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Feb 03, 2013, 01:38 PM
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Build Log

Hobby King Red Swan

I'm going to classify myself as a noob at building and flying until I do something actually useful for the community. Then I'll just be a Noob Level 2...

My history to date includes building some planes from foam board, building ARF foam kits, building an ARF balsa J3, and building two Mountain Models balsa kits (Lucky ACE and the Switchback with both the GT and standard wings). I started off buying the Hobby Zone Super Cub, crashed it a number of times, re-built it, and crashed it some more. The building season in Wisconsin is long and I've currently got two foamie scratch-builds under construction and two other planes needing a minor part or two so they'll be ready for Spring.

I needed another project.

I'll admit to being cocky after building the Mountain Models kits. They went together incredibly easily, the manuals were complete, the online community was strong and helpful, etc. I wanted to try something different. My dad is getting into the hobby and had me order a plane for him, so I ordered the HK Red Swan and had them shipped together to eliminate my shipping cost. Now he'll just have to visit me some time and pick up his plane before I decide to build it and fly it too!

So why the Red Swan? I was going to order from HK to save money and their choices are somewhat limited. The Stick style I have covered with my Lucky ACE, I've already got a J3 and Super Cub, and the other styles just didn't speak to me. The Red Swan seemed to fit a category I haven't done yet - a quasi-glider. And it's cheap, so if it turned out to be crap I won't mind scrapping it.

I'm currently updating another build-blog that covers the first steps in building the plane, so I'll copy the info here and maybe delete or close down the blog. I'm hoping this build log will help others who try this kit out, because the "instructions" that come with the Red Swan are absolute crap. Calling them "instructions" or "plans" is a massive reach of imagination. The pictures have potential, but they're tiny and don't correspond well to the English. Seriously, why don't they actually hire people who know how to speak the language to trandlate and re-write the documents??

My thought here is to follow the plans (as much as possible) and then fill in the missing blanks for future builders by including my mistakes, my assumptions, etc along with the details from anybody who wants to chime in.

Let's start with the manual (I'll stop putting it in quotes for now, but will continue to laugh every time I call it a manual).

One glossy page printed front and back. The quality of the print/paper is quite good, but the pictures are small, the "Chinglish" is typical, and the instructions are usually very vague.
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Feb 03, 2013, 01:46 PM
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Plans, Step 1.01 (Page 1 step 1, I guess) says:
"Install 2 bulkhead A1 and A3 , servo assembling base A2 onto fuselage side plate A12."
If you're looking at the picture of the parts for the fuselage that makes some sense, and the picture that goes along with step 01 helps as well. Basically you're just installing two bulkheads and the servo tray on one side of the fuselage.

Quality of the parts so far: the tabs that go above the leading edge of the wing were broken off on both fuselage sides. An easy fix, but they're pretty weak until the bulkhead gets glued into place. The fuselage is covered with 1/8" sides, top, and bottom. Probably a lot heavier than it really needs, and somebody who knows what he's doing could shave a LOT of weight off this kit!

If you look closely at the picture you can see the slot and tab construction for the bulkheads and servo tray. There is a lot of slop in there as the slots are much too large. I tacked everything together and lined it up before committing to more glue.

That's it for Step 1.01.
Feb 03, 2013, 01:53 PM
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I forgot to add some information about the quality of the kit, so I'll do that now. The kit was packed well, and although the main shipping box took some damage there was no real damage to the Red Swan except for the broken tabs shown in the previous post. Another guy had mentioned the same thing, so it's probably just a weak-point on the kit.

The first image shows the parts included with the kit. Everything in decent shape.

Next is the heavy stuff, the tail feathers. The front looks good, with decent lines and small uncut pieces to hold it all together.

Last is the back of the same wood showing that whoever was running the laser either didn't know what they were doing or didn't care to do it right. This is going to take some extra effort to get the pieces out - I can't wait...

Looking ahead at the wing assembly I'm not thrilled with how they did the laser cutting. I'll cover it in more detail later, but they certainly could have done a better job.
Feb 03, 2013, 02:06 PM
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Plans, Step 1.02 says:
"Install fuselage strengthen stick A9 onto fuselage , then put two motor amount together and stick them in the head of fuselage."
Their English is better than my Chinese, but not by much!

Basically this step is simply telling you to install the sticks along the top and bottom of the fuselage. But what they are NOT telling you is exactly where they need to go! Unless you think ahead a few steps you'd be tempted to run them along the top or bottom edge of the fuselage side. What the builder needs to do is to keep them in from the edge 1/8", which is the thickness of the top/bottom sheeting.

The top piece is easy, cut it to length and fit it into the bulkheads. The bottom is a little trickier as you need to curve it as it heads toward the motor mount. Use some scrap balsa to adjust it, pin it down, and hit it with some CA. One thing I would NOT do yet is place the motor mount. With nothing else to support it yet it's better off left until the sides are joined.

Speaking of the motor mount, it needs to be installed the TALL way, not the WIDE way. The instructions don't say anything about this at all, but do it wrong and the top/bottom sheet won't fit.
Feb 03, 2013, 02:20 PM
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Plans, Steps 1.03 and 1.04 say:
"1.03 Install the other fuselage side plate and strengthen stick

1.04 Install A6, please notice its position should be a little bit higher than fuselage edge"
Holy cow, a build tip in the instructions! So Step 1.03 basically tells you to add the other fuselage half. DON'T GLUE THE TAIL END TOGETHER! They don't say anything about it, and some kits have you do that, but it's not the way on this one. This is where I added the motor mount so I could make sure everything was squared up. Again on the motor mount, there are no tabs or markings showing WHERE the motor mount goes on the nose - just a lot of open real estate leaving you wondering.

Here's what I did for the motor mount placement. I left 1/8" gap at the bottom and marked the sides for the "strengthen stick" on each side - these sticks were glued in place. As the fuselage sides were attached to the bulkeads and servo tray I then brought the nose sides together and put the motor mount down tight against the bottom sticks (see picture) and flush with the sides. There is no down or side thrust that I see built in to this kit, by the way. Once the motor mount was secure and the glue dry I came back and added the strengthening sticks that fit in at the top of the mount. *** These aren't called out in the plans, but they are visible in one of the pictures. *** Like the bottom sticks, you need to leave 1/8" for the top sheeting on the nose. I glued the top sheeting in place first (it's about 1-1/2" x 2", give or take) and then came back and added the strengthening sticks. This ensured my top nose sheet would be completely flush with the sides.

Step 1.04 just creates the canopy side channels, and doesn't need much detail beyond what was shown/stated in the instructions. Don't get used to that, I think they accidently forgot to remove the useful details on the instruction sheet.
Feb 03, 2013, 02:35 PM
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Plans, Step 1.05 says:
"Stick fuselage bottom cover A10,and the upside cover A5.A11"
(This is the first Step 1.05, as the next step on the plan page is also called 1.05.

This step is simply covering the top and bottom of the fuselage using three pieces. The full-length bottom cover and the two pieces for the top. The canopy section and the wing saddle are not addressed yet, but they're coming up.

I did the bottom first so I had better access to it to add a little Titebond II to the inside. If the strengthening sticks were installed at the proper locations (not shown on the plans) the top/bottom planking will fit flush with the sides. Good luck with that. The bulkheads on mine left me with about 1/32" +/- that needs to be sanded. Not a huge deal, and it should lighten up the airframe by a gram or two. With wood this thick that can only help! The rear section has no bulkheads or strengthening sticks so I could make sure it was flush as I installed it. I'm not sure why they don't use any extra sticks in the back, but it feels sturdy enough now that an extra pound or two was deemed wasteful. I love sarcasm. On the good side, all that extra thickness in the sheet will allow me to do a nice radius sanding around the edges.

The first pic shows the motor mount with the additional strengthing sticks installed. There is some minor filling I need to do on the bottom sheet.

Picture 2 is a standard 9 gram servo along with a 1300mAh 3S pack. That seems like an extremely large pack for this plane (depending on motor/prop combination), but it's what the instructions recommend and it fits with plenty of room to spare. I'll probably add a lightweight platform to mount the battery on to secure it safely, depending on where the CoG ends up after the plane is covered.

Picture 3 is the tail end with the top cover being glued in place. I used a little scrap to maintain the gap the vertical stabilizer fits into.

The plane has cut-outs for the pushrods on both sides of the fuselage and one slot on top. The elevator is one-piece so I assume this allows the builder to determine what works best as the build progresses.

That's as far as I've gotten so far, more to come!
Feb 03, 2013, 05:35 PM
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Plans, Steps 1.05 and 1.06. I'm skipping these steps temporarily.

Step 1.05 (the second Step 1.05) is simply building the canopy from three pieces of balsa. I say "simply", but the top piece needs to be curved to match the sides. And there is no internatl structure to strengthen it. And I've never bent a piece like this for a radius, although it doesn't seem too hard to do. Either way, I'll hold off temporarily and assess my options before I do anything. My thought at this time is to just make a few small/light internal structure components and build it similar to the rest of the craft so far. But lighter. It'll be held in place with a magnet (not included in the kit) so it'll need a little strength to keep from breaking. It shouldn't be hard to do.

Step 1.06 involves adding the "4 wing fixed plates". Each of these plates has a hole in the center, as if a screw were going to go through it. None are included in the kit and there is no reference to mounting the wing. Again I'll hold off on installing these pieces, this time until the wing is mostly done so I can find the best route to take. Maybe a simple nylon screw or two, maybe rubber bands, or even duct tape. We'll see.

Potential issue: I haven't started constructing the wing yet, but have removed the ribs from the balsa to start prepping them. I put a rib from the center section of the wing in place and found it fit well in the front of the wing saddle, but there is a large gap (maybe an inch?) at the back between the back edge of the wing and the top sheeting. I think one of the "wing fixed plates" goes here based on a picture from the instructions, but again it's a guess. My top sheeting starts even with the bulkhead, which APPEARS correct on the tiny picture in the instructions. Again, it's a guess at this time. Worst case is I make a filler plate and get creative on the tail.

I gave the fuselage a preliminary sanding and am pretty happy with how it looks/fits so far. Yeah, there are some lingering questions right now but it feels rediculously strong and the fit/finish isn't bad. I used a little balsa-colored filler on the sides. The sheeting that goes above the leading edge of the wing isn't in place yet. I'm waiting to see how the wing fits before I make this piece.
Feb 03, 2013, 06:00 PM
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Plans Step 2.01 - Yeah, let's get the wing started and see if the instructions are any better!

Oh, hell no. The wing instructions are considerably worse. Details? Naah. Correct part numbers? You wish. Anything remotely helpful? How about misleading pictures - do those count?

The instructions say:
"Put 6 pieces wing ribs B3 together and assemble strengthen sticker at the up and down gap it."
Seriously, that's what it says. Check the picture back on the first post, it shows a chunk of wood with another smaller piece of wood on top of it. What they mean (I think) is that you take 6 ribs marked B3 and glue them all together as one big MEGA-RIB-OF-DESTRUCTION and then add the sticks top and bottom. A good plan, if any of the sticks actually fit the cut-outs in the ribs. The smallest sticks are for the leading edge, although I'm leaning hard towards replacing those sticks with round CF. I did that on my Mountain Models Switchback and really liked it compared to the GT wing I build for it which used a wood dowel. Besides, the stock included for the leading edge on the Red Swan is kind of crappy and I don't like sanding a leading edge. Round CF sounds like a winner to me!

I lined up 6 of the ribs and there is minimal size difference from rib to rib. A light sanding will have them all nice and even.

While I'm on the topic of cutting ribs, the quality control here is again hit-or-miss. Some pieces only need to have a little bridge cut away for the part to fall out of the stock, while others need to have the entire piece traced with the knife. Also, it's a mystery to me how/why they made certain cuts with the laser. The ribs for the center section of the wing all need to be cut out at the "V" on their nose, not the easiest cut to make since you're going across the grain. Why not leave a few small bridges on the top or bottom which would be substantially easier to cut? And in the picture included on this post notice how they cut the bottom notch out completely but left the top one in?

Last (for now?), notice that the ribs in the picture are different sizes. The outter wing sections taper back a little towards the tip. See how clearly they mark the ribs? It certainly makes it easy to tell how to arrange the ribs. Lucky for me the instructions show it clearly. (That was more sarcasm than is allowed in many states, and for that I apologize.)
Feb 03, 2013, 06:15 PM
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In case you've missed it, the instructions for this plane are somewhat lacking in detail, clarity, or useful/correct information. Before I jump ahead and start gluing the wing together I decided to cut out all of the pieces and lay them out. Normally I like taking parts from the stock as they're needed, but in this case......

Picture one: The lower part of the pic is the entire center section of the wing (minus the leading edge). I haven't removed the "V" at the nose of each rib since I'm probably replacing the balsa with CF and I don't want to remove more than necessary to make it work. The top/bottom caps aren't in the picture, but once it's laid out I'm supposed to use a pair of spacer blocks to space the ribs out and strengthen the structure. I was considering a length of CF inside the wing for strength, but like the fuselage this seems like it'll be plenty strong once it's done. Notice the notches cut in the trailing edge, and the fact that there are none for the center ribs. No idea why as I haven't measured the ribs yet, but my initial guess is that they forgot to cut them. Oh, and the picture shows most of the ribs laying down to be "B4", but there are only 2 of those and a ton of "B5" so I'm again guessing this is correct. Once pinned down to my build-board I'll figure it out. Also, the small and useless picture shows two ribs for the ends of the center section, B4 and B6, so I'm going with B5 and B6. The angle pieces are included to get the proper rise out of the wing tips when the ends are attached to the center section. No idea how much higher the tips will be, one of the great mysteries of life I guess.

Picture 2 is the wing-tip with aileron. As mentioned, most of the ribs here aren't marked, but there is mention of going big to small, although to don't mention that you need the longer rib at the end. And the aileron appears too long so that may need to be cut down. And I've got two B3 ribs left over I can't find a use for. Ah, quality!

Picture 3 is a sheet of rectangles. These are the spacers that go between the ribs. Take care in cutting these out as they are different sizes! The bottom two rows are all the same and are used in the wing's center section. The top four rows taper from one end to the other, and I assume there are four of each size. I'm leaving those un-cut for now, and have only cut out the ones for the center section.
Feb 03, 2013, 08:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Joker 53150 View Post
And I've got two B3 ribs left over I can't find a use for.
I think I finally figured it out after numerous tests, and as a bonus there are no left-over parts. The more I looked at it the more it made sense as I've got it laid out now. I'll sleep on it and maybe tomorrow will start assembly. The ribs as laid out in the picture on the previous post are in the wrong order.

Needless to say, the plans are still crap when it comes to detail.
Last edited by Joker 53150; Feb 04, 2013 at 06:24 AM.
Feb 04, 2013, 07:13 PM
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*** RIB ORDER EDITED 2-6-13 *** After the center section was finished I found what I consider to be a slightly better way to place the ribs. Original text is still below, but I'm updating the notes showing the order Left to Right. Gluing the outter B3 ribs above the fuselage sides should give you more strength for the wing sheeting.

Assembly on the center section of the wing has started. I'm not sure what steps in the manual I'm working from right now, I've been drinking and my buddy Captain Morgan made a good point when he said "Who cares, the manual is crap." A very valid point by my wingman.

Before I lose the ability to type complete sentences I'll add some specific details on the center section that are not included in the instructions.

Picture 1 shows the outter most ribs on the center section of the wing. The ribs are doubled here, B6 to the outside and B5 on the inside. Also note that the outter ribs are slanted in slightly at the top. The spacer between the ribs is beveled slightly from the factory. Take note of this, because they don't bother to tell you about this little detail anywhere. The bevel helps you set the angle for the outter wing sections later on. There are also a couple plywood pieces which help join the inner and outter wing sections at the proper angle.

Picture 2 shows the complete center section minus some of the spacers and minus the leading edge. I'm going with a carbon fiber leading edge once I get to the LHS and buy it. I am also only installing the front spacer at this time so I can get in there and reinforce it with Titebond II. After that I'll glue on the rear spacer to box in the areas between ribs.

After a number of test-fittings and trial & error here's what I came up with for the rib placement. This appears to work out perfectly (and if this was called out in the instructions I'd say the person who designed it actually knew what they were doing!). From left to right across the whole center section:

B6 sandwiched with B5, angled in slightly at the top.
B4 (slightly shorter than B5)
B3 (Don't glue this rib into place until the fuselage is done. Center this rib over the fuselage side then glue in place)
B3 x 6, all glued together into a mega-rib
B3 (Don't glue this rib into place until the fuselage is done. Center this rib over the fuselage side then glue in place)
B4 (slightly shorter than B5)
B5 sandwiched with B6, angled in slightly at the top.

1. All B4-B6 have holes for the servo wires.
2. All B3 and B4 are smaller overall than B5-6. The difference will be made up when you sheet the area from B4 to B4.
3. the spars running across the entire center section won't fit flush with B3 or B4. This is OK - the sheeting of the center section will make up the difference. I'll get to that soon enough.
4. When you glue B3 and B4 to the trailing edge you need to add a little scrap under the ribs (see Pic 2) to center the ribs on the trailing edge.
5. I didn't add the spacers between ribs B3 and B4. I'm somewhat sure they would get in the way of the sheeting that will go from B4 to B4, but I reserve the right to change my mind later.

Now if you'll excuse me, my friend the Captain is demanding my attention...
Last edited by Joker 53150; Feb 06, 2013 at 06:10 AM.
Feb 05, 2013, 06:33 AM
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Just noticed this thread. This is a brave mission you're on, but it seems to me you're going about it with the right attitude -- as a challenge and an adventure.

It seems HK is the marketing arm for many small Chinese enterprises that lack their own. When you deal with them you can expect excellent "deals" -- and lots of aggravation. But it looks like you may end up with a nice glider for your efforts. Good luck, and thanks for the trailblazing. I'll be checking in from time to time.
Feb 05, 2013, 01:20 PM
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Thanks, I don't mind a challenge and this build hasn't let me down in that respect! The Mountain Models aircraft I've built were fast, easy, and well documented. Follow the recipe and you get a great plane. This one is like a ghost pepper accidentally added to your salsa - you'll love it or hate it. The more I work on it the more potential I see. The major limiting factor has been the lack of instructions. If this plane flies well I'm considering building a second one, but with a focus on major weight reduction. I'll bet it could easily be 1/3 lighter AUW.

I picked up some 3mm CF from the LHS today so I plan on finishing most of the wing's center section tonight. Like the fuselage it feels very strong and over engineered. I'm just hoping this extra weight won't kill performance too badly.
Last edited by Joker 53150; Feb 05, 2013 at 01:25 PM.
Feb 05, 2013, 09:49 PM
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I love the fact that the kids are old enough to do their homework without my help - it gives me more free time to play in the basement!

Pic 1: The first task today was adding the 3mm thick wall CF tube to the leading edge of the wing's center section which replaces the smaller hard-stock that came with the kit. Stronger, smoother, and no sanding required. It fits perfectly.

Pic 2: This is something I'd change if I build this kit again. I said before that the center mega-rib is made up from 8 of the B3 ribs. Doing this spaces the rest of the ribs out perfectly to line up with the notches in the trailing edge. The plans call for a mega-rib made from 6 pieces, which would have all of the other ribs spaced too close *IF* you use the spacers that come with the kit. What I'd do differently next time is go with a block of 6 B3 ribs as said in the instructions, but then I'd move the remaining 2 B3 ribs out slightly from center to line up with the fuselage sides. In this pic you can see that the fuselage sides are lined up with the lower wing sheeting, which has no internal support other than the spars. I'll add some strength before sheeting the top. I CA'd the sheet in place and then used some Titebond II around the edges to secure it well.

Pic 3: Now we're working on the wing's outter sections - in my case the right side first. The ribs located in front of the aileron are fit into tiny holes as shown in the picture. A little sanding of the ribs and they all fit well with no accidental breakage. The rib spacer shown here is too wide, in fact they all are. If I used them as-is the front of the wing would fan out and be much longer than the trailing edge. I'm not sure what they were doing here... To fix the problem I used the space between the captured ribs as a guide. In this pic you can see how much sanding would be required to make the spacer fit. If it fits properly here it'll give me the same spacing at the spar. In theory...

Pic 4: A little sanding and the piece fits nicely where the spacing between ribs is fixed.

Pic 5: Now I just move the piece forward to the spar and move to the next spacer. Slightly less than perfect, but a quick measurement across the back compared to the front showed a difference of 1.5mm. I can live with that.

Pic 6: The outter wing section takes shape. As with the center section I'll use CF for the leading edge. As near as I can tell, the innermost ribs on these sections are straight up/down. When mated to the slightly angled outside ribs on the center section I should end up with the proper wingtip lift. There are some plywood pieces included that will help ensure the correct angle though.

Pic 7: Now we're getting to the part that had me confused for a while. The inner ribs B3 and B4 are all slightly smaller than B5 and B6 (come to think of it, where the hell are B1 and B2??). Turns out it is to accomodate the thickness of the sheeting used on the top and bottom of the wing. Sheeting runs from B4 to B4. As mentioned a few posts ago, when you glue the wing structure together you need to add a small scrap of this sheeting under B3s and B4s to hold the ends up. If you don't the bottoms will droop slightly making your bottom wing covering look weird. The top sheeting will also not line up at the trailing edge - it'll be too low. The thickness of the trailing edge is equal to the thickness of the top sheeting + the thickness of the bottom sheeting + the thickness of the B3/B4 ribs where they contact the trailing edge. Sorry for the math, that wasn't cool to do without notice...

Pic 8: Same sheeting from the bottom. The sheeting lines up well with the trailing edge, allowing me to get a nice smooth transition once it's all sanded. I'll need to determine where to drill holes in the bottom sheeting to feed the servo wires. The standard servo plugs fit through the rib holes nicely, but I don't know if the wire extension plugs will be quite so easy. Something to find out before I cover it...!

No work planned for tomorrow, but in the next few days I plan on having the wing almost completed and ready for covering. If I can figure out a covering plan.
Feb 06, 2013, 03:07 AM
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Brilliant instructions Joker. I've got about halfway though but my dinner's ready so I'll catch the rest tomorrow.

Full marks to you for going to all the trouble of writing this thread. I hope a lot of people read it and add their thoughts.

Just briefly though, do you, like myself, find the outer wing panel twists alarmingly? Mine gives me no confidence at all, especially when it's supposed to have ailerons attached. OK I appreciate the covering film will give a degree of rigidity (if that's the right word) but with the contact area of the thin ribs being so tiny, I'm not expecting massive improvements from the covering job.

Beanz (AKA Vanessa)
Last edited by Beanz; Feb 06, 2013 at 03:14 AM.

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