Build your first flying scale model - Chapter 2 - Getting started

The first step will be to make some home made printwood, using a photocopy of the part patterns you downloaded. If you cut parts sheet 3 close around the top of the fin, you will be able to match it up to sheet 2, and produce a single 3 x 12 inch pattern as shown here:

You then need to photocopy this, and also parts sheet one. Easiest would be to copy both sets onto one sheet of A3 paper.

The parts sheets can be cut out just inside the parallel lines (which should be 3 inches apart). It would seem worth discussing wood selection at this point. The parts need to be cut out from reasonably light 1/16 balsa sheet (not something you ever got in the original kits). Good wood is getting hard to find, especially from your local model shop (in the unlikely event you still have a local model shop!) Still, could be worth having a look, just in case they have anything decent in stock. I tend to buy my wood from Flitehook, who sell it out the back of their van at model shows around the country. They are usually to be found at the Old Warden model events. All their wood has the weight marked on in grams, which is very helpful when comparing sheets.

An alternative source, which I also use, is the packs of 12 x 3 selected sheet sold by SAMS models. At that size, the packs are relatively simple to send via mail order. The wood is not cheap (8 sheets for 6.95), but of good quality, and you can get 1/20 and 1/25 sheet as well as the more normal 1/16. Coincidentally, 12 x 3 is just what you need for these Swift patterns. More details can be found on the wood page of The SAMS Models web site

So having got your wood, how to transfer the patterns? Here are some methods:

1. Attach the paper patterns to the balsa sheet using a spray adhesive or restickable glue stick, then cut the parts out through the paper. One potential advantage of this method is that the paper will tend to hold the balsa together and reduce the risk of splitting along the grain. As you use each part, peel the paper off first. If you find paper residues are being left behind, these can be removed with lighter fluid (apparently).

2. Tape the patterns temporarily over the wood and prick the patterns through to the wood with a pin. Cut the parts out by joining up the holes. All I can say is, rather you than me.

3. Iron the patterns onto the wood. Do this by placing a photocopy of the parts face down on the wood, and running over it with a hot iron. This will melt the toner, and transfer it to the wood. Main disadvantage I have found is that the wood will tend to curl up towards the hot side. You can get it back close to flat again by turning the wood over, and giving it a quick run over with the iron on the back.

4. Use a piece of kitchen roll soaked in dope thinners to transfer the patterns. This is now my preferred way of doing it, though be warned it is very smelly, so be sure you have plenty of ventilation, and that the rest of the family are out of the house. The method is illustrated below:

Place the photocopied pattern face down on the balsa sheet. Hold a wad of kitchen roll over the open top of a tin of dope thinners and turn it upside down briefly. Wipe the kitchen roll quickly over the back of the pattern until it all goes transparent, and only then apply some pressure using the drier areas of the wad. Work your way over the whole pattern. If you flood too much thinners onto the paper, the toner will run and go blotchy. To see how you are doing, lift up a corner of the pattern and peel it back. If it looks fine, keep on peeling. If there are faint or missing areas, put it back down and rub some more. If that does not work, you need a bit more thinners in that area, so rub again with a wetter area of the wad.

Here is the finished result. There are areas where the toner has run a little bit, but nothing that will stop the bits from being cut out accurately.

Now we need some 1/16" square balsa strips. SAMS Models can again help you out, as they sell packs of 50 selected strips in 18" lengths in various sizes, in both indoor and outdoor quality (outdoor being more robust). However, I usually just cut my own stripwood using just a steel rule and a sharp scalpel. I just gauge the width of the strips by eye, so there is some variation, but if you cut a good selection, you can sort them into groups of the same width. If some come out a bit narrow, just use them for the uprights or diagonals.

There are proper balsa strippers on the market which will allow you to cut strips exactly to size - I guess I am just a cheapskate.

The wood you use for the fuselage longerons and wing spars needs to be quite hard and stiff, as these are the main load bearing members on the plane. Also, the grain of the wood you use to cut strips from needs to be straight along the length of the sheet. If it runs at an angle across the cut strips, it will seriously weaken them. Wood suitable for cutting into strips may well be found in your local hobby shop.

Less than 10 minute's work, and I have got more than enough 1/16" square strips to finish this model. There are two stiffnesses of wood here, as I stripped from two different sheets. The darker balsa in the backgound is the harder, stiffer wood.

Right - let's start! I taped together sheets 1 and 2 of the downloaded plan and placed this on the building board. The whole thing is covered with clingfilm, raided from the kitchen drawer, to stop the glue sticking to the plan.

The pinning of the first part over the plan is always one of my favourite moments (which probably explains why I have so many half-finished models in the house).

Start by cutting out K1 from the sheet, and pinning it down on the plan. You can see I have pinned through this part, which is not always sensible, but due to it's width there is little danger of splitting or weakening the part excessively. Next add the front and rear lower longerons, gluing them to K1, and pin down the upper longeron. I tend to put in the outer pins vertical, and the inner ones at an angle to hold the wood down onto the board. Pins are placed either side of the 1/16" square strips, and NOT through them.

The uprights and part K2 at the nose can now be glued into place. To cut the uprights to the correct length, I butt them up to the top longeron and mark a notch in the wood at the bottom in line with the inside of the lower longeron. Cut the wood fully through back on the cutting mat. Test for fit, and adjust length as necessary using an emery board until you get a snug fit. If you cut it too short, do not attempt to fill the gap with glue, just cut a replacement. If the fit is correct, you should not need pins to hold the uprights in place.

The tailpost is a little tricky to get in place because there is not much room for fingers, so a pair of tweezers can help.

Just one upright to go on this photo. You will notice my first modification to the kit design here - the first fuselage bay, behind K2, has been filled with 1/16" sheet with the grain vertical. This will give something more substantial to hold on to while winding, removing the risk of sticking a finger through the tissue. As the model is bound to need noseweight anyway, why not add it in a useful structural way?

The glue should be set firmly after 30 minutes or so, and the finished fuselage half can be removed from the board.

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