Friday, February 1, 2013

Buying Parts for the FliteTest NutBall Swappable - All at Once


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By Gabriel Staples
Written: 1 Feb 2013
Updated: 16 March 2014
-added warnings about using the wrong prop with the wrong motor
19 July 2014: Hey look! Hobbyking sells a small, EPP (ie: very durable foam) version of the Nutball now!  See here.

Related Articles:

So, this week I built a NutBall (see my NutBall in action here) to give to a friend turning 18.  He has no RC equipment whatsoever, and I am only giving him the airplane, with no electronics.  Here it is all ready to go (see picture ot the right).  It only took me a little over 4 hrs to put together this time, since I've done this a few times before.  It just needs the motor, battery, ESC, servos, etc.

For a good introductory-level beginner setup, for someone with absolutely no equipment, who just wants the basics, here's what I'd recommend:

Note: if any items are back-ordered (the stock status is listed at the bottom of each item on HobbyKing, to the left of the price), then you may want to do two separate orders: one with in-stock items, and the other with out-of-stock/backordered items.  This is to help speed up the shipping, as standard shipping takes 3~5 weeks from Hong Kong, and waiting for a back-ordered item can hold up your order an additional 1 week to ~2 months+ or so (backordered items usually mean about 3~4 weeks extra waiting, but this can be longer or shorter).  ( may be wondering why I don't purchase elsewhere with this type of slow shipping......well, here's my reasoning:  If you want something quickly instead of inexpensively, remove several of the items below because they are so difficult to find elsewhere, then multiply the price of the remaining items by a factor of 3 or 4, and that is the price you can expect to pay at many store-front shops).  
My recommended Order List (Electronics Only, not airplane parts and hardware) is as Follows:
  1. Transmitter (Tx) and Receiver (Rx), HobbyKing HK6S $29: - Note: one really nice feature about this transmitter is that it has a low voltage alarm which turns on at 8.5V to help you know when your transmitter battery is low.  When the red LED starts to blink, and the transmitter begins beeping, it is time to change (or charge, if applicable) the transmitter battery. 
  2. ESC:  Turnigy Plush 30A, $12:  
  3. Motor, Turnigy D2822/14 Brushless Outrunner, 1450 kv, 160W, $8:
  4. 3.5mm bullet connectors to connect ESC to motor, $2:
  5. Heat Shrink tubing (3mm, 4mm, & 5mm in red AND black), ~$2 total:  3mm red3mm black4mm red4mm black5mm red5mm black
  6. HXT900 9g servos x 3 (1 for a spare), $2.70 each x 3 = $8.10: 
  7. 3mm prop savers (will need to be drilled using 1/8" drill bit to slightly enlarge hole), $3:
  8. SF 9x6 Props (these are excellent propellers to use with the motor above and the 2S LiPo battery below; WARNING: do NOT use these props with the motor above and a 3S LiPo, as it will pull too much current and burn up the motor), $3:
  9. APC-Style Props, 7x5E (this is the ideal propeller to use with the motor above and the 3S LiPo battery below; note: though it is perfectly safe to use a 2S LiPo with this prop, and the plane still flies fine, it will have reduced power and speed when using this prop with a 2S LiPo; therefore, if you want better power, use one of the larger props in this list when using the above motor with a 2S LiPo), $2,
  10. APC-Style Props, 8x6E x 2, $1 each x 2 = $2 (these are also good with the above motor and a 2S LiPo; WARNING: do NOT use these props with the motor above and a 3S LiPo, as it will pull too much current and burn up the motor),
  11. 2S LiPo Battery, 1300mAh x 2 or more (for lower-speed flight), $8 each x 2 = $16:
  12. 3S LiPo Battery, 1300mAh x 2 or more (for higher-speed flight), $9 each x 2 = $18:
  13. XT60 connectors x 1 pack, ~$3.50,
  14. Battery Voltage Checker, $10: and/or this one, with beeper (to notify you when your battery is low, so you can land), $4: 
  15. Cheap Charger & Power Supply, $11:  
  16. LiPo-Safe Charge Bag, $3:
  17. Velcro, $2.50 (this stuff is better than anything in a local store, and 1/3 the price, so I really recommend it--a mandatory item to secure your batteries to the plane): 
  18. Quick connectors/EZ connectors for push-rods, $1.50,
Item Total: ~$149
Guestimated Shipping, based on past experience: ~$35'ish
Order Total: ~$185

My recommended Order List (for Airplane Parts, Tools and Hardware is as Follows: 
  1. Dollar Tree foamboard, $1/sheet x 2 sheets = $2 for the 24" NutBall version (get plans for it on my post here).
  2. bamboo skewers (ie: Shish Kabob skewers), 12" long, 1 pack of 100 or so, $1~$2 at your local store
  3. 2mm (0.078") diameter music wire, for the landing gear, ~$3.50 at your local RC hobby shop or toy train store, or ~$10 (with shipping) on Amazon here
  4. 1.19mm (0.047") diameter music wire, for the control rods, ~$3 at your local RC hobby shop or toy train store, or $8.33 (with shipping) on Amazon here
  5. control horns, $0.50,; or, as I prefer, build your own from jumbo Popsicle craft sticks (see here, under the 4th section, called "Build the Plane").  
  6. 50mm wheels, $3,
  7. 2.1mm wheel collars, $2, 
  8. X-blade knife, $1,
  9. extra X-blades, $1/pack x 3 packs or so = $3,
  10. simple prop balancer, $1.50, (I have this nice one, if you want it instead, $20:
    1. Having a well-balance prop can potentially make a huge difference in minimizing vibration and power losses and prolonging your equipment life.
    2. For propeller-balancing instructions, techniques, and tips, read the Top Flite Power Point Propeller Balancer manual, pgs. 3-6, here: Of the three methods described in the manual, I prefer "method 2" (using super glue and accelerator to add weight to the back side of the light blade on the propeller).
  11. super glue, medium viscosity, with clog-free cap, $2.50 (I love these caps, and this glue is 1/3 the price as you'll find elsewhere):
  12. super glue accelerator, $5 (this stuff allows the super glue to cure instantly, and is necessary in order to balance a propeller),
Item Total: ~$30
Guestimated Shipping for the HobbyKing portion of the order, ~$12
Order Total: ~$42

Grand Total: $185+$42 = $227
Note: this may seem like a lot, but REMEMBER:  most of this equipment is support equipment you have to buy ONE TIME (ex: batteries, charger, glue, radio transmitter, battery voltage checker), or parts that come in bags with enough pieces for 2~4+ planes (ex: prop savers, wheel collars, music wire, control horns, velcro, bamboo skewers).  Not only that, but the power pod is swappable!  THEREFORE, THE COST OF YOUR NEXT PLANE WILL ONLY BE ABOUT $15~$20, OR LESS, IF YOU USE THE SAME SWAPPABLE POWER POD but buy new servos, OR ~$70~$80 if you buy a new motor, speed controller, battery, and receiver.  See how cheap this can be once you get started!?

Miscellaneous Extras to buy locally:
  1. Clear Packing Tape at Walmart or wherever else you choose to buy it. – good for repairs where the full stickiness and strength of strapping tape is not needed.
  2. Scotch strapping tape at Walmart, Meijer, or wherever else you choose (strapping tape has fiberglass strands running down it), or on Amazon here for only $5.09!
  3.  ***Dual temperature*** Hot Glue gun and glue, ~$15 (with glue sticks) from Walmart.  “Dual temperature” means that the glue gun MUST have dual heat settings, high/low so that you can use low setting when you need to and not melt the foam plane, yet you still have high to help it heat up faster and get more sticky on surfaces that can handle a little more heat (hotter = more sticky). You can also buy a good one of these glue guns from Amazon here: <-- Note: I own this exact glue gun and it works well. It works fantastic for RC planes and has a nice, precision tip and hasn’t broken on me with regular use in the past 4 years I’ve had it. If the glue ever gets jammed (has happened a few times after being on high heat for very long periods of time), pull the glue stick out, pull off the melted portion that may be getting stuck in the gun, re-insert glue stick, and continue use.  I use the “high” heat setting to heat it up quickly, then I switch to “low” once it’s hot so I don’t melt the foam.  About 1 minute before each use, I switch back to "high" to get the glue sticky and easier to squeeze out, then during use I switch back to "low" so it doesn't get too hot.  This process can take some practice, but ultimately you know the glue is hot enough when it is hot enough to burn you if you don't roll it off your fingers, but cool enough to *not* burn you if you *do* roll it off your fingers.  You're smart, figure it out. :)  So far that I have found, the quality can’t be beat for its price, though better dual temperature glue guns do exist.
  4. 8 AA batteries for the transmitter

Please leave your comment below:  So, would you recommend this list of parts for a NutBall to a friend?  Why, or why not?

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  1. Gabriel, Thanks for the thorough list, I have it all ready to go in my cart and can't wait to build it. My only question before I get started in this wonderful world is the higher power motor only work with the 24" Nutball or can it be used on the 18" FliteTest version. And also, do you think the higher powered motor would be appropriate for the other 2 planes in the swappable build or would I be better off using the lower power "recommended" power supply by FliteTest.

    Thanks for everything you do in sharing your passion.

    1. Matthew, how "slow and gentle" a plane flies is directly proportional to its wing loading. Wing loading is mass per wing area. Area = pi*r^2 = pi*d^2/4. The 18" nutball has a wing area of pi*18^2/4 = 254 in^2. The 24" nutball has a wing area of pi*24^2/4 = 452 in^2. 452/254 = 1.78, which means the 24" nutball has 78% more wing area than the 18" nutball to support whatever weight it has to carry. With this in mind, yes, the 18" nutball absolutely can fly just fine with my higher power setup, but it will fly much faster and be much less forgiving. I'd recommend it for more advanced pilots only. If you want a gentle beginner setup, go with the 18" nutball and the FliteTest recommended power setup, *or* go with the 24" nutball and my recommended power setup--using the *2S* LiPo setup I recommend NOT the 3S LiPo setup I recommend. The 3S LiPo setup I recommend has more than 2x the power of the 2S LiPo version, and is heavier so it has a higher wing loading. Both of these factors will make the plane fly much faster and be harder for a beginner to control.

      Lastly, I actually count 24 swappable planes by FliteTest, *not* just 3. See the FliteTest "FTScratchBuild" links on my Getting into Scratch Building page here and you'll see, clicking on the links, that there are many swappable series planes they make. I count 3 Beginner Series, 7 Intermediate, and 14 Advanced. It is my opinion that if you become a more advanced pilot, you'll have a lot more fun with those planes with my power setup than you will with their power setup. So, ultimately I'd recommend my power setup with a 2S LiPo (and props I recommend for the 2S LiPo) and the 24" Nutball. Once you get good, go to a 3S and the 3S prop I recommend for the 24" Nutball. Once you get good at that, try another plane from the swappables series, probably just sticking with the 3S LiPo setup. The plane will have higher wing loading, more power, and have to fly faster, however...

      I hope that helps.

    2. Correction, I just checked. For some of their more advanced swappable planes (ex: FT Mustang) they actually recommend power setups with motors up to 250W+. The motor I recommend above is 160W. That means that it will easily power and fly their more advanced planes too, as well as the 24" NutBall. I guess that's the real benefit of using my recommended setup: you don't need to upgrade your power setup once you want a more advanced plane...


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~Sincerely, Gabriel Staples.

P.S. Yo hablo español también. Je parle français aussi. (I speak Spanish & French too).