How to Build a Pre-Cut Balsa Wood RC Airplane

Written by howard altman
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Building RC model aeroplanes can be fun and therapeutic. However, cutting every part from plans can be very tedious. A pre-cut kit bridges the gap perfectly here. You get the plans, parts, and detailed instruction manual that will help you build faster and more accurately. Some prep work needs to be done to the wooden parts and differs a bit if the parts are die cut or laser cut. Remember to take your time and ensure that all parts are correctly positioned before applying glue.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Sharp hobby knife
  • Sandpaper
  • CA-type glue
  • Epoxy glue
  • Receiver
  • Servos
  • Engine with fuel tank or Motor with batteries
  • Covering (iron-on or tissue)

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  1. 1

    Prepare the wood parts. If the wood was been pre-cut by die cutting and has part numbers printed on it, then flip the strip of wood over and sand the back side. The die-cut parts should fall right out of the piece of wood. If the parts are laser cut, then lightly sand the edges where glue will be applied.

  2. 2

    Build the wing section(s) first. Pin the wing plans to your work surface and lay out the leading and trailing edges and the bottom spar. Place the wing ribs where the plan shows them and fit the top spar in place. Once the wing panel(s) dry-fit satisfactorily, apply a drop of cyanoacrylate (CA) glue at each joint.

  3. 3

    If the wing is built in two sections, align the wing panels and glue-in the dihedral brace with epoxy. This brace strengthens the wing and helps the wing create a "V" shape that is vital to many RC planes.

  4. 4

    Mount the aileron servos if needed. The open framework of the wing will allow you access to run servo wires and install servo mounting brackets.

  5. 5

    Pin the fuselage plans to your work area and build the fuselage. It is very important to keep all formers (structural members of the fuselage) at a 90-degree angle unless otherwise specified on the plans. Glue plywood parts with epoxy, and balsa parts with CA glue.

  6. 6

    Assemble the rudder and elevator next. Glue any metal parts to the balsa with epoxy, and use CA glue on all balsa joints. Mark the spots where hinges will be installed and cut the slots to accept them now.

  7. 7

    Dry-fit all the assembled pieces, using tape or pins to temporarily hold the parts in place. Make sure that the elevator is level and that the rudder sits at a perfect 90-degree angle, perpendicular to the elevator. Measure the distance from each wing tip to the tip of the elevator on that side: The two measurements should be the same. If not, adjust the elevator until they are the same. Mark the elevator position so you know where and how it should align when it's time to glue it in place.

  8. 8

    Align the motor mount to the thrust line shown on the plans. Once the mount is in the right place, mark the firewall where the mounting holes are located. Drill through the firewall and install blind nuts on the back of the firewall. Fuel-proof the firewall with resin or epoxy before installing the motor mount.

  9. 9

    Cover the elevator and rudder pieces, leaving some exposed balsa where glue will be applied. Install the hinges but do not glue them in place at this time.

  10. 10

    Glue the rudder and elevator to the fuselage with CA glue. Use epoxy or CA in the hinges. Attach the control horns at this time.

  11. 11

    Run pushrods through the fuselage and out to the rudder and elevator. Install the servos in the fuselage and connect the pushrods to both the servo and the control horn.

  12. 12

    Install the throttle control, this can be a servo or an electronic speed controller depending on how the plane is powered. Pushrods for fuel-burning engines will pass through the firewall and attach to the throttle arm. Make sure the pushrod moves freely without binding.

  13. 13

    Cover the fuselage and wing. Your plane is now built and ready for a glide test.

Tips and warnings

  • Sand all joints smooth and remove any excess glue before covering your plane.
  • Pay attention to the centre of gravity---it is the balance point of your plane. If the plane is not balanced well, it will not fly well.
  • Find an experienced RC pilot to check out your plane before its first flight.
  • CA glue can be an eye and lung irritant. Use only in well-ventilated areas.

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