How to Make Balsa Gliders From Scratch

Written by michael mcgrath
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How to Make Balsa Gliders From Scratch
Balsa wood gliders come in both simple and complicated designs. (glider image by Goran Bogicevic from Fotolia.com)

Gliding toys have delighted children and adults for centuries. One of the most common gliders is the balsa wood glider, a toy plane made from thin sheets of balsa wood. Balsa wood gliders range in complexity from simple models to highly complicated flyers capable of acrobatic flight. Glider builders need to follow design instructions carefully to ensure a smooth flight, but with a little practice and the right materials, hobbyists can make simple balsa gliders quickly.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Medium/straight grain balsa sheet
  • Medium weight quarter grain balsa sheet
  • Hard grade balsa sheet
  • Printout of glider design
  • Photocopy of plan templates
  • Modelling knife
  • Ammonia based glue
  • Sanding block
  • Fine sandpaper
  • Razor block
  • Hacksaw
  • Pencil

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Use the photocopied template to cut the wing out of the medium/straight grain balsa sheet. Smooth the front edge of the wing with the sanding block. Also sand any areas on the wing requiring "washout." Washout areas are sanded areas on the edges of the wing that improve flight stability. (See reference 1)

  2. 2

    Use a razor block to thin the wings from the centre to the tips and sand the entire wing with sandpaper. If the wing profile calls for raised wing tips, mark the wing breaks with a pencil and cut them with a fresh modelling knife blade. Glue the wing breaks back on to the wing at the angle specified in the model plans. Beginners may find a flat wing profile easier to build. (See reference 2)

  3. 3

    Cut the fuselage section from the hard grade balsa. Thin the rear of the fuselage so the front is heavier. Sand the fuselage smooth and glue the wings to the fuselage. (See reference 1)

  4. 4

    Cut the tail and fin sections from the medium grade balsa. Sand the two pieces and glue to the fuselage where the model design indicates. Round the nose of the fuselage if needed, and follow any other instructions to finish and laminate the model. (See reference 1)

Tips and warnings

  • To cut glider pieces from templates, cut photocopied templates and use them to mark the balsa wood. You can also glue the template to the wood using dots of ammonia-based glue and remove the template after cutting. (See reference 1)
  • Always practice caution with sharp modelling knifes, and cut away from the body.
  • Balsa wood gliders can cause damage. Never throw a glider at someone's face or at breakable objects.

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