Pick a Little, Build a Little

This thicker white plastic likes a little heat and a slow, slow pull – until it suddenly breaks and you have to start scraping up an edge again.

With apologies to Meredith Wilson (author of the Music Man), we’ve altered the lyrics to “Pick a Little, Talk a Little”….by a little bit.

Our twenty (plus) year old quick-build F1 Rocket kit came covered in a variety of twenty (plus) year old vinyl and plastic—white stuff, clear stuff, blue stuff, green stuff—and getting it off is a long-term project in itself. Anyone who has left the plastic on their aluminum parts for years knows—the longer it stays on, the harder it is to get off!

We live in the desert, so we aren’t really concerned with corrosion during the build process but we don’t want this old plastic and glue to become anymore cemented than it already is. So we’re devoting a fairly large amount of the early build time peeling (stripping, chipping, dissolving…) the stuff off. It makes for a peaceful respite when you’re trying to envision an upcoming set of holes to measure and drill, or thinking through a problem or way of doing something better.

So….we build a little, then pick a little, then build a little—and pick a little. For some things (the thicker white plastic) heat is your friend, but not too much! For other things (the cracked, baked-on white vinyl) it was a combination of GooGone gel, heat, paint stripper, and scrapers. And when you get frustrated with the pickin’ you can always go back to building!

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Paul Dye
Paul Dye, KITPLANES® Editor at Large, retired as a Lead Flight Director for NASA’s Human Space Flight program, with 40 years of aerospace experience on everything from Cubs to the Space Shuttle. An avid homebuilder, he began flying and working on airplanes as a teen and has experience with a wide range of construction techniques and materials. He flies an RV-8 and SubSonex jet that he built, an RV-3 that he built with his pilot wife, as well as a Dream Tundra and an electric Xenos motorglider they completed. Currently, they are building an F1 Rocket. A commercially licensed pilot, he has logged over 6000 hours in many different types of aircraft and is an A&P, FAA DAR, EAA Tech Counselor and Flight Advisor; he was formerly a member of the Homebuilder’s Council. He consults and collaborates in aerospace operations and flight-testing projects across the country.


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