Paul McIntosh wrote:
If you have all the tools to cut and shape wood, I say go for it!
And that is the point...to cut curves in ply needs a fretsaw, jigsaw or
scroll saw or a LOT of patience. And its still a nightmare to cut inside
curves and holes.
Balsa? - well a knife, razor saw and a SANDING BLOCK (my MIST used tool)
will make shot work of it, but a dremel and a steady hand is necessary
to make inside holes smooth and good.
I now have these and consider them a minimum
Permagrit sanding block
Dremel which uses mainly drills, the sanding drums and the cut off disk
(for wire undercarts etc, and starting hinge slots)
Balsa stripper tool (not brill, but better than I can cut by eye and rule
Swann morton scalpel and LOTS of blades. Go through about 20 per model.
I'd also like a razor plane.
That's a fairly big investment against the cost of a 'short kit'
Can't imagine shaping LEs without it.
For scratch-building any plane over about 8 ounces, I'd consider a
belt/disk sander to be mandatory, too.
I've long since amortized the costs of my scroll saw & sander, but even so,
I don't think that my scratch-building is much cheaper than kit-building.
Especially since I'm often find old kits for sale cheap (someday I'll tell
you my Phaeton story). And, for that matter, kit-building often isn't any
cheaper than some surprisingly good ARFs. I build for the satisfaction and
the 'cool factor,' and because I sometimes want to build planes that aren't
like anyone else's planes.
"Whatever will have been, will have been."
- Douglas Adams, "Life, The Universe, and Everything"
Yes, the "cool factor" is one good thing, another is the way you can
build a plane to be much better in terms of aerodynamic cleanliness,
strength and performance than what you can buy- usually.
Personally, I like to laminate curved stab and rudder outlines instead
of using heavy solid blocks, taper my spars, and make them one
continuous piece to avoid weak points such as our almost universal but
expedient practice of building the wing in two halves joined by plywood
dihedral braces. Also, thin trailing edges are better than thick-
they're less draggy, and improve the precision of control, and coved
control surface joints have the same two advantages.
Paul, I agree with you. I have done it both ways and if I had it over
to do, I would have laminated those edges on both of my "Cumuluses"
("Cumuli") that I published. I did laminate the tips and leading
edges of my "Electrolith" (also published). And my great,
"Aerolith." (Not published.)
For images of these, look around in my model image files at:
The images load, enlarge, and move fast and they are worth your visit.
I have my models separated in "old" and "new-ish."
And as I have gotten older, balsa dust is now driving me crazy. I
wait until sanding is holding up further progress. Then I put on a
mask and goggles and go on the shop porch and do the sanding out
I live in a swamp shack and it is powerful hot and humid on the porch
and the goggles and mask do nothing to help me stay cool. And the
Dremel covers the sound of the mosquitoes. There is a finite amount
of time between feeling the bite, stopping the Dremel, putting it
down, and then slapping the now-gorged mosquito. (One should never
spontaneously slap their neck with a running Dremel or #11 in their
Much can be said for kit building. <g> And ARF. But NRF are the
If you think you could start from scratch and draw your own plans,
scratch-building is the most fun there is in building.
If you could not draw your own plans, this means you must rely totally
on someone else's plans for scratch-building. This is a high-risk
proposition and it does not end after the building. It might manifest
itself the first time on the first flight. <Ugh!>
If you buy a kit, much of the concern then is building it accurately
to the plans.
I have to ask...Have you built many r/c models from kits?
I'd say risk is less building from plans. If from a reputable
designer or publisher, someone else has already done the
engineering to ensure successful flight.
Designing one's own requires a certain amount of model
aeronautical and architectural / structural knowledge.
Kit makes life easier because one does not have to build a kit
first by making parts from scratch as with plans.
If he has built several kits, then the solution may be
purchase a partial kit with plans. With these one still buys
the strip wood and sheets, but the hard stuff like fuselage
bulkheads, wing and stab ribs (if stab has ribs) has been
The person who originally asked this question also posted a question
asking what the 3 nipples were for on his OS 61 4-stroke.
He is either a troll or intellectually challenged but in any case I
seriously doubt he has the ability to take a 3-view and make a flyable
P-51 out of it.
I am a structural engineer, but I am just getting into this RC plane
deal. I enjoy building things and am capable of doing so. As far as
building planes, I know there is a totaly different perspective you
have to encouter while building it. I am new at this and am just
asking questions that I am not clear on.
This is good to know. You can get more help now...without the other
If you are scratch-building please try to get plans from a magazine so
you can also get the construction and flight-test article that goes
with them. Some of these were pretty good articles. (Mine were
I think that if someone asks about their being able to build a P-51,
my answer is "no." This is like asking "Do you think I should get
married?" If they are unsure, they shouldn't do it. The 51 could be
a handful to fly -- even if built true.
We often hear, "I always wanted to get into model airplane flying and
the P-51 has been my favorists airplane ever...so I am building a
large scale model of one of those. What sort of wheels should I get?"
There are some scratch-builts have need little else that the sheet and
strip stock; the Mustang is not one of these. Still, there are
reproduction machines, computer scanners, printers that will let you
iron the formers from the computer printed paper to the balsa. Stuff
Ken...whose favorite American fighter was the P-51 and in 60 years of
modeling, he has never had one. (?)
If you are interested in doing this, may I suggest you hit the E-zone
and follow one or more of the several build threads that go on.
There are vintage models, kits, scale scratch designs and everything,
and plenty of pictures, gory tales of making two right wings and so on
to keep you amused.
Sportfish, The Nat. Philo. is giving good advice here. For absolute
building fun and flying fun, few things can beat an older model.
We call them "radio-interrupted free-flight." Many of the old free
flight modelers will admit that the most fun was the take off and
landing...but the landing was often way, way over younder.
Repeated touch-and-goes with some of these models is not only superb
training, they are just plain fun. Only they might be
What you lose is aerobatics; what you gain is thermal flying. It is so
much fun to have the engine off and realize the model is climbing.
If you feel you can do accurate carpentry, go for the plan.
Especially if all those tools I listed earlier mean something to you.
I LIKE balsa carpentry..but even so, I am still thinking of getting my
designs laser cut for me. Cutting out ribs and formers is a tedious task.
I have built two models from kits. A Piper Cub and a Trainer Plane.
The building was pretty easy due to the fact all the parts and pieces
were pretty much laid out for you. I think I will try to build one
from scratch. The worst that could happen is that it doesn't fly or it
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