I have been in this hobby for several years now and have to admit I’ve met a lot of great people. I have also seen some really great individuals drop out due to the costs involved in operating a model helicopter. Usually it is the crash related repairs that seem to get a person down after just getting over the rather large initial financial outlay. If this is not enough, many times a long wait for replacement parts can follow. I have helped some out by manufacturing various parts at a very low cost. While this was free to them the cost to me was small, kind of like buying a buddy a coffee and a doughnut. I have also gained a sense of satisfaction from such a small bit of ingenuity. The degree of ingenuity will be directly proportional to the desire to fly. On the down side, every time I go to the hardware store I now find myself distracted from the domestic chore at hand. Something as simple as a broom or snow brush can cause a major detour, since all I see written on it is tail booms. I don’t see the bristles! The other day I needed some ‘O’ rings for an X-Cell tube drive and low and behold there in the plumbing department were the ‘most’ perfect fitting and priced replacements. Even cheap upgrades can be made in house when one becomes a proficient vulture. I have a miniature lathe which is great at reducing down time but many common things can be manufactured with drill press, hacksaw and a set of files. Having a ‘dremel’ tool is very handy to have and most people own one or have access to. A set of small taps and dies for cutting threads is very useful. Because the lathe is something most do not have I shall leave this form of tooling aside.
Due to the nature of a crash, normally a mainshaft (mast), feathering spindle and flybar are taken out. In some cases the tailboom, tube drive shaft and tail rotor output shaft get bent. Machine shops are the best supplier for mast, flybar, shaft and spindle stock. The material to use is called drill rod and is supplied in its soft state which is fine in most cases. You can buy it in three foot lengths for about five dollars. Take a mast, tail rotor gearbox, or flybar bearing with you so you can select the best fitting shaft. Even the manufacturer supplied masts vary in fits so this way you’ll have the upper hand. Your old shafts should be marked unserviceable and kept as a template only, for length, drilling holes and filing flats if required. Cut the drill rod to length using a hacksaw and file the ends level. Chuck it in the drill press and chamfer each end with a file. By laying the new shaft in a machine vise with the old shaft on top we now have an accurate alignment jig. The important thing to remember when using the drill press to machine the holes, is to be sure that the material is perpendicular to the drill. Drill the first hole, install a bolt to hold the alignment then drill the second hole. Finally select a much larger drill to slightly chamfer the edge of the two holes at both ends. If any flats are required for setscrews, now is the time to file or dremel them. If you have an auto clutch that runs directly on the main shaft you should stick with the hardened manufacturer part.
Flybars can be cut to the desired length and threaded at each end by using a die of the proper size. Piano wire works fine for the sixty sized machines. It helps to file a chamfer at the ends which encourages the die to start. Take your time and back up often to clear the debris and burrs. Use liquid soap as a cutting fluid. Since you don’t have a bottoming die, flip the die and run it down the threads again. After you make a few masts and flybars, you will quickly become a very popular individual at your club!
Tail boom stock can be purchased from machine shops and is very cheap. I have been desperate enough to fly that I have even substituted aluminum broom handles. On one occasion when I couldn’t find the proper size tail boom material on a windless Sunday, I had a look around the basement. You know those paint roller extension handles, well I use to own one of those. It was slightly too big for the boom but a perfect sliding fit over the tail boom outside diameter. Since I had two smashed booms from some time ago and saved the good pieces, I joined the two together with JB weld after trimming with a pipe cutter and de-burring. I used it for over a month and to this day I keep it as a reminder of what is more important, flying or aesthetics. Once I was hard up for a clutch lining so I went to the local gasket fabricators and dug enough high temperature gasket material out of their garbage can for decades to come. I even scavenged thicknesses I didn’t need, not knowing what my heli future might hold. The yellow pages in the phone book are simply wonderful. X-Cell tube drives? Heck most of us have shattered the graphite tube and /or sheared the roll pin for the female universal coupling. I have found graphite tubes the exact size for a fraction of the cost. These were meant for fixed wing control rod installations and were on the rack at the local hobby shop, two per package. The roll pin was replaced with the unfluted end of a drill which was loctited in position even though it was a good tight fit. The hardened drill will cut nicely with a dremel cutoff wheel. Hardware stores like Kent Building supplies carry roll pins, “O” rings, retaining clips etc. Of course you know those fixed wing control tubes have more than one use. They work equally well for tail boom supports. Upgrade at home kids! Glue some solid round aluminum stock inside, file flat on opposite sides, drill some holes and mount. If you don’t want to do it this way, get some tubing that will slide over the outside to be glued, then flatten and drill one end. This is not really necessary but you could also drill through the aluminum and graphite tubes and safety using small screws with nuts. The uniball clutch system on the X-Cell consumes urethane dampers rubbers on a scheduled basis. A person can find the proper sized rubber stock at the finer industrial seal and packing joints in the yellow pages. Some guys were even chopping up vacuum cleaner drive belts from Sears. These are just a few of the ways you can save money, so next time you go shopping keep your eyes pealed and your mind open.