Building a Wire Landing Gear
By: Pat Tritle
One of the more taxing operations for the low time builder is soldering wire assemblies together. When building any model, having a nice straight, strong landing gear is a real plus, not only for building the model, but also for good durability and ground handling later.
There are only 3 basic steps involved in building the Landing Gear assembly;
1- Bend the wire components to shape using the patterns provided on the plans.
2- Jig the components so that they can be soldered together with both hands free.
3- Solder the joints together.
The tools required to make the Landing Gear are simple and few;
A Word About Solder; To solder your Landing Gear assembly together you'll want to use a good quality lead free solder. My personal favorite is Stay-Brite (available from better hobby shops, hardware stores or jewelry supply houses). It's 10% silver, and comes with Stay-Clean liquid flux to etch the metal for good strength and adhesion, and to aid the solder into flowing smoothly into the joint. Don't use plumbing or electrical solder, it doesn't flow well, and it's just not strong enough in this application.
So, let's get started.........
Begin by bending all of the wire components to shape using the patterns provided on the plans. Take your time to insure that all the components fit together properly
Lay the components on a soldering pad and secure them in position with tape or lead weights.. Any good fireproof surface will work, even a ceramic floor tile is a good choice.
Put a small drop of soldering flux on each point to be soldered. Then "tin" the tip of the soldering iron with a small amount of solder and touch the tip to the joint to be soldered. Allow just enough solder to flow into the joint to give a complete fill. Excess gobs of solder won't add any strength at all, they'll just make the joint look bad.
This is what a good joint will look like, and on smaller models, say under 30 oz. the joint is plenty strong enough even without a copper wrap. For heavier models, a fine copper wire wrap can be added and the joint re-soldered.
To add the rear strut section, tape the landing gear components onto the fuselage (see the photos at the bottom of the page) and re-shape the strut joints as needed to make a good straight fit. Solder can be used to fill a sloppy fitting joint, but will not be nearly as strong as a good fit using less solder.
This is what a nice fitting joint will look like. Use your needle nose pliers to tweak things into final position, it'll be worth the extra time in the end.
And this is what the completed cluster should look like. Believe it or not, when the heat is right on your iron, soldering the second joint will not effect the first one next to it. The trick is to apply the tinned tip to the joint where the flux has been applied just long enough to get the solder to flow into the joint.
And here's the fruits of your labors. The landing gear was assembled on the fuselage, so it will fit perfectly when the time comes to install it permanently on the model. And now that your L. G. is finished, remove it from the model and wash it down with soap and water. The flux is very corrosive, and if you don't wash off the residue soon after the solder work is finished, it'll rust like mad!