Constructing things (planes and cubes)

Recently, I've been constructing things. A few months ago, between jobs, I popped down to where I grew up to collect the last of my stuff. It's been some time! However, I didn't really want to pull things out until we'd bought a place, to avoid moving everything time and again. Then, when we'd bought a house, time for this kind of thing was incredibly limited. Anyway, the stuff's finally here.

Amongst all this stuff was a balsa-wood model aeroplane that I was constructing with my father, a project that must have stalled in the early '90s, if not before. The fuselage had been glued up, but that was it. Being something of a completionist, I worked through the rest, and it's now ready to paint!

It's not a brilliant job, but it makes me happy. Things I discovered include:

  • Assembly of the balsa wood frame is quite rewarding - cutting the balsa is simple, balsa glue is unyucky and wonderfully quick setting, and you can build up a shape fairly easily.
  • Covering with tissue paper is a PITA. I avoided traditional dope, going instead for PVA glue, which seems to make a nice substitute. Covering the fuselage in small pieces was incredibly tedious, but simple and the result wasn't bad. Covering the wings was a right faff. This is also, I think, where dope may have an advantage, since I think it can help tighten up the paper on the wings. Instead, the paper is not exactly taut on my model.
  • It was also not clear how to deal with the edges of the paper - do I go for sharp edges and a little bump, or something a bit more torn in order to try to smoothly transition? You can see the dots on the leading edge of the wing where my scalpeling did not go to plan.
  • A 3D printer comes in handy - those wheels were printed and painted, as one of the original wheels in the kit was lost over the decades.

"A 3D printer?" you say? Why, conveniently work has a 3D printer for our use, which looks like an extremely fun toy. It has the advantage that you can set it off, go do some proper work, and then come back when the print is done.

My first test was a Weighted Companion Cube, because I'm a fan of Portal. My first attempt went wrong when I failed to click the "add supports" button, leading to the printer attempting to doodle into space. One quick cancel later, and a reslice, it was off. With a well set-up high-end consumer printer, printing a small part, it seems that the whole thing's near idiot-proof.

This is the result. It's about an inch cubed:

To my eyes, the quality is very good. You can see the printing artefacts, but they're relatively small. I am extremely tempted to try the acetone vapour smoothing trick, and see how it goes.

Posted 2015-07-19.