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Product Lab - June 2008

Published: May 14, 2008
Multiplex's Twister fast and fun
Product: There probably aren't a lot of hobby shops out there that stock turbine-powered aircraft. They do look and sound cool, but you'll need customers with the experience required to fly them and deep pocketbooks coming in the door. Some cost as much as a small car.

While turbines are out of reach for many, turbine fun can be had with the Multiplex Twister. At around $200, this is a good deal. The kit comes with Multiplex DF69 Impeller Unit and Himax HA2825-3600 brushless motor. The plane is constructed from Elapor foam and is extremely durable.

Performance: The kit goes together in about six to 10 hours. You use medium and high-viscosity cyanoacrylate (CA) glue and kicker. White glue or epoxy won't form a bond with the Elapor foam.

There are a couple of points customers should keep in mind while assembling the Twister that will make things easier down the line. Before installing the elevator servo, I soldered an extension on to make sure I had the correct wire length and then plugged it into my receiver for testing.

Since the fuselage is glued together with the servo inside, finding out that there's something wrong with the wire afterward would be bad and require some surgery on the plane. The aileron servos will also need extensions, and I thought it was easier to solder on longer leads. Customers should do this and test them before they glue the wings to the fuselage.

Depending on which radio system your customers use, they may have to run the receiver antenna out the top of the fuselage. If they do, I found that gluing in some plastic tubing that is used for antennas on R/C cars makes the job a lot easier.

The only other minor issue I ran into was that the mounting lug on the fan unit was a bit too wide and needed to be shortened by about an eighth of an inch on both sides.

The kit comes molded in gray with plenty of decals, but my experience has shown that gray planes tend to disappear easily on a cloudy day, so I painted mine red with Krylon Fusion and used markings similar to the British Red Arrow aerobatic jet team.

All that's needed to get the Twister into the air is a moderate toss into the wind, and from there, it climbs out pretty quick. Our review sample required just a couple of clicks of down trim on the elevator to make it fly hands-off straight and level.

Loops and rolls aren't a problem. However, pilots will need to keep up the speed in turns. If not, the controls get a little mushy. Since the Twister's loops are big, I'd recommend being three mistakes high, especially in the beginning. It also lands a bit quickly, so flyers need to bleed off speed while starting on the downwind for landing.

Marketing: While the Twister flies great, it's not a trainer aircraft. It's probably suited for a customer who has had experience with something beyond an advanced trainer.

To complete the kit, besides the radio, your customers will need the following: three micro servos, a 3-cell LiPo battery, at minimum a 45A ESC compatible with the chosen battery and wire to extend servo connections.

Reviewed by Paul Daniel

Product: Twister
Maker: Multiplex
Stock No.: M214222
MSRP: $209
Other equipment used: Electrifly 3200mAh LiPo battery (No. GPMP0623), Castle Creations 60A ESC (No. PHX-60)
Availability: Call Hitec at 858-748-6948, ext. 315 or e-mail sales@hitecrcd

  • Easy to build

  • Great value for the money

  • A blast to fly

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    Explore ancient cave art with Phalanx Games' Lascaux
    Product: Lascaux is a game for three to five players, ages 8 and up. Included are 54 animal cards, 50 stones for bartering, 30 cardboard tokens and a full-color rules booklet.

    Performance: The premise for Lascaux is simple: collect the most of any one animal and score points for it.

    First, each player chooses one set of six colored cardboard tokens. One side of the token has a symbol (sun, quarter moon, hunter, cross or grid) and the other side shows one of six different colors in the game. The colors correspond to the colors on the cards.

    Each player receives 12 stones (10 in a five-player game). The stones are the game's currency.

    A player shuffles the deck, draws the top card and places it face-up on the table. That player draws cards until either six different colors are visible on all the cards together or he's drawn seven cards.

    Secretly, the players choose one of their tokens and place it face-down on the table. It represents the color of the cards that the players hope to claim. Players set aside the remaining tokens for the rest of the turn.
    The starting player may put one of his stones in the center of the table. Proceeding clockwise, the other players may put a stone into the "pot." (Players cannot keep their total number of remaining stones hidden from other players.)

    This continues until one of the players decides he doesn't want to bid and passes. He takes all the stones that were in the pot, adds them to his remaining stones and places his token in the center of the table, colored-side down.

    The bidding starts up again with the next player in line and continues until all of the other players, save one, have passed and put their token face-down on top of any other tokens already placed.

    The player who hasn't passed flips over his token and takes all the cards that match the color showing on his token. He keeps those cards face-up so the other players can see them.

    The owner of the top token on the pile turns it over and takes all the cards that match his token. This continues for all of the tokens left in the pile. It's possible that no cards are left that match the tokens, in which case, the players get nothing.

    All the tokens are returned to their players and a new turn begins. The player whose token was on the bottom of the pile is the new starting player; this player draws new cards from the deck and places the first stone in the center of the table.

    The game ends when players have claimed all 54 cards. Players receive points for having the most of a type of animal equal to the number of cards possessed. In the case of ties, each player gets points equal to the number of cards he has of that animal. The player with the most points wins.

    Marketing: Lascaux is fast-paced and full of strategy. Players have to watch which cards they have, which cards other players have, and then decide which available cards to go after and when to take the "money" and run.

    It's easy to set up and can be played just about anywhere there's a flat surface. At $30, customers receive quality pieces and a game that can be played again and again without having to pore over a bunch of rules.

    Reviewed by Tim Kidwell

    Product: Lascaux
    Maker: Phalanx Games
    Stock No.: PHA6025
    MSRP: $30
    Availability: Distributor list at; call
    813-707-8791 or e-mail

  • Excellent value

  • Great fun

  • Play almost anywhere

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    Bachmann Spectrum streetcar a quality addition to layout
    Product: This sharp-looking, nicely detailed streetcar model from Bachmann Spectrum is based on a real streetcar designed by Peter Witt, a Cleveland transit official. These were single-operator cars, designed for passengers to enter only through the front door, with the center door used as an exit only. Built by several manufacturers, the distinctive Peter Witt cars served many cities from the 1920s through the 1960s.

    Performance: The Bachmann model features an injection-molded styrene shell (with separate roof) atop a power chassis. The interior is detailed with seats, and the model includes many separately applied details. The paint and lettering are nicely done. A separate sheet includes a variety of destination boards and numbers, grouped by city, that modelers can add to the car.

    The functional trolley pole and wheel are nicely rendered, and the pole is sprung to remain up and in contact with an overhead wire. A clip allows it to be positioned against the roof if desired. A small slide switch on the underside of the chassis allows selecting track power only or power via the trolley pole.

    A center-mounted motor powers all axles on both trucks, with most of the drive train hidden below the interior floor. The model is equipped with a factory-installed DCC decoder and includes a dummy DCC plug that can be swapped for the decoder for standard DC operation. The model runs well, even at slow speeds - important for streetcar operation. The model will negotiate tight curves; I got our sample around a 9-inch radius curve without problems.

    Marketing: This is a great model that would be ideal for any 1920s-1960s modeler looking to add a streetcar line to a layout. You can also offer customers seated figures from Preiser, Woodland Scenics and others to help populate the cars.

    Reviewed by Jeff Wilson

    Product: Peter Witt Streetcar
    Maker: Bachmann Spectrum
    Scale: HO
    Road names: Baltimore Transit Co., Brooklyn & Queens Transit, Chicago Surface Lines, Los Angeles Railway, St. Louis Railways
    MSRP: $135

  • Detailed interior

  • Equipeed with DCC decoder

  • Accurate paint and lettering

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    Rev up imagination with SmartLab's Car Design Studio
    Product: SmartLab's Car Design Studio is intended for the budding car enthusiast, ages 7 and up. Inside are a battery-powered light table, colored pencils, car outline transparencies and a 32-page instruction and project manual.

    Performance: Customers will require four AA batteries for the light table. After installing the batteries, all a future Chip Foose has to do is take one of the car transparencies, "mod" it up with reusable custom wheels, pipes, intakes and other details, clip it onto the light table with a piece of paper over it and begin tracing his car. The design studio is so user-friendly, even a child really won't need the instructions to get started.

    With that said, the instructions are one of the best parts of the studio. For the aspiring car designer, or any ambitious artist for that matter, the instructions give great tips for shading, coloring, modifying designs and thinking outside the box when it comes to art - even if that art is shaped like a car.

    Strangely, during one of the drawing sessions, the light table just turned off. The batteries were new and everything had just been working just fine. We took the batteries out and put them back in. The on/off switch was flipped and light table "encouraged" to come back on, but nothing worked. Then as suddenly as it went out, it came back on and has worked consistently ever since.

    Marketing: If you sell art supplies as well as model cars, place the Car Design Studio smack in-between them! Even if you sell just models, it's a perfect add-on for those car modelers who have kids and want to spend some quality time with them. And don't think that cars are just for boys. Girls will like this studio too.

    Reviewed by Craig Johnson

    Product: ArtLab Car Design Studio
    Maker: SmartLab
    Stock No.: 07066
    MSRP: $22.50
    Availability: Call 866-319-5900 or
    visit SmartLab Toys for distributor list

  • Appropriately prices

  • Takes four AA batteries

  • Great instruction manual

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    Ingenuity is in the cards among Sterling books
    Products: As a blank canvas is to a painter, plain paper is to a card maker. Crafters looking for creative ways to decorate cardstock will be inspired by these books, which are teeming with options: everything from stamps to tie-dye to lace and magnets. But each book takes its own approach to the craft.

    Performance: The 128-page paperback, 50 Nifty Collage Cards, combines two crafts into one and presents a list of projects divided into seven categories: colors, focal points, photographs, embellishments, themes, backgrounds and inside treatments. As the "collage" title indicates, all of these merge various elements together to make one fantastic thing.

    For example, "Oiseaux" (French for "birds") combines pictures of birds along with postcards or tickets, rubber stamps, feathers and other items for the outside of the card, and bookkeeping paper, more bird pictures, feathers and rubber stamps for the inside.

    Other projects ingeniously incorporate "found" objects such as sheet music, maps, newspapers, seed packets and old book pages. Constructing these projects requires a different kind of talent than a straightforward card-making exercise would entail - they're definitely labor-intensive - but the elaborate end product is well worth the effort.

    Crafters drawn to this book should be aware that finding appropriate paper for these specialized projects may be somewhat challenging.

    Don't feel like eating your broccoli? How about dipping it in ink and pressing it on cardstock to make a nifty print? The instructions in Card-Making Techniques from A to Z, a 160-page paperback, include this vegetable and several other ordinary objects like buttons, feathers and magnets as inventive card-making devices.

    And true to its title, this book really does cover an alphabetical range of card-making techniques, with A represented by accordion (paper folds) and Z with zigzags (angled designs) with stops in between for J (jewelry) and Q (quilling, a paper-rolling technique).

    I would recommend this book to more advanced crafters, but even beginners can find something at their skill level.

    Ultimate Cardmaking, a 192-page hardcover book with jacket, is my favorite of these three books because of its extensive how-to section, with step-by-step instructions and images for a variety of techniques, including measuring and cutting; making envelopes; transferring images; stenciling and printing; and stitching.

    These lay the groundwork for the following section of the book, which delves into specific ideas in categories such as celebrations and special moments, season's greetings and animal-themed cards.

    The projects in this book run the range from simple to difficult. Author Sarah Beaman notes the speed required for each one, with "Fast Card" being the quickest, and a ranking of 3 designating projects that take the most time. Intermediate-level crafters and scrapbookers could probably do any of these.

    Another neat feature of this book: it's ergonomic. Because it's a hardcover, coffee-table size book, it remains flat and open to the page you turn to so that you can follow along with its illustrated directions.

    Marketing: Each of these publications is a good value. No matter how many cards a crafter has made, chances are they'll find something to inspire them within the pages of these books.

    If you know someone who makes cards, ask them to do one of the projects from these books and use it as a display so that customers can see and touch it. Rather than just sticking these titles on a shelf along with your other books, consider placing them near your craft section so customers have easy access to them and the supplies they'll need.

    Reviewed by Joni Keller
    with Sue Brettingen

    Product: 50 Nifty Collage Cards by Peggy Jo Ackley
    Publisher: Lark Books
    ISBN: 978-1-60059-121-3
    MSRP: $17.95

    Product: Card-Making Techniques from A to Z by Jeanette Robertson
    Publisher: Sterling
    ISBN: 978-1-40275-3-756
    MSRP: $14.95

    Product: Ultimate Cardmaking by Sarah Beaman
    Publisher: Collins & Brown
    ISBN: 978-1-84340-438-5
    MSRP: $24.95

    Availability: Sterling Publishing; call 212-532-7160, e-mail Sterling Special Sales or visit Sterling Publishing's Web site

  • Projects for all skill levels

  • Creative, inventive ideas

  • Books are good value for price

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    When it comes to truck models, Sword gets the point
    Product: Want to knock the socks off your die-cast truck customers? Stock a selection of 1:50 die-cast heavy-duty trucks from Sword Precision Scale Models. There's nothing else like them on the market.

    Case in point: Elliott Machine Works Inc. is a specialty truck maker based in Galion, Ohio, that produces some of the sturdiest heavy-duty trucks used around the country for fuel delivery. That's not all. The 60-year-old firm also builds trucks with giant tanks that pump water, cranes and other mechanical service trucks.

    Now Sword delivers a gorgeous reproduction of Elliott's fuel and lube delivery truck riding on a heavy-duty white Peterbilt 357 platform. You can picture this thing zipping around an airport or at a construction site fueling up the equipment from its giant tanks via its multiple hoses.

    Performance: Detail is king with the Sword trucks, all distributed through DHS Diecast Collectables Inc., Berea, Ohio.

    The Elliott Fuel & Lube sample we inspected had numerous operating features and well-crafted details.

    For instance, the sides of the trucks include five steel storage cabinets, all with opening doors. The rear hose storage area has a roll-top door that works. A small white collapsible ladder folds down off the truck's side, plus the fuel hatch atop the main tank flips open.

    Add to that the opening hood and doors and this will create a realistic look on any railroad layout, diorama or on any collector's shelves. Inside, the black plastic interior includes arms on the driver and passenger's seats and a fairly detailed dash. The engine is nicely detailed for this scale, including multicolor hoses and black wiring.

    Outer details include a chrome sun shield over the cab's windshield, giant chrome Peterbilt grille, clear headlight lenses, the Elliott logo and other authentic markings on the tank and truck's body and frame, a red fire extinguisher and proper hoses and tubing for all the fuel and lube hoses and tanks.

    Under the chrome removable step on the driver's side are detailed truck batteries, while atop the cab are amber lights and chrome air horns, plus two amber warning lights on the truck's tail and Elliott mud flaps down below. The truck's wheels roll easily, and the front wheels can be turned for posing.

    Along with this release, Sword has just turned out three other beauties, all based on Peterbilt platforms, two with the 357 chassis and cab. There's a red East Dump Trailer with the same cab detailing. Its trailer will tip up with a hydraulic lift support underneath, plus all the hooks and latches to release the tailgate for dumping. There's also a cargo cover that lifts and will extend over the trailer top, and there are red, green and blue electrical wiring connectors running from cab to trailer.

    The East Genesis Dump Body truck comes with a yellow Peterbilt cab, a black cover for the cargo area, and again all the tie-downs, hydraulics and latches that make the truck look authentic.

    Sword also rolls out a Peterbilt 379 in gray with the Nelson Ramp Trailer attached. The trailer alone is a foot long; if you include the cab, the whole truck is roughly 16 inches long, a stunner for displays. Again, there are electrical connections, a fold-down ramp in back and fine detailing on the trailer's wooden surface.

    Marketing: While the black and gray Sword boxes are attractive, there's no window to display the model and no artwork on the box to show what's inside. So you'll want to display several of these high-quality trucks together in a case.

    Creating your own diorama of a construction scene would show these off well, or using the Sword models on an O-scale layout in your store could stir interest too.

    These are high-end die-cast models that will appeal to your best customers. If you keep track of your truck fans, call or e-mail them when these come in and give them first crack at these special vehicles. Even casual truck lovers will find these hard to resist!

    Reviewed by Mark Savage

    Product: 357 Rigid white Peterbilt w/Elliott Fuel & Lube
    Maker: Sword Precision Scale Models
    Scale: 1:50
    Stock No.: SW2041-W
    MSRP: $189.95
    Others available: 379 grey Peterbilt with Nelson Ramp Trailer (No. SW2027-A, $229.95); 357 Rigid yellow Peterbilt with East Genesis Dump Body (No. SW2042-Y, $179.95); 357 red Peterbilt with East Dump Trailer (No. SW-2044-R, $219.95)

  • Superb detail

  • Unusual subjects

  • Many working parts

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