The long-used advertising adage, “Nothing flies like a Telemaster!” apparently can be scaled up or down and still be true if the latest lasercut version of the Mini Telemaster, Kit V2, is an indication of the veracity of the statement. Differing structurally from previous kits and ARFs of this 45-inch wing span version of the plane, Hobby Lobby called upon Jon Valentine of Top Notch Products Company to do the re-engineering and the laser-cutting of this updated edition.
The re-engineering of the new V2 kit features laser-cut interlocking parts, including the forward fuselage, wing ribs, wing tips and sheeting, a ply battery tray, firewall, and a cleverly designed forward hatch that eliminates the need to remove the wing to replace the flight battery. The first thing that strikes you as you open the utilitarian brown cardboard box is the excellent quality of the wood and the very precise laser-cutting throughout. Top Notch Products Company is to be congratulated on the execution of the re-engineering and cutting process undertaken for Hobby Lobby. Having had experience with several of Jon Valentine’s models, I can tell you his fingerprints are all over this one—and to a very positive effect.
The building instructions
Normally, the first thing I do in reviewing a kit is to read the instruction manual thoroughly and try to mentally measure how easily the manual can be followed by the intended audience. In this case, the intended audience is a modeler who may be transitioning from experience with RTF (Readyto- Fly) or ARF (Almost-Ready-to Fly) to his or her first kit build, or a modeler who is just entering the hobby. On the positive side, my assessment is that by following the step-by-step illustrated building instructions, a beginning modeler will be successful in putting together an attractive model with a straight, strong (yet light) framework—again a compliment to Jon Valentine and his crew. Having said that, the beginning modeler would be well-advised to enlist the aid of an experienced modeler for such tasks as installing the radio and power system, covering the model, and setting it up to fly. Now, it well may be that I received one of the prototype instruction booklets and there may well have been an expansion of the instructions since then, but those areas noted above were not addressed in the instruction booklet that accompanied the kit I received to construct and review.
Building the model
The fuselage is put together with the aid of “registration pins” consisting of two 21⁄2- inch nails and two fiber blocks. These very helpful tools make laminating the forward part of the fuselage an easy and accurate task and assist in squarely gluing the doublers in place. The registration holes in the fuselage are a bit disconcerting initially, but if the model is covered with an opaque covering material they will be concealed. Since I chose to use transparent UltraCote Lite, they can be seen in the photos of the completed plane. I take comfort in the fact that when the plane is 100 feet in the air, no one will notice! The ply formers, battery tray, and firewall snap in place very accurately on one fuselage side, and then the second fuselage side is simply set in place over the substructure. Once the fuselage “box” is formed, the laser cut tail pieces and the landing gear mount can be installed very precisely in their precut slots and glued in place. The two-piece wire landing gear fits accurately into the provided holes and is clamped in place with laser-cut ply straps screwed to the landing gear mount plate.
The tail surfaces are built over the plan with a combination of laser-cut pieces and excellent quality balsa strip wood. The control horns for the tail are laser-cut from 1⁄16- inch ply and fit precisely into pre-cut slots in the rudder and the elevator. The tail wheel assembly was a bit different. The tail wheel wire was not pre-fabricated and had to be bent from a piece of .047 wire according to the plan and then inserted and epoxied into the rudder. The provided soft foam tail wheel blank (approximately 3⁄32 inch thick) was to be faced with two small ply bushings and then placed on the axle portion of the tail wheel wire. Neither the instructions nor the plans addressed how the wheel pieces were to be held together in any substantial fashion, so after a couple of tries with different types of glue, I simply discarded it and used a spare plastic tail wheel I had on hand, holding it in place with a small wheel collar. The eRC BL450S motor was an easy mount since elongated holes for several sizes of motors are pre-cut into the firewall. The plans call for the firewall to be braced on the front with cheek doublers. Being a “belt and suspenders” kind of guy, I added triangular stock to the rear as well, and fed the motor leads into the ESC/battery compartment through an elongated horizontal slot cut provided in the bottom of the firewall. The ESC/battery hatch is a clever hook and magnet affair that clicks into place with a satisfying sound and makes into a horizontally split windscreen by being faired into the fuselage top block. The hatch is assembled from laser-cut ply and does show its slot and tab construction through the transparent covering. A clubmate, seeing the assembly from a short distance away, said it looked like it had been stapled together.
As in the case of the registration holes mentioned earlier, that will not be a problem if opaque covering is used, however. The wing is nicely engineered to be both strong and warp-free, but does not sacrifice lightness in order to do so. The only unusual features are the use of vertical spar webs, diagonal truss rib bracing and top sheeting— all on a relatively small wing to keep it strong, light and straight. Built carefully, the wing should present no problems, even to a first-time builder, since the two panels are both completed before they are joined together by a center ply rib and two locating dowels. I liked the precut “hook” on front of the center ply rib that slips very accurately into a slot in the front fuselage former. The wing is held to the fuselage by the hook in the front and two long nylon bolts at the rear. With the joining of the two wing panels, the manual states, “This concludes the wing assembly.” Unfortunately, it also concludes the manual, with the exception of three additional pages listing parts and hardware.
Finishing the model
As noted earlier, I chose UltraCote Lite “Transparent Red” as the base covering in order to show the structure and accented the base color with white trim and black window panels. Prior to covering the model, however, all of the power train and radio components were installed, along with the provided wire pushrods to the rudder and elevator. I had a spare R2006GS receiver for my T6HJ 2.4Ghz S-FHSS transmitter so I decided to use what I had available and couple the radio to two Tower Pro SG 90 9-
gram Micro Servos and the eRC 25A Brushless ESC provided as part of the review. Not having used such a sophisticated program-formable ESC before, I was interested in its capabilities. It can be programmed either by transmitter throttle sticks or the optional LED programming card (ERCE02). I chose to use the card and had a lot of fun with it trying out all sorts of combinations available for motor timing and “soft” acceleration; braking settings; voltage cut-off thresholds; and reversing the motor rotation (just for the heck of it!). To use the card, you just plug the ESC receiver wire into the right socket on the top edge of the programmer, then plug the battery into the ESC. After about a 2-second delay, you can press the button for the function you wish to change and then press the “Value” button to cycle through the list of available settings for that function, all shown on the card’s LED screen. Exploring all of the settings available from all of the functions gives an almost bewildering combination of choices. Fortunately, you can also return all of the functions to the factory defaults by simply pressing the “Reset” button. I finally chose a “soft” start, a low voltage cut-off, and a “soft” braking function as the starting places for the ESC. After the plane was covered, the rudder and stab were hinged with DuBro Electric Flyer Hinge Tape, a very simple and easy way to hinge small non-glow powered planes. The stab was hinged on the top and the rudder on the right side. The control horns were routed onto the wire pushrods and then epoxied into place in the slot provided on the respective surfaces.
There’s really not a lot to comment on here, because as noted in the opening paragraph, the plane flies like a Telemaster. Since there was no c.g. location specified in the manual or on the plans, I balanced the plane on the wing spar, set the control throws as they were specified on the plan, and took the plane to our club field for its maiden flight. I really liked the “soft” start afforded by the programmed ESC as the plane made a most realistic taxi and take-off into about a five mile per hour wind coming straight down the runway. As the plane lifted off, there was the usual readiness to make needed trim changes to correct the flight path. Not a single click of any kind of trim adjustment was made. The little plane was absolutely perfect. After about a six-minute flight with slow passes, the obligatory loop, touch-and-goes, a couple of rudder-induced stall turns, and many photos for this article, the plane was brought back to the runway with the prop barely turning over using the “soft” braking function. It made a beautiful wheel landing, dropped its tail and coasted to a stop right in front of me as the prop quit turning. It just doesn’t get any better than that! Hobby Lobby has provided the perfect transitional airplane for modelers wanting to bridge the gap between the world of RTFs, ARFs, and kit-built airplanes. The Mini-Telemaster V2 remains true to its long and extensive bloodline and will provide a satisfying building and flying experience for any modeler.