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Basic Model Building Tools

May 05, 2015

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Airfield Models ( Tools Necessary for Model Building

I continue to receive e-mails asking me what are the bare minimum tool requirements to build flying model aircraft.  When folks read through the Model Building Tools section of the site they feel overwhelmed by the sheer quantity, not to mention price, of tools discussed.

This is a list of just the basic items you will need to get started.  Please understand that if you have only these tools they will get the job done.  However, modeling becomes much easier when you have a larger selection of tools to choose from for any given task.  My philosophy is buy them as you need them.


Tool Listing

  • Work Surface You will need a table to build on and an actual building surface on top of that.  The building surface can be a piece of ceiling tile which costs just a few dollars.  The table top must be flat.

  • Pins, Rubber Bands and Masking Tape You have to have something to hold parts together while glue dries.

  • Hobby Knife #1 hobby knife handle with #11 blades.  These are made by a variety of manufacturers and available at any hobby shop, craft stores, fabric stores and most hardware stores.

  • Single Edge Razor Blades Available from hardware stores.

  • Razor Saw Use to cut through thicker stock or hardwood sticks.

  • Cutting Mat Don't cut on your building surface.  You can buy a good cutting mat from Wal-Mart or a fabric store.  A piece of cardboard works well too.

  • Drill and Standard Set of Drill Bits A lot of holes need to be drilled.  Purchase a set of bits from 1/16" to 1/4".  An electric drill is an absolute necessity.  In many cases having a pin vise in addition to the drill will make things easier.

  • 12" Metal Ruler Available from office supply stores or hardware stores.

  • 36" Metal Straight Edge Used to true up balsa sheets when used with a hobby knife.  A 48" straight edge is probably a better choice.  A piece of aluminum trim from a hardware store works well.  They come in 8' lengths, but a hack saw can easily cut it down to whatever length you want.

  • Drafting Triangle Available from office supply stores.  Absolutely necessary for making sure parts are square to each other, such as when gluing on the fin.

  • Wood Glue Any carpenter's glue will work.  Also nice to have are epoxy and model airplane glue.  Cyanoacrylate (CA) is useful, but it allows you to make mistakes faster which are very hard to correct.  I don't recommend CA to beginning builders for that reason.  Wood glue is slower and gives you time to get parts properly positioned.

  • Sandpaper There is too much to say about it in a short blurb.  Read the linked page to learn more about what sandpaper to buy.

  • Sanding Blocks Make your own.  They are inexpensive, easily made and work much better than commercially available sanding blocks.

  • Wax Paper or Plastic Food Wrap Used to cover plans so that the part you build doesn't get glued to the plan.

  • Sealing Iron Only necessary if using iron-on coverings.

  • Paint Brushes Necessary if using a doped on fabric or tissue finish.  If you choose to spray paint your models using cans or spray equipment you will still need the brushes to apply the fabric.

  • Needle Nose Pliers

  • Screwdrivers Standard, Phillips and Jeweler's.  We use a lot of small fasteners that standard size drivers won't fit.

  • Allen Keys A lot of the fasteners we use as well as engines have Allen heads.  You will need Imperial and Metric Allen wrenches.



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Copyright 2004 Paul K. Johnson