What is a short kit?

Maybe you’ve built a high quality complete kit from one of the top tier kit makers in the past.  I love complete kits.  They look good, they smell good, and the box is always stuffed with parts.  They usually come with landing gear, wing and fuselage sheeting, landing gear blocks, all of the pre-cut parts, and sometimes engine mount or fuel tank.

This is not the kind of kit that I sell.  The reason is because the world has changed.  The big companies used to do production runs in the hundreds to bring the unit price down to an affordable level.  Back then there weren’t as many designs available on the market, so with everybody generally buying the same thing it made sense to go all the way with a kit and make trainloads of them.

In today’s market a builder wants whatever crazy airplane pops into his head at this moment, and he wants it today.  Today’s modeler also wants a full kit of his crazy idea, but he’s not going to get it because of the smaller scale of production for each design.  As a kit cutter, I am not going to make specialized landing gear, canopy, and hardware pack for every kit on my list, because it takes a ton of time and excess inventory that might end up going unsold.  I could go further into the economic reasons why we used to build full kits but now we build short kits, but for now let’s talk about what is in a short kit.

A short kit contains the parts that need to be cut to a specific shape, such as wing ribs, fuselage sides (especially wing saddles), bulkheads, and other tidbits that would cause the plane to be out of whack if not cut correctly but are tedious to cut out with a hobby knife. Here’s a photo of my short kit of the Sporty Forty biplane, taken by the guy who bought it from me.  It is notable that this kit includes the full tail of the plane, including vertical and horizontal stabilizer, elevators, and rudder.  This is not true of all kits on my list.  Some have tails built of sticks, and some have big rectangular tails made of 3/8″ balsa.  It makes more sense for the builder to cut super thick balsa to avoid burned spots, and who can’t cut a rectangle anyway?

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The kit alleviates a lot of meticulous cutting, but it does not alleviate buying spars, sticks, triangle stock, sheeting for the fuselage bottom and wings, landing gear, wheels, hardware, engine mount, and any other standard stock that might be required to finish the airplane.  Here’s my idea of how to make a list of materials needed to complete the plane.

A scratch builder has to collect all of the parts necessary for completion from diverse sources.  When you buy a short kit you are a scratch builder who pays somebody to cut out the fiddly bits.