How to cover RC airplanes

Written by howard altman
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How to cover RC airplanes
Iron on film and trim sheets create a great RAF colour scheme

There are two ways to cover a balsa wood remote control aeroplane. The first is to use butyl rubber and tissue or silk. The second is to use an iron-on film or fabric. Both methods yield a fuel-proof finish that will last for years if properly cared for. Since butyl rubber is flammable and harmful to breathe, most modelers choose an iron-on film to cover their planes.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Sandpaper
  • Hobby iron
  • Heat gun
  • Work gloves
  • Trim sheets
  • Sharp hobby knife

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  1. 1

    Choose a colour scheme. This may sound simple, but it's important to know what you want your plane to look like before you start. Read the iron-on film instructions before getting started.

  2. 2

    Sand all surfaces with fine sandpaper. This will help you achieve a smooth finish. Make sure no glue has oozed out of the joints, as this can cause unsightly spots on the covering.

  3. 3

    Apply the covering to the top of the wing using the hobby iron. Only cover one half of the wing at a time. Tack the film down to the leading edge of the wing and pull the film taught. Tack the film down on the trailing edge. Now use the heat gun to remove any wrinkles

  4. 4

    Cover the bottom of the wing using the same technique. Use the work gloves to protect your hands from the heat gun. Trim any excess film with your hobby knife. Repeat these steps for the other half of the wing panel.

  5. 5

    Cover the fuselage next. Most fuselages need to be covered in several smaller pieces of film, rather than a few large ones. Use the iron-on solid pieces and the heat gun on any open framework.

  6. 6

    Apply the covering to the elevator and rudder before installing the hinges. This allows you to cover all of the wood surfaces. Remove the covering from areas that need to be glued and glue the horizontal and vertical stabilisers into place.

  7. 7

    Glue in the hinges and mount the control horns according to the plans. Control horns should be positioned close to the hinge line for optimum performance.

  8. 8

    Use the trim sheets to add colour accents to the plane. Trim sheets are peel and stick and do not need the iron or heat gun. Different coloured trim sheets can be used together to make multicoloured insignia.

  9. 9

    Use transparent film to show off the structure of the plane. These films are usually thinner and lighter weight and great for gliders.

    How to cover RC airplanes
    Transparent film on a glider wing

Tips and warnings

  • Always use a new blade when cutting iron-on film. A dull blade can tear rather than cut the film.
  • Don't pull the film too tight, as it can cause wings and fuselages to warp when the film shrinks.
  • Trim sheets are not just for accents, they can be used to cover imperfections in the covering.
  • Wear work gloves whenever using a heat gun. Temperatures can reach 204 degrees Celsius.

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