RC Airplane Model Making Tools, Equipment and Accessories.
As you develop your interest in flying rc model planes and progress to more advances subjects you will inevitably discover the need to acquire a larger collection of modelling tools to help you move forward.
In my main site www.rookiercflyer.com I covered the basic tools you would require to maintain your plane in flying condition. This post will cover a selection of rc airplane model making tools, equipment and accessories that will make your life easier especially if you decide to go on to building your planes from plans or construction kits.
When trying to position screws in awkward situations a pair of tweezers can be an absolute godsend. They can also be mighty useful for retrieving small parts dropped into confined spaces.
Good spring steel ones will retain their shape and tension in use whereas cheap soft metal ones will bend and lose their ability to grip things.
The self closing ones on the left of the selection shown here are often most useful.
The scissor like tools shown to the right will provide a stronger grip than standard tweezers and the extensions near the finger eyes lock together to keep pressure on whatever is being held.
A Long Sander
There will be many instances when you may need to sand flat a larger area of wood or to smooth off a number of pieces of wood spread across a distance, typically the edge of a wing or a set of wing ribs in situ.
The ideal tool for this is a long sander of the type shown here with self adhesive sandpaper applied to its underside. Alternatively it can be a wooden one so long as the wood cannot flex under hand pressure in use.
The one shown here is a commercially available item provided with a dust extraction facility. The underside of the sanding plate is perforated and the outlet at the rear can be attached to a vacuum cleaner via a hose to take the wood dust away from the work area.
A long sander is best used two-handed (hence the handle and knob) to control the pressure evenly across the surface being sanded. Alternatively, if more pressure is needed at one end, this is more easily controlled using both hands. The tool should be held obliquely to the length of the sheet and used like a plane.
To shape ribs, move it from the highest point of the wing, usually at the main spar and work either toward the leading or trailing edge. Do not work across the ribs as they can easily be split. The two handed operation enables each end to be moved at different rates especially on wings that taper from root to tip.
Use light pressure only with a fine or medium grit paper, taking care not to create any flat spots.
Combination Square & Adjustable Bevel
The combination square can fulfil several functions besides being a try-square. You can use it as a depth gauge and for measuring distances at 90 degrees and 45 degrees to an edge.
Be sure to buy a good quality set as cheaper ones can be suspect in measuring these angles accurately.
It can be used to determine a distance by sliding the adjustable fitting along the rule until the projection matches the length. Then several components of identical length can be marked by laying them along the rule without having to read and transfer the measurement to each piece.
If you need to match a workpiece to a specific angle on a structure, The adjustable bevel can be set to the exact angle within the structure between the blade and stock and then transferred to the workpiece. This ensures a perfect fit of the component into the measured angle.
To ensure accuracy it is important to ensure that the angle is measured with the face of the stock in the same plane as will be the face of the new component when it is fitted in place.
It is not always necessary to carry out any soldering to complete a model but the need will arise sooner or later. I have shown here three different versions selected for their specific uses.
The first is a 40 Watt version. This is probably the most useful size for the majority of soldering tasks you will encounter. It is capable of soldering medium cored wire and cable and most lighter steel rod applications.
The second one is a 100 Watt iron. This is ideal for joining thicker wires to connectors and larger pieces of metal.
You will notice that the soldering bit is considerably heavier and flatter than the 40W version. This enables it to transfer its heat more rapidly to the pieces being soldered. You will often find that the bits on heavy duty irons are angled over.
If you need to work on electronic circuitry you will require the smaller 15 Watt iron shown here. This is ideal for use on fine wire and other precision work but will not be capable of providing the heat necessary for heavier duty work.
In some instances where heavy gauge piano (music) wire is concerned a gas-powered blow torch will prove useful. This applies very high temperatures to a specific location quickly and produces a very clean solder joint.
Obviously this kind of heat should not be used in close proximity to wood and radio control gear.
It is always a good idea to buy soldering irons with interchangeable bits. Over time the first bit will start to deteriorate and you may find it necessary to replace it. Replacement bits are much cheaper to buy than a complete new iron.
Besides this, you can buy a set of bits with different points designed for different tasks. These can be very useful.
Other accessories that will help make life easier for you include:
a) A soldering iron stand with integral cleaning sponge – this will help protect your work surface and other equipment, to say nothing of your skin, from unintentional contact with the hot tip and body. It also provides a readily available bit cleaning facility. Good soldering and heat transference relies on your iron bit being scrupulously clean.
b) A solder removal sucker – The cylinder spring loaded type shown here below is the best type to have. Solder is removed from the component(s) by applying heat from a soldering iron and, while the solder is in a molten state, applying the tip of the sucker to the wet solder and releasing the spring loaded plunger. the solder is sucked up into the cylinder from where it can be emptied when it has cooled.
c) Earlier I listed a selection of tweezers. The ‘self-closing’ one of makes an ideal holding tool for wires as well as being a good heat sink to protect more delicate items.
The Third Hand
Finally, although listed it in my post on soldering wires back in October 2015, I am reviewing another most useful tool for soldering tasks. This is what is known as a ‘Third Hand’ and is shown here on the right below.
The magnifying glass and twin crocodile clips provide a very secure mount for small components to be soldered together and for positioning wire ends together ready for application of the solder and iron.
The assembly is made up of an arrangement of arms, ball joints, wing nuts and crocodile clips that can be adjusted to ant angle and position required to hold your components in the correct position for soldering.
It can also act as a heat sink for drawing excess heat from the components and keep your hand well away from the hot iron.
Some ‘plan pack’ style kits are supplied without the necessary strip balsa wood to complete the model. in this case you will need to either purchase the required strip wood separately or purchase sheet balsa of the required thicknesses and strip it down yourself to the required widths.
This device is a most useful addition to your tool collection for such situations. It employs a standard craft tool blade as you can see from the picture. The depth of cut is fully adjustable using the knurled knob opposite the blade fixing.
The one shown here is the simplest and cheapest option. I have used a different version for many years manufactured by a British company – S.L.E.C. This is pictured here on the right. It comes with a section of aluminium channel in which the cutter slides. This channel needs to be fixed firmly to a base board to complete the assembly. A selection of spacers are supplied to increase or decrease the depth of cut as required.
I can highly recommend this version. it has served me well over a good number of years.
A word of warning here: Because these strippers use craft blades there is a tendency for them to introduce a bevel when cutting thicker sheets due to flexing of the blade trying to follow the grain of the wood. this is particularly evident when cutting more dense, heavier balsa.
The way to eliminate this is to set the blade so that it cuts only halfway through the wood. Make the first cut and then turn the wood over and complete the cut from the other side.
Always be sure to hold the sheet of balsa firmly against the guide and cutting surface to prevent it moving away from the edge of the stripper.
I would not recommend stripping anything thicker than 1/4 inch (6mm) using this type of cutter. You may get away with 3/8 inch (9mm) using the double cut approach.
Strips should be cut from medium to hard balsa for most uses. Soft balsa becomes to weak when stripped down.
Allen (Hex) Keys
These are commonly used on Glow/Nitro engines both for securing components such a silencers and carburettors as well as for fixing the engine to its bearers.
They are also used to fix propeller adaptors to shafts on electric motors and for some types of control surface linkage fixings.
Generally speaking you will only need the smalle sizes so no need to buy a selection of the larger sizes.
A few small spanners make a very useful addition to your tool kit for tightening nuts, especially those that secure propellers on shafts and, in some cases, mounting engines.
The benefit of using a spanner to tighten nuts rather than using a pair of pliers is that the corners of the nuts or hex bolt heads do not get damaged.
On humorous note: It’s surprising how much damage can be caused to your nuts when they are gripped by a pair of pliers!
This tool provides a far more accurate method of measuring the diameter of drills, bolts and wire rods, etc. If, like me, you are not the most tidy of persons then occasionally you may need to sort out your small drill bits having forgotten to reposition them in their correct graded holder. The Vernier Caliper is the ideal tool to re-establish the exact size of the drill shafts.
The price of ones with digital readout displays has dropped dramatically recently so although not an everyday requirement, they represent a really useful acquisition.
Taps & Dies
Generally these are only necessary if you intend to advance into the realms of model engineering. However, a 2BA or 5mm tap and tap wrench are useful for cutting a thread into a plywood wing bolt retainer in smaller models.
Rather than drilling out and fitting a blind nut for this bolt (usually Nylon), it is possible to drill a pilot hole in the plywood and then tap a thread into this hole. It helps to harden this thread buy soaking it in thin cyano glue then, one it has hardened, pass the tap through the thread again to smooth it out.
This type of fixing should not be used on larger, more powerful models. These need the security of blind nuts and larger bolts.
A decent bench vice albeit a small one will prove most useful if you need to grip a piece of metal for cutting with a saw. Hack saws, both junior types and larger ones, are notorious for grabbing during a cutting stroke. If you are holding the metal, even in a gloved hand, considerable pain and damage can be caused.
It is also very useful for holding metal components that need to be heated above temperatures suitable for skin contact. The jaws act as a very good heat sink in such situations.
You will need a good solid bench for it to be attached to. Alternatively, a sturdy board will suffice, clamped to your work surface if you don’t want the vice to be a permanent fixture on your bench.
There are smaller vices available for lighter jobs such as the example here. these are easily moved around to suitable locations providing you have a level surface to clamp it to.
Often when mounting such things as servos, pinned hinges, etc. The use of a power drill can be too aggressive and cause excessive damage to the soft woods you are fixing to.
In these instances an alternative method of piercing the wood is desirable and this is where a pin vice comes into its own.
Essentially, this tool is a miniature set of drill jaws designed to hold small drill bits with a handle for hand operation.
Because there is a limit to the amount of expansion and reduction of the jaw capacity, the range of bit sizes each one can accommodate is very limited.
Fortunately they are normally supplied in sets to accommodate a reasonable range of bit sizes as shown here.
I find these a most useful aid to many tasks in my workshop.
A small set of brass and steel wire brushes are most useful for cleaning tarnished tools, complex shaped components for soldering and for removing the build up of metal bits that become stuck in the teeth of files.
Templates & French Curves
When marking out on wood and other materials it is useful to have a set of flexible drawing aids to assist with these tasks.
I find that plastic templates are very useful for this purpose particularly when drawing circles and other curved lines.
They are also very useful for marking out panel lines and other surface features on scale models. E.g. Panel lines, access hatches, etc.
Chose reasonably flexible and transparent ones so that they are easy to position without hiding markings and locating features beneath them.
French Curves are invaluable for transferring curves to materials to be cut. They are very helpful when joining pin pricks in balsa wood that have been made through a plan. To achieve the correct outline of the shape to be cut place the appropriate section of a curve against the pin pricks and join them together with a suitable pen.
This list is by no means comprehensive and I could go on adding useful tools to the inventory.
Many of these tools will never be used by some flyers, especially those who only purchase ARTF models.
Even those of you who decide to become serious modellers will not require all of them immediately. I have gathered together my personal collection of model making tools, equipment and other accessories over many years of real modelling.
I bet you’re wondering where the best source is to obtain the items discussed in this post. Well, I can highly recommend Amazon as a good source at very reasonable prices. If you feel you would like to acquire any of these items promptly then you can order on line by clicking either one of the links below:
When the Amazon home page appears just enter into the search bar the name of the item you want and hit return. A selection will appear from which you can choose the one you wish to purchase and complete the transaction on-line.
Please feel free to contact me through the comment facility if you require any further help or advice on selecting tools for your use.
Don’t forget to visit my main site www.rookiercflyer.com if you have enjoyed this post and are in the early stages of learning to fly rc planes.