It’s time to fire up the air compressor, set up the airbrush, and lay down some color on this airplane. Depending on the size of the model I am working on, I will use either my Paasche airbrush or DeVilbiss automotive touch-up spray gun. The gun covers large areas much faster, but the airbrush wastes less paint during set-up and cleaning. I’ve learned to adjust my airbrush for a wide, even pattern that will cover something like a TigerKitten wing with eight or ten fully-controlled passes, so that’s the tool I’m using for this job.
I’m not going to offer a mini-course in spray painting model airplanes here. There are plenty of books and on-line articles around that can do a better job of that than I could. However, it’s something you really ought to make an effort to learn to do. For over forty years, since I first had my own place, I never brushed a top/color finish onto a model airplane. The result of doing it that way doesn’t even come close to the quality of a sprayed finish. You need a dedicated work area which could be a curtainedoff portion of the spare bedroom or one end of a garage. You also need ventilation which can be as simple as a portable exhaust fan in a window and you need respiratory protection such as a carbon filter mask from the paint store. It’s nothing you can’t set up at the cost of a couple hours of time and maybe less than a hundred dollars, in addition to whatever you want to spend on your spray equipment itself. Let’s paint a model airplane!
Never pass up a chance to check your work one more time before the opportunity goes away. This is the top of the left wing with its final light spray coat of Stits Lite Coat primer. I’ve already sanded out any stubborn little bumps or dust flecks I could find and I’m using the calibrated fingertip system to make one last search for “ugly seeds”.
Gotcha! There were a few little rough spots along the rear fuselage (turtleback) stringers. They disappeared at the first touch of more 320-grit production paper.
Now we get to play with the colored paint! This airplane uses what I have adopted as my “standard” color scheme for TigerKittens and derivative designs like the TigerCat. The airplane is going to be orange overall, with blue trim on the front end of every component and an off-white pinstripe separating the colors wherever they come together. Since the pinstripes define the design, they need to be located first. The pinstripe color, in this case, Stits Polytone Daytona White, goes on first and becomes the base color of the paint job. I sprayed a solid color base (a tack coat followed by a double wet coat) everywhere close to where the pinstripes will go. (I could have traced these out as light pencil lines, but I’m familiar enough with this design that I didn’t need to do that this time.) It’s standard practice always to apply lighter colors first in the interest of better coverage (opacity) by later coats using the least amount of paint. This way you can define each stripe using fine-line masking tape, 1/16-inch in this case. The tape covers the base color wherever you want a stripe to be. Even if the trim color is darker (like black setting off red and yellow) don’t try to define a stripe by masking up to each edge with separate strips of tape on top of the other colors. I’ve never met anyone who could lay out consistent stripe widths that way. With a dark stripe design, either accept that you’ll have to spray some extra top color to cover the base or use colored trim tape on top of the painted finish. You’ll notice that I have used a strip of ordinary masking tape here to mark the distance back from the leading edge that I want the pinstripe to be located.
Here’s the beginning of the color design. The 1/16 inch tape creates and defines the curve I want the color separation line to follow around the inboard end of the left wing. I temporarily mounted the wing in order to see exactly where the separation line will lie in relation to the fuselage.
Once I’ve defined the stripe along the leading edge, I let it continue in a straight line all the way out to the wingtip.
Here I’ve done the same thing on the fuselage. If you look carefully you can see where my wide pass with Daytona White in the airbrush blends into the white primer way beyond where the color needs to be for the striping. Below and to the right of the tape will be orange; on the other side will be blue.
Same deal on the horizontal tail. I repeated the pattern you see here on the rest of the airplane.
Real color! I went over every inch of the striping tape with the back of my thumbnail to be sure it was sealed tight to the base color paint, then sprayed Stits Polytone Cruiser Orange onto every portion of the airplane that is to become that color. Again, I used a heavy mist (tack) coat, followed by a flowed (wet) coat. As soon as the wet coat “flashed off” (became dry enough on the surface not to run) I added a second coat, just wet enough to flow. Because I created a uniform white base with Stits primer and used a light pinstripe color, this was all I needed to get solid, even coverage. Any more color would simply have added weight and used up more paint. With all that dry, I’m beginning to mask off the orange by adding a line of ordinary masking tape along and over the edge of the striping tape.
I defined the white pinstripe portion of the design all over the airplane with 1/16-inch tape, and then sprayed the orange color everywhere that it needs to be. I made sure to add a generous overlap of the orange color into the areas that are going to be blue to make sure I don’t leave any thin or bare spots by mistake. Now I’m going cover the entire orange portion of the airplane with masking paper (I use leftover white drafting paper) to protect those areas from blue paint. In the last image I added a strip of wide masking tape that serves as a base for the masking paper. It’s too difficult to get a reliable cover-up of the fine line tape edge AND seal down the edge of a big floppy sheet of paper at the same time, so I am using a separate piece of tape to do that.
Here I finished masking the entire wing, top and bottom, folding and taping all the edges of the masking paper to keep out every last trace of overspray.
Same deal on the rest of the airplane. Here I’m laying down the first strip of wide tape over the pinstripe on the fuselage.
Everything that is supposed to remain white is under the fine line tape; everything that I want orange is under the wide tape and the masking paper. What’s not masked off got sprayed with Stits Polytone Insignia Blue, which I applied with the airbrush just as I did the orange. My cats clear out of the shop when they hear the air compressor start up, but once the last shot of paint has had a chance to dry (and no longer seems as smelly) one or another of them comes in to make sure I know they’re still around.
This part really counts as fun, but it’s important to employ a delicate touch and plenty of patience. If you have used quality finishing products, like Stits, and good quality masking tape there’s no need to fear lifting off paint along with the masking. However, always pull tape slowly and sharply back over itself to minimize lifting loads on the fresh finish. I follow the Stits Polytone manual and wait overnight before pulling a mask.
In this case the pinstripe tape remained stuck to the wider stuff and came off with it. This is where you finally get to appreciate the result of all the effort you’ve put into a traditional covering and painted finish.
On the bottom of the wing, the fine line tape wasn’t as anxious to let go, so I’m pulling it off separately.
Here’s a look at the underside of the tail assembly. All the paintwork is done, but the push-pull tube to the rudder isn’t installed yet.
The paint is all sprayed and dry, and after removing all the masking I’ve given the entire airplane a double spray coat of Stits Polytone Clear. This adds gloss and richness to the color and smooths over the subtle lines left by the masking tape edges. Now it’s time to start installing and hooking up equipment. I test-fitted the Cobra 2826/10 brushless motor from Innov8tive Designs when I built up the cowl, so I know it will fit now without any surprises. This time I get to leave it on the airplane.
This is the open “equipment bay” of the fuselage with the servo tray rails in place, ready to go to work.
The servo/equipment tray is included as a laser-cut plywood part in the Premier kit. I left the rudder and elevator servos attached after testfitting them and now the whole assembly drops neatly into place. I’m using 1/2-inch sheet metal screws for this job.
Here’s a closer look at the rudder and elevator servos with the push-pull rods and DuBro links installed.
I’m using one of my many Airtronics RX-600 6-channel 2.4GHz FHSS receivers along with an Innov8tive Designs Cobra 60A ESC that includes a 6-amp switching BEC permitting reliable operation without a separate receiver/servo battery WITHOUT concern about the ESC’s ability to handle the necessary current loads. The ESC is going to mount to the bottom of the tray using hook and-loop tape.
The ESC is placed where it will get good cooling airflow from the vent holes in the cowl and F-1. The leads to the motor are out of sight inside the nose. The power lead to the Deans connector and the LiPo pack go up through the tray along with the receiver cable. The two “open” cables are for the aileron servos.
The bottom of the tail again, this time with the elevator controls connected.
Same game on the other side with the rudder hooked up. Notice that I’ve used a stop nut and a plastic sleeve safety collar on those linkages.
These are DuBro No. 250SL (2.5-inch) lightweight wheels. I previously installed the DuBro axle assembly and used a cutoff wheel in my Dremel tool to grind a squared-off flat onto the axle so the set screw in the DuBro wheel collar will not slip off under side loads and spoil my day when I least expect it.
All the work I did earlier to make the wheel pants fit right is going to pay off now. I know this one is going to slip into place without my having to scuff up that nice new paint job.
I installed those two little 2-56 screws into the previously cut threads, tightened them up and the whole deal locked into place just the way it was supposed to.
I’m using the dual aileron channel function of my Airtronics RDS8000 2.4GHz transmitter to get fully independent differential aileron control, so I will need two aileron servos. You have to look hard to see them, but the DuBro strip aileron linkage assemblies are in place at the bottom of the picture. The servos will slip neatly into the two cutouts I’ve made for them.
A 1/32-inch drill bit in the Dremel tool and the mounting screws that are included with the servos finish the job. I have cut the outer portions of the servo output arms off to clear the sides of the fuselage when everything is assembled.
There’s not much more to say! My good friend Gary Ritchie took this portrait image, as well as the flight shots, at our club field in Olympia, WA. Gary, by the way, finished building his own TigerKitten. I’d like to believe that my white beard is a sign that I’ve gained a little bit of wisdom over the years that I’ve been doing model airplanes. Being able to share it with you via rcmodel.com and Fly RC magazine makes all the hard parts I’d rather forget worthwhile. SUMMARY
That’s it. The Return of the TigerKitten is complete. Next time around I’ll get back with the Stinson SR-9 project I put off working on a year ago to help get the Premier Balsa Kits TigerKitten project off the ground.
The fun doesn’t end here. Go to rcmodel.com to see all the rest of the details of getting this TigerKitten into the air.
AIRTRONICS airtronics.net, (714) 964-0827
COBRA MOTORS innov8tivedesigns.com,
DREMEL dremel.com, (800) 437-3635
DUBRO dubro.com, (800) 848-9411
STITS stits.com, (817) 279-8045