A while ago now I build a Lightning Bug DLG by Carl Dowdy. It was the first time I’d built a balsa model in a long time and although it came out okay it did have some flaws.
I only really got a few flights out of it before a particularly energetic launch exploded the fuselage and split the wing. I was never really happy with how it flew so I didn’t repair it. The tail boom was very flimsy and I had a LOT of twist in the tail surfaces. It came out VERY tail heavy (a flaw others have noted) and required a big block of lead in the nose.
The chances of me getting a decent flying DLG were slim but a recent interest in built up gliders got me thinking… Could I build a new fuselage in a more traditional style and revive the design?
This is what I came up with…
The inspiration came from the Leprechaun vintage glider. A sleek, HUGE glider suited for slope and high-start launches.
Constructed almost entirely from 3mm blasa strip it should be a straightforward build. I am guessing I will need to put in some diagonal bracing to stop the fuselage from deforming but otherwise I reckon I should give it a go.
If you are planning on doing any sort of building using balsa then this little tool is a must-have item!
This one I got years ago from Master Airscrew so I’m not sure if they still make them. Simple to use, you just adjust the srew to suit your width. A couple of minutes work and a relatively inexpensive sheet of balsa can be turned into a whole bundle of sticks for building. Get one, you won’t regret it!
Building the first fuselage side was an enjoyable process. It was so easy to work with the 3mm balsa. Of course, it takes longer than using foam board but the result weighs only a few grams and looks awesome. Here’sa few things I found useful…
- CNC machine – those shaped parts were cut on the CNC for accuracy.
- A sheet of foam board stuck to MDF makes a great building board. Laminating film over the plan keeps it clean.
- Those single sided scraper blades from Bunnings are razor sharp! They go through balsa like butter.
- 3D printing is great. I printed those tiny set squares this morning to help with jigging the fuselage.
Now I just need to make the other side match!
The fuselage has come together really nicely! I found I had to add diagonal bracing to add rigidity to the structure but it was really easy to do.
A quick mock-up with the wings and tail look great. I think this might just fly after all!