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Old Oct 29, 2012, 07:51 AM
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United States, ME, West Bath
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Originally Posted by neon the cat View Post
I've got one of these kits on the way as my first balsa plane/build. I downloaded SA's excellent manual and read and re-read it. Yours looks pretty sharp, but I wish you'd comment on how you coped with the covering. Any tips; pitfalls etc?
I have read the RCG Covering Tutorial, and have the tools, but still wondering if I can pull off a wrinkle-free job.
I don't know that I can give any advice on that front. I read the tutorial, and watched several youtube videos. But my covering is far from wrinkle-free. I guess the biggest thing I learned early is to up the temperature when using a sock over your iron. Initially I wasn't getting the iron hot enough to activate the glue properly.

For me the big trouble spots on this plane are the curved sheeting behind the windows, and the front part of the bottom of the cowl. I couldn't secure the model, stretch the covering, and use the iron without running out of hands! The pictures don't show those spots for a reason.

In an earlier post in this thread, campbelltf talked about how he divided up the plane when he covered. I tried to follow his advice. His covering job is much nicer than I managed.
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Old Nov 08, 2012, 11:46 AM
Cats can fly!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dmcMaine View Post
....For me the big trouble spots on this plane are the curved sheeting behind the windows, and the front part of the bottom of the cowl....
Not wanting this useful thread to die out...I've basically finished framing up the fuse, and looking at those curved areas too. Wondering what the best technique is to cover these parts? I will be grateful for any tips. I have the tools, but not sure about the know-how.

BTW...The Stevens kit is simply amazing for the quality of the wood and detailed instructions. If I can get over the terror of covering the model, this will be a very positive experience for a first-time builder.
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Old Nov 08, 2012, 07:38 PM
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"campbelltf" sent me a PM with a lot of great tips...many thanks!

If there is anyone else who is a covering guru, please do share your tips.
Until then, I'll keep watching those youtube vids where the guys make it look soooo easy
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Old Nov 08, 2012, 08:04 PM
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My secret to getting the covering around the curves on the FullHouse:

Tack the covering down along the flat areas just as you would normally do. Seal the edges of the flat areas, except along the compound curves. Gently, an inch or two at a time, apply moderately high to high heat to the covering in the area of the curves while pulling the covering over the curves. Use the heat to soften the covering, allowing it to stretch over the compound curves, and at the same time shrinking out any wrinkles. This won't work if the iron is too cold. If the covering isn't stretching, crank the iron up a bit more. If you encounter a wrinkle, apply some heat while lifting the covering. If your iron is hot enough the wrinkle should shrink out while you gently stretch the covering, then iron the covering back down.

In the rear part of the cockpit, this should be adequate. I believe (if my feeble memory is correct) that I covered the entire side of my FullHouse with one piece of covering, heating and stretching around the cockpit. The nose area I worked in the same manner, and was able to get the covering about an inch or so around the curves. Then I trim off the covering just short of the point where you can't get the wrinkles out no matter what you do, leaving a nice clean edge around the side of the nose. Then I do the same thing for the bottom of the nose, heating and stretching until you meet up with the edges of the side pieces.

Moderately high to high heat is the secret here. You need to be stretching AND shrinking at the same time. When covering wheel pants, I can generally get them done with just one piece of covering for each side, with a nicely trimmed seam running down the middle.
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Old Nov 08, 2012, 09:54 PM
wood is good
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Originally Posted by neon the cat View Post
"campbelltf" sent me a PM with a lot of great tips...
PM? Wouldn't it be better for everyone if these were shared?
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Old Nov 08, 2012, 11:35 PM
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I do want to share, but over the course of the day as I wrote up my thoughts I ended up filling a page and a half of a Word doc. I tried posting, but it was too long (3,000 character limit). I thought maybe I could PM it, still too big, then I cut out a bunch of words then broke it into 2 messages and finally got it to send. I figured if Neon found any of it useful I could post just the tasty bits. I guess now that I have it in two, albeit long, sections I'll just post it, though Fleaz input is great and blessed short. Apologies for being long winded.
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Old Nov 08, 2012, 11:38 PM
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I’ll try to describe how I went about it. Caveat here, I was using AeroLite, a.k.a. SoLite. Heavier coverings may take different techniques on the curves. I have NO experience with other coverings. As for tools, I have a covering iron with a temperature dial and a trim iron with a high and low setting, I don’t have a heat gun.

First, I read the covering tutorial thread in The Builder’s Workshop forum several times. Brucea’s explanation and approach is really good. If nothing else, get the covering temperature guide he provides and make sure you can check you iron temp so it falls within the ranges he provides – an inexpensive handheld infrared thermometer is indispensable.

Second, I ran a search on YouTube for “cover RC” or “solarfilm” or “monokote” and found plenty of short videos that are good to watch to see how people handle the irons and heat guns. It will give you an idea of what the technique is for those curved areas.

Third, I built a small (4-5 inches across), open triangle out of the balsa scraps from the kit. Nothing fancy, just an open structure. I cut a piece of covering that’s an inch bigger all the way around, set the iron at the right temp, tacked the edges alternating sides until it was all adhered trying to keep the wrinkles out of the open space. Then I pulled an edge up to see how it came off and then re-tacked it. I raised the temp and then shrank the open area. I practiced trimming the sides, then repeated the process on the other side to cover the whole thing. I used both my covering iron and trim iron to see how they worked. Just seeing how the covering acted was huge as I had never covered anything before. Then I found (or bought) a piece of sheet balsa and practiced covering over a solid surface. It’s a different approach as you start in the middle and work out to the edge to prevent bubbles. What I also learned here was where in the temperature range (both tacking range and shrinking range) the covering seemed to behave the best. I think it’s better to use the lowest temp that does the job. You can always go over it again hotter to make it stick or shrink more where you can’t really undo too much shrinkage.

Finally, I turned to the plane. In post #34 of this thread, I outlined the order I applied the pieces, so I won’t repeat. I did start with the tail surfaces, then moved to ailerons, then wing and fuselage.
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Old Nov 08, 2012, 11:41 PM
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For the curved portions of the fuselage make sure you cut a piece with enough overhang to give you something grab and pull on. It may feel a little wasteful, but not as wasteful as throwing away a full piece b/c you couldn’t get your grip to make the curve. Secure the plane to the table surface or use a stand (I made one out of scrap wood and dowels) so when you are holding the iron in one hand and pulling the edge of the covering with the other you’ll have your third hand free to hold your beer instead of the plane. Set your iron to tacking temp. Tack the piece in the middle of the surface you are covering, about a quarter sized spot. Then work out from that spot gently pulling on the covering with your free enough to flatten the covering in the area you are ironing. Since you are only using the tacking temp, you can easily pull the covering up and re-tack if you get a wrinkle or bubble. I certainly had some bubbles and either pulled up the covering or took a sewing needle and pricked the bubble to deflate it and then re-ironed.

Once you get all the non-curved surfaces ironed down for that piece of covering, then move to a curved surface, grab the overhang and start to gently pull out and down as you apply the iron to the covering, stretch the covering and touch it to the wood. Here is where a little temp management comes into play. On the flat section, you really didn’t need the covering to shrink (you can go over it later with a higher temp to ensure it’s good and stuck). On the curve, you may need to approach the shrinking temp so that the covering gets stretchy-er. You’re not shrinking around those curves, you’re heating and stretching the covering just as you lay it against the wood and then the adhesive holds it in place. Do a little section of the curve, then move to the side and do a little, then the other side, so that you’re working all the way across the curve first, then move down a little further on the curve and work across again. You should really try to get all the wrinkles out as you apply the covering the first time, but you can also go back over the curve on a higher temp and try to shrink out the small remaining ones. Again, you should be using lower heat at first, so you can also peel the covering off and try again.

For the fully curved bottom of the fuselage from the nose back to the hatch, I laid the piece down, tacked the center at the hatch edge, then started working my way forward towards the nose, just tacking a strip down the middle stretching along the way to keep the wrinkles out. Then I went back to the hatch edge and worked down one side a bit, stretch and tack, then went over to the opposite side, stretch and tack. I moved forward towards the nose and kept alternating sides. Once to the nose I went back to the hatch and did a little more down the curve one side and then alternated sides again to the nose. Repeat the pattern until you have covered the area. Trim the edges, go to the next piece.
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Old Nov 09, 2012, 12:07 AM
wood is good
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United States, CA, Marina Del Rey
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Thanks for the tips. Good idea to practice on a mockup, first.

Here's a link to the tutorial:
http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=711624
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Old Nov 12, 2012, 09:26 AM
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I had hoped to have a maiden flight report by now. But sadly I haven't had the chance yet. And now daylight/weather is working against me. The poor thing is sitting on the empty bay in my garage looking forlornly at me every time I walk past.

On the covering, I think everyone nailed it. My biggest mistake on the curved areas, other than failing to grow that third hand!, was temperature control. For the tail and fuselage I almost invariably started with the iron not hot enough to properly activate the glue. While merely annoying for the tail and aft portions of the fuselage, it became a big wrinkle-maker for the curved sheeting. Since I had read that you want a hotter iron to stretch the covering over the curve, I managed to go from "too cool" to "just right" for tacking down. Which of course is still too cool for really getting a smooth curve. What happened was that the film stuck to the sheeting really well, but wasn't stretching or shrinking.

By the time I reached the wing, I had the whole temperature thing 'ironed out' (hehe... get it ... 'ironed out' ... ) and did what I thought was a pretty nice wrinkle-free job on both the leading edge and the wing tips. I'm sure if I took another go at the fuse it would come out much better now.

Also keep in mind that I used the heavier AeroFilm and not the AeroLite that campbelltf used with his model. I'm sure that they behave differently.

as an aside I finally weighed her. She comes in at a hefty 28.6oz. all up weight including battery. I blame my shoddy use of the CA, and using the heavier covering.
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Old Nov 12, 2012, 11:01 PM
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I had my fingers crossed that you made it out this past weekend. Don't give up hope, there's no snow on the ground yet (I'm knocking on wood with both hands and both feet).
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Old Nov 17, 2012, 04:39 PM
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Today was the day.

I loaded up the plane, took my daughter to a gymnastics clinic and ran to a nearby field for the maiden flight.

Conditions were sunny, 42F, calm but with frequent puffs up to 5mph. All up weight 28oz on a 2S 2100mah.

Here is how it went...

I attached the wing, and measured to make sure it was centered and square three ways till Sunday. Inserted the battery. Checked all control throws were correct. Then carried her to the softball infield that would serve as runway. Applied power, and she jumped off the dirt in a couple feet.

At this point I could tell "something was wrong". She pitched up, and refused to really do anything. In a panic, it was all I could do to get her back to a safe area to plop down. Luckily I did manage to get her down (flipped upside down after 'landing') with no damage.

I adjusted the elevator, which at neutral was deflected up slightly. I swear I centered that! Then checked the CG. Oops. I should have done that the first time. :/ In any event I moved the battery a little more forward and she then balanced just where the manual said.

Take off attempt two.... well would you look at that, she's flying! I then climbed, making gentle turns until I felt comfortable trying to trim her out. Still a few ticks down elevator and right aileron. Still a little quicker to respond to left turns than right. At this point I'll admit I had trouble determining whether what I would see was a trim issue or a gust issue. I suspect gusts. At times she would still try to nose up and drop the left wing...but the more I watched the more it seemed to happen when the wind would gust on the starboard quarter. Hard to tell considering we weren't exactly at the same spot. Only then did I realize that I forgot to start my timer. How long had I been flying?!?! After a few more nice smooth figure 8s around the field I brought her in for a landing. This proved to be a bit of a challenge. This plane really, really....really.... likes to glide. So I missed my spot by a wee bit. And she flipped over. Ah well.

After that I managed to put two more batteries through without incident. Takeoffs were very quick, climbout was comfortable, and then came nice lazy laps and figure 8s at 1/2 throttle until my timer beeped that the fun was over. Both of those landing were closer to target, and stayed upright. Although I did manage to nose over trying to taxi back.

I did notice the same thing that campbell did about the wing sliding forward over the saddle lip. I like his dowel mod and might do something similar. Anything over half throttle would result in a climb. Reduce power and the plane just glides and glides. At a few points today I would turn into the wind and reduce throttle until I was flying in place (and in reverse once!) I didn't try anything other than level flight and gentle turns today. Believe me, I did NOT want to slink back in the house past the missus carrying what used to be a plane!

Also I think I am going to reduce the expo. I programmed my transmitter with the recommended settings. But I have been flying a micro p-51 with zero expo. Using the recommended settings didn't quite feel right around center-stick...too much movement for the response I expected. But that is really personal preference.

To wrap it all up. Building this plane was a blast, and flying is about as stress free as you could ask for. I wouldn't pick this for an adrenaline rush, but as a gentle relaxing flyer...I have a very nice go-to plane. Thanks to one and all for the help.
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Old Nov 17, 2012, 05:49 PM
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Woohoo! Congrats! I can imagine the grin that is probably still on your face.

I find mine gets twitched easily by gusts but being so light it's understandable. I ended taking all the expo out of my setup as well.

Again congrats on the maiden and to many more flights.
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Old Nov 17, 2012, 07:36 PM
wood is good
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United States, CA, Marina Del Rey
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Congratulations on a successful completion.

Stop by and visit my build.
http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1742597
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Old Nov 17, 2012, 09:08 PM
Cats can fly!
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I've been looking forward to your report, dmcM. Glad it went well.
Considering the AUW and wing loading, it's no wonder this plane is a floater and maybe a better flyer with less wind than you faced on the maiden.

On my own FH 500, everything is framed and I'm into the sanding and prep for covering. Not in any hurry as the rainy season is here on the North-West coast. Should have mine ready about March...lol.

Noted your comments on the wing and dowels. I don't like this part of the design at all. I'm not a fan of rubber-banded wings, especially on a model of this size.
So, I have modded my build to mount the wings with (3) 10-32 nylon screws.
I know the rubber bands *may* offer some protection to the wing in a crash, but I'll take the chance. Besides, I do all my crashing with my foamies
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