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Is traditional building a disappearing art?

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MattyB13/04/2017 10:44:04
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Yes, I believe traditional balsa building is to all intents and purposes dead and will never come back, not even if the cost of ARTFs rise.

The stark reality is that the majority of traditional builders are in the older demographic, and many are either deciding they prefer the simplicity of ARTFs or are giving up the hobby, especially with additional legislation potentially looming. Younger people like myself simply don't have the time and space to build with young families and busy jobs, and there are lots of alternative ways to spend the small amount of free time we do have that have lower barriers to entry (and I say this as someone who learnt to build with my Dad and still enjoy it).

Flying fields are more difficult to get and keep and local shops that can supply the materials to build are thin on the ground. Finally (love em or loathe em) there are compelling alternative options to the traditional stick and tissue planes that weren't around 5 years ago (especially the compact, affordable FPV multirotors) - they require less space to fly and are more exciting to a younger generation.

It is not all doom and gloom though. Building / construction is still happening, it is just not being done in balsa. Electric powered foamboard and depron planes are getting pretty popular, and there is a huge amount of home brewed innovation going on in multirotors, especially the racers and micro FPV platforms. 3D printing and open source software is also revolutionising the level of tech that can be put in modellers hands at very low price points. You can even have a "kit" laser cut to order from your own plan if you want; that feels like the most promising pathway for traditional builders to me moving fwd.

Basically we are at an inflection point - what we have known as "the hobby" is going to change massively in the next 10-15 years in terms of the participants, the types of craft they fly and for what purpose. Fighting or lamenting this is IMO pointless - it will happen over time whether you like it or not, so it's probably best to just immerse yourself in the bit of the hobby you enjoy and dabble in something new occasionally too; you never know, you might like it...!

Edited By MattyB on 13/04/2017 10:48:41

Frank Skilbeck13/04/2017 10:45:14
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Before ARTF everybody had to build (unless you got somebody to do it for you!), but now you have a choice. But there are still kits available and as labour costs in the Far East go up the price of ARTFs will rise too, we are even seeing ARTF suppliers offering kit versions.

Don't also forget that it's now even easier to build from plans with the numerous suppliers of laser cut plan packs available, this is probably where a lot of the kit builders have migrated to. We are just doing an own design glider and had the formers and wing ribs etc laser cut.

Andy Blackburn13/04/2017 10:52:14
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> I still fly my 1980-something kit built Acrowot, but my ARTF Wot 4 only gets aired when I feel guilty about seeing it hanging there all neglected.

That's interesting; I'm continually seduced by ARTFs and I have quite a few in the garage, but rarely fly any of them. It's the (kit-built) AcroWot that usually gets flown.

Bob Cotsford13/04/2017 10:52:19
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"Basically we are at an inflection point - what we have known as "the hobby" is going to change massively in the next 10-15 years in terms of the participants, the types of craft they fly and for what purpose. Fighting or lamenting this is IMO pointless - it will happen over time whether you like it or not, so it's probably best to just immerse yourself in the bit of the hobby you enjoy and dabble in something new occasionally too; you never know, you might like it..."

Seems to me we've been at 'an inflection point' for as long as I can remember and the hobby has been changing constantly for at least the last 50 years. Carrier wave, super-het., reeds, proportional, silencers - 40 years ago companies such as Jim Davies were flogging pre-built models, early ARTFs!

It's evolution. You ain't going to stop it.

Piers Bowlan13/04/2017 11:12:39
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I think the price of some ARTFs has risen quite sharply recently, including some foamy ones going for eye watering prices in my view. This may encourage people to build, particularly the 'more mature' modellers who have the skills and time to invest. The problem is that many of the younger modellers have neither, either because of other interests or perhaps due to young family commitments.

When we were teenagers we built free flight, C/L or rubber powered stick and tissue models, which is where we learnt the skills. We could browse around our LMS and pick up the bits and pieces we needed. Scratch building for a newby is a more daunting task these days, even if they do have uTube (and this forum) to help them. Model flying may be declining in general but the fact that Ripmax is launching a new range of classic KK kits, as featured in this Months RCM&E, may be indicative that kit building is not dead yet. Either that or Ripmax is delusional,- I doubt that.

Peter Miller13/04/2017 12:42:22
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One thing that as not been said.

People have always liked to make things. It may not be model aircraft but people have built model cars (static), boats, (both static and working.|) Train layouts and rolling stock. Steam engines, Consider the works of art created by Napoleonic prisoners of war. Models of fully rigged ships made with no tools to speak of but incredible works of art.

There are people who spend years building amazing models out of match sticks. (Aeromodellers are much more sensible, we build models and convert them into match sticks in a split second!!)

So it doesn't matter what happens, there will always be people who will build flying models just because they like building models and they will be the people who teach the others how to repair models and teach those who want to learn how to build models.

We may become few and far between but we will be there.

Nightflyer13/04/2017 13:31:15
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183 forum posts

I was amused at this thread as at my club's meeting last night we had a discussion about our annual model's night, the outcome of which do we still hold it one meeting or spread it across the year and decide the winner at the AGM. It is clear that there has been more of a swing to ARTF's than kit or plan builds which is a shame. Don't get me wrong I think there is room for all, but it does show that ARTF's have made a marked impact over the last 10 years. Maybe it is because we have less free time or workshop facilities etc.

Having said that there is nothing quite like the sense of achievement or knowledge from building it yourself - and hopefully having done it right not end up re-kitting it on the first flight. It is that aspect that possibly also influences newcomers to the hobby to go down the ARTF route.

What is clear though is there are fewer local model shops these days which stock all those essential materials and fittings you need when building from a plan or even kit.

I still get as much enjoyment out of building as flying now as I did as a teenager. Maybe we should be doing more to encourage it in our clubs and encourage newcomers to the hobby to have the confidence to build it themselves too.

MattyB13/04/2017 13:41:39
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1949 forum posts
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Posted by Bob Cotsford on 13/04/2017 10:52:19:

"Basically we are at an inflection point - what we have known as "the hobby" is going to change massively in the next 10-15 years in terms of the participants, the types of craft they fly and for what purpose. Fighting or lamenting this is IMO pointless - it will happen over time whether you like it or not, so it's probably best to just immerse yourself in the bit of the hobby you enjoy and dabble in something new occasionally too; you never know, you might like it..."

Seems to me we've been at 'an inflection point' for as long as I can remember and the hobby has been changing constantly for at least the last 50 years. Carrier wave, super-het., reeds, proportional, silencers - 40 years ago companies such as Jim Davies were flogging pre-built models, early ARTFs!

Agreed, but I would argue the combination of huge technological change, potentially significant regulatory change and a major demographic change on the horizon amongst the traditional modelling community is an unprecedented combination.

Lone_Wolf13/04/2017 14:14:03
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Most of my models are ARTF though I have built 2 true kit models (SIG somethin' Extra and Seagull Challenger) as well in the time I have been model flying. Going forward I'll be building more kit models I think as I've had mixed experiences with ARTF planes.

I feel the need to spend a lot of time getting things right for an ARTF and am not always able to get it how I would like because of my radio & engine choices have provided assembly issues. Proper fuel proofing can be difficult because the structure is ready built with poor access. Every ARTF I've had with a few exceptions need re-ironing of the covering. Many of the additional components are poor quality so need to be changed. Some just don't fit at all.

The solution for me then is to move away from ARTFs and build more traditional kits or one day even from plan.

I'm assembling a Ripmax Bullet right now and it's driving me crazy. It's the worst ARTF I've ever worked on.

  • Horrible covering
  • None of the clevises fit the rods provided
  • The push rods themselves are 1.7mm not 2mm with the threads not properly formed
  • Slot for the wing too small so the wing would not meet the fuzz properly
  • Dubious fixing method for wing fairing are the highlights

OK so I change all the rods & clevises. I iron as best I can the covering. I enlarge the slot so the wing fits. I devise a better method to attach the wing fairing. I add an extra hinge to the rudder because it only had 2 to start with. I fiddle for hours to get the rudder & steerable nose wheel to co-operate with the one servo. Finally I wish I'd bought the PB Bullet instead which by now could have been built in the same time it's taken me with the ARTF Ripmax one and no doubt made a better model.

Most other ARTF builds have been better with Kyosho so far the best IMO. For me building from a kit gives me total control over the process.

Last year I destroyed my ARTF Acrowot while flying on a gusty day. On the walk back from the crash site with some club mates carrying all the remains one of them said "at least it was only an ARTF".

So traditional building may appear to be a disappearing art, but I think that is just a blip. I came into the hobby on the ARTF train and I'm now changing to traditional building. Have a Chris Foss WOT 4 MK3 kit sitting on my bench which I'm looking forward to building soon.

Bill_B13/04/2017 14:38:49
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1145 forum posts
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"Is traditional building a disappearing art?"

No, the manufacturers of ARTF kits are busy building hundreds a day. cheeky

Stuphedd13/04/2017 14:39:12
656 forum posts
351 photos

Chris B knows who I am talking about , We have a scratch builder in our club , yes he is of the older generation , but I rate him as one of the best ,museum quality detail !

He takes his time , about 3 years to finish a model , But the problem is that when covered you cannot see the workmanship. He like some others mentioned here get someone else to test fly his creations , a very nerve wracking time then he flies them once or twice and then actually gives them away !

So he belongs to the builders side but he does fly , but mainly the older Cocklebarrow type aircraft which need a true "oldie" to be able to trim them .!

I have put some of his models on the forum from time to time , so far without comment , so I presume 90% of the membership are flyers rather that builders !

personally I like getting a broken up ARTF and rebuilding /repairing it , its quicker than finishing my Stampe , Tiger Moth , Snipe , and the couple of conliners for my son !!

cheers

Nigel R13/04/2017 14:41:57
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3066 forum posts
475 photos

The spare time thing is my biggest issue. Putting aside the quality issues, a foamie can go together in a handful of hours. That I can fit in quite easily. 50 or 100 hours of balsa bashing for a sport model, not so simple, I doubt I'll get my current airframe in the air within six months of building time. I wouldn't even dream of tackling a bipe - it'd be years before I finished it.

Tom Sharp 213/04/2017 20:16:15
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3526 forum posts
18 photos

Buy a foamy on Saturday morning (Scale or Stunt), assemble it over lunchtime coffee, fly it down at the club in the afternoon.

Fun, fun, fun, where's the problem?

Paul C.13/04/2017 21:16:04
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587 forum posts
143 photos
Posted by Lone_Wolf on 13/04/2017 14:14:03:

Most of my models are ARTF though I have built 2 true kit models (SIG somethin' Extra and Seagull Challenger) as well in the time I have been model flying. Going forward I'll be building more kit models I think as I've had mixed experiences with ARTF planes.

I feel the need to spend a lot of time getting things right for an ARTF and am not always able to get it how I would like because of my radio & engine choices have provided assembly issues. Proper fuel proofing can be difficult because the structure is ready built with poor access. Every ARTF I've had with a few exceptions need re-ironing of the covering. Many of the additional components are poor quality so need to be changed. Some just don't fit at all.

The solution for me then is to move away from ARTFs and build more traditional kits or one day even from plan.

I'm assembling a Ripmax Bullet right now and it's driving me crazy. It's the worst ARTF I've ever worked on.

  • Horrible covering
  • None of the clevises fit the rods provided
  • The push rods themselves are 1.7mm not 2mm with the threads not properly formed
  • Slot for the wing too small so the wing would not meet the fuzz properly
  • Dubious fixing method for wing fairing are the highlights

OK so I change all the rods & clevises. I iron as best I can the covering. I enlarge the slot so the wing fits. I devise a better method to attach the wing fairing. I add an extra hinge to the rudder because it only had 2 to start with. I fiddle for hours to get the rudder & steerable nose wheel to co-operate with the one servo. Finally I wish I'd bought the PB Bullet instead which by now could have been built in the same time it's taken me with the ARTF Ripmax one and no doubt made a better model.

Most other ARTF builds have been better with Kyosho so far the best IMO. For me building from a kit gives me total control over the process.

Last year I destroyed my ARTF Acrowot while flying on a gusty day. On the walk back from the crash site with some club mates carrying all the remains one of them said "at least it was only an ARTF".

So traditional building may appear to be a disappearing art, but I think that is just a blip. I came into the hobby on the ARTF train and I'm now changing to traditional building. Have a Chris Foss WOT 4 MK3 kit sitting on my bench which I'm looking forward to building soon.

Hi Lone Wolf, you are correct the rods and crevices are a nightmare different thread sizes and quality of the clevices is dire. Binned all the clevices and replaced with ones that fit all the differing sizes of threaded rod.

Under wing fairing needed surgery to make it fit correctly so I epoxied quarter balsa doublers in strategic places.

The trim is great until it drops off! 😂 hot iron worked for a while but have now moved on to fuel proofer.

BUT it really does fly well 👍 goes where you point it and is quite neutral when inverted, running a SC46. Not a 3D machine but will do nice big maneuvers.

Not as strong as the PB Bullet but arfs are not built that way, nearly forgot the steerable front wheel is a pain but then I never have any luck with them.

Hope you enjoy yours, Paul

Percy Verance13/04/2017 21:27:02
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8108 forum posts
155 photos

A very valid point Bill-B, even artf's have to be built by someone to be Almost Ready To Fly......

Many of the older (pre - artf) modellers consider the building part of the hobby to be integral with actually flying the model. For them it's a 100% experience, and they'll probably see the artf flyers as missing out on half of the hobby. It's each to their own though, so it's down to whatever makes you happy.

There's little doubt the hobby is evolving, and it will continue to do so......... I haven't a clue where we'll be in 15 to 20 years though.

There is evidence to suggest that some are tiring of artf's and yearn for a bit more individuality with their models. It is these modellers whom are beginning to dabble in balsa bashing for the first time. That has to be a good thing for the long term furtherance and survival of our hobby. Plus there's that *I built that* inner satisfaction as it flies past you at the field. Put a price on that if you can......

 

 

Edited By Percy Verance on 13/04/2017 21:34:54

Delta Foxtrot13/04/2017 22:35:42
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There will always be people who will want to design and build their own flying machines. That side of the hobby will never die, but it is probably already a minority interest.
Jonathan M13/04/2017 23:09:26
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The bottom line is that industry has now long been heavily geared-up to feed us highly seductive and addictive but ultimately completely unsatisfying 'fast-food' ARTF's, usually foam. Our shops and online retailers are full of them, as are the magazines, so its hardly surprising that they predominate, but it doesn't surprise me that many peeps have garages full of these dead things.

I appreciate that to survive the mags and retailers have to stock the crap, but all credit to magazines like RCM&E and forum websites like this for holding the fort and promoting building from plans and the suchlike.

Personally I'm a builder by nature, just as I was as a twelve-year old when I messed with scale and sport free flight rubber, CO2 and diesel and some control-line action, and now as a free-flight scale builder again, and RC too.

I don't buy the excuse that people don't have the time. Just keep the TV off, ditch that second or third unnecessary holiday away each year and get building.

My other observation, following on from Jon Harper's comment above, is this: I now reckon that starting out with a lightweight foam electric trainer (a RIOT) both retarded my learning and left me with some bad habits, and ultimately left me bored (although, to be fair, it did permit me, pre-test, to gain fuss-free stick time by flying on my own in random fields).

 

 

 

Edited By Jonathan M on 13/04/2017 23:10:45

Simon Chaddock14/04/2017 00:19:25
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5443 forum posts
2855 photos

It perfectly possible to 'build' a plane (and scale if you like) out of flat sheet foam, just like you do with balsa.

Traditional construction techniques in foam - foam bashing? wink 2

bouncebounce crunch14/04/2017 05:51:55
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1739 forum posts
212 photos

I reckon club environment and available spending is hindering traditional builds. The club can be restrictive and confrontational at times, far from when a couple of mates built a model each and met at the field/schoolyard/golf course to test them. Teenagers and their models and really enjoying the moment .Now it seems to be grumpy old men wanting bigger and better than their nemesis or finding anything to gripe about. we are killing ourselves and the hobby.

a flat surface a few cheap cutting sanding and measuring tools is all you need to produce a nice flyable model. Powered Bandsaws, scroll saws, sanders and the like can make it easier but not better. Tim the toolman in my club could not build a flyable example even with all his money. back to basics is how we can pass on our great hobby.

David Davis14/04/2017 06:43:40
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3399 forum posts
598 photos
Posted by Tom Sharp 2 on 13/04/2017 20:16:15:

Buy a foamy on Saturday morning (Scale or Stunt), assemble it over lunchtime coffee, fly it down at the club in the afternoon.

Fun, fun, fun, where's the problem?

 

The satisfaction gained in assembling and flying a foamy is far less than that gained by building your own model from scratch, and before you ask, I've done both.

You don't know what you're missing Tom.

One of these might be a good first step if you're already a competent flyer, particularly if you can get a clubmate to help you, mind you, I'd add an elevator myself. They're certainly cheap enough. http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/APS-Sharkface-Laser-Cut-Part-Kit-/292076726204?hash=item44012127bc:g:xgwAAOSwcUBYLJ6n

PS. I've just won a Classic WOT 4 kit on eBay for less than £60. I was the only bidder. Says it all really.

Edited By David Davis on 14/04/2017 07:17:16

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