Radio Controlled SE-5 Restoration Part 2

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So a few weeks ago I began the restoration of this 1/10th scale SE-5. I’d got it running and have successfully taxied it around the room (which you can read about here: Getting an RC SE-5 Working Again) So I thought I might make a start on the beautification process.

start 1

As you can see she’s a bit of a state. I get the impression that she was originally built to be a flying model rather than a good looker. The years spent sitting around also haven’t done it any favours.

The plane should have wooden struts on the tail, however the one on the starboard (right) side was missing.

start 3start 4

Thankfully, this is only a strip of balsa wood. I had plenty left over from my Guillow’s Super Cub build so I pinched a strip from there, cut it to length and painted it in Vallejo’s Brown Violet. To stick it on I simply used a dab of PVA at either end.

Whilst the paint was out I thought I’d tackle these hideous edges.

start 2

For some bizarre reason the original builder decided to leave the edges of the wings this sort of foam colour rather than paint them green. It looked dreadful! Easily rectified though! (Ignore the rigging in this photo, for some reason I didn’t take a progress shot at this point. Rigging to come in a bit).


With everything now suitably green it was time to tackle the markings. The years of sitting about hadn’t done the water slide transfers any good, they had all cracked and faded, especially on the underside. It was time to make some new markings!

roundals 1roundals 2roundals 3roundals 4

There are tonnes of tips for removing water slide decals from foam on the internet. The one I went with was removing the transfer with packing tape. You put the tape over the transfer and then pull it and the transfer comes off. On the internet it comes off super clean and easy but when you’re working with decals that have been on the model for like 30 years and you don’t want to tear 30 year old foam with packing tape it takes a while longer. I got so far, and then decided it would just be easier to lay the new stickers over the top.

roundals strip 1roundals strip 2

The new roundals aren’t exactly accurate, but they are at least solid colours.

roundals new 1roundals new 2

The roundals on the side were oversized and flaking away as well. I took as much off of them as I could with the tape and then painted over the with the brown violet. The new roundals I’ve made for the sides are more appropriately sized, you’ll see those later!

I also made the rest of the unit markings and serial numbers that weren’t on the model originally. Again, I’ve been a terrible blogger and didn’t take pics of them so you’ll see them at the end.

Next we need to restore the pilot who was sporting quite an interesting look:

pilot start

Nothing a quick lick of paint couldn’t make better though! There are plenty of photos on the internet of RFC uniforms. I used this one for reference:

pilot reference

This is what I came up with. Just don’t look into the eyes for too long as you’ll have nightmares!

pilot done 3pilot done 1pilot done 2

The other big issue I wanted to tackle was rigging. Real life biplanes have rigging wire between the wings for stability and control wires to move the ailerons and the rudder etc. Rigging puts a lot of people off of modelling biplanes but a model this size would simply have to have it.

The material to make the rigging out of was easy enough to think of. Some simple black cotton from my dear old Nan’s knitting supplies. How to mount it though would be a bit more of a head scratcher.


Real aircraft have brass assemblies and eyelets that the wire passes through. I thought I could make some scale eyelets out of some old, thick household electrical wire. Thankfully we have an old kettle sitting in the alley by the side of the house which we have been meaning to throw away but never have, so I pinched the cable off of it!

plug for eyelets

As I’m sure you know a plug has three wire inside it; a live, an earth and a neutral. I used the live wire as the inner strands looked a little thicker and would (hopefully) therefore be stronger. After removing the wire from the plug I just cut off the black casing and pulled out the live wire.


Then I trimmed off the brown casing to expose the individual copper strands.

wire stripped for eyelets

I took an individual length of strand and wrapped it around the smooth end of a 2mm drill bit. I then twiddled (for want of a better word) the two ends of the strand together and cut off the excess. This made for a quick and easy eyelet!


The bottoms of the eyelets are quite sharp. To fit them to the plane I simply put a little PVA on the end of the eyelet and pushed it into the wing of the plane. You can kind of figure out the pattern of where they need to go as you are doing it.

I then cut a super long length of cotton and fed them through the eyelets. I then pull the two ends tight and knot the two ends of cotton together and pull those tight to create a taught wire look. Just be careful when pulling the wire about it’s really easy to pull the eyelets out of the foam.

Now it’s time to go outside for some beauty shots!

done 1done 2done 3done 4done 5done 6

There’s still tonnes to do! It needs the correct propeller and machine guns and I need to make the shroud for the radiator. I want to take it out and fly it first though before doing that. Hopefully we’ll get some dry, still days here in the UK soon!

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By Richard Francis

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