Saturday, January 10, 2009

Freezing fog or freezing rain?

Who cares. It's a sadistic perversion of the beautiful winter weather you see on Christmas cards. ski lodge brochures, and Hallmark Channel shows either way.

Sooo... the weather outside is frightful, inside it's quite delightful, and so on. It's a stay-in day, in other words. This is not an uncommon occurrence this time of year and as such I tried to lay in supplies during the week to keep myself occupied on days like these, unsuccessfully as it turns out. I was kicking around the idea of building a model plane. Trying to keep the cost down, I immediately ruled out a flying RC plane. The cost of the radio and a mid-size engine alone would be at least $300 and I don't see any reason to head down that path.

At the bottom of the expenditure scale, I thought about a Guillow's balsa model. I built a few of the smaller rubber band powered, balsa and tissue Guillow's planes when I was a kid and I was wondering if 1) they were still in existenc, and 2) if they had anything a little larger than the small planes I had built before. I remember having problems with the small pieces/parts even back when I had decent manual dexterity and near vision - I don't think I could do it at all now. I soon found their website and zeroed in on this:

It has a 24" wingspan, big enough for clumsy fingers, poor eyesight, and a Cox .049 engine if I wanted to modify the kit for control-line flying. I've got a one acre backyard going to waste and I thought a control-line plane would work well back there. Guillow's has plenty of other large kits, but this one has the benefit of being one of the first that they have upgraded to laser cut parts. Diecut parts can be infuriating to work with if they are poorly cut; you don't take that chance with laser cut.

I went to Hobbytown on Friday to see if they had one, but the only Guillow's kits they had were the tiny little kits I had built before. I investigated other alternatives while I was there, the idea of a small electric RC also in mind for the backyard. Everything that they had was ARF (almost-ready-fly) or worse, ready to fly right out of the box. That was true of the piston engine RC planes as well. Apparently no one builds their own anymore. At the risk of sounding like I walked five miles uphill (both ways!) to school every day, back when I was heavily into RC airplanes you had to build your own. Now being as I didn't build my own RV-6 this may sound hypocritical, but what has become of our country? We can't even build our own RC kits anymore? I also found out that you can't get Cox .049 motors anymore. Man, do I feel ancient!

I found the Guillow kit on an internet mail order site for $25, so I might just go ahead and order one. Or... I could really get into this:

Video here.

I built a lot of Great Planes kits back in the day. In fact, they were my manufacturer of choice because of the high quality of their kits. I looked to see how much the radio and motor would be, thinking that maybe it would be cheaper than a gas engine. It was, but not by much. Bummer. Especially since I read through the build manual and it looks like a lot of fun to put together.

So, having failed in my search for a project, I was left with nothing to do but spend some more time straightening up the basement. And lo and behold, what did I find? Tucked back in a corner, behind a huge Miller Genuine Draft bar mirror was an old RC P-51 kit that I had started at least ten years ago. I can't remember why I didn't finish it, but I think it had something to do with gluing a part in the wrong place and not being able to fix it. Or tossing it into a box and hiding it in a dark corner out of sheer disgust. I'm fuzzy on that, but I guess it doesn't matter. I pulled out the plans and build manual (which, surprisingly for me, is clearly marked as to exactly which steps I had completed) and laid out the big parts for inspection.

I think I can go ahead and start working on it with the assumption that it can be made flyable, although I doubt if I will want to buy a new radio or engine for it. If it comes to it, there's always craigs list to look for that kind of stuff cheap. If I find that I had indeed made an unrecoverable mistake, I'll just build it for display and donate it to JP's BBQ over at Bolton.

Or I'll just set it aside over by the abandoned canoe project, or let it sit on the porch swing. It doesn't much matter what I end up doing with it as long as I enjoy spending time working on it, right? To me, that's the whole point!


  1. Link to the video is broken.

    Found the "Great Planes" website, but didn't see this plane.

  2. Rats. I can't find it either now. I hope that doesn't mean that they've discontinued the kit.

  3. It seems to work if you paste the link directly into the browser. I've never seen that before, and it doesn't work as a hyperlink:

    This worked OK for me: