Soko Heli Tools – Soko Kit
Written by Nick Lenn
We were fortunate to have Soko Heli Tools send us the Soko Kit to do a review on. If precision, quality, and accuracy are your thing, then you’re definitely going to want to continue reading further. As a technician by trade, I always enjoy getting my hands on the new tools in the market and this is one of those I just had to try.
The Soko Kit basically consists of the Soko pitch gauge, Soko Helical, velcro strap, carrying bag, manual, and hardware. Now, at first you might think that’s a lot of stuff just for a pitch gauge, but there’s definite methods to their madness and I think you’ll enjoy the creativity. Everything comes nicely packed in the included zip-up nylon bag and parts-wise, it’s very straight forward.
One of the unique features of this setup is the Soko Helical. The Soko Helical is the mounting plate for the pitch gauge that gets bolted in the main blade grip. The top of the Helical is flat and the bottom portion is stepped allowing a total of 5 different blade grip sizes. The Soko Gauge is bolted or strapped to the top of the helical which creates a solid mounting platform for checking blade pitch.
I think there are a couple factors when deciding how you’ll be mounting the gauge to the Helical. One of these would be location. If you’re at the field, then you’ll probably just pull the setup out of the bag, bolt the Helical in place, and then use the strap to securely hold the gauge in place. This is the quickest method by far. Now, if you’re at home then you’d probably be more inclined to bolt the gauge to the helical in the corresponding holes for whatever blade grip opening you’re using. This option will take a slight bit more time, but in the end, it makes a very solid and hassle-free setup.
What can also come into play is if you have different size models or whether you’re flying all the same size. If you fly all the same class helis, then you might just want to leave the unit bolted together, but if you’re constantly flying and tweaking on different size helis, then the strap method might suite you more. They key here is that you do have options.
Another neat feature is that you can also use the hole in the middle of the helical to bolt the unit down to where your head button would mount and, by shimming underneath your skids, allow you to find true vertical for the main shaft. This can be useful later on when using the kit to level the swash.
Ok so first things first… READ THE MANUAL. Soko Heli Tools has taken the time to write one of the most thorough and descriptive manuals I’ve seen to date. They walk you through the procedures step by step to find collective pitch, cyclic pitch, check swash level, and center of gravity. I can’t emphasis enough that if you are not familiar with the capabilities of a quality pitch gauge, then this is going to be a huge treat for you. I’m not going to go through how to perform each of these steps, as that’s not what this review is really about, but I will talk about how well this tool performs these tasks.
Once you’ve got the kit all mounted up there were a couple unique things I noticed right away that really separated this from other pitch gauges I’ve used. First is the spirit level. This is basically a “true” level just like a real-life bubble level. What they’ve done is not only give you a digital readout of the spirit level but also an LCD version of a bubble level. This is a really neat feature that most gauges do not have. This is all, of course, in addition to another digital level readout that can be zero’d just like more traditional pitch gauges.
The second thing that really caught my eye is the ability for the LCD display to flip out horizontally allowing you to read the values from above when looking down. I can not stand setting my heli on the table then having to crouch down all the time to line up the rotor head and try to get the correct angle to read the LCD. It’s so much more convenient to adjust that display to YOU rather than try to move yourself to where you can see it.
The third thing that I really like about this kit is the accuracy of the gauge. The pitch gauge accuracy is 1/10th of a degree rather than the 1/2-degree accuracy of more traditional digital pitch gauges. For techie dorks like myself this allows me to finally get that precision in my setup that I really like to take the time to do. I’ve always been under the belief that if you’re going to spend top-dollar on a precision machine why not set it up with precision tools for the best setup possible.
Alright so down to the dirty. Is it all that it says it is? Yes, it definitely is. There’s no question that this is a very quality tool with some really unique features that I enjoy. The ability to firmly bolt a pitch gauge down to my main rotor head is such a nice thing when doing setup at home. As I’m sure a lot of you know, swinging a set of 710mm blades around in a hobby room with a slide-on pitch gauge can be a real awkward experience. Keeping the blades lined up with the grips then trying to keep the model from sliding off the table while you rotate them around is just annoying to me. For me personally, I think that’s where this kit really shines.
When your at home and taking the time to do a quality setup with precision, it’s at it’s finest. I think this is the ideal “at home” pitch gauge. I still lean towards a slide-on gauge while out at the field for quickly double checking setup for no other reason than convenience, but you’re simply NOT going to get the precision out of one of those that you will with this kit. What they seemed to be going for here is a tool that will give you both precision and quality and there’s no question they have succeeded. Congratulations Soko Heli Tools on a job well done!