2017 the year of the Woodworking bug

This is the year that the woodworking bug bit me hard!

My biggest limitation has been that my entire shop has to fit into a 6’ x 13’ area when I’m not using it. This means that EVERYTHING is on casters and that I take over the entire garage in various configurations as needed. Some tools like my planer sit on the floor and are not at an optimum height.

This is my shop area fit into the back of the garage with a stop sensor for my wife’s car.

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My work surfaces tend to be multi-use and collapsible. I built two folding tables that quickly attach to the front back and side of my table saw to act as 4’ long in feed, out feed, or side support tables.  But they only take up a 1’x2’ of floor space when I’m not using them.

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I built a rolling power tool bench / glue up table / storage unit that continues to evolve. It is not the perfect height for everything, but it works well enough.

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It also works as a glue-up table using Kreg Auto-Max clamps and an easily replaceable  not stick top.  It also has a large end vice and supports to hold a large piece of wood off the floor or level. 

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My clamp rack is a 2 stage ladder hung to the side wall. Notice another folding table against the wall.

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My other limitation is that I have only two 20A 120V circuits to work with. Technically I had one but I’m now sharing a circuit with the overhead lights which are now LED’s that sip power.  My dust collection system shares the circuit with the lights and a single power tool at a time runs off the other.

This has proven to be very workable and while it might be nice to have a seriously powerful table saw or band saw, so far it hasn’t kept me from doing anything.

There is only one tool missing and that is a jointer. Unfortunately I don’t see the point in a small jointer and I don’t have the room for a large jointer or have the power to run it so I just have to deal with limitations for now.

My work around for this has been hand planes which I have developed a real love for. They can handle figured wood as well as or better than a helical blade jointer. There is also something very satisfying about making fine shavings with a hand plane.

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A proper shooting board can create perfectly square ends. I built this shooting board based on Rob Cosman’s recommendations.
His video –> https://youtu.be/YyfvygylyJg

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With the exception of my shooting board, I have never built anything based on plans or someone else’s design. I enjoy designing things that I can’t buy. The fun part about wood working is that there is always a new technique to learn and then find a created way to apply.

I recently designed and built this walnut table for my front foyer. The specific need was to replace a square table with something that had no room for a cat to sit and eat the leaves. He cried a bit, but it was a success.  I also learned how to make a circular form, laminate hardwood, cut tapered legs, use a circle jig and build a loose tenon support system for the legs. Other than a single glue seam on the table top there is no glue holding the skirt or legs on and it can be completely disassembled into eleven parts.

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Smaller Charger ( one more time )

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This is the last one finished in November 2016 . I still had the 2 x PL8’s and a 1kW PS  from my first too heavy to carry charger build and I wanted to be able to use them. This is a very simple rugged and lightweight package.

I started with a cardboard mockup.

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Then moved to a wooden prototype

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Then I moved to ABS and screwed into UHMW blocks.

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Finally it joined my last Charging Tower and is what I continue to use today.

I still have the battery storage unit from the first build, but I don’t use it often because of it’s size.

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Frequently before I head to the airfield I’ll charge a bunch of batteries running both chargers.
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Charging Station Reprise (with BUMP controller)

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A couple years back I built an over-engineered charging station with battery storage that was worked, but in practice was too heavy and cumbersome.

Last year I went in a different direction. I wanted light, simple and twice the charging capacity.

I started with 2 x Dual PL8’s,  4 x MPA boards and a Meanwell 2kW 48V PS.

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The Meanwell charger is quiet with a variable speed fan and has power factor correction to help minimize the load on my generator at the airfield.

I had pre-ordered a BUMP controller in October that arrived January 30th, so I started without it and just used a cardboard placeholder.

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The MPA boards Velcro to the sideboards that connect both horizontally and vertically.

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This year I decided to go for a stained finish. I used a gray stain and urethane top coat.

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Building the Ultimate RC Charging box / Battery Caddie

This winter I had a project. I wanted to design and build the ultimate charging box and battery storage for my needs. This is what I ended up building.

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I settled on a three part solution.

Part 1 Charging Box 

  • Hold 1x powersupply, 2x PowerLab PL8’s and 2x MPA 6 balance boards
  • Make my PL8’s and balance boards conveniently accessible.
  • Hold my batteries conveniently for charging
  • Store my batteries
  • Show the charge status of each battery ( Charged, Flown, Balanced)
  • Run off AC or Battery at the airfield easily
  • Help get everything out to the airfield from my car easier

Part 2 Battery Caddie

  • Easily carry just my batteries to the air field
  • Keep my batteries organized and keep track of their charge status.
  • Carry some tools

Part 3 Battery Storage

  • Must be easily transferred from the Charging Box to the Battery Caddie
  • Keep track of the battery charge status
  • Have an integrated platform to present batteries for use and to charge

This was a winter project for me and I took my time with it and iterated quite a bit. I started out mostly working on the dimensions, features, overall design and used a bunch of metal hardware that screwed together. Then as I got into wood working more there was a transition away from metal hardware and screws to wood structure and glue.

Starting from the early prototypes I was trying to get convenient access for 2x PL8’s and 2x  MPA boards and battery storage.  Here you can see the battery storage clipped on.

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I wanted a way to support the batteries when charging from both balance boards. Using aluminum clips to hold the battery charging trays in place.

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It was going to be heavy enough with PS, Chargers, Balance boards, and especially batteries that it needed a strong frame with wheels and a luggage handle.

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I did a lot of prototyping with cardboard because it was fast. Below are the cardboard folding charging wings and the next version of battery storage which used a removable 1” dowel hinge.

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Then the cardboard was replaced with wood, metal hinges and lexan. The battery storage had to fold up to stow. The wiring was also coming along.

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A hinged lexan window for the batteries was added and some front facial.

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Of course it needed a cell phone charger on it Smile

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Then the ability to charge with Deep Cycle Batteries was added. This Power supply allows for DC Voltage across the output terminals. This is not always the case.

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The aesthetics changed over time. Red and Black CF look vinyl seemed like a good way to clean things up quickly.

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There was a little space between the top balance board and the power supply. Perfect space for a tool storage area Smile

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The battery storage still seemed too complex. requiring a removable dowel and a cord to keep it from laying flat. So the next step was adding slots and pegs to hold the battery storage in place. This way it could just slide into place supported at an angle and then able to slide to upright.

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The charging tower was finally nearly fully functional.

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It got it’s first field test and worked well, but came home with very muddy wheels and no good way for me to bring it in the house without lots of cleaning effort. That lead to the bottom becoming removable for easy cleaning.

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This is when my project went from prototyping functionality to woodworking and learning the basic skills needed to construct something a bit more finished looking. The project was on hold while I tooled up my shop and learned how to use my new tools. I built a mobile tool bench / gluing table because of limited space. The right picture is my entire shop compressed into a space in front of where my wife parks her car.

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Now I could cut with accuracy and do things I was ill equipped to do earlier like making wooden hinges.

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So now I could remove all the ugly pop riveted metal hinges and use something much prettier to look at.

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Another design change. The battery storage hinged doors would double as the battery charging platform. This had the added benefit of them serving as a nice platform to put your batteries on while flying. Prototyped with metal hinges.

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Then it was time to upgrade the Battery storage slots and pegs to something more durable, UHMW and aluminum. First a little tooling to make sure all the slots were uniform as 8 total were needed.

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Now things were starting to look prettier.

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With precise cutting the battery storage became cleaner looking to and much stronger with 1/8” hardboard dividers glued into place with 1/8” neoprene cushioning for the batteries.

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Then it was time to work on the removable base out of 1/4” ABS. Using a band saw holes were cut for the wheels and then using a heat gun and a 1” dowel a bend needed to be made.

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The release mechanism was very simple. A bolt and knob would release it and let the base slide off to be hosed down separate from the wood and electronics.

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Next I jumped ship to the battery caddie which is the lighter weight battery storage system that would accompany me to the airfield most of the time. Once again prototyping in cardboard. This is where the interchangeable battery storage units start to make more sense.

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The battery caddie went together very quickly and it was time to learn about finishing wood.

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It was now time to build up the left battery storage unit and as you can see you can never have enough clamps.

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Now the battery caddy had a full complement of battery storage!

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Battery storage is finally finished and so is the Battery Caddie

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Time for a field test!   The battery caddie worked perfectly at the airfield and I had no issues with it.

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Now back to the Charging tower. At this point the bar had been raised and it was time to tear the tower apart to rebuild it properly with what I had learned since starting this project. Luckily it is quite modular and removing the center tower is easy.

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The tower which shell which had been drilled over and over again was ready for replacement.

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With the wood finishing so far, putting a plastic mesh in the back for cooling didn’t seem adequate, so I drilled 1/2” vent holes for the power supply and top Power Lab 8.

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The back of the charging tower with Battery cable storage, powersupply vent and place for the rear AC outlet and handle to attach.

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The front fascia.

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Test fit the new tower.

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Final wiring

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And done setting in my office.

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In use before a day at the airfield.

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At the air field running of a 2kW generator.

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Running off deep cycle batteries.

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Finally here is a Video walking through how it all works.

Jeti wireless with Real Flight 7.0 Simulator

One reason I had never used Real Flight was that they had a large plastic transmitter dongle which was a deal breaker for me. With RF 7.0 they released a transmitter box with standard plugs for a PPM signal, so I jumped in and got a copy. ( RF7 Transmitter Interface Edition )

I opened it up and wired a servo cable to the board as shown below.

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The end result after I cut the stock PPM cables off is shown below.

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Here is the receiver configuration through the device explorer.

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Create a non-specific model that will work for planes and helis without any issues.

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Map the servo outputs.

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Map the servo channels in Real Flight 7.0.

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Currently I have Expo configured in the transmitter, but I use the channel 8 Mode to control the head speed which is configured in the model in Real Flight.

I like straight curves for all of my Flight modes so I put the governor threshold at –106 so full negative collective in flight mode 1 doesn’t kill the motor.

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One more step when flying from the other side of the room is to set the Reset after a crash to be automatic, and when Real Flight first comes up, press the reset button once and then you can fly from across the room without needing to touch anything.

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RC Heli Advances in 2013

This has been a year with a lot of new electronics and other products.

Jeti DS-16 – Introduced this Spring, the DS-16 has proven to be everything I hoped it would be and I am enjoying this transmitter a lot. The voice telemetry it offers has been great including the battery mah alarms that tell me when my batteries have 40%, 30% and 25% left. This transmitter has been a surprising amount of fun to work with and that is something I could never say about an RC transmitter before.

JLog 2.5 – Introduced this summer, the JLog 2.5 is like the Rosetta stone for telemetry. It connects Kontronik Jive and Kosmik ESC’s and CC ESC’s to Jeti Duplex, Futaba FASSTEST, and JR DMSS receivers as well as Spektrum TM1000 systems.  It also offers its own sensors which allows a helicopter to have telemetry setup as Transmitter/Receiver independent. Just reconfigure the JLog2.5 and connect to your telemetry system of choice.  The JLog2.5 is now carried in the US at DemonAero.com

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Cyclone Blades – Released in May, these are very efficient blades that really do add time to each flight. They are great for 3D flying and seem to add pop at low speed and I have found I’m getting over 1.5 minutes of additional flight time at lower head speeds than I was with my Radix 710mm blades that I also am very fond of. I really like how they feel on my TDR and look forward to seeing Cyclone’s other sized blades.

Skookum SK-GPS – Released early in the year, the SK-GPS was a very useful tool for me and allowed me to get over the fear factor of trying a number of new things. I think it can be a very helpful learning tool, however once I got over my fears and starting flying a lot more inverted and closer to the ground, I found I was not using it nearly as much.  I do credit it with helping me improve my flying ability, but it also increases the complexity and setup required and must be used carefully for greatest benefit.

What it does is pretty impressive. With the Flight deck feature enabled a barometer(altimeter) senses that it is below a height threshold and it flips the heli level, It then uses its compass to sense direction and rotates the tail to the same direction it was in when you took off, then it uses the GPS module to hold the heli in place until you are ready to take control back. In addition if you flip it to Fly Home after it has spun up it will record that GPS location. The next time that you flip it to fly home it will fly back to the position and hover.

To work best it should be mounted clear of magnetic fields generated by your motor and other electronics,  a compass swing must be done to calibrate the system which involves spinning and rotating the heli.  Once the swing is done, and before using the flight deck feature it is recommended to use the Position Hold feature and calibrate the collective gain it needs to hold position. It is also very important to have your GPS switch turned off when you are first taking off.

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Skookum SK-720 BE – This is a substantial improvement over the older SK-720’s that I have enjoyed for the last couple years. They feel great in flight are very vibration tolerant with their pinpoint gyros and can be hard mounted. If you like to use the Auto-Level feature they should be mounted on a supplied pad.  The BE’s maintain a better sense of the horizon when you are tossing your heli around than the Blues did. The BE’s power bus can handle more current, and it has a nice black anodized case rather than plastic. I do like the auto-level feature and use it on occasion if I have a question about my heli’s orientation before I get into trouble. It has saved me from a number of crashes and helps reduce the pucker factor a bit.

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Kontronik Kosmik Blue Tooth module – This product gives you a graphical interface to set up your Kosmik ESC.  It is not a complete replacement for the ProgDisc which you still need to upgrade the firmware on your Kosmik. Currently it only works with the Android, but the iPhone version is supposed to be available soon.

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I did not leave the BT module connected after I had configured my ESC so that it is not damaged in a crash, doesn’t add additional weight and doesn’t cause any 2.4GHz interference even though it can be configured to be disabled by default.

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Other Cool things that I tried this year.

Futaba BR-3000 Battery meter – I like this much better than my Progressive RC meter which you have to wait on to sing it’s little song and tell me I don’t have logging functionality EVERY time it starts up. When I am checking a bunch of batteries that just gets annoying. The Futaba unit is nearly instant, so I can look at a lot of batteries very quickly and it presents a lot of information at once. I still have both meters and frequently leave an adapter for Thunder Power batteries on one of them.  BR-3000

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Balance Connector Protector – I don’t know how often you find your self pulling on the wires of your balance cables to pull them off a balance board, and sometimes prying them off, but I’m really liking this very inexpensive solution and have purchased a few packs of these for my batteries with JST-XH connectors.  AB Clips 6S  They are very easy to pull off of a balance boards. They come in 2S-6S sizes.

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Yamaha EF2000iS Generator – I put it on a 50’ cable and can barely hear it. The Meanwell 1000watt PS in my charging kit is much louder than the generator.  Honda also makes a very nice generator that is very comparable. The features that I liked about the Yamaha compared to the Honda are that it has a fuel gauge and a means of cutting gas flow to the carburetor so it can be run dry without running the tank dry. With the tank vent closed I’ve never noticed any gasoline smell in my car when transporting it.  I happen to have a local place that I could have it serviced, but Honda does have a much larger network to service theirs.

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New gas container – If you haven’t replaced your gas container in a while, you might want to consider getting a new one. I have not had any gasoline smell come from this container while it is in my car. In addition you have to press the green button on the spout after you have it in place to let gas out, and release the button and wait for it to drip a bit and pull it away. This removes the separate vent plug and makes spilling gas a lot less likely.

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The Anatomy of a Banshee

This video is from the September 2013 German Speed Competition where Christian Köperl, set the new world speed record of 273.6 km/h and had the fastest single pass of 286 hm/hr or 177mph with the Speed Banshee.

This is what the Banshee looks and sounds like when it is in skilled hands.

The full fuse used in the video above is not an option that can be purchased, but the heli underneath is very impressive even without a fuse.

The original Banshee was an evolving prototype and the three people who built these prototypes initially gave no intention of putting them into production. Eventually they decided to create a very small production run of fifty Banshee 700 Limited helicopters. This helicopter was designed to be the fastest 700 series heli ever built and has some very interesting design features to successfully accomplish this. It turns out that it is also the most agile smack 3D helicopter ever built as well.

In the middle of 2012 these fifty helicopters began shipping to their eagerly awaiting owners and within a few month they had all been delivered.

The Banshee 700 Limited is no longer available, and interestingly enough the choice of 50 turned out to be about what the market at the time could bear for a manufacturer who had never had an RC Helicopter in production before, wanted payment up front and had the most expensive bare bones kit by a margin.  While many expected the Banshee 700 Limited to sell out immediately, it took two weeks to sell all 50 reservations.

Of the 50 sold about 35 are located in the Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. The others are spread around the world in the US, Australia, South Africa and one in Argentina.   Parts can only be ordered by a person who is registered as the owner of a Banshee, so a person can not build one up from parts, and a stolen Banshee would only be able to fly until it’s first crash unless it was returned to its rightful owner.

What makes the Banshee special?

It is exclusive, but it is also full service. If you crash your Banshee, it can be shipped back to the manufacturer to be repaired.

Its design appears to borrow from  Henseleit, VooDoo, and MiniCopter, but it seems to have used them as a springboard to then take the design a step further. The end product is very light, extremely strong, and can not be overpowered by any of today’s motors.

Here are some of the details.

The head is engraved with the production number of the helicopter.

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There are massive main grip bolts to hold the blade grips on at obscene head speeds. The blade grips have long needle bearings with much greater surface area than radial bearings have. The half shafts are 10mm.

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The entire head is designed to slightly wobble. Notice the damper on the main shaft. The turnbuckles on the links are also a nice touch. Adjusting blade tracking is very easy with a digital pitch gauge since the top of the rotor head and the main grips are flat surfaces.

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The servo/swash geometry allows for very large amounts of collective and cyclic pitch without binding.  This means that unlike some other speed helis that require the links to be adjusted asymmetrically  to get enough positive collective for speed runs all you have to do is increase your collective pitch range to get well over  +/- 16 degrees without binding.

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The fully belted drive train is very robust and made so that it can not be overpowered by any motor currently made.  There are 3 main bearings on the 12mm main shaft. 

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There  are two cross braces for structural support. One is between the center drive plate and the top main bearing brace. The other is just behind the main bearing brace.  This successfully makes the drive train extremely rigid.

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The tail tension system is very easily set. While the spring is fully compressed the boom is pushed in as far as it will go. Tighten the boom and let go of the tensioning spring.

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The Tail boom is a 30mm diameter solid Carbon Fiber tube. The boom is rigid enough by itself so as not to need boom supports.

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The Canopy is very light weight. It is made from a single layer of Carbon Fiber that you can see through with any light behind it. Tenax fasteners secure the canopy and rare earth magnets seal the trailing edge.

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The tail is very clean looking and very precise. There is a 5 x tail multiplier which gives great tail authority with 95-105mm tail blades.

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The Banshee flies very well over a very wide range of head speeds.  Some owners fly the Banshee as low as 800 rpm and as high as 2600+ rpm in speed runs. 

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This is definitely the most impressive helicopter that I have ever seen, but the group who designed it are working on a successor.  There is no schedule for completion of this next heli as it is a passion but not the occupation of its designers.  It will be very interesting to see where they can find improvements left to be made on this amazing helicopter.