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Flying Aces Elf - First Build

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Chris Bogle13/07/2017 14:05:59
18 forum posts
18 photos

Hi all. Well, here it is, my first ever build project. A rubber band powered Elf and the first step on the long road to a scale model RC plane. It arrived this morning and I'm like a kid at Christmas.

Being short of space in the house I went out and bought some thick mounting board, so I can mobilise quickly in the event of a child in destruction mode. Cutting board is too small (accidentally bought A5) but it'll get me going and there was some white wood glue included in the pack.

I'm going to get it all out tonight, tape the plan to the board and cellophane it and have a go at cutting my first longerons and struts. I'm really hoping this doesn't turn into a mess of glue and stuck together fingertips like all of my Airfix models did as a kid!

What's the tried and tested way of applying glue to joints - is this best done with a brush?


Edited By Chris Bogle on 13/07/2017 14:07:16

Edited By Chris Bogle on 13/07/2017 14:08:04

Don Fry13/07/2017 14:51:27
4557 forum posts
54 photos

White glue from bottle to joint. Excess wiped off onto fingers, Toilet paper to clean fingers. Not joking.

Piers Bowlan13/07/2017 15:27:59
2224 forum posts
57 photos

White glue takes a while to dry, best left overnight. Super Phatic dries in about 15mins but is just as strong. The bottle comes with a long/fine applicator nozzle to put the glue where required here. I wipe the XS off with damp paper kitchen roll. Open, built-up structures can be built very fast with Cyano Acrylate as it dries in moments, just be sure that the joints are a good fit, for strength. Like Super Phatic it wicks into the wood. If you use Cyano Acrylate make sure you have lots of ventilation as you can become sensitised to the fumes. No such problems with Super Phatic or PVA as they are water based.

Not with this model perhaps but for future reference if you are sanding a lot of balsa get yourself a good face mask. Here. Some people just do a heavy sanding job outside but balsa dust can be nasty stuff if you inhale it. Lastly, make sure you can lock glues, knives, solvents and lithium batteries away from young children (and pets) as they have a magnetic attraction to them for some reason. If they see 'Daddy playing with his wood and glue' they will want to too, even if you are not there (especially if you are not there!). 

Edited By Piers Bowlan on 13/07/2017 15:41:48

kc13/07/2017 17:39:31
6777 forum posts
174 photos

White glue (PVA) could be used from the bottle via a thin spout or applied with a cocktail stick.  A brush would harden with PVA quite quickly.  Excess should be absorbed with a tissue . 

I am not quite sure what your " thick mounting board " is like but be sure the wings are built on something that cannot be pulled into a warp by the balsa whilst the glue dries. Small offcuts of plasterboard big enough for use as small building boards are all you need ( must be flat of course) and these are thrown away by builders around here judging by the skips I see.

A small warp in a fuselage can often be overcome but in a wing it's a problem.

Edited By kc on 13/07/2017 18:05:58

Alan Thorpe13/07/2017 23:25:49
229 forum posts
77 photos
Hi Chris,

The kit looks fantastic, hope you have a great time building it!

I used greaseproof paper over the plan to stop sticking anything to it, but plastic would do same job.

I was amazed at how strong the balsa models became once in a complete structure, as balsa seemed quite weak in the individual parts.

Well I built a few balsa models and not just once but on two builds....I managed to build 2 left wings!! As the lads here advised, it's good to check plan a few times and dry fit parts ro make sure all is going to plan!

I was itching to get the build near finished and said I'd do just one more bit.....lo and behold Disaster!

Great stuff anyways, enjoy the build, watching with interest!

kevin b14/07/2017 00:37:00
1963 forum posts
173 photos

Hi Chris.

When using pva / aliphatic glues, I usually have a damp cloth nearby. Helps to keep the fingers clean and any tools.

The quality of balsa these days is pretty good, but if any of the longerons have a natural bend, or bend easier one way, then use it to your advantage. Don't try and fight it. you could end up with a twisted fuselage.

If you have any difficulties with the instructions ask for advice. The only stupid question is the one you didn't ask.

Barrie Dav 215/07/2017 09:53:49
1012 forum posts
14 photos

kc yes

Chris Bogle16/07/2017 07:12:21
18 forum posts
18 photos

Cool. Thanks all! Well, we're off. Lots of lessons learned in the first half hour!

1. Dressmaking pins bend and are rubbish, causing much swearing.

2. Found the natural grain and shaped the longerons according (thanks for that tip Kevin!) but found when I pinned it, the balsa always seems to 'jump' up at the ends. After much headscratching and more swearing I ended up pinning the ends through the wood, which I know isn't ideal. Consequently one of the longerons has split slightly at the tip. Any of you guys have any advice for this.

3. Should have taken KC's advice on mounting board. My thick card art board offers up too much resistance to the pins and isn't thick enough.

4. I haven't taken the pins out yet so can't comment on the sticking quality but I like the PVA. It's got a thin applicator and meant I could spend ages manipulating the joint and when I stepped back it went tacky quickly and held the balsa in place nicely.

4. Model making sends you into a time warp which passes time at double the normal rate. I sat down for 20 mins and next thing I knew it was midnight.

More soon! img_1235.jpg

Trevor Rushton16/07/2017 10:26:56
458 forum posts
181 photos

Chris, I agree with you over the pins; generally I don't like them. I am now a full convert to a magnetic board; a sheet of 1mm steel plate on a sheet of mdf and then a pack of rectangular magnets from one of the on line suppliers. You can get magnets with 2-3 kg pull - use them to position and hold the longerons in place. Once you start you will then want to start making your own magnetic jigs, clamps, brackets and so on. I have never looked back.

This is a useful article here - fairly elaborate, but you can make things much simpler. I have stuck a sheet of squared vinyl (from SLEC) on my board to help with alignment.


Chris Bogle16/07/2017 19:26:39
18 forum posts
18 photos

I think I'll look at that for the next one Trevor. The pins are driving me nuts and I can't keep the extremely thin spacers and longerons flat, they keep jumping up!

I've managed to get the first side done. There are some bits not quite flush and bits sticking out but I'm hoping a bit of sandpaper will sort it out.

Not sure how to get the other side identical, scared to build it on top as it feels very fragile. Is it a silly idea to stick the 2nd set of longerons to the first side with a couple of dabs of glue to match the curves, then slice them off once I've got a couple of spacers holding them in position?


Edited By Chris Bogle on 16/07/2017 19:27:06

Edited By Chris Bogle on 16/07/2017 19:28:01

kc16/07/2017 19:46:22
6777 forum posts
174 photos

Frankly magnteic boards are not needed, although some use them.  Too expensive for me!  A piece of plasterbord is best for me.  I use tiny tabs made from wood and fixed with screws to fix 1/4 sq spars. See my photo.   Note the spacer part is exactly same thickness as the spar but is slightly sanded so a fraction undersize so it grips.  They are made in a strip and then sliced apart with a saw.

Spar Fixing

Putting the pins through at an angle and others at the opposite angle ( Like dovetails) helps. Otherwise use pins with large plastic heads ( Map pins) and put a pin either side instead of through. You could use drawing pins if that helps.

Wait for the first side to dry, then cover with very thin polythene and build the other side. The pins that were put either side then locate the second side too.

Look at some of the building done by Tim Hooper to get an idea of how to use pins etc. Much else can be learnt from these builds even if you are not building such an advanced model.   Look at Peter Millers builds too for really practical advice.   The pins used by Tim are mentioned somewhere in his text - bought from Balsa Cabin I think.

Edited By kc on 16/07/2017 19:58:07

kevin b16/07/2017 22:21:48
1963 forum posts
173 photos

Hi Chris.

Graupner pins are what you want. They are thinner and stiffer than ordinary pins, plus they have large heads to grab hold of. Yes they are expensive, but it's not as if you throw them away once used.

Longerons I usually leave over long and pin the excess to prevent splitting, then trim when the glue is dry.

I don't subscribe to the "build the second side on top of the first" method. It does not automatically make the second identical to the first. If you build carefully, then you shouldn't have any problems with the second side using the plan.

Pm sent.

Edited By kevin b on 16/07/2017 22:30:38

Chris Bogle17/07/2017 11:58:37
18 forum posts
18 photos

Hey guys. Yes I'll be taking a trip to the model shop today to get some Graupner pins, thanks Kevin.

Kc, yes for me it's more about space, I'm working on a dining room table and need to be able to up-sticks whenever my 4 year old is likely to reduce my plane to fire kindling So pins work and I copied your technique after a fashion using small scraps and my crap pins.

I got most of the second side build last night and the pinning was much, much easier second time around, just practice I suppose. Not looking forward to bending these buggers into a fuselage, they're like wafers and feel like they'll snap.



kc17/07/2017 14:32:49
6777 forum posts
174 photos

You shouldn't force the balsa too much or it may twist the whole model later. You need to choose balsa so that it naturaly does the job - some bits bend nicely, some don't. The stiff bits might be intended for wing spars rather than the curved fuselage part. That gentle fuselage curve should be no problem with the right bit of balsa!

Balsa can be induced to curve by several means - dampening one side for a while then leaving to dry whilst clamped to the correct curve ( Not in the model - just the raw materila state) indenting with a thumbnail every millimetre along the length to be curved. Or you could laminate several layers of thinner balsa in a curved shape ( you shouldn't need this for that fuselage)

Get some spare balsa of various grades - bendy, stiff or very soft - and experiment a bit with it to find what you can and and cannot do. For your fuselage longerons you might cut a strip of a 3 inch sheet and it might be softer and bendy. For just one strip you should be able to manage with a scalpel and straight edge but eventually a proper adjustable balsa stripper will pay for itself eventually ( strip is much dearer than sheet). Simple fixed one size strip cutters can be home made - block of wood with a fence and a scalpel blade sticking through basically.

Keep trying with a new bit of balsa until you get it right - balsa need never be wasted as the bit you scrap here might be useful cut down for smaller parts later.


Edited By kc on 17/07/2017 14:38:58

Chris Bogle20/07/2017 10:24:49
18 forum posts
18 photos

Thanks kc, I never thought about things like indenting with a fingernail for shaping the wood. I'll have a play tonight while the glue is drying. I'm really enjoying the build so far and it's amazing how the time gets spirited away.

I'm about ready to start sanding and tidying the two sides before putting the fuselage together. The next stages are worrisome and are likely where I'll hit problems:

1. the wings, getting the ribs vertical without clamps, and getting the 3 inch dihedral correct on both sides. Also cracking the spar to get the wingtip.

2. Getting the retainers and matchsticks in the right place to hold the tail and wings on - the details in the plan are a bit sketchy and the holes pre-cut into the wood seem tight. 


Edited By Chris Bogle on 20/07/2017 10:24:59

Edited By Chris Bogle on 20/07/2017 10:25:45

kc21/07/2017 11:19:17
6777 forum posts
174 photos

A couple of points which might be helpful -

You dont need to get the dihedral 3inch on both sides -it's just 1 side! You only need bother getting it equal if there is a central section. Otherwise always check whether dihedral is so much each side or total ( twice the one side)

Cracking the spar can be done by thumbnail - use oversize piece and then get the bend in correct place . trim later.

Ribs can be set vertical by using any square chunk of metal. Set each one and glue then move metal along. Cyano can be used to fix each rib so it stays put before the next is inserted. I think other people use Lego blocks etc instead of metal. ( dont breathe in cyano fumes - use ventillation or use outside)

Cocktail sticks might be better than matchsticks! Larger models can use bamboo barbeque skewers.

With any kit draw around every shaped part onto paper and note the material and thickness so you have a copy in case of repair or errror. With laser cut parts the remaining outline offcut could be saved instead.

kc21/07/2017 11:34:32
6777 forum posts
174 photos

This tiny model will teach a lot but bigger RC model are actually easier in my view as they are less fiddly and weight critical. There is only one place i have ever seen these tiny free fligh models actually flown outdoors and that's at Old Warden and it so happens that this weekend is one of the dates.

Might be worth attending if you can - but the windy weather may be aginst free flight. RC will be less affected so it's worth going and of course there are so many full size to see in the hangers if it rains.

Chris Bogle06/08/2017 08:34:44
18 forum posts
18 photos

img_1341.jpgimg_1342.jpgCouple of weeks off the model with work/holiday but got an hour back on it last night and it's starting to shape up. Stuck the fuselage together and started on the wing. The dihedral is tricky, there's a cut-out supplied to help get the angle right but the proof will be in the pudding, hoping that when I finish it and rotate it to build the other wing I get the 3". I don't imagine a tiny bit more/less dihedral will affect things to much though right? This is so enjoyable though and I'm thinking ahead to the next one. Would like to try a free flight replica of some kind (is that the right terminology?). img_1343.jpg

Pete H06/08/2017 14:08:58
72 forum posts
58 photos

Chris, it's a good build thread you have here keep it up.

If you are thinking about a small scale kit then I have just put together a Vintage Model Company SE5A on a small table over the last couple of weeks. I must say the kit is superb and goes together very well.

I've added RC gubbins from and expired UMX plane rather than the rubber powered free flight it was designed for.

SE5a uncovered.jpg

Excuse the wheels they are only temporary.

Chris Bogle06/08/2017 22:06:42
18 forum posts
18 photos

That's lovely Pete, a bonny little plane! Just the kind of think I was thinking of. Have you had to alter the plan much for control surfaces? I wouldn't know where to start with electronics.

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