Balsa Wood Super Cub Build Part 5: Dope!

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In the last episode (which can be found here) we tackled applying the tissue covering to the Super Cub’s balsa wood frame. Today we will be doping that covering to make it tight against the frame of the aircraft and to strengthen it ready for painting and flight.

This is my first time doping an aircraft and I do make mistakes which I point out. Please don’t consider this to be a how to guide. I’m just documenting the build on the blog for personal enjoyment really. I’m sure I can look back on this in a couple of builds time and think “what was I doing?” Haha! I’m just learning!

As with the wooden frame and material covering, doping was used extensively in early full size aircraft. Aircraft factories and airfields would have specialist rooms for applying the dope which would have special ventilation installed to get the dope fumes out as quickly as possible. It’s an incredibly pungent substance that can make a person feel quite unwell with elongated exposure.

You can still buy tins of proper dope to use on model aircraft but Deluxe Materials have created a product called EZE Dope which is water based and doesn’t smell. This means it’s safe to use indoors and that’s awesome news if you live in the freezing cold depths of the UK. If you want to buy your own you can get it from Amazon here:Eze Dope 250ml

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With EZE Dope the first application wants to be a mi of 5% dope and 95% water to shrink the tissue onto the frame. You can either apply it by brush or spray it on with a water atomiser. I chose to use the atomiser and in future will be brushing it on. You get much better control with the brush!

I also mode the mistake of spraying the components with EZE Dope (dope for future reference) whilst they were sitting on a piece of newspaper. the dope is sticky and if your paper wing is sitting on a paper surface the two will stick together! Try and find something to place the drying pieces on which they won’t stick to.

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Thankfully I managed to realise what I’d done and got the wings off without too much damage. I’m including this pic as you can see how the tissue paper has become stiff. It’s not sagging around the hole at all like what untreated tissue would do.

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Thankfully the tissue skin is easily repairable. I just cut a new patch out of spare material and use the dope to seal it into place.

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It’s a quick enough process. You can speed up drying with a hairdryer too. Once the first layer had dried I painted a thin layer of pure dope over the whole model.

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Now to fix the nose cone on. This is just a bit of vacuum formed plastic that the elastic band passes through on the nose. A few dabs of UHU holds it nicely in place!

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We are now pretty much ready for paint. I want to get as little paint on the elastic band as possible and do did a little basic masking haha!

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I went with Ford Olympic Blue from Halfords simply as I had half a tin of it in the garage haha! I didn’t use primer and did two light literal dustings. I probably could paint a third coat but paint adds weight haha!

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Talking of weight, next time we are going to find the centre of gravity and add ballast to hopefully make it fly level! We’ll also be making the windows and adding details!
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By Richard Francis

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