Noob skinning question - RC Groups
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Jan 10, 2013, 04:34 AM
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Noob skinning question

HI all,

Monster site! I imagine this has been asked before, I've a had a quick scan but not found anything useful - thought it might be a sticky.

About 10 years ago, I built a balsa glider from a kit with my then young son, forget the name/make now but quite rare as everything was foam RTF at the time. Lots of finishing required, the fuselage is shy of 1M, wings each about 1.25M. A thing of beauty to look at. However, even though I'd purchased solarfilm to skin it with, I was terrified of ruining my work. Having since learnt to fly the real thing, I've the urge to complete the model.

Anyway, I've shelled out for some more film and a variable temperature covering iron (as opposed to using Me Julie's clothes iron) aren't they cheap now? 1/3 of the price and better than when I built the plane.

I've watched a few youtube videos, but can you guys tell me what schoolboy errors I should look out for, because I would hate to ruin such an elegant collection of sticks & glue.

BTW Loving the naked wood thread

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Jan 10, 2013, 06:30 AM
Wake up, feel pulse, be happy!
Piece's Avatar
For my first covering jobs, I pretty much just went at it and sort of "made it happen", if that makes sense. I was in the same boat as you- very much concerned of destroying my own work, or at least wasting a lot of covering. If you screw it up real bad, you can usually reheat, remove, and try again with little consequence. It tends to be a lot scarier before you realize how easy it is

I suppose there are a few things, though...

- Set aside a good-sized chunk of time for your first attempt. Just trust me on this one.

- Experiment with scrap wood and pieces of covering to see exactly where your iron needs to be set to activate the adhesive and where shrinkage begins. It's easier to do this in advance than to try figuring it out as you start in on the model itself.

- When you cut pieces of covering to apply, make them a fair bit bigger than you need. It's better than cutting "just right" and having it be too small. A quick trim solves any excess. Also, don't fall into the trap of trying to use a single huge chunk to cover half the model in one go. Break it up a little... bite-size chunks.

- Don't start shrinking stuff until you've got most/all of the covering tacked in place, and then seal and shrink it "all at once". Some light structures can be severely warped (and thus damaged) by the force of the covering shrinking asymmetrically. It's not super-critical, but it's generally a good habit to fall into.

- If you're gonna be shrinking with an iron, just sort of "hover" it over the covering rather than actually touching it. This lets you see what the film is doing and keeps you from inadvertently putting pressure or force on it as it tries to shrink.

- Don't get too wrapped up making it all perfect and awesome. "Good enough" is usually good enough, and "just about perfect" is usually followed by "dammit". If you poke or burn a hole in your covering, use a round patch to fix it. No corners on patches; they'll lift up and peel off over time.

- Take a break now and then. Covering and wood are remarkably patient.

I'm sure others will chime in here... In the meantime, good luck
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Jan 10, 2013, 07:19 AM
Registered User
Thanks for the quick reply Mr Butane.

All of that makes a lot of sense and looks like really good advice. I suppose that I'm still likely to be tempted to rush, despite the years that have already passed but I'll try...

My Iron & film have arrived literally minutes ago and I've just powered up the iron - I've not opened the film yet, but I assume that it will indicate temperatures to use?

I'll take some pics when I come to do it and post them up.
Jan 10, 2013, 07:56 AM
Registered User
I really recommend finding out which settings on your particular iron work with your particular film in your particular situation. I'm very much a beginner myself, but doing a bit of experimenting before covering made the actual covering that much better. I've covered with a film called so-lite, it's got very good instructions that come with it that explains three (useful) different temperature ranges in which it behaves differently. I found out by experiment exactly where those were on my iron and made a few marks on the adjustment knob so I can readjust it with ease.

In the case of so-lite, the first temp range will make it stick, but will peel off easily without leaving marks on wood, it won't cause any shrinkage.
The second range will cause minor shrinkage and will leave some of the glue layer stuck to the wood when peeled off, adhesion noticably better than from the lower temperature.
The third range will cause strong shrinkage, but will leave even the color-layer stuck on the wood, can't be used on sheeted wood because it shrinks too much and the color layer gets damaged, and almost melts. It is useful to get big sections of open wing stretched tight enough though.
Jan 10, 2013, 08:31 AM
An itch?. Scratch build.
eflightray's Avatar
A 'Sticky' thread in The Builders Workshop forum -

Covering Tutorial for Beginning Builders

Perhaps there could be some Sticky threads in this forum, even if just links to other Stickies.
Jan 10, 2013, 09:19 AM
Hope to get out of life alive
kenh3497's Avatar
Covering is a learned skill. It's nice and very helpful to read of some others techniques, but you just need to grab the film, iron and have a go at it.

Welcome back to the madness I would suggest you cancel all your credit cards NOW before they some how find their way to the hobby shop

Jan 10, 2013, 09:24 AM
Registered User
XeCutor - Thanks, if I attempt another, I'll check out that product - SolarFilm came with the kit as I remember, but it has long since been tidied away by Me Julie. I have purchased a digital iron 100-220C so should make it easy to reset the temps.

eflightray - Again, thanks, followed by "flippin heck!" I'll head over now.
Tis a big forum - apologies for not finding it.

Somewhere I have two steel pins for holding the wings at the dihedral angle, I hope I can find them. Can they be purchased? They are about 5mm dia and slide into brass tubes in the wing root. I suppose it would be cool if I could find the original box!
Jan 10, 2013, 09:32 AM
Registered User
Hi Ken, thanks & good advice. I'm into Arduinos ATM and most of the UK gross product now resides in China!

One thing at the back of my mind is automation, especially since seeing a UK model glider record during Christmas, with a glider crossing 22 miles of open water. It was launched from a chopper and flew via GPS to Lundy (island) and landed within a few mts of the runway! (basically circled until it landed)

They wanted to fly to France but the French.... Well, they're French
Jan 10, 2013, 10:50 AM
Registered User
If it's still Solarfim you're using then the instructions that come with every pack are an excellent introduction. If you follow those recommendations you won't go very far wrong .

Jan 10, 2013, 12:14 PM
Registered User
Hi Slipstick, I've unpacked the film (unopened as yet) but been to their website - some good PDFs. Although it looks like it operates over narrow temp. range 100 to 120 C but gives notes on how to test for the correct temp.

I'd post a link to the pages, but their site breaks the W3C convention and only has one address for everything! Surprised that Google listed them

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