Sunday, March 15, 2009

I love the smell of Burnt Balsa in the Morning

I received a Stevens AeroModel balsa kit of an RV-4 for my birthday. I have put in about 6 hours on the kit and have made much more progress than I would have expected. I wanted to document some of my observations so far.

The kit and the balsa building process has been extremely satisfying so far. With this kit, you start with the rear stabilizer / tail feathers. I can't describe how satisfying it was to snap out the laser cut parts and fit them together directly over the full-sized plan that came with the model.

The whole experience of unrolling the plan and setting up my work area was like planning for the construction of something monumental. It sparked the builders-spirit that I have not felt in quite some time, which is to create and to engineer something from nothing. On top of that the way the parts practically fall out of the balsa sheet and practically pull themselves together on the plan make it feel like you are constructing a well engineered product.

I did make a few mistakes. Despite the warning on the manual that clearly states you need to install the firewall in a certain direction- I noticed a day afterwards that I had installed in the wrong way. I debated trying to remove it but was, instead, able to take on some minor changes that fixed the issue. I also broke a few of the small pieces while putting the fuselage together. These were easily fixed with CA glue- probably stronger than before.

So far, I have found the only issues with the build is my own laziness. Because most of the parts fit like an old pair of jeans, when I come across one that does not I tend to force it in anyway. This can result in the aforementioned breakages. If you take just a little time to do some minor trimming with a razor knife on those stubborn pieces they will fit just fine without the damage.

If you are wondering about the title- burnt balsa- the laser cutting seems to leave a slight burnt smell on the balsa. It is a little like the smell of a lit match. There is something earthy and satisfying about this that doesn't come from the RTF Styrofoam from China!

Don't forget to include those around you in on the fun....

My 5 year old has been helping me. She told me while helping me glue the first pieces on the kit that “even though mommy thinks planes are silly, I think they are important”.

She said a number of things but the most profound for me was that they are good because “you get to spend time with your daddy.” She also helped me build the yellow wing with Aileron's for SuperCub 2.0. Despite certain parts being “boring” I think she enjoys helping!

Here is a shot of the progress so far....

By the way. If you decide want to try building a real RV-4 check out the rivetbangers forum.

1 comment:

  1. Looks fun. Never considered even wanting to do this because of the cost / time / easily "break and cry" factor. Maybe I will someday.