I'm interested in models of real things; helicopters, submarines, ships, vehicles, railroads, etc. Some of this goes along with my interest in robotics; a mobile robot needs a mobility base!
Some of the things here are not organized greatly; manufacturers are somewhat of spread around instead of separate.
I've had great fun with models: Airplanes, helicopters, rockets, Trains, ships, and cars too. My models have varied from wood to plastic to spring-wound to control-line to radio controlled.
I have written a few web pages and separate content about some issues. They are distributed through this work, but also listed here for myself and others who are looking for them.
After years of wanting to fly helicopters one way or another ...
I have a model heli! My dad, with the help of brother Charles, got me a E-Flite Blade mCX for Christmas 2008. I'm having fun and as a bonus was introduced to some great new RC technology I'd not noted before -- Spread-Spectrum radios and LiPO batteries.
For many years I thought I'd eventually end up with the ubiquitous Hirobo Shuttle 0.30 training heli, or maybe a larger 0.60 sized machine; recommendations have varied over the years. And now all of a sudden I have a helicopter instead of just thinking about one. Wicked Cool.
I've found new info that suggests some of the hints below MAY NOT be appropriate for continued learning. The recommendations are to always keep oriented on the front of the helicopter, don't orient from other parts such as the tail. Thinking about it as a CFI, it makes sense to not want to think about flying in a different way. However, I will mention that some of these can help in the short term to get your bearings, as it were.
AKA, When the nose of the helo is pointed at you, instead of away from you. Some of these things are true when the helo is pointed away too, but there isn't a disorientation problem then :)
E-flite RC has a great set of exercises / lessons / goals which they have on their web site to give people an idea of when their skills are good enough to upgrade from a coax (counter-rotating coaxial rotor) heli to a more advanced conventional tail-rotor design. It really isn't an end -all, but it at least is a target to judge your skills against.
Prepare to Progress with the Blade CX2
XXX explain static and then static versus dynamic balancing.
It seems that the Koll Rotor Pro is the most expensive and complex balance gizmo out there. Essentially it is a calibrated balance and level. It also lets you adjust the CG of each blade fairly easily. It can measure both span-wise and chord-wise CG. Even then, they still recommend a scale to balance things out well. I think that if you have more than two blades on your rotor-head that this calibrated balancer may be the way to go -- you compare the blades against a common reference, instead of against each other.
There are other simpler (and less expensive) devices which allow you to mount the blades using the balance as a grip, and then balance the blades against each other. Then they have a second set of balances to let you determine the CG of a individual blade Then you keep working at it to balance the blades against each other, and make their CGs the same. Adjust .. adjust .. adjust ... until it is done.
A high-precision sub gram digital scale is a great tool for blade-balancing. It can let you easily match blade weights, and weights of other spinning components, such as paddles. Of course, it is useful for any other weight-critical thing, such as measuring glues, etc.
Reading the English Rotory Modeller magazine, I was interested by the number of articles on improving control of the helicopter... in the helicopter. The current direction in the US seems to be going towards smart transmitters which take care of everything. For example, mixing in the transmitter, instead of mixing on the bird. The only problem is that the transmitter program gets no feedback from the receiver, so it can't be smart - just programmed. Also, some things like autopilots, can't send signals back to the radio to have the correct mixing or control inputs. Many of the cool tools need to do everything on the heli, and so can't take advantage of super-transmitters. Instead, in-heli modules are needed to perform the mixing functions, so other control modules can be introduced to do perform command and control.
If I was to compare this to prototype aircraft, it would be like giving cyborg augmentation to the pilot, so the pilot can control everything in the airplane. The problem is, of course, that man things are left best controlled by the airplane, or even the engine, and things commanded to them and status coming back. What happens on the airplane is that everything can be controlled for backup or failure operations. It is when devices become independently smart, and act completely autonomously, that problems and lack of control occurs. Smart devices are great, as long as they are just doing their best to do what they should in a limited domain, and can be over-ridden as necessary.
The CSM company mentioned below has a fantastic array of electronics to put in your helicopter to take care of lots of management. And yes, the ones that should be countered are selectable on/off.
I've talked with Stuart for a number of years about his RC car racing, both dirt in the summer and carpet in the winter.
For more and other uses and notes on servos, check out Radio Types, Electronics Info and BigTrak and Robotics.
Glow fuel is a mixture of methanol, nitromethane and oil. You can make your own, and some people recommend it so you can ensure it has proper lubrication and nitro-methane components.
The contents of the fuel chemically react with the glow-plug in the engine to keep it hot, to provide an ignition source for the next cycle.
I've read on XHeli that a rule-of-thumb for sizing electric plants is to use 100-120 Watts per pound. Using that estimation:
My first hobby shop is Pope's Hobbyland in Wausau, WI. I no longer live in Wausau, but I still visit them regularly because they are one of the nicest places I've ever done business with. The people there are great and knowledgeable. I can't say enough good about the place. So far I have modelled Railroads, Ships, Airplanes, and now Helicopters with them. They may not be in my local environment, but I always find a trip there worth it.
The hobby store I miss the most is probably The Midvale Hobby Store in Madison, WI. They closed up shop about 2005 or so, and I do miss them. I really only purchased model railroad items from them, but they had such an excellent selection. Many of the folks who worked there were all modellers who scratch and kit built, and it was always great to learn from them. I still see many of their display cases in some of the other stores in the area, but otherwise they no longer exist.
Unfortunately another hobby store I miss is Dockters Hobby World, also in Madison. I thought they had some of the best selection of Model Airplanes and equipment and tools. Whether toy models, RC models, whatever, they had such a large supply of everything from scratch building materials to tools to esoteric tools to you-name-it. They guys there were always quite helpful in any number of ways.
RC Performance in Madison (actually Monona) is a real conundrum. Their stocking is really weird, it doesn't seem to have a rhyme or reason, and many of their products seem to sit on the shelf for years. They have a great selection of many small things, including hard-to-find items. However, they lack many of the cool things which Dockters carried on a regular basis. The staff, whom are all? RC modellers of some kind, can be superbly knowledgeable about a subject area. They actually do things a lot, not just talk about them, and pass that experience and knowledge on to others. Often with great patience and extra explaining for someone who is just interested. I often learn new things just listening or watching them work on a model, or discussing the pros and cons of somethings. The Hyde of this jekyl and Hyde setup is that the folks there are all modellers, and don't want to sell you things... they want to model. Also they sometimes say one thing, but then they don't do what they say!
Basically a catch-all supplier and manufacturer list to find a firm alphabetically.