House of Balsa Electric Zap Machine NNC Kit Review - RC Groups
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House of Balsa Electric Zap Machine NNC Kit Review

Brian Collins explores this interesting new kit design from House of Balsa -- the No Need to Cover electric speed 400 powered Zap Machine!

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 Nice looker!
Nice looker!
Wing Area:230 sq. in.
Weight:21-22 oz.
Wing Loading:13.8 oz/sq. ft.
Servos:3 micro (Waypoint 10g)
Receiver:Schulze Alpha 435 4-ch micro
Battery:7/8 cell KAN 950 NiMH
Motor:Permax 400
Prop:6x3 Robbe folding
Manufacturer:House of Balsa

We have all heard of the various acronyms used in model flying, ARTF/ARF (almost ready to fly), RTF (Ready To Fly & ARTC (almost ready to cover) being the most popular, well now there is a new one! House of Balsa’s Electric Zap Machine is deemed NNC (no need to cover).

Can a speed 400-powered fully built up model without the need for covering really work? – Lets find out!

KIT Contents

Yes, House of Balsa’s ZAP MACHINE is a kit! No ARTF here. However, as you will see, the kit was a very fast build! So time is not the issue with this model, in fact it built up quicker than many ARTF’s I have assembled. The kit arrived in a plain white corrugated cardboard box.

Opening the box I found:

  • plans,
  • numerous sheets of good quality (almost white) balsa
  • very accurate CNC laser cut ply,
  • dowel for the leading edge,
  • a pack of fittings,
  • a colour instruction manual
  • some very large sheets of Mylar decals.

The fitting kit was of a good standard and included control rods, horns, mounting screws, and hinges. Not included in the kit was the radio gear, servos, motor, prop, and speed controller. After carefully looking at the contents and reading the colour instruction booklet I was eager to start the building.


I started with the wing. I covered the plans with a thin layer of wax by rubbing a candle over it to stop the glue from sticking to it, and set about the build. I was amazed at just how fast it went together. I simply butt joined the sheets of 16th balsa together using 18th square balsa strips for strength, adding the very well cut ribs along the way. I used thin Zap CA (not included) throughout the build.

The center section of the wing had the holes cut for the micro servos. I used 2 Waypoint 10g servos and had to open the servo cut outs a little, easily done with a sharp blade.

The Leading edge was a length of dowel which was glued in place to the wing ribs. I made sure the wing ribs were all straight and square as once the top sheet went on I would not be able to adjust them!

The wing tips were fitted with a ply end plate which acted as a skid for landing. It also allowed for easy setting up of the ailerons which were hinged with Mylar type hinges and were glued in place using thin Cyano. Control horns for the ailerons were simply glued onto the ends of each aileron -again very simple, and effective!

To finish off the wing I gave it a light sanding with fine sand paper and a dust down with a light cloth. The Mylar decals were attached and acted as a covering. That was it for the wing - all very simple and very quick. The total build time for the wing was just over one hour, and I am a slow builder!

The Fuselage

The Fuselage was also of all sheet balsa and ply built up construction. As all the parts were pre cut so accurately the fuselage really ‘self jigged’, I did not need to pin it down to the plan. I just built it over the top for reference. As with the wing, the build was both quick and very simple.

The construction was so easy and straight forward I was amazed at how quick I finished it! I needed to select the front round formers according to which type of spinner I wished to use. I used a 6 x 3 Robbe folder so I needed to shape the front formers accordingly. I added one of the round formers as that gave enough clearance with the Robbe prop. Once the former was fitted I simply sanded the front end to shape.

The motor was held in place with 2 screws into former 2 which was again very simple and straight forward. I used a brushed Permax 400 fitted to a Rondo speed controller to the rear of the motor direct. The elevator servo and receiver were mounted in place as per the plan. The servo was secured by screwing it into position on two ply mounts attached to the fuselage sides. The receiver was secured into position with double sided tape. I used a 4 channel Schulze receiver but any small ‘park flyer’ type receiver would suffice. One thing I did like was that the kit came with a tube to run the antenna wire down through the fuselage and out at the rear. It ensured the wire was out of harms way.

The flight pack was secured into place using 2 dowel rods pushed into the bottom of the fuselage. Very simple and it worked fine. The wings were also held on with dowels and rubber bands for easy removal. However, as the model fits complete in the boot (trunk) of my car I left the wings on.

Both the tail and stab were a solid sheet and the elevator was Mylar hinged. I built the review model as per plan so I did not fit a rudder. The tail assembly was very easy to fit into the rear of the fuselage. I found mine lined up perfectly. I ensured the tail was square when fitting it as this would drastically affect the flying of the model if it was not true.

That had the build just about finished; I told you it was a fast build! Total time for the whole build was just under 3 hours. I gave the whole model a light sand prior to applying the decals.

I have to confess I was a little reluctant to leave the balsa ‘bare’, even though the model is a NNC Kit (NNC being No Need to Cover). The large decals covered most of the wing. As the model was very strong because of its design and construction methods employed, the decals were there mostly to help cover the model and look good.

As I fly in the North East of England which suffers from high rain fall, I gave the airframe a light brush with a sealer to seal the moisture out. Obviously this is up to the builder and the local climate. If you are lucky enough to live in a warm dry climate this would not be required.

OK, build done, gear in, decals on ... it's time to fly!

Flying the Zap Machine 400

We have had one of the wettest summers on record here in the UK and I was sick of waiting for a nice day to fly the Zap Machine. Eventually we got a very bright but rather cold day...flight packs were charged up, batteries in camera and camcorder tested and it was off to our flying field in Hetton, in the North East of England. Gary Manjnusz helped out with the camera and camcorder (thanks Gary). I had the transmitter.

The main factor was the wind. We are talking 20mph here!! Some people would think we were mad to fly a relatively small 400 model in such winds, but if I waited for the perfect flying weather in the UK I would never fly!

A swift hand launch and the Zap Machine went away well. All the throws were set up exactly as per instructions and I found these to be just about perfect. I only needed 2 clicks of down trim to have her flying steady into the strong wind. As soon as I turned her into the 20mph downwind she went like a bat out of, well, you know! Aerobatics were limited as there was no rudder but the Zap Machine looped from level flight and rolls were performed very easily, with the rate being quick but not too fast. The stall was very docile with no wing drop - just a nod of the front end, very predictable. She went inverted with no problems but I did have to hold a bit of down in to keep her level whilst inverted. Landings were a breeze, just lined her up, powered off a little flare up and she just about landed herself.

Power from a standard 400 motor was adequate for general flying. As there are so many high power options around now it won’t be long before someone fits a brushless motor into this little plane, but I enjoyed flying her in standard form. Balance was spot on with the recommended CG. I used a 7 cell pack of HE-1100 NiMH cells and an 8 cell pack of the very good KAN950 NiMH. Duration with both packs was around the 5-6 minute mark. I have flown her since in much calmer conditions and duration went up as the throttle stick came back! I managed 9 minutes with the HE -1100 one calm evening.

Flight Video!



The Zap Machine from House of Balsa was a nice little speed 400 model that was ideal to keep in the car (due to it’s size, I can keep it assembled) ready for when a quick flying opportunity comes along. She will fly well on basic standard gear which is cheap and readily available, and will fly in a relatively small space (our Hetton site is a single football pitch -- er, soccer field to you American chaps!)

The kit was a very fast build and due to design and very well cut parts, went together quickly and accurately. All in all, a great little speed 400 powered model - ideal for small flying spaces. Buy one and keep it in the car…….just in case!!!

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Nov 25, 2004, 07:14 AM
Registered User

Zap machine

Execellent review.I like the House of Balsa products.I have built three of their planes and have found them to be execllent flying machines.Their kits are laser cut plus the wing and fuse have interlocking parts which go together really fast.By the way House of Balsa planes were designed for gas motors but they convert to electric power so easily.I wish they would design a plane for the 500 class electric motors.


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