Don't force it, get a larger hammer.
- Anthony's law of force
5.1 The Work Place
During the days of wooden ship construction outlines of major
components were drawn on the shop floor (lofted) and parts were cut
and assembled over the lofted lines. Model aircraft builders
generally follow that ancient tradition in that they fasten the
project's plan to a board and build on it. A piece of waxed paper or
plastic wrap is placed over the plan, pieces are fitted to the
drawing's lines and glued together. For less complicated models some
people omit the waxed paper and stick clear plastic tape to the plan
where glue joints occur. This prevents the work from adhering to the
Pieces are fastened in place with pins. Avoid piercing the wood with
pins because it weakens the structure. Various techniques are
employed to avoid piercing the wood such as making a Z bend in each
pin so it can be inserted beside the wood and still press down on it.
Since it can then dent the wood we have developed another method.
School supply stores sell soft plastic pieces that are intended to
be slipped onto a pencil to keep it from rolling off of a desk or to
provide a better grip on the pencil. They are triangular in cross
section and about an inch and a half long, with a hole down the
center for the pencil. Cut them into small pieces and pierce each
with a T-shaped pin (sold by hobby suppliers). Insert the pin beside
the wood with the soft plastic bearing on the wood. This holds the
wood securely without denting it.
A building board should be made from a material that will accept and
hold pins. Some builders use ceiling tiles; others buy commercial
boards made of laminated balsa wood. For my classes, I buy four by
eight-foot sheets of composition board used to sheath houses. It's
black on one side and about three fourths of an inch thick. I cut it
into one by two foot pieces on a table saw, a size that is adequate
for most rubber models. One can fit such a board, with a model in
progress on it, into a cardboard suit box scrounged from a clothing
store. This makes for easy transport to and from class and keeps the
family cat from chewing the balsa. For larger models composition
boards made of a slightly denser material are sold as bed boards used
under a mattress. I use one placed on top of an old door for a
Model building books usually suggest a list of tools needed by the beginning
modeler. In practice the length of such a list is dependent upon the
type of model you will be building. For basic work you will cut,
sand and glue. You will occasionally drill a hole, bend a wire or
solder some parts together. Buy the best tools you can afford and
they will last a lifetime. Buy them as you find a need for them.
Balsa can be cut with a single edged razor blade. A favorite
modeling tool is a small modeling knife such as an X-acto #1 handle
with a disposable #11 blade. The blade has an acute angle resulting
in a sharp point, which tends to break off in use. Breakage can be
minimized by cutting over a spare scrap of soft wood or poster board.
Or, you can use a cutting mat of the type said to be "self-healing".
Look for one at a store that sells fabric and sewing supplies. In
the past, modelers used a double-edged razor blade. One broke the
blade in half, then broke it with pliers to achieve a sharp pointed
edge, like a #11 blade. If you try this, be sure to wear eye
protection. Modern double-edged blades are made of stainless steel
and do not hold an edge as long. Double-edged blades are thinner
than single edged ones and # 11 blades so are less prone to crush the
wood during a cut. Crushing will occur with any cutting tool that is
not sharp. Dull tools cause the user to use force. Force causes
slippage and accidents. Stock an adequate number of spare blades and
Larger models require the cutting of pieces with a small saw. Very
fine toothed blades are available that are fitted to a hobby knife,
or you may choose a similar saw sold as an inseparable unit.
Miniature aluminum miter boxes are available for use with the above
Good sandpaper is an important "tool'. I like the reddish brown
garnet paper. It seems to last longer on softwoods.
When drilling holes in delicate materials you can use a pin vise.
The drill bit is held in a small chuck and you twist the slender
shaft to make a hole.
A good set of small pliers will be useful. It should include a
needle nose; one with rounded jaws and a nipper or side cutter to cut
An example of the range of modeling tools available can be seen at
Tower Hobbies' Web site:
www.towerhobbies.com and click tools and building. Again, buy tools as you find a need for them.
When you get into electrical work a small soldering iron and/or
soldering gun will be required.
Other basic tools include a small steel ruler, clamps, a metal
straight edge, screw drivers, a small hobby hand plane and a couple
of small drafting triangles.
Once established in the hobby you may want to add some expensive
It is less expensive to buy sheet balsa and strip it into needed
sticks, than to buy the sticks separately. You can buy an
inexpensive stripper to do this or invest in a higher quality one.
Rubber can also be stripped. You can buy rubber to the width you
think you need or buy it wider and strip it to just the right width
that will get your model up just short of the ceiling. Rubber
strippers are more expensive, but if you find that rubber-powered
models are your favorite type of model, it is worth considering. You
will find source information on these devices at:
www.mindspring.com/~thayer5/modelhp.html and click tools.