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May provide a little help to the ones that print plans!

So i started in the scratch building and that is where I am comfortable at the moment because its affordable, and just all out fun. I use the Dollar Tree foam board and print plans from many sites on the internet but most of them have been from Flitetest. I enjoy sitting in the floor for hours building something from nothing and watching it come together from the ground up...literally.

I am fortunate enough to have a wife that supports my hobby and loves to watch me build and grow with my skills, which brings me to this post. I always print my own plans because in all honesty I am super impatient and hate waiting for the mail to arrive if I have ordered something, and because its cheaper for me to do so. I plan to buy speed build kits eventually from FT but at the moment I am content with my printed plans.

Anyways, one day after printing my plans, i was having a terrible time lining up my points on my plans so that they would come out straight. I'm not sure how your printer prints them or how you have it set up but mine outlines of the plans so all i have to do is line up the margins, tape and I'm done. Well I was having a tough time seeing these margins through the top paper so needless to say, my planes are somewhat...off. My wife was sitting on the couch watching me struggle with this and she says "hey, wouldn't it be nice if you had a light table so you can see through your paper?'' What a genius idea.....but i don't have one, or do I. So with that one quote, I stopped what I was doing to figure out how to do this. Not only does this dollar tree foam board build planes, it also dispurses light really well.

I still don't have the perfect set up for this but it got me thinking that if i put a light under the foam board to make a table of sorts, I would be able to see my margins so I can tape. My only option at the time was to find a flash light and set it far enough under the board to project enough light to light the board up. It works wonderfully. It has the ability to see straight through the foam board and through the paper to help you line up your points.

I plan on building something at some point to make this a more permanent fix but for now, it works. Hopefully I didn't fill this too full of junk and you're still reading, but let me know what you think of this, hopefully it makes your printed plans much easier to put together or if you have any other better ideas, I would love to hear them. Thanks.
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I am in the same boat as you. I print and tape the plans together. Till now I have built FT Versa, FT Nutball, FT Delta flyer, FT22 Raptor, FT Viggen, and my own take on Nutball in that order. I am still learning to fly (for more than 5 sec before crashing), but building the planes just gives me the pleasure of forming something out of nothing. I also get to see where I went wrong in my previous builds.

I have this glass top coffee table from Walmart. I have re-purposed it for taping paper plans together using a table lamp shining from under it. I use the following technique for going from paper plans to cut parts.

1. Print either full plans (poster mode) or tiled plans. (3 min tops)
2. Tape the printed plans together. I normally tape all sections into one giant sheet. (20 min)
3. Cut up the individual parts with scissors for re-alignment on foam board. (5 - 10 min)
4. Tape individual parts to foam board to avoid wasting space on foam board. This is the step (minimizing foam board waste) FliteTest uses for laser cutting the parts. I am sure they have a different set of plans for laser cutting. (5 - 20 min)
5. Use a push pin to poke small holes to reference the score cuts. Initially I used the pushpin holes to transfer the whole part into the foam board, but it is too tedious. It is easier to just re-print and stick the plans again. (1-3 hrs)
6. Cut foam board out at the outlines of the parts. To avoid moving the printed paper, after you cut a side, use scotch magic tape to fix it to the cut paper or foam board. (1 - 3 hrs)
7. Score cut the punched hole marks. (20 min to 1 hr)

This way I can re-cut the design if I have a bad crash.

Sometimes I wonder, is it worth the time spent on printing, taping, cutting, poking and finally cutting foam board rather than just ordering laser cut parts from FT.

And the answer to this question probably depends on the complexity of the parts and the upper limit of your patience.
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Hostage Taker of Quads
Staff member
I'd say the kits they offer are a good value to us in the contental USA (maybe not outside, due to shipping), but with a little care and re-enforcement those printed plans can be made reuseable.

I typically spend the $2-4/sheet to print it large format at the local Office depot, but I like the light table idea for alligning pages!

I've made quite a few prints into templates by gluing and cutting out Matte board (which is *TEDIOUS*) and they make nice templates you can *CUT* directly from, but over time I've gotten tired of how hard it is to store/organize these large cut pieces.

Latley I've been rough cutting the parts, backing them with the cheap duct tape, then covering the top with contact paper and cutting the part flush. large holes (like wing openings in fuselages, or gaps in the wing for dihedral) I bridge the gap by skipping small strips of paper in the gap to give the template a little strength -- they can be roughed out later with a straight edge. This is pretty quick to make (~1hr) can be used to redraw parts on foamboard quickly, and roll up nicely into labled mailer tubes for storage.

Best part of all this: I can use *anyone's* plans! The FT plans are nice planes and typically well designed, but there are *SOOO* many other plans out there. RC groups has a sticky thread cataloging only the foam scratchbuilds that exceed 600 comments and the list spans for pages and pages, a *VAST* majority of which have plans. There are also quite a few independant designers that are geniunely creative and the planes fly well, but are outside the mainstreams. If you can print it, you don't have to hope for the FT's fancy laser to cut somethign out like it some day, you can cut it now!


Junior Member
If you have sliding glass doors, you can use painter's tape to tape your plans to the glass door, using sunlight outside as your light source. Of course this means you have to tape your plans together when it's daylight, but just another possibility.
If you have sliding glass doors, you can use painter's tape to tape your plans to the glass door, using sunlight outside as your light source. Of course this means you have to tape your plans together when it's daylight, but just another possibility.
This is how I did my last plans, stuck to the window with painters/masking tape and you can easily see the joining marks, made it super easy compared to before.

I had also achieved the light-table using my phone on torch mode and a thin white chopping board (does better for making the white light not-so-bright).


Some guy in the desert
Being an old school photography guy who's worked professionally in a number of darkrooms I'm no stranger to light tables. But sadly the only ones I could ever afford weren't bright enough to get through paper and were barely acceptable for inspecting slides and negatives.

So before I got my plotter and was printing tiled plans I always used my sliding glass door as a light table to line things up.

I also found BigPrint made it much easier for me since I could turn on it's diagonal grid which was way easier for me to align with than the little tick marks in the corners that Acrobat does. The other thing I did to make printing easier is I'd open the plans in Photoshop (though I'm now using inkscape since it's more efficient) and lay things out differently to use less paper. Most plan sets I was able to reduce the paper usage (and therefore amount of taping) by over 50%. Plus it just drove me crazy that things like stabilizers which are small enough to fit on a single 8x10 sheet were often right on a tape line in tiled plans. So I'd make single sheets for parts that would fit on single sheets and then bigger parts I'd make individual files for that only tiled across 2-4 pieces of paper. I was just always careful not to resize anything and I put a copy of the ruler/scale on each file so I could use it to calibrate in bigprint before printing.

But if you do a lot of building I strongly suggest keeping an eye on Craigs list and your local classifieds for a used large format plotter, it's made things so much easier being able to print full 20x30 sheets!
Maybe I'm doing it the hard way but I print mine with the margins marked then using a ruler I cut the right side and bottom off then line up the actual edge with the next margin marker to the right/bottom giving me just a small overlap (left over right). After I cut the shape I slice out a couple sections of the inside lines or "score cuts" just enough to draw through then complete those lines with a ruler after I trace the edges and remove the "template".


Dedicated foam bender
You know, I'm surprised no one has mentioned LED's, especially after bltsmm talked about how well DTFB disperses light. Why not take a few white LED strips and make a DTFB light board?
I Haven't thought of using a window or anything but I prefer the foam with the light shining through it because of the ease of taping. You guys mention having to tape the plans to the window and then tape again to join your print out. I use foam board for the simple reason that when I get my margins lined up, I use sewing pins and poke through the paper and into the board and it holds my paper in place while I tape. It's also a horizontal plane so when I lay my papers down, I don't have to worry about them sliding around while I reach for my tape.
Btw, the LED is a great idea. I may have to try that soon.