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Thinking ahead, balsa in the future...

#1
So I'm bored and want to talk more about balsa planes/kits lol. So I was pondering that after the first of the new year I am going to start into doing balsa kit building.

In one of my other related threads, there was a gentleman at our RC field who could no longer do kit building due to health and age reasons and was thinking about selling some kits. Now I've mainly been talking with his wife about this, so I do wonder if it was more of the wife's agenda than his. I dunno. But anyways, that's still up in the air...they haven't approached me yet on what kits they are wanting to sell but they know I'm interested if they do go that route.

Now if by some chance things don't happen with the guy from the RC club, I'll go look at kits from other places to begin my journey. Now I mainly fly electrics and I would be willing to make it electric up to a certain size (about a 40 size). If it starts getting too big, I'll switch over to using gas. I have decided that when I get into fuel planes (which I do want to someday) that I want to go straight to gas and bypass nitro/glow. I'm kinda uncertain, being new to this, if I wanna build a smaller electric to get the feel for building first before getting a larger gasser. Or just skip that, and get a decent size gasser. Money is pretty tight at the moment, so anything large would be a long term project. I had looked at some of the Sig planes, mainly the Kadets as I hear lots of good about them and thinking they might be a good start with building. Plus they're easy flying/trainer style/cubs and I think that would be helpful too on a 1st balsa build.

But anyways, just rambling, I appreciate any feedback. Thanks! :)
 
#2
I've built exactly two balsa kits so far, with one more in the works, so I'm not exactly an expert. That being said I have built a Sig kit (Kadet Seniorita). While that was an incredible flying plane it was a slow build process for a new builder with no outside help. I got the job done but it took a long time.

In contrast I built a modern self jigging kit last year (Mountain Models EVA Sport). The build still took plenty of time, but the difference was incredible. Way easier to build, already designed for electric....etc etc.

Long story short if you have any aspect of modern short attention span to your personality then do yourself a big favor and start your balsa experience with a modern laser cut kit. Mountain Models, Stevens Aero, etc.
 
#3
You want to talk about balsa airplanes? I'm eternally grateful to Flite Test for getting me back into the RC airplane hobby with cheap, easy to build foam board airplanes. After a couple of years of building and learning to fly well enough to risk it I have built a few balsa airplanes. One big difference is the time invested in building with balsa. If you don't have the patience to stick with a lengthy build... then don't. You will get bored. A long foam board build for me is four or five days. A typical balsa build for me is one or two months. If you love building airplanes as much as flying them or more then balsa is for you. I like to build a foamy in between balsa builds. It's like taking a short vacation. :)

Foam is fun but balsa is better!
 
#4
Oh I'm super patient TooJung2Die. I've actually drug foam builds over months as well. I'll continue doing foam but think I'm just wanting a new challenge. I have really gotten away from ARFs and RTFs once I discovered Flitetest. I like building as much as flying.

Thanks for the suggestion Try-n-glide, I'll check out Mountain Models.
 

rockyboy

Skill Collector
Mentor
#6
Hooray for more balsa planes in the world! :D

I'll echo the recommendation above that kits from manufacturers like Mountain Models, Steven's Aeromodel, and Laines Planes that are designed to go together much more quickly and without the need for customization for electric motors. Great to start with one of those kits before diving deeper into the classic stick build experience which takes a little more time.

Also, there is list of a bunch of balsa kit manufacturers over here

https://forum.flitetest.com/index.php?threads/balsa-kit-manufacturers.35042/
 

jaredstrees

Well-known member
#7
I've done a couple Mountain Models recently (EVA Bipe and switchback sport). These were my first two balsa builds. Both went together fantastic. The bipe was a tougher build than the sport, but nothing even a balsa noob like me couldn't handle. These guys go together so well you don't even need plans. I'd start this route and work your way up. Plus, the MM kits are cheaper, less worry about the $ side of things!
 

Bricks

Master member
#8
When I came back to flying RC FT got me started as foam was cheap and when I crashed no big deal. When I decided to get more into gassers and balsa I went to swap meets I could buy a complete airplane minus receiver for less then I could buy the servos that were in the plane. After going thru a few of these I now have more then enough parts, servos and engines if I were to build kits it would basically only cost me the price of the kit and covering. Just maybe a cheaper way to get where you are going.
 
#9
Awesome...thanks again for the replies! I checked out Steven's Aeromodels, Laines, and Mountain Models. I seemed more impressed with MM selection, so that may be the one I go with. I think I may pick a somewhat small model to start with as it will of course cost less, take a little less time to put together since the pieces are smaller, plus I can fly it at my wife's aunts house (we go there a lot) and their yard is decent enough for smaller planes.

That's a cool suggestion Bricks I like it! Our RC club has a swap meet usually once a year, but I tell you, I don't think I've seen a kit there yet. Usually it's fully assembled planes minus electronics/motor. Of course, I'll probably continue to keep an eye out at various places too for deals.
 

jaredstrees

Well-known member
#10
That switchback sport flies really well and floats forever. She is a nice gentle flier. I only have about 12 flights on her so we are still getting acquainted. She handles a little wind, but those big wings probably wouldn't like anything too gusty.

Only a couple flights on the Bipe, but she is a bit heavier so better for the wind. She does need some speed to land though, so if you have a real short runway could get tricky. Flies beautifully though!


Just a hint, DON'T use transparent covering on both sides of the wing unless you are a plane orientation guru. I had to add a bunch on white solite trim on the bottom of the switchback's wing to be able to tell up from down!

If you've got any questions on those two hit me up. Both are recently finished.
 

nhk750

Aviation Enthusiast
#11
I noticed in your first post talking about gas in the larger planes. I'm electric all the way and convert everything. It's not hard to convert to electric and my 1/4 Sig Cub will be electric also. The bigger planes actually sound more scale electric than the flying weed eaters.
 

Brett_N

Well-known member
#12
Basslord I'm in the same boat - or was.

Here's my recommendation. Pick up a Guillows kit (Amazon, LHS) and build a free flight / rubber band powered one first. The new ones are FANTASTIC to build, and it's a good intro to balsa techniques WITHOUT having to cut-to-plans on the first go. And they can be had for less than $20 for some versions. You get to learn all of the techniques from pinning and curving to covering.

I've built a couple of them now, and am getting ready to start yet another build that will be designed from the ground up for electronics. (micro-stuka!) they are time consuming, so there is usually a foamy tossed in the mix as well.

Of course, another option is to pick up plans for something you like and build it out of foamboard using balsa techniques. (stringers, notching, etc.)

balsa is fun. nerve-racking, and rewarding all at once. I love building balsa planes now as much as foam, but I'm still deathly afraid to fly (crash) them as it usually results in a total loss. But, my 3DHS Edge 540 is way lighter in balsa than it is in foam for 1:1 sizing.
 

Hai-Lee

Old and Bold RC PILOT
#13
During WWII Balsa was considered a strategic resource and therefore unavailable for civilian use. Modelers found that careful design allowed other woods to be used to make their models.
Currently the trend for larger models is to remove all Balsa from the designs and use laser cut plywood as the main material. This makes the models cheaper but often the Ply has defects and inherent weaknesses which make the planes a little more fragile than a balsa rendition would be.
Foam models are quite good but are extremely susceptible to hanger rash and the overall weakness of the foam structure over time. In addition foam is not as rigid as wood, including Balsa, without external coatings or coverings, (as well as internal structure like CF spar tubes and the like).
There is nothing quite as good as balsa but there is something that I believe will supplant it in the near to long term future!

3D printing at this time seems to concentrate on small parts for models including replacement parts which are no longer available or with the complete external plane structure, but consider if you actually printed the bulkheads and wing ribs, (suitably designed to be strong and light) and used CF spars and stringers. Cover the entire structure with the appropriate covering film and you could have a comparable plane with the added bonus of being able to print any replacement parts you might require, (except the CF and covering film of course). No more trying to induce washout as it can be designed into the individual parts. Mounting screws actually having something firm to bite into! No more warping with age or humidity. Heat damage lessened especially with some of the newer filaments! Have a crash? Then just fire up the printer when you get home and a new plane could be ready for next weekend.

You could try and print a complete external structure but this can be difficult to perfect but printing wing ribs, flat on a bed, is about as simple as it gets! You could always use the old Balsa, FB, or the like as sheet covering but the structure will be readily replaceable as long as 3D printing exists.

This is something i am toying with currently but then a printer death makes the progress a little slow of late!

have fun!
 
#14
I noticed in your first post talking about gas in the larger planes. I'm electric all the way and convert everything. It's not hard to convert to electric and my 1/4 Sig Cub will be electric also. The bigger planes actually sound more scale electric than the flying weed eaters.
I've ran electric on a .40 size trainer and I thought it did fine. I would imagine much bigger and I might as well be stepping into IC engine territory. What size motors are we talking about to do a 1/4 electric Sig Cub?
 

nhk750

Aviation Enthusiast
#15
I will be using an E-flight Power 160 motor. E-flight makes some really good reliable motors for the price, but they are not necessarily the best for power to weight ratio. I was looking at some Scorpion motors, but at over $300 and 4,000 watts of power I felt that was way overkill. The 160 is about $150 so the price is alright and the power should be good (2,700 watts) for a 1/4 scale on floats. Since it will be a float plane I wanted a little extra power. It's all about how big a prop you want to swing, the power to weight ratio (watts per pound) and batteries you want to use.

IMG_0331.jpg
 
#18
Wow, that's cool. I knew they had some lower KV motors for bigger projects...just don't commonly hear them go into larger airplanes. I think Peter Sripol's homemade airplane (the one he rode in) was probably one of the first I have seen with electric motors and of course it's larger than what we are talking about. I just get so used to hearing about gas engines in anything larger. It's an avenue I may explore, but no rush. A larger plane at this point is more of a long term goal. It's just near impossible to do right now with budget, our new baby, etc.

Unless I win the lottery tomorrow.
 

Bricks

Master member
#19
I am of the mind that anything over 40 size is gas for me I have. I have 5 Evolution 10CC gas motors in different planes I picked up used. For less then $2 worth of gas I can fly for hours as a 8 ounce tank will fly almost 20 minutes depending on throttle, cannot get any cheaper then that. Even new at $199 after that the only expense is gas not having to buy high dollar batteries. I have one plane that runs 6S 5000mah after the expense and pain to charge for short flight times was my deciding factor to go gas in anything larger,
 

Joker 53150

Mmmmmmm, balsa.
Mentor
#20
Normally I'd be right there with you, using gas-only for big planes. However, I've already got a bunch of gassers including the Giant Stick 50cc plane currently under construction, so I'm just looking to try something different (for me). :)