GRW3's blog View Details
Posted by GRW3 | May 01, 2006 @ 10:49 PM | 16,835 Views
Most of the time flying is routine but sometimes it just goes awry. Yesterday I left San Antonio at 8:00 am (arriving the airport at 6:00am) and arrived in DC at 10:00pm, driving in from Richmond,VA (without my luggage). I was planning on going to see the new Air and Space Museum facility at Dulles this morning but instead spent my time locating my luggage.

I am actually in Alexandria, VA one of the most pleasant places to hold a business meeting in the country. Too bad I'm not at the meeting hotel. We have to use the "Company Travel Agency" where I work and the agent just forgot to make my hotel reservation. Of course it it my fault for not making sure she did her job.

Flying is one of the great leveling experiences in American life. Everybody flies because airplanes are just the cheapest way (money and time considered) to get anywhere. I fly American mostly for two reasons, the frequent flyer program and the seat pitch. I'm tall and that extra inch for my knees is important. BTW second best in this category is Southwest.
Posted by GRW3 | Apr 29, 2006 @ 12:34 AM | 20,688 Views
I've written before about using tools to prepare the surface for finish sanding. Previously time it was the belt/disk sander. This is great for big blocks and strong pieces. Sometimes, however, you need to work on things that need more 'feel'. Still you want to use a tool to remove the excess balsa. Sanding will just frustrate you. The piece will end up smooth but wrong. For those delicate jobs, use a plane.

Here are a selection of planes that I use. From the picture below:

1) Wilkro Razor Plane - This is an old hobby plane that I found at a swap meet sometime in the past. The original price was $2.98 on the box. I don't remember what I paid. This is an excellent plane for really removing the material. It has a separate attachment for interior radius work.

2) Martor Balsa Hobel - This razor plane comes from Germany and it is a gem. It has a great feel. It can't remove as much material as the Wilkro but it has a better feel. The razor compression plate can be moved to the front for hogging larger amounts of balsa and working up close. The plate also has a radius cut out that can be used for an edge break tool. I got the Martor at a trade show in England (I've spent a lot time in England over the years.) but they are available in the US.

3) X-Acto Spoke Shave - This is for small shaping jobs. You probably got one with your X-Acto set and may not know how to use it. It's hard to explain but I just kind of cup it in my palm and use a gentle rubbing motion to remove...Continue Reading
Posted by GRW3 | Apr 21, 2006 @ 12:01 AM | 16,821 Views
I just read on Jerry Nelson's website the Phil Kraft has died. Before there was Futaba and JR there was Pro-Line and Kraft. Of the two, Kraft was really the epitome of first class equipment for the regular modeler. Phil Kraft was the guiding force behind doing it right. I never got a Kraft radio but I always aspired to own one.

Most modelers, of a certain age, have flown a Kraft design. If not one of his pattern designs then most likely an Ugly Stick or one of the ten million derivatives...

I saw Phil fly at the Lake Charles Nationals in the early '70s. He was not the top dog anymore but everybody paid attention when he was up. (At another Lake Charles Nats I saw Dave Platt fly the first really succesful ducted fan in scale competition.)

My first trip to Toledo was in 1983 (at the Hockey rink). I remember the giant Kraft booth. The "Big Thing" was their new frequency selectable system. I think it was their last Toledo show. Success killed them not in R/C but in computers.

Goodbye Phil - Thanks for Everything
Posted by GRW3 | Apr 18, 2006 @ 03:01 PM | 15,490 Views
The basic fact is that gasoline is as close to a perfect commodity as there is. (A perfect commodity is a something that is sold for exactly what it costs to deliver it to you, raw materials - processing - delivery.)

Last week I bought gas here is San Antonio for $2.699 a gallon. At that same time the average crude oil price was $69.03 per barrel. A barrel is 42 gallons so, going with the simple concept that all parts of the barrel are of equivalent value, just the raw material of gasoline is worth $1.646.

This leaves $1.053 for refining, distribution, marketing and taxes. At the same time the average commodity price on the gulf coast was $2.179. The $0.533 difference between the commodity price and the crude oil price covers refining, processing, special blends for different areas, required additives and brokerage costs.

So taking the average commodity price from the sales price leaves $0.482. Texas gasoline tax is $0.20 so that leaves $0.282. Federal tax is $0.184 so that leaves $0.098 for the station. From that (9.8 cents!) they have to pay facilities, taxes, salaries, etc, - Not! Why do you think they've all become convenience stores?

BTW, Texas does not have the lowest gasoline tax it's about mid pack. The highest is New York with 69 cents. Some states have gasoline tax and sales tax so the higher the price the more they make.

Pricing is, of course, relative. I was recently in London and gasoline was 96p per liter. With the pound going at approximately $2 per this equates to a gasoline cost of $7.27 per gallon.
Posted by GRW3 | Apr 12, 2006 @ 11:11 PM | 15,924 Views
While buying is not the primary goal, it is a goal. I had bugeted for one big item with intent to find other things too. In particular, I was looking for materials for my Eindekker. Below you will find a picture of my acquisitions.

1) Polk's Tracker III Radio - I've seen a lot of good reviews of this device this year but there's something about having the unit in your hand and talking with people in the know. My newest radio is 5 years old and my only computer radio, an Airtonic's Vision, is older than that. It needs batteries and, probably, a tuning. I liked using a single radio for all my flying but the Vision is limited to frequency modules. I have two but I always worried about the effect of plugging and unplugging the connections. I talked to the Airtronics rep but was not real satisfied with his answer, that is they have no plans for synthesized radios. I liked the look and feel of the radio, especially compared to the old Aristo Craft brown bombers of the past. The radios only come with one servo but I have plenty. The deal was set when my buddy said that all he has been using is the Tracker receivers. ($180, no tax, no shipping)

2) Fine Line Tape - A good deal for a buck, I'm going to be painting soon so this was great. ($1)

3) Foamy Hinge Tape - I've got a foamy waiting to be built and the price was good. ($2.50)

4) JR/Hitec/AirtZ servo leads - All my Airtronics stuff has the old connections. I've got plenty of old Airtronics connectors, enough to keep...Continue Reading
Posted by GRW3 | Apr 12, 2006 @ 09:39 PM | 14,194 Views
After spending all day Friday at the Toledo Expo we decided it was time to do a little touring. We jumped up early and set off for Muncie. The weather was good, even if it was cool and windy. Coming from the dreary Friday in Toledo it was great.

The drive isn't that far but it is over a lot of two lane, 55mph road. Since it was Saturday and a lot of the staff was in Toledo, the place was a little quite. It was great for getting a good look at the models. I think museums are one of the best inventions of modern man, and the AMA museum is very good. I could easily see it becoming bigger in the future. The staff was very friendly and very helpful.

We drove around the site to get a lay of the land. It was windy so the only activity was the kite seminar. (I am sure they were pleased.) It's pretty nice, even with the unintended lake from the rain. Somehow flat clear land looks smaller than the same amount with trees.

From Muncie we went to Dayton and the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. I've been visiting it for over twenty years. (I'm in the Jet Fuel business and the AF Jet Fuel research labs are just across the tarmac.) It's gone from one to two to three (and they're building a fourth) major hangars. My favorite is the first that focuses on WWI to WWII. It seems to me that the galleries are a little too dark but I suppose it is good for preservation purposes. The WWII display is much better now that the B-36 has been moved to hangar 3. We stayed until closing and then drove over to the Wright Memorial. There's a good view of the original flying field and the area in general.

You can't save enough money at Toledo to justify going there from many places. You go for knowledge and insight. Good prices and one of a kind finds are a bonus. Add some sightseeing to the mix and you have a decent trip.
Posted by GRW3 | Apr 07, 2006 @ 10:35 PM | 11,897 Views
We went to Toledo today and had a pretty good time. I saw a lot and bought some. Mostly I try to get info and mostly I suceed.

Some people have said that show was down from last year but the weather was bad south of here and it was cold and wet (but this is Ohio). I also think that people who go too often have an increased sense of diminishment. (I felt the same way when I went to Oshkosh too often.) Additionally, if you have a favorite that doesn't show up you'll feel the loss. I try to go every 4 to 5 years and it always seems fresh to me. I love it.

I was planning on getting a lot of pictures, for me and for you, but my new 1 gb SD card died at the very start of the show. Without it I was limited to 40 pictures and I held back. I did get some pictures of interest to me. Following you will see a few general interest pictures.

Tommorrow, we're going to Dayton to see the Air Force Museum. We're kicking around the idea of going to Muncie early in the day to see the AMA museum.
Posted by GRW3 | Apr 06, 2006 @ 11:22 PM | 10,920 Views
My best flying buddy, my son and I are attending the Toledo R/C expo this year. As a frequent flyer I'm not that partial to flying as a reward for flying but sometimes it comes in handy. I like to go to Toledo every 3-4 years and I like to go with a group. I supplied airfare (via mileage) and hotel (hotel points for many lonely nights) and my buddy rented the car. We're camping out in Boling Green.

But now, for something completely different...

My trip was rescheduled because a client just had to have me attend a meeting in England. I didn't want to do it on short notice but made the stipulation that they would have to get me back with my traveling party today.

My client, and good friend, has me put my license on the rental car too. I thought in case he gets tired. Wrong he knows I have hundreds of hours of driving in the UK under my belt, including one shunt, and wants me to do the honors. Well OK, it's not like switching from Mode 2 to Mode 1, but it is directionally similar. We get to the car and blimely (limey lingo there) it's a standard. Thank God we're starting at Gatwick and not Heathrow. Fortunately the shift direction is the same, left to right (and so are the pedals clutch-brake-throttle), even if you're using you're left hand to row the boat.

We did our meetings for 2 and a half days and then did some sight seeing at Hampton Court. Palatial estate of Henry VIII. I've included two pictures, a view from front gate and a 16th century rotisserie.

See you in Toledo
Posted by GRW3 | Mar 30, 2006 @ 12:39 AM | 12,476 Views
Thanks to everybody reading this blog.

My life has been hectic lately. My son is working on a movie and I've been taking him to his sets. It's an independent film and there's no money for the actors up front. Struggling actors value face time more than dad's money or time. Anyway, we were sitting in Whataburger digesting his last shoot when my wife called wanting the number for our road service. She had a flat. Please see below for her definition of a flat...

The best tool I've found for saving time for modeling is Tivo. A TV recorder saves time? You bet! I don't watch any live TV to speak of and that saves fifteen minutes or so an hour. Further, I don't watch everything I record. Somehow just the fact I have it is enough and after a while I just delete it, unwatched.

I saw this little plane at the LHS and it was just too cute to pass up. It's sitting on the plans for my Eindekker. It's a two control R/C from FMA. Power motor and steering motor. I've not flown it with power, just a couple of trimming tosses (and it glides very well), but I have crashed it. I fumbled it and it fell on the tail rotor ring, breaking it. I glued it back with foam CA but you can tell it happened. I also managed to break the charging jack from the transmitter. As delivered, you use the transmitter batteries to charge the 150mah NiMH battery. I pressed too hard and it popped out. The transmitter still worked so I just soldered the jack to a lead for my Hobbico fast field charger that works with NiMH batteries.
Posted by GRW3 | Mar 23, 2006 @ 11:02 PM | 12,911 Views
Over the years I've run the gamut on field boxes - none to small to big to small. When I was a kid flying "Li'l Jumpin' Bean"s all I needed was a paper sack to hold the control lines and prop/glow plug wrench. Maybe a spare prop but plane usually broke at the same time as the prop.

In college I used a wooden box I built in Jr. High shop class. Eventually though I started to use my grandfather's tackle box as my primary tool box. It's one of the few things I've ever been sentimental about.

At some point a few years back the rage became the big folding leg, hold a gallon fuel can, detachible starter box, airplane stand on top field boxes. It was big enough to comfortably hold a (then very large) sixty size plane. I lost my thrill with it one day when some choppy air came through the pits and made it and the plane that was on it do a snap roll with the plane ending up on the bottom. I didn't quit using it completely but it was doomed.

The boxes got smaller with time. I abandoned the concept of bringing enough supplies to rebuild a plane at the field. (I do carry supplemental supplies on road trips.) So in the end it was just Grandpa's tackle box, a Dave Brown fuel can and self powered starter.

Now that I'm flying again, I've restocked the tackle box and repainted the fuel can. My starter is dead but I haven't replaced it yet. I am very interested in e-flite and I know the tackle box won't hold a battery suitable for recharging flight batteries. With that in mind, I snapped up the rolling tool box below at a recent swap meet.

Will the roller be my main device or will I stick with my minimalist approach? Don't know for sure. It's always a struggle. Will you regret not having that special part when you get to the field? Sure but why not make sure the plane is ready before you leave home? Try to strike a balance. (What's the furthest you've gone without a transmitter? My personal record is 50 miles but only because I checked at a rest stop.)
Posted by GRW3 | Mar 14, 2006 @ 03:34 PM | 8,431 Views
As you build, kits or from plans, you will find you accumulate excess building supplies. I just hate to throw these away but you just can't let it stack up or you would be buried in it. I took a good sized kit box and started sorting out my left over building materials (balsa, hardwood, plywood, carbon or glass fiber, plastic) into logical groupings. I then put the material intended to keep into an old kit box. I keep the materials separated with paper (silkspan actually) but it could be more or less formal. When I finish a kit project I evaluate the excess building supplies. The valuable parts go in the box. The rest go in the garbage. (The latter is key to keeping a reasonably clean shop.)
Posted by GRW3 | Mar 13, 2006 @ 12:52 PM | 8,532 Views
Ones Good To Have but Not Necessary

The only power tool you need is a good drill, cordless preferably. I would follow that with a hand held Dremel Tool or one of the copies that are available today. (I got a new All Trade with 200 accesories at COSTCO for $26. Good thing too, my ancient Dremel had spun its last.)

Over time I acquired several other useful tools. A Dremel Scroll Saw, a 10" Drill Press, and smal Belt and Disk Sander.

It is not unusual to have to cut plywood, hard wood or large chunks of balsa during a construction project. You can use coping saws, hack saws or jig saws for a lot of this but that can be time consuming or awkward. Faced with one kit that had a lot of this I borrowed an old Dremel saw from a friend. i liked the convenience but hated the noise of the vibrator used to displace the saw. I resisted buying one until Dremel brought out the modern version with a quiet drive.

The Drill press is important for easy placement of accurate holes. You can set depth and angle for precise control. Some pieces can be hand held but you should consider a drill press vise for better control.

The Disk and Belt Sander is a great combination for modeling. The Belt Sander is great for roughing out large pieces of cross grain or mixed assemblies where members of the plane family would not work. Finish the job with a block sander. The Disk Sander is a more precise device but cannot handle as much material. It can do angles, simple and complex. Which can be very helpful in getting tight fits.

The Saw and the Sander can generate a lot of sawdust. They are equiped with Shop Vac fittings if you need to do a lot of cutting and/or sanding indoors. I have to get a new Shop Vac so for now I am doing the heavy wook outdoors.

Your best bet with these tools is to use somebody else's to get a feel for their effectiveness. If I had to choose one, I would probably go with the Sander.
Posted by GRW3 | Mar 05, 2006 @ 12:41 AM | 8,029 Views
Today I drove to Dallas and back. Well over 500 miles total. Why? Well my wife's baby and my youngest son is an aspiring actor and he had an audition he needed to be at.

As I was planning my route I had the brilliant thought (well, I had a thought anyway) to look up Dallas hobby shops and try find one close by. The one closest to the audition was Mike's Hobby Shop. I haven't been to any in several years but I some of them from the past. I knew this one was pretty well stocked and the web site said it was in a new, bigger location. So Mike's was put on the list to visit.

On the way I decided to stop in Waco to stretch my legs. I hooked it out to the Lake Waco flying site. I knew things had changed but I did not know by how much. What used to be a public access site was now gated (and locked on this cool day). This certainly has plusses for the club but it's also sad in a way. (I do remember being at events there where they had trouble keeping the general public out of the pits because they had a belief they could go anywhere they wanted at a public facility.) Traffic moved faster than I thought it would so I kicked myself for not looking up directions for Max Blose's shop.

After the boy's audition we drove the 10 additional miles north to Mike's. I'll diverge here to discuss the shortcoming of mapping iprograms like MapQuest. If you have the time, or inclination, you should double check the route with a competitive program. Today MapQuest had me exit and do a U-...Continue Reading
Posted by GRW3 | Mar 04, 2006 @ 12:45 AM | 7,711 Views
Tools again. After years of trying to use my hands, rubber bands, blocks of wood, etc., etc. I bought some clamps. While I lost some of them during my downtime, they were among my first tool purchases. With balsa, I don't like the spring loaded clamps. I want to control the amount of force on the parts. Don't forget to have some wood blocks to augment the force of the clamps.

The picture below shows the clamps on the shelf that I have the stereo on. The stereo is a high powered Pioneer that I run through a couple of cheap Pioneer speakers. It may seem like overkill but it was just sitting in the attic after being replaced with a superior Yamaha unit. I have a CD player and an XM satellite radio attached. I love XM radio. Top channels - Bluegrass, XCountry (Americana), Frank's Place (American Songbook), Classical, Fox News, NASCAR.

I keep a guitar in the garage to play while I'm thinking about my next action or just hanging out. It's a cheap Chinese Martin copy but it's pretty good for the money. I will also carry this guitar to the field with me. I plan to make a Porter Wagoner mod to the guitar in the near future.
Posted by GRW3 | Mar 02, 2006 @ 10:39 AM | 7,195 Views
The latest issue of Model Aviation contains a note that there will be no "Grand Event" this year as there were no offers to host it. Well, it could be that people just don't think that putting on a extravaganza for non AMA members is such a Grand Idea!

The Grand Event was held in Waco last year and several people I spoke to were considering attending until they learned it was not for them. The flyer basically said not to bother bringing airplanes because the event was not for AMA member participation, it was to attract new AMA members.

Spending big money on an event for non members seems foolish to me. Particularly since some of the money went to things that don't fly like rockets, cars and boats. Maybe the trade associations picked up the tab for this but I'm doubting it.

I believe a proper Grand Event would be aimed at the members who foot the bills. The AMA could use some sort of event that is more akin to the EAA's Oshkosh than to either the Grand Event idea or the Nationals.
Posted by GRW3 | Feb 27, 2006 @ 06:40 PM | 6,890 Views
One of the problems of increasing mail-order dependence is lack of the ability to go "juslookin". In San Antonio, we only have one really friendly shop (2nd Chance R/C) like I grew up with in Houston (Anybody remember Ace Hobbies off Tidwell?) and they are a part time limited stock operation. The others just business (very busnesslike if you like markups over list in one) or car oriented.

I went to Austin with a friend and flying and music road trip. (We both fly models and play bluegress.) There are only national chain stores left there for model airplanes. Calls to others get "not in service" replies. The yellow pages had an add for Discount Hobbies in Georgetown, another 20 miles up the road. We took a chance, went there, and I'm glad we did. Good stock of modeling supplies (of course no one builds kits anymore so they were sparse). Friendly place, magazine prices, discount for club members. In my "juslookin" mode I found some Hobbico building aides I could not live without. Check them out.
Posted by GRW3 | Feb 22, 2006 @ 10:49 PM | 7,018 Views
I was having trouble getting good, well servicable, pictures in the shop. Too much glare with the flash, direct or at an angle. Too dark without a flash. So I made a diffuser for the flash.

"Made" is a relative word and diffuser sounds fancier than the fact. I taped a piece of printer paper over the flash.

Although I'm still sorting out some techniques I like the results, you be the judge.
Posted by GRW3 | Feb 22, 2006 @ 10:27 PM | 6,523 Views
Iíve started building and you can see how thatís going in the build log. As I go, though, I may reserve some of the building info for the blog. This time, Iím going to show you two things. A simple way to stabilize and use CA and a compression system for laminating.

I like to keep my CA bottle sealed when not in use. That means not cutting the top open. Rather, I take the top off and use disposable pipettes to apply the glue. An open bottle, however, is a potential disaster looking for a place to happen. I take modeling clay and form it around the bottle to make a base. I do this over a piece of Monokote backing so drips donít glue the clay to plans or the workbench. (See Photo 1)

I donít like working with epoxy except for the most critical jobs (and experience is telling me they are further apart all the time). Itís heavy and the chemistry bothers me a little. I prefer to use aliphatic type glue and my personal favorite is Pica Glu-It (though I understand Pica is history). These glues are very good but warping is a possibility. To prevent warping the lamination needs to be held under compression. I have two lead plates, about 12 pounds each, to apply the pressure. To keep the lead from digging into the balsa or light ply and spread out the pressure, I use flat ĹĒ boards. Spread the glue, overlay the parts, put on the weights, and the wait. I usually give this overnight. I am not a speed builder. Use CA for everything if you want speed.
Posted by GRW3 | Feb 17, 2006 @ 11:16 PM | 6,716 Views
After 4 years of not building Iím at it again. Iíve built a lot so I donít have to start simple. I acquired a Balsa USA Eindecker to be my first build. Iím posting a build log in Power - R/C Scale so go there for details. The last three planes I built I never flew. I had a giant scale PT-19 (an ARF but still a job), an Astro Hog Bipe (really nice) and C/L Flite Streak. I sold the first two four years ago and the last one just today.

Cleaning up my workshop was a real chore. Turns out my milk crate with flite line items was put on the floor to make room for some crap uh property of my daughter when she moved back in (for the second time in four years). My fast field charger, my starter, my tachometer and my field battery were destroyed when our washing machine wore out there was a massive leak. Other things were missing too. Mostly tools but odds and ends. One thing was the chuck key for my drill press. Who needs a chuck key for a drill press. I had three battery powered drills two heavy duty and one light duty. The latter was just gone and of the former I have the drill/battery of one set and the charger of the second. Thereís other stuff but itís more annoying than critical.

I got some more clamps to replace the missing. I had already bought a replacement drill. I got some new rotary tool fittings. I cleaned up the rest of my tools, etc., etc. Mostly I just cleaned and threw trash and junk away. In the process I reclaimed my building tables. I have two. The primary...Continue Reading
Posted by GRW3 | Feb 08, 2006 @ 04:13 PM | 6,961 Views
Even when I quit flying four years ago, I kept going to the club meetings for a while but tapered off. I quit altogether when I started driving my son to acting lessons in Austin every Tuesday (and our meeting is on Tuesday). Now that Iím getting back in I find I want to go to the meeting again. When I found out the same venue was hosting a Bluegrass jam session on the same night (and playing Bluegrass music is a passion of mine) I told my son he was on his own for first Tuesdays. I packed my mandolin and my airplane and went to the meeting.

The meeting started about 7 pm and went through the usual club subjects winding up eventually at the highlights of the evening Ė show and tell, crash dummy, and raffle. Some people routinely spend $10-20 on the Raffle, God bless Ďem, but I just never got so excited. A dollar for two tickets and Iím satisfied. The ďcrash dummyĒ award is the typical misery bonding experience that many clubs have. Iíve won my share - no guts, no glory or crash dummy awards.

Show and tell is one of my favorite parts of the meeting. Itís amazing what you can learn about an airplane and its owner by just listening to the presentation. We vote on the best and the winner gets $10. Last night the highlight was really nice Top Flite P-39 Aircobra. The model was great but so was the presentation than covered a lot of lowlights of the Aircobra in service. I would call it fun scale but that doesnít do it justice since that category includes ARFs and this...Continue Reading