Balsa wood is a commonly used material for building model planes in a large variety of sizes and types, from the earliest flying machines to WWII era fighter planes. Balsa is light but strong, easily holding its shape while being sturdy enough for mounting a motor and remote. Any balsa wood plane model can be built by applying a common approach that will break down even the most complicated of models into easily finished steps that with time results in a plane that not only looks good on display, but can possibly be converted for actual flight.
Choose your model kit. You can build a balsa wood plane from simple kits consisting of little more than a plane body and wings, to complicated models containing hundreds of precision laser-cut parts. The choice of the plane you're modelling will often determine the complexity of your plane kit, with later era aeroplanes tending to be more complicated and remote-controlled kits being the most complicated of all.
Begin your build by inspecting the balsa sheets containing all of the model plane parts. While some kits come with precut parts, most will require that you cut the parts from the sheets yourself using a model knife. Examine the sheets to determine the level of work required to detach parts from the balsa sheets. Inspect the sheets for damaged parts, returning the kit if any of the sheets have been broken.
Remove the pieces from the balsa sheets and place them onto a flat workspace. Place the plans for your plane in an easily read location
Assemble the model plane by building the major parts of the model. Construct the fuselage first, followed by the wings and the tail pieces. To build the major parts, follow the plans or template for the plane, beginning with large structural pieces and then constructing the body of the individual plane sections. To connect the pieces, use wood glue, lightly applied at the connected points. If building parts directly onto a template, cover the template in waxed paper for easy removal of glued parts, and then allow each section built to dry for an hour before removing it from the template and building the next major section.
After building the various sections of your model plane, cover the surfaces of the sections with your chosen plane skin material. Most balsa wood planes are covered with tissue paper, moistened with a spray bottle and placed onto the white glue-covered surfaces of the plane segments. The tissue will shrink as it dries, creating a closely conforming skin on the body of the plane. Alternatives to this tissue covering include a thin layer of plywood, or even a thin layer of aluminium that can be burnished to a high shine.
Once the skin has dried in place, combine the sections of the plane to complete the balsa wood plane assembly.