Saturday, May 31, 2008


The fuselage is almost done!

Here is the nearly finished fuselage ready for the seams to be taped. The instructions say that the fuselage is a bit flimsy until the joints are taped, but I'm actually quite impressed with how stiff it actually is. Sure it'll flex if I get a bit western with it, but I've yet to see a foamy that doesn't flex this much and then some. This is shaping up to be an extremely rigid airframe especially for a low cost, high durability design. It definitely beats the heck out of anything foam. Perhaps not quite as light, but far, far more durable.

Sitting in front of the fuselage is the canopy, which I've colored silver by applying some scraps of silver sign vinyl that I had laying around. I think it'll give it a nice "reflective glass" look in the air. The instructions say to attach the canopy before taping the joints, but I think I'm going to wait until afterwards. Not only does this give me the opportunity to tape the joints where they run underneath the canopy, but I can then tape the joints on the canopy itself more carefully, hopefully giving the appearance of actual cockpit bracing. I know, it's not a scale plane, but I'm silly about details like that.

I did however encounter my first "problem" with the design/plans/templates today. It seems that my nose upper cowl, buy the kit and then you'll know what that is, LOL, didn't fit quite right. There was an angled section at the rear of it that needed to be cut straight across instead of beveled. It was an easy fix, and didn't even require making a new part. Simply test fit it and it's easy to see where the existing part needs to be cut. One straight slice across the rear of the cowl piece and voila! Fits like a glove. If you mess up a little bit on the cutting don't sweat it, when you tape the joints it'll all be covered up anyway.

Other than that however, my plane has gone together exactly according to Morgan's plans. Especially if someone has built a Mugi Evo before, they should have no problems assembling the Tea Racer from what I've seen so far. The radio installation will be a little more complex on this model I think, but a lot of that is my own fault. I'll be installing "old school" torque tube aileron linkages with a single aileron servo on this plane. This will require me to use balsa strip for my ailerons instead of the Coroplast ailerons specified in the plans as I'll be requiring a bit more stiffness than Coroplast can afford. I might be able to get away with a double layer lamination of 2mm Coro, but I think balsa will be easier and I have no question about the stiffness. It will also require me to do a little more planning in order for the bearing tubes and aileron linkages to come out in the right places, but I think the advantages will be worth it. If a person wanted to keep it simple, dual aileron servos in a flaperon configuration would definitely be the way to go. I'm going for a cleaner look however, with no visible aileron linkages on the exterior of the wing, as well as a bit of weight savings only running one servo instead of two. Aerodynamically, the single servo setup is also a bit cleaner, with no exposed linkages to create drag.

Another reason for the single servo setup, is that I'm seriously considering retractable landing gear on this aircraft and that setup will add back all of the weight and then some that I'm saving by eliminating an aileron servo. I've never had a plane with retracts, I've always wanted one, and this design is simply BEGGING for them. Of course this complicates the build even more, but I glean just as much pleasure from building planes as I do from flying them. If you're in a hurry to get in the air, then I say hand launch, belly land, and enjoy your Tea Racer. When you build little airplanes for fun, the sky is literally . . . . . The limit.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Color Scheme?

Now you don't suppose the Granville Brothers had anything to do with my choice of colors do you? The Tea Racer is supposed to be a tribute to the Golden Era race planes isn't it?

Stay Tuned.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Tea Racer Racing Toward The Flight Line

In just a few short building sessions, the Tea Racer is starting to take some serious shape. It's almost recognizable as an airplane now, rather than a pile of Coroplast scraps like it was in my last photos. So far the most tedious and time consuming part of the build was cutting the "kit" from the various paper templates that Morgan provided me with. Other than that this thing has been virtually flying together.

I've built a few planes from paper template style plans, and although I haven't found a particularly good method of doing so yet, I think I performed one of my best efforts on this one. I found that taping the various pages of plans down on top of the sheet of Coroplast, then cutting the plans and the material at the same time with a fresh Olfa blade worked pretty good. I also employed the help of my trusty metal straightedge of course. If you can cut a perfectly straight line free hand then more power to you, but I drink far too much coffee for that feat. I long ago gave up measuring each individual piece for the Mugi Evo kit and cut myself some aluminum templates that cut build time about in half. I think a set of templates for this plane would have a similar effect on total build time, but the templates themselves would be considerably harder to make.

If you peer through the smoke from my trippy hippy incense burner, you can see the Tea Racer fuselage beginning to look like . . . well . . . . a fuselage. That's it pinned between the two gel cell batteries as the glue finishes drying overnight. Morgan suggests a large mug of Yorkshire Tea in the build instructions, but I've never quite been able to acquire a taste for tea, so I substitute incense instead. I find that burning incense while I build airplanes helps me acquire a true Zen oneness with the aircraft that I'm constructing.

OK, that's bullshit, actually it just helps cover up the stench from the contact cement.

Here's a little more of a closeup shot of the fuselage. The only deviation that I've made so far from Morgan's plans was to fit and mark the mid upper cowling before fitting and gluing the rear lower cowl. The instructions don't make mention of this, but I decided to do so anyway because I don't have that much faith in my Coroplast cutting skills to believe that everything would just magically fit. Turns out, that had I just lined everything up the way Morgan said to, it would've fit just fine, but having never built a Tea Racer before I figured it a good idea to be sure.

Another beautiful thing about the Tea Racer design is that as long as everything is straight, the edges of the various pieces don't exactly have to line up perfectly. Of course if the fuselage is built with a warp or a twist in it flight performance will suffer, but if there's a gap between some of the fuselage pieces, it'll get covered up later as all of the seams in the fuselage are taped at the end of the assembly process. This taping over of all of the joints is said to drastically stiffen the fuselage structure, and I see no reason why it wouldn't do just that. I actually intend to double tape mine, but sealing the joints with black vinyl stripe tape, then covering the flat sections with black sign vinyl. by using black Coroplast I've assured that any exposed edges won't look funny, but the vinyl over the top of the exposed surfaces will not only strengthen the airframe but give the outside a nice, shiny, painted metal look instead of the dull sheen of the Coroplast itself. Obviously the color scheme for this model is black and yellow, but the rest is a surprise. Stay tuned.

OK, that's bullshit, I haven't figured out what the rest of the color scheme is going to be yet, but I'll come up with something you can bet.

Next time: Finished fuselage, now what the hell am I going to do with the wings?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Anyone For A Spot Of Tea?

Just in case you were wondering what's been keeping me so busy lately.

I've been filling up my airplane room of course. What's that? You're wondering what all of those coroplast pieces on my workbench are?

These Coroplast pieces?

Oh . . . . . THESE Coroplast pieces?

Only about a year overdue, but construction is finally underway.
Stay tuned.