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Old Aug 17, 2014, 10:53 AM
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United States, MD, Elkton
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The 'lore' of Kits and Plans

There has been a lot of discussion on kits and the lack of them for those who want to build as we did in days gone by..
The original kits were produced mostly by the designers, and if demand became greater than the cottage industry could handle, rights were often sold to a company capable of mass producing them.

Almost all of the early kits were "die-cut", where a razor blade sharp strip of metal was inserted into a 'die', and the die was then pressed into a sheet of suitable wood for the intended purpose. These dies were shaped to cut the required formers, ribs, and shapes, to help construct the model of your desires.

These were builder's kits, and if you frequent this forum, you understand that point...I won't attempt to name them all, but my generation was offered kits by Berkeley, Goldberg, Sterling, Guillows, and Comet.

Usually supplied was a pretty in-depth set of plans, and building, painting, and flying instructions. Most flew fairly well, and were offered as "Freeflight", Control line, and R/C versions in the same package.

Some early kits were offered with few parts,and had the part outlines silk screened onto the wood. Period...These were true builder's kits, where if you ended up with an airplane, you darned sure did it yourself !

I applaud those builders who fought the brave fight, and the single edged razor blades used to remove the parts from the sheet wood. The occasional cut finger quickly taught you not to DO that....I'm one of those builders..

Please keep your comments clean and respectful..Let's go down memory lane with your experiences and complaints and joys.
The floor is yours.
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Old Aug 17, 2014, 11:07 AM
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United States, KY, Taylorsville
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I built a Comet P-38 for control line back in ~1970. The parts had to be hand cut. Painted in silver dope. It had two Cox 049s. Upon release the inboard engine quit and that sucker spiraled inward and into the ground. A couple of months' work gone in the blink of an eye, lol. It was a cool looking CL bird, though!

I built a Guillows Tempest and it never got to fly (CL again). It was camouflaged too well and my buddy stepped on it.
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Old Aug 17, 2014, 11:30 AM
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Kits were/are are engineered for many different reasons. Not always was flight or scale accuracy the goal. Sometimes it was. Yet, SALES was/is the real motive behind the existence of the kit and how it was/is presented.

Modeler's tastes and costs have changed. I get a kick out more recent modelers complaining about "die crushed". I remember being quite happy "having to" run a blade around each piece, but now, I like scratch building the best. Cutting out parts is still a pain, but I've learned that time saving is a bit more irrelevant in my building, these days.
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Old Aug 17, 2014, 11:36 AM
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There was a question raised about a"kits only" classified section, with maybe a set of plans thrown in. It seems it can't work, for some reason..So while that's being addressed, and we still wade through the kits, arfs, and ready built section of the classifieds, is there any reason we can't post that we have a kit for sale here?

I'm thinking along the lines of "Sig 71" J-3 kit...PM me". If we keep it low profile, maybe it will become more attractive than an actual classified section.

-Even a wanted request could be posted in a comment..."looking for a Sig 71" J-3 kit-PM me." would work ?

My earlier description of the 'silk screened' kits raised the question- would you buy a printwood kit in your favorite size? Almost like scratch-building but with all the materials at hand...Suppliers would be able to produce good kits cheaply, and the costs should be attractively low.
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Old Aug 17, 2014, 11:54 AM
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I built a bunch of those kits as a kid myself, always free flight, and usually rubber powered. I never forgot the thrill of seeing that Curtiss Robin float in and land ever so gently. After that I was hooked. I can remember some of the planes I built as a kid, but not everything. I was almost done with a P-51, Guillows kit, I think...when I ran out of time and had to go into Army basic training. I remember in the final weeks, the plane was competing for my attention with various girls that wanted to hook up before the Army "ruined" me.

But nothing is sacred, I'm afraid.
I've asked my Mom, my Dad, and all of my siblings if anyone had ANY idea what happened to all those beautiful old FF planes of mine, including the P-51, and the amnesia everyone seems to have on the subject is absolute! I mean, who wouldn't remember half a dozen balsa and silkspan airplanes???
My youngest brother and my Mom seems to remember they were all left in the basement workshop, right where I had them when I left, and no one bothered to even consider grabbing a single one of them when they moved. I always considered that a lack of respect.
Also lost was my Dad's 6 ft wingspan Cessna 140, which was a real work of art. (My parents got divorced a couple of years before I moved out).

Epoxyearl, if you have something you want to sell, what I would do-just to keep things square with the forum moderators- is to go ahead and list it in Classifieds, but then ALSO list the link here in Balsa Builders, thereby focussing our attention on the recently listed item.

I remember some of those Comet kits weren't printed on the best wood, and upon cutting along the lines, the brittle wood would often split, and I'd have to try to glue the pieces back together. However, if you can find a sheet of carbon paper (from back in the electric typewriter days), those do a good job of transferring lines from the plans to the sheet balsa. I am going to look in Office Max and see if I can find some still.
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Old Aug 17, 2014, 07:43 PM
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I tried building a Comet Corsair, 20 inch span, struggling to cut that awful print wood with a broken razor blade. I got a pretty nice looking fuselage frame before I finally gave up in despair at the idea of attaching wings to it.

None of my Guillow models flew successfully but they did look good.

It was the CL models that finally gave me success. Even a Baby Ringmaster was not easy to build because the parts fit was so bad, but when it was finished and hand painted I had a lot of fun with it. Also enjoyed a Scientific Fokker Dr.I log type, Lil Satan, and many others. Towline gliders were great too. Built one directly on the page of a Flying Models magazine.

Those were the days! I still like to build.

Jim
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Old Aug 17, 2014, 08:17 PM
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From the few answers posted already, it seems that since we had so few options, (build it yourself, or do without), we had the initiative to struggle through the hardships and finish our planes.

Somewhere in this discussion, I'd like to hear your ideas on why you'd like to build another kit, any kit, rather than buy a finished airplane..

Most every discussion brings forth the description of " those poorly die-cut, heavy, poorly fitting, much left to be desired, early model kits"....Yet those same kits are commanding a pretty penny when they are offered for sale.

Why are they so attractive to us, even after all the tribulation we went through ?
I'm not going to question the value of these kits, but that 71" Cub sold for $10.95 then, and can bring an easy $100 now..Why are they selling so well ?

Is it nostalgia, the memories they revive, or what ?
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Old Aug 17, 2014, 08:41 PM
Jackass of many Trades
USA, UT, Pleasant Grove
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Quote:
Originally Posted by epoxyearl View Post
From the few answers posted already, it seems that since we had so few options, (build it yourself, or do without), we had the initiative to struggle through the hardships and finish our planes.

Somewhere in this discussion, I'd like to hear your ideas on why you'd like to build another kit, any kit, rather than buy a finished airplane
Even though my builds have never involved print wood and razor blades, There is no more rewarding a feeling than taking a box of sticks and sheet wood (yes even a few lazer cut ribs) and successfully creating an actual aircraft capable of controlled flight. A successful landing is just icing on the cake
I gotta admit, sometimes after a successful flight and landing, I don't want to temp fate and take off again.
Perhaps you may have noticed my latest build, Huge and slow flying!

So sure, post yer kits here so I can stock up easier!
Hello I'm Micha, and I'm a kit horder
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Old Aug 17, 2014, 09:22 PM
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Moab, Utah, USA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by epoxyearl View Post
I'm not going to question the value of these kits, but that 71" Cub sold for $10.95 then, and can bring an easy $100 now..Why are they selling so well ?
One must realize that back then the average yearly wage was about $5k to $6k. Today it is $50k to $60k. So the value of the kit has remained about the same through the years.

At 8 years old back in the 1950s, my first one was a Comet P-40. Its only flight was a short glide off the garage roof after it was set on fire.

Larry
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Old Aug 17, 2014, 09:29 PM
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Heh heh! I did the same thing with my Comet P-40 in the 70's. Straight up, stall turn, and straight down in a blaze of glory!
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Old Aug 17, 2014, 11:03 PM
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When I first started building as a kid, I started with Free Flight kits from Guillow's, Comet and Peck Polymer. The guillow's kits were easier to build although it was hit or miss as to weather or not you got "Die Cut" or "Die Crunch" parts and Comet and Peck Polymer were all "Printed Wood" kits and were a little more difficult to build. But I learned a lot and they helped me transition into more complex kits from Sig, Sterling (who was infamous for "Die Crunching" their parts) Carl Goldberg and Top Flight, Pilot / Hobby Shack and Great Planes etc.. The experiences I gained also helped in learning to scratch build as well. So I guess for me, the lore of kit and plan building is the pride and feeling of accomplishment that I get when a plane that I built with my own 2 hands takes flight for the first time. Not to mention the smell of fresh balsa when you open a new kit. Even though ARF's and RTF's seem to dominate the market nowadays (and some of them are nice and I do own a couple), I'd rather build from a kit or from scratch if at all possible. And with the availability of downloadable plans, the choices are abundant and inspiring. So inspiring, that I have a mile long bucket list of scratch builds that I'll probably never get done!

BTW, I'm game for listing kit's for sale.

Shawn
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Old Aug 18, 2014, 03:46 AM
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I think we were bombarded with war stories, and used our models to 'further the effort'..-we 'arsonists' weren't above inserting a penny firecracker just before launch, anticipating the explosion, crash and burn !

So many of us have had the same experiences with models.
The "die -crunching" came to be expected. As dies lost their 'edge', harder wood needed to be used to renew their vigor.....That just dulled the dies even more, and
resulted in our having to cut our own parts from the sheets.
Yet here we are with a gleam in our eye, remembering the victory over the poorly made kits, and casting a wishful glance at the next available vintage one.

Strangely, I am eager to open those old kits and begin another adventure, as well as restoring some of the originals that have flown through history, and emerged to be reborn. "Re"-building isn't the same as opening a kit for the first time, but sometimes it's the only option.
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Old Aug 18, 2014, 06:21 AM
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Wilson NC 27896
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Epoxy, i couldnt wait to go to the "field" where the guys flew their models when i was a kid. Looking at the beautifull models those craftsmen made from some of the kits you mentioned kept me in suspense until they flew em. I couldnt afford any of those models back then, but i try and obtain them today to replicate some of them the best i can. I do remember tapeing my fingers up with electrical tape so i could continue useing the single edge razor blades to cut thru some of that balsa! Oh yea, that brings back memories....Gene
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Old Aug 18, 2014, 07:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by buzzard bait View Post
I tried building a Comet Corsair, 20 inch span, struggling to cut that awful print wood with a broken razor blade. I got a pretty nice looking fuselage frame before I finally gave up in despair at the idea of attaching wings to it.

None of my Guillow models flew successfully but they did look good.

It was the CL models that finally gave me success. Even a Baby Ringmaster was not easy to build because the parts fit was so bad, but when it was finished and hand painted I had a lot of fun with it. Also enjoyed a Scientific Fokker Dr.I log type, Lil Satan, and many others. Towline gliders were great too. Built one directly on the page of a Flying Models magazine.

Those were the days! I still like to build.

Jim
The Guillow kits for me were hit and miss as far as the flight performance went.
But they always flew better than the Comet models. The Comet models to me were heavier. And I also remember the poor fit of the Sterling kit's. My first Sterling kit build was a .35 size Ringmaster that I powered with a Johnson .35. I ended up having to cut almost all new ribs from scratch due to the die cutting quality. But man did that plane fly good!!! I also have fond memories of the Lil' Satan as well thanks to my Uncle who turned me on to them when I was in my early teens. A couple of years ago, he built one and he traced out all of the parts to use as templates so now it's on my list of scratch projects. And speaking of the Scientific kits, Here are a couple pics of my Fokker Dr1 that I got from BHM a while back. I'm trying to decide between powering it with my Black Widow .049 or one of my old Testors McCoy beam mount .049's.
It's my first BHM / Scientific kit and I gotta say, I'm really impressed by the quality!


Shawn
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Old Aug 18, 2014, 09:45 AM
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The most recent kit I built was a Baby Biwinger (made by RetroRC for Flying Models). The only reason I built the kit was because the rules for a contest required it be this kit; otherwise I'd have built it from the original 1952 plans.

I'm selling the last of my kit stash as I have opportunity. They just don't appeal to me any more.

Andy
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