We build our gliders the “old fashioned” way – without the use of CNC milling machines or 3D printers. The fuselage plugs are shaped by hand, and the wings we build around foam cores, which we cut by hand using a hot wire. We do use a computer programme (Profile 2008 Compact) to design the airfoils and to produce the templates for the foam cutting ribs (which we then cut out of plywood by hand). Unfortunately this software is no longer being updated as the developer sadly passed away. We’ve looked into other software, but none that we know offers the functionality and ease of use that Profile 2008 offers for building gliders the way we do (if you find something please let me know!). To help determine the design of the wing spar we use the “Holmauslegung” excel sheet developed by Christian Baron (link to the 2013 version, example filled out for an ASK18 – included here with permission of Christian Baron). And of course we use the Silhouette design software and a Silhouette Cameo 3 for the decals.
All this means that building a plane takes a huge amount of time. But we see building our aircraft as a goal in itself, and of course having a fantastic and unique glider at the end makes it worth all those hours of work even more. I occasionally hear a snigger when I explain people how we build, but these are silenced very quickly when they see the performance of our gliders. It’s true that our planes are not as perfectly built as those built using modern CNC equipment. But I’ve yet to see a commercially produced “mouldie” that has the performance, weight and robustness that our gliders have. My first scratch-built plane, my 1:3.5 Diana2, has sustained a huge amount of abuse (sorry Diana2), without any major damage, and is still by far my favourite plane (I own some excellent commercially produced gliders).
Important to note is that one of the things I’ve learned in my short building career is that there are many different ways of building (parts of) model aircraft. Which way to choose is usually dependent on personal preferences and materials and equipment available. To me, what’s most important is that the method of building (parts of) a plane works for you, that it’s fun to build and that the result is a robust and well flying aircraft. I have no patience or understanding for rigid ideologists who claim that their way is the only way to build a plane, or who make fun or ridicule the workmanship of others.
Having said all that, I will be building up this section to include a number of “how to’s”, explaining how we build specific parts of our gliders, or how we build the tools that we use to make them. The main reason for doing so is to respond to questions I get in relation to the blog, but they also serve as my personal “notebook” for future builds. In addition to the “How to…” guides, you can also find an overview of all Blog Posts on building techniques through this link. If there is anything that I can add, then please let me know via the contact page.
“How to…”, guides to:
- Building the tailplane, Part 1: design, foam cores and top side
- Building the tailplane, Part 2: spars and underside
- Installing an electric motor (FES – Front Electric Sustainer)
- Glass layup of the fuselage mould and the fuselage
- Cutting the wiring channel for wing servos into the wings
- Build a canopy frame
- Cover using SIG Koverall
Resources (external links):
- Instruments and instrument panels – (awesome collection on www.retroplane.net)
- Ulmer Kunststoffteile – is where we always have our canopies made. We supply the “stamp” and he makes the perfect canopy out of it.