79 Model Aviation SEP TEMBER 2012 www.ModelAviation.com
Exploring the joy of building
by Joe Malinchak
> Cartoon Scale
> P- 51 Mustang
> Indoor Night
at the NEAT Fair
Ibegan flying RC model airplanes when I was a boy, and at that time there were few RTF aircraft on the market. The only viable option was to build my own. I spent many hours building and repairing my airplanes while learning how to
fly. I soon found that I enjoyed building models as much as I enjoyed flying them,
and that the experience could be relaxing and rewarding.
Today, with all of the wonderful RTF airplanes on the market, most people
choose not to build their own models. I think a great way to get into the hobby
is by purchasing an RTF airplane, but people should try building at some point
to see the benefits of constructing their own model. You can even salvage the RC
gear from a crashed or worn-out RTF model and use it in the airplane you want to
One of the fun aspects of building is learning new techniques. I just finished
building a kit of Gordon Johnson’s wonderful Cartoon Scale Pitts that required a
few techniques that I hadn’t tried before.
Building the Cartoon Scale Pitts
Gordon Johnson flew the new Cartoon Scale Pitts he designed at last year’s
Northeast Electric Aircraft Technology (NEAT) Fair indoor event. People were so
impressed with the model that Gordon created a few laser-cut kits for those who
wanted to build one of their own.
He sent the kits to Bob Selman to distribute and evaluate for possible
production. I was excited about building one, and was also asked to evaluate the
The kit included all necessary laser-cut foam and light plywood parts, laser-cut
painting templates, and MicroLite covering material. I only had to supply my own
carbon rod, motor, and radio gear.
Gordon uses MicroLite film to cover the model. The graphics are painted on
with his laser-cut painting templates. MicroLite is a pigmented, self-adhesive, heat-shrinkable film for covering lightweight models. The film is lighter than Japanese
tissue, and available in various colors. It can be purchased from David Lewis
I have had great success with this covering on various balsa models, but have
never attempted to use it on foam. Heat is needed to shrink the material, which
would melt or warp the foam parts. I had never tried using templates to paint my
graphics on the foam, either.
The first step in covering the Pitts is painting the graphics on the MicroLite.
Gordon recommends starting with the horizontal stabilizer because it is a good
airframe component on which to practice.
After attaching the elevator to the stabilizer, cut the MicroLite to approximately
1 inch larger than the stabilizer. Tape the material onto a smooth piece of wood
with the shiny side up, using small pieces of masking tape.
Spray the stabilizer painting template on one side using Delta Stencil Magic or
Stencil Ease spray, which is available in craft stores. Let it dry for roughly 2 minutes
until the adhesive becomes partially dry and tacky.
Apply the template to the taped-down film. Tape some newspaper around the
painting template and press down one last time to help seal the edges.
Spray on your graphics using Krylon paint in the color of your choice. I used
white MicroLite and bright red Krylon paint for my graphics because I thought it
would look nice and produce a lightweight
airframe. It only needs two or three light
coats. Wait a minute or two between each
After painting, immediately remove
the template to minimize any bleeding
underneath. After it is dry, carefully peel off
the masking tape, then place the film back
onto your building board with the graphics
side down. Tape down on all sides as you
did before, getting the material as tight as
Two triangles are painted on the centerline
of the horizontal stabilizer graphics to aid
in alignment; align the stabilizer onto the
film. Cut half of the Depron foam that the
stabilizer piece came out of so it can be
used as an alignment tool. Place the Depron
alignment piece over the stabilizer and
weigh it down. This will be used for quick
positioning of the stabilizer.
This photo shows the top-wing graphics that were
painted on the MicroLite film using the painting
templates and techniques described in the
Below: I received this
basic kit to evaluate
amazing Cartoon Scale Pitts. The kit included
laser-cut Depron and light plywood parts, painting
templates, and basic instructions.