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Metal Materials used in Model Building

May 02, 2015

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Airfield Models ( used in Model-Building

Many of these materials can be purchased through the hobby industry.  However, often they are considered "hard to find" and the prices are jacked up accordingly.

I have found that many items I use can be found much more economically by looking for an industry in which the item in question is considered common.  There is a noticeable difference in price.

For example, you can find everything you need to make pull-pull controls in the fishing tackle section of Wal-Mart.  It is essentially the same thing as you will find assembled into "kits" by various hobby suppliers, but you will get more for less.



  • Aluminum tube

    Often used by scale modelers to detail their models with things like pitot tubes, machine guns and cannons and antennas.  Some fuel tank manufacturers include aluminum tubing instead of brass tubing.  I have used both with no problems.

    Tubing of various types also makes good bushings for things like axles that are not the proper size for the wheels you intend to use.  Plastic tubing is preferred if you can find the right size because metal tubing creates oily, black gunk that is hard to clean from the model.

  • Braided fishing leader

    Used for pull-pull control systems and rigging on biplanes and older monoplanes.

    While not a metal, Kevlar line can also be used for these same purposes.

  • Brass or copper wire

    Used to bind music wire together before soldering items such as landing gear and cabane struts on biplanes and parasol aircraft.

  • Brass plate

    Can be used for many of the things aluminum plate is used for with the exception of landing gear.  Aluminum should generally be used because it is lighter, but if you need to solder something to a plate, then brass can be used.

  • Brass tubing

    Most commonly used in 1/8" diameter as fuel feed from the tank.  Various sizes of brass tube can be used for bushings in wheels when the hole in the wheel is too large for the axle.  I generally buy brass tube as needed.

  • Dural aluminum plate

    Used for making landing gear.  Soft aluminum plate is used to make various items such as home-made control horns and internal mounts for miscellaneous items.  I also use 1/16" aluminum when I want a long-lasting rib template.

    For example, if I am using the "sandwich" method to make a set of ribs from two templates, then I will usually make the templates from aluminum.  If I am cutting around a template to make a lot of the same size rib, then I will usually use plywood.

  • Electrical wire

    Used to make custom servo extensions, battery charger cords, etc.

  • Music Wire

    You will use various sizes of music wire (case-hardened steel rod).  In fact, I buy around 25 pieces of 1/16" music wire at a time I use a lot of the stuff.  3/32" to 3/16" are mostly used for landing gear.

    I use 1/32" music wire for throttle pushrods with a Z-bend on each end or, in some cases, a solder coupling and a clevis or ball-link on one end and a Z-bend on the other.  I have found the 1/32" wire to be stiffer than the traditional cable used for throttles while being lighter and easier to work with.

  • Threaded rod

    Another essential type of hardware you will use in almost every R/C airplane model that you build.  Most companies sell it in 12" lengths threaded on one end.  Usually only a few inches of the rod is used and the rest is discarded.

    Micro-Fasteners sells threaded rod that is threaded at both ends at a lower price than the type sold through the hobby industry.  Essentially you get twice as many pieces for a lower price.

Some of the above items you should always keep on hand because you will use it and not having it during an all-nighter can be distressing.  Other items you can get by with purchasing as needed.  After you have a few years of building experience you will know what items you should keep stocked.

Micro Mark catalog #83260 - 1 lb Bits and Pieces of Metal. A good way to obtain a lot of different sizes of tubing is to buy "Bits and Pieces of Metal" from Micro-Mark.  You get one pound of various pieces of round and square tubing, rod and various other shapes.

You'll always have a piece on hand to make bushings (which is a common task) or a hole saw or whatever.  This is far more economical than buying a lot of different size tubes in full length pieces.

Micro Mark catalog #83260 - 1 lb Bits and Pieces of Metal. The bag contains some rods but not many which is good for me because I probably won't use them and the bag is by weight.  Rods weigh more than tubes.
Micro Mark catalog #83260 - 1 lb Bits and Pieces of Metal. This is everything in the bag that was not a round or square tube.  There are a couple small pieces of angle and the rest is rod.

Presumably, these are cut-offs from manufactures and the contents vary from bag to bag but I would guess I received a representative sample.



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