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Who makes the lightest floats ?

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Old 02-03-2014, 05:06 PM
  #1
funnotcrazy
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Default Who makes the lightest floats ?

This will be my first floatplane. Have been reading a BUNCH of articles on the subject and making additions to my latest build (Dynaflite Super Decathlon) to accommodate them. I have built many kits in my day and do not foresee any major problems. All my builds are modified for light weight & lots of power - Saito 180 on this one ought to do nicely.

Here is what I don't like & the reason for this post -

I knew the floats would add a bit of weight and a bunch of drag, and I can live with that. Of the few posts that have listed the weight of floats I am surprised at how HEAVY they are. I have looked at all the sites selling floats that I can find, but none list the weight. I also realize that the mounting setup may weigh nearly as much, if not more than the floats. Posting here to hopefully get answers from some experienced float fliers. BTW I know that the weight of foam core floats are little compared to the weight balsa sheeting & glassing that are applied to them will add. I enjoy building, so built up floats are ok too.


So I suppose my question is actually two:

1. Who makes the lightest floats?

2. Who sells carbon rods (or other super light & strong material) at a price that will not break my budget?
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Old 02-04-2014, 06:31 AM
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I don't know who makes the lightest float as I cut my own floats from foam. I have done several different experiments to try and find the lightest way to make my floats. On my latest plane, I went with the oldtimer floats which is the front 2/3rds of a regular float. It saved a little weight over the full lenth floats and they seem to do real well now that I have every thing set up right. When building these floats and the floats for my sons trainer, I used foam cores that I cut out of foam. There are several types you can use and I have used both the light white bead foam from home depot and the more solid dow blue or pink foam insulation material. To add strenth and save weight over sheeting the entire surface, I groved the outside bottom edges 1/4" with a table mounted router and glued in 1/4" balsa stringers and sanded flush with the sides and bottom. I added the mounting rails on the top and then covered with fiberglass and painted. They didn't end up too heavy and they seemed to hold up really well last year and seem to be really durable.

As for the carbon fiber, I usally go the the local archery range and pick out all the broken carbon fiber arrows out of the garbage can. The arrow shafts are very strong and light. I use them to space the floats. Normally only the ends are splintered a couple inches and the rest of the shaft is in great shape. I rarely find an arrow broken in the middle. They can be glued directly into the foam through precut holes or you can get aluminum inserts to glue into the ends of the shafts and screw them together with bolts.

Sorry for the long winded answer but that is the way I make my floats on a budget.

Last edited by flybyjohn; 02-04-2014 at 06:34 AM.
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Old 02-04-2014, 05:45 PM
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Hi Guys, foam floats are the way to go, I have floats on my 40 size Tango that add only 11oz to the Original weight. On my web site there is a article by Chuck Cunningham (http://www.seaplanesupply.com/chuckcu.pdf) to help those who wish to cut their own floats or you can buy them from me all cut ready to finish. Stay away from the Fiberglass floats they can be very heavy. I also sell CF tubes for spreaders that work up to the 40 size floats if you need them or stop by your local archery range. (good tip flybyjohn)

"Keep on Flying"
Mark
www.seaplanesupply.com
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Old 02-04-2014, 06:35 PM
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Mark makes beautiful floats in a variety of styles (Flat bottom, v-bottom, round top, flat top, old fashioned, centerline with outriggers, ...almost as many ways as Bubba Gump had to prepare Shrimp). Mark's cores come uncovered so you can really get creative with mounting and covering. They are exceptionally light, and -being foam- they can never sink.

Fiberglass floats are heavy but the real culprits are the built-up plywood floats...they weigh almost as much as the airplane carrying them. A small leak in a plywood float turns into a science project in a couple of weeks. EWWWW!

In a slightly different market sector, Ralph Smith (PlaneFunFloats) sells flat-top, v-bottom, foam-cored floats that are immaculately pre-sheeted with Balsa. Seal and fly, although I put a little light glass cloth on mine.

You will be totally happy with either.

Don't use anything with petroleum-based solvents on foam, including polyester resin for the glass cloth. Water-based polyurethane varnish works well, 30-min Epoxy, or latex enamel, or film-covering (generiCote) applied carefully directly over the balsa.
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Old 02-05-2014, 09:41 AM
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Thanks for the info guys. I am not going for scale so - I imagine flat bottom would be easier to sheet. Other than that, what is the difference (besides maybe more scale looks) between flat & V bottom? Also the difference between flat top & round top? The line drawing of front profiles only shows the tiniest difference to my old eyes!

Would there be anything wrong with getting another set of main gear legs & putting carbon spars between floats ? (already got set of composite, as the heavy metal ones included with kit end up bent according to many posts on this kit, + save weight & frustration later...) Looking at various seaplane pics it appears they are attached to fuse approx at front & rear of wing saddle. Is this correct? Maybe a tad bit further apart?

This is a big plane (for me) 89" span - should come in around 15 lbs before floats. Enlarged rudder as I always do, so do you think 1 water rudder will be sufficient? If two is better I want to plan that now, rather than after water trials.

I had looked at Sea Plane Supply before posting. Since you replied Mark, I will get them from you. Best to sheet the entire float before glassing?
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Old 02-06-2014, 04:12 PM
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Wise choice. Carbon Fiber spreaders work well. "Spreaders" SHOULD be called "ANTI spreaders", since they keep the gear from splaying out.

Traditional spacing is 1/4 of the span, but I have flown long-winged planes with the floats much closer than 1/4 span.

1 water rudder is plenty. Water rudders are very authoritative since water is around 1000 times as dense as air. Except here in Florida in the summer when it IS the air. The water rudder should only be in the water when the plane is taxiing, not going fast-planing on the floats. Don't let the WR hang down any more than the height of the step.

There is a bulkhead usually at the front and at the rear of the wing saddle. This transmits the float load efficiently into the structure. Attach your hard-points to the bottom, sides, and to the bulkhead.
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Old 02-06-2014, 05:24 PM
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Ok thanks Jim. Located some carbon fiber rods for $3 each. 1 water rudder it is. Looking at floats, some say sheet only bottoms. But this this being a 1/4 scale think I will sheet the entire float, balsa is light. Yes there are bulkheads front & aft wing saddle area so will put attachment points here. With this big plane, & you being the "seaplane nerd", what weight fiberglass cloth do you think is sufficient? Not sure if balsa & water based polyurethane varnish will be strong enough. But I may be wrong as I have never done floats.
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Old 02-07-2014, 04:58 PM
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I always run a strip of glass or carbon fibers above the step alongside the float. Extra reinforcement , and the step is a notch, where fractures start. I use 3/4 oz cloth, with WBPU varnish applied with a 3" roller. Brushes pull the cloth. Double the cloth on the bottom in front of the step, for abrasion resistance.

With a Kadet Senior, .60 size electric, and V-bottom floats, my plane will get airborne in the length of the floats. If I am covering foam cores, I use 1/16 ply for 3" in front of the step, then 1/16 balsa to sheet the rest of the bottom. Sheeted floats with a layer of glass are about as strong as a baseball bat.

I was doing GRASS takeoffs one day and hit a railroad tie...Knocked a 2" gash in the bottom of the float.Flew for a couple more hours. When I got home I cut out the damaged balsa, made sure the dampened foam beneath was dry, laid in fresh balsa and glassed over it. Carramba! no hole. Once I overshot a landing and piled it into some granite riprap. Covered the gash with Packing tape, and flew the rest of the afternoon. NOTHING beats Foam Cored Floats! ( I repaired them appropriately, later)
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Old 02-08-2014, 05:11 PM
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Thanks again Jim. I am getting educated now on the finer points of float construction. Just received the composite gear today and mounting it for field flying. Did not really notice before I decided to add floats, but installing the main gear it is right in line with forward edge of wing saddle & bulkhead (taildragger) So I only need to put reinforcement for rear float mount at other bulkhead at aft end of wing saddle. For ease of mounting I am going to order another set of the same composite gear for the rear. This gear is a bit wider & taller than stock, as it is kind of a bush plane with oversize tires also. I fly out of a big pasture in front of my house, not as smooth as a manicured club field.

This is a big (88" wing) plane - probably end up around 15 lb less floats. Think I will sheet & glass entire float, in case of "less than perfect" landing.

Any other tips or advice ?
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Old 02-10-2014, 04:09 PM
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>>>Any other tips or advice ?<<<
Get used to the cheek cramps you will get from having a silly grin the entire time you are flying.

To paraphrase Larry the Cable Guy " That there's FUN, I don't care who ya are!"
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