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How to build a large-scale balsa wood plane - Part 1

January 23, 2020

1:3 scale 5m eon Olympia 2b sailplane

Aeromodelling on a GRAND scale using balsa wood and plywood

Craig Brista lives in Melbourne and flies out of the Keilor And Districts Model Aircraft Society, about 20 km northwest of the capital of Victoria.

 About 18 months ago he finished building a prototype 1:3 scale 5m eon Olympia 2b sailplane (above) which was the 4th kit produced in Melbourne by the design team of Shane Williams and Andy Smith.

This model may have been the 4th kit to have been cut, but it was the first to be finished and flown, so Craig had to make sure his craftsmanship was up to scratch and that the plane flew exceptionally well.  No pressure!

How did it go?  Well, thanks to the designers and Craig’s attention to detail, the model flew superbly.

As a result of his project building efficiency and the success he had in the air, Craig was asked if he would be interested in taking on something a little larger?  

Of course, he accepted and after collecting his laser parts kit for a 1:2 scale 5m 3.2m long LO100 sailplane Craig was eager to get stuck in and start his next building adventure.

The box of parts (above) was just box 1 of 3 large boxes full of ribs, formers and stringers used in the skeleton of this monster-size model.

 After studying the supplied notes, Craig set to work laying out and identifying the individual parts and then dry- assembling the main fuselage to check the fit and view the physical size of this model.

“I’ve built a large number of models in my time, some quite small and the longest I’ve built is 5m,” said Craig, “But a 5m span model, is massive and the sheer mass was way beyond what I was expecting!“

Large Fuselage and Tail Section

Craig quickly dry-assembled the basic fuselage (above) then all the fixtures on the formers were glued to the bench while checking it remained straight and true. The skeleton was then stripped down and reassembled glueing every joint as he progressed.

Once the fuzz (Fuselage) was cemented and cured, Craig then sent a large Balsawood order to, quickly received it, and started skinning and planking the structure. The fuselage alone used in the region of 25 full sheets of 3 x 100 x 1220mm balsa, not including sheeting for any of the tailplane or rudder parts.

The horizontal stabiliser (above) was a whopping 52” (1320mm) span.  The wing was built in 3 sections -  the centre and two outer panels. The centre panel itself was the same size as a house front door and the two outer-panels are 1.5m span each!

Once the skeleton of the wing was trued up and glued together permanently, the wing skins were made and bonded down.

“Consistently, through this build, I have had to stand back and soak in the sheer size of the project!”  Said Craig.  “To date, I have placed three large Balsawood orders in addition to multiple requests for Basswood Ply.”

As the model stands, it is cleaned and finish sanded.  The materials for covering the sailplane have been ordered and are on their way and Craig plans to start the mammoth task of covering and fibreglassing the project over this Christmas period.

“Once everything is covered, it will need a fine finish sanding and any blemished areas filled and sanded before being prepared for painting,” said Craig.

We’ll see how Craig got on when we return from the Christmas/New Years break in Part 2 of “How to build a large-scale balsa wood plane.”

🎄 Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Everyone! 🌟


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