The Best Materials for Building Small RC Boats

Updated February 21, 2017

Nikola Tesla wowed an audience in Madison Square Garden in 1898 by demonstrating one of his newest inventions: a radio-controlled boat. Unbeknown to the audience, the boat responded to Tesla's radio controller, which sent signals to the boat and not to the audience's voices calling out directions. The crowd loved the exhibition, and radio controlled boats captured the imagination and continues to do so today. You can build your own small RC boat to sail. Fortunately, many choices of materials are available for construction.


As the name implies, this material is a form of plywood but a very lightweight version. Lite-ply can be bent easily and can be cut easily, which makes it a good material to make small RC boats. The disadvantage is that the structural integrity of the material fails over time.


This is often considered the No. 1 choice for small RC boats building material. The wood is inexpensive, readily available and durable. It cuts well, making it an easy hardwood with which to work.


Spruce has been the boat maker's choice for masts as well as spars--something that's true for both the full-sized naval vessels and the small RC boat. The wood cuts well and is very strong. However, it's very difficult to bend spruce into shape.


This is a very good material to use when building RC boats: you can bend it easily, cut and carve it easily and, as long as it's properly sealed to close the grain, it's durable. The main downside is its high cost, and it can be difficult to find because walnut is used in high-quality furniture.

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About the Author

Marjorie Gilbert is a freelance writer and published author. An avid researcher, Gilbert has created an Empire gown (circa 1795 to 1805) from scratch, including drafting the gown's patterns by hand.