>> My 10 tips for scale modeling are assuming that you are building, but many of these also apply to ARF aircraft.
1. Buy a plastic kit. The availability of accurate, plastic models is almost overwhelming.
2. Buy a book. Okay, maybe get the book first—and use the internet for research.
3. Get a good three-view drawing. If you chose a good book in tip number two, you have already done this.
4. Model a specific airplane. Most contest-winning aircraft are of a specific airplane within a given type.
5. Identify the hard-to-make stuff such as pilots, engines, machine guns, wheels, and canopies. Size your model to fit what is available or what you feel you can make or already have.
6. Determine the weight and power estimates up front. Review aircraft that are similar in size and arrangement—including ARFs—and use this as a starting point for your model. Optimize the airplane’s power so that it’s just enough. For electric-powered models, MotoCalc (motocalc.com) is a great tool.
7. Follow prototypic construction. A. Understand how the full-scale aircraft was built. Build the model to facilitate the surface detail that will be added later. For open cockpit aircraft, build in the prototypic detail as part of the initial construction. B. Build the structure to accommodate how you intend to fly the airplane. Eliminate plywood wherever possible. Even popular light plywood is more than three times heavier than balsa. If you must use plywood, consider using thinner wood, especially for laminations to balsa. Cross-grained laminations of hard balsa are almost as strong as plywood and are much lighter. C. Incorporate modern materials and technology with the old. Many of my models incorporate nitrate dope (old school) and 3D-printed parts. A piece of 1/8-inch carbon-fiber tube weighs roughly as much as a piece of 1/8-inch square hard balsa, yet it is many times stronger.
8. Hide RC equipment. Nothing to me looks worse than exposed RC equipment such as screws, linkages, motors/engines, servos, and control horns.
9. Make your model “field friendly.” A. Ensure the accessibility of key systems; use magnets to secure hatches and cowlings. B. Make things reliable; use Loctite on fasteners and fiberglassed key joints.
10. Don’t rush the finish. A. Determine key details—generally the engine and cockpit—and build these to a high level. B. Learn how to properly finish a scale surface. C. Learn how to paint and weather. D. Next to a scale engine, a pilot is perhaps the most viewed detail on an aircraft. It also adds the human factor: “That’s where I would sit.”
11. Okay, one more. When you finally get to fly it, fly a scale model like a scale model.
Learning to airbrush is an essential scale modeling skill.
When a good plastic kit becomes available for an airplane that Rob likes, he gets it.
The Focke-Wulf Fw 190 is a well-documented subject. There are many three-view photos and much specific airplane information available.
The fabric covering at the nose of this Stearman’s fuselage was masked and filled to emulate aluminum skin.
Although it’s a tight fit, the elevator pushrod for the Bulldog is buried in the tail.
The sprung landing gear on Rob’s Bulldog was built similar to the full-scale aircraft and works just as well.
Although Rob scratch-built the machine gun, the rivets are from a model railroad supplier.
Except for a wire trailing edge, the stabilizer on Rob’s Hansa-Brandenburg W.12 was built like the full-scale airplane.