Final Build Update – 24in Miles M.18

Final assembly and details. Landing gear, noseplug & prop assemblies.  We’re ready to fly!

  Restoration M.18 version completed
  M.18 undercarriage details
  Forming the reed LG “stirrup”
  Trial Assembly to ensure proper fit
  M.18 prop & noseplug assembly
  Scottish Air Museum M.18 model
  Kings Cup M.18 completed
  Miles M.18 on skis
  Designer Tom Nallen’s M.18 ca 2006
  Kings Cup Miles M.18 model ready to fly

View/Purchase Miles M.18 24in Wingspan Plan

Hi all, it’s a new year.  Hope your 2021 is going well so far. 

Things slowed down a bit over the holidays, but our modelers have finished their Miles M.18 models and they’re ready to fly.  In this update, we’ll touch on details, final assembly, noseplug assembly and specifications.  This will be our last build update.



We closed the previous update discussing the Landing Gear leg wire installation in the wing.  Now lets look at how one of our modelers fabricated the scale LG legs using 1/8in dia reed.  Short lengths of reed were split in half and soaked in a shallow basin of water overnight.  The pliant reed was then hot-bent around a soldering iron to form the unique stirrup-shaped undercarriage legs.  A .020 hole was drilled in the top center and a groove etched into one half of the inside edge to fit the music wire leg.  Before cementing the stirrup in place, short lengths of full-section reed, plastic straw and nylon brush bristles were used to fabricate the upper shock absorber portion of the LG leg.  These pieces were slid over, or slotted and fitted onto the music wire leg.  The stirrup was then fitted to the lower part of the wire LG leg and cyano’d in place.  The finished LG leg assemblies were carefully sprayed with silver Krylon before the wheels were installed.   The wing surfaces were carefully masked to keep any silver overspray off the tissue covering.  

The Kings Cup M.18 wheels were made up of 1/8in sheet balsa cores and 1/8in thick foam tray sides.  The wheel disc and rim was embossed onto the foam sides using a heated 7/16in socket with a 3in extension.  Holding the extension in the hand, the socket was heated and gently pressed/turned onto the foam sides to form the wheel and rim.  The outer edges of the wheel were shaped to a rounded section with a razor and sandpaper.  The wheels were bushed with small diameter brass tubing, the discs covered with silver tissue and the tires painted black to finish.

Both modelers added details per the plan and photos of their aircraft modeled – windscreens, exhausts, airscoops,  headrests, etc.

Final Assembly

Final assembly was straightforward with this model.   Both modelers did a trial assembly with the covered components to ensure proper fit.  Some sanding of the fuselage wing saddle was required to get a seamless fit with the wing center section.

Noseplug & Propeller Assembly

The final step before initial flight testing with most models is completing the noseblock or noseplug assembly.  This includes the thrust bushing, the propeller bushing and free wheeler.

The Kings Cup model’s noseplug was drilled with several degrees of down and side thrust and the thin-walled 1/16 O.D. brass tube used for the thrust bushing .  The round noseplug will not be keyed until after initial flight testing as it may be rotated slightly to alter the down and side thrust mix.  A modified 9.25in dia Czech P-30 prop was bushed for a Henry Struck tube-in-tube setup and a turned balsa spinner fitted.  A simple latch free wheeler was installed on the prop and the noseplug assembly was completed using a .030in dia music wire prop shaft with a “figure eight hook” and an external winding loop at the front of the spinner so the motor can be wound with the noseplug and propeller in place. 

Completed Model Specifications

Despite some significantly different approaches being taken – especially in the covering and tissue finishing areas – the models came in at essentially the same weight.  The Scottish Restoration M.18 model weighs in at 30 grams without motor, while the Kings Cup model finished out at 29.3 grams.  With 110 – 115 sq in of wing area, the wing loading is below .30 g/sq in which is very light.  Both models should have the potential for high performance. 

As mentioned earlier, the Kings Cup model is fitted with a large 9.25in dia prop.  It should fly with a 2 loops of 1/8in Tan rubber motor about 30in long before braiding.  A shorter motor will be used for initial flight tests.  

The Restoration M.18 model is fitted with a 7in Peck propeller and inital flight testing will be done with an 18in loop of 3/16 Tan rubber.  One reason for the smaller prop is that this modeler has fitted his M.18 with skis and intends to fly it ROS (rise off snow).  Wow, can’t wait to see that!

Closing the M.18 Build

Well, it’s been a lot of fun following these builds over the last couple of months.  We hope the different approaches and techniques shared were helpful as well as the pattern downloads made available.

To close, we’ve dug up a photo of designer Tom Nallen 1’s original model from 2006.  It’s a beauty, and yet another illustration of how each modeler inevitably makes his or her model their own.  One of the true joys of scale modeling.

Build Update #3 – 24in Miles M.18

Tissue covering & markings, Cowling and Landing Gear installation – we’re closing in on finishing this model!


Preshrinking tissue
Markings applied to chalked tissue panels  (view video)
Covering with CoverGrip
Covering wing undersurface
Sheet balsa cowl side panels
Vellum cowl fitting & installed
Installing LG wires with plywood doublers
Tyvek alternative; a vertical gusset at the back of LGM to rib W2 is yet to be added
Tissue covered M.18 fuselage with markings applied

Well, it’s been about a month since we’ve started building our 24inch wingspan Miles M.18 rubber powered flying scale models.  Already, we’ve got a couple of ships nearly ready for that first test glide.

Our modelers continue to improvise a bit as they go, and as always it’s interesting to watch this play out. 

Preparation & Covering

Proper preparation is the secret to covering any framework.  There is a sequence that leads to a good looking and flying model at the end.  Sanding the framework and scalloping formers between stringers to smooth raised spots that will cause wrinkles in the covering later on is important.  Pre-shrinking tissue, applying color and markings are part of the preparation process too.  

Right off, our modelers chose different color schemes, methods and techniques.  One modeler chalked his tissue light cream color (video) for the Kings Cup scheme specified on the construction plan, while another used white tissue to replicate the restored M.18 displayed at the Scotland Museum of Flight.

Both elected to pre-shrink their tissue covering to reduce flying surface warps – one shrunk the tissue on a traditional wooden frame and the other used a common window screen. 

Their paths really diverged when it came to adhering the tissue to the framework.  One chose a more traditional thinned white glue (70/30 water – Elmers mix) applied to the frame with a brush, while the other used Deluxe Materials Cover Grip (thinned 50/50 with water) applied with a covering iron.   Both used cut tissue markings, applied with either spray cement or thinned Cover Grip.  The Kings Cup markings were chalked to deepen the color and applied to tissue panels before the tissue was applied to the framework.  A final finish coat of Krylon Satin #1323 was used on the Kings Cup model, while Deluxe Materials EZE Dope (thinned 80/20 water – EZE Dope) was used  on the Museum of Flight M.18 model.

Cowling Installation

The Miles M.18 construction plan doesn’t specify a 3D cowling, but both modelers added cowl panel detail to make the model more realistic.  One modeler used light sheet balsa side panels shaped to contour, while the other used a tissue over vellum approach. In the sidebar photo, note the effective use of hairclips as clamps to secure the sheet balsa to the fuselage framework while the cement cured.

The drafting vellum cowl uses 1/16 square balsa doublers at the first two fuselage uprights  which, once sanded to shape as formers, provide support for the wraparound cowl.  Once the cut vellum cowl was fitted to the fuselage nose, cream chalked tissue was adhered to the vellum with a spray cement.  The fuselage framework was covered and then the tissue covered vellum cowl attached to the nose formers with Sobo Craft Glue.  A trim iron set to low heat was useful to cure the Sobo when installing the vellum cowl.  This approach eliminated the need for the lower cowl balsa block, but a former  is required at the crosspiece just aft of the noseblock.  Rough patterns for this former, the vellum cowl panel, and the cockpit sheeting are provided in the download at the end of this post.

Landing Gear Wire Installation

The M.18 model has wing mounted landing gear wires which must be installed securely to withstand the strain of hard landings.  Here our modelers followed the construction plan, cutting the mounts LGM-R and L from medium-hard 1/16 sheet balsa.  A 1/32 sheet balsa doubler was found to be helpful on the underside of LGM which when sanded faired nicely with the wing Leading Edge.  The .020 music wire legs (right and left) were carefully bent per the plan.  After the wing underside was tissue covered, the wire LG legs were threaded through the hole in LGM and cemented in place with cyanoacrylate glue.  For additional strength, one modeler CYA’d a 1/64 plywood plate on top of the wire set into LGM, while the other used a simple Tyvek patch.  A vertical gusset at the back of LGM to rib W2 was also installed to add strength.   The wing upper surface was covered after the LG leg wires were installed.    

Closing Build Update #3

Ok, lets close this third M.18 build update.  We’ve got several Miles M.18 models coming into the final assembly stage.  In the next update we’ll show the assembled models, discuss some specifics such as weights, flying surface setup, and prop/rubber combinations.   One of our modelers has even fitted skis. 

Until then, download the pattern sheet below, post any questions or comments and most of all keep those balsa chips flying!




Build Update #2 – 24in Miles M.18

Wing construction, Fuselage construction Part 2 and the first Trial Assembly



Wing layout with pre-shaped Trailing Edges


Wing pre-assembly – Ribs and Trailing Edge
Fuselage side construction techniques
M.18 cockpit sheeting: template, mold, install
Fuselage and nose detail
M.18 trial assembly – looking good!
Completed M.18 wing with dihedral added to outer panels

Another two weeks have passed (4 weeks total) and the builders are making good progress.  All three are experienced modelers and are making minor modifications from the plan as they proceed.  Such is the attraction of scratch building – the builder has the freedom to inject their own preferences into the build.

Wing Construction

For “plank” wings like the M.18’s, our West Coast modeler likes to make a plywood template to cut identical ribs.  He then glues those blanks together with a glue stick, sanding the resulting block of ribs to make them all identical.  Then he cuts the spar notches and bird’s mouth for the Leading Edge with a blade or file. Soaking the block in rubbing alcohol dissolves the glue stick, and once the alcohol dries off, a stack of perfectly identical ribs is the result.  The slight taper of the Miles wing does require altering the ribs slightly for the outboard panels, but this is easily done keying off the main spar notches to keep everything true. 

Fuselage Construction – Part 2

Our West Coast modeler took a slightly different path in constructing the fuselage box.    He built the fuselage sides directly atop each other, at the same time, with no saran wrap in between. He’s careful with glue (CyA) and slides a single edge razor between the constructed sides to separate them.  He also used small dryer sheet pieces to reinforce the wing saddle joints and installed 1/64 plywood rear motor peg doublers.

Cockpit & Nose area

Ah, this is a tricky part – and one where builders take different approaches.  The M.18 plan shows full sheeting in the cockpit area from the top longeron up.  One modeler used a creative technique to mold, cut and fit this sheeting using a vellum template.  Another used a similar light paper template technique, but sheeted only from the lowest stringer up.  Interestingly, both modelers chose to install the M.18 cowl side panels not shown on the plan.   One modeled this using sheet balsa while another used a vellum panel approach.  Both techniques look great at this point.

Closing Build Update #2

Ok, we’re going to close this second M.18 build update here.  These modelers are already progressing into the tissue covering and final assembly stages so it won’t be too long before the next update.  Stay tuned!

Until then, keep those balsa chips flying!   Don’t forget to post your constructive comments or questions (none are too basic).



Build Update #1 – 24in Miles M.18

3 modelers are building the 24in wingspan Miles M.18 free flight rubber scale model.  Join in on the build and/or share positive thoughts via the Comment Forum.


Stripping 1/16 sq sticks from sheet balsa. Note “tiled”stab plan print
Tail construction underway. Cling wrap used to prevent frame sticking to plan.
2nd fuselage side constructed atop the first side. Cling wrap is folded over and same pin holes are used.
Fuselage box constructed upside down on top view plan. Magnets hold and align top longerons to metal building board.
Another approach is to use Machinist Blocks and weights to hold down and align the box as crosspieces are installed.
Completed M.18 fuselage box lifted from the building board. Nose former 1 has been installed.
Stay tuned for more in Miles M.18 Build Update #2!
24in Miles M.18 under construction. Get plan here

It’s been two weeks since we announced this online build and we’ve got 3 folks building the 24in wingspan Miles M.18 Mk2 free flight rubber scale model.  Two modelers are on the East Coast and one in the Pacific Northwest.  All have completed the tail framework, one has constructed the wing and two have made solid progress on fuselage construction.  We’ll share some to-date pics along with some of the techniques employed so far.

Initial Laydown

Two builders “tiled” the PDF plan and printed the appropriate sections on their home printer and dove right into the build.  One got the PDF file printed at Arch D size at the local print shop and cut the plan into sections for the build.


While one modeler has constructed the wing, we’re going to hold off on coverage there until the next update when all builders should be well into that phase.  Let’s move on to discuss M.18 fuselage construction, where two builders have been progressing more or less in lockstep.  It’s interesting to see their similar, but slightly different approaches.

Fuselage Build

Both builders constructed the fuselage side frames first in the conventional manner over the plan side view.  One builder constructed the second fuse side over the first which is a technique to help ensure the second side frame is a duplicate of the first fuselage side frame.  This helps achieve a straight and square fuselage box later.  With this technique, the plastic cling wrap that the first fuse side is built on is folded over that constructed first frame to prevent the second frame built ontop from cementing to the first one underneath.

Building a square balsa stick box is a challenging task and here’s where it’s interesting to compare the approach the builders took.  Both builders built the M.18 fuselage box upside down with the straight upper longeron held flat to the building board.  Both modelers used tools to hold the side frames to the board and keep them square while cementing the fuselage crosspieces in place.  While not specified on the plan, both modelers built the fuselage box with 1/16 sq balsa crosspieces installed along the top longeron.  These crosspieces will be cut away for rubber motor clearance after fuselage formers, stringers and cockpit decking have been added. One builder used pins to hold the fuselage side frames to a conventional balsa building board, while the other used strong magnets to hold his side frames firmly to a flat metal desktop “building board”.  Both used 90deg square blocks to check and maintain alignment as crosspieces were added top and bottom at the side frame upright positions to construct a square fuselage box.  One used magnetic squares. while the other used heavy machinists blocks (see My Favorite Tools #2 video).  Both modelers drew in the top and bottom longerons at the nose using Former 1 to provide rigidity and lock the box together at the nose.  Former 1 was the first fuselage former to be installed after the fuselage box – with all crosspieces installed – was lifted from the building board.

Closing Build Update #1

This is a good place to close this first M.18 build update.  The tail has been constructed and two modelers have the fuselage box completed and are adding formers, stringers and cockpit decking (more on that in Update #2).  One modeler has the wing constructed and is moving into the fuselage build.  More on the wing build will be provided in the next M.18 build update so stay tuned.

Until then, keep those balsa chips flying!   Don’t forget to post your constructive comments or questions (none are too basic).

Additional info:

My Favorite Tools #2 – Machinists Blocks ; youtube

Free Flight Rise Off Water, Land On Water Flying

A Vermont modeler’s experience flying free flight rubber models off the water

Check out the flight videos at the bottom of this post


By Mitch Kimble

Flying Aces Sportster lands on water
The Good Tern; a Bill Noonan design
The Good Tern rises off water
Simplified tail-dragger floats
On the Water
Modified Flying Aces Sportster
Sportster turns in to land. Diners at the Marina Restaurant enjoyed the show!
Mitch and his Flying Aces Sportster on floats

I have always been interested in the many aspects of model airplane aviation. Last year I was talking to some modeling friends who were recalling days of flying rubber powered, Mylar covered planes off of water. My friends called it ROW/LOW (rise off water/ land on water), or ROLO for short.  I realized this was something I would like to try.

The Good Tern

I began looking for a good subject for ROLO and found a set of plans for a model by Bill Noonan called The Good Tern.  The Good Tern is a Flying Aces Club (FAC) Embryo Endurance design that Noonan put on floats and had success with.  I built the model and floats according to the plans, covering the model with Mylar and the floats  with Japanese tissue.   The floats were finished with several coats of EZ Dope  until I was satisfied that they would not leak on the water.  I used Deluxe Materials Cover Grip, thinned 50% with water to attach the Mylar film to the balsa framework with a sealing iron.

The Good Tern was completed in January 2020.  Initial test flights were made taking off and landing in snow.  Floats also make good skis if you like to fly in the winter.  My water flying site is a pond  about 30 acres in size and I mainly use a canoe to wind, launch, and retrieve my model when flying off this pond.  I’ve also been able to fly from a single person kayak, but find it very limited on space.

My initial attempts at flying The Good Tern from water taught me that the model was going to need more thrust than the rubber motor that I had been using for my initial test flights could provide to get off the water.  It basically motored across the water until the winds in the rubber motor were depleted.  After increasing the motor size, the plane stepped up and out of the water for a good thirty second flight.

Modified Float Design

The Noonan floats are very scale like in design and the plane looks beautiful on them.  However, I wanted to make a float system that would require less power to rise off the water.  I cut some simple floats from blue foam and set The Good Tern up in a tail dragger landing gear/ float configuration.  It is important to cover the bottom of the blue foam floats with a smooth, lightweight packing tape to reduce their drag in the water.  In this new configuration, take offs from the water required less power and more winds were made available for longer flights.

The Flying Aces Sportster

My second ROLO model was a modified Flying Aces Sportster design scaled to a 20 inch wingspan.  Like The Good Tern, this model is covered with Mylar – 2um on the tail surfaces and 5 um on the rest.

The Sportster is also set up with the same tail dragging float configuration.  I found that for stability on the water, the floats needed to be forward of the center of gravity and the height set such that the plane is as close to the water as practical while leaving adequate clearance for the propeller.  Experimenting with different float positions and angles is a large part of the challenge of getting a good ROW/LOW flight.

For me, putting a stick built, rubber powered plane into water was a new experience. The uncertainty of what was about to happen when releasing the wound up propeller made it very exciting and I would recommend anyone to give it a try.  And remember to use a waterproof glue!


Flight Videos:

A Vermont Free Flight Water Flyer’s Experience; youtube

Puss Moth ROW On the West River ; youtube

Doug’s Gee Bee R-1 Free Flight Model

A photo essay with commentary on the Gee Bee R-1 build, plus a test flight video.  This Gee Bee flies!

By Doug Beardsworth

Doug winds his Gee Bee R-1 model at Waywayanda, NY in July 2020
 Click to Enlarge Images  


Jimmy Doolittle and the Gee Bee R-1
Doolittle wins the Thompson at Cleveland in 1932


Model Photos by the Author
Cutting formers out
Impressive looking bones!

Royall Moore and his Gee Bee R-1 model. Durham, CT Sept. 1974
Knockoff landing gear mount
Fillets covered with Mt Fuji white tissue
Mask and spray the DMFS red color
Fitting the wing “skins”
Coming in after another successful flight!
Flight testing at Waywayanda NY July 2020, courtesy Tom Hallman

The R-1 has been on my Free-Flight (FF) build list for years.  It is such an icon for aviation buffs- with its winning history and dramatic color scheme. As this ship moved up my build list, I began to reacquaint myself with the airplane and its history.

As a FF modeler, I’m always interested in knowing how stable the real airplane was.  In many cases, a real airplane with good stability can be made to be a good FF model.  I have seen Delmar Benjamin flying his R-2 firsthand at Oshkosh as well as videos seen on the web.  I noted that Delmar did no aerobatics that would involve stalls,  hammerheads, snap rolls, or other low speed/stalling maneuvers. Loops and axial rolls look to be very much in the sweet spot of the R-2, and by extension the R-1’s performance envelope.

Having  recently watched the available period newsreel footage at the Cleveland Thompson Trophy races in 1932, The R-1 appears to be quite stable on takeoff, landing and in the air – and it was clearly the fastest airplane flying.  Of course, having Jimmy Doolittle on the stick had a lot to do with it.  He came to the Gee Bee R-1 from flying the Laird Super Solution the year before, and that airplane’s evolution to the Shell Lightning Solution just weeks before.  Clearly, Mr. Doolittle was in fine, well-practiced form for handling the hottest racing ships of the day.  I presume he was quite accustomed to seeing not much more than a big cowled radial in front of him on takeoff and landing with these ships.  If one were to transition to flying an R-1 for the first time, Jimmy Doolittle’s logbook would show one how it might best be done.

I noted that the Granville Brothers design team were very careful  in creating a very robust landing gear system. The gear was equipped with shock absorbing struts, a strong fork supporting the axle on either side of the wheels and the best tires and brakes available in that era.  They all clearly understood that this would be a hot ship, with a touchdown somewhere in the region of 100 MPH on moderately prepared grass fields which were the standard of the day.  It speaks very highly of the skills of the Granville Brothers and Pete Miller to design an airplane that stood up to this and won its first time out.


The Free Flight Model

Despite having several different R1/R2 Kits and plans pass through my hands over time, I never found a plan that I felt truly comfortable in building for one reason or another.

In  April of 2019, I found the Andrew Hewitt  R-1 Plan, which was published in Aeromodeller from the May 1991 issue.  The fuselage shapes he drew appeared to be quite accurate to my eye,  and his finished ship pictured in that article is/was truly a gem.  However his model had much of the fuselage  between the stringers filled in with balsa, which while giving a superb shape, that fill obviously added significant weight. Andrew’s ship came in with a finished weight of 156 grams spread over a 21″ span, so I knew it would be quite a challenge to fly reliably at that weight. And he indicated it was a “hot”, fast-flying ship for a rubber powered model.

I felt that I could use Andrew’s fuselage former shapes, and then edit the planking and other structure in order to make my ship considerably lighter.  I would be building my ship to the more relaxed scale judging rules of the Flying Aces Club (FAC).  The FAC puts a greater emphasis on flying duration over absolute scale fidelity. Combining this structural editing  with my enlarging Andrew’s plan from 21″ span to 24″, I finally felt comfortable enough to begin building.

I started cutting wood in June of 2019, beginning with the fuselage. I shortly had the fuselage partially framed and the wings together to the point I could dry fit them to the fuselage.

Andrew’s outline of the wing planform was very accurate, so I used that outline, but built it using the Dave Rees construction method. The Rees wing uses a traditional LE and TE  from stripwood, but  with a front and back spar cut from sheet.  Ribs are made from 1/16 square on the bottom, and sliced ribs on the top.  I decided to make the wing a one-piece structure which is  integrated into the fuselage structure.  This was a change from the tongue and box “knock-off” wing panels used by Andrew.  So within a week of starting I had a structure that started to look like a Gee Bee.

I changed the nose of the fuselage where it locates the noseblock and prop by necking down the fuselage shape directly to a ring to support the noseblock.

This allowed me to make a lighter cowl, since it was not supporting any of the rubber loads.  The cowl also could then be made with a slightly flexible mounting and also removable for repairs and  access inside the fuselage.

The build went on hold as I prepared for and competed at the FAC Non-Nats at Geneseo in Mid-July of 2019. While at this contest,  Tom II  and I plus several others were sitting in the dormitory common area one evening scouting through a pile of FF plans.  An early Megow plan of the R-1 came up and we gave it a careful look.  I had shown Tom several photos of  what I was doing with my R-1 based on the editing of Andrew Hewett’s plan.  Tom II  told me the story that the R-1 could indeed be a good flyer, and told me that a man in CT had made one and had flown competitively with it.  We both agreed that keeping it light would be the key.

I had assumed all along that this FF ship would need a somewhat speedy “committed” glide in order to fly well.  Consequently I  created the landing gear structure with a “knock-off” feature at a convenient place near the root of the wing..  The tongues I used are retained by monofilament fishing line pins which allow some lateral flex and yet don’t impede the knock off of the wheel spat assembly to the rear.

I chose to use Easybuilt Models Mt. Fuji white, which has a more saturated white color compared to the now disappearing supply of esaki tissue. The fuselage was covered wet,  starting with the fillets.  I prefer to create fillets from sheet balsa  pieces, which are then sanded and shaped to suit.  When built this way, the fillets tend to tie the wing and fuselage into one larger shape and simply looks a bit more consistent and convincing to me.  Those fillets were covered with tissue as a first step in covering.

Once covered the fuselage was then doped with two coats of thinned nitrate.  The clear nitrate seals the tissue and provides a nice base for spraying the red color.  Two thinned coats nearly eliminates the bleeding of the red under the tape.  Design Master Floral Spray (DMFS) Carnation Red was used for the brilliant red used on the Gee Bee. I masked off the white of the fuselage and the uncovered wing structure and then shot the red on a nice day with low relative humidity.  The DMFS Carnation red acts more like a dye than paint.  it doesn’t take much to cover and i can still maintain the translucent look that is appealing to my eye.  Using a fresh roll of  3M blue tape has given me the best results.

Wing skins were created from a large sheet of white tissue applied to an artist’s frame, steam shrunk, doped, masked with the scallop patterns and sprayed with the same DMFS Red in the same manner as the fuselage. I was able to make the four wing skins from one sheet.  A second smaller sheet was made and sprayed entirely red at the same time.  That smaller sheet provided tissue from which I could  cut out the wing registration, race numbers and the dice, and have material for repairs.

Careful indexing of the color separation line of the wing skins at the fuselage was reasonably straightforward to do.  The wing skins were applied dry, then steam shrunk once in place.  I added about 1/16 washout in each wingtip while steaming the tissue.

After adding a few details, I began glide testing to establish CG, decalage and other basic settings.  I was surprised at its relative buoyancy when test gliding without a motor.  I believe that the fuselage shape may contribute something to the effective wing area that I did not expect.

My finished empty weight is at 65 grams, but with rigging and a few panel lines yet to add.  Early powered flights with 200 turns are looking favorable,  but with dutch roll appearing in the glide portion.  I’ve been flying it in very tall grass, but the meadows have just been mowed, so I will wait a few more weeks for the grass to grow taller before flying it again.


Test Flight Video:

Two Model Airplanes: The Gee Bee & Kalinen at Wawa ; youtube

My Favorite Tools – Little Giant Planer


Periodically, we’ll highlight some of our favorite tools & techniques.


Click Image to view  Demonstration Video 
Little Giant Razor Blade Planer disassembled to show blade

Little Giant Razor Blade Planer

NOTE: this tool is not a toy and should not be used unsupervised by children.  

Hi Gang.  Every now and then, we’d like to highlight some of the little tricks of the trade that we use to design, develop, build and fly scale models of aircraft of the Golden Age of Aviation.

As with any task, there’s typically a proper tool for the job.  Modelers are great improvisers, but there is no substitute for the proper tool. 

For shaping balsa or other softwood leading and trailing edges (wing, horizontal, vertical stabilizers, etc.), the Little Giant 3 Way Curve Razor Blade Planer is one of those tools.  Use this plane “with” the grain to remove a uniform amount of material over the length of the strip of wood and prepare the piece for final finishing with sandpaper.

The short video at left demonstrates the Little Giant 3 Way Curve Plane in action.  A 1/16 square balsa stab leading edge is pretty small to be planed and most often in this case I’d simply round the edges with a sanding stick before tissue covering.  But you get the idea.   The tool really shines when planing larger strip wood over greater lengths where the sanding stick would remove material more slowly and in an uneven manner.

First introduced in the mid-1950’s the Little Giant was released in Flat and Curved Plane versions.  This article and the accompanying video discusses only the 3 Way Curved Plane.

The Little Giant measures approximately 2 inches wide, by 2 in. long and 1.25 in. deep.  Cast in metal, it weighs just over 100 grams and is shaped to fit the hand well with the thumb and forefingers falling naturally to the sides of the plane.

The Little Giant uses a standard double-edged shaving razor blade, which means this tool is not a toy and should not be used unsupervised by children.   Change the blade and use the plane with care.  

Used properly, this tool will deliver excellent results.  The Little Giant plane can be found for sale periodically on ebay.

Watch the video 


Re-Building the Q.E.D. Model Wing

“a short photo essay with brief commentary on the Q.E.D. wing rebuild… A short video of a test flight was also captured” 

Q.E.D. in Amesbury, MA
 Click to Enlarge Images  
Q.E.D. at Geneseo 2009

I recall the anticipation of the first test glides of my Gee Bee Q.E.D. model more than 20yrs ago in the back yard of our first house.  In the time between then and now, this model – I know, it’s not really a Gee Bee (see post) – has been flown hard in fair weather and poor, placing in its share of contests and even winning a few.  And I must admit to a crash or two along the way. 

The last crash was flying in an FAC Thompson Trophy mass launch event at the Rocky Hill sod farm in CT.  Unfortunately the sod had recently been harvested and the summer sun had baked the bald surface to hardpack.  Launching into the breeze, the Q.E.D. hesitated a bit and lost airspeed.  Many times before, the knock-off landing gear had prevented damage, but not this time.  She came in on a wingtip and crunched spars, ribs, the whole bit.

Fast-forward to last month.  In preparing the Q.E.D. plan for publication and examining the model for reference, I decided to re-build the wing and get her back into the air.  Following is a short photo essay with brief commentary on the Q.E.D. wing rebuild which took place over several days.  A short video of a test flight was captured and the link follows this post.

Pic 1 – The Initial Lay-Down. Wing ribs are cut out using the templates on the plan, followed by lay-down of the Trailing Edge and bottom Wing Spars.  Inboard ribs W1-W3 are fitted to the spars and trimmed at the aft end to join tightly against the T.E., and then cemented in place.  Next, the Leading Edge and top spar are cemented in place – except at the center rib, which is Cyanoacrylate-glued (CYA’d) together later when the dihedral is added.

Pic 2 – Install wingtips and build in washout.  Laminate the balsa wingtips with thinned aliphatic glue (Titebond).  Trim the wing tips to join tightly with the L.E., T.E. and lower wing spars. Note: don’t trim the spars to exact length during the Initial Lay-Down – trim them to fit snugly as the wing tips are fitted to the L.E. and T.E.   The wingtip should be raised 5/32in off the building board at the front wing spars, which are “cracked” at rib W5 to angle up or down to join with the wingtip.  Also note that the lower rear spar is shimmed up off the building board ~ 1/16in such that the rear spar rises to join the wingtip.  The rear spar slot for ribs W4 and W5 is deepened to allow the aft end of the rib to join with the wingtip.  This approach provides built-in washout at the wingtips which should be gently enhanced when dihedral is added and the tissue wing covering is shrunk.  Washout is important to flight stability with this model.

Pic 3 – Install the Landing Gear Mounts.  This is an important step as any time spent here will be saved many times over in repairs later.  Plus the knock-off L.G. is actually easier to make and much lighter than any fixed music wire gear could be.  Install the L.G. mount balsa sheet fill areas before you block up the wing panels and CYA the dihedral in place at the root rib L.E., spar and T.E. joints.   Remember to block up the T.E. slightly more than the L.E. to add in a bit more washout.  The forward and rear Dihedral Braces are cemented in place after the wing is lifted from the building board.  Now, carefully locate and countersink holes in the underside of rib W1 to receive the earring clutch main L.G. mounts.  The stiff nylon pins embedded into the top edge of the L.G. legs will plug into these clutches and the rear of the leg will be held in place by a small Velcro patch CYA’d to the underside of rib W1 and the sheet fill after the wing is covered with tissue.

Pic 4 – Making the Tissue Markings.  My original Q.E.D. carried the incorrect colors (shame, shame!) for the registration and racing numbers and this was fixed as part of this re-build.  The de Lackner/Galletti 3v indicates Orange with Black pinstripe for the Registration and Racing markings.  To make the Orange tissue markings pop better on the green tissue base, I printed the markings “Orange on Orange” with a black pinstripe using my Epson durabrite printer.  This worked nicely and to deepen the  contrast,I chalked the back side of the printed tissue with Orange Pan Pastel chalk and went over the printed black pinstripe with a Sharpie and straightedge.  The letters and numbers were cut out using a new Xacto #11 blade and attached to the base green tissue “skins” with a spray adhesive using the wing plan underneath as a location/alignment guide.  The vertical tail registration was simply printed on a small patch of green tissue and fixed in place with spray adhesive.  It all seemed to work well.

I also rebuilt the horizontal stabilizer on the Q.E.D. which was a bit droopy with age.  So now, the model should be good for another 20 years.  We’ll see!

Related Docs:

Gee Bee Q.E.D. rebuild test flight video; youtube

GMD R6H Q.E.D. -24in Wingspan, Flying Scale Model Plan, Tom Nallen2

Granville, Miller & deLackner Q.E.D. Art Card; Tom Nallen

About Those Nallen Plans..

From early years drawing on paper with an Engineer’s rule and No. 2 pencil, to later years with a computer and CAD software


    Browse Plans Now 

Model Aircraft Design

We (Tom Nallen’s) have been designing model airplane plans for nearly 50 years.  From early years drawing on paper with an Engineer’s rule and No. 2 pencil, to later years with a computer and CAD software, model aircraft design has been a constant.  It continues today, and while Tom Sr. has sadly passed, Tom2 will carry forward.  

For us, aviation history, scale modeling, and design are equal parts in a creative process.   By making our work available, we hope to help others discover this rewarding form of creative expression and consider designing plans of their own.

A little about the plans on The Gee website.  You may notice that some of them are available elsewhere on the Internet free.  This is true – those plans were originally published in various newsletters and then posted to the Internet.  We’ve included some of these plans to offer a complete design series – Gee Bee and related aircraft, for example.  We will not offer any Nallen designs that are currently for sale by other vendors. 

We hope to continue to publish construction plans in modeling newsletters and magazines, although few magazines today publish traditional “stick and tissue” designs (topic of a future post).  Many of the plans offered on are large format and not easily published in newsletters which prefer to include full-sized printed plans in 11 x 17 inch format. 

Digital Plan Downloads

We are particularly excited about the PDF plan download option for Nallen plans on  With a lower price, no shipping charges and immediate delivery anywhere in the world, we’re figuring many customers will choose this option.  In addition, PDF plan files are much more efficiently stored and the digital plan can be scaled up or down at the time of printing to meet specific  needs – smaller versions to be flown indoors or on smaller fields, for example.  Adjustments may be required for structural components specified on the plan, but this usually manageable.   As the digital plan download option is reasonably priced, we ask customers NOT to share the file with others.  Please refer them to so they can purchase their own download.  More information can be found in the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) on the website.