Why do you like building your own sailplanes? - RC Groups
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Dec 16, 2008, 12:07 PM
I need some building time in t
scaflock's Avatar

Why do you like building your own sailplanes?

In this age of instant gratification it seems that there are more and more sailplane pilots here that are getting into building their ships instead of buying them as ARF "kits". Why do you think this is?

For myself, I love the building process as much if not more than the flying. There's something about seeing what comes into the shop as a box of sticks leave it as a functioning sailplane. I've been building airplanes since I was in grade school back in the late 60s and working with wood just as long. Although I left the hobby for a number of years and just got back into it about a year and a half ago I still have zero interest in getting an ARF. Sure some of them are great looking and flying planes compared to what was available when I left the hobby, but they still hold no interest for me.

I'm also one of those that can't leave a good kit stock. Three out of the last four planes I have built have been modified in one way or another. The only stock one I've built since returning to the hobby has been a Gentle Lady that I built for my better half to learn to fly on. My newest Paragon has direct drive servos for the spoilers as well as a second fuselage with an outrunner power system. The old Two-Tee kit I had I added spoilers to and the Riser I added shears out to the tips as well as Horner style tips. My next plane is going to be a Marks' Models Windfree that I'll be making as a full house ship instead of strictly R/E and will have carbon spars. This kit has been in storage for almost twenty years now and I think it's time to get it into the air.

When building I also enjoy the alone time with the project. Just me and whichever plane I'm working on. It's a great way to forget all the hassles of work and just relax the mind and body. Flying to me is not as relaxing as I'm always worried that I'm going to hurt one of my creations. (Spell that CRUNCH). It's still a lot of fun though.

Although I've always been a kit builder rather than a scratch builder I'm thinking of giving designing and building my own design a shot here in the near future. I've got a design in mind for what could best be described as a "T" tailed Thermal Queen that I think would be interesting. (I've always liked the "T" tail designs for some reason)

So.... Why do you like to build and what would be you're "dream plane" to build?

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Dec 16, 2008, 12:18 PM
Say when.....
quigley257's Avatar
SATISFACTION!!! Nothing like rolling your own...

(a man of much balsa dust)
Dec 16, 2008, 12:26 PM
Kurt Zimmerman ≡LSF 4461≡
kzimmerm's Avatar
Hi Jeff;
I think that most who have been around this hobby for some time appreciates a good build. I've been building and flying for over 40 years. Performance of the planes I built years ago may not have been that great but it was "getting lost" into the building effort, and as you said, watching the box of wood turn into something that resembled a plane.

There are really good building projects out there. If you like scratch building then probably the best project is the Bubble Dancer. Another great build is the Miles sold by Barry Kennedy. The Miles is a classic woodie 2m RES that has great potential. The BD is built with modern composite materials but is a superior design.

If I had the room I'd like to dive into a BD build or an Dodgson Design Camaeo. Right now all I have enough room for is a 1.5m electric, which is a woodie and has been an interesting build. The kit is a German kit with no English instructions. I'm almost finished with it and hope to start covering it before the new year.

I'd be interested to see what others post here.

Happy Holidays..
Dec 16, 2008, 12:39 PM
Suspended Account
Originally Posted by scaflock

So.... Why do you like to build and what would be you're "dream plane" to build?

I have a love / hate relationship with building. I love it because especially in this day and age, I feel an immense sense of pride and accomplishment using my hands to create something beautiful (to me). When building, I use skills handed down by both my Father and Grandfather. So I suppose in a way, by building my own aircraft I'm keeping craftsmanship alive for another generation; Which of course is its own reward.

The hate part is that simply I become impatient and would just rather fly my new airplane sooner.

'Dream Plane?' To build my own full-scale RV-7.

Last edited by FrogChief; Dec 16, 2008 at 07:24 PM.
Dec 16, 2008, 01:21 PM
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rdwoebke's Avatar
I like to build planes. I have always built planes and it is kind of ingrained in me as the way I have to enjoy this hobby.

I think you could be seeing more folks build because of the internet. Finally the internet used for good! Folks see that it can be done and they have a very large support group, so they decide to build a plane.

Dec 16, 2008, 01:43 PM
Be an organ donor
I enjoy the build even though it may take me a while. Seeing something I put together basically from sticks is really rewarding. The other part to putting it together is, "when" it's "dismantled" because of dumb thumbs (like my Riser 100 recently), I know how it was put together in the first place.

Dec 16, 2008, 02:07 PM
I need some building time in t
scaflock's Avatar
The web may indeed be part of the reason there are more people building their planes again. Support is a wonderful thing to have when building up a project. The web is a great way to find help when you need it or to float an idea before actually giving it a try.

While I do like the looks of the Bubble Dancer, I've never used any of the composite building techniques. I've been interested in learning more about them but as of yet have been able to find someone that's close enough to my location to go and observe them first hand before venturing out on my own. It seems that some of the equipment required is a little pricey for experimentation on my own. Besides, I hate not having things work out right. I did experiment a little with cutting foam cores way back when, but never really did much with it. I've only built one foam core kit which was a Savage back when it first came out. I was never able to get the sheeting to stay down with the suggested tape they called for. Bagging was not around at that time. Since that time I've always stuck to building woody planes. Kind of a "go with what you know" thing I guess. My knowledge of glassing is limited to center reinforcement as called out in the plans. I'd love to learn how to do glass fuselages. One of these days.....

One thing that I am loving is the advances in the servos since I left the hobby. With so many new small servos out on the market, it opens up a lot of things that can be included in a design without have a "lead sled" when you're finished.

Dec 16, 2008, 02:07 PM
Hot Dawg Glider Pilot
schrederman's Avatar
I still enjoy building an old kit. However, I get the most out of drawing my ideas out and creating the model completely out of my head. There's nothing more gratifying than having someone comment that your model... YOUR model... "should be illegal!" Almost as gratifying is when others want to build your designs. The anticipation, that sometimes lasts for months, is a great part of this process, too. At 57, I still make "glider noises" in my garage... yeah, I may be crazy, but I ain't stupid... As fun as flying is watching it take shape and anticipating how it will perform.

Dec 16, 2008, 02:13 PM
Registered User
mtnmnstr's Avatar
I feel a sense of pride when I finish a plane and have it sitting on the bench. I have never built a plane to the instructions. I always tweek it a smidgen. When I assemble an ARF I have an empty feeling about the plane. When I see my kit plane fly it's special. When I see an ARF fly, it's just more clutter in the sky.

That's just me.
Dec 16, 2008, 02:20 PM
Kristian k's Avatar
I was tempted to build my own sailplane 2 months after I got a hobbyzone firebird... and so I did - it did not "fly" ("drop" being a more appropriate word here) well (I had a lot of missing experiences which I gained by now), so I started building a second one (looks promising : ) and I will definitely continue building when this one is going to be finished, why?

I love the time spent when building a plane, creating something and then seeing it work is simply much more rewarding than to put together an ARF and fly a plane someone else designed. I will definitely value the sailplane more than other ARFs when finished, and I like designing planes - you can include everything you want, desire and miss on other ships, it's also a good opportnity to be creative to experiment and to make something unique.

and what would my dream plane be? definitely an airplane of my own design which performs as good or better than the ones on market, one that would be one of a kind and simple with a V-tail : P
Dec 16, 2008, 02:41 PM
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rdwoebke's Avatar
Originally Posted by scaflock
While I do like the looks of the Bubble Dancer, I've never used any of the composite building techniques. I've been interested in learning more about them but as of yet have been able to find someone that's close enough to my location to go and observe them first hand before venturing out on my own. It seems that some of the equipment required is a little pricey for experimentation on my own.

Actually the BD is mostly wood. The most expensive part of it is probably the spars. The most difficult thing for the average builder to fabricate involves using a drill press.

An average person can build a BD, with a lot of work of course, if they just have a lot of space and a flat table. Big sheets of glass are handy to build over/use for weighting things down.

Here is a great overview of the build process:


And the wing construction in particular:


Wood pods can be built for the BD and the boom can be bought for about $36.

Dec 16, 2008, 03:55 PM
Registered User
T.D.'s Avatar
What Jack said and I would add that anyone can call up the store and order one of the numerous RTF gliders out there but when you fly something into the air out of your minds eye you have made something unique and new...you've added to the art as it were.

Nothing like that feeling of the first flight of a new and unique design, except perhaps using it to put a beating on the latest Euro Plastic.

(P.S., I think RTF and moulded gliders are a wonderful resource for the sailplane community in general and expecially for those who are unable to build kits or OD for whatever reason.)

Last edited by T.D.; Dec 16, 2008 at 04:34 PM.
Dec 16, 2008, 05:26 PM
neonbutterfly's Avatar
When your sailplane is a speck in the sky or joined by a red tail hawk in a thermal, knowing that you built that ship is superbly gratifying.....

Having your thermal buddies look at your new sailplane and ask "What ARF is that?" tickles me!!!!

But I think it's just spending time doing something that you're "Passionate" about.....i see so many folks just floating along....they have no real interests..

Me???......it's all about the next stick of balsa, epoxy, CA, carbon fiber, kevlar and fiberglass.....hanging our in your shop...tunes going...maybe a good cup of coffee or a glass of merlot...looking a some photos on your wall....when you had that 30 minute thermal flight....brings you right back to that moment!!

recently a friend of mine saw my shop in my basement for the first time and called it a "Man Cave"......and he hit the nail right on the head......somewhere where i can go and just work with my hands....no outside pressure or distractions.....

i agree with jack there is nothing like designing and then flying your "own stuff"...my flying buddy gene and i designed a 60" electric sailplane a couple of years ago and we had a ball.....

both in the design, testing and flying phases....and then telling someone ...."no that's not a kit....it's our "own stuff".......

i guess when the balsa dust gets in your blood you can't get it out!!! and this is after over 40 years building....

Dec 16, 2008, 05:35 PM
Registered User
Tim K's Avatar
I own a small business (cabinetmaker), so I spend about half my days covered in sawdust. Building cabinets or aircraft are about the same for me. I don't enjoy the process so much as I enjoy the sense of accomplishment when it's finished.

I have no problem with arf's, and have owned more than a few. I find it interesting that I'll sell an arf at a moments notice with zero regrets. If it's a plane I built up from a kit, I'll likely have a much stronger emotional attachment to it and keep it longer. I built an Oly II right out of college (late 80's) which was my first build as an adult of a real airplane (excludes U-control and rubber free flight). I still have that plane and will likely never part with it.
Dec 16, 2008, 05:58 PM
Registered User
Originally Posted by neonbutterfly
Having your thermal buddies look at your new sailplane and ask "What ARF is that?" tickles me!!!!
Yeah, I had some know it all comment on my BD that he'd read the review on that ARF but couldn't remember what it's name was. I didn't bother correcting him....

I don't particularly enjoy building per se' but I find I need to build what I want. The BD build was a construction challenge for me and I would never bring myself to ordering any parts I should have been able to fabricate myself. Ok, I didn't pulltrude my own pushrods but there's no Bill Smith pod with a Dodgey Bob tailboom and V-Mount and Joe Sixpack rib, spar and joiner set.......

I also tend to acculumate planes because unlike most I've met I tend not to break my planes, so I have plenty to fly in most weather conditions and if it takes a year to build another one it's neither here nor there.

However if I were competing in F3A again or IMAC or in gliding I wouldn't waste my time building, I'd buy what works and spend that time learning how to use it properly.

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