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Old 04-01-2012, 03:28 AM   #1
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Default Scratch Designed/Built Sailplane

UPDATE: This build is now complete. The following pages include every step of the build, including the design, construction & maiden flight. I had a lot of help from the community here & want to thank those that offered advice. I think you'll find this an entertaining & educational read. Enjoy...

Hey everyone. This is build log for a scratch-built, scratch-designed, gull-winged, V-tailed, electric powered sailplane.

A friend gave me an electric glider balsa kit to build (thanks Ned). Not being one for leaving well enough alone I immediately started thinking of mods. A rounded fuselage would be nice, maybe a V-tail, a fancy high-performance airfoil & so on & so on. By the time I was done thinking up mods I realized I couldn't use the kit anymore & returned it. She'd be 100% scratch built, awesome!

So here's my initial design roughed out in CAD...



Wing Span: 108" (2750mm)
Airfoil: SD 7023
Motor: Turnigy G15
Propeller: APC 13" x 7" folding
Battery: 3S 1800-2200mAh LiPo
Channels: Aileron, Elevator, Rudder, Flaps, Throttle (with the crow, flaps down/aileron up thing)
Construction: Balsa, Spruce & some Carbon Fiber

I chose a subtle gull-winged design mainly because I love the classic look but also to help with ground clearance for the big flaps. For the same reasons a V-tail was also chosen. My main flying field is mowed grass but I like the idea of being able to take this "off-road" & land safely in weedy, long grass. If it was a foamy job I wouldn't worry but this bird being mainly balsa will be a tad fragile. Will be nice to have all the weaker bits up out of the way & let the fuselage take all the landing abuse. Besides gull-wings & V-tails are just plane cool.

Although the construction will be old-school built-up balsa I'll be using some modern tech as in carbon fiber here & there. For example the tail-boom will be a combination of old-school stick-balsa construction surrounding a CF tube. At least that's the plan.

Anyway enough babble, here's the build...

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Old 04-01-2012, 03:28 AM   #2
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Default The Build

The fuselage "pod" is made from big chunky 1/2" balsa planks. Yeap, 1/2 inch...



My dumbbell finally came in handy, can't remember the last time I exercised with it...



To get her to thermaling altitude I chose a Turnigy G15 motor turning a 13" x 7" folding propeller.



The motor mount is epoxied in position with 4 of down-thrust. As the nose is pretty narrow I chose not to add any side-thrust. If necessary I'll mix a little right rudder to the throttle channel...


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Old 04-01-2012, 03:29 AM   #3
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Default The Build

Sheeting is added to the bottom of the fuselage...



Before I close off access to the rear the carbon fiber tail boom is well glued into the structure...



With that done I complete the bottom sheeting...



A total of four layers of 1/8" balsa were laminated together. Again that's a 1/2" thick!..


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Old 04-01-2012, 03:30 AM   #4
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Default The Build

Some of you may be wondering what the heck is this guy doing using 1/2" balsa to make a glider fuselage? Well here's why I chose such thick lumber...



Most of the wood is sanded away to eventually produce a nice rounded cross-section...



This is why I love working with balsa, its a real joy to shape. (For those who might ask, that's a 4 meter Discus sailplane in the background but that's for another blog)...


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Old 04-01-2012, 03:30 AM   #5
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Default The Build

Time to make a canopy. After making a paper template I slip a two liter soda bottle over the nose & make it snug with some scrap wood...



I love this part, a few passes with a heat-gun & the bottle shrink-wraps perfectly around the fuselage...



Next, using the paper template as a guide, I gut away the canopy area...



Now she's starting to look like a glider. I laminate two sheets of wood together to form the base for the canopy...



Trim to fit, a coat of paint & some scrap wood to help align the canopy in the fuselage...



Gluing the soda bottle canopy to its base...


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Old 04-01-2012, 03:31 AM   #6
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Default The Build

I wanted the fuselage to transition smoothly into the carbon fiber tail-boom. Falling back to my old-school stick-balsa fuselage days, I started working on the transition area...



Once covered this should look pretty good & who knows, might even add a little structural strength to the CF tail-boom...



Fuselage is more or less complete. It came out so-so lightish but I can always hollow out the inside more if I want to shed a few more grams. Love how that spinner is looking...


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Old 04-01-2012, 03:31 AM   #7
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Default The Build

UPDATE: The following wing design failed during one of the early test flights. Although there's still plenty of useful & interesting info here, I'd advise skipping ahead to post #20, unless of course you're interested in how not to build a wing.

Time to make some wings. I'm no expert when it comes to airfoils so I did some research online. Taking advice from several sailplane forums I ended up concluding this puppy was the ticket...



Using my CAD software I printed then contact-cemented the rib shapes onto my wood. I used a scroll-saw to rough cut each then went to the belt sander to finalize the shape...



Next I printed up the wing center section plans & began assembly...



As this is not a flat bottomed airfoil I added tabs to the ribs to help keep them at the correct AOA. They will be sanded off once the basic frame-up is complete...



Seeing as I went to all the trouble of choosing a fancy airfoil I thought sheeting would be a good idea. Saggy covering can do terrible things to a wing's shape, especially on the top leading edge area...



As much as I like this SD 7023 airfoil, it is one thin SOB. There's not a lot of room in there for joinery so once again I opted for some CF reinforcement. I also made these end ribs from plywood to help support the CF rods...



The two center sections of my gull-wing will be glued together. The outboard sections will be joined using CF rods indexing these brass tubes. Again with the thin airfoil thing, I was limited in how much dihedral could be built in & still use rods to connect the sections. Best I could do was 7 dihedral in the middle & 4 down where the outboard gull-wing sections join. As this will be an aileron ship so I'm not too worried about built-in roll stability or rudder only turns anyway...



Once again with the thinness issue I'm a little worried about structural strength. For the inboard sections at least I chose to fully sheet the top. I'm debating whether the bottom could benefit from sheeting too. I don't want to end up building a flying brick either, weight is always concern...



The center sections are clamped & glued together, now we're getting somewhere!..



Servo wire is run for the ailerons & flaps...


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Old 04-01-2012, 03:32 AM   #8
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Default The Build

The outer wing panels. Again I printed plans from my CAD design, taped the 8" x 11" pages together & started to lay things out (gotta love computers)...



Nothing too special here, more of the same, glue the ribs to the spruce main spars using their tabs to keep everything aligned...



Well that's all I have for now, will post more as I go. Comments & advice would be appreciated...

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Old 04-01-2012, 08:46 AM   #9
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Very nice build! Im going to borrow your technique for the canopy construction. very clever!

I have some concerns about your wing build though. Doing the sheeting only on top isnt going to add much, if any, strength. You need to create a 'D' tube structure with top and bottom sheeting working together with the spar and shear webbing. Top sheeting alone will not add any significant tortional strength and wont help with bending loads at all.

Im also wondering about your joiner placement. Typically, the joiners 'join' the spars in each wing section together. Yours are well forward and aft of the spars. Its the spars that need to carry the bending loads. The way you have the joiners, those loads will not be carried across the joints properly.

Or do you also have a structural joiner inside the spars?

Your workmanship is excellent!

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Old 04-01-2012, 09:14 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Larry3215 View Post
Very nice build! Im going to borrow your technique for the canopy construction. very clever!

I have some concerns about your wing build though. Doing the sheeting only on top isnt going to add much, if any, strength. You need to create a 'D' tube structure with top and bottom sheeting working together with the spar and shear webbing. Top sheeting alone will not add any significant tortional strength and wont help with bending loads at all.

Im also wondering about your joiner placement. Typically, the joiners 'join' the spars in each wing section together. Yours are well forward and aft of the spars. Its the spars that need to carry the bending loads. The way you have the joiners, those loads will not be carried across the joints properly.

Or do you also have a structural joiner inside the spars?

Your workmanship is excellent!
Funny you should mention that, yeah actually I am doing the D tube thing. Its kinda hard to see in my photos but I do have shear webbing running between the two spars. Tonight I also went ahead & sheeted the bottom as well, completing the D shape. What I'm still debating is if I should sheet the bottom section aft of the spar.

As far as the wing rods go, yes I would have preferred to place at least one between the two spars. Unfortunately because of this thin airfoil & the need for some dihedral there wasn't really room to fit a rod of useful length in between. Instead I chose to double up & use two rods & have the three end ribs, (made of plywood, not balsa) distribute the load out to the spars. I'm fairly confident that'll work plus I don't intend to push this plane too hard. Hopefully she'll spend most of her time gently floating around in thermals.

Thanks for the comments. Sounds like, for the most part, I'm on the right track here.

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Old 04-01-2012, 01:21 PM   #11
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Old 04-01-2012, 10:00 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Nodd View Post
Funny you should mention that, yeah actually I am doing the D tube thing. Its kinda hard to see in my photos but I do have shear webbing running between the two spars. Tonight I also went ahead & sheeted the bottom as well, completing the D shape. What I'm still debating is if I should sheet the bottom section aft of the spar.

As far as the wing rods go, yes I would have preferred to place at least one between the two spars. Unfortunately because of this thin airfoil & the need for some dihedral there wasn't really room to fit a rod of useful length in between. Instead I chose to double up & use two rods & have the three end ribs, (made of plywood, not balsa) distribute the load out to the spars. I'm fairly confident that'll work plus I don't intend to push this plane too hard. Hopefully she'll spend most of her time gently floating around in thermals.

Thanks for the comments. Sounds like, for the most part, I'm on the right track here.
There are lots of sail planes out there with very thin wings and they all use the same basic joiner technique with the joiners between the spar caps. If the spars and spar caps are sized properly, you dont need a long joiner rod. Thats just extra weight.

Take a look at these wing joiner plans from the Bubble Dancer Im building. It also has a very thin wing.

Its a 126" span with a 10" cord and the max thickness is about 3/4". It uses 3/8" x 5.7" carbon rods and is designed to withstand full pedal winch launches. Way over kill for an e-powered ship

Ive never seen a joiner setup like your doing in any sail plane - or any other plane for that matter. Its not done that way for very good reasons as I mentioned above.

Id highly recommend you reconsider how your doing those joiners.

As far as the sheeting - Id do full sheeting top and bottom in the very center of the center section. maybe out to that third rib or so, then just the D-tube beyond that. Any more than that would be extra weight with little gain.

Dont make it an abrupt transition from the full sheeting to the D-tube. Do a curved transition. I'll see if I can find a pic of how its done so you dont end up with a stress riser.


Attached Files
File Type: pdf joiner_build.pdf (3.5 KB, 1200 views)
File Type: pdf joiner_V2.pdf (11.6 KB, 925 views)
File Type: txt joiner_build.txt (2.6 KB, 525 views)

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Old 04-01-2012, 10:08 PM   #13
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Here you go.



I think I need a signature.
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Old 04-02-2012, 04:43 AM   #14
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Yeah I'm all set on the sheeting issue. I always intended to run the D-tube full span. For the outer wing sections I was also planning to fully sheet the first three or four ribs. As you suggested the transition won't be abrupt, will be either curved or diagonal.

Looking back at my earlier photos of the CF wing rods the camera angles do kinda give the impression neither of the two rods is anywhere close to the main spar. Here's a different angle that shows the forward rod is actually already very close to where it needs to be...



Even though this setup probably would have been okay, you have me sufficiently paranoid about wing failure to do some further thunkin'. What I have in mind should make us both happy...



I'm planning to install spruce shear webbing along the front of the spars where the rod currently is. A slot will be cut in the webbing so it fits snugly around the rod. With some epoxy gooped here & there this should effectively attach the rod directly to the spars. The plus side of this arrangement is that I can keep my current dihedral angle & still fit a fairly long rod (14 inches) to help distribute the load over a large area. Here's another photo showing how the new spruce shear-webbing will fit around the rod...



I've only mocked up the one rib bay so far but with this setup running the full length of the rod I'm now pretty confident this wing will stay in one piece.

Thanks a bunch for your suggestions & the Bubble Dancer files, much appreciated. Will have more photos & stuff as I go.

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Old 04-02-2012, 05:12 AM   #15
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Ok then. I hope that works for you.

One other thing you might consider for the center of the center section - add about a 1-2oz layer of fiberglass top and bottom out to the second rib.

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Old 04-03-2012, 04:23 AM   #16
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Yeah I'll probably glass the center section joint. I picked up some zpoxy & glass cloth last week in anticipation of beefing up certain areas.

Here's the reinforced wing rod now tied in directly with the spars...



I did the same to the center wing section...



Started the D-tube sheeting on the outboard wing panels...



Will have more shortly.

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Old 04-03-2012, 08:53 AM   #17
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Beautiful work.

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Old 04-03-2012, 07:35 PM   #18
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Thank you.

I just got an interesting comment from one of my mirror threads on another forum. A guy pointed out that it may have been a mistake to glue my carbon fiber wing rods into the wing. Instead he suggested I install brass tubing not on one but both sides of the wing joint, thus making the CF rod removable. That way if a wing rod ever needs replacing it won't require major surgery. A very good point & something to consider for my next build.

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Old 04-03-2012, 08:42 PM   #19
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I would worry too much about that. Your rods are way over kill for strong. The wing will self destruct long before you break the carbon.

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Old 04-04-2012, 03:44 AM   #20
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Yeah next build I'll consider removable/replaceable wing rods. Moving on...

I put the three wing panels together today so I could admire the wing as one piece, looked pretty awesome. When I set her down on my workbench I noticed she tipped to one side. I kinda expected this, one wing panel is slightly heavier than the other. I still had some sheeting to do so I figured this was a good time to see if I could equal things up a little. I mixed & matched my balsa stock until I found a combo that was close in weight...





I could have just added weight to the lighter wing but using slightly lighter balsa on the heavy panel achieve the same result without adding additional weight. I'll likely need to do this again once everything is complete but at least the wing is fairly close for now, give or take a few grams.

More reinforcing, I added gussets to the rear of the ribs in the non sheeted areas...



Just before the last of the sheeting went on I ran a length of string through the ribs so that I can later fish my servo wires though...



Outer panel sheeting is complete, woohoo!...



That's all for today, time now to watch some telly.

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Old 04-06-2012, 03:04 AM   #21
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Once again someone on another forum recommended further reinforcements. LOL this is going to be one indestructible wing. I don't recall taking all these steps when I put my Gentle Lady together back in the '80s *smile*. A dinky plywood dihedral brace between the wings, some Elmer's & we were good to go. Strong is good though, we like strong.

Anyway this guy suggested, correctly, that the center of the wing carries the greatest loads & that I'd best take extra steps to keep it good-n-strong. He suggested three things...

1. Fully sheet the wing center section both top & bottom
2. Reinforce the wing's center joint with CF biscuits
3. Double up the shear webbing on the main spar by adding a second web to the spar's front edge

All good suggestions. I have fully sheeted the entire center section. I'm adding CF to help tie the two wing halves together. I did double up the shear webbing before sheeting it too. So once again with your help, I'm pretty confident this wing will hold together & then some. Here's a few more build photos...

Epoxied CF striping to the main spars top & bottom...



Fiber-glassing the center joint...



The two thin wires sticking through the bottom of the wing are attached to my servo wires so I can easily retrieve them once I'm done with the fiber-glassing. Hope to have more done tomorrow.

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Old 04-06-2012, 06:02 PM   #22
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A guy on another forum posted the following, here's my response:

"Nodd, very nice design and great build. Gull wings are cool.
What CAD do you use ?
Yeah I've always had a thing for gull wings. Back in the '80s I had plans for a big beautiful gull winged bird but never got around to building it. So 30 years later I'm finally getting around to making one. I used 3D Studio MAX for this plane's structural CAD work. For the aerodynamics I use X-Plane's Plane Maker feature. Here's a quote from X-Plane's website that sums it up well:

X-Plane is not a game, but an engineering tool that can be used to predict the flying qualities of fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft with incredible accuracy.
X-Plane is pretty cool & a lot of fun to tinker with. As far a modeling the structure of your aircraft 3D MAX is kinda overkill. There's free/cheaper CAD software out there like Google SketchUp, Blender, AC3D etc. Any of those should let you design & print your plans.

Note I'd prefer not turn this thread into a discussion about CAD software, that's been covered to death in other threads. Just thought you might be interested in what I'm using.

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Old 04-07-2012, 03:55 AM   #23
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Sanding, sanding & yeap, more sanding...



Balsa dust is some nasty stuff, totally need a mask. Made up a simple sanding block then its lots of elbow-grease...



After a couple of hours I had the wing sanded. I was dreading doing the leading edge but it came out really good, very pleased with the shape. Next I started cutting out & assembling the the trailing edge control surfaces...



Everything was going great until I realized I was out of 1/16" sheeting, was planning to use that for the top of the trailing edge. Oh well, back to the hobby store tomorrow...


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Old 04-08-2012, 06:10 AM   #24
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Before proceeding any further I spent some time in X-Plane tweaking the wing's control surfaces. After some tinkering I settled on placement & length of both the flaps & ailerons. I made a quick YouTube video while test flying her in X-Plane, figured you folks might be interested in seeing her fly, even if it is just virtually for now...

If you want to see this in HD (recommended), start it playing then right-click the video & choose "Watch on Youtube".

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Old 04-09-2012, 04:29 AM   #25
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Now that I have some idea what I'm doing with the wing's flaps & ailerons I got to work today putting those together. Mindful of weight I decided to make the TE hollow instead of carved from a solid plank. I added little ribletts here & there to support the top sheeting. I added a really wide rib where I expect to mount the control horn...



Here's the finished TE pieces, some still drying. One of the outboard TE sections started to curve on me after I applied the glue. As a fix I pinned it to the workbench then dabbed it with a damp sponge in hopes that'd make it behave. Will let that dry over night, fingers crossed its okay in the morning...



Nice to have the wing almost done. Onwards & upwards!

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