journal}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ Parker, Dana T. Building Victory: Aircraft Manufacturing in the Los Angeles Area in World War II, pp. 51-52, 56, Cypress, CA, 2013. ISBN 978-0-9897906-0-4.
  4. ^ American Society of Naval Engineers. Journal of the American Society of Naval Engineers, inc, Volume 52.
  5. ^ Charles Barton. Howard Hughes and his flying boat.
  6. ^ Manufacturers Aircraft Association. Aircraft year book Aerospace Industries Association of America.
  7. ^ Frank Woodring; Suanne Woodring. Fairchild Aircraft.
  8. ^ Parker, Dana T. Building Victory: Aircraft Manufacturing in the Los Angeles Area in World War II, pp. 49-58, Cypress, CA, 2013. ISBN 978-0-9897906-0-4.
  9. ^ Richard Ballard (April 1942). "Plastic Airplanes". The Ohio State Engineer: 24.