Basic information about various hobby and craft topics.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Building Balsa Wood Airplanes

Building and flying balsa wood airplane models is an excellent way to learn about model airplane building and the basics of flying model planes. This is the method of plane building by aviation’s pioneers, and the skill is still basic that hobbyists use to build model planes. The construction techniques for wood model kits are simple, but patience is required to cut, fit, and glue the pieces into place.

The best method to learn to build these plane is to use the Build and Fly Balsa Wood Kits model series from Guillow. This is a four plane series which starts with a simple all balsa glider and proceeds to an all tissue covered rubber band powered airplane. The planes use a build by number system, and teach plane building in easy to learn steps.

The first plane in the series - the Goldwing Trainer Wood Model Kit - assembles in about two hours and is suitable for ages 8 and up. The kit includes glue and detailed instructions. The wingspan of the completed airplane is about eleven inches and will fly about 100 feet. It is an all balsa glider.

The Cadet Airplane Building Kit is the second plane in the series, and is a rubber band powered plane. The kit also includes glue and requires about four hours to build. Also suitable for ages 8 and up, the Cadet has a fourteen inch wingspan
and will have flight up to 150 feet. The body is balsa, the wing is a simple tissue covered structure.

The Cloudbuster Balsa Wood Airplane is the third balsa wood airplane in the series, and teaches more complex wing construction. The wing is an airfoil, and features a dihedral angle to give the plane a more stable flight. This wood model kit is suitable for ages 8 and up, and requires about six hours to construct. Rubber band powered flight provides flights up to 175 feet. The glue is included in the kit.

The last plane in the series is the Flyboy, a twenty one inch wingspan plane. The skills obtained building the first three planes are used to build this plane. It will take about eight hours to build, and will provide the longest and best flights of the four models. It is also a rubber powered airplane.

Building stick built planes requires a minimum of tool. These include:

Building board - foam core, fiber board, ceiling tile

Wax paper

Modeling pins

Hobby knife


Glue - white or C/A

Fine grit sandpaper


The plan is pinned to the building board. Diagrams in the plan are used to
measure the part, which are then cut with a hobby knife. Cover the plan
with wax paper, and build the plane in sections right on the plan. The
parts are held in place with hobby pins until the glue dries, allowing
you to remove the section.

After all the sections of the plane are built, the sections are glued
together, forming the plane. The framework is coated with glue, and
tissue is stretched and cut over the balsa frame. When the glue is dry,
the tissue is sprayed lightly with water. It tightens as it dries,
forming a nice, firm skin for the airplane. The plane, after some final
construction details, is now ready to fly.

Learning to build and fly these kits will help the modeler learn skills
needed to build and fly the larger, more complex radio control airplane
kits. Or free flight airplane can form the basis of a lifelong hobby as
there are literally hundreds of these kits available to build and fly.
Have fun!

For a pictorial demonstration of building a model balsa airplane visit this


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