Laser Cutting Airplane Kits

Shark with a LaserAlmost two years ago Jay bought a Shapeoko CNC Router. He has spent many hours learning the various software that is required to not only draw up what you want to cut out, but then translating it into a language that the router can understand. Luckily there are a ton of resources for you to learn the open source software.

Well, almost from the beginning he wanted to get the laser head that you can put on the machine. As his second anniversary of not having a cigarette rolled around I told him to go ahead and get it.

 

Chester Laser PictureLearning how to use the laser is a whole other ball of wax. He started out transferring pictures to pieces of wood. We even stumbled across a way to do this that really sets the image without the charred wood smudging.

Well, then he decided that he wanted to try actually cutting things with the laser. He started with MonoKote, which is used to cover RC airplanes. It’s a thin, heat-shrinkable plastic covering.

 

Whizard Laser Cut Pieces 2-13-16Once he had the technique down for MonoKote he moved on to balsa.

Many RC Airplane kits that you buy nowadays are all laser cut. They used to be die-crushed (the manufacturers claimed they were die-cut, but the blades would become dull and just end up crushing the balsa instead of cutting it).

 

ACE Whizard 2-13-1As a test run Jay found the plans for the ACE Whizard that he used to fly. He drew up the plans, cut the pieces with the laser, and started to assemble the Whizard.

 

 

Whizard Laser Cut Parts 2-13-16He found that he had to do a few tweaks here and there, but for the most part it came together so nicely!

Suddenly the door of possibilities was wide open!

The old airplanes that he loved, but could no longer build because nobody made the kits anymore were suddenly at his fingertips! As long as he can get the plans he can cut his own kits!

 

Box of BalsaThis isn’t all of it, but he even put in an order for a LOT of balsa wood pieces of various shapes and sizes. The model airplanes were flying around in his head. All he had to do was sit down and put them into the computer.

 

 

 

 

 

Enter Kenny and his want of a ME163 Komet. I found this picture on the Smithsonian’s website. You can’t really see it in this picture, but when I did an image search online this airplane reminded me of a pig with wings. Do a search and tell me that I’m wrong!

Anyway, Jay found the plans and is bringing it to life for Kenny.

 

ME163 Komet - Drawing the PiecesIt all starts with Jay making a few working copies of the plans. He built an extension for his desk so that he can more easily access the plans while at the computer.

 

 

 

ME163 Komet - PlansUsing rulers, calipers, and liquid fuel he patiently measures every single little angle and draws it into the computer program. FOR EVERY SINGLE PIECE.

He thinks that my cross stitching looks tedious and boring! This looks like a cure for insomnia to me!

 

ME163 Komet - SketchUpAfter all of the pieces have been drawn and saved he then begins the task of arranging them to best utilize the pieces of balsa that he will be placed underneath the laser for cutting.

 

 

Whizard Laser Cut Parts 2-13-16After all of the pieces have been cut comes Jay’s favorite part… building!

You might wonder how Jay is going to be able to assemble these airplanes since all he has is the plans with pieces. He doesn’t have the actual instructions.

The thing about Jay is that airplanes are a sixth sense for him. He just automatically can put an airplane together as long as he has all of the pieces. He’s been assembling Chad the Spad and I don’t think that he’s actually used the instructions for that since before he started sheeting it. Once all of the stringers were in place on the fuselage the instructions became something that was just in the way.

ME163 Komet - PiecesHere are some of the pieces of Kenny’s Flying Pig, or the KFP.

How is that going to end up being something that can be flown??

 

 

 

 

ME163 Komet - Wing 2-26-16For Jay, it wasn’t hard. He quickly assembled the wing. It’s nice and light and beautifully shaped.

 

 

 

 

ME163 Komet - Wing TipHe took pictures of the wingtip building process for me to share with you.

First he had to glue pieces of balsa together. That’s what the block weights are sitting on in this picture.

 

 

ME163 Komet - Tip BlockHe made sure that they were long and wide enough to be shaped into the correct profile for this airplane.

 

 

 

 

ME163 Komet - Shaping the TipOnce they were glued on and dried he began the shaping process.

It starts with carving all of the extra balsa out of the way. When asked how he does it he said, “I just removed everything that wasn’t part of the wingtip until all that was left was just the wingtip.”

He must have been channeling a bit of his inner Michelangelo.

 

ME163 Komet - Finished Wing TipOnce all of the excess balsa is removed you use a little sandpaper and some elbow grease… and Voila! You have a wingtip!

 

 

 

 

Those are all of the pictures that I have of the KFP right now. I will post more as Jay continues to assemble it and take pictures. That last part is the hardest to accomplish… progress pictures!

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