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|Having the best covering tools is not a luxury to me. I need all the help I can get with covering and these tools work as they are supposed to which is one less surprise for me!
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Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz
Posted – 5-1-2017
One of the harsh realities in the world of ARF airframes is that the plastic heat shrink covering that affords us the fanciful color schemes is going to need a bit of help to keep that youthful glow. Oddly, you can hear people joke about covering loosening up after a couple hours in the summer sun but complain bitterly about a few wrinkles in a new airframe that just came halfway around the world. I choose to accept the physics of temperature changes on heat shrink covering and focus my energy on maintaining it. I admitted to myself early on that I am not great at covering. I decided that getting the best tools I could find for this task could only help my planes.
It turns out that equipping my shop with first rate covering “hot” tools was not a budget-breaker. I had purchased bargain-priced “hot” covering tools in the past and paid dearly for that bit of fiscal stupidity through frustrating inconsistent heat settings and short life span of tools I already knew were sub-par. Buying the good tools first would have been way cheaper overall but I have them now and my covering-related life is better because of them.
Whether applying new covering or tightening up sun-loosened film, the Hangar 9® ProSeal Covering Iron (#HAN135) is usually the first tool I go for. The wide, super-smooth, Teflon™-coated “shoe” features a low-profile shape that makes using it easier in many situations. I choose to use a fabric “sock” on the Hangar 9® ProSeal Covering Iron shoe to further protect it from that annoying color transfer from the edges of covering. The shoe itself is very slick and cleans up easily, I just like the sock approach. Because these shoes often get scratched or otherwise damaged Hangar 9 decided to mount it to the iron with four screws so in the future you can replace the shoe alone and have an essentially new iron.
|The Hangar 9® ProSeal Covering Iron shoe (left) has a nice shape and size to get into more places. It is also replaceable! The guarded temperature control (left) and the LED lights keep you apprised of what the iron is doing.
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The built in (patented) CPU temperature control lets me find the precise temperature I need for the job and then holds that setting until I change the dial controlling it. The Hangar 9® ProSeal Covering Iron has a temperature range of 150-degrees to 425-degrees which exceeds my needs.
The Hangar 9® ProSeal Covering Iron has a comfortable grip that stays cool even during long uses. The temperature dial clearly shows the degrees you are dialing in. Also, note that the temperature control is set inside a guard so that putting the tool down cannot accidentally change the setting as happened constantly with a competitors covering iron before I relegated it to the woods behind my house.
A series of three LED lights set into the handle just forward of the temperature dial shows what the Hangar 9® ProSeal Covering Iron is doing. After an initial cycling of all three LED’s the orange LED indicates that the temperature is being increased to the current setting. The green LED tells you the selected temperature has been reached. The red LED indicates that the tool has gone over the selected temperature and is automatically cooling down until it gets back into the proper range.
In addition to all the high-tech features is the extra-long 12-foot power cord. Model airplanes have odd shapes to work around and that can be complicated further by the normally too short power cords many tools come with. With the Hangar 9® ProSeal Covering Iron I can work more and reposition everything to get closer to the electrical outlet less.
Also, the hapless thin aluminum “heat” stand that comes with lesser sealing irons looks foolish next to the heavy wire stand that comes with Hangar 9® ProSeal Covering Iron. Finally, Hangar 9 demonstrates their confidence in the quality of the Hangar 9® ProSeal Covering Iron by giving it a 2-year limited warranty.
With a street price of just $29.99 (4-23-2017) getting the best sealing iron I know of just makes sense. I have lots of miles on my Hangar 9® ProSeal Covering Iron and it still works like the day I took it out of the box.
|The Hangar 9® ProTrim™ Sealing Tool (left) is simple but works very well and is dependable. The heat range (right) is also simple but5 can be tweaked with how the shoes is inserted. See the text for more on that feature.
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While not used as frequently the Hangar 9® ProTrim™ Sealing Tool (#HAN145) makes dealing with curved surfaces easier. The smaller shoe lets you get into tighter spaces like already assembled hinge lines and openings in the covering. The Hangar 9® ProTrim™ Sealing Tool comes with the pointed, rounded shoe for curves and general work and a flat shoe that can reach into surprisingly small areas.
The Hangar 9® ProTrim™ Sealing Tool has a two-position switch that while always ON does allow you to pick between the high and low range of temperatures. The Hangar 9® ProTrim™ Sealing Tool actually has four temperatures to select from when you vary the installed depth of the shoe in the end of the heating element. Each shoe has a groove on its shank as well as the cross pin that limits the maximum installed depth. When the shoe is installed to the groove the High range is 270-degrees while the Low range is 186-degrees. With the shoe fully inserted to the limiting pin the High range is 318-degrees and the Low range 215-degrees.
The Hangar 9® ProTrim™ Sealing Tool comes with two shoe styles and an aluminum stand to keep the tool off the bench surface. A rounded shoe is designed to help get covering smoothed out inside of curves including surprisingly small fillets. The flat shoe makes working in tight areas much easier. The squared edges of the flat shoe also let you work right up to 90-degree corners or the edges of openings in the covering for mounted things like servos or wing roots where they fit into the fuselage.
Like the Hangar 9® ProSeal Covering Iron the Hangar 9® ProTrim™ Sealing Tool has a 12-foot-long power cord to make working around even large planes easier. The Hangar 9® ProTrim™ Sealing Tool also carries a 2-year warranty.
The Hangar 9® ProTrim™ Sealing Tool has a street price of just $19.99 (4-27-2017) which lets you add this tool and to your shop and make covering chores a little easier with better results.
|The MonoKote Heat Gun (left) is the old standby in my covering tools because it keeps on working as expected. I expect that lots of people don't even realize that there is an additional control on the MonoKote Heat Gun on the rear (right) where you can adjust the amount of air going into the gun.
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Probably the most-used covering tool is usually the last one I pull out, my MonoKote Heat Gun. I mostly use the MonoKote Heat Gun for shrinking out wrinkles in large spans of covering but may also chase smaller wrinkles around the edges of wing tips and similar shapes when other techniques fail me. The MonoKote Heat Gun can also be used to “encourage” paint and glue to dry and maybe even shrink heat shrink tubing.
The MonoKote Heat Gun from Top Flite has been my favorite for decades because it just feels right to me and works as I expect a heat gun to work. It has 1000 watts of power controlled by a 3-position rocker switch with Hot, Off and Cool positions aligned top to bottom.
The round nozzle covers a huge amount of surface area but I hardly ever use the MonoKote Heat Gun that way. I put the wide fan nozzle adapter on, engage the Hot mode at the switch and then regulate the amount of heat I deliver to the covering by varying the distance between the MonoKote Heat Gun and the covering surface. I also vary how quickly I am moving the MonoKote Heat Gun over the covering surface. Stubborn wrinkles can sometimes be “chased out” by just slowing the movement of the MonoKote Heat Gun but we must be very careful with this technique. The MonoKote Heat Gun which can produce temperatures in excess of 400-degrees can take the covering dangerously close to melting so apply heat cautiously until you get the feel for how it works.
The MonoKote Heat Gun has an adjustable air baffle that I suspect a lot of people don’t even know is there. The baffle is a simple knob on the back of the MonoKote Heat Gun that opens or closes the amount of area the motor can draw air through. I seldom use it because the MonoKote Heat Gun works so good with the baffle wide open. However, you can control the amount of air entering the MonoKote Heat Gun to fine tune the hot air coming out of it.
I think the pistol-like design of the MonoKote Heat Gun was a good idea as it feels right in the hand and is easy to control in terms of putting the heat where I need it. The handle stays remarkably cool considering what is going on just above it and the balance is right so using the MonoKote Heat Gun is not tiring.
One of the more unfortunate truths about many of our RC shops is that tools like the MonoKote Heat Gun get knocked off the bench more than should be happening. The good news here is that this inadvertent impact testing has proven that the MonoKote Heat Gun is way tougher than I would suspect of a $19.99 (4-23-2017) electrical tool. The folks at Top Flite know that and provide a 2-year limited warranty that obviously does not include damage coming from us dropping it, repeatedly.
Though I love the way modern coverings make our planes look I am certainly not in the running for being the best at applying it. That said, my group of covering tools help me get the covering stuck down and then shrunk tight. It took some time for me to learn how to apply each of the three covering tools but that was time well spent.
The important thing here is that all of these tools are durable and with a little common sense care will last a long time. That care includes finding a place to store them where they A: won’t get knocked to the floor and B: can be found when the need arises.
None of these tools seems to be overly expensive to me, especially considering how much they get used over the years. My tool budget is as small as anyone’s but I am happy that I made the investment to have them on hand when I discover a wrinkle or must fix a bit of damage that had to be someone else’s fault.
All Flyingrc.net written, photographic and drawn materials are property of and copyright by Tom Hintz and Flyingrc.net 2013-2017. Materials cannot be used in any way without the prior written permission of the owner.