RC Plane building with Balsa Wood

RC Plane Building with Balsa Wood
  • In old days if you wanted to fly a model airplane you had to build it yourself.
  • In those days hobbyists would seek advice and building tips at the flying field.
  • Now most folks simply buy ready-made airplanes, and it can be difficult to find people who know how to build.
  • I hope this blog can help people to get started on the right track and avoid a lot of the frustration and confusion with new builders.
  • I started building airplanes in 2011 without knowing to fly it.
  • I practiced with Phoenix Flight Simulator - http://www.phoenix-sim.com/ - and my 20 years experience in Indian Air Force also helped me.
  • I would build a plane, try to fly it, initially I crashed or landed badly and have to repair minor crashes and damages.
  • Then I would build another plane and start over.
  • This was a great way to learn building techniques and flying.
  • For a couple of months I built and flown airplanes for the purpose of learning, until I mastered the art of flying and building.
  • I never gone for any RTF or ARF planes or kits.
  • I always prefer to build with my own hand and enjoy flying my creations.
  • I built a lot of airplanes.  I fly them for a while and then hang them up and start building the next one.
  • Over the years I’ve picked up a lot of simple tricks that make it easy to build a straight, strong, light airplane and do it fairly quickly with the resources avialiable locally.
  • I’m not into fancy scale details, so I don’t have much to say about making scale panel lines, tiny rivets and other such details.
  • What I like best is proven RC airplanes or designs and sometimes I make minor changes to this as per the construction material/ electronics avialiable with me.
  • I utilize the usable electronics from old models such as servos, ESCs, Motor, Props etc for new models to save cost.
  • What I want to do with this blog is feature my own building projects in articles telling new builders how to put a plane together easily and accurately. 
  • If there is anything in particular that you like or do not like to talk about, just send me an email.
  • I welcome comments and questions - gireeshn2015@gmail.com 
A great looking color scheme for high visibility.
  • Selecting a color scheme is the hardest part of building RC planes. 
  • The most important factor in model plane covering is the visibility.
  • The most common cause of crashing in my early RC flying days was disorientation in the air.
  • Sometimes you can suffer from this, when you can’t tell if your plane is turning toward you or away from you.
  • Sometimes you can’t tell if it’s coming straight at you or flying straight away either, although the sound is a big clue.(for electric planes sound will not help you much)
  • Without a helpful color scheme, either way looks pretty much the same.
  • I can suggest you some color layout that may solve all your problems.
  • There are just a couple of rules to follow, resulting in a plane that looks snappy as well as making it apparent which direction the plane is pointed at any time.
  • The first rule is that you need two high contrast colors, such as red & white, blue & yellow, etc.
  • If you want to get fancy you can add an intermediate color, such as dark blue, light blue & yellow, or put a black or white pinstripe between the two main colors.
  • The next rule is that the dark color will be prominently featured on the bottom and front of the plane, and the lighter color will be featured on the top and rear. That’s pretty much all there is to it.
  • The result is that the plane has a distinct look depending on which way it is pointed.
  •  When the plane is in the air,  it’s immediately obvious whether it’s coming or going.
  •  But what about those situations when the airplane is flying from one side to the other, which is at its most dangerous? 
  • Sometimes you can’t tell whether the plane is banking toward you or away from you, leading to a 50% chance of a death spiral in the next ten seconds.
  • A light top and dark bottom will tell you immediately which way your plane is turning.
  • When it’s turning toward the pilot, the light colored top comes into view.
  • When it banks away the dark bottom shows itself.
  • You can make the same color scheme look a lot better by adding some simple curves or angles.
  • Sometimes you can to put a dart or other shape in the cabin area where the color changes from dark to light.
Building the same plane at a different scale
  • A student of mine asked me a question about a plan he had downloaded. 
  • The plan didn’t have any size dimensions on it, so he didn’t know how big to build the airplane.
  • I’ve never had this problem myself because although I have a very large collection of plans, they are all from reputed builders.
  • But I have re sized some plans to a new scale. 
  • This is a trick that is easier than ever with the help of modern office equipment.
  • Traditionally, model plans are drawn on paper at a 1:1 scale, meaning what you see on the paper is the exact size of the finished model.
  • You don’t have to wonder how big it’s supposed to be because it’s right there in front of you. 
  • Some builders make a copy of the plan specifically for cutting out parts, then stick these parts onto the balsa wood for easier cutting.
  • Material thickness, engine/motor size, control throw, and other data will be noted on the plans or in the build log as needed.
  • In fact, on a traditional paper plan the wood, landing gear wire, wheels, engine, and all other parts are drawn to their exact size, so even if something isn’t specifically labeled, you should be able to measure it on the plan to determine its intended size.
  • Now that we have the opportunity to transmit plans electronically, and a lot of plans are generated electronically, a less experienced builder has to make sure that all of the details including wingspan, material thickness, etc, are included because a lot of designers don’t do a good job of drawing the exact sizes on the plans and they may change the size while uploading on the internet sites. .
  • Fortunately there are some general rules of thumb that you pick up after a building few projects, which means you should be able to build a plane in whatever size you want and still give it the right amount of structural strength without adding too much weight.
  • Before we had scanners ,plotters and printers available, a balsa builder would have to build the plane at whatever size it was on the paper, or design a plane of the desired size himself.
  • Now you can go to an office store or to your PC and printer and run a paper plan through a large format scanner, then print it out at any new size.
  • These are not very drastic changes in construction when you scale up or down, so simply use whatever size material was closest to the actual size on the re sized drawing.
  • In other words, when reducing to 2/3 of original size, simply substitute wood one standard size smaller.  
  • When you re size a plan it’s always a good idea to check details to make sure you’re not under-building anything.
  • On the other hand, .40 and .60 size planes frequently have lots of hardwood in the landing gear and engine areas, which, if built as drawn, can lead to excessive weight at a smaller size. 
  • When you shrink a plane very drastically, it’s usually best to simplify and build things out of thin sheet wood to reduce weight.
  • The reason you can get away with this is because of a subtle effect of scaling which can be easily explained with an analogy.
  • Imagine a cube that’s one inch long on each side.  It has a volume of 1 cubic inch and a surface area of 6 square inches.
  • Now imagine a cube with a 2 inch length per side.  It has a volume of 8 cubic inches and a surface area of 24 square inches.
  • The surface per volume ratio of the second cube is half that of the first one. 
  • Think of volume in this case as mass and landing loads, and surface area as a general gauge of airplane size.
  • As a result, the smaller the plane is, the less strength you need for landing, crashing, or even engine mounting.
  • Larger planes need more strength in the firewall, wing spars and landing gear supports.
  • What this means to you when you decide to change the size of an existing design, or one that has a general outline but is sparse on details, is that you can usually get away with changing the size by 20 to 40 percent without worrying too much. 
  • But if you resize a very small plane to be very large, or vice versa, you’ll probably want to redesign the wing spars, firewall, and landing gear mounts accordingly.
  • The best way to do this, as always, is to look at well established designs, such as popular trainer or sport flying kits, or popular plans.
  • Once you build a few planes in different sizes you’ll find that you’re able to decide how strong to build these key points instinctively.
Making changes to the printed plans
  • Even when you have downloaded a good set of plans, sometimes it seems like a good idea to change a few details.
  • Perhaps you have a favorite way of building or mounting wings, or maybe you like taildraggers so much you wouldn’t ever build a plane with a nose wheel. 
  • Any airplane you build can be customized to your favorite methods regardless of what the plans say.
  • Over the years I have seen lots and lots of plans that call for balsa spars.
  • They are certainly good enough for flight loads, and I have never seen them fail in flight.
  • But flying is by far the least of the hazards encountered by model aircraft.
  • Landing, getting in and out of cars, and particularly crashing, present a far greater threat to wing spars.
  • My first low wing plane had balsa wing spars.
  • I was enjoying the thrill of a snappy aircraft and becoming accustomed to the flight habits of a low winger.
  • On my first day out with this plane I did a lot of maneuvers that were demanding enough to prove to me that balsa spars were strong enough to handle flight loads, and then it was time to land.
  • One wheel got caught in just a little bit of pot hole and the plane swung around and jammed a wingtip into the ground.
  • Next thing I knew there was nothing but shredded garbage on one side of the plane instead of a wing.
  • Ever since then I use carbon fiber round or square tube as spars, little bit costly, but the increase in strength is tremendous, but the weight difference is negligible.
  • Like this here are some other details you can probably change.
  • The wing can be held with bolts rather than rubber bands.
  • My ways may not necessarily better than somebody else’s way.  It’s just the way I like to build.
Using higher mathematics in RC
  • Matsh would seem more useful if it could help you build RC airplanes.
  • You can use a little bit of trigonometry and algebra to figure out where to place the engine to get the correct amount of right thrust and things like that.
  • Let’s say you are building a plane and you drill your firewall to place the engine mount right in the center.
  • Then you notice that the plans call for 3 degrees of right thrust, so you shim the left side of the mount.
  • Now the center of your propeller is is noticeably offset to the right.
  • It just doesn’t look right.
  • You can calculate how far to one side the propeller shaft is going to land, then move the back of the engine to the left.  That way the propeller will be centered.
  • It’s not a hard calculation, and a scientific calculator makes it even easier.
  • The trigonometric function of the Sine tells us that the sine of an angle equals the length of the opposite side divided by the hypotenuse (S=O/H).
  • Here’s a diagram showing the centerline of the airplane as one side of a right triangle, and the centerline of the engine as the hypotenuse.  (For those who don’t remember math lessons, the hypotenuse is the longest side of a right triangle.)
  • Let’s say your engine and mount are 4 inches long, from the firewall to the back of the propeller.
  •  X is the distance you will offset your mount to the left.
  • According to the trigonometry book, the sine of 3 degrees = X/4 inches.  Punch some buttons on your calculator and you’ll find that Sin3 = .0523.
  • Therefore, .0523 = X/4.
  • If you remember your algebra lessons, you know that whenever you have an equation with the = sign in the middle, it means that you can add, subtract, multiply or divide any number as long as you do it to both sides.
  • Multiply both sides of the equation by 4 and you get: 4 times .0523 = X
  • In other words, the amount of leftward offset  (the length of the little line in the triangle diagram) equals .21 inch, or just a hair less than 1/4?.
  • So you drill your engine mount holes just a hair less than a quarter of an inch to the left of the center line.
  • When you shim your mount to get 3 degrees of right thrust, the center of the propeller shaft will land right on the center line of the airplane.
  • To simplify things even more, there is an equation using RC terms that will be easy to remember.
  • All you need to know is the angle of right thrust and the distance from the firewall to the back of the propeller. 
  • The sine of the thrust angle times the length of the engine equals the amount of offset to the left.
  • Here’s an example:-  Let’s say you have a big four stroke with a big propeller being mounted on a biplane.  This type of installation would require considerable offset, so let’s say it’s going to be 6 degrees.  This is a 1.20 engine, with a total mount and engine length of 6 inches.  With such a long engine and extreme thrust angle, this plane would look ridiculous if it were mounted at the centerline with the propeller shaft way over on the right side, so let’s get it right from the beginning.
  • All you have to do is multiply the sine of 6 degrees by the length of the engine and mount, which is 6 inches.  The little brain in my computer tells me that the sine of 6 degrees is .104.  This amount multiplied by 6 inches gives me .627, which is 5/8?.  Drilling the mount holes 5/8? to the left will make the propeller shaft land right in the middle.
Choosing your first set of building plans
  • Many of my students were asking me what would be a good plane to start with, as a first project to build with balsa wood.
  • The best place to start has always been a kit.
  • Before the Chinese started building everything for us, hobbyists used to build a lot of planes from kits.
  • I still think that’s the best place to start if you want to learn how to build.
  • Check out for an assortment of nice kits that you can use for learning.
  • Kadet Senior or Seniorita, which are legendary trainers.
  • Balsa USA has a plane called the Student Trainer which is specifically designed to teach new builders.
  • They also have a basic trainer called the Stick 40.  And Great Planes still sells the PT-40 trainer kit, which is a classic, as well as the PT-20 and PT-60.
  • After you build a kit, or if you want to skip the kit, then how do you choose a plan to build?
  • You don’t want to get a super complicated plan and find that you’re in a mess before you start. 
  • Another danger is that you might get an inferior plan that doesn’t include enough information for a beginner.
  • Before the internet the people used to read hobby magazines.
  • There isn’t much use for magazines any more.
  • Most RC magazines used to feature construction articles every month, and they published a catalog where you could buy copies of all of their plans.
  • The editors wanted to make sure their plans were of high quality, so the designers were expected to conduct flight tests, refine the design if necessary, and deliver a good product.
  • In the digital age, you can still buy the plans from all of these catalogs, now online.
  • Model Aviation also has a great catalog, as do Model Airplane News, and Model Builder.
  • All of the aforementioned catalogs offer high quality designs that will not leave you wondering about important details.
  • Sooner or later you’ll find those cheap CDs on eBay with ten billion plans on one disc.
  • These can be a good resource, but there is a risk to the beginner because some of the plans are terrible.
  • If you’re not an expert, you would probably be better off obtaining a good set of plans that you can count on from one of the classic RC plans catalogs, and then if you want to download plans for free I have given links of the sites which offers free plans in my blog Free RC Aircraft Plans.
  • You can gain valuable knowledge by seeing a good set of plans first.
  • That way you will know when you see a terrible one.
  • If you are interested in free downloads, check out Outerzone - http://www.outerzone.co.uk/index.asp  - This site has tons of vintage magazine plans, plus a lot of the RCM plans, which would otherwise be unavailable.  Your downloaded pdf plans can be printed at a local print shop.  There is a ton of great stuff on this website.
  • Assuming you are going to buy or download a set of plans, how do you decide which one to get?
  • The first factor to consider is the date on the plans.
  • Back in the old days the designs were more complicated.
  • Fuselage bulkheads often had so many cutouts they looked like jigsaw puzzle pieces. 
  • Engines were mounted on hardwood rails.
  • Wings frequently were built with sheet wood spars, and the ribs had lots of cutouts and notches.
  • Some time in the 1970s designers started simplifying the designs quite a lot.
  • Engines are now mounted on nylon mounts, wing spars are square and the top one usually lines up with the bottom one, fuselage bulkheads are usually simple shapes with few notches.
  • So get a new-style plan to start with and you’ll be a lot happier.
  • There are a few designers based on the simplicity and practicality of their designs.
  • Some of the favorite beginner plans are the RCM Advanced Trainer, the RCM Trainer Jr, which is a scaled down version of the Advanced Trainer, the BD-6 by Fred Reese, the RCM Basic Trainer, the Senior Telemaster, which is huge but pretty simple to build, or you just can’t go wrong with the Q-Tee.  (Look for these on Outerzone.) 
  • There are lots more that would suit a beginner. 
Fixing mistakes
  • It seems like every time we build an airplane we may make at least one major mistake.
  • Most of the time these errors can be fixed easily.
  • One of the great things about model airplanes is that the materials they are built of are usually not as strong as the glue that holds them together, so it’s simple to cut and glue pieces of wood into damaged areas to repair them.
  • You can use many tricks to fill voids and other shortcomings in balsa wood.
  • Don’t take a lot of trouble to get things perfect on the inside where they won’t be seen. 
  • If you’re dealing with spars or other heavy load bearing members, you should make sure the piece is strong enough to carry the load when you repair or correct mistakes..
  • But if you have a hole, gap, crack or other flaw that doesn’t compromise strength, just stick a piece of balsa in there and glue it together.  After you cover it up, nobody will ever know.
How to build a straight fuselage without a jig
  • If you’ve ever wondered how to build a straight fuselage from scratch with only a few basic tools, I can assure you that it’s easier than it sounds.
  • The RCM Basic Trainer. Don’t let the name fool you. Just because it’s called the Basic Trainer doesn’t mean that you have to be a beginner to enjoy it.
  • This is a four-function airplane with ailerons, and it’s pretty good looking, too. The flat fuselage top and bottom make it a perfect project for learning to build a straight fuselage without a jig. 
  • You can do this with just about any plane, but the plane in the photos is the RCM Basic Trainer.

  • After you get the fuselage sides and cabin bulkheads cut out, glue these four pieces together to make a basic box.
  • Measure the diagonal distance from corner to corner in the cabin/radio compartment. 

  •  If your two measurements are the same, then your fuselage is square.
  • If not, squash the fuselage diagonally until the two dimensions match.
  • You may have to put a squeeze on it hard enough to crack the glue, then re glue it in the right position.
  • After you have the radio compartment square, put the planking on the bottom of the fuselage, only in the cabin area.
  • Then draw a center line on the bottom of the plane using a straight edge.
  •  Now it’s time to pull the tail together.
  • If you do the nose first you’re more likely to get it crooked, and it will have a severe effect on the tail.
  • But if you do the tail first it’s easy to get it straight, which sets you up for the nose to be straight. 
  • Just use the line on the bottom of the fuselage to line up the tail joint.
  • When you pull the tail together and the line points right at the joint, it’s straight.
  • You can use a long straight edge instead of your eyeball for greater accuracy.
  •  When you’re gluing the tailpost, in addition to being centered the joint also has to be vertical. 
  • Glue just the tip of the bottom corner, then flip the fuselage around and hold it in front of you with the tail pointing at your eye.
  • You should be able to tell if the tailpost is parallel to the vertical sides of the fuselage.
  • Shift the tailpost seam as needed until everything is straight, and then glue the whole joint.
  • After you get the tailpost joint worked out, go ahead and plank the bottom of the tail section.
  •  After you get the aft planking done, it’s time to install the firewall.
  • Mark a center line on the firewall and use a ruler to line it up with the center line on the bottom of the fuselage. 
  • A thin flexible metal ruler will be able to bend and follow the curve of the fuselage bottom.
  • After you get the firewall lined up on the center line, epoxy it and clamp it in place.
  • After you have that done, attach the chin sheeting. Now you have a straight fuselage, and you didn’t even need a jig.  
  • The above mentioned trainer construction is just an example, you can practice this with any model you build.
Planning ahead
  • It’s always good to plan ahead when you are building a RC Plane.
  • If you don't plan properly, in many cases you lose access to certain parts when you glue other parts on top of them.
  • Here’s a list of the very basic things that you might want to remember.
  • Drill for your wing retaining dowel before you install the windshield (or chin block on a low-winger.)
  • Seal the wood on the inside of the nose section before installing the fuel tank / battery and radio.
  • Decide what kind of push rods you are using, and lay out their locations before closing the fuselage tail section.
  • Drill your firewall for nose gear block, engine mount / motor mount, and control cables / nose wheel steering, and install the blind nuts on the inside, before attaching it to the fuselage.
  • Plan the vertical placement of your servos and mark the inside of the fuselage sides for mounting rails before assembling the fuselage.
  • Cover the tail surfaces and fuselage before gluing them all together.
  • Decide whether you want to mount the wing with rubber bands or bolts before you start putting it together.
  • If using rubber bands to mount the wings, drill the holes in the fuselage sides for the dowels before assembling the fuselage.
  • If using a receiver with a long antenna, install an antenna tube before closing up the fuselage.
  • Install dihedral braces before installing top wing sheeting.
  • Build wing tips before joining wing halves.
  • To avoid laying out your plans and picking them up repeatedly, cut out the parts all at once, then put them together all at once.
  • There are a lot more items to put on this list.  
Shortcuts and helpful tips

  • Those who have built balsa airplanes for years or decades have a long list of shortcuts they have learned.
  • Here are a few collections which I think will be helpful for new builders.
Make a paper dihedral template
  • When you build a wing with dihedral, the root ribs need to be leaned inward at a specific angle to give the wings the correct dihedral angle. 
  • This is easy to do with a dihedral template, which you can make from a piece of paper. 
  • All you need to know is the length of one wing panel, and the amount each wing panel will be raised from the building board.
  • Let’s say your plan calls for a 72 inch wingspan and 2.5 inches of dihedral at each tip. In this case our numbers would be 36 inches and 2.5 inches.  If your plan says 48 inch span and dihedral 4 inches at one tip with the other wing panel flat on the table, then that’s a 24 inch wing panel.  We want to imagine the wing sitting on the table like a V, so we have 2 inches at each tip.  If you’re building an 84 inch plane with a 12 inch center section and 4 inches of dihedral at each tip, it gets a bit complicated.  You have to make two dihedral joints where the panels join the center section.  Imagine one joint sitting on the table like a V with the root ribs standing vertical.  The center section is angled up on one side, and the wing panel is angled up on the other.  This cuts your 4 inch dihedral at the tip to 2 inches.  So your necessary data for our formula is 36 inch panel and 2 inch dihedral.  
  • Now you need a sheet of paper, a ruler, a pencil and an X-Acto knife.  We’re going to make a scale model of your root rib angle on the lower left corner of the paper.  Let’s use the example with a 48 inch span and 4 inches of dihedral at one tip.  The numbers we’re looking for are 24 inches and 2 inches.  Use a handy scaling unit that will fit on a sheet of paper.  Measure from the lower left corner of the paper 2 cm to the right and make a mark on the lower edge.  Measure from the corner 24 cm upwards and make a mark on the left edge.  Now place the ruler on these two points and cut with an X-Acto knife.  Discard the sliver of paper you cut off.  The angle you have created on the corner of the sheet is the angle your root ribs need to lean inwards.  Place one edge of this paper flat on the table, and position the rib with the other edge.
  • If you are working with numbers that are just too big for a sheet of paper, such as a 96 inch wingspan and 5 inches at each tip, you’ll need to scale things down even further.  You can’t measure 48 cm on a piece of paper because the paper isn’t that big.  Just divide it by some convenient number, but make sure you divide your dihedral number also.  You started with 48 and 5, so divide by 2 and get 24 and 2.5.  This is small enough to fit on a sheet of paper.

Use sanding dust to fill gaps

  • Sometimes you glue things together and they just don’t fit. 
  • You can use gap filling CA glue, but it tends to run away somewhere before it sets, leaving a gap.
  • So you fill the gap again and shoot it with accelerator.  Typically when this is done you are left with a protruding lump of CA that needs to be sanded away.
  • One potential solution is to stick everything together with thin CA, then sand the area around the joint. 
  • Use your fingers to push balsa dust into the crack.  Brush away the excess so nothing protrudes past the surface, then use thin CA to glue the dust in the crack.

Put your wing spar where it belongs

  • You have to balance your plane with the correct center of gravity before you fly it. 
  • The center of gravity should be marked on the plan sheet. 
  • Most of the time it will be right on the spar, or at the rear edge of the spar.
  • This makes it easy to balance the plane because you just put your fingers under the spar and hold the airplane up.
  • Some designers arrange things so the spar and the CG do not coincide, which requires you to mark the CG somewhere else to balance your finished model. 
  • Make it easier for yourself.  Take note of the CG location on the plans, and when you’re cutting out the wing ribs place the spar notches at the designated center of gravity.

Plastic covering for your plans

  • Just about every construction article will tell you to put something transparent over your plan sheet, then build the plane on top of it.
  • Lots of people use plastic food wrap, which is just about the worst thing, or wax paper, which is almost as bad.
  • The best thing to use is the clear plastic backing from a roll of Monokote.( MonoKote is commercially available light weight plastic shrink wrap film available in various color schemes with an adhesive on one side, used to cover and form the surfaces of a model aircraft. The material is cut to size and applied to the airframe surfaces using a hobby iron or heat gun).
  • You have to build a plane first and then cover it, and then you’ll be ready for your next building project.  This plastic can be used repeatedly.  

The Scratch Builder’s Basic Toolbox.

  • You want to build an airplane but you don’t have a collection of fancy building tools.
  • Having nice tools is a good thing, but it doesn’t take a lot of fancy tools to build a balsa airplane from scratch. 
  • This is especially true if you’re building a simple airplane, which is convenient because that’s what you would typically start with.
  • So build yourself a simple plane with simple tools, then buy tools as needed for building the more challenging designs as you go along.
  • There are a few basic items that are generally considered essential to any balsa builder’s toolbox.
  • Don’t be afraid to start small.
  • First and foremost is the Hobby knife of any  brand, more specifically a #11 blade and holder. 
  • There’s no sense fooling around when it comes to this basic tool.  Get a knife handle like the one in the photo. If you can imagine yourself enjoying this hobby for a long time in the future, go ahead and get a box of a hundred #11 blades.
  • The Hobby knife's best friend is a metal ruler.  There’s not much to say about that.
  • The next most basic tool is the sanding block.
  • You can build a plane with just sandpaper, but when you get a block you’ll wonder how you ever built anything without it.
  • You can make different types sanding blocks by pasting different grade sand paper to wooden , aluminum or plastic blocks , sheets or different shapes.  They’re all good for different applications.
  • .One of the greatest innovations ever made in model building is cyanoacrylate (CA) glue.  It allows you to build a good straight airplane without even pinning anything to the table.
  •  CA is a bit brittle for firewall and landing gear applications in larger planes where vibration is more of an issue, so use epoxy there.
  • Of course you’ll also want a fitter's square.  
  • The other thing you really need is a saw to cut plywood bulkheads.
  • If you build only square airplanes to start with you can use a razor saw, but as soon as you build a plane with a rounded top deck you’ll need a coping saw or power scroll saw to cut out a firewall and bulkheads.



  • The only other truly necessary tool for building a plane is a drill (mechanical hand drill will work fine for balsa and ply wood).
  • Once you officially become an airplane building enthusiast, you’ll want to expand your tool collection.
Here’s your second stage tool list.

  • The Dremel tool should be pretty high on your list.
  •  You can use it for cutting off landing gear wire and drilling 1/16  holes for servo mounting, installing strip ailerons, elevator joining wire, and probably a many other things….
  • You would think that instant glue is fast enough, but sometimes accelerator comes in really handy.
  • If you’re going to build balsa airplanes and you want to buy a really handy tool, get a power scroll saw, you can use them to cut out wing ribs, and you just can’t beat it for cutting out plywood parts.
  • But this blog is to assure you that you really don’t need a lot of fancy gear if you want to try hand at building your own RC Plane.
  • Just start small and simple and work your way up.
  • You can do it, and it’s a lot of fun!

Favorite Balsa Builds / Planes For Beginners.

  • Below is a list of balsa planes that come highly recommended by experienced builders and pilots from RC Groups forum.
  • You should have no problems building these planes even if you have never attempted building a balsa plane before.
  • And if you happen to be confused or need some advice, click on the discussion thread for tips, ideas, and photos that will help.
  • If you still need some advice, just post your question in one of those threads and someone will be happy to help you.
  • This list is broken down into two categories; 1) beginner kits and 2) intermediate kits.
  • The second list are planes designed for the beginner in mind and are also highly recommended by the members here on RC Groups. 
  • The recommend  planes are that has been proven to be well built and easy enough for a beginner to fly.
  • For your convenience, difficulty to Fly Rating is added in parenthesis after the planes name.
  • It will look like this (DFR = 3).
  • RCGroups -  Balsa Beginner Kit Planes ( http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1117471)
See the planes below, you can found out from RC Groups forum where they can be purchased or to read their review/build threads.
          1. Stevens Aero Lil SQuiRT -  (DFR=1.5)
          2. Stevens Aero SQuiRT 400 -  (DFR=3.25)
          3. Mountain Models / Laser Arts Switchback -  (DFR=4)
          4. Easy Box 2 -  (DFR=NL)
          5. Mountain Models/Laser Arts Tyro 100 -  (DFR=3.5)
          6. Stevens Aero Stik -  (DFR=3.16)
          7. Todd Long's Gym-E -  (DFR=1)
          8. Mini Telemaster - (DFR=4.5)
          9. Micro Telemaster - (DFR=4.5)
          10. Cessna 180  -  (DFR=NL)
          11. Slow Stick X  - (DFR=NL)
          12. LoLo  -  (DFR=NL)
          13. Monocoupe - (DFR=NL)
          14. Q-Tee (also available as plans) - (DFR=NL)
          15. DuskStik - (DFR=2)
          16 - 18. EZ Series; Cub, Scout, Sport   - (DRF=5)
          19. Mountain Models Dandy   - (DFR=2)
         20. Stevens Aero SHAFT 400   - (DFR=5.625)
Balsa Intermediate Kit Planes
         1. FREDe (300) (DFR=NL)
         2. Mountain Models Tyro 150 (DFR=3.75)
         3. MM EVA Sport (DFR=NL)
         4. Cessna 206 Stationair (DFR=NL)
         5. SR Batteries Bipe (DFR=NL)
         6. Stevens Aero Helium (DFR=NL)
Balsa Trainers
         1. Stevens Aeromodel FullHouse
         2. Mini-Telemaster ARF (ARF) (DFR=4.5)
         3. Stevens Aero SQuiRT 400 (Kit) (DFR=3.25)
         4. Slow Stick X (Kit) (Good aileron trainer) (DFR=NL)
         5. Stevens Aero Stik (DFR=3.16)
Balsa Planes Built From Plans
         1. Cul-de-sac Flyer (DFR=NL)
Here are a couple companies that make/sell kits. 

Izicraft 400 Trainer.

  • Original design was for Depron foam construction. 
  • I converted it into a full balsa wood trainer.