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Old Mar 07, 2012, 02:11 AM
Registered User
Australia, SA, Penfield Gardens
Joined Nov 2011
11 Posts
Development of materials associated with aero-modelling

Hey everyone.
I am doing a final year research assignment on the development of materials associated with aero modelling, and I need a little bit of help.
the materials I have are Balsa, ply, spruce, boxwood, bamboo, foam (EPO and EPS), Composites- carbon fibre and fibre glass. (if I have left any out please let me know)
Firstly, who discovered balsa wood, I have searched and searched but no name comes up, and mainly for each point- who was the first person to introduce it into R/C planes...
Secondly what types of materials were used in the 1890-1900 before balsa wood became abundant. I have found many pictures but no definite material descriptions.
Any help would be greatly appreciated.
I am also researching the deelopment of covering materials- so any help there would be greately appreciated.
If anyone wants, I will post up my final assignment if it is any good.
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Old Mar 07, 2012, 07:48 AM
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TomCrump's Avatar
Traverse City, Michigan
Joined Dec 2005
12,219 Posts
You may want to post your question here: http://www.rcgroups.com/vintage-and-...r-designs-209/

These guys build the vintage stuff, and may know more about it's history.
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Old Mar 07, 2012, 10:07 AM
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dedStik's Avatar
United States, VA, Virginia Beach
Joined Feb 2012
5,487 Posts
Some other resources for you. Balsa wood has been used hundreds of years, well before it was used in modeling.

Rafts http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kon_Tiki

Crankbaits http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plug_%28fishing%29

Mosquito http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Havilland_Mosquito
Yes balsa even made it into WWII aircraft.

Seeing how the tree is indigenous to South America there are probably other uses.

As to your question "what materials were used in 1890 - 1900 before balsa was abundant" you have to keep in mind flight was not achieved until 1902.


I'd suggest you research more into kites, which would have been the closest thing to rc flight back then.


Most were split bamboo cross members with silk covering.
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Old Mar 07, 2012, 11:02 AM
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Joined Sep 2001
27,614 Posts
Real flying models go back to about the 1820's IIRC.

Ben Franklin had model hot air balloons.

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Old Mar 08, 2012, 11:04 AM
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Joined Mar 2012
325 Posts
Many of the early twin pusher rubber powered canards used a lot of bamboo and were covered with rice paper stuck down/painted with "banana oil" (amyl acetate + nitrocellulose mixed with a solvent).

Nitrocellulose (i.e. gun cotton) is the primary component in Nitrate dopes (plus some acetates) as well as being what all that deteriorating old early 1900's Hollywood film stock people are trying to preserve was made of)

Banana oil is still produced and has many commercial/cosmetic/food uses, and would still be suitable for light electrics and rubber powered stuff.
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