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Old 01-30-2011, 07:59 PM   #1
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Lite Ply Characteristics?

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Greetings Fellow Constructors/Repairers,

I am trying to fix a couple of my broken ARFs & wondering if anyone has any thoughts on the materials used in their original construction versus what you can buy to fix them. Specifically, the ARFs seem to be built with a "lite ply" - 3 layers mostly close to 1/8" thick. It has quite a hard surface and is very brittle. In comparison, the lite ply I have bought recently and in the past (Bud Nosen or Midwest brands) is quite soft and pliable. I am not sure it has the same strength characteristics as the ARF material. In fact for some critical, high stress areas, I have used 1/8" aircraft ply (5 layers) despite the weight premium.

Has anyone observed the same things & decided on the best approach? I was thinking of soaking my soft material in a dilute solution of epoxy to toughen it up before I used it.

Any comments appreciated. Thx.

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Old 01-31-2011, 07:34 AM   #2
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Re: Lite Ply Characteristics?

Aircraft Spruce Specialities (Toronto Branch) may have what you are looking for.
They sell material for aircraft homebuilders such as Sitka Spruce, Norwegian Birch
plywood, etc. A good wood dealer selling exotic wood would carry all sorts of
foreign plywood and veneers. In the Montreal area we have wood supplier (not
building supplies) who sell balsa in large pieces other forein woods and I bought
a light mahogany marine plywood (not door skin plywood) which I use for building
my scratch built and reinforcing some ARFs. They are Langevin & Forest.
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Old 01-31-2011, 07:40 AM   #3
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Re: Lite Ply Characteristics?

Depending on the structure the flexible lite ply may work fine. I find on a lot of the less pricy models the original ply was only 2 or 3 layers thick and of a brittle wood type. Most of the aftermarket ply you find seems to be of a higher quality, (Russian Birch?)

Rather than soaking the entire piece in thinned epoxy, which adds a horrendous amount of weight, I found a better method. I used 2 thinner ply sheets and then bond them together with one or more layers of glass cloth in the middle. Depending on the strength required I determine the weight of cloth and how many layers. Once the epoxy is applied I weight the entire assembly down between 2 sheets of 1/4" plexi on an already flat building surface. This ensures the finished product is perfectly straight.

A couple of additional pointers. I thin the epoxy slightly with methanol and use nothing shorter than 30 MIN type to allow for better penetration into the wood, (thinning with methanol increases the set time anyway). If I need a super strength bond then I can add a bit of FLOX to the mix before applying it to the wood.

The second point is that by doing it this way the outer ply surfaces are still virgin and capable of accepting glue or epoxy for a later bond if necessary.

I have used this method when building structures such as ply spar joiners and firewalls, (the latest was the firewall for the Harvard last Friday). For my Northstar one of the final build recommendations was to apply glass cloth to the outer fuselage near the tail all the way up to reinforce the engine pod and tail surfaces. Even though it had been done this way for a very long time, I did not think this was that elegant and I brought the glass cloth inside between the balsa and ply doubler.

p.s. Is there not a balsa and ply supplier out near the Hamilton/St. Catherines corridor?
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Old 01-31-2011, 08:49 AM   #4
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Re: Lite Ply Characteristics?

If price is a factor, "Luan Plywood" is typically readily available from furniture repair companies. It's very inexpensive and comes in relatively thin sheets (often used as backs to dresers, cores for cushions etc. etc.

Simple Doorskins (i.e. material use to create interios doors) are another source of material similar to what you're describing and commonly used when scratchbuilding model aircraft....

HTH, Jim.
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Si fractum non sit, noli id reficere - (If it ain't broke, don't fix it).
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