Balsa Wood Airplane Building Tips

Updated February 21, 2017

Balsa wood is one of the most common materials used in model aeroplane kits. The RC Airplane Advisor says this wood is lightweight but sturdy, and can take the pressure of take-offs and landings while flying, still taking to the air easily. There are a number of tips and techniques to consider when you sit down to build your balsa plane model.


Whether you are a first-time builder or an expert woodworker, there are a number of safety precautions you should take each time you start a model aeroplane to prevent injury.

Always wear safety goggles when you work with model aeroplanes. You are going to be using a large variety of dangerous tools. You may need to cut wood, sand wood or glue pieces together with chemical adhesives. These activities produce sawdust, splinters and chemical drips or fumes that can cause serious damage to your eyes.

Read all model instructions and warnings before beginning a project. For example, if you are building a model aeroplane that requires a windup rubber band to fly, examine the safety limitations on the types of rubber bands you can use and how tightly you can wind each band. Follow these instructions closely. Disregarding them can result in damage to the plane or injury to you.


Model builders will develop their own preferences for constructing their balsa planes over time. Work with an adhesive that makes you comfortable and confident in your finished product.

Some balsa kits come with generic glues, which may work at times but fail at others. If you are unsure about the glue you receive in your kit, use a strong epoxy or wood glue for the balsa. Take the time to explore your adhesive options. Some glues seal instantly and will not allow you to correct any mistakes. Others shift a little after gluing and you easily dissolve them with acetone or another solvent.

Remember that adhesives hold balsa wood in place, but also stick to clothing and skin. Keep rags or paper towels, as well as a solvent, on hand to clean up spills.

Sundry Tools

Balsa building kits will come with a lot of instructions and tools but not everything you need.

Sandpaper is an important tool to get a smooth and even finish on your balsa plane. If possible, use a variety of grits, from fine to coarse. Roughing up an area with coarse-grit paper and sanding gradually down to fine-grit creates an overall smooth appearance on the plane.

Keep a sanding block handy. Sanding small areas with your hands are fine, but for larger models, you fingers can apply uneven pressure across the balsa’s surface. A block will provide constant and even pressure over the whole surface.

Have a variety of knives or razors, saw blades, screwdrivers and other basic tools on hand. Like the adhesive, work with tools that you know you can use, to avoid injury.

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About the Author

Samantha Volz has been involved in journalistic and informative writing for over eight years. She holds a bachelor's degree in English literature from Lycoming College, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, with a minor in European history. In college she was editor-in-chief of the student newspaper and completed a professional internship with the "Williamsport Sun-Gazette," serving as a full-time reporter. She resides in Horsham, Pennsylvania.