How to Build or Buy Rubber Band Powered Balsa Wood Airplanes
Building balsa wood model airplanes has been a popular pastime for many age groups for a long time. The most basic balsa wood model airplane is the one you buy for a couple of dollars, pull it out of its plastic wrap, slide the wings through the slot provided in the fuselage, attach the tail wings and rudder, and give it a good toss to make it airborne.
There is also a rubber band balsa wood model airplane. This type of balsa wood model airplane is very similar to the previous one mentioned but is powered by spinning tension on a rubber band. This rubber band is secured to the rear of the plane and the propeller. Usually, the propeller is spun around to create the necessary tension on the rubber band. Once enough tension is created in the rubber band a gentle toss into the air can send the balsa wood airplane to the skies.
Radio-controlled balsa wood model airplanes come in pre-assembled kits as well as in kits you must assemble yourself. Both of these types of balsa wood model airplanes require some degree of skill to build. Most balsa wood model airplane kits note a minimum age requirement on the packaging. If you are inexperienced with building balsa wood model airplanes consider starting out at the beginner level or have someone, with experience, help you build it. There are circles of experience for this hobby.
As with any model building hobby, the workspace you choose to work on your model is a very important factor. This is a hobby, your hobby, and it is to be enjoyable, otherwise, it ceases to be a hobby. If your work area is uncomfortable there will be less enjoyable for you. Make sure the area you are going to assemble and/or work on your balsa wood model airplane has everything you need to work comfortably.
There are a few tools that are considered common tools for the balsa wood model airplane builder. You will need to have an X-acto knife, to begin with. An X-acto knife can help you remove parts from the embossed sheets, is great for trimming, and the pointed tips can even be used to apply glue in tight spots. A small handsaw is also helpful in handling some removal or shaping tasks.
Another tool you’ll want in your toolbox is a set of hobby wood files. These will come in handy to help fine-tune parts so they correctly align in assembly and smooth out rough edges in preparation for finishing.
Clamps are another tool you may need. Most balsa wood model airplane kits you assemble require you to put together the fuselage, the wings, rudders, and tail wing. Whenever assembling any of these parts you may need clamps to hold things together while glue sets and dries.
There are many other tools you may need to assemble your balsa wood model airplane. Your kit’s instructions may even list them.
Building and flying balsa wood aircraft models is an excellent way to learn about model aircraft building and the basics of flying model planes. This is the method of the 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 aircraft. The planes use a build by a 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. Rubberband 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 model aircraft.
Building stick-built planes requires a minimum set of tools. These include:
- Building board – foam core, fiberboard, ceiling tile
- Wax paper
- Modelling 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 bobby 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 model aircraft. The plane, after some final construction details, is now ready to fly.
Learning to build and fly these kits will help the modeller learn skills needed to build and fly the larger, more complex radio control airplane kits. Or free flight model aircraft can form the basis of a lifelong hobby as there are literally hundreds of these kits available to build and fly. Have fun!