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Jan 10, 2006, 01:03 AM
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Build Log

Short Solent Built from Plans by Mostly Novice Guy

This bug has been circling my head for many moons now, and finally bit - I could no longer resist the alluring seaplane pictures over at IvansPlans, or those posted each year at the Chiliwack get-together (here's a sample), so I finally broke down and ordered me a set of plans for the Short Solent Mk IV. What a thing of beauty, if I can only manage to create it from balsa scraps and the meager inteligence of my pea-brain!

To state my qualifications:
- I have never built a plane from scratch or even just from plans
- I have never built or flown a sea-plane (or even a float plane for that matter)
- I have never built or flown a multi-engine plane
- I have hardly even flown many aileron planes

In other words, I should be immanently qualified for this delicate task. Seriously though, I have built plenty of balsa planes, they were just all from kits. No rib cutting and no stick-builds. I like Great Planes kits for example but I don't think they know what a stick is - I think their moto is "build a Sherman tank - see if it flies."

But if I can pull this off, my hope would be that other relative novices such as myself would be inspired by my heartwarming tale to take on for themselves similar challenges. I'd say it's well worth the effort, because if you want to fly the truly unique and interesting planes out there, tough-luck finding them in a nice kit.

This first post will have some stats that I'll update throughout the build, so they'll all be here for handy reference:

Scale: 1/16th
Designed By: Ivan Pettigrew
Wing: 82 inches span, 905 square inches area
Fuse: 65 inches
All Up Weight: 97 ounces (Ivan's prototype weighed in at 85 ounces)
Wing Loading: 15.5 oz./sq. ft. (compared to 13.5 oz./sq. ft. for Ivan's)

Radio setup: Four channels - rudder, elevator, ailerons and throttle. Three standard size servos as the ailerons are driven by only one servo. I'm using HiTec HS-422s.
Motors: Four GWS "F" series speed 400 motors with 3.9:1 gearbox, GWS 9x7 three-blade propellers - changed later to APC 9x6 Slo-Flyers, which work better (but don't look as nice)
Battery: 4S3P, 1500mAh Cellpro pack (~16 oz, 6A total capacity)
ESC: single Jeti 45A (JES 450)
BEC: Dimension Engineering Park BEC. EDIT: I scrapped the BEC due to interference and instead now use a receiver battery pack.

I've already given a link to a previous Chilliwack event where Ivan unveiled the prototype of this model. Also here's a link to a page that has some video from this same Chilliwack event. And here's another video from May 2007 of Ivan flying his 100 inch Solent. Finally, the only other RCGroups build thread of a plane from Ivan's plans, that I'm aware of, is Perry's build of the massive Martin Mars. [EDIT: this last sentence is no longer true; there are now many more - you can find a centralized list of all of them here]


12/30/2005 Building begins
5/5/2007 She floats!
5/26/2007 She flies! Flight writeup in post #722.
6/23/2007 More flying photos in post #889.
8/30/2007 Mid-air collision with Ivan! Posts #1027.
11/23/2008 Most recent flight. (She doesn't get flown much anymore, but is still in pristine condition)
12/17/2012 Sold the Solent to another enthusiast, who will hopefully give her more airtime.

Last edited by LukeZ; Dec 21, 2013 at 07:48 PM. Reason: Updates
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Jan 10, 2006, 01:24 AM
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So, how to get started?

First of all, I figured I best get me some wood. Lots o' wood. A mountain of balsa I calls it. Better have too much than too little. I ordered the Tower Hobbies brand from Tower Hobbies (duh), and bought it all in sheets.

Ok, I also bought a few bundles of sticks. Ivan himself recommended to me that I should buy the Master Airscrew balsa stripper and make all my own sticks from sheet stock. He said the pre-made sticks you buy are too soft. Well, I bought the balsa stripper but I also wanted to see what he was talking about. Let's just say I like to find out things myself.

Sure enough, the balsa sticks were trash. They were so soft the rubber band holding them together had nearly cut through them. Ivan was right, but now I had seen it with my own eyes, so I am a true believer. And you can be too, because I've posted a picture.

The Master Airscrew balsa stripper is great. It was only about 7 bucks and is a snap to use. Never having cut my own sticks I worried that doing it myself would take all weekend, when in fact it took less time than it does to add the piece of crap pre-cut sticks to your online shopping basket. So don't bother.

Last edited by LukeZ; Dec 21, 2013 at 07:17 PM.
Jan 10, 2006, 01:38 AM
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Almost Finished!

Actually I'm nowhere near finished but this kind of statement keeps me spirits high.

I started out with the fuse as it's just a bunch of sticks and how hard can that really be. For the first couple days all the wood I really needed was 3/16"x3/16" sticks for the longerons and upright braces, and 3/16"x1/8" pieces for the "angle" braces or whatever they're called - the supports that slant forward.

Jan 10, 2006, 01:43 AM
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My desk is large but my cork-building board is only four feet long, so the fuse sides had to be built in two phases each. I started off with the front half, from the nose to about former 8. From F8 backwards the fuse splits into an upper and lower half.

When completed the front half of one side I unpinned what I had, then built the opposite half. After that I scootched the plans over and added the rear portion to each half. Confused yet? Good... it's about to get a lot worse.

Last edited by LukeZ; Dec 21, 2013 at 07:17 PM. Reason: I'm a doofus at typing.
Jan 10, 2006, 01:44 AM
AMA 670207
Rudderman98's Avatar
I think you're doing fine. As long as you have the drive and determination to complete this project, you will come through unscathed.

Ivan's plans are not for a beginner scratchbuilder thats for sure. So you are definitely taking the long road on this one. No worries though. Just study the plans. Study, study, study. Ivan's plans take some getting used to. But once you get inside his genius mind, you'll know how it all falls together. Then it's fairly easy.

I also have this plan along with about 8 other plans from Ivan. Just no time right now to enjoy them. I do miss working with them. I'll get to them all someday.

You're right! That MA balsa stripper is a gem isn't it? Another good tool to have is a mini hand planer. Hobby Lobby sells one that is made in Germany by Solingen and it is superb. Definitely get this! The Great Planes electric hand planer is also very handy. Since you're scratchbuilding, you will have to invest in some good tools such as the ones I just descibed. It will make the project that much more enjoyable and hone your woodworking skills. Don't forget squares and straight edges. They are a must.

Have fun!

Jan 10, 2006, 01:52 AM
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Tragedy Strikes!!

At about this point, which I suspect was not much more than a couple hours into my herculean effort, a tragedy of the gravest nature befell me. Yea, it came time for the Shedding Of Blood.

This time-honored rite (yes, a time-honored rite can still be a tragedy) has never been avoided even by men stronger than I. At least I can say I got it out of the way early on.

Last edited by LukeZ; Jan 10, 2006 at 02:32 AM.
Jan 10, 2006, 02:02 AM
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After clamping both sides together like pancakes and sanding the outlines so they were precisely symmetrical, I began to join them together. Absolute symmetry from this point on is a goal I won't come close to obtaining, but I figured I'd at least get close at the beginning when it was easy.

Joining the two sides was really kind of tricky to get going, since the very first couple of cross beams couldn't really handle any kind of swaying of the side walls, and so were constanly breaking off. You can see I tried to prop them up with some clamps but it was pretty flimsy.

Once I got about half a dozen crosspieces attached though the structure became sturdy and it was smooth sailing.

Last edited by LukeZ; Dec 21, 2013 at 07:18 PM.
Jan 10, 2006, 02:16 AM
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Thanks for the encouragement! Your build thread was one of the things that motivated me to start this project, though I don't know if I'm up to level with your skill! I might have attempted the Mars itself but I'm pretty sure I'd have nowhere to fit it if I did. The Solent will be big enough.

I'm going to have to buy the hand planer you mentioned. I have the Master Airscrew razor plane but I find that it pretty much just rips whatever I'm trying to plane into shreds. Come to think of it that could be my inexperience. I just used it last night on this build and regretted it.

You're right that Ivan's plans take some studying. I have spent much time staring at them. At first it looked impossible and I thought vital information must surely be missing. But stare at it long enough and it began to make sense. It's all there, but it take a bit of extrapolation sometimes. It's not all spelled out, and I've had to do some thinking. However, I find that to be a very gratifying part of this build.

Last edited by LukeZ; Dec 21, 2013 at 07:18 PM.
Jan 10, 2006, 02:31 AM
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Next step in the build is to cut out some formers that will create the curved shape of the underside of the aft section of the fuse. Actually if you recall the aft section of the fuse splits into an upper and lower half. This curved section goes on the under-side of the upper-half. If this sounds confusing, it is. But that's what it says in Ivan's notes and I finally figured it out.

Since this involved more than just cutting sticks I had to make an evolutionary leap in thinking. I tried to figure out how to get the shapes on Ivan's plans onto my balsa sheet, without destroying the plans. This small thing was surely a baffle to me, having never seen it done.

The way I chose was to first buy some carbon paper and thin cardboard. For the carbon paper I first went to my local Staples store, but they wanted 14 buckazoids for a package of 25 sheets! Give me a break! But I drove another block down the road to Office Depot and found some nice carbon paper for only a few bucks.

After that it was easy. I traced the outlines of the shapes onto the thin cardboard using the carbon paper. Then I cut out the shapes, placed them over a sheet of balsa, and cut them out. Buying the carbon paper was the hardest part. Originally I was dreading doing all the ribs but now I see how easy it is I'm not concerned.

Last edited by LukeZ; Dec 21, 2013 at 07:18 PM.
Jan 10, 2006, 02:39 AM
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Ok, that's probably all of the adventures that I can fit into one evening. At present I'm a bit further down the line in my build but this almost brings you, dear reader, up to speed.

Working two jobs doesn't leave me much time, but this thing will get done and I intend to fly it at Chiliwack someday, either this spring or if I'm real slow then in the fall.

Until my next update, one last photo. Of course this picture is of the incredibly important "nose balance" test that all scratchbuilders are undoubtedly familiar with. (Ok, I was just goofing off. )

Jan 10, 2006, 03:30 AM
You made that out of trees?
Boomerang1's Avatar
Cannot remember who said 'bite off more than you can chew & chew like hell'. Keep at it & eventually you will have a Short Solent. Ivans models are big light & floaty like an old timer so they should be gentle flyers. I was told by non believers not to build 'impossible' models but they all flew so good luck to you. - John.
Jan 10, 2006, 03:57 AM
Single-task at best...
tim hooper's Avatar

What a superb start to a buildthread!

Sharp, informative pictures and an equally sharp, wry commentary. Good stuff!

Jan 10, 2006, 07:05 AM
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I'm building his twin Otter and what I did was take the plans to Office
Depot and have them make multiple copies of the sections that have
parts to cut out (formers, ribs, stap tips , etc), at >15 cents apiece
you can get plenty of copies. Then while your there , get a tube
of Post-it glue. Cut out the paper parts, stick to the wood, cut around
the paper, off with it and stick to the next part. works like a charm.
Jan 10, 2006, 07:51 AM
Ay up it's warped
mtbrider's Avatar
I would not mind seeing some of your kits if your first plan build is this nice! One to watch out for with the razor plane is the direction it is used in, if it digs into the balsa see if you can use it from the opposite direction. It usually works.
Jan 10, 2006, 09:45 AM
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Gordon's Avatar
Hi Luke

I've been looking forward to another thread about one of Ivan's models as I love his structural design, and following your build is going to be a treat. Take care not to bleed to death before you get her in the air


PS ... solarfilm irons get hot enough to burn you - just thought you might want advance notice

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