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There's gotta be a better way...

I love the swappable scratch builds. The planes look great, except for mine. My cuts are smooth and everything lines up... for the most part. Where I struggle is getting the plans stitched together and transferring them to the foam board. I've printed from several different printers and if I line up my cut marks, the lines of the plans don't line up. So, I tried lining up the plans as best I could and continue on. I have also tried several different ways to transfer the pattern to a piece of foam board, and so far, the best method I've found is coloring on the backside and tracing the front. Then I move on to filling in any breaks in the lines with a pencil and cut.

With a little light sanding and some glue, the result is a smooth yet somewhat asymmetrical plane. I feel that the crappy plane in the end isn't so much a result of bad workmanship, but more from poor technique. What do you seasoned builders do to transfer plans cleanly and accurately?


Junior Member
Build a Light Box

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I know excactly what you mean about the alignment, it seems no matter how careful you are the tiles never line up perfectly. You can always go to Kinkos and get a black and white enlargement of the entire drawing for around $4 and mark the colored lines in, or pay a little more for a colored copy, or you could use a light box.

You can Google different ways to make simple light boxes out of picture frames and such, but i think my idea is quick and easy. First get some sort of light and put it on a table underneath an old dustcover from a record player... thats it your finished! Then instead of trying to cut out each tile and hope it comes out right, you simply line up all of the registration marks on the light box the same way a printer would line up negatives on a light table and tape them together.

For the FT3D wing I layed out the 8 tiles so there were 4 vertical pieces that I eventually connected. When your finished you'll end up with a full sized drawing that you lined up with the registration marks that will be much more accurate. You'll just have to get rid of some of the overlap here and there either by cutting, or simply by filling in some of the missing lines.

Hope this helps
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I ignore the corner marks and just use a office paper cutter to slice the edges of the plans. I then butt the pages together lining up the plane lines using a straight edge if needed. I work in sections that can be completed without having to piece together the whole plan. Once my sections are taped together I then cut the individual parts out leaving about a 1/2" around them of scrap. I then tape the parts to the foam by their edges. First cut out any servo, or other slots needed, then do my 50% cuts, then cut all the black lines clean through. You just have to be careful the paper stays in place as you carefully cut it.


Fly, yes... Land, no
1: make sure your printer settings are not set to "scale to fit". easy oversight.
2: make sure its printed at 100% in the page set up.
3: once you make a good part taht you need multiple of (like a wing half) use that as the basic template for the other side.

If all else fails, go to Kinkos with the full sized plans on a thumb drive and have them print it out. The Cruiser cost me $14 to print out and the Spitfire was $11. Cheap to make sure things end out right.
To transfer the plan onto the foam, i use needles: I lay the printed plan ontop of the foam flat, then put needles into the corners that have to be cut. After i take off the needles and the plan, the holes of the needles are still very much visible and i can trace them using a ruler. Of course, this doesn't help for round edges..


Fly, yes... Land, no
To transfer the plan onto the foam, i use needles: I lay the printed plan ontop of the foam flat, then put needles into the corners that have to be cut. After i take off the needles and the plan, the holes of the needles are still very much visible and i can trace them using a ruler. Of course, this doesn't help for round edges..
I use the same tecknique to mark out where i have to cut out the hatches on some of my designs. It works for curves, just need a lot more pin holes and a steady hand. Need more coffee.....
Here is what I've done. I have an inexpensive ($65) Brother laser printer and I would recommend not using an inkjet if you can avoid it. The way the inkjets print may leave more room for error when it comes to lining everything up. (And ink is way expensive for printing something black and white!).

I run a test print of the page that has the scale/ruler on it and measure it to see if the ruler on the printed page is actually the size it should be. If it is too small or too large I'll adjust the print scale setting up or down a bit until I can print a ruler from the plans that is within 1/16 of an inch of being true scale. Again, only print out the page that has the ruler/scale so you don't waste paper/ink/time.

Once I've got the print settings right make a note of it somewhere with the file name and settings. Each plan you get may need different print settings to get a correct scale, not everyone designs their plans the same way. (All the tiled FT plans I've downloaded print perfectly for me and it is a credit to all the work FliteTest puts into everything they do. Kudos guys!)

Once I have my pages printed I'll spread them out in order to see where they will need to match up.

In this case since I've got six tiles/pages I'm going to trim off the edges of a few and tack the pages together into a large sheet with the lines all matched up. This was my first ever so I just trimmed off the inner borders of some of the pages and used tiny bits of masking tape to just hold them lightly together incase I needed to move things around. If you want to take a closer look at how and where I trimmed the sheets to matchup you can look at the larger resolution image here.

Once I have the lines all matching I carefully turn the whole thing over and tape the sheets together from the back with masking tape.


This is what actually holds the pages together as one large set of plans and it keeps the front of the sheets clear. Once I have this large sheet I turn it back over and cut out the individual pieces with scissors, taking my time and using a blade for the inner cuts.


Once I have these patterns cut out I then write the name of the model on each piece somewhere just so I don't later try and cut a FT Flyer tail for a FT Nutball. :) Then I'll arrange them on a new sheet of foam core. I played around with the arrangement of the pieces to try and get the best use of the sheet. Since this is going to be my first RC plane and I know I'm going to need replacement parts and I want to make a FT Nutball body for my 8 year old son to learn to fly I'm getting one wing two tails and two power pods out of this one sheet.

I just put the patterns down and took a mechanical pencil and carefully traced around the edges of the pattern pieces. If you have problems with the pattern paper slipping while you are tracing you can try taking a couple sewing pins and pinning the pattern right to the foam core to hold it in place. Slipping is another reason I like to use the paper masking tape to hold the sheets together. Having the masking tape stripes on the back of the patters gives the patterns more of a non slip grip than if I had used smooth wrapping paper tape.


Once you have your tracing make sure you are over your cutting mat or a surface that you can cut into without your wife screaming at you for doing it later. Then CAREFULLY take your blade, your metal straight edge and cut out your pieces. I actually use surgical scalpel blades rather than hobby knife blades, they are much thinner but do dull faster.


Once you have the parts cut free of the sheet and any of the holes cut you're ready to start refining and doing the complex cuts.


At This point I'll put my patterns back over my newly cut parts and mark the start and end points of my straight cuts for things like the B folds of the power pods, hinges, and polyhedral of the wing. Once you have those marked DOUBLE CHECK WITH THE PLANS before you start cutting into your new parts. Make sure you know that you are cutting into the right side of the part, if you are cutting half way or all the way, if it is a hinge how is it going to swing?

And follow Josh's FliteTest videos.


After more cutting, a few bevels and hinges, all under clear guidance of brother Bixler I had a successful test fit of both power pods to my new FT Nutball airframe.


Again, I'm new to the hobby and this is all from my first build. I'm still waiting for Hobbyking to ship me my transmitter but I've started to document what I'm learning and how I've come to the hobby on my site in the 'Start from zero RC' section.

Hope this helps.
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I sent all my plans to fedex last night and if you choose black and white, they can print them on full size paper for about 3-4 per plan set. This will save you SO MUCH TIME.

You want to make sure they print actual size and look at the print preview before allowing them to send to printer.

I printed all the swappable plans for about 40 bucks. They look great, you'll just need to create reference marks for the red lines etc.

Maybe flitetest could start using dotted lines instead of colors so we could send to black and white printers :)

After I cut my plans out, I am laminating them to preserve.

Hope this helps.


Dedicated foam bender
I bought the three pack and the spitfire SBK's and use them as templates to kit up on my own foamboard. I've done a few other builds with tiled plans and found that if you want to use the plans as templates, a very light misting of spray adhesive to attach plans to posterboard before you cut out the parts makes great semi-rigid reusable templates.
I basically use the same process as JohnEricAnderson. Execept I print on card stock paper. This gives you the same semi-rigidity as poster board. Card stock is more expensive so I always print out the page with the 6 inch scale to be sure my printer is set correctly. I tape the tiles together, cut out the parts and trace them onto the Foamboard. When I'm done, I fold them, the best I can and stick them in a large envelope, lable and file it for the time I need to build a replacement.
I agree with everyone else so far. I will print them out from full size pdf and arrange the tiles then use the plane lines and tack each part together then tape to foamboard and make the cuts. When done cutting out you still have the plan should you want to make it again