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Author Topic: VMC Blue Spitfire Build  (Read 5586 times)
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Andy Blackburn
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« on: April 10, 2017, 04:21:24 PM »

My search for the holy grail of a flyable rubber-powered Spitfire dates back to the early 1970's when I built at least two and possibly three (memory is a bit hazy) Keil Kraft Spitfires, none of which - being hampered by that ridiculous 5" Keil Kraft propeller, wood that you could make sideboards from and my lack of experience in trimming - showed any sign of being capable of sustained flight. After years of failure, I'd pretty much written off Spits as a practical flying model but I was so inspired by Jon's Pink Spitfire build that I thought I'd have a go at a Spitfire from the VMC kit; it looks nicely engineered and I like the aerodynamic set-up.

I seem to remember reading that Andrew's original weighed 46 grams including a "huge chunk" of noseweight, but in order to reduce the likelihood of smashing itself to matchwood when flown in small halls this one really, really needs to be be kept light - hopefully between 1.25 and 1.5 ounces (between about 35 grams and 42 grams, for those of you who prefer modern, newfangled units); I think might be able to get below 40 grams, if I'm really careful. And ruthless.

So in order to do this, it's going to be a Jap tissue finish (BR416, A PR Mk.IV in what looks like very faded Mediterranean Blue) and I'm going to be very careful about not adding weight behind the c.g. - there will be quite a lot of wood removed (=over-zealous sanding of laser burn marks) at the tail in order to contribute towards this.

Not sure if it'll be a practical proposition for Kit Scale when I'm done mucking around with the design but I'd like to think that it won't have too many static marks deducted for "significant" changes from the kit.

Other planned changes are:
  • New plunge-moulded canopy with a rounded windscreen from the lightest acetate sheet I can find. That's minus several static marks of course, but to be honest I don't really mind as long as the thing flies for a decent amount of time
  • Aboukir tropical filter. Not sure if this counts as a "significant" change that might incur a static mark penalty? It's vaguely similar in shape to the original and is in the same place; lucky it wasn't a Vokes tropical filter because that is obviously a significant change.
  • Spinner slightly more pointed than the kit spinner. Again, I hope this isn't taken as a significant deviation, it's only a little bit more pointed than the kit spinner.
  • Lighter tailwheel that doesn't involve wire (!), if I'm honest this is partly because I can't bend a proper circle, even using thin wire.

I also seriously considered a moveable rudder because it's so useful if the turn needs to be opened out a bit when flying in a larger hall, but decided against it because of the weight penalty and the extra nose ballast required.

The build has started with - following the instructions to the letter - the centre section. Not sure how much time I'm going to be able to devote to it this week (good slope soaring day on Wednesday and I have a model to maiden), but I'll do what I can.
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ZK-AUD
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« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2017, 05:49:16 PM »

Looks more like an acupuncture treatment!  Grin  Nice little project and your approach to lightening is the right thing to do for sure.
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Glenn (gravitywell) Reach
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« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2017, 06:38:05 PM »

I have found round nosed pliers in dollar stores, Michaels, etc., in the beading section.  They are really good for wire up to 1/32".  With these, its childs play to bend that pesky tail wheel wire.
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Andy Blackburn
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« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2017, 06:28:59 AM »

I have found round nosed pliers in dollar stores, Michaels, etc., in the beading section.  They are really good for wire up to 1/32".  With these, its childs play to bend that pesky tail wheel wire.

Well, I have some round-nosed pliers, it's just that every time I use them to make a tailwheel it ends up not quite round and/or the wrong size; I'm just congenitally incapable of using them!  Smiley However, in the spirit of experiment I'll make two tailwheels (one wire, one from ply/balsa/bamboo/whatever), the tailwheel that gets installed will be the one that weighs the least on my digital scales.
« Last Edit: April 11, 2017, 06:45:38 AM by abl » Logged
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« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2017, 06:43:28 AM »

Nice find on the dark blue PR scheme  Smiley I spent some time purposely fading esaki to a lighter 'PR blue' for kit scale but it never really looked nice  Undecided
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tom arnold
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« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2017, 11:40:09 AM »

PRU Blue is really a slippery character. A protected paint chip shows a dark almost gray-blue that really is not very pretty, to tell the truth. But then in real life, it weathers and fades a bit and the top and bottom of the aircraft have 2 different tones. After a long service in bright sunlight, the whole aircraft becomes a lighter tint and color photos screw things up even more. As a result if I ever use PRU blue, I make it a color I like and ignore the purists.
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Andy Blackburn
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« Reply #6 on: April 15, 2017, 02:33:46 PM »

Getting the right shade for that particular colour is always going to be a problem because it appears to have been mixed locally from (mainly) ICI Bosun Blue and black pigment, ending up "fractionally darker than FS 35109". I've also found a side view from a Model Alliance 1/72 scale decal sheet; I don't believe the main colour though, I think the painting near the start of the thread is a better rendition.

Anyway, the wings are done; bit more fitting and sanding than with the Cessna, but given the shape of the wing that's not really a surprise. There's a lot of wood in there and I might have gone a bit overboard on the internal sanding on one wing tip, by the time everything was looking nice quite a lot of the inside of the tip had been sanded away. And then, of course, I had to do the other one to match, so it's really a case of incompetance rather than trying to get around the rules.

There are a number of minor constructional blunders which may be apparent to the discerning viewer. For me, this is quite normal. Final weight for the wings and centre section is 4.58 grams; I did think about thinning the leading edge because it's a big piece of quite heavy wood, but then after thinking about all those table and chair legs, decided to leave as-is.

Tomorrow, the tail surfaces...
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Jack Plane
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« Reply #7 on: April 15, 2017, 02:48:22 PM »

Following this one...  Cheesy
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Andy Blackburn
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« Reply #8 on: April 17, 2017, 02:51:11 PM »

Made the tail surfaces this weekend; the stabilizer is as per plan, although the spar piece (T1) looked a bit heavy so I made a new one that was almost 0.2 grams lighter. That doesn't sound like much but the total saving is about four times that when the amount of nose ballast that can be removed is factored in.

The fin & rudder is a bit different. Smiley

I've been looking at a lot of Spitfire pictures recently, and have gradually formed the opinion that I can make a slightly better fin & rudder that looks more "Spitfire-ish" than the one on the plan, which should also be lighter; it's going to cost me static penalty points in Kit Scale but I think it's probably worth it for the overall look of the thing.

So I imported a picture of a decent Spitfire Mk 1 drawing into TurboCAD, drew round it, scaled it so that it fitted a scanned plan and filled-in the structure in the style of the original. The fin & rudder shown here is 0.23 grams, or about half the weight of the parts that would have been used to make the one shown on the plan.

Total weight saving so far (including the nose ballast) is about one and a half grams, so some serious additional slimming of the rear fuselage is going to be required...
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Andy Blackburn
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« Reply #9 on: April 26, 2017, 01:15:30 PM »

Finally, have started on the fuselage...

The parts are more-or-less standard, except that a small amount of material has been removed from the keels at the tail; don't know if it was worth doing, but it made me feel better.

I have, however, replaced the side keels (K2) with lighter wood, which was a hazardous undertaking because I haven't cut 1/16" square slots for years and years and on something that size the weak points at the corner of each slot feel very weak indeed; in fact there were a couple of <ahem> minor breakages whilst sanding to fit which required a tiny amount of medium cyano to fix, which is partly why it's taken so long to get to this point. Clearly, I need more practice. Was it worth making new ones? Well, the original side keels were hard balsa so it saved just shy of half a gram, which is a total saving of nearly a gram when the nose ballast is taken into account.

I've ruthlessly borrowed some ideas from Jon's Pink Spitfire build so the front formers are angled about 2.5 degrees to the right, the left-hand side keel is now on and after pressing a bit hard and breaking a couple of formers (and the new keel, because I'm a klutz), I've painstakingly glued everything back together and have carefully stepped away to let it dry properly; with luck, I think I might have got away with it.
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Andy Blackburn
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« Reply #10 on: May 01, 2017, 11:35:27 AM »

Spent Saturday afternoon - in between watching motorsport, obvs - adding the left-hand-side stringers, and it was unexpectedly absorbing. I don't remember 1/16" square stringers being that much fun 40+ years ago, but the fact that I was at stuck in school at the time probably had something to do with it  Smiley .

There was another minor fiasco with laminating F2 and F3, the misaligned nose-plug cut-outs are just visible in photo 2; I'm going to have to cut a larger hole, which is probably no bad thing - or at least, that's what I'm telling myself.

I also spent some time with Permagrit needle files and a knife, shaving a little bit off the inside of the formers and keel pieces, partly to provide a bit of extra rubber clearance but also because I'm hoping to get close to Jon's 11 grams ready-to-cover weight; I have reason to believe that about 1/5 of a gram has been saved here, not a lot but every little helps. As they say.

The last picture shows my attempt at straightening out the fuselage after it went a bit banana-shaped - it seems that I've very slightly over-curved the left-hand side stringers; at least it's only bent a little bit, not twisted as well. Next time I'll put both left and right formers and side keels on before adding stringers, in pairs.
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Andy Blackburn
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« Reply #11 on: May 09, 2017, 04:14:53 PM »

It's confession time, I'm afraid...  Smiley

I spent some time removing material from the internal components of the fuselage and having got rid of as much balsa from that as I dared, attention turned to the tail surfaces; the stabilizer weighed about 0.82 grams (unsanded) so, sandpaper and knife in hand, I set about removing some excess wood. It was only after about 20 minutes that I realized that although I'd knocked about 25% off the weight of the stabilizer, I now had a Problem because, having removed about half the outline width, it was left with a butt joint - see picture 1.

Oh dear...

I considered designing and building another stabilizer with sheet parts, but to be honest a laminated outline looked to be quicker. And lighter. However, I'd then be in the position of throwing myself on the mercy of the court if and when it came to kit scale static judging - but I've already managed to mess up the original stabilizer so it's not as though I have much option, and in any case if I made it look similar to the original I might be able to argue that it's not really a significant change, so if you could see your way clear to deducting less than the maximum 5 points I'd be very grateful, your honour, thanking you very much...  Smiley

I seem to remember sanding 1/32" balsa down to 1/64" by wedging it between two thin brass sheets, which I hadn't got, so a few layers of masking tape were used instead and to be honest, I think it's a better solution because you can stick it where you want and the balsa can be really wedged in place, and it really worked quite well. Four layers of ordinary masking tape seems to be roughly 1/64".

I cut off five 1/16" wide strips using a bit of 1/16" square that was going to be used as the main structure to try and ensure that everything matched, made a little glue-bath using kitchen foil (eventually, She's going to start wondering why we're getting through so much of the stuff) and soaked the strips for about an hour in a 50/50 Titebond/water solution before winding them around the form. There was a minor issue that I had to fix when it came off the form, but it didn't take long to fill the new stabilizer outline in with some structure, which I have (of course) tried to make sure is as similar to the original as possible.

The new stabilizer is about 0.45 grams before sanding, or about half the weight of the original.

In other news, all the fuselage stringers are on and luckily, I managed to get the nose parts to fit with only very minor persuasion; the first three nose bays need filling-in with soft 1/16" sheet, then I can start thinking about all the detail bits.
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« Reply #12 on: May 09, 2017, 04:58:36 PM »

You must have been unlucky with the wood supplied for your stabilizer. I have just weighed mine at 0.6 grammes unsanded. Quite a difference !!! My unsanded fin weighs 0.3 grammes just for reference.

It's all looking good though.

Enjoy sheeting the nose !!!  Smiley
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Andy Blackburn
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« Reply #13 on: May 10, 2017, 03:30:52 AM »

Yes, judging from those numbers I think you might be right; I think this was one of the first VMC Spitfire kits in the shop, so it may well be an early one. All the main parts of Jon's Pink Spit, sanded, weighed about 11 grams, so that's my target - I have a suspicion that it might be a little bit over. But I'm consoling myself with the thought that Jap Tissue is slightly lighter than the pink stuff...  Smiley

> Enjoy sheeting the nose !!!   Smiley

I find that the key to sheet in-filling is judicious quantities of Red Wine...
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Andy Blackburn
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« Reply #14 on: May 21, 2017, 12:10:53 PM »

Sheet infill is now done with (mostly) soft 1/16" and (for the lower nose), very soft 1/8" to get a nice outer curve without it getting too thin at the edges of each infill piece. All the main parts are sanded, and I can report that scalloping between the stringers saved about 1/6 of a gram - so, not a lot, but it's all behind the c.g. and it looks nice.

Unfortunately, the total weight at this stage, even after all the lightening operations, is rather more than hoped-for at 12.61 grams...  :'(

I have managed to find a picture of BR416, the (yellow) propeller blade tips are visible as a lighter colour so I think it was probably taken on panchromatic film, so I tend to believe the tone of the overall colour; it also seems to show the registration letters are about the same shade as the outer light blue roundel, so I'm going to assume that they're the same. Interestingly, there appears to be a type A roundel under the port wing which doesn't appear on the after-market plastic model decal sheet.

I think the next thing to tackle will be the scale bits (intake, exhausts, radiator, oil cooler, undercarriage, etc.) and the spinner, which needs to be a bit more pointed than what's supplied in the kit; haven't quite decided how to do this yet, the options seem to be:
  • Sand a balsa former in a drill to the right shape and plunge-mould a new spinner from 20 thou plastic; not sure about this because the nose is quite pointy and I wonder if it'll just push through, or at least be very thin and liable to breakage.
  • Extend the existing kit spinner using plasticard and plastic padding (or similar); sounds a bit hit-and-miss to me, and very easy to get a wobbling spinner.
  • Sand some balsa to the right shape in a drill, hollow it out and use that as the spinner with the existing back-plate arrangement; this sound the most promising although the spinner will have to be balanced after it's finished and fixed in place. This looks to be the most promising idea, I think.
  • As above, but use blue foam to form the spinner and finish it with a hard surface such as glass/epoxy, or similar. This is more work but might be easier to balance, although possibly not as robust as a balsa spinner.
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« Reply #15 on: May 22, 2017, 02:55:38 AM »

I think the balsa spinner will be easiest, and you will need loads of nose weight on a short-nose Spitfire anyway so don't worry too much about hollowing it out.

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« Reply #16 on: May 22, 2017, 03:29:59 AM »

Looking very clean Andy  Smiley
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Andy Blackburn
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« Reply #17 on: May 26, 2017, 04:36:13 PM »

I found a copy of the old Airfix/PSL book (Spitfire classic aircraft No. 1 by Cross & Scarborough) that was written for the 1/24th Spitfire kit back in 1971; it has a number of quite reasonable drawings, including the later (more pointed) spinner which looks similar to what's in the photograph above so I'm going to use it and if it doesn't look quite right I can always make another one - although I did approach the job with a degree of apprehension...

As it turned out, it was OK apart from the mess; a piece of 3/16" dowel was glued into a balsa block with medium cyano and then checked for alignment by eye as the glue was setting using an engineer's square, which turned out to be accurate enough. Grinding down the wood went reasonably well with a Premagrit block, but the dowel tends to loosen in the chuck unless the drill is run anticlockwise. And the jaws of the chuck tend to compress slight grooves in the dowel so if it does come loose, it has to go back in exactly the same place each time; I pencilled-in a small register mark on the base.

The insides of the spinner did need to be hollowed out a bit to give a bit of room for the prop hub and freewheel, using a rather lethal-looking dremel attachment. The spinner is quite small and I had visions of claret everywhere and a free fairground ride to A&E if the dremel slipped, so took the precaution of wearing an old motorcycle glove.

Not 100% sure how it's all going to fit together yet, I'm thinking of a backplate of 1/32" ply with a 1/4" hole through to allow the nose plug to contact the prop. I think it should be OK to have a little bit of balsa support structure on the other side of the backplate inside the spinner that the prop is glued to, and the spinner can be slotted and glued to the backplate. And I hope it doesn't wobble too much...
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« Reply #18 on: May 26, 2017, 11:08:13 PM »

When you make your next one, try using cross-laminated layers.  Makes it much stronger, and the glue adds a bit of nose weight.
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« Reply #19 on: May 27, 2017, 04:20:52 AM »

I think I'm going to have to make another spinner as - due to carelessness on my part - it's slightly under-size (in diameter); not a lot, but I can't really ignore it. Drat.

So I'll try your cross-laminated layers suggestion over the weekend.
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« Reply #20 on: May 27, 2017, 04:43:06 AM »

I've CA'd my prop to the backplate three times already, and still haven't got it both centred and rotationally level!

Plan D is to rig a rotating gluing-jig! At least the prop-zone is the one area where excess weight is welcome!
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« Reply #21 on: May 27, 2017, 05:47:58 AM »

Nice job - Looks like a great candidate for a bit of vac forming...
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« Reply #22 on: May 27, 2017, 08:43:08 AM »

Agree with flydean on cross lam layers. Mine spun nice and true. Also I used a nut and bolt with a basswood disc instead of a dowel after my second attempt. I finally got a spinner I could live with. Good luck!
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« Reply #23 on: May 29, 2017, 12:42:51 PM »

So, here's this weekend's crop of spinners, I think this one looks OK (certainly much better than the last one) so I'm going to use it. After much comparison with photographs and drawings (most of them seem to be wrong...), I've gone with the pointed spinner drawing from SAM Publications "Modeller Datafile 3 - The Supermarine Spitfire part 1: Merlin Powered", by Robert Humphreys.

I think I've made a slightly better job of this spinner, and using multiple laminations does seem to be better - many thanks to Crabby and Flydean. Planning a 1/16" hard balsa backplate (used the hardest wood I had in stock at 13 1/2 lb/cu ft) with a similar spinner mounting arrangement to that shown on the plan, and I have a cunning plan involving epoxy and micro balloons to try and avoid the centering issues that seem to have beset Jon.

In other news, progress has been made with the scale details; still to do the canopy (putting that off till later), tailwheel and aboukir filter; planning to use the 1/24 scale drawing from "Spitfire - Classic Aircraft No. 1" because I already have a scan of that and it doesn't look too bad - just need to remember to reduce the size very slightly before actually cutting wood.
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« Reply #24 on: June 22, 2017, 09:43:59 AM »

Not a lot of indoor building going on at the moment, partly because I have other projects on the go and partly because of the weather - 34 degrees Celsius?? My standard operating temperature range is only about 10 - 22 degrees C...

And I will admit that I've been in a bit of a Gumption Trap with the undercarriage (What if the oleos aren't circular? What if I make the legs different lengths? What if I glue the doors on in different places? How will I glue the doors on in the right place? What if the sky falls in? And so on and so forth...). However, by building first thing in the morning and starting work late, scanning the relevant bit of the plan and flipping it for other u/c leg, the undercarriage has been substantially completed - see pics.
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