A Not Very Thorough Build Log.

I have, over the years, dipped my toe into all the facets for Aeromodelling; control line, gliding, indoor, the list goes on. All that is, except one. Free Flight Power. So, in the interests of being a fully rounded modeller, I decided that something of the FF Power flavour was called for, and that the Free Flight Nationals at the end of May should be the scene of my first foray.

The building of Freddie IV had taken much of my time leading up to the start of this project, but this was a necessary forerunner; Freddie was swapped to provide the motive power for my Free Flying Foray, an unflown, boxed,  DC Dart.

For this size of engine there is only one model for me: the Slicker Mite.

The original 42” span Slicker designed by Bill Dean, was kitted by Keil Kraft in 1947 and was designed around the then new 1cc Mills diesel. It was their first attempt at kitting a performance model, and was so sucessful that a 50” span version followed and when the Amco .87 engine appeared a 32” span variant was also kitted to suit. It is this smallest version, the Mite, that forms my baptism in power.

So, given my meagre building skills and the curvy nature of the Mite, this is destined to be a challenge, and the time constraints (2 weeks) only serve to add to the fun.

So, to quote Whitey Ford, “If it ain’t never started, then it can’t be done”. Lets make a start.

The Kit.

To speed up the build, I visited my local model shop, Nitroflight, and purchased a Ben Buckle kit.

The kit, costing around £30 gets you a plan, all the wood, and a bit of wire. Nice enough, but I was left with the feeling that it was a little overpriced. For a little over half that amount I could get a laser cut kit for a model of similar dimensions, with covering and hardware.

The Build Begins.

This being a print wood kit, the first job is to fit a new blade in the scalpel, and cut out the jigsaw puzzle of parts that hopefully will become the Mite. The clarity of the printing was good, as was the quality of the wood. In very short order a full kit of parts was produced, and the build proper ready to start. One lesson I have learned is that with curvy parts, unless you can cut very accurately (I can’t) it is easier and more precise to cut close to the line, and then sand the part to the exact shape.

Wings and Things.

This being an entirely traditional kit the build follows the standard practice of cling film over plan and build on the board. The only unusual part here is that the polyhedral spar is built first, and then each section built in turn, flat on the plan, onto the spar. This was a method I had not encountered before; trying to support completed panels in the air whilst building another was a little awkward, and of course it meant I could only build one panel at a time. Not ideal for the panic builder in a hurry. Nevertheless, the system works and I was now the owner of an elliptical Slicker wing, which incidentally, is the same wing as the Keil Kraft Pirate.

The tailplane is straightforward, and the vertical stabilisers cut from 1/16” sheet. Nothing unusual, special or demanding.


This follows what I believe is called Crutch Construction. One of the distinctive features of the Mite is the curvaceous fuselage with integral pylon. Of cource this doesn’t  lend itself to a “flat on the board” building method, so a sort of horizontal slice through the fuselage is built as a frame (the Crutch) and the rest assembled onto this. A straightforward and satisfying method of creating an interesting shape. The front of the pylon is shaped from a block, which is supplied sawn to a rough contour, and then planed, carved and sanded to the appropriate shape. Very satisfying if you get it right, annoying if you get it wrong. I managed somewhere imbetween; satisfactorily annoyed.


And so the Mite was framed. As implied above, extensive sanding and shaping was required for the pylon front, and the whole frame sanded to provide a good base for covering. The extent and care given to sanding, and much of construction in fact, is a question of attitude: is it a case of covering covers a thousand sins, or the covering is only as good as the frame beneath? For me it is the former, so much time was spent with reducing grades of paper to ensure a satisfactory surface for covering. Incidentally flat sanding is performed with sandapaper stuck to flat pieces of MDF, the curvy bits with paper stuck to a rolling pin, I never sand free hand as my wobbly fingers give rise to wobbly surfaces.

Confessions of Covering.

At this point the frame was covered in coloured Esaki tissue, water shrunk and then doped. The end was in sight. Then, the fuel proofer was applied. I am not sure why, but at this point all the tissue covering wrinkled. Not one or two little wrinkles, but a thousand years of weather beaten exposure aggressive wrinkling. I am open to suggestions as to why this occured. This was of course entirely unsatisfactory and so there was nothing for it. I stripped the whole lot off, sanded the woodwork once more to remove any residual tissue, and sat back for a ponder.

Covering Again.

Time was running short. It was Tuesday. The Nationals on Saturday. The covering on the floor. Nothing else for it but to go with plastic film. I know many will recoil at such blasphemy, but it comes down to this: a film covered model to fly, or no model to fly. Purism is ok, but I want to fly. Cream Solite was duly ordered from Micron. Hats off to them, it arrived on Wednesday.

So, armed with my trusty travel iron – lighter and smaller than a domestic iron, cheaper than a covering iron – and a packet of new razor blades, covering began in earnest.

Solite is worked around curves easily and shrinks well, and in very short order the Mite was covered. A further hour with some Solartrim, an voila, done.

For a short run fuel  tank, a syringe was cut down, and the tank and motor fitted, so completing the panic build of the Mite.


The free flight nationals 2011 had one defining feature – wind. However, amongst the gales and rain there was a lull, a brief calm spell on Saturday evening.

Test glides revealed a slight right turn and stall. A packing shim was placed under the tailplane leading edge to cure the stall, the right turn left in, in the knowledge that the model will try to turn left under the awesome torque reaction to the mighty Dart’s power anyway.

A test run of the motor gave a 20 second run from a full tank. The 40 year old unflown Dart was refueled and the motor restarted. A slight pause to ensure the engine was running properly and to gird the loins, and, the mite was flung into the damp Barkston sky.

The mite climbed away, with a wide right turn and circled down the field. After the fuel was exhausted, the motor cut and the plane continued on the same right hand circuit, but this time with a slight stall.

A two week panic build, a one minute flight and one happy modeller. More trimming will be needed to cure the stall in the glide, and maximise the duration, but overall a promising start to the Mite’s career; myself and the Dart are no longer Free Flight Virgins, and I can think of no better way of losing our virginity.

    • Cosmic Ray
    • November 10th, 2012

    Great build log. I think the wing is the same as the Southerner Mite, not the Pirate, but that’s just a minor point.

    • You are quite correct. That build was a couple of years ago now. At this years nationals (2012) the model’s wing folded in the high winds. I subsequently bought a Southerner Mite such that the wing could be shared between the two fuselages as the mood takes me.

    • Cosmic Ray
    • November 18th, 2012

    Did you have to build the bearers closer together for the Dart? the plan and kit is printed for Mills/Amco/Bee spacing?

    • I certainly measured the crankcase and transferred this to the formers. Mine was a printwood kit, so I didn’t notice whether it was any different to the original markings.

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