By Martin Davis  
Additional thoughts on starting model boats by Guy Bagley....!

" I consider myself an expert  to  the  matter of building model speed boats, on the principal that if we  learn  from  our  mistakes,  then  I'm  the  worlds  smartest  guy!"

Martin Davis -every single day!

 Starting out  Electric Motors  IC engines  Boat types

So you want to build yourself a nice model sports boat? 

  Do you know where  to  start?  Well you could go to a model shop and ask the questions that I  first asked, such as...         

    How much will that model boat cost to put on the water?      
    Have you got anything cheaper?      
    How hard is it to build?   (The kit has 2,000 parts!)      
    Two channel radio? Do you mean stereo?      
    I'm buying it for my kid, really!



  My  dealings with model boats began at Whitestone pond,  Hampstead  Heath,  NW London,  a  historic spot for model boats.  I always wanted my Dad to stop  whenever driving pass so I could watch them.  I recall one time I tried my  own  clockwork  boat  on said pond but it didn't work a lick as  rust  had  caused premature rigormortis of the motor from previously testing the boat  in  the  bath.  Now  I'm  all grown up I have my  own  flotilla  of  radio  controlled  speed  boats.  One of these days, I'm going to make a pilgrimage to  Whitestone  pond to inspire other youngsters to have a go at boat modelling.
  I  didn't  have  much to do with model boats for many  years  after  that,  mainly  due to my lack of pocket money,  then some years ago my  interest  was  rekindled when a friend informed me of an advert in a local sweetshop  for a radio controlled model plane.  "Sounds like a good idea", I said  to  myself,  out  of  earshot  of my wife.  After a few days I  had  bought  a    poorly  built  trainer  type aeroplane but with a new  two  channel  radio  (Acoms  27MHz) and  new  ENYA  3.5cc  aero engine.  "This'll  never  fly",    I  said to myself as I handed over the cash and carried away the bits in a box.  

  I  decided  the  plane was beyond help and was eventually laid to rest  in  my  wheely bin,  however the radio and engine etc.  were in good condition and  could be utilized in another type of model a boat for example. (Model boat  can use the same type of radio and the engine was later part exchanged for  a  water-cooled  version.)  I  chose a model boat as  at  the  time  radio  controlled  cars  were all the rage and I wanted to do something a  little  different.  A  boat would give me a good excuse to spend time in a my lovely   park (Ferry Meadows, Peterborough) in the green grass,  next to  a silvery lake  amongst the wonderful  wildlife  and  sunny  skies  above.  What it's really like..... I'll tell you later.

   I  then  had  to  decide  what sort of boat I  wanted.  A  really  fast  IC  (Internal Combustion) boat was the most appealing but I changed my mind on  the  advice of Ron Dean,  proprietor of the local DEAN'S MARINE  workshop.  "Electric boats are a lot less hassle than IC  boats,  just switch them on  and go". DEAN's MARINE make a large range of warships launches and merchant  ships but I wanted something faster. So I set about looking  for  my first  fast electric boat kit. My wife and I thought "One boat and that  would be  it" ... WRONG!

   Best  thing to do is to start with a simple kit where most of the work has  been  done   for you,  leave the glamorous and high performance kits  till  later.   I've  seen  and heard of many people starting off with high hopes  only  to become despondent or fed up when they realize the scale of the task,  ( pun intended).   Electric boats are generally simpler than IC boats so  make a better first choice of kit.  Once you can see what model boating is  all   about you can then  improve your first model,  add further detail to  it (no model is ever really complete), make it go faster or build a second  model  you were you can now become more ambitious

    But  before buying anything,  get  yourself  some reading material.   Some  good  books are Model Boats by John Cundell,  Power  Boat  Modelling by David Thomas, Advanced R/C boat modelling by John Finch and of  course  Model  Boat magazine every month.  Some of the model  manufactures  catalogues  are  well  worth  getting hold off especially  the  Robbe  and  Graupner  ones  which  are  as  big as  doorsteps  but  contain  loads  of  interesting  stuff about all types of models.  Also worth looking out  for  are  the RS components Maplin and Tandy catalogues and websites  as these have  every  electronic  component & tool imaginable and quite a few unimaginable  ones  as well!
  Your  nearest model shop is the best place to purchase your first kits  as  you  can see the kit "in the flesh"  so-to-speak and you can call upon the  retailers experience and local knowledge. I used to do a lot of driving as part of  my  job so I got get good idea what's available where and who has the best  deal,  it's  worth  comparing prices. These day, finding out about most kits can be found about on the web.  The model magazines have  very  useful  adverts and reviews that let you know what's available.  Model shows come round several times a year where if you're real lucky, you may  pick  up  a bargain.   At shows always make sure you  get  a  proper  receipt  and  an address in case of problems or you just want to buy  more  goods  of  them  at a later date.  I should point out at this  point  that  sports  boats are not a gold bond investment and on the second hand market  they  rarely reach their original cost price but you can't put a price  on  enjoyment and sense or achievement can you.
    Next  thing to do is locate the nearest model boat club and find out  when  and  where they meet.  The members of the local club are a good source  of  information  and  always welcome newcomers.  You may have search  for  the  right  club  if you want to do a specific type of modelling as some  clubs  don't cater for IC boats. Don't be too surprised if you find out that some  of  us   modellers are a little "eccentric"  as we tend to spend a lot  of  time alone hunched over our latest masterpiece. Sometimes we just talk too  much,  just  'take  us with a pinch of salt',  one day,  if you catch  the  'bug', you'll be just the same!


  There are just a few things you will need, they are...
1. A sack of money. Have you seen the price of some kits!!!. 
2. All  the spare time that  can't  really  spare.   
3. An  understanding  wife with a good sense of  humour 
    (She  must  think  it's  funny  when   you've emptied the bank account). 
4. A  wife  and  family that doesn't know how much you REALLY earn.  
5. Somewhere to work - a   French  polished dining room table is ideal. 
6. A workshop equipped with all  the  latest  machine tools. 
7. A drinking problem. 
8. Wellies  high enough  to   wade  to  the deepest part of your lake.  
9. A  spare  room  to  store  your  boats (centrally heated). 
10. A good first aid kit (second and third aid  may  also be required). 
11. Patience. 
12. Sedative tablets.  
13. The brain the size of a  planet. 
14. More  Patience. 
15. A good book of excuses for explaining why things  don't  work,  where  the  house keeping has gone,  why  the  radio  wasn't  switched  on  when you  put the  boat in, why it sank, etc, etc. 

Unfortunately I have none of the above and yet still I manage to build  and  run  my model boats.

   Next  start inquiring of all your relatives,  friends,   acquaintances and  relative  friends  of  acquaintances.   Find out what job they  do,   what  skills they have,    what  workshop equipment they have or have access to,   how rich they are,   what  shop they work in,   what discount they can get  etc,  I'll bet you'll ask them  sooner or later.



    Once  you  have decided on the kit you want and given all your hard earned  cash   to  the model shop, the next thing to do is sneak it into the house  during  the middle of the night without  your  wife  (or husband)  finding  out.  Later, when asked you can say "I've  had it for ages!!"  Well that's  what  my wife says when I see  a new dress!  Open your box of goodies  and  lay  everything  out on a table and check that everything that  should  be  there is there. To do  this  you'll  need to find the parts list. All good  manufactures provide a parts listing,  if not, you'll have to work out the  parts  list from the plans sheet.  If it doesn't have a plan,  you  should  have bought a better kit!

    The  quality of plans and instructions varies greatly from manufacturer to  manufacturer,  some  only throw in a few bad photo copied  sheets.  The  best  plans I've come across are in the  German Robbe kits,  these have  a  full size plan with cross sections and a stage by stage construction  book   with complete plan references and even colour photos on the box. Sometimes  you  get a extra free giggle from the German to English  translations.  When I had the spare room I used to pin  the plan to the  wall  behind me and the work bench so that I have to  get up to check measurements etc, it's  the only physical exercise I got.
    Back to your kit, identify each part with the list or plan, check it's all  there  and examine parts for flaws.  Check the  wooden  parts are of  good  quality  and are not split or anything.   Look at each part until you  are   familiar with it so you know where and how it fits in  the model.   As you   look at each part try to work out how and when it needs to be fitted, what  glue  or  fixing  is   required   and  if access is  required  to  it  for  maintenance once in place.
   If   everything  is  there  then make a list of the bits  you'll  need  to   complete the model and buy them as you need them or can afford them, fittings, stand,  etc.  Plan  your  complete  model  from the moment you decide to buy  it.  What  radio   equipment,   motor,  speed controller, batteries, engine, fuel tank etc. Buying most things at once can   be  useful  as a retailer might be more inclined to offer you a  "complete  deal"  price. Only buy what you need as I've got  kits,  motors,  engines,  fuel tanks,  tools,  etc. etc.  all over the place that seemed like a good  buy  while in the shop.  Do you know anyone that wants to buy some  unused  model gear? One careful owner! 

To  support  my  boats while working on them I  use a MRM  plastic  glider  stand  that I got it for a fiver from Pardon Mill models in  Harlow.  This  stand  allows almost total access to the hull while building and it  suits  any  shape of  hull and had a useful tool tray underneath.  Most  kits  still  do not come with a storage stand,  for a few extra  quid  the  parts  for  even a temporary wood stand could be included which  would  be  most  beneficial.  Each  boat will needs it's own boat stand,  for  storage or  start the engine on IC boats.   Most plans provide you with  the outlines for a  suitable  stand so you can build your own,  unfortunately when I start work on a new  boat the stand is not the most interesting bit to start with but it is the  most necessary.

   Choice of glue is MOST important.  Get a lot of advice on this subject.  A  wrong  choice could be instrumental in reproducing a kit of parts again if  you  bash your boat.  For general use there are lots of Superglues around.    Superglue accelerators are useful but tend  to  make  the joint a little brittle.  For plastic ABS boats the best glue  is  Stabilit  Express,  an epoxy type adhesive. Stabilit is really good stuff but cost an-arm-and-a-leg! There are a lot of other epoxy  type  glues  around,   Araldite  and  Devcon  come  to  mind,   check  the  instructions for application particularly for use on ABS plastic. On fibre  glass, any  of the multi boats suppliers stock a number of  useful  resins  based  mixes but you can also use two part epoxy and body work repair kits  from  car accessory shops.  For wood Cascamite is usually the first choice  followed  by  white  PVA water resistant glues.  Car body filler  is  also  useful  as  a glue as it holds to most hard materials and doesn't  need  a  flat surface.    


     Bits are going to wear out on your boat and it IS going to be bumped,  run  up   the   bank,  rammed by other boats,   attacked by wildlife,   bounced  around in the  back of the car,  dropped by the wife while dusting, etc, etc. If you  build strong,  your boat will survive a long time. If you also build it so  that  the  internals can be easily removed then maintenance will not be  a  laborious chore.  In the  planning stage, I aim to be able to remove any part of the engine, running  gear,  radio,  rudder  etc,  with a  screwdriver   or  spanner within 10 minutes.  You can't  always achieve this but  it's what  you  should trying to achieve.  When it comes to  the radio, the more time spent on the installation means less time laid up  in dry dock for repairs. The radio layout should be such that it's easy to  remove  the bits for servicing.  Never glue servos in if  possible,  screw  fitting is much more desirable. Tie up the wiring neatly into bundles with  signal  and power cables separate.  On  more  complicated  installations a  label  and colour coded diagram should be made up for  the  wiring so that  faults can be more readily traced after years of happy boating.

   Murphy  law .
 If  something can go wrong  it  will.
2:   The more  critical the part is,  the greater the  chance  that  it  will fail.
3 :  The less likely it  is  to go wrong,   the  quicker it will go wrong. 

One of the most annoying things that can happen  is  something breaking or failing before the boat even get  on  the   water. If you think "that'll do", nine times out of  ten it won't.  If you  are  going  to  make  your own parts then use  the  Victorian  engineering  principle,  'make   it  ten times stronger than it possibly needs to  be'.  Sometimes it's simpler, quicker and cost effective to buy commercial parts  because  if  your home made part fails you may have go to out and buy  one  anyway.   

   While building, keep thinking of the boat as a whole, I've built parts for   boats  and  then found that it won't work with something else  eg.  engine  mount  and exhaust can't fit through the deck  opening or you can't get to  some  screws once the deck is glued down.  Plan ahead,  measure everything  out  on  the plan,  use paper templates and make small pilot holes  before  drilling the full size  ones  to  check things will correctly line up. The  less  flash gimmicks you have on the boat,  the less there is to go wrong,  don't  make things unnecessarily complicated just for the sake of it.  Buy  good  engines,  ones  that you can get spares for.  Don't  always  take  a  shopkeeper  word  that engine parts ten-a-penny,  if he's trying  to  sell   his "Supercharged OkiCoky 5.3.2cc" engine at a special price.   

  How are you going to finish the boat?  Are you  going to be happy with the    standard finish that may come in the way  of  decals in the kit or are you  going to go for individualism?  Do you  want  your  boat  to look the same  as   every   other  boat  built  from  this   kit   or    something   more  individualistic?    For  me,   designing  and applying the paint-job   has  sometimes  taken  longer than  building  the boat,   in one case taking  at  least  four  times  as  long.   Some parts are better  pre-painted  before  fitting such  at  crew  figures and cabins.    The  overall  appearance  is how a lot people will  judge your work,  but if you can get  good performance from it also,  then  you've produced a winner.   


    You  can never have too much buoyancy in a speed boat.   Fast speed boats  splash   a  lot of water around and quite a bit can find it's way   inside  the hull.   Place  buoyancy in both the bow and stern of your boat and in the detachable cover or hatch.   With  buoyancy  at both ends then most of the boat will remain above water  if  disaster  strikes,  the boat will also be easier and quicker to   recover.   Plumbers insulation foam in  cans from DIY  shops   is    very   good  buoyancy and also strengthens the bows.  Great care must   be  taken  when filling your boat with this stuff as the foam will expand many  times  it's  original volume with a vengeance and pushes aside all  before   it. I've ballooned the front of two  of my  boats by thinking the foam had   stopped  expanding only to find it  had   only  slowed  down. Always leave  a  large  hole if filling behind a bulkhead to allow the access  foam  and  gases  to escape.  To fill the bow,   stand the  boat on it's nose so  the  hole  in the front bulkhead is uppermost,  vice versa for the stern.     A  week  is  a  safe  bet  that  the  foam  has  stopped  expanding  at  room  temperature.  By   the way,  once this stuff touches anything you'll NEVER  get it off. You can  also use different things for buoyancy such as bubble   wrap,   expanded polystyrene, packing "Quavers",  air bags etc.  but  only  expanding  foam gives you extra strength  but at the cost of extra weight.  Never  trust  a sealed air tight compartment as  adequate  buoyancy,  they  always seem to leak.  At the lake, keep a constant watch out for impending  doom  as  a  little carelessness might see all that  money   you  couldn't  really afford, heading for the bottom.   



  The  radio  is   the  most important part of  the model  boat  believe it or not,  but some  people  give  it  less  than the  required  attention.  Install  and  test  everything  at  home first and then re-check everything again on the  lake  when  no one  else is about.  Don't switch on without checking the band is  clear, Check the club peg-board or ask  other boaters what band they are on and if busy wait your turn.  I  Failed to do this a little  while ago,  I nearly ended up with a black eye!  If a fast boat breaks loose  from  it's master, they can do a lot of damage. Don't take chances, PLAY SAFE.
    Some  modellers remove the return  spring from the throttle  stick,   this  can be useful during long races,  personally I  don't as I prefer the boat  to stop or slow to an idle if I accidentally drop the transmitter...  in the   water.  Yes, I did once, in my early days. I was bringing a boat in, I put   the   control  on  the  jetty and reached down for  the   boat   and   the   transmitter fell in the water,   the boat went mad,  shot forward,   broke  my legs in 22 places and had to be amputated just below the neck!    
    Links from servos  must never be sloppy,  they never work properly and are  unreliable.   Metal  to  metal  joints always cause radio interference and  drive  your servos crazy,  use plastic cleveses.   The rudder usually puts   the  most stress on a servo and on really fast boats,   high power  servos   could be required. Use two links to your rudder tiller arm where  possible  which will provide extra strength and safety.  I've tried both plastic and  steel  snakes or Bowden cables,  I've found metal ones are more  reliable.  Use  snakes and cables in pairs,  i.e.  in pull-pull mode as snakes aren't  very good at pushing. Water-proof servos are a good idea if you can afford  them,  but  a lot of people use a water tight radio box especially if using an  electronic speed controller.
   I  always  use  NiCad  batteries in my radio gear as after  two  or  three  re-charges   the  batteries have paid for themselves.   All my boats have the receiver batteries  soldered   together,  covered  in heat shrink plastic  and plug  into  the  receiver with a charging  jack  and on/off switch. The subject of electric  motors, IC engines, radios and batteries will be covered in more detail - HERE.

   You'll   need  to  read  up on the safe use  of  certain  things  such  as   Superglue,  nicads, engines and two-stroke fuel because although these are  safe  they require respectful handling.  For example,  don't use Superglue  and  then  pick  your nose,  or smoke while fuelling up  your  boat.  Quite  seriously,  Superglue contains  cyanide  and two stroke fuel burns with an  almost invisible flame.  Be cautious of any propeller because even a cheap  electric  motor  can rev at 10,000 RPM and can take a finger  off  without  slowing down.  IC engines get very hot,  if you forget,  an exhaust  pipe will quickly remind you.  Work in a well ventilated area when using any chemicals. Have a first-aid kit handy at all times, at  home and by the lake and keep a fire extinguisher in your workshop or shed  just  in  case you have a bad day.  Common sense is not all that common so  just a second or two of extra thought will save you time,  blood, money or  all three.   


  The  more  time and effort,  NOT MONEY,  that you put into your model  the  better  the  results will be.  It will go quicker,  look better  and  will  require  less  maintenance.  During  all stages of construction  test  the  quality  of  your  work,  is  all the running gear  securely  locked  down  including  the  fuel tank,  battery and silencer etc?   It doesn't pay  to  leave  anything loose.  Do the servo links work smoothly without  binding,  are all the nuts and bolts tight, are the grub screws thread-locked in, is  the  deck  joint sealed all the way round,  are the radio  and  electrical  connections  100%,  will the hatch float if it comes adrift,  is the radio  box  watertight?  etc.  etc.  There are so many things you need to be sure  about  so think objectively and plan for the worst.  To help you,  keep in  mind how much you have already spent on it! 

    When you have finished everything,  polish all parts of your sports boat's  hull  to  a mirror finish thus minimizing the water drag.  This will  make  your  boat  go faster.  Use Brasso on all the metal work and T-Cut ( car bodywork paint cutter ) on  the  hull. Blobs of glue, a bad paint job and rough surfaces on the hull will rob you of  speed and control.


   Most  model boats will fit in the bath so nearly everything can be  tested  at home before venturing down to the lake.  Just a point, wives don't like  husbands starting IC boats in the bathroom!

  Don't  mistake  belligerence  or  confidence for  true  expertise.  In  my  experience,  hydrodynamic  theory  is almost unheard of in the world  of  fast  model  boats  and very seldom quoted or practiced,  more a  case  of  suck-it-and see and " It won didn't it! ". 

Don't  be  talked  in to something you don't really want to build  but  do  listen to experience.

 If it an't broke, don't try to fix it.   

Leave bad enough alone!

K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple Stupid!  

Better a bad day by the lake than a good day at work! 

Don't dump fuel into the water. 

Don't leave litter behind when you go home.

Model  boats  are  meant  to  be  fun but some  people  take  it  far  too seriously.  They  can  get  very  upset  when  they  loose  a  race  or  a   competition   on  a  judges decision or because another competitor crashed  into  you.   Model boats, whether fast or slow, are always at some sort of risk, you know that.  Really it not that serious,  even if it took you 10 years   to  build  at a cost of 10,000. Unfortunately, there are much more important things in life  to get  upset about.

    There  are many different aspects of model boating and we all  choose  our  which  area  we like.  It's really narrow  minded to say someone's  else's  boat isn't a real  model boat  just  because  it's something we personally  wouldn't  have  touched  with  a barge  pole.   Look  at  their  boat  and  appreciate  the work that they have put into it,  offer advice if you know  what you're talking about and lend a hand if they need it.  At club level,  all  aspects of boat modelling should be encouraged.  Let us all enjoy our  hobby  both as individuals and as a group.  One day sooner  or  later when  you  take  the  boat home with  expensive  damage or in a plastic bag,  try  to  remember the whole object of the hobby was a relaxing pastime. And dispute  what my wife and kids think, my model boats ARE NOT TOYS!!!     


    It  has  been  said that model boats is the lowest form of  radio  control  modelling because "if it floats,  it works!"  Model cars demand good driving  skills and lightning reactions to stay on the track.  Getting model planes  in the air is hard enough, landing them in one piece is almost impossible.  Model  helicopters pilots need to be real helicopter pilots!  Model  boats  and sports boats in particular are so easy in comparison to other r/c disciplines,  it's  slightly  embarrassing.  They go forwards,  turn left and right,  some  even go  backwards and  there's a very good chance that you'll take it home with you in  one  piece....  but I think  they're great.  At the  last  count I've owned and run twenty eight boats and I'm still  building.  Please buy one off me before the wife throws me out of HER  house!

With thanks...

A lot of the motivation for these articles / pages came from a certain Kapitain Bill Thomas  who   wrote  an excellent series of article ages ago in the  Sept/Nov  '84  issue of Model Boats.  Therein he describes the trials and tribulations of  scratch  building a model submarine and the constant need of a good  sense  of  humour.  This is one of the best article about model boats that I have  ever read  and  still  read  it  again  from time  to  time  for  a  laugh  and  encouragement  to keep going when everything has gone wrong.  Love to meet  you one day Kapitain Thomas.  - 
 NOW  on Mayhem! - (Here)


Well all of this is just  my  opinion, but what do I know!   

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