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The 'Cuda (by Laine's Planes) Build Thread

Joker 53150

Mmmmmmm, balsa.
Mentor
#1
Those who attended probably saw Laine's Planes at FTFF 16. They had a nice booth set up showing their balsa kits, and their 'Cuda caught my attention. It's got great potential to be wicked fast (as those who saw him fly at FTFF will know), something that may get me in trouble, but it's an itch that needs to be scratched! So I contacted Laine prior to FTFF, paid in advance, and had him bring the kit to Ohio where I'd pick it up and save a couple bucks in shipping costs.

I was hoping to start and finish the 'Cuda while at FTFF, but the Telemaster I built with my dad took longer than expected and we were getting burned out on building after two solid days of it, so the 'Cuda was left in it's box until today. Most of the work on my 1/4 scale Pietenpol is done, other than a few detail items, so the workbench is temporarily empty. Well, "WAS" empty...! :)

I'll document the build here for those interested.

My first impressions:
  • The manual is pretty damn good, and compared to the garbage other companies offer it's downright fantastic. Pictures that show detail, text where needed, and it's actually accurate! All companies should strive for this kind of manual.
  • The quality of the balsa laser cutting is extremely good, possibly the best cutting I've ever seen. From my experience, Mountain Models and then the Telemaster have held that distinction, but this is simply great cutting. Maybe it's because Laine is a builder and knows what works best. So far, a few steps into the build and I've only used the knife a few times just to clean up the "bridge" that held the part in the tree. A little 200 grit sandpaper would have worked equally as well. So far the fit of the parts is also extremely good, and it's obvious Laine spent plenty of time to get this right.
  • Assembly is easy enough so far that this could be a first balsa build for somebody with flying skill. I say that because this is FAR from being a flight trainer, but it could be a good build trainer. If that makes sense. :p
  • Construction is fast, or at least could be fast if I weren't using Titebond II for most of it so far. Since the early steps of the build use a lot of light ply I'm using it to give it time to soak in better than CA glue would do. It also gives me more time to line up the parts before the adhesive sets. Laine includes a page full of recommended "assemblies" that could be done early to help speed up the entire build, so you're not constantly waiting for glue to dry. Again, he's done his homework and helped the builder.


Here's a pic of a finished 'Cuda I found online, along with a "naked" picture of one, these are NOT my plane. I'll get my pics posted when I have a few minutes.

35cuda.jpg

cudabones2.jpg
 

Joker 53150

Mmmmmmm, balsa.
Mentor
#3
The 35". My eyesight isn't the greatest anymore so I want the extra size for visibility if I'm going to push 100-ish MPH.
 

rockyboy

Skill Collector
Mentor
#4
Excellent project! I have a box with a 26" Cuda kit sitting above the workbench that I have been saving for the rainy season. I'll be following your experience closely to help my build go even smoother :)

Have you decided on the electronics package you're going to use yet?
 

Joker 53150

Mmmmmmm, balsa.
Mentor
#5
From what I've seen so far, the construction should be fast and easy. So far...!

The motor is a 28-36 NTM, 2200KV that will handle 3S or 4S. Servos are metal gear 19gram ES3154's which Laine suggested when we were talking at FTFF.
 

Joker 53150

Mmmmmmm, balsa.
Mentor
#6
To start this build I first laid out all the parts and did a quick inspection and inventory of parts. As mentioned before, the quality of the laser cutting is fantastic. I'm currently about done with the fuselage and only two parts weren't completely cut, and it's due to a strange hard edge on the balsa.

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Here are the electronics going into the 'Cuda. The plan is to do test flights on 3S, and then switch over to 4S to see what kind of speed I can get out of it.

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First step in the build is laminating the fuselage sides. Yes, this looks a LOT like wing ribs, but it's the fuselage. The outside is balsa and the inside is light ply. I used the circular cut-outs towards the back to line the pieces up. The kit includes brass tubes that go through these holes, which accept the carbon fiber wing spars and keep everything nicely lined up.

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Here's a good example of the great design work done by Laine. This is the vertical stab, where it slides into the fuselage. The strange design is meant to lock it securely in place in the motor mount.

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Viewed from the bottom you can see how it all locks together. It did take a minimal amount of sanding to get it to slide into place.

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Once the sides are laminated and the motor mount is assembled, the fuselage builds quickly. I'm taking my time with this build and using Titebond II glue instead of CA, since the slower glues tend to soak into the hard wood better.

IMG_2644.JPG


Viewed from the top you can see the 'Cuda has two hatches. The battery goes in the front and the rear gives access to the electronics and wing mounting bolts. The hatches are each held in place with two magnets that hold against each other, which should be plenty strong even with 4S. So far, only very minimal sanding has been required. I also found that all of the internal light ply parts had a nice tight fit, which was just amazing.

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Here's the battery hatch under construction. Laine went through the extra effort to number the kits. He's also designed it so some of the parts (like the numbered light ply piece) can be installed in any orientation, so you really can't build it wrong. The only critical part I have to watch out for is making sure I install the magnet in the correct end of the hatch, and that the polarity of the magnet is correct.

IMG_2646.JPG
 

Joker 53150

Mmmmmmm, balsa.
Mentor
#7
At the end of day 2 I've got a couple more hours of build time. The fuselage is almost done, other than final sanding and installing electronics. Wing construction starts with assembling the main structure. As with the fuse, fit of the parts is excellent. In the pictures below there is not a single drop of glue holding the wing pieces together, it's all friction-fit. All four CF wing spars extend into the fuselage, into brass tubes to align everything nicely. No building plan page is needed for rib spacing since that is done by notches in the top & bottom spars as well as the leading and trailing edges.

image.jpeg

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Joker 53150

Mmmmmmm, balsa.
Mentor
#8
Once they're framed up, the top & bottom sheeting can be added. The notched areas that fit on the ribs are a little too tight and needed some sanding, but the work was minimal. Thin and thick CA was used to hold it in place. After glue was dry, the leading and trailing edge sticks were added, to complete the construction. Here I used Titebond II, my usual go-to glue. Sanding to final shape will follow.

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The ailerons are also built-up and sheeted top and bottom. Again construction here goes quickly.

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With wingtips added, the airframe is ready for electronics, final sanding, and covering. I fully expect to have everything completed and ready to cover tomorrow.

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Joker 53150

Mmmmmmm, balsa.
Mentor
#11
So how would you say this kit and instructions compare to a kit from a large company, for example, the Red Swan?
I just laughed so hard that milk came out my nose, and I haven't drank milk in days!

Assuming the question is serious, there is NO comparison. The Res Swan is an ok plane (I built two of them and have two more being kit bashed right now), but the laser cutting is poor and the instructions even worse. The only help you get on building is from build threads like I made for it, where with the 'Cuda you can also just message Laine on Facebook if needed. But if you've ever built a balsa kit you won't need to do that. It's an easy build. With that said, like any kit there are a couple spots where you just need to take your time and look at the problem to see the solution.

So as far as building goes, this kit could certainly be a first balsa build for people, but the plane is too fast for beginners.
 
#12
I just laughed so hard that milk came out my nose, and I haven't drank milk in days!

Assuming the question is serious...
Nope, it was not serious;) I read your threads on the Red Swan for my first balsa build. (Well, second if you count the small, tissue covered, rubber powered Guillows P-51.) I was struck by the contrast in your tone on this thread and thought I would try to make a little joke.

My Swan is ready to cover, but I'm waiting on thin servos for the wings and interest from my son.
 

Joker 53150

Mmmmmmm, balsa.
Mentor
#13
So a little bit more info on "instructions", since they're pretty important in balsa kits...

The 'Cuda's manual is 16 pages long, and includes dozens of diagrams and a few words thrown in here and there. There aren't really too many words needed when the diagrams are good. Consider Ikea manuals as the gold-standard, they don't use any words in the instructions, only pictures, and anybody can follow the instructions easily. Instructions for the 'Cuda can be found HERE, and as you can see, they're very comprehensive and easy to follow. After building a number of kits it's easier to build with crappy instructions, but for the first few builds it's MUCH easier to follow along step by step.

Mountain Models is usually my go-to recommendation for people building their first balsa kit since the kits are very well cut and the instructions are very good (an example is HERE). They offer a wide range of planes with many suited for newer pilots. In my opinion, getting successful flights out of the first balsa build is crucial. It doesn't matter how it looks, as long as it flies, and MM planes are well known as great flying planes.

Hobby Express Telemaster manuals (HERE) are also very detailed - the Mini Telemaster I built at Flite Fest with my dad has a 23 page manual. Again, it made the build much easier and faster, and we could simply follow the instructions to get a finished plane. Although the high-wing trainer style doesn't appeal to many after they've been flying for a while, the Telemaster makes a great 1st or 2nd balsa build.

And then there's the Red Swan..... :p

Some of the people reading this know of my history with the Red Swan. I built the RS as my 3rd or 4th balsa kit, and I became more proficient in swearing during the process. I pushed through, finished the kit, and it flies nicely. Currently mine has 48 fights and just over 13 hours of flight time. But the build was a pain in the ass. When it was finished I looked back and thought they really could have done it better, since the finished product was heavier than it should be for a glider. So I ordered another one and did some kit-bashing, cutting holes along all sides of the fuselage to shed weight, modifying the tail and wing, going with lighter components, etc. In the end, it was about 20% lighter and performed better than the original. Then I ordered ANOTHER Red Swan kit! This one was kit bashed into two different planes, a "warm liner" style plane with a V-tail and an EDF powered version that looks like the WWII German "Salamander". These two are still under construction.

Why I kept going back to the RS is beyond my understanding. The quality of the balsa cutting is terrible and I often had to spend extra time cutting parts loose and sanding them to final shape. The way the parts fit together was often sloppy. But the worst part for somebody building the plane for the first time is the "instruction manual". I put that in quotes, because the paper they include with the RS says "Instruction Manual" across the top so that's what I assume it is. But in reality it's a series of tiny pictures with horribly translated Chinese to guide you. The fuselage build isn't too bad, but the wing is a joke. You're far better off throwing the 2 page "manual" away and just following my build thread.

However, I like an occasional challenge so not only have I done the Red Swan, I also built the Hobby King Sun Bird and their Cessna 182 (not yet finished). My dad built their Little Bug. They're all the same "quality" kit with regards to the laser cutting and instructions.

In all their glory, here are the 2 pages of instructions included with the Red Swan. Keep in mind this plane may have twice the number of pieces that the 'Cuda, Telemaster, or most MM planes have, yet you only get 1/2 of 1 page devoted to a fairly complex wing. But don't worry, they break it down into 6 easy to follow Chinglish steps! :) I'm particularly fond of step 2.01, "Put 6 pieces wing ribs B3 together and assemble strengthen sticker at the up and down gap it."

Red Swan Page 1.jpg

Red Swan Page 2.jpg
 
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Joker 53150

Mmmmmmm, balsa.
Mentor
#14
Nope, it was not serious;) I read your threads on the Red Swan for my first balsa build. (Well, second if you count the small, tissue covered, rubber powered Guillows P-51.) I was struck by the contrast in your tone on this thread and thought I would try to make a little joke.
Well played, sir, well played.
 

Joker 53150

Mmmmmmm, balsa.
Mentor
#15
Dang it, I just noticed that I've only got a 40A ESC for this plane, I must have grabbed the wrong one somewhere along the line. 40A will cover me on 3S flight tests or 4S with a 5x5 prop, but if I were to go to a 6x4 it would likely burn out. I'll have to order up a 60A ESC to be safe!
 

Joker 53150

Mmmmmmm, balsa.
Mentor
#16
Covering has started. The plane could easily be done and ready to fly today, but there are other things I need to do around the house. :( The color scheme is similar to that found on some WWII aircraft - olive green on top and gray bottom. I'll need to add some additional bottom detail to aid in orientation, although I'm not sure yet what I'll do there.

The graphics are vinyl pieces I cut at work, and the font used was chosen to go along with the color theme. I'll probably remove the "cuda" from the gray side's aileron. It's not centered well and it doesn't do much for the overall look.

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Joker 53150

Mmmmmmm, balsa.
Mentor
#17
I was successfully able to duck my work around the house and push onward with covering the 'Cuda. To make things fun, I mis-judged how much of the green covering I had left and fell short by about 1" to cover the fusealge. :( Luckily I had another roll, although it was from a different manufacturer. Looking at the pics you can see there is a slight color difference, but it's close enough. For the bottom I did a variation on D-Day invasion stripes, and did my stripes with brushed chrome. It's not enough for good orientation unless the sun is reflecting off of it, so I'll add some additional color to the bottom of the other wing. I'm also thinking twice about the "'cuda" on the sides - those decals may be removed.

Electronics need to be hooked up and it should be about ready to go!

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Joker 53150

Mmmmmmm, balsa.
Mentor
#19
Just the programming of rates and expo and it's done! Getting the leads from the motor to ESC may have been the hardest part of the build. The battery box is huge, and the 4S 2200 sits far up in the nose with room for a larger battery if needed. The test battery is at storage charge and it still screams. Can't wait to throw it into the sky!
 
#20
Just catching up on this thread. The plane looks FAST!

Now I have a question; where did you get those pins? They look SO much better for pushing than T-pins! I spent yesterday working on a plane, and my thumbs ached bu the end of the day! Mind you, I build on a sheet of drywall so pins go in hard, but pins like yours would certainly spread out the pressure on the thumbs!