How to Build a Simple RC Plane

Written by marie cartwright
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How to Build a Simple RC Plane
Building your RC plane can be as much fun as flying it. (rc aeroplane, image by Greg Pickens from Fotolia.com)

There are many prebuilt RC aeroplane kits available, but some hobbyists enjoy the challenge of building their own flying machine from scratch. One of the most basic materials for a beginner plane is balsa wood, which is lightweight and easy to cut. However, this also makes it prone to knocks or cracks. If this is your first RC plane, practice cutting some scrap wood before starting on your plane. Being comfortable with the tools and materials needed will help get your project off the ground.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Balsa wood
  • X-acto knife
  • Sandpaper
  • Screwdriver set
  • Ruler
  • Pins
  • Soldering iron
  • Safety glasses
  • Plastic coating (Monokote, Ultracote, Solite, etc.)
  • Covering iron
  • Paint
  • Wood glue
  • Model rubber tires
  • Battery motor
  • Radio receiver
  • Servos and rods
  • Blueprints
  • Velcro
  • Heavy-duty rubber band
  • Super glue

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Attach your blueprints to the balsa wood using the pins. Cut out all the parts using an X-acto knife.

  2. 2

    Glue the parts together. Some pieces, such as the wing ribs, can be delicate. Use an easy touch and a small amount of glue when setting them in place. Allow the glue to dry completely before continuing. If there are any gaps between parts, fill them with a small amount of lightweight spackle. Gently sand down any rough edges.

  3. 3

    Lay your sheets of plastic coating over the wing. Pin down the corners of the sheet to your workbench in order to keep it from wrinkling. Use the covering iron to seal the coating to the wing. Trim any excess with a pair of scissors or your X-acto knife.

  4. 4

    Paint the body of the plane. You may wish to add stickers, decals or even Plexiglas windows as well. Allow the paint to dry completely before continuing.

  5. 5

    Place the electric motor into the body of the plane. The propeller rod should be poking out through the front of the plane just enough for the propeller to fit snugly. Tighten the nut on the propeller to secure it to the rod. Once your motor is aligned correctly, screw in the anchor screws. Some hobbyists may prefer to use Velcro to hold their motor in place. While it does not provide as secure a fit, Velcro decreases the risk of cracking the wood. Alternatively, you can glue your motor into place, but this makes it difficult to remove it for repair later on.

  6. 6

    Mount the servos inside the aeroplane body. Connect the included rods to the ailerons (the flaps on the wings) and the rudder. Use super glue to fix all servo components in place.

  7. 7

    Install the radio receiver. This device is what relays the commands from your control box to the plane. Though each model of receiver has slightly different installation instructions, they will require you to solder wires from the servos to the receiver, and from the receiver to the motor. Check the instructions included with your receiver to verify your connections before you solder.

  8. 8

    Mount the battery in the motor. Secure it with a strong rubber band to keep it from falling out during flight.

  9. 9

    Fit the tires onto the wheel mounts. Your plane is ready for take-off.

Tips and warnings

  • You can download RC plane blueprints online, or if you are feeling ambitious, you can draw your own.

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