We built the FT Spitfire with the sole purpose of trying out the foam board from www.foamboards.com.au. This review will look at both and how they perform…

www.foamboards.com.au

logoI’d been looking at this company since I first discovered foam board as a building material. Down here in Australia we simply can’t get the $1 Adam’s Readi-board that is used at Flite Test HQ. There was also concerns about the weight of Australian foam board with some modellers stating they simply couldn’t build a flying model from the stock available down here.

I did a lot of research and it is true that Australian foam board generally uses foam core of a much higher density than Readi-board. It is possibly to get lighter board here but it can only be imported in the container load and that was something I simply couldn’t do!

Many of my models to this point have been made using board from Riot Art & Craft. The board isn’t that heavy but at $15 for an A0 size sheet (841 x 1189mm) it was far from cheap.

I eventually took the plunge about a month ago and ordered a 25 sheet box of white 5mm foam board from www.foamboards.com.au. The ordering process was easy and delivery was quick enough.

Cost here is the biggest issue. A 25 sheet box (1016 x 815mm) costs $178. The real problem though is shipping: due to the size of the box required to ship this size sheet they have a flat shipping rate of $30 across Australia. This remains the same if you order 5 or 25 sheets so obviously there are cost benefits to saving up and buying a big box at once (or clubbing together with some mates and ordering a box).

The board arrives packaged simply in a strong cardboard box. There was no major damage to any of the sheets and the boards were dry and flat.

Of course this still isn’t as cheap as Adam’s $1 Readi-board. It is however better than I am used to: Readi-board is half the size of the sheets I ordered so I get two for the price of one. Break my order down then and I am paying approximately $4 per FT size sheet. Not bad at all!

The Flite Test Spitfire

ft-spf-17-jpg_1369071405I ran a little poll on this site to see what readers would like to see me try the new board out on. The results were a tie between the FT Spitfire and FT Viggen.

There are going to be a number of people who are disappointed I haven’t built the Viggen but I had my reasons:

  • EDFs require a lot of setting up and careful gear selection. The Viggen is a new model and I really wanted something a little more traditional that I could be sure I would get a good result from.
  • The Spitfire is an “advanced” build but the Viggen is another step up in complexity. I didn’t want to chance making a mistake in the build that might be detrimental to the flight performance.
  • I didn’t have the right size EDF sitting around in the workshop.
  • I have a mate who really wants to fly a Spitfire!

I don’t think I really need to say a lot more about the FT Spitfire as a design. David Windestal has done an astonishing job of capturing the pivotal RAF fighter in a format that is easy to reproduce and has excellent flight qualities.

If you want to know more about the FT Spitfire or download the plans you can take a look at the articles on Flite Test:

Bringing the two together…

FTSpitfireThere was nothing astonishing about this build. I used my normal technique of laying the plan over a sheet of foam board and tracing through using a pin. The worst bit was all those curved edges that can only be cut freehand. The trick here is to be slow, steady, and try to cut the entire curve in a single slice.

The new foam board cuts as well as any I have used. It always pays to use a sharp blade and I use a mixture of scalpel, cheap snap-off “box cutter” style blades, and a couple of the new specialist cutting tools (which I found a lot cheaper at Cavalier Art Supplies).

I very soon had a big pile of parts and plugged the glue gun in to warm up for the build session.

The most important thing to know about building with Australian foam board is the denser foam won’t crease like you see it doing on the FT build videos. In fact, the Spitfire build video is the first to demonstrate the solution. You will need to score cut all folding lines (such as those in the wing) and then run a skewer or pen along the line to open them up a little and make the fold easier.

The wing is a great construction and it is easy to quickly create a smooth and strong dihedral wing.

FTSpitfire

I thought the fuselage was going to be a much tougher job but 20 minutes later I had the basic airframe complete. The design and tabs are so solid that the whole thing simply slots together. Even feeding the wing through and securing the tail straight was simple following the excellent build video.

I had decided from the outset that this would be a one-piece model so I didn’t even have to worry about the wing retaining blocks.

The biggest problem I had (and always have) is the power-pod. I’m still not entirely sold on the “swappable” idea. I like being able to remove the whole power unit for maintenance but I don’t think I will ever swap a unit between models during a flying session. In the Spitfire then I simply couldn’t get the pod to fit with the tabs in place. Fortunately removing these doesn’t actually change anything (once the skewer is in place) so I was still good to go.

FTSpitfire

Finishing off

I was a bit worried about the turtle decks and I never relish the thought of doing them. Once again though, the design was flawless and fitting the decks was an easy and painless process.

Hooking up the control surfaces and motor was merely a formality. I noticed the original used an NTM 2826 motor and having a few sitting around I fitted the same to this model.

The first thing I did after finishing the model was weigh it. The plans state an AUW (without battery) of 420g (15oz) – my model in its finished state came out at 480g (17oz). This was a very nice surprise as I expected a much heavier model and boded well for the test flights.

FTSpitfire

Time for a maiden flight…

I was desperate to try this one out so I ducked out between rain showers. The only addition I made was a couple of stickers and some reinforced tape to protect the belly and leading edges from the damp grass.

So, without further ado…

Basically, it was awesome!

The ending to the first flight was unfortunate but that can’t detract from the performance. The FT Spitfire flies like it’s on rails – even the victory roll looked authentic!

I will say that the NTM motor with the wooden 9×4 was gutless and has since been replaced with a 10×4.7 slowfly prop that has given much more thrust with only an 18A draw at the ESC.

Conclusion

Despite my initial misgivings about the product from foamboards.com.au I am no longer sorry I made the purchase. The board is as good as I have used at half the price of anything else I can source. It cuts well and builds well and as yet has shown no indication of de-laminating (like the considerably heavier and more expensive Quill board from Officeworks).

If you are looking for cheap Australian foam board and can afford the bulk buy then I would strongly urge you to get online and get some in…

UPDATE!

NuCoreI just tried to weigh the board I used for the build and by my calculations it came out at 0.29g sq/in (although I could be out a bit with the dodgy scales I used).

What’s more important is that I took another look at the box it came in. The board I was supplied with is called “Antons NuCore” and to my surprise I was supplied with a 30 SHEET BOX for the price of 25. That brings the price down to $3.40 for a half sheet – woohoo!

– See more at: http://flitetest.com/articles/ft-spitfire-australian-foam-board#sthash.0OYKs0Ha.dpuf