Sawn Craft Front Yard Fighter Zero 24 Kit Review - RC Groups

Sawn Craft Front Yard Fighter Zero 24 Kit Review

3D sorties in the front yard are a few short hours away!

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Introduction

Sawn Craft Front Yard Fighter Zero 24

Wingspan:24" (610mm)
Flying Weight As Measured:4.55 oz (130g)
Construction:3mm and 6mm EPP foam airframe; carbon fiber reinforcing spars, tail skid and undercarriage; plastic wheels with foam tires
Servos:HobbyKing S0361 3.6g micro
Transmitter As Tested:OrangeRx T-SIX six-channel 2.4GHz computerized aircraft
Receiver:Lemon Rx LM0034 Feather Light DSM2 compatible
Batteries As Tested:Venom Fly 300mAh 7.4V 30C lithium polymer with JST power connector and JST-XH and Thunder Power balance taps
Motor:Turnigy C1822 brushless outrunner; 2100Kv
Propeller:GWS 6x3E, pre-balanced
ESC:Turnigy Plush 10A brushless
Operator Skill Level/Age:Intermediate; 14+
Manufacturer/Available From:Sawn Craft, Granby, Connecticut 06035
Price As Tested (USD):$119.98 ($34.99 for unpainted, basic kit, $25 for painted version, $49.99 for the Front Yard Fighter completion kit less batteries and $10 for the Lemon Rx DSM2 receiver)

For ten years, I've been privileged to meet a lot of great manufacturers and distributors as part of my writing duties here at RCGroups.com.

One of those vendors is Jonathan Sawn of Sawn Craft, a family-owned company in Granby, Connecticut which has been producing quality kits since 1958. When Jonathan blogged about a new model of his, the F-4D/F-6 micro pusher prop jet, I approached him for a review sample which he gladly provided. Today, that little model is still one of my favorite toss-it-in-the-car choices with its combination of great looks and performance.

On a more recent note, Jonathan and the crew at Sawn Craft have since introduced their Front Yard Fighter series of semi-profile WWII warbirds. These Dave Garwood designs were a huge hit at the 2015 Horizon Hobby indoor electric event in Columbus, Ohio and it's my pleasure to present the second model in the lineup introduced soon after the original Bearcat 24.

The new Sawn Craft Front Yard Fighter Zero 24 is an all-EPP kit available in either painted or unpainted versions and can be completed with Sawn Craft's Front Yard Fighters Completion Kit. For $49.99, Sawn Craft provides a package of HobbyKing brand electronics and a GWS 6x3E prop. Ten dollars more nets a high quality Lemon Rx receiver for those with DSM2 compatible radios. All that are needed are some 300mAh 2S li-po batteries.

I'll be looking at a fully optioned painted version with the available Front Yard Fighter Completion Kit. I should also point out that the Zero 24 is far from an RTF or even an ARF. Instead, it's an easily assembled kit, so one should keep that in mind when ordering. Likewise, ordering a painted kit adds $25 and an additional week since each painted airframe is made to order.

This is a fun build, so I'll begin right away!

Kit Contents

The basic Zero kit comes with the following:

  • CNC machine cut EPP airframe parts
  • Carbon fiber reinforcement rods and landing gear struts
  • Laser cut plywood motor mount and control horns
  • Micro EZ connectors
  • Control rods with pre-bent ends
  • Landing gear wheels
  • Thread for binding landing gear axle to the struts

Needed for completion:

  • Sawn Craft Front Yard Fighter Completion Kit
  • DSM2 compatible six-channel computerized transmitter for use with the available Lemon Rx receiver or user's choice of a six-channel computerized aircraft radio with aileron mixing and micro receiver
  • 180 - 300mAh 2S 25C lithium polymer battery with JST connector
  • Self-adhesive Velcro hook-and-loop

Tools needed include:

  • #11 X-Acto knife or equivalent with spare blades
  • Two metal straight edge rulers
  • Building board and wax paper
  • T-pins
  • Scissors
  • Sharpie marker
  • 1/16 and 5/64 drills
  • Foam adhesive; the use of Beacon Foam-Tac is recommended and available through Sawn Craft
  • Masking tape
  • Soldering equipment and heat gun
  • Diagonal cutters
  • Needle nose pliers

Like the F-4D before it, the Zero came nicely packaged in a clear plastic bag topped by a header card which can be displayed on a hobby shop's pegboard displays. So too did the FYF Completion Kit with all the electronics shipped in their factory anti-static bags.

All of the machined CNC parts were nicely spray painted with stencils and were ready to be removed from their frames with a new #11 hobby knife.

Once removed, the build can begin.

Assembly

Central Fuselage and Control Surface Hinging

Sawn Craft does an absolutely wonderful manual as I learned with the F-4D and the Zero's is just as good:

Should one wish to take advantage of an electronic manual, all of Sawn Craft's manuals including the Zero 24 manual are available here. The excellent printed manual is accompanied by small but clear photos. Use of the electronic manual will display the photos considerably larger.

After the parts are removed, the bottoms of the horizontal fuselage, wing halves, ailerons and elevator are marked with masking tape with "BOTTOM" written on the tape with the Sharpie. The left sides of the vertical fuselage and rudder are marked "LEFT" in the same fashion.

The control surfaces are beveled with a combination of the two rulers sandwiching each part and the new, fresh #11 blade drawn across the surface of each part to be hinged.

All of the hinged parts are then pinned to the building board and hinged to one another with the Foam-Tac. Here's where I ran into a problem.

The hobby shop in my area didn't stock Foam-Tac. They had just received a shipment of British-made Deluxe Materials Foam 2 Foam adhesive which was supposed to work in much the same way as Foam-Tac. Once hinged and allowed to dry overnight, the glue hinges were extremely stiff and brittle. I've done foam hinges on a previous build with Foam-Tac and it's magnificent for the job. Unfortunately, while the Foam 2 Foam works well for basic assembly of foam parts, it isn't suitable for hinging. My strong suggestion would be to order a bottle of Foam-Tac from Sawn Craft; it's simply the best stuff I've ever used.

3M Blenderm tape, sold as "hinge tape" in most hobby shops, was my next step. Not only was it heavy, it didn't stick well to the foam and was just as stiff. I finally went with cut-down E-flite park flyer hinges carefully installed with thin foam-safe CA. Not quite as elegant or even as flexible as Foam-Tac glue hinges, but they worked well for the ailerons and rudder. Thankfully, the elevator worked well with the Foam 2 Foam hinge.

Applying the wing and elevator spars, gluing the lower fuselage to the central fuselage and attaching the control horns complete that basic assembly.

Landing Gear

This is an interesting design.

The gear are attached to the fuselage and not to the wing as those on a real Zero would be. They're also unlike any other design I've seen. Two of the supplied 5.5" carbon fiber rods are glued into their places while the third acts as the axle. It's attached to the crossed rods with the supplied thread and some CA to hold it in place.

As for the wheels, they appear to be Dave Brown units which are a perfect fit on the axle. They're secured in place with hubs from the unused servo arms. The arms are cut off, the hubs reamed with a 5/64 drill and held in place with more of the CA or a dab of foam glue.

I did something just a bit different here. Before attaching the wheels with a couple of unused servo arms from the parts bin - which were a perfect fit - I used some short lengths of shrink wrap tubing to act as backing plates against the wheel hubs. This little mod kept the wheels from sliding too far inward and becoming jammed on the struts.

The first photo on page eight shows the axle mounted slightly below the struts, but the two which follow show the axle mounted flush with the ends. I went with the latter and I trimmed the ends of the struts afterwards, but if I had it to do again, I would mount the axle as low as possible.

Upper Fuselage and Gussets

Installation of these parts will complete the basic airframe.

The upper fuselage is installed as is the supplied 3" carbon fiber rod to act as a tail skid.

Gluing the long fuselage gussets is next, but once more, I deviated slightly from the manual. The wiring from the elevator and rudder servos are concealed beneath the right fuselage gusset. The manual suggests that a string be tied to the connecting plugs in order to pull them through. I held off installing all of the gussets until I actually installed the motor, ESC, servos and the supplied extensions in later steps.

I also wanted to align the servos before I installed them, but the Lemon Rx receiver wouldn't bind to either of my DSM2 radios! Very unusual situation given the good reputation of the brand, but Jonathan Sawn was on the job. He sent me not one but two new receivers from his most recent shipment! I only had to use one of the new receivers; it bound to the ORX T-SIX with no trouble whatsoever.

I had an idea regarding detailing the gussets before installing them. Back when I did the F-4D, I picked up some very inexpensive bottles of Anita's All Purpose Acrylic Craft Paint from the local Hobby Lobby. The brand, made by Testors, is an excellent way to detail small foam aircraft.

Applying and removing the hinge tape had lifted some of the paint from the hinomaru "rising suns" atop the wings. There was also the fact that the edges of the painted parts had no paint where they had been milled.

By an incredible stroke of luck, the red and black paints were a virtually perfect match. Not only were the touch-ups to the red areas nearly invisible, I was able to use both colors to paint the cut edges as well as the insides of the cowl gussets. The paints are #11002 Black and #11003 True Red.

The end results were stunning, to put it mildly. Not too bad for paints costing 79 cents each. In fact, it's at this juncture where the manual suggests doing any painting or decorating and warns of the weight dangers of too much paint.

Electronics Installation

Nice and simple.

The rudder and elevator servos are installed in the tail and the 8" extensions supplied in the completion kit extend the leads to the receiver. Installation of the micro EZ connectors and pushrods is straightforward.

I varied again ever so slightly from the manual, electing to use thin, heavy duty servo tape to secure the aileron servos instead of foam glue. The rear servos were each secured with a bit of the foam glue at each mounting tab.

Speaking of which, Sawn Craft rightly suggests that aileron mixing via the radio is the way to go. While my OrangeRx radio had aileron mixing, it mixed both ailerons in the same direction and at different throws. I would have used my Spektrum DX6i, but it's out of open memory slots. Fortunately, I had an ultra lightweight Y-harness on hand, but I would have preferred not to use it.

Motor installation begins easily enough with the use of three of the unused mounting screws provided with the servos to mount the motor onto its plywood mount. Foam discs of varying thicknesses may then be used to mount the motor with the endbell flush with the front of the cowl area and with the propeller mounting stud protruding beyond. It's suggested that the propeller be installed and held in place with the supplied O-ring. The wires coming off of the motor made it necessary to install the mount rotate slightly to the left, but not enough to prevent the motor from being properly aligned once glued in place. No down thrust or right thrust are recommended.

A female JST connector is provided with the completion kit along with some shrink wrap tubing; it's up to the builder to solder it to the power leads of the ESC.

Once the motor was hooked up to the ESC and the proper rotation confirmed, I glued the cowl and fuselage gussets in place. With the receiver and ESC secured to the fuselage, all that was left to do were the radio settings and maiden flight!

Flying

My first attempt to fly the Zero was on low rates on a slightly breezy day at a local park.

Taking off was simplicity itself; I grasped the canopy, throttled up the motor and gave the Zero a gentle push skyward.

Dave Garwood did one heck of a great job on the design of this model. It handled amazingly well, even in the breezy conditions. Even more amazing was how well it handles at low speeds. It is, quite simply, a joy to fly and the perfect indoor flyer if my experience was any indication. The high rates proved to be better outdoors. Again, the Zero was simply a heck of a lot of fun, but between the breeze and a lack of video, I packed it in after running down one of the batteries. Landings? No problem whatsoever. The Zero's generous wing area and light weight make for a model which touches down as light as a feather. Of course, ground takeoffs are even more fun than simply tossing a model skyward. Just perfect. The Zero took off in a beautiful, scale-like manner which caused me to make up my mind to do ROG takeoffs whenever possible.

The next times out were in nearly dead calm conditions just after the new year. I trimmed it out at a large grass field available to electric pilots on Saturday mornings at Southwest Community Church in Indian Wells, California.

Now the fun could really begin. I was looping, rolling, flying inverted and yes, hovering on the prop with glee. I don't claim to be the best 3D flyer in the world, but getting the Zero up on the prop was simplicity itself.

Jonathan Sawn's assertion that the Zero "flies big" is dead on the money. In the calm conditions, The Zero presented itself like a much larger plane and one which made me feel immediately at ease the moment I started doing aerobatics.

The next morning found the Zero and I at the Coachella Valley Radio Control Club in the eastern tip of the Coachella Valley. As always, club historian George Muir was on hand to capture the action.

Again, conditions were perfect and since it was early, George and I had the 985' (100m) runway to ourselves. After some "beauty shots" taken at the flight line, off went the Zero.

Flown to scale or flown more aggressively, the Zero was a blast, although it needed quite a bit of left aileron trim this time around. The culprit was a slightly warped fuselage possibly due to transporting it and other models in the trunk of my car on a cold day. The EPP easily twisted back into position and the Zero was flying straight once more.

I had so much fun that after George and I got video, I took it up once more on the second battery pack!

Aerobatics and Special Flight Performance

This little Zero will do things full-scale Zeroes could never do, i.e., 3D flight, rapid rolls, easy inverted flight, loops, Immelmann turns and so on. About the only thing it won't do is to knife edge simply because there isn't enough rudder authority with the suggested setup, although there's plenty of rudder area. That, of course, is something easily fixed by relocating the pushrod and cranking up the throws at the radio if one desires.

Is This For a Beginner?

I'd have to say no. This is a fun and easily assembled model, but it has none of the self-righting and self-correcting qualities of a trainer. Control inputs are fast, even with the recommended expo settings and the Zero goes exactly where it's pointed.

Flight Video and Photo Gallery

Here are Sawn Craft's own videos showing the Zero in action indoors...

Sawn Craft - Zero 24 - Front Yard Fighters (2 min 39 sec)

...and outdoors:

Sawn Craft - Zero 24 - 3D Flying Outdoors (3 min 23 sec)

This is yours truly having a blast with the Zero outdoors:

Sawn Craft Front Yard Fighter Zero 24 (2 min 50 sec)

Here are some beauty shots taken just prior to the maiden flight:

George Muir took some as well before the video shoot:

Conclusion

Like the F-4D before it, the Sawn Craft Front Yard Fighter Zero 24 is a well designed, great flying kit, one which will see plenty of stick time at my local parks. It's the perfect size for blasting around a park or ball field on a calm day or indoors at a gym or hangar.

Two thumbs up just as high as I can give.

Thanks abound go to Jonathan Sawn of Sawn Craft for offering this marvelous little kit for review and for his peerless customer service. George Muir of the Coachella Valley Radio Control Club is my most frequent go-to guy for video. His help and friendship are above appreciated.

Of course, no review would be possible without Jim T. Graham and Angela Haglund at the RCGroups.com admins' desk on behalf of our worldwide audience. Thanks for visiting!

Pluses and Minuses

Pluses include:

  • Easy and fun to assemble
  • Outstanding flight characteristics
  • The Completion Kit has everything needed to complete the model less the battery
  • Excellent design from a respected company and designer
  • Can be customized as the builder sees fit
  • An incredibly refreshing change of pace from RTF micros

No minuses noted.

Last edited by DismayingObservation; Jan 06, 2016 at 03:05 PM..
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Jan 18, 2016, 02:02 PM
AMA 415
Sawn Craft's Avatar
Thank you very much for the great review, Ralph!

Another big thank you goes out to all of you that have ordered in the past couple of days! We spent the weekend putting more kits together and have plenty of stock for anyone that hasn't gotten theirs yet!

Head on over now to: FrontYardFighters.com
Jan 18, 2016, 06:20 PM
Pronoun trouble...
DismayingObservation's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sawn Craft
Thank you very much for the great review, Ralph!

Another big thank you goes out to all of you that have ordered in the past couple of days! We spent the weekend putting more kits together and have plenty of stock for anyone that hasn't gotten theirs yet!

Head on over now to: FrontYardFighters.com
Woo-hoo!

That's great news, Jonathan! Believe me, it was a pleasure to assemble and fly this great little model and I'm really pleased that RCGroups.com readers are stepping up for their own.


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