Remote Controlled Model Boats
by Rodney C Jackson
I have always been interested in remote controlled model boats. I'm not really handy in building things. But I think with the right basic course I could do it. Are their any classes (Community Colleges, etc. Pittsburgh, Pa) where I could learn the basic techniques of remote control boat building from scratch? Or could you recommend a good place to start?
Soon to be new Boater Hobbyist
Unfortunately, I've never heard of classes offered at Community Colleges, but then again I haven't really investigated that venue either. Your best bet there is to research your local Community College and their Curriculum. Sometimes local Maritime Museums offer classes, so that may be an option as well. Generally, their focus is more toward history and static models, but if there is an interest they may broaden their offering.
If you're out of luck, here are some options (off the top of my head) to get started in building model boats:
- Local Model Boat Club
I think the best way is to contact a local club. They are sometimes difficult to find, but a local hobby store may be able to help. If you can't find one in your town, widen your search to nearby communities. Clubs usually meet occasionally and members bring their projects at different stages of construction. These are great opportunities to ask questions about other builders models and to get tips on how others got started and their recommendations.
- On-line forums
On-line forums can be useful to ask for help about model boats. I've found www.rcgroups.com to be a good one, but there are others as well. People like to help, so ask your questions. Since the forums typically are divided into categories, such as RC yachts, Racing or Scale etc. you have a good chance of getting very targeted help.
- Get a Quality Kit and follow the instructions
Buying any random kit is taking a chance because some have horrid instructions and/or material. A good approach is to "lurk" a couple of forums and try and spot a boat model you like and see if there is a build log somewhere (on the forum or elsewhere on the net).
For a first build, I'm in favor of building your own hull. I just don't see what you'd learn from adding a deck to a plastic hull. However, it all depends on your comfort level. A kit with a pre-made hull out of ABS will be much less expensive than one made of fiberglass.
If you want to build a hull, I'd recommend either a balsa kit or laser-cut plywood. A design where the hull can be planked with sheet material rather than individual wood strips is also more suitable for beginners. They are much faster and easier to put together.
A lot of beginners for some reason start out with really big, and too difficult boats. I thing that's a mistake. You're much better off building an easy modest size boat for your first effort. This way you can "afford" to make more mistakes, and you're more likely to actually finish it. In addition, reasonably sized components are more affordable. A finished size of around two feet and two to four pounds is plenty.
Make sure the kit says it is suitable for RC. Some static models can be converted, but that's not what you're trying to learn here, at least not yet.
Another thing to shy away from are classic motor boats like the Dumas Chris-Craft series. They are all finished in natural wood. Paint is heaven-sent and your last resort when you mess up the hull planking.
So now you wonder what kit I recommend. I'm very hesitant, because the kits I grew up with are no longer in production. I also have no idea what you're interested in.
If you'd like you can use the comment feature here to ask follow-up questions or ask about kits you've found and want my input on. I'll be happy to help!
Best of luck!