SSE Lessons Learned

I continue to plod slowly long on my SSE build. I have the basic construction completed and I am just about ready to start covering and final assembly. While I still have not learned how to get my builds done as quickly as a lot of the other guys I see posting on RC sites, I have learned quite a few lessons along the way.

Lesson 1: Be Selective with Kit Supplied Balsa

The 1/16″ sheeting supplied with the kit for the wing D-Tubes (the sheeted portion of the wing ahead of the spar) turned out to be a bit marginal, with a large knot running through several sheets in the same place. I ignored this and used them anyway, only to find that those knots caused a large local dimple to form between the wing ribs. Note this was not a “starved horse” kind of sagging you sometimes can get between the ribs, but more of a dimple localized around the knot. Being the fussy builder that I am, I decided to fill the dimple with a bit of balsa filler. This worked great on one wing panel, but not so good on the second, leading to Lesson 2.

Lesson 2: Know When To Stop Fussing

When fussing with the dimple on the second wing panel, I kept filling and sanding and filling and sanding trying to get the surface to blend smooth. All this filling and sanding lead me to sand the surrounding sheeting too thin, and I ended up poking a hole through the balsa. Ughh! I originally tried to patch just the local area, but this lead to another cycle of fussing. So in the end, I gave up and just carefully cut the sheeting off the outer two bays and replaced it with new wood.

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The final product is acceptable, but I do have a but of starved horse look between the ribs. This is a result of too much sanding trying to get the surface smooth. which leads to Lesson 3.

Lesson 3: Less Is More When Sanding

When it comes to sanding, always remember that less is more. You can always go back later and take another swipe or two, when you’re really convinced that you need it, but you can’t put back material (at least not easily). Even though I was careful to use a long flat bar, too much sanding leads to thinning of material directly over the ribs producing a wavy look in my wings.

I also ran into a problem when sanding out the fuselage hatch. When blending the front of the hatch smooth, I was not paying enough attention to the “other end” of the sanding bar, which in turn lead to a nasty groove being cut near the back of the hatch from the back corner of the sanding bar. This lead to another cycle of filling, sanding, and fussing (see Lesson 2), which again resulted in material being sanded too thin. In this case, I plated on some 1/16″ balsa scraps to build material back up, and then blended it smooth. You can see below that I misted on a very light coat of gray primer to help guide my sanding (i.e.; the primer is left behind in low spots).

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Once again, what I ended up with a less than perfect, but hopefully acceptable (we’ll see after the covering is applied). Which leads to the most important lesson learned yet …

Lesson 4: Any Mistake Can Be Fixed

A good friend who helped me to get started in RC once told me: “Don’t worry if you make a mistake, any mistake can be fixed”. I repeat that mantra to myself all the time while I am building, especially when things start to go bad. Mistakes are part of the building process. We all make them, even the best builders out there. Mistakes can be fixed and they can be a learning opportunities for the future. Sometimes they cost us some money (if a new part or material needs to purchased), but mostly they just impact time (and maybe a little pride) and it is part of the overall experience. Remember that this is a hobby and we do this for fun, so don’t fret if something goes wrong, just fix it!