Building boards, is there a consensus.

I'm soon to start building my first RC aircraft, a glider. Once I've built the glider and start flying construction will start on a powered aircraft. If all goes to plan, the powered aircraft will be complete approximately the same time I'm ready to transition to powered flight.

Some experienced RC'rs have strongly suggested that I have a purpose built building board (pin-able surface, plans under plastic and all) on which to construct the aircraft. I see how that would be a theoretically superior method of constructing the aircraft but is it really any better than careful construction using any reasonably flat surface?

A building board is no doubt desirable but it doesn't seem justifiable for 2 kit aircraft.

Do I really need it? My thoughts are "No" as I'm reasonably handy with tools and building scale (plastic) models.

What building surface do most use here? Specially constructed building boards or any flat table suface?

BTW, I have an old laminate surface table that is quite flat. It's worthy of my modelling room but not a normal domestic application, hence it seems an appropriate table to construct my aircraft on and it can revert to other hobby purposes later.

Reply to
The Raven
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On top of that table add a couple of pieces of drop-ceiling tiles which can be purchased at a home building supply place. Put your plans down, then cover them with a piece of plastic food wrap or wax paper to protect them from glue droppings. The tiles accept pins and hold down your parts while the glue is drying. Joe L.

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And the experienced R/Cers are right.

First, whatever board you use needs to be FLAT. Second, it needs to be pinable. I use 3/4" plywood or particle board strongly braced underneath with STRAIGHT 2 x 4s on edge. 2' x 8' is a good size. I cover this with 2 x 4 acoustic ceiling tile with the back facing up. I then cover this with 3/32" cork sheet. All this can be done with 3M-77 spray contact cement. When the cork surface eventually becomes cut up and scarred, it can be easily replaced. I tape the plans down and cover them with waxed paper. Now, why do I do all this?

First, barring atmospheric changes, the plans will be accurate. Second, I can see exactly where the parts will go, and place then in their proper places without measuring over and over again. BTW, I am a mechanical engineer with extensive AucoCAD experience, so I also "am reasonably handy with" tools and measuring instruments. Your method of "measure-mark-glue, measure-mark-glue" might work, IF YOU ARE VERY CAREFUL. You will need squares and other aligning devices you wouldn't need when building directly on the plans. I appreciate your experience with plastic models. In my younger days I built them and entered local contests. (That was back before all the neat aftermarket parts. We made spark plug wire out of sewing thread pulled through wax. A fan belt was a strip of masking tape.) However, a 1/24 plastic model is far removed from being a 72" (or greater) span wooden R/C glider. The building board I describe is not very expensive, nor is it hard to construct. Building over plans is a tried and proven method of easily and quickly constructing a strong, straight R/C model. My advice - stick with it.

Oh, I always make a copy of the plans to use as reference and have in case of a mishap (read: crash) with the plane. Kinkos or any good office or graphics store can do it.

Welcome to R/C and good luck! Dr.1 Driver "There's a Hun in the sun!"

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If all you're going to do is build two models and then call it quits, then you're right. You don't need a dedicated board. But if like many you continue on in this hobby, a dedicated guaranteed flat board is the best way to go.

To start with, consider the down side of your "reasonably flat" surface. To me reasonably flat means not perfectly flat. And that means that humps, bumps twists and warps will be built into your model. Maybe you can't see them but, they will be there. And as a beginner, you're going to add enough of these on your own without the help of a dumb board. But all this results in flying surfaces that want to do one thing (turn, climb, roll etc) when you expect them to do something else (straight and level). You then end up with flying surfaces and control surfaces fighting each other. This makes for a model that doesn't trim well and won't fly to its full potential.

Second, what are you going to use as a building board? Most popular item seems to be the dining table. So do you plan on cleaning the whole thing up and putting it all away when the nights building session is done? Good time for delicate, half finished frames to get smacked by a door or something. Or what about those times when you use a glue other than CA? Glider wings really should be built with white glue for the flexibility. Or do you intend to monopolize the table until the model is finished? Not good for maintaining the favors of the wife (or mother).

With a dedicated board you can work on it and walk away. No need to constantly put things away so the table can be used for its intended purpose. Gives parts the proper time to dry and the potential for accidental damage is greatly reduced. Plus you can set it up in a low traffic area of the house. Where the chances of it being disturbed and mangled are minimized.

But if you insist on using your "reasonable flat" surface. Do yourself a favor and pick up a 2'x4' ceiling panel. You can get them with no texture. They hold pins well and will help protect the table you set it on. Plus you can use it to slide the project under the bed or something when it's time to clean up. Not the best but it beats most other options. Except a dedicated table of course.

BTW, under the bed is a bad place if you have ANY kind of pets with free run of the house. Yes, cats will chew balsa wood!


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If you are sure your surface is FLAT, then stick a couple of plastic covered ceiling tiles down on it and go. The trick, as a number of posters have already opined, is a flat surface. Any curvature of the surface will be duplicated on your wing or fuselage, and might manifest itself in the way your plane flies. I use an old luan door which can be had for cheap at local lumber yards or hardware stores. If they have a "scratch and dent" sale, you can probably pick one up for very little.


Reply to
Morris Lee

My bench is made from 3/4" plywood covered with sheet cork. Works great for me.

Jim - AMA 501383 (remove NOSPAM to reply)

The Raven wrote:

Reply to
James D Jones

Reply to
Mike Gordon

I have a 4x2 sheet of blue foam, laid over an old office desk. After each plane it gets turned around or eversed, so teh it I scar up gets to teh back or underneath.

After 4 planes I scrap it.

Its rigid, flat, takes pins so easily it isn;t treu, and does not damage thngs dropped on it.

I protect the plans with the backing that comes off heatshrink coverings.

The great thing about the foam is its cheap and easily repalceable, and if glue or dope drops on it, so what? It melts a hole and that's that.

These tips were passed to me by E-zone modellers, who have helped me build better and better planes. Internet is darned useful sometimes.

Reply to
The Natural Philosopher


After four planes, you should build another plane out of it :^)

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I have used the following for the past 40 years!

A Hollow Core Door on top of a table or on saw horses. Celotex on top of door. (celotex is the same material as ceiling tiles but comes in 4x8 sheets. The celotex is very easy to pin to, the door keeps everything straight. The whole setup will set you back maybe $50!

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Yes, you really need it.

Flat, that is.

Plastic models don't fly well, so it's of no concern that the building surface wasn't flat.

Flying models need to be flat and straight where applicable, and that requires a _flat_ building surface.

Any flat surface at least as large as the largest sub-assembly (wings, most likely) will do nicely, and you certainly don't need a purpose-built work table for your first few models.

Maybe wait until you've decided whether this lunatic hobby is for you before you spring for purpose-built table.

Find something to put on top of the work surface you can stick T-pins in. Foam building insulation works for me; pink or blue in 1/2" or

3/4" thickness. Buy a 4'x8' sheet and cut a chunk to fit your building surface. Save the remnants for later uses.

Ceiling tiles are also popular as a pinning surface.

One source of inexpensive flat building surfaces is your local BORG or home improvement store. Most will sell you a plastic laminate counter top with cosmetic damage, or an odd sized counter top ordered by mistake, for a pittance.

Should you discover that you actually like this four-cycle hobby (Buy, Build, Fly, Crash) you might one day need a drop-dead serious building table.

See the photo album "Torsion Box Building Table" on my meager web site. Cheers, Fred McClellan The House Of Balsa Dust

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Reply to
Fred McClellan

For the long wings of a glider, I'd want to be sure I had a nice, flat building surface. You don't have to spend much... I use a scratch-and-dent-priced interior door (get one made with solid, not jointed, sides/top/bottom. Mine's birch.) with a couple of pieces of acoustic ceiling tile layed on top. I think the total cost was about $20.

Happy building, Bob Scott

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a building board is one of the tools needed for proper alignment of parts, no questions asked... a base that is stable ( non warping) of sufficient length and width ( I have 2 3/4" sheets of 9 layer ply laminated together at 24"X 48") (( yea I know 1.5" thick but its a lifetime tool)) with a 1/4" thick sheet of luan panel ( mahaogny was too expensive) held in place with counter sunk screws ( flat top) that way when the luan gets too messed up from the cuts, dings, occasional glue leak, its replaceable.

I fold the drawings to size and cover with saran-wrap ( sp.?) all held in place with masking tape ( seems to work best as far as removing the tape)...

it saves time, makes life easy, and the important parts like the wing are 99% of the time built true...

invest the 20$ or so and avoid the trimming problems later when you try to figure out why your plane is wanting to veer to one side or the other....

Scot D

aka BunnyKiller

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I am going to offer another opinion, that is different from all those presented so far!

It works for me....

I have a no longer in service dining table that is definitely not flat. At each end of it I have a piece of laminated board that is flat. 1 end is

12" x 36" and at the other end of the table the board is 18" x 48"

I build on these 2 boards.

this leaves a convenient bit in the middle of the table for tools etc.

I do not build over the plans and pin things down as most have suggested.

The way I chose to build is to carefully cut, fit and align on the plan, Put down 2-3 sheets of newspaper on my building board, glue and pin/clamp parts together, and to ensure flat, place another piece of newspaper on top of the bit I have built and put a telephone book or 2 on it to hold it down flat. Once the glue is dry, simple remove the weight, and discard the newspaper.

Sometimes a bit of newspaper gets stuck to the model, and a little bit of

400 grit wet and dry paper takes care of that.

So far, I have not had anything not come out flat and true using this method.

If you only have a part time building table, such as a dining table ,you may want to adopt some of these methods.

Yep, it is radically different approach to what has been offered already, but in the end, you need to have a convenient and comfortable workspace.

Bob in AUS

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Pick up a ceiling tile at Home Depot. I forget the size, but I think they are 2' x 4'. $3.00? The one I bought had some depressions on the surface, kinda like termite tracks in wood. I fill all the holes with some heavy drywall spackling and sand it smooth. It takes a couple of applications. Then brush on some white "Kilz" and you'll have the PURRFECT building surface. After every airplane, I refill the lil holes and the surface is good to go again.

Cheap and effective . . . (Right up my alley!!!)

Reply to
Joe D.

Thanks for the tip Joe, it matches what I was told.

Reply to
The Raven

I thought as much but then I'm not trying to build to their standard.

Agreed, and I have that table.

And here's where I get bewildered. The surface has to be flat, yet my experience with those ceiling tiles is that they are far from FLAT. They are flat but not as flat as the table I'd be starting with.

From my days in the printing industry a sheet of paper the size of a plan

*could* vary upto 5mm due to atmospheric changes and what a printing machine does to it (stretch). OK, we're not going to get 5mm from atmospheric but I thought I'd throw that in.

I'm also from an engineering background with CAD and such, but it's been a few years.

Perhaps I should also mention both kits are laser cut with relevant slots. OK, that won't cover every situation though.

Hmm, I'll trust you but I thought they'd be needed regardless even if it was "just to be sure".

Yes, I know it's not quite the same but you can appreciate how pedantic some people are for accuracy.....

Heck, just but a resin pre-wired distributor with turned metal's far less frustrating :-)

Still is.

OK, advice taken and heeded.

Good idea.

Thanks alot.

Reply to
The Raven

Without hearing the advice of others here I feel the same way. I do multiple hobbies and I'd rather retain this other table for several purposes rather than one. However, if it's definitely an advantage I'll do it.

Spare laminated table. Not a desk or such but more of an old office table.

I'd be shot.........

That's another question to ask, which glue. I have some good advice from local friends and experts but it never hurts to seek a wider opinion. At the moment I'm looking at a high quality Balsa cenete for wooden models (specifically RC aircraft). Is the flexibility you mention literal (flex in the aircraft) or for flexibility in construction (drying time etc)?

Hence why I already have a nice big table for plastic modelling and such. However, it's not flat and not suitable for building RC aircraft.

My cat doesn't. Some of my balsa models (eg. a ship) hasn't been touched in many years.

Reply to
The Raven

Gee, I didn't expect so many replies! Thankyou everyone for the advice, even if I didn't personally respond. It would seem the consensus is to use a building board if only as an insurance measure.

I'll look into converting my laminate table to a building board. Too bad my big modeling bench is trestle style (bows slightly) as it would be otherwise ideal...............if I could clear all the junk off it!!!!!!!


Reply to
The Raven

When you 3M77 them to a flat table, they are flat. :) The slight bumpiness on the back side (the "up" side) is smoothed out by the cork.

That's true, but I've never encountered that much on modern plans.

Wern't no such thing when I built plastic models. Closest we had to "resin" was a carved, filed, and ground lump of epoxy. :)

Dr.1 Driver "There's a Hun in the sun!"

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