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Dec 06, 2004, 12:39 AM
2 Mistakes Downwind
ToyBoy's Avatar
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Build Log

Magpie Build Thread and Review from a Beginner's Angle

I'm in the process of building a Mountain Models Magpie, and I figure I may as well start a build thread for it here, where other beginners might benefit from reading about a plane and a build process written from the perspective of a complete beginner. I will also make this a beginner's-eye review of the Magpie. (Plus, I need some writing practice)

The Magpie

In case you haven't heard the buzz, the Magpie is a new trainer from Mountain Models, released in October this year. It is said to be an excellent trainer, being very easy, slow, and forgiving to fly. There are several recent threads about this plane in this forum and Parkflyers, as well as Aerial Photography (AP) forum where it has quickly gained something of a cult status as a great AP platform, beating out the classic GWS Slow Stick as the favorite AP plane of some early adopters.

Construction: EPS and Depron
Wingspan: 46" (SF wing version)
Wing area: 414 sq. in
Length: 34"
Weight w/o battery: 12-13 ounces

Please see this page for full details of the plane, plus videos and builder's manual.

The Maker

Mountain Models has a very good reputation for kit quality, as well as probably the best reputation around for customer service. It is a small family company run by Doug Binder out of Penrose, Colorado, and specializing in quality, easy to build electric model aircraft kits. Doug and Matthew Binder both participate in these forums and are always quick to offer help and general discussion about their models.

The Builder

Nothing exciting here. I'm a 30 year old Aussie software engineer with no previous modelling or aviation experience or knowledge. I currently live in Southern California.

My first and current plane is a T-Hawk from, which I've owned for less than two months. I chose the Magpie as my second plane for four reasons: 1. Instead of RTF/ARF, I wanted to build a plane, and the Magpie shouldn't be hard for a beginning builder; 2. It's slow and easy to fly; 3. It has a sport (aileron) wing option, so I can also use it as my aileron trainer when I'm ready; 4. It's a good aerial photography platform, and I want to get into AP.

Doug named the Magpie after his daughter Maggie, seen below with the bird. The Australian Magpie also happens to be my favourite Aussie bird. (See my avatar)

That's it for the preamble. On to the plane.
Last edited by ToyBoy; Dec 27, 2008 at 02:57 PM. Reason: Updated links
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Dec 06, 2004, 01:34 AM
2 Mistakes Downwind
ToyBoy's Avatar
Thread OP
The Package

The Magpie can be bought as a short (plane only) kit with either the Slow Flyer (SF) wing or the Sport (SP) wing, or both wings. The SP wing has ailerons and less dihedral than the SF wing.

Dihedral is the upward inclination of the wing from center to tips, making a V shape. The amount of dihedral in the SF wing is one of the attributes making the SF Magpie so stable in flight. Dihedral gives a plane a self-leveling tendency, meaning the plane will tend to level out from banking flight.

Another option available is the package with both wings. The package contains:
  • Magpie Kit with both wings
  • EPS350C-C Motor w/ 9x7 Propeller
  • Castle Creations Pixie 20P Electronic Speed Control
  • 3 GWS Naro Servos
  • KAN650 battery
  • 2 Deans Ultra connectors
  • 2 servo extender cables

This is handy for the beginner who is overwhelmed by all the different options available out there in terms of electronics and power systems. All you need to add is covering (wing tape or packaging tape), a receiver and a radio. It's a good deal, too, since the price is something like 10% less than the cost of the individual parts. This is what I purchased.

The picture below shows the contents of the box. The bag at the top contains the Sport wing kit. The Slow Flyer wing and all the other plane parts were securely strapped together in the box. The electronics were loose but the gaps in the box were filled with scrap foam, so nothing was rattling around. The wings are shipped inside the blocks of foam from which they've been cut. The second shot shows the wings out of the blocks.

Not seen here is the battery (MM was out of stock, so they're shipping it to me separately). Also, the Pixie electronic speed control (ESC), which can be seen in a small clear bag, does include a comprehensive user manual, but I took that out and forgot to replace it for the photo. Also not shown is the builder's manual, which is a black & white print of the PDF version on the MM site. And last of all, I also left out the music wire provided for the landing gear and pushrods. But cut me some slack, it's my first time writing a review.
Last edited by ToyBoy; Dec 11, 2004 at 06:59 PM.
Dec 06, 2004, 02:24 AM
2 Mistakes Downwind
ToyBoy's Avatar
Thread OP
Construction Materials - for those interested in such details...

The Magpie fuselage and wing are made from expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam. The tail feathers are Depron. There is also some thin plywood, and plastic strapping tape used for strengthening.

EPS Foam

Polystyrene is a polymer made from styrene, a liquid which is manufactured from petroleum oil (and also found in some plants). EPS is available in different densities, but is commonly about 95% air and 5% polystyrene. It's the same stuff foam coffee cups and most packaging are made of, and is often referred to as Styrofoam, the tradename under which it is marketed in the USA. EPS is quite brittle and rigid, but when covered it makes for a strong and lightweight structure.

Depron is also EPS, but in this case it stands for extruded polystyrene, which is very different from the expanded kind. In the modeling world, only expanded polystyrene is generally called EPS.

Extruded Polystyrene comes in many forms. In modeling you will hear of names such as BlueCor, Fan-fold foam (FFF), Foam-Core, Depron and others. Yet another type of foam often used in model planes is expanded polypropylene, or EPP. EPP is much more flexible and durable than EPS, and also more expensive and more difficult to cut and sand.

A close-up of the wing-tips showing the familiar "bead-board" - EPS foam.
Last edited by ToyBoy; Dec 11, 2004 at 07:01 PM.
Dec 06, 2004, 09:07 AM
Frequent Flyer
wattsup_kz's Avatar
Originally Posted by ToyBoy
(Plus, I need some writing practice)
I can't tell that from reading your EXCELLENT beginning!
Well done!

Dec 06, 2004, 10:44 AM
Very nice, I am looking forward to this. I am getting one of these for my dad as a second plane (First was an RTF Sky Scooter Pro. II). At first I was going to build it for him, but now I am rethinking it, depends on how hard you say it is for a first time builder.

Btw, I don't see anything wrong with your writting.
Dec 06, 2004, 12:15 PM
So far, I've learned that MM has foamies available I just went to their site and now I see that even before Magpie, foamies were out there. For some reason, I thought that MM was selling balsa kits only, that's why I didn't give much attention to the Magpie so far but wow, it sure is appealing to me! Price is really cheap too in my opinion. For around $200 (including International shipping) you get everything except Tx/Rx ? And a sport wing too? Good stuff!

Good luck with your project. I will definately read your build progress.

Dec 06, 2004, 03:15 PM
2 Mistakes Downwind
ToyBoy's Avatar
Thread OP
Thanks for the encouragement, guys. The next installment will be up soonish (today for sure). We might even get to the actual build.
Dec 06, 2004, 04:08 PM
Registered User
BEC's Avatar
Originally Posted by rubychild
So far, I've learned that MM has foamies available I just went to their site and now I see that even before Magpie, foamies were out there. For some reason, I thought that MM was selling balsa kits only, that's why I didn't give much attention to the Magpie so far but wow, it sure is appealing to me! Price is really cheap too in my opinion. For around $200 (including International shipping) you get everything except Tx/Rx ? And a sport wing too? Good stuff!

Good luck with your project. I will definately read your build progress.

The Magpie is the second MM "foamie" - the other is the "3D" plane called the Panic. There is also the SmoothE which has a foam wing with a balsa spar. The rest of the plane is wood. And, there is a foam wing option for the otherwise all-wood Switchback Sport and Dandy Sport (the same wing is used on both planes).

Even though the Magpie and Panic are foamies, there is some woodwork with MM's standard impeccable laser cutting involved (motor mounts, control horns, landing gear mount). Quick and simple.

BTW, ToyBoy, this is a great start!
Last edited by BEC; Dec 06, 2004 at 04:12 PM.
Dec 06, 2004, 05:12 PM
2 Mistakes Downwind
ToyBoy's Avatar
Thread OP
Tools and materials needed

Since this is my first build, I had to do some shopping. Here was my shopping list:

5 minute epoxy
30 minute epoxy

You don't need both of these; the builder's manual recommends only 5 minute. I decided to get 30 minute too, because it's stronger than 5 minute and I know I'm patient enough to wait for it to cure, at least sometimes. I will use the 5 minute for joins that I don't want to wait the extra time for. Epoxy is a two-part glue; the two parts are mixed immediately before use, causing the curing to begin. "5 minute" epoxy sets in 5 minutes but the join should not be handled for 15 minutes. Full strength is reached in 1 hour. "30 minute epoxy" sets in 30 minutes and can be handled in 2 hours. Full strength in 8 hours.

Thin CA glue
Foam-safe CA glue

Regular CA will eat EPS foam. The builder's manual does not mention a need for foam-safe CA, but I grabbed some anyway, just in case. CA stands for cyanoacrylate. It's the same as superglue, but known as CA in the modeling world. It comes in a variety of thicknesses. It sets very quickly and is lighter than epoxy, but not as strong.

3M77 spray adhesive - Recommended by the manual; used for applying wing tape.
Clear packaging tape - Can be used as the covering for the plane, but also comes in handy for various other things.
3M Extreme Application packaging tape - This tape contains fibers running both lengthwise and crosswise, making it very strong. The manual doesn't mention it but I decided to use it to reinforce the wing where the rubber bands will be applying pressure to it.

Hobby knife and #11 blades - As recommended by the manual.
A good pair of scissors - You need good scissors to make clean cuts in strapping tape and wing tape. I got an $8 pair from Home Depot. The blades are actual blades, not just two metal edges pressing together!

Wax paper - I stole it from my girlfriend's kitchen and promptly ran out. How dare she not have enough?!
Sand paper (220 and 320 grade) - For sanding the fuselage to shape.
Rougher sand paper (150 grade) - For sanding the strapping tape before gluing.
Sanding block
Dust mask - To avoid breathing in foam dust when sanding.
Breathing mask - To avoid breathing 3M77 (aerosol) and CA (fumes). These things won't kill you, but they certainly aren't good for you. There are several threads around discussing the ill-effects of long-term eposure to CA. I decided to avoid health problems from day one. This mask was about $28 at Home Depot. If you don't want to go that far, at least make sure your work area is well ventilated. Have a gentle fan blowing across your work area when using CA, and do your 3M77 work outside or in the garage with the door open.

Z-bend pliers - For making Z bends in push rods. You can do it with needle-nose pliers, but obviously the dedicated Z-bend pliers will be nice if you can afford them. ($20 from local hobby shop)
Heat gun - For shrinking wing tape - this is optional.

A couple of other things seen in the picture below: a metal ruler - always handy; and my trusty orange utility knife with spare blades. I've had this thing forever and it's one of the most useful tools I've ever owned. It's as sharp as a hobby knife but stronger and can be extended a few inches out of the handle when necessary. When the tip gets blunt, you just snap off a section of the blade. Above the scissors are white and purple rolls of wing tape, which I purchased from MM with the plane. Above the epoxy are some epoxy brushes, but you can use just about anything to apply epoxy, as long as it's disposable.

The fat cat is an optional builder's companion.

On to the build next, I promise!
Dec 06, 2004, 05:25 PM
Hope you don't plan on covering your wing with some white cat fur

Beautiful kitty!

Dec 06, 2004, 05:28 PM
Registered User
You are not even started and I already have questions.... You mention z-bend pliers. Are you going to use the MM control linkages made of heatshrink? Or DuBro EZ connects and a z-bend? Is the Extreme App tape going under the clear packing tape or over? (Good idea BTW) Any reason you'd use the heat gun versus an iron? Loking forward to the actual build.
Dec 06, 2004, 06:07 PM
2 Mistakes Downwind
ToyBoy's Avatar
Thread OP

For linkages I am going to do just as the manual says: two pieces of wire joined by heatshrink, with z-bends at each end.

I put the Extreme tape under the wing tape. The manual said to do the same but to just use wing tape (4 layers). I used 3 layers of Extreme - I think that will be enough.

The reason for the heat gun is again, just because Doug suggests this (as an option) in the manual. Being a clueless newbie I didn't even think of an iron. Can an iron be used on wing tape?
Dec 06, 2004, 07:34 PM
Yes, from what I hear the heat helps bond the tape to the wing better.
Dec 06, 2004, 07:39 PM
2 Mistakes Downwind
ToyBoy's Avatar
Thread OP
Originally Posted by W'rkncacnter
Yes, from what I hear the heat helps bond the tape to the wing better.
I might give that a try when I do the sport wing (I've already done the SF wing).
Dec 06, 2004, 07:54 PM
Originally Posted by ToyBoy

3M77 spray adhesive - Recommended by the manual; used for applying wing tape.
Very good build thread so far!

I would just like to caution everyone that 3M changed the formula of Super 77 over a year ago. The new 3M77 will melt styrofoam if you are not careful. Please read this thread in the foamies section for more details:

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