No one likes to sound like a newbie, but now that you speak
balsa, you can run with the pack. It is important to practice
as much as possible to stay fluent. The best way to do this is
to choose the construction style that suits you and find plans.
Next time we meet, we’ll discuss how to read plans.
Pat’s Custom Models
Manzano Laser Works
This method is slightly heavier than stick frame
construction, but it is easier to build and slightly less
fragile. It is commonly seen in designs by Guillow’s, as
well as most of my own.
The fuselage is started by pinning keels to the building
board. Bulkheads and formers are attached to the
keels, and these might be tied together with a longeron
running along the fuselage’s midline. Numerous
stringers run the length of the structure to give it shape.
structure is unpinned and the other half is built directly
The tail group might be built with laminated outlines,
but it is more common for the outlines to be built from
also generally the same as for the stick frame, but the
use of sheeting from the LE to the main spar is more
A third popular construction style is the sheeted
airframe. This uses the same internal components,
such as fuselage formers and wing ribs, but fewer.
The wings and fuselage are skinned with sheet balsa
instead of stringers.
Sheeting the entire airframe results in more weight
than other construction methods, but sheeted
structures are stronger and quicker to build. Another
the subject is a full-scale aircraft that was sheeted with
aluminum rather than linen. Terry Majewski of TDM
Models is a designer who has mastered this method.
Wing ribs glued directly to sheeting, and sheeting in lieu of
fuselage stringers, are the hallmarks of sheeted construction.
The sheeted 32 Raiden by TDM Models is tougher and looks
more scale without the stringers, but weighs a bit more than
other types of construction at 24 ounces all-up weight.
Keel frame construction begins by tying keels together with
former and bulkhead halves.
Paul Kohlmann’s 32-inch Ki- 61 uses slightly more wood than
stick frame construction with its keels and sheeted LEs, but
comes in at a respectable 9. 5 ounces all-up weight.
Keel Frame Construction
Photos by the author
49 Model Aviation APRIL 2015 www.ModelAviation.com