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DTs – Dethermalizers – Mysterious? – Complicated! – are you READY?

Dethermalizers – the Next Big Step in your Free Flight Evolution.  Beginners often ask a lot of questions, especially on the field while watching.  One that I often answer in the negative is “do I need a DT?” – or – “what stuff do I need for a DT?”  What I tell beginners is “until you start building, trimming, and flying well enough that your models are repeatedly flying away, you do NOT need to complicate your modeling with DTs.  Come back when you are having models fly away and I’ll help you out.”

Why do I say this?  Because the beginner needs to learn to build, trim, and fly.  There is no sense in putting a DT on a model that isn’t trimmed to fly for more than 30 seconds.  Those three initial skills need to be developed to the point that the model is capable of flying OOS before the modeler needs to worry about how to install and operate a DT.  Until that time, it is an unnecessary complication.  I flew for a couple of decades before I started installing DTs.  And since then, I’ve put on plenty of DTs that don’t get much action (because the plane isn’t up to snuff, yet).

So, bunkie, you lost your plane?  You’ve lost several?  Then you need the Salvation of Free Flight – the DETHERMALIZER!  (No, not the Korda Dethermalizer OT Cabin – Class D 1941 Nats Winner – WITH a DT!)  A properly working (hopefully #1) DT will disturb the balance of your perfectly soaring model and it will no longer be able to soar efficiently and it will be kicked out of the thermal and descend to the ground (hopefully #2) and save your model (hopefully #3).

Hopefully #1 – DT’s, regardless of their type (see below), can malfunction.  During the construction of your model and installation of the DT, you will want to ensure that the operation of the timer and of the release are smooth and glitch-free.

Hopefully #2 – Sometimes, properly functioning DTs are overcome by the strength of the thermal and they sail off Out-Of-Sight, regardless of how smooth and perfect the operation.  A different style of DT action (see below) might have saved the model.  Also, “where” the model comes down may prohibit retrieval – maybe it is stuck high in a tree, or in the middle of a lake, of somewhere else where you cannot find it.

Hopefully #3 – sometimes the model will descend to the ground, but because of the type of DT action or some freak occurrence (tangled lines, etc.), the model will suffer damage when it hits the ground – or whatever it hits.

Dethermalizers have been around since the late ’30s or early ’40s.  As mentioned above, Dick Korda named a model he designed “Dethermalizer”, possibly because he integrated a DT into the design.  This article won’t be so much of a How-To, but more of a discussion the types of Actuators and the types of Actions.  All of the DTs that I know of have an Actuator that control when and how the DT Action takes place.  And the model design incorporates a method of Action.


Actuators are the things that count down the time and trigger the Action.  Count down the time?  Yes – you want the DT to operate after a set time and not before.  This time will be determined by YOU, the Builder and Flyer.  Most of the time, I set my TIME based on the maximum official flight time (most often – 2 minutes).  Sometimes, I will set the time shorter and this decision is based on the field conditions – maybe it is a small field, or a particularly windy day and 2 minutes will carry the model off the field.

Regardless, all types of Actuators are basically switches that, after an assigned time, the “switch” is activated and the Action is initiated.  I will now discuss the various types of mechanisms that we most often see on the flying field (I won’t be discussing the antique Austin timers, although they still work).  Here are the types I will be discussing:  Burning Fuse, Mechanical/Clock, Viscous/Button, Electronic.


This is one of the simplest and possibly most reliable DTs that we have.  It is basically a short piece of cotton cording that has been impregnated with a chemical that burns easily.  This fuse is lit with some sort of lighter (my favorite is an electronic, rechargeable, arcing-plasma lighter).  The fuse fits snugly into an aluminum tubing with a short length extended.  Generally a small rubber band is lightly wrapped around the fuse close to the tubing and as the fuse smoulders and burns down, it will contact the rubber band and melt or burn it and the release of the rubber band triggers the Action.  The snug installation into the aluminum tubing will extinguish the burning fuse.

a Burning Fuse installed on the tail of an Embryo model. The length of fuse from the exposed end to the small rubber band regulates the amount of time before the Action is triggered.

The SWITCH:  burning through a rubber band that is preventing the ACTION

Benefits of the Fuse Type:
– cheap
– installation is generally simple
– it is relatively light weight
– it is generally very reliable

Downsides of the Fuse Type:
– they are dependent on an igniter – a lighter of some sort – and electronic ones need to be charged.
– setting exact time is a guessing game as the rate of burn can vary with conditions
– if the fuse is damp or the day is rainy, the fuse may not light or stay lit
– a poor start of the burn can extinguish and result in no DT
– FIRE – these use live fire and they can start fires
– some modelers have burnt their models while lighting the fuse
– if the model lands before the desired time, the fuse/fire could light the grass on fire
– as a fire hazard, this type is PROHIBITED in some locations

Overall, these work well.  If the fuse is lit properly, it WILL burn down at a regular rate and it will self-extinguish.  Just make sure your rubber band is tight against the fuse and your Action is positive and you will have a light-weight, reliable Actuator.


These are called “Clock” types because of the way they work:  you wind a spring and it unwinds; just like an old-fashioned clock or watch.  There are commercial versions or you can make your own.  Being “clocks”, they have a very reliable countdown.  The spring is regulated somehow to slow the unwinding of the spring.  There are some very complicated multi-function Clock Timers.  These are used to manage several aspects of the model’s performance:  engine shut-off, variable incidence tails, DT action.  The ones shown here are simple, single-function timers.

Mechanical/Clock DTs. In the back are examples of a Commercially-produced single-function Mechanical DT. In the front is a home-made one. The arms with weights are added to regulate the rate at which the spring unwinds.

The SWITCH: usually the unwinding and release of a line that is preventing the ACTION

Benefits of the Mechanical/Clock Type
– these are very reliable – they count down at a constant rate.

Downsides of the Mechanical/Clock Type
– they are often too heavy for small models
– commercial versions are becoming very hard to find
– homemade versions take a little bit of experimentation to get them to work right
– homemade version require a wind-up toy – not all wind-up toys have the right clock
– they can get dirt in them
– I have had them “not work” but that is probably lack of skill in construction or setting


Sometimes these re referred to as “Button” timers – Bob Munson perfected the viscous timer and had a Button (small) and a Badge (larger) version.  Homemade versions usually are made from rotary dampers that are found in various automotive applications:  slow opening compartment doors, etc are regulated by viscous rotary dampers.  All of these work in the same manner:  they have a chamber with an oil or compound.  In that compound is a “paddle” that is commented to a rotating shaft.  The fluid or goo resists the rotation of the shaft and this is usually at a fairly constant rate.

Munson Button and Badge Viscous Timers.

a homemade Viscous DT Kit that used a commercial rotary damper


There is another homemade viscous type that is made with aluminum tubing and Silly Putty.  These can be made with a little work.  You can find instructions HERE (PDF in the FAC Library).  There is an early version where a “trench” in the glider fuselage was filled with Silly Putty and a wire dragged through it.  I cannot find a link to that right now.  There are several how-to’s online regarding the tube/Putty versions.

The SWITCH: usually the unwinding and release of a line that is preventing the ACTION

Benefits to the Viscous/Button Type
– they are lightweight
– the original Munson timers were very reliable (current version, not so much)
– homemade versions are cheap to make and material is available

Downsides to the Viscous/Button Type
– some are temperature-sensitive
– all are dependent on a constant rate-of-pull (rubber band, spring, etc.)
– pull sources do not always have a constant rate of pull.


Some electronic gurus have been able to produce electronic countdown timers that are light weight and programmable.  The results are a relatively light appliance that is very reliable and very accurate – to 10 seconds; some are to the single second.  There are now various products, some with multi-function, some are band burners, some trigger micro servos, and some with battery chargers built in.

one type of commercially available Electronic DT

The SWITCH: burning a rubber band or activating a servo that is preventing the ACTION

Benefits to the Electronic Type
– very reliable and very accurate
– relatively light weight
– installed properly, they can be swappable between models.

Downsides to the Viscous/Button Type
– some are very expensive
– all require programming that can be complicated
– all require on-board micro-batteries that need charging
– the batteries are so small (capacity) special chargers should be used
– charging on the field requires a power supply
– band burners may break the thin ni-chrome wire
– band burners require light rubber bands that WILL burn with the short hot pulse

All of the types listed above do one thing:  they provide a predictable delay from the start to the time the “switch” initiates the ACTION.

Types of ACTIONS

The ACTION is what takes place once the “switch” is thrown.  These Actions can take place on the Tail, or on the Wing, or Other locations.


Probably the most common is the Tail DT where the horizontal stab is hinged.  Typically a fine line is run from the tail, along the side of the fuselage, to be connected to the DT.  When the DT activates, the line is released and the tail, hinged at the front (usually), pops up (due to spring loading or a rubber band pulling) to about 45 degrees – like up elevator to an extreme.  This will cause a nose-up condition in flight that balances out and the model sinks slowly and flatly to the ground.

The Tail-type is probably the easiest to install and operate, although there has to be enough tension in the line to keep the tail in flying position and not allow it to creep into even a degree of “up” where none was intended.  Also, Tail-types “can” still be carried away by a strong thermal, even after the DT Action takes place.  It is not common, but can happen.

Some models, because of the design where the tail intersects the fuselage, will require a two-piece split horizontal tail pivoting on a rod/tube combination.  These are more complicated installations, but Scale models often require this if the Tail Type is chosen.

the previously-shown Fuse-type DT and the Horizontal Stab popped up.

a Scale model with at Split Horizontal in DT’d position.


Some models – and modelers – prefer a Wing DT.  There are two types here, too:  a Pop-Off Wing and a Pivoting Wing.

A Pop-Off Wing DT does just what it says:  once the Action takes place, the wing becomes detached from the model and all aerodynamic function is lost.  The plane falls to the ground – sometimes very rapidly (possibly damaging the model).  The wing is typically attached to the fuselage by a long string and, if done right, can act like a maple leaf and slow the descent.

Another type is the Pivoting Wing DT.  Similar to the Tail DT, the wing is hinged at the Trailing Edge.  Again, the desired angle is about 45 degrees.  This causes the same disruption as the Tail DT, but instead of a flat descent, the descent is nose-down and generally faster.  Again, this can result in damage to the model.

The legendary Jack McGillvray had a Fairey Barracuda that pivoted the wings at the high point.  You can watch the video HERE thanks to Tom Hallman.

hard to see, but there is a Burning Fuse DT in the middle of the wing. The Fuse burns the rubber band and the wing pops off. The tip of the wing is attached to the tail of the fuselage by a fishing line.

hard to see, but this is a Wing DT that pivots at the Trailing Edge.


There are other less-common Actions.  In Hand Launch Gliders, some would use a section of pop can on the fuselage.  It laid flat while under normal flight, but the Action would release it and the natural curl of the aluminum can would disrupt the airflow around the fuselage and spin the glider down.

Other gliders use a more modern DT where the fuselage pivots just behind the wing. This is a very positive Action.

Returning to the ’40s, Chet Lanzo created a model where the wing went through the cabin and the upper part of the cabin was hinged at the rear and popped up, causing a disruption in the glide.


This is not meant to be THE definitive paper on DTs.  I am just sharing common types of Actuators and Actions for the person just starting into DTs.  It will give them things to consider.  I am sure that my lists of Actuators, Actions, Benefits, and Downsides are incomplete – you may have pages to add, but this is what I came up with this afternoon.  And lastly, how you route the lines and adjust for travel and such is clearly not included in this writing.

Of course, one should always research the subject.  There are tons of articles on DTs in the FAC Library.

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Props, Storms, and Flying

We had storms roll through Volare Acres this week – Brainstorms!  We had rain, too, but coming out of the Indoor Fling last weekend, I was inspired to try several things.


First thing, though, I’m going to talk about flying buddy, Archie Adamisin.  Archie is a third generation modeler as his grandfather and father and uncles were (and are!) modelers in the Detroit area.  Archie now lives in Kentucky, but has participated in our monthly Indoor contests as his mom and dad still live in the Detroit metro area,

Archie has raised the bar at our contests and he won the hotly contested WWII NoCal Combat event at the Indoor Fling, besting 8 other competitors in 3 rounds of flying.  His winning time with his Dauntless was over 4 minutes on the final round.

some of the formed/pressed props I made a couple years ago.

He and I have been loosely bouncing ideas off of each other in the virtual world.  Mostly they are his ideas and I add some thoughts or questions here and there.  We had been playing with forming balsa props over the last couple of years, forming them in a 3D printed pitch form.  These work nicely, but are fragile.  We have used them successfully on NoCals – in fact, his Dauntless has one on it – and I had put some on my Peanut Corsair.  I was happy with the performance, but I kept breaking them.  We also flew them on models as big as Embryo.  His Indoor Embryo has one, but high power and outdoors was rather rough on mine.

Archie’s GeoEmbrysol with a formed prop

Well, this winter, Archie has been working on a new angle:  “3D Props” – yes, that’s what he is calling them.  He’s a master at layout in the 3D world and has been creating a wide variety of 3D printed props – from the very tiny (2.25″ diameter) to large – 10″ or so in diameter, including a few P-30-legal (because they are for sale) props.

a screen grab from my Meteoro test flight video showing Archie’s P-30 prop.

Also legal are his props for Phantom Flash – he has flown his to over 3 minutes indoors.  These were verified legal by FAC-GHQ.  His “Nickel Scale” 3″ prop is now the standard for this class, as all successful flyers at the Indoor Fling were using his props.  (You will see his Nickel prop later in this write-up.)

I have printed some of his props (as part of his “R&D team”) and I asked him for a replacement prop for my Corsair.  I told him I wanted a 4-blade with a 5″ diameter, 1.3:1 P:D, and 1/2″ wide blades.  You know – for that Scale Corsair look.  He sent me the STL and also printed one himself.  I put it on my Peanut and flew it around the arena with a happy smile on my face.

Anyway, his “3D Props” are great, in my opinion.  I know that he is selling them, but I don’t know what sizes or variations – or even the price.  Contact Archie Adamisin (he’s on Facebook).


As I mentioned before, I’ve been dabbling in Free Flight Electric Scale.  I put a Rookie power plant in my venerable HiMax Peanut and have had successful, if limited, flights.  The limitations are on the restricted space in which I must fly.  I haven’t had a chance to “wind it up” to full power and give it a toss.

But I got to talking to Archie – who also has experience in electric models:  he’s dabbled in e-20 FF, but has tons of experience in electric r/c pylon racing.  I had two issues with the Rookie prop:  1) it seems small and 2) it is meant for a pusher application.  Now, as I say in my info pack provided with the power pack, you can reverse the prop on the shaft and rewire the motor leads on the circuit board – not at all difficult.

But why bother, if you don’t have to?  And – how about a larger prop?  Archie designed a printed prop at 2.25″D x 2.25″P – oh, and it is going in the “right” direction, too.  I printed one and put it on the HiMax.  He designed a lower pitch prop, too, but I haven’t tried it.

But I wanted to do a second iteration of Electric.  I am choosing models I had retired from competition and this time I selected my Peanut Fike.  This gave me two opportunities: test the new prop and test the power pack on what I have imagined is the upper limit for the little motor and capacitor – 50 square inches.

Again, I drilled out the Gizmo Geezer nose button to accept a press-fit of the 6mm motor and I added a platform in the fuselage to accept the capacitor and circuit board.  I popped on the new prop and went out in the back yard.  Success!  It requires a bit more charge (8 seconds vs. 5 seconds) to max out my back yard, but it is a much better flyer than the HiMax.  (An aside – I’ve always liked the HiMax design and I have built probably half a dozen of them in various configurations, but the all seem “draggy” and their performance has always been less than anticipated.)  Of course, Fikes seem to fly in whatever configuration, but this was pleasing.


So, this Indoor season, I “dominated” the Nickel season, as I was the only one that could get more than 10 or 15 seconds out of their Comet Nickel models.  I was able to get 20-30 seconds – per flight – with my Miller Racer.  Archie’s 3″ prop helped stabilize the model and it also allowed my to reduce power from a loop of 0.063″ to a loop of 0.045″.  My loop was about 9″ long and I could get about 1200 turns in it – and that was good – until it wasn’t.

Tom Sova, an Indoor (proper) flyer from Toledo was showing up at our meets and decided to venture into Scale – and he picked the Comet Nickel Miller Racer as his firs Scale model (shocking – these are twitchy little beasts).  Tom surpassed my times and then at the Indoor Fling, I took third place behind Tom (2nd) and Don Slusarczyk (1st).   My “dominance” was over.

The biggest issue for me with these tiny planes is the thrust adjustment.  My shims are always sloppy and temporary and just don’t work.  Here’s a confession:  I am addicted to the Gizmo Geezer nose button.  As Eli Manning says “I put that s&!t on everything” – except tiny planes.  They are just too big for tiny planes – in diameter and weight (1g).

Well, the brain was storming this week and I came up with a solution.  I have developed the VPS Lightweight Adjustable Nose Button.  There’s no secret in the inner workings and I fully acknowledge that I am standing on the shoulders of the giant that is Orv Olm.

Working through Thursday and Friday, the ideas just kept popping and I now have four iterations of this little gem: generic, a custom nose block for my Miller Racer, Phantom Flash, and (something I’ve been wanting for YEARS) NoCal.  The generic version plugs into a 1/8″ hole (the standard I cut for my kits – based on the Peck Nose Button size) and weighs 0.34 grams – 1/3rd the weight of the Gizmo Nose button!

My Lightweight and the standard Gizmo

the generic weighing in at 0.34g

three variations plus the standard Gizmo

My Miller Racer with a 3D -printed Nose Block AND integrated Lightweight Adjustable Nose Button – oh, and Archie Adamisin’s 3″ Nickel prop.

The printed nose block with integrated adjustable nose button allowed me to remove all the ugly shims off the nose of my Miller Racer and produced consistent left hand climbing circles of 20+ seconds until I popped the motor.

Neither the Phantom Flash nor the NoCal have been installed yet, but I expect great things.  The NoCal version is 0.4g and the PF is 0.5g.

I have really been wondering if I should even mention these, but excitement (and pride) got the better of me.  I do not know if I will be selling them – “why” you ask?  Well, they seem to print ok (sometimes small parts can have a rather high rejection rate), but the real reason is that they take about 10-15 minutes each to assemble.  So what is the cost?  Ten minutes to print, 10 minutes to assemble – that’s a lot of time – and I don’t want to saddle myself with producing 100 of these (I like “inventing” but “production” not so much).   They take 12 holes drilled in four different sizes, three holes “reamed” and three holes tapped and then assembly and gluing.  One thing is for sure – they won’t be any less than the Gizmo Geezer nose button.

So, it has been a busy week!  Now I’ve GOT to get back on the Focke-Wulf 189.  Essentially, all that is left is to cover and assemble it.  I’ve got to get it done before June due to family events in the beginning of June.

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New Products – ELECTRICS and Tissue Paper

Three new products:  Peanut Electric Power Packs and Asuka Tissue in Blue and White.

Firstly, As I have run out of Esaki, I now have Asuka Tissue in White and Blue (Black is on back order).  The white is Bright White and the Blue is very close to Esaki Blue.

Next, I have taken delivery of the Electric Power Packs from WSAT in the Netherlands.  These are the power packs in “the Rookie” model.  I have used for Peanut Electric Free Flight.

Here is the product link.

Here’s a video of a test flight on a rather breezy day.


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NEW PRODUCT – Meteoro P-30 Short Kit!

I’m not a big P-30 competitor; I only fly in 2 or 3 informal P-30 events a year – if that many.  However, I love Rubber-Powered Free Flight and when I see a model with style, I like it, whatever the event category.  If it has twin tails, I’m usually hooked.  If there is some “swoopiness” beyond mere basic functionality, that’s a definite plus.

So when I’ve seen photos of Omar Grassetti’s “Meteoro” P-30 online, I was attracted to it.  I contacted Mr. Grassetti (he’s in Brazil, but “online” is just like around the corner) and he emailed me the plan and gave me permission to kit the “Meteoro”.  I drew up the parts over the winter and built the model last week (started it on Tuesday, finished it on Saturday).

With a geodetic wing and tail and sheeted fuselage, this builds to a VERY strong P-30, mine is a little heavy at 50+ grams. Mr. Grassetti indicates he designed it for windy conditions. With nearly 125 square inches of area, it should have no problem soaring into thermals.

I adjusted the wing for best glide, gave it 50 winds in my back yard, and watched it climb, transition and glide clear across my yard into the woods.  I am sure this will get up and go with the best of them – or at least, with the best of who I fly with!  I hope to give it a real test this weekend, if the weather cooperates.

You might notice that this sport model is not in my standard Black/Red/Yellow livery for sport models.  That is because There is a certain cartoon that is entitled “Meteoro” in Spanish – Speed Racer.  So I’ve colored this model like the famous Mach 5 and even integrated the “M” into my model’s markings.

I’ve made Mr. Grassetti’s drawing fit better on my printer, added some comments, translations and annotations, created a supplemental instruction sheet, and produced 6 laser-cut parts sheets.  You will have the option to add a Gizmo Geezer P-30 Prop Assembly.

You can find the Short Kit HERE.

Here are some build pics – not many as it built fast.

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Weekend Update – Small Steps and Small Successes

It seems like forever since I posted, but the calendar says its only been 10 days.  I did take a bit of time off to visit my brother in Alabama.  Then, I had to concentrate on filling orders from those days off (still not all caught up).  Also, I’ve been a bit stalled on building.

I had one boom of the Jumbo FW-189 done and – part of the reason for the building stall – I had a particular jig set on the building board to put the boom sides together.  I didn’t want to tear that down because I knew it would be better to leave it and build the second with it rather than tear it down hope that I could put the second boom together the same way with a different jig.

So, nothing on the building board changed.  Therefore, I could only build if I didn’t disturb that setup.  And the only way to do that was small projects.  I think I did a JetCat between building “booms”.  Haha, no building booms so far this year; I’ve been pretty slow.

Anyway, I decided to build that second boom this weekend.  The jig worked great.  I started on Saturday and – slow and steady – finished up on Sunday.  Now, I just need to build the fins and a new, finalized, cabin and I can shift gears to the second half of any build: covering and final assembly.

two booms, the wing center section, and test cabin #3.


I’ve been slowly working on another project.  This one has been on-going for years – since at least 1994, maybe longer.  It is one of my favorite planes – Johnny Livingston’s 1933 Cessna CR-3.  This will be an 18.5″ span model.  Why that size?  That’s a slightly-involved story.

A few years earlier, I had built Tom Nallen’s Livingston Monocoupe Peanut model.  That got me into researching the Monocoupe, Livingston, and the CR-3.   I learned that over the years, Livingston had done many, many successive (and successful) modifications to the Monocoupe and it became a very potent race plane.  He then replaced it with the CR-3.  He did two things that influenced me:  1- the wingspan of the Monocoupe ended up pretty close to 24′ – which would convert nicely to 24″ – making a nice model, and 2- he took the motor from the Monocoupe and had Cessna build the CR-3 around the motor.  The CR-3 came out close to 18.5′ span, so continuing with a 1′:1″ scale, 18.5″ would be the size for the CR-3 model.  Wouldn’t it be great to have models of Livingston’s racers; the Monocoupe and the CR-3, in the same scale?  (P.S. I have collected 13 pages of photo documentation of changes Livingston made to the NR501W Monocoupe over the years he owned it – too much?)

I still have plans to do both, but for some reason, I’ve pushed the CR-3 much closer to the front of the build list.  I have been re-working the old plans for years.  I hope I am moving in the right direction.  The old plan certainly had potential:  Paul Boyanowski built the prototype back in ’95 and it flew great, winning its first contest.

Anyway, how much nose weight will the big, round-engined, short-nosed model need?  I am hoping its around 10 grams.  It is completely backwards to start a build there, but here is why I ask.  Here is another project that worked out this weekend – the dummy Warner Scarab engine for my 18.5″ model.

It all started with this photo of the original nose of the plane.  Notice the simplicity of the engine installation:  simple cylinders, a simple cover over the crank case, and simple baffles between the cylinders.  I like simple – and usually can do simple.

Next match the simple real to the simple model.  I only need to do half an engine – the front half.  Figure out how to lay out the cylinders and the crank case and how to integrate  a nose plug into it.  Not terribly difficult (remember to keep it simple).  All that was left to do was to convert the two-dimensional line drawings into 3D printed parts.

I made one and it ended up about 10.3 grams with the Gizmo Nose Button front half.  I decided to try again, thinning the parts as much as I dared to make them lighter.  I saved over a gram on just the seven cylinders and 2+ grams overall.  Attempt #2 weighs 8.1 grams.  I need to make a new nose plug and I might be able to trim a little off of that, too.

I will admit – that’s a funny place to start on a flying stick and tissue model.  Maybe I will get to the rest someday!

glue the cylinders to the crank case

first attempt finished

attempt 1 on the left, #2 on the right

attempt 1 on the left, #2 on the right

finished #2

I think that will work for the model – it seems like a good representation of reality

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I’ve Got the Power! Electric Scale

I am a dedicated rubber-power guy.  I don’t do gas; I’ve thought about compressed air and CO2; and electricity just seems to be too hard (assembling circuitry isn’t for me).

But a year or so ago, Vincent Merlijn, in the Netherlands, put out a foamie Free Flight kit he calls “the Rookie”.  This looked simple:  the motor and circuit is pre-assembled, the storage is a capacitor soldered to the circuit board, and you simply charge it with a 3- AA Battery unit.  Plug the battery pack in, wait a few seconds, unplug and launch.  What could be simpler?

Immediately, I thought of powering a Peanut with this unit and ordered some.  When they arrived, I took a look at them and set them aside.  I was still a little intimidated and unsure.

Well, yesterday, I decided to do this project and try to get an existing Peanut retrofitted with the drive train and give it a test.  I chose my Peanut HiMax.  The 10g model never really flew like I wanted it to – probably a result of an improperly matched prop and rubber combo.  And, unless they max regularly, high-wing Peanuts are generally not competitive in FAC Peanut.

So, I took the model off the pile (of old models – yes, it is a true pile of models; one of several around the house) and started to do surgery.  The first step was to mount the motor.  I measured the diameter of the motor (0.237″) and selected a #1 drill (0.228″) and a new Gizmo Geezer nose button and carefully drilled out the front half of the GG button.

This allowed a press-fit of the motor into the nose button and I could swap out the existing GG nose button for the now-electric nose button on the HiMax nose block.  I used the GG nose button because I love the how it makes thrust adjustment so simple.  If it works for rubber power, it will work for electric power, too.

Next was mounting of the circuit board onto the model.  A little bit of thought had to go into this.  I wanted it as far back in the model as practical (the model was nose heavy).  Also, the charge socket had to be accessible and I wanted it to be on the bottom of the model.  I knew the charge system was “instant-on” – once I unplug it, the motor is going full speed and I need to launch.  So I had to consider exactly how I was going to do this (hold the model with my right hand where I would to launch, plug in the charger with my left, unplug and toss).

I cut a hole in the tissue, and made a sheet base to hold the circuit board.  Then I ran the motor to the nose and glued the board in place with CA.  Through some trial and error, I glued the noseblock in place and just had the GG button as the removable part for assembly (temporarily removable – friction fit).

the first (unsuccessful) board installation. plugging in broke the board off the mount so a new platform was made (not shown).

My first venture to the back yard was a 50/50 success:  it would take a charge and powered flight was achieved, but I did a terrible job of solidly mounting the circuit board – the insertion force of the charger broke the mount.  Back inside and re-engineer the mount.  It took some time, mistakes were made, but I now have a solid mount.

you can see the nose of the motor in the GG nose button. Also the tiny prop that pulls the plane around. This is about 1.875″ diameter (48mm?)

After a couple of partial charge flights, I was able to get a climbing turn dialed in and managed to fly off my tiny field into the surrounding pine trees about 30 feet up.  After much persuading with my pole, the model came down, but suffered a good deal of strut damage.

what happens when you are not careful with the Thin CA. Apparently, it wicked into the charge port and it refused to switch from “charge” to “run”. The LED shows it is charged, the charger is unplugged, but the prop is not turning!

I now have an electric-powered Scale Free Flight model! The power unit weighs in at about 4.5 grams.  This was a 10 gram model so all-up weight is now 14.5 grams.  With 32.5 square inches, this works out to be a 0.45g/sq.in. wing loading – not terrible.

I will say this:  for all of my worries, this was an easy project.  Of course, except for the new thrust settings, the model was already trimmed.


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NEW PRODUCT – Fleetwood Flyer Old Timer Short Kit

I decided to take a short break from my Jumbo Focke-Wulf to build a tiny Old Timer – the Fleetwood Flyer.  This was one of seven “Victory Models” designed by Louis Bucalo in the war years.  The wing is the same dimensions as the Shaft, but has a different dihedral setup.  This model was published in the August 1943 Air Age magazine.

It is a very quick build with the longest part being the amount of time it takes for the rolled tube fuselage to dry (one day).  One curiosity was how to attach the single wheel landing gear.  Here you can see the original plan and one of the article photos of the prototype.  Note the photo seems to show a double wire strut.

I decided to 3D print a Landing Gear saddle.  It has a hole and a notch to accommodate the single wire.  The test print worked very well; exactly as designed.

I will provide two sheets of laser-cut parts:  one sheet (1/16″) has all of the ribs, the wing tips, trailing edges, fin parts, wheel discs, and wing pylon.  The other sheet (1/32″) has the tail cone, the tail winglets, and the blank to roll the tube fuselage.  I will also be providing the 3D printed LG saddle.

I did move the pylon forward to better locate the CG properly and efficiently.  The new, optional location is shown on the plan.

my prototype turned out to be a pretty-light 10 grams!

Below is a short video of a test flight.  It doesn’t make 20 seconds, but you can certainly see the potential.  I was running out of flying space on the breezy day and didn’t want to push my luck.

This model qualifies for FAC events:  2-Bit, OT Fuselage, and Victory Models (Pinkham HandbooK).  I will be flying it as my 2-Bit model at the local Cloudbusters events this summer – until it flies away, of course!

You can find the product HERE.




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NEW PRODUCT – Comet Fokker D.vii Dimer!

My recreation of the Comet Fokker D.vii Dime Scale kit A26.  I have had this kit on the drawing board list for several years and I finally bit the bullet and did it up this winter.  I finished the plane in January, but weather prevented me from test flying it until today.  I was able to get some successively better test flights out of it with a high time around 38 seconds on roughly 600 turns on a loop of 1/8″ rubber.  The prop is a Peck-style 7″.

The tissue is representing Lothar von Richtofen’s plane.  Of course, for Dime Scale, you can simply go with Comet’s recommendation – all red.  This tissue template is available for free download on my Tissue Page.

You can get the Short Kit HERE.

One of the things that worried me was mounting the wings.  I’m not a builder of biplanes, so my experience is limited.  I designed a jig to hold the wing in place while the struts were mounted.  You can see it in the build photos below.

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3-Pound to 7-Pound Density


Each sheet (1/16″ – 24″x3″) is weighed individually, the weight in grams written on the upper left corner, and then sorted according to the chart below. This balsa is clear. Sheets with holes has been removed (you will not receive holes). Some sheets may be warped and some may have 1″ – 2″ cracks in the end (less than 10% of stock). No effort will be made to select outside of the Density options. Do not request C-grain – I do not receive C-grain, although you might receive a sheet with B-C grain in your selection. All is A- or B-grain.

If there is a demand, I can get 1/8″ Contest Balsa, too (this is nice for small Glider wings).


I prefer not to ship single sheets. Therefore the single sheet price will be extremely high compared to multiple sheets. Basically, five or more sheets (any density combination) will have the “normal” price, and the single sheet price will reflect a packaging surcharge (roughly 2x the “normal” price per sheet).


“Normal” Pricing per sheet (orders with less than 5 sheets of any density combination will be double the price per sheet):

  • 3# – $4.00 each (when available)
  • 4# – $3.00 each
  • 5# – $2.50 each
  • 6# – $2.50 each
  • 7# – $2.00 each

My supplier assures me that there is plenty more available.

Find it HERE:

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Meteors, Tissue, and Chalk

Trying to work two short articles into one…

PART 1:  Gloster Meteor

In the middle of my building doldrums, I put together this small JetCat – a 10″ span Gloster Meteor.  I thought about a Canberra, but everybody does a Canberra – and the Meteor has very similar proportions.

Over the last few JetCat builds, I’ve been working on a couple of things:

First, instead of mixing 1/16″ sheet and 1/32″ sheet, I am settling on LIGHT (6 lb or lighter) 1/16″ and sanding it thin where I want it thin and leaving it thick where I want strength.  This has been working well, I think.  I am making fuselages from three layers of 1/16″.  To increase strength in these laminations, I embed a carbon fiber strip in the center and cross-grain the three layers as much as practical.  These three things (laminating, carbon fiber, cross-graining) make for a light and stiff fuselage.

Second, I’ve been working on a modular wing structure.  It is really hard to supply very light 3/16″ sheeting for wings – hard meaning supply is short and expensive for Production purposes.  So I am working toward providing the front 1/3rd of the wing in thick balsa and the rear 2/3rds will be 1/16″ sheet and ribs, and sometimes spars.  One downside to this is the need to cover the wing with tissue.  If you’re doing printed tissue (I highly recommend this for JetCats) then it’s no big deal to cover the wing.

One last chit-chat about this model (and some of my other JetCats) – why are you building small at 10″ span???  well, that started with my Ohka – and the fact that the standard size for sheet balsa is 3″ wide.  So, while I’ve been doing full-sheet wings, I’ve been limited to 3″ chord wings.  Another limitation – I try to not exceed 14″ on the sheet – so this has limited Fuselage length.  I am working on joining techniques to work on longer fuselages.  The last thing – it is just easier to design and build a smaller model, especially for testing.  I am pretty sure I will be building a larger meteor – around 15″ span.   That will take completely redesigning all the parts.

Anyway, the photos show some of the construction.  Now, on to a different discussion.

PART 2:  Chalking Tissue

One “thing” about printing tissue is that the colors are not very dense.  This is because tissue is rather translucent.  When you cover sheet balsa with white tissue the resulting color is basically balsa-colored.  You can paint the tissue, but this gets heavy.  One way to improve the colors, but add virtually no weight, is to chalk the tissue.  I am not going to go into a ton of details on this, but just show you some of the results.  The tissue on the Meteor was white tissue that was chalked prior to printing.

I use Pan Pastel chalk (white in this case) and a folded paper towel on a hard surface (wooden table).  I fold up the paper towel to make a swab which I rub on the pan of chalk and then rub this into the BACK (rough side) of the tissue.  I rub WITH the grain of the tissue.  I’ve seen others dump chalk dust onto the tissue and rub it in, but I find this method wastes much less chalk.  Still, this can and will get messy.  White chalk isn’t so bad, but I still have red “stained” stuff floating around from when I did my red Cessna Cardinal last winter.

Check the photos – you can see the difference between the chalked and the plain tissue.

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