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The Costco in Okotoks Alberta has them now for $18. I got the Alien and the barrel spinner. Both have pleasantly surprised me. The Alien flies nicely and stablely in light winds, but the barrel needs a little more. It's true that the string and winders are junk, but usable for a while. I had both in the air last evening and then flew my UL ABS around them - very pretty sky if I do say so myself. My hands were full, so no photo.
I would definitely avoid wood as a surface for hot cutting. The wood will burn and the fabric will melt. This combination will result in ugly black edges to your panels when you separate them from the cutting surface. Glass is a great option, and the one I typically use. You can also use sheet metal. I have a stainless steel covered table top that works well also.
Glass is easiest to hot cut on, as it doesn't burn or melt. You can find a glass surface in lots of places: refrigerator shelves, storm doors and windows, etc. I have two glass tabletops, one cast off from a furniture store that wanted $25 for it, the other found in someone's trash sitting out on the curb. You might check with a shop that fixes doors and windows, to see if they have something they're tossing out. Be creative.
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