In 1937 Frederick Gordon-Lennox, the ninth Duke of Richmond, and flying legend Edmund Hordern established themselves as the Hordern Richmond Aircraft Company, manufacturers of wooden aviation propellers. Two years later, the second world war suddenly made them very busy crafting propellers for fighter planes, including the Spitfire. Now, in 2017, pieces from those same propellers are available to buy from the firm’s online-only store, moulded to fit in the pocket…
The Aerodrome Range features writing instruments (from £170) made from original Spitfire propellers. Each pen or pencil is engraved with the serial number of the blade from which it has been crafted and is available individually or as a pen-and-pencil pair (£340) in an ash presentation box.
What is it that makes the Spitfire still so iconic? “It was the most important frontline fighter because of its speed and manoeuvrability,” says Rupert Wasey, MD of Hordern Richmond and its parent company Hercules Propellers. “But although it was built to do a job it was also – and remains – simply a very beautiful machine.”
No Spitfires were gratuitously harmed in the making of these collectables. Hercules Propellers creates wooden propellers for vintage and modern racing aircraft around the world and needed to ensure that they were made with contemporary materials of the same strength as the original. “The type of wood that Spitfire propellers were made from was a densified resin-impregnated veneer block called Hydulignum,” says Wasey. “We took some propeller blades that were damaged in the second world war, cut them into sections to analyse strength compared with the newly made Hydulignum and were left with cut-up original blades. It was from these we created the pens and pencils.”
The store also offers larger curios, such as decorative replica propeller blades (£980) made from polished African sapele wood. And the purchase of Hordern Richmond also unearthed documents in 2015 that were priceless to a fan of aviation. “By wonderful serendipity, among the hundreds of documents was the actual pen-and-ink drawing of the original Spitfire propeller and design from 1943,” says Wasey. Framed prints (£295) feature the exact specifications for the construction of the propeller blades for Britain’s most famous fighter.