Vacu-forming Vexations

I framed up the Judy in “record time” – about three days from sticks to frame.  Since then, time has been dragging on that model.  I’ve been trying to figure out how to color it, how to make the canopy, and how to make the spinner.

I am probably just going to go with green and white tissue for the colors – differences in shading is about the only difference  between the Esaki Green and White and WWII Japanese Green and Gray.  Here is an example of what I mean; just basic green and white:

Full-size Yokosuka D4Y in Japan. (Is that a full-scale motor peg location???)

Before I start covering, I have to figure just what is and isn’t going to be covered in the canopy area.  That means making the canopy.  In the short kit, I will be providing templates for the canopy cross section at the major stations.  I used those to create not one, but three canopy sections.

I did this for two reasons:  I wanted to show the canopy somewhat like the original: 1) it is in sections that slide fore and aft over each other and, 2) it will fit in my vacu-former.

I’ve never been much of a vacu-forming modeler.  To me, it is a lot of work to create a blank, make it presentable, and then pull a canopy.  For me, the process sucks – pun intended.

I was looking around my shop the other day and noted that I have misplaced the canopy for my 24″ Comper Swift (yes, I am modeling a version with a canopy).  That one had caused me much grief because the plug looked good, but when I pulled it, the plastic looked terrible. I tried to fix it, smoothing the plug with CA, with clear paint, and such, only to have those either stick to the plastic and pull away or de-gas and cause bubbling in the plastic.  I had done three or four to get the “good enough” version and now it was missing.  I can’t understand where it might have gone, but others might understand if they saw the terribly messy condition of my workbench.

the now-missing “good enough” canopy

So, now I had four canopies to pull.  What a fun time for me.  And right I was!  It took me the majority of my free time yesterday to get four pieces that are “good enough”, although now “good enough” is a factor better than it was.

I had to pull FIVE Comper canopies before I fixed all my issues.  Firstly, you have to know that I tried to simplify my process about a year ago.  I had been using one of Chris Boehm’s vacu-formers and that worked satisfactorily, except that I had to set up a vacuum, tape the box to my counter next to my stove and heat the plastic over a gas range – all a little bit work-intensive and fiddly.  So I decided to buy a Chinese dental vacu-former after reading some mailgroup comments about one by Dave Gee (of Black Sheep Squadron and AMA Model Aviation fame).  For about $80+, I got a compact all-in-one setup that has about a 4.5″ square working area – Simple.

Except…the vacuum will pull your teeth out (again – pun intended).  The heater works well, and the mechanism works well and it will pull that plastic (when heated sufficiently) right down so tightly that a) it is hard to get the plastic off the plug and b) the plastic shows every dimple and open grain and whatever defect and c) the combo of the hot plastic and the tight pull adheres to anything on the surface – balsa dust, or filling material, or whatever.

they look good, right?

So my pulls yesterday were failures.  I spent much of the day finely sanding and filling the Comper plug again and again.  I started trying release agents, but I was fearful of the gassing I had experienced before.  I went with a light oil on the surface (fail); I went with candle wax on the surface (fail).  I finally decided to use the obvious – the Dow 33 industrial grease I use for rubber lube.  I put it on rather generously and pulled – and discovered that I left too much grease on.  I wiped the plug down, leaving it slippery but not overly greasy – SUCCESS!

the set from the above photo in the front and the rear set is the good set.  Notice the grain pattern and all the dust in the front set – bad, bad, bad.

So, now I am on my way again.  Now I am venturing into another area – canopy frames.  I am using something new to me:  Transfer Tape.  This is a ultra-thin double-sided tape; about 0.002″ thick.  I stick one side on the back of tissue, and then use a sharp x-acto blade to cut narrow strips, peel the back off the tape and stick it to the canopy.  I know Paul Boyanowski has used this stuff and I know Winn Moore has and I asked Winn what I needed.  I am using 3M ATG 924 tape.  Here’s how that is proceeding.

starting to look good!

Did you know that some AMA/NFFS/Duration-type Free Flighters says that us FAC-Scale modelers are nuts?  They might have a point – scale details take time (and might cause mental-stability issues!)

P.S. No, I will not be providing canopies for the Judy!


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Calculating Safe Torque

If you are winding to torque, or considering winding to torque, you should know how far you can push your rubber motor.  Don DeLoach has long been an advocate of winding to torque, even going as far as not to even count turns.  The best indoor flyers also wind to torque.  I created a Web-based Calculator; find the link below, after reading more background.

Awhile back, Don wrote an article for the FAC News where he pulled back the curtain and let us all see what “tricks” he uses.  In that article, he included a table of torque values that he had created from his observations.  The smart modeler who wants to wind to torque would be well-advised to copy that table and keep it in your field notebook.

I decided to create another Web Tool Calculator – I call this one “SafeTorque Calc” to calculate the safe level of torque for any motor based on the rubber width and number of strands.  It uses Don’s data as the basis for calculation.  Don’s table showed Max (breaking) torque, 85% torque, 75% torque.  I am using the 75% values to generate the calculator.   It will even calculate the safe torque of a motor made up of loops of two different widths.

You can find the Calculator in the menu at the top of the page, or in the list at the right of the page (or just click HERE).  Please read the notes at the bottom of that page.

You can find Don’s article in the PFFT Archive under How-Tos at the top of the page or just click HERE.


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Yokosuka D4Y “Judy” Progress

The Flying Aces Club WWII Combat event is one that I like to participate in, but I am rarely competitive (except maybe at the local level).  This is certainly due to the fact that I have almost never built a combat plane in a size larger than Peanut.

When searching for subjects, I look at proportions – and the engine.  I dislike radial engines; they are hard to model and lead to short-nosed planes.  I much prefer “inline” engines, or the water-cooled V-style engines.  The Yokosuka D4Y Has great proportions and a beautifully smooth nose.  There is an old plan out there from the early 90s by Dave Smith for the Judy.  I was able to contact Dave and he agreed to let me kit his plan.

I started working on converting his pencil-drawn plan to a digital CAD plan and it takes a long time.  Every former is different and the nose scoop gave me nightmares.  I estimate that I have roughly 200 hours in the drawing alone.  But about two weeks ago, I cut the first prototype kit and sent it off to Dave.  A few days ago, I started building my own prototype.

I must say, this is going quite well.  I found a couple formers that need to be redrawn to fit the fuselage lines better, and I found the tip rib needed to be 1/16″ longer.  Other than that, this is turning into a beautiful model.  I am now at the point where all the “fast” building ends and the slow detail work begins.

All of the basic structure is 1/16″ square.  Dave’s original plan called for 1/20″ square, but I increased this for ease of construction.  This bare frame is just under 15 grams right now.   The 18″ span wing has about 57 square inches of area, so if I can keep the finished weight under 30 grams, this might be a floater.  That might not be possible, but we can hope!

It is my plan to have this short kit available this spring; in a month or two (as soon as this one flies!)

Here are some photos:

Starting the fuselage

5 hours later, the basic fuselage is complete

Nose Detail

all structure built and assembled

Starting to complete the plan details

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Another Proof of Concept

Here is another test I did today.  I’ve been wondering how to build these wheel pants for the Baby Cyclone Peanut Goodyear Racer that I want to have ready for spring.  Somehow, I had a flash of inspiration this afternoon and cut out the parts and slapped this together.  I think this will work.

The covering in the last image is bond paper.  The total weight of the assembly as shown (with full sized pin) is 0.8 grams.

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Peanut Turbo Goose Build

I have pretty much finished my latest build – a Grumman/McKinnin Turbo Goose in Peanut Scale.  I built this for myself, not for production.  I have been kicking this one around for about 15 years.  I actually started a fuselage back in about 2002, but then set it aside.

It is 11.6g right now, but is missing the rear motor peg and it will probably need some tail weight.  Still, I think that is a good weight.

I am going to try 0.050″ motors to start with.  I did a build write-up on Hip Pocket, if you want to take a look over there for some narrative.  Here is a gallery with all my build photos:

Peanut – Turbo Goose


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January New Product and Product Updates

It’s been awhile since I posted; about 3 weeks and it seems like forever.  We (the family) went to Costa Rica for a week and I am still trying to catch up on backorders and get back into the swing of operating this business.

A new product that we have just put into Production is a a direct copy of the famous Spring Winder developed by Kevork Fags years ago.  Don DeLoach was generous enough to provide his original to me so that we could copy it and make this wonderful tool available once again to all modelers.   To be clear, with this tool, you can wind springs (for DTs) in about 2 minutes.

It comes complete with a four-page, fully illustrated instruction manual for $35.

(springs not included)

Product Updates:


Finally, I am happy to announce that Gizmo Geezer has overcome his injection mold issues and I have a new supply of Gizmo Geezer Nose Buttons!  Order away – even more are on the way.


While I was away, I received a shipment of CZECH props – they are back in stock.


We brought back three new products to add to our coffee line.  You can get it from my site or go to the boys’ coffee web site:


I have an order in with Ikara for the gray 6″ outdoor props, an assortment of indoor props, and DT buttons.  They have assured me the order will be filled…sometime.


I have taken the extreme measure of disabling the purchase of Esaki Tissue on my web site.  Believe me, this is a problem for my business – I have sold literally thousands and thousands of sheets of Esaki.  Here’s the story:

Esaki has always been problematic to purchase for a variety of reasons.  Sometime in the last year, rumor has it (reported to me by a modeler in Japan) that the company experienced an online attack or hack of its website.  As a result, they took down the web site to protect themselves – and they closed their email accounts.

That makes it extremely difficult to order tissue for the US when you don’t speak Japanese.  Since I have made it through my busy time of the holidays and the vacation, I will now expend efforts to contact the company by other means to attempt to procure their tissue again.  In the mean time, rather than eliminating some colors from my store and inciting panic on the other colors, I have turned it all off for the time being.  Understand that I DO HAVE several hundred sheets of most colors, but some are down to less than 200.

Also, I have started to investigate Chinese sources.  Last fall, I ordered a sample from a paper manufacturer in China.  I received 13 gram-per-square-meter (comparable to Esaki) samples in a variety of wonderful colors.  This was equivalent to Esaki in appearance (a smooth polished side and a dull side) and grain (it has grain direction similar to Esaki), but did not have the wet strength that we have come to enjoy.  It wasn’t “bad” just not “good” – I believe it was better than most drug store tissue papers.  I can get all I want at a very reasonable price, but I want to exhaust all possibilities of continuing with Esaki before I order the Chinese tissue.

Here is a wing I covered with the Chinese tissue.  These are two of the sample colors I was sent with nothing added to them.  I covered one side of the wing (top and bottom) with dry tissue and the other side with misted/damp tissue.  It turned out pretty good.

I only mention the Chinese tissue to help keep the level of panic low – there ARE alternatives to Esaki.  In fact, if any of you have any information on lightweight tissue that has wet strength like Esaki, please let me know.

More to come…


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Customer Photos!

I little bit ago, I asked for customers to share photos of their builds from Volare Products and I have received a couple of photos!  Here they are.

David Krammes from Pennsylvania sent these beautiful photos of three of his Volare Products models:

  Jimmie Allen Special

Chambermaid Dimer

Stout 2-AT

Also, occasionally I send out prototype kits to build and test for future Production.  I sent out two kits for the Flying Aces Moth in the last half of the year.  To date, these models have not yet been flown, but they have been built!  One from John Jackson in Michigan and the other from Roy Courtney in North Carolina.  Once these prove themselves by flying, the short kit will be available for sale.

Thanks to these three for sending in photos.  I look forward to seeing and sharing other photos.

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New Product for 2017 – Blatter 40 Short Kit 2-Pack

For years, the Cloudbusters Club has had an annual trophy for the best performance over the indoor season for a Blatter 40 model.  Since I never got to go to the indoor events, I didn’t pay much attention.  In 2016, two things happened that changed that: 1) I retired and could devote more time to travel, and 2) the indoor venue changed from a TINY gym to an indoor soccer arena – now I can go to the indoor events.

The Blatter 40 is a very simple 40-square-inch ROG Stick model designed about 50 years ago by Cloudbuster Al Blatter.  The club rules are that it must be built to plan, use a Sleek Streek-type prop assembly (unmodified) and the best 3 out of 4 flights are counted.

After my first indoor contest, I asked Mike Welshans for the history and accurate plan for the model.  Mike provided both.  Through discussions, I decided to publicly provide the plan (here), create a short kit (here) and give one short kit to each Cloudbuster Indoor Contestant (you must attend the monthly meets, at least once).

While designing the short kit, it became apparent that there just weren’t very many parts to this little plane and I decided to double up the parts AND include the “regulation” propeller assembly.  So, each kit will contain the plans (enhanced with history and construction notes – different than the above), one sheet of laser-cut parts, and TWO propeller assemblies – enough for TWO models.  All that for a mere $10 plus shipping!


This plane is very simple and just about anyone could get this to fly 2 minutes (use a loop of 1/16″ rubber).  Mine did 2:25 on its first day out!  It would be great for other clubs as a one-design event – or – use this for teaching kids how to build and fly, like the Foo Fighters club is doing in Virginia (I sent them a sample to see how their kids would do):



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Leaving 2016 and Heading Into 2017

Wow, another year gone by.  I tell you what – there were so many times in 2016 that I was on the flying field and just felt tremendous joy and appreciation for the time that was that moment.  2016 was one of my best years of flying – not because of wins (I did that some) and not because of the business – but just because I was doing what I enjoy and doing it with friends that enjoy the same thing.  We braved the gales of the 2016 FAC Nats and we flew in the perfect days in September when Jack Moses was smilin’ down on us and we enjoyed all of the times in between.

I spent 35 years working for The Man and adopted the mantra “work to live, not live to work”.  I was able to cut loose from that in July and I now spend my days working my business and working my hobby and as I told my brother this week “the lines between the two are very gray and blurry”.  But I also still retain that mantra and my business is what allows me to pursue my hobby and allows me to share it all with all of you.

I try to keep my prices reasonable – even “cheap” in some cases.  The items I buy and resell are offered in my shop at the going rate, or even below, in some cases.  My short kits are one of those items that are “cheap” – yes, I make a profit on them, if you only consider the cost of raw materials.  People might not realize all of the development and engineering that goes into these products; probably somewhere between 40 and 100 hours per plan (probably more).  The hardware items – well, now you’ve got two people working on them – me and my dad – our labor is free.  Just consider that next time you pick up something from a hobby manufacturer and wonder if it is over-priced.   No one is going to get rich selling Free Flight supplies and no free-flighter could afford to pay the “real” costs.

So, what did the business do in 2016?  Well, I was surprised when I just did a tally – 16 short kits, two new hardware products, and one back in production.  Here are the kits:  Old Timers:  Pacific Ace jr, King Harry, the Shaft, the Wanderer, Peanut:  Found Centennial, Dime Scale:  Kokusai Ta-Go, Martin MO-1, Scale:  Elmendorf Special, Vega Starliner, NoCal: Fairey Barracuda, Turbo Cessna 195, Jet Cat:  U2, T-37 Tweet, Pep Reproductions:  P-47, Sturmovik, PBY.  The hardware: Torque Meters for the Morrill Sidewinder and the Rees Scale Winder – and we have the Scale Winder back in production.  That’s a lot of stuff!

First up for 2017:  I bought a replacement tube for the laser cutter – I’ve been having growing issues cutting, especially plywood.  It was delivered this week.  I systematically studied how to replace it and then moved the cutter and started disassembly.  When I got the tube out, I took a look at the business end of the old tube (see the photo below).  On the left, is the “before” and the right is the “after” – I found that there was residue on the tube (this is where the laser beam comes out).  I assume that since the tube sits in the smoky environment, some of this smoke gets very close to this business end of the tube and gets burnt on to that surface.  I cleaned it and re-installed the old tube.  The cut is nearly how it was when brand new.  I put the brand new tube on the shelf for later – they do go bad, but my old one still has life left in it.  Maybe what I really need is a better exhaust system.


Here are the kits that I am currently working on for 2017:

95% ready to go:

  • the Blatter 40, an indoor ROG stick that flies GREAT.  Anyone should be able to get 2 minutes out of this.
  • the Flying Aces Moth.  I sent out two prototype kits and am awaiting flight results.  I know that one is ready to fly, but I don’t know if it has, yet.  I know that both builders have reported that it goes together very well.
  • F4 Phantom II Jet Cat.  I am finishing up the wood layout on this.  I should have had this in production already, but I’ve been dragging my feet on other things.

In Process:

  • Dave Smith’s Yokosuka Judy.  An 18″ span WWII Combat ship with a great reputation.  I’ve got to finish parts design (there are lots of parts in the nose!), cut parts, (send Dave a kit), and build it.
  • Baby Cyclone“.  This is for the Flying Aces Club Goodyear Races.  I selected this plane because of the huge wing area and fuselage length.  This will be similar in size to an Embryo, but still be a 13” Peanut.  The drawing is nearly complete, parts need to be finalized and cut, and the model needs to be built.
  • Cessna C-34.  At 24″ span, I want this to be a “Mr Mulligan killer” (the secret is out).  I have all the documentation necessary to qualify this for the Thompson Races in teh Flying Aces Club.  This one has a square fuselage, no wing or tail struts, no wires, no wheel pants.  I’m not a fan of radial engines, so I’m trying to do good engineering on the nose pieces – I want it to look good, but not be too heavy.
  • Comet Pepper.  This is a sister-model to the popular Comet Sparky.  I read the build write-up from “flyguy” on Hip Pocket and then watched his flights in the middle of NYC.  I was hooked watching that thing go up!  I found the plan, and traced/redrew it.  The plan is ready to go, I have to finish the parts layout and then cut it out and build it.  This should be a great plane for Old Time Fuselage (Cabin).
  • PEP Gliders.  These aren’t super popular, but I’ve collected almost all of the original wood pieces.  There are a total of 20 models of WWII aircraft and I have all but the Spitfire and the Vultee Vanguard.  The Spitfire can be purchased on occasion (I’m cheap), but I have never seen the Vanguard.  Does anyone have one that can be scanned?  I plan of making these as I can.


  • per the suggestion of George White, we have a set of prop shaft bending jigs about ready to go.  They really are ready, I just need to finalize instructions and marketing stuff.
  • thanks to Don DeLoach (providing a sample), we are now reproducing a batch of the K.Fags Spring Winder.  These should be ready in a month or so.

Anyway, 2016 was great for me, and the business is doing fine.  I plan on more and more short kits, because that’s what I do.  I hope to see you at the flying field; if you’re there when I am, please stop by and say hi.  I don’t remember all my customers by name, but I certainly like to talk Free Flight.  If you can’t make it to the flying field, send me some photos of your Volare Products builds, I love to see those!



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a COMPETITIVE Indoor NoCal Short Kit – Turbo Cessna 195

Here is a new Short Kit that I’ve been working on.  Doing a google search, I found this one-off example of a Cessna 195 that had the radial replaced by a Garrett turboprop engine and the rounded wing tip clipped.  Of course, the 195 is a high wing and has no struts at all.  So, this created a NoCal that has 56 square inches and a 16″ long fuselage.  What great specs for NoCal!

full scale Turbo Cessna 195 – used for skydiving in Brazil

I had been studying indoor guru, Don Slusarczyk’s “Indoor NoCals” page (long off the web, but soon to be hosted here again).  I worked with Don to integrate his practices into this kit – we feel that everyone can build this plane with “hobby shop” wood.  That is, go to your local store that stocks balsa and find yourself some 1/16″ x 3″ x 36″ sheet wood that weighs about 11 grams or less – this will be about 6-pound wood, and that is what Don recommends.

My build at 6 grams. This fat bladed prop has been replaced with a narrower prop blanks in the kit.

My model weighs 6 grams without rubber and Don’s weighs in at 5 grams.  The Short Kit will be laser-cut from this type of wood – nothing greater than 12 grams a sheet or about 6.7-pound wood.  I am even including laser-cut prop blanks from 1/32″ sheet and instructions on how to create an indoor prop that will properly fly this plane.

In addition, I have created two tissue print files – one if you have a wide format printer (11″x17″) and one if you only have a normal printer (8.5″x11″).  They can be found here with all of my other free tissue print files: Note, all full scale photos show a white wing and red horizontal tail, so only the fuselage profile is included in the print file.

Don’s 5 gram version – built to plan with provided kit wood

Don is writing up his build of his model and posting it in segments on Hip Pocket Aeronautics.  You can find the article here:

We believe that, if you are a modeler that builds small stick and tissue, you can build this kit and have yourself a very competitive Indoor NoCal.  You can find the $10 short kit here:  (note, I will start shipping these after the New Year).

Here are three videos that show how this model flies.  The first is my prototype, not yet fully trimmed and the other two are Don’s as he has progressed in his testing:

Many thanks to Don for his assistance and advice in this process and for building and proving the second prototype.


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