My first scratch build, the good and the worst

by HardWork | January 31, 2019 | (6) Posted in Projects

I started in this world of radio control less than a year ago, although I had been studying the subject for a long time. In my opinion, I started in an unusual way. Most people choose a commercial kit as their first airplane. An EasySrart or a Brixler are some of the most common models for beginners because of the flying characteristics they provide. I, on the other hand, decided, out of ignorance, to start with a Cessna. At that time I didn't know that, although it may seem like it, it's not a model trainer. And if you still don't think it's enough, my Cessna was not a commercial model but also my first scratch build.

One of the many Cessna 182 comercial kits
Perhaps starting with a first self-built plane is not the most advisable way, but it is an interesting process from which you learn a lot of useful things for the future. Not only will we learn how to build but we will also become familiar with techniques that will help us repair our models. Here is the history of their construction.

The adventure
Being the Cessna 182 such a common model, the amount of information, plans, images and videos available on the web, as well as threads of its construction in different materials and techniques is huge. Obtaining the plans was not a big problem, I just modified them a little to adapt them to my building style.

Modified plans adapted to my construction technique

As it was my first model, I didn't take many photos of the process, but the technique used is the same as the one I used in the construction of my EFX Racer.

The fuselage made of EPP and sanded.

I made the wings in three parts. First the two trapezoidal outer ends of both half-wings and then an elongated section that included the inner ends of each half-wing and the central section. Once all the wing was done, I separated the central section and glued it to both half-wings with the corresponding dihedral. Then i cut the ailerons and flaps and used packing tape to make the hinges and keep the flaps fixed for the moment.

Wings covered with white and red packing tape and reinforced with wood.

I built the tail group using a 1cm thick EPP sheet. The shapes were cut with a blade and then sanded to improve aerodynamics. I used tape to cover the EPP, but it was an unnecessary element that I then decided to remove. The packing tape does not adapt well to tight curves and ends up peeling off over time.

The tail group still with the packing tape applied over the entire surface.

The interior
Building a model from scratch has its difficult parts, especially if we don't plan each step. When I had finished with the wings, fuselage and tail, I decided it was time to start hosting the electronics of the model. At that point, I just wanted to open as much space as possible inside the fuselage to quickly place the components and start flying. Later I would realize how wrong I was.

I started by cutting the fuselage by removing the entire top and then emptying the interior. But when I had a totally hollow fuselage, my problems started. These were some of the questions that came to my mind:
  • How was I going to hold the nuts to fix the wings to the fuselage with screws?
  • How was I going to get the entire top of the fuselage fixed to the bottom?
  • How to hold the servos inside the fuselage?

These were some of the questions that came to my mind over and over again, and that kept me away from construction for a long time. If only I had taken the time before to think about how I was going to do all this, it wouldn't have been so frustrating. After a while of thinking, I came to my first approach.

I had to add a piece of wood in order to hold the wing support. It seems easy but it took me several weeks to come up with this solution.
I had no choice but to place the servos outside the fuselage, one on each side. Then I glued the tail group to the fuselage and placed the transmission rods.

At this point the model was almost ready, but there were still big changes to come.

My modifications
When learning to fly with conventional models, one of the most damaged parts, especially in landings, are the propellers. And since my propellers are few, I decided to make a small modification to my model. It thought me to place the propeller on top of the wings imitating the pushed models like EasyStart, so that way, I would not have problems with the propellers in case of an accident.

First variant of the Cessna (still unfinished)

The result was an extremely heavy tail plane, and impossible to balance without adding too much extra weight to the nose.
In my second attempt, I decided to place the engine the same on the wings, but this time using it as a tractor in the original position. In this case I had to carry the battery to the most advanced end of the plane to maintain the correct balance.

Second variant with the C.G. in the correct position and perfectly balanced.

Apparently everything was in place, only missing the maiden. It was a perfect day, with almost no wind and perfect visibility. My experienced friend holds the transmitter while I hold the model. A small race, I throw it and ...

I'd upload the video, but it's too embarrassing, and I don't think there's any need to tell what happened.

The autopsy
After a meticulous analysis, we determined that the engine simply rotated the plane over its center of gravity, causing it to pitch down. A small price to pay for modifying without technical or theoretical knowledge, a model more than tested.  In the end I ended up breaking the propeller that I wanted to preserve, almost damaging the engine too and the battery took a good blow.
A tip, if we do not have the necessary experience, it is better to conform to the plan, unless we want to expose the components to possible damage.

Returning to the original plans
With little more than shattered pride, I decided to return to the original blueprints. I mounted the engine on a sheet of wood in the nose and everything was ready to fly again. The result was wonderful.

My friend and tutor Jorge launching the first successful flight. apologies for the low quality of the video. 

After successfully passing the maiden test, I decided to add some decorations: a spinner made of EPP, landing gear and flaps. The result is a small, docile and beautiful airplane.

Some photos flying

Don't be afraid to start building from scratch, it's a fun and rewarding journey. Just make sure you follow the plans.

If you found this article useful or fun, don't forget to give me thumbs up and comment.


Ran D. St. Clair on February 6, 2019
Nice work. You made some mistakes that you will never make again, but you didn't give up. Bravo.
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HardWork on February 6, 2019
Thanks. You are right. I made some important mistakes but that is the way to learn. I learned from my mistakes and tried not to make them again in my other constructions.
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winglet on February 6, 2019
I have gotten to know Carlos quite well via e-mail. In case you don't know, Carlos is in Cuba and modeling resources are very limited. I can hardly believe he built this. Talk about scratch building! He is very talented and resourceful. I learned today that Carlos doesn't even have a drill. He uses a broken pair of scissors attached to a piece of wood for a drill. I am working right now to send him a package of items that he really needs but simply can not obtain in Cuba. I hope others in the FT community will do the same.
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HardWork on February 7, 2019
That's right, I've also gotten to know Mike through email and I think he's an excellent person. I think the collaboration between all of us is what keeps this beautiful hobby alive no matter what country we're in. Thanks to the community of flite test for the excellent work you do, and special thanks to Mike for giving me his sincere support.
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danskis on October 24, 2019
Mike, Carlos - I'd like to help but I don't see anyway to send a personal email on this forum. You can reach me at
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My first scratch build, the good and the worst