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10 Field & Bench Tips

10 Field & Bench Tips

With time, experience and lots of trial and error, we RC modelers all learn good way to do accomplish workshop tasks and/or flying field repairs. The simplest things can often make the biggest difference. Be sure to leave comments about your favorite field or bench trick or tip.


20 Field & Bench Tips
1 Charged Battery ID
If you have a bunch of battery packs you use over and over, knowing which ones are charged and which are not can get confusing. An easy way to identify packs is to place a small ID sticker on the packs after you charge them. Once you’ve used the pack for a flight, peel the sticker off so you’ll know it’s in need of a recharge.

Charged Battery ID
2 Propeller Safety Tips
To prevent accidents, full-size aircraft are equipped with propellers that have brightly colored tips. Do the same with your model airplane propellers. Mask off the tips and spray on some bright yellow or white to make the prop tips more visible while it’s spinning. The finger you save might be your own!
 Propeller Safety Tips
3 Small Parts Sticker
When building (or repairing) a model, it is sometimes hard to place a wooden part properly inside a narrow fuselage. An easy way to do this is to use a sharp awl as a “part sticker.” Now, simply add glue to the part, stick it with the “part sticker” and guide it into position.



Small Parts Sticker
4 Emergency Screwdriver
It never fails that whenever you need a specific tool for the job, you’ll find that tool anywhere but where you need it. If you find yourself in need of a common, straight-blade screwdriver, you can always take a modeling blade and place it backwards in its handle. The exposed part of the blade can now be used to tighten that screw.


Emergency Screwdriver
5 Throw-away Epoxy Mixing Pad
While mixing epoxy, use a pad of Post-It notes for the mixing surface. Then after applying the adhesive to the model, simply throw the used note away and you’re ready to mix some more adhesive. No clean up required.


Throw-away Epoxy Mixing Pad
6 Easy Control Surface Alignment

When you install and adjust your pushrods, it is better and easier to do if you lock your control surfaces in their neutral positions. Use a pair of coffee mixing sticks and a couple of clamping clothespins to keep the surfaces from moving.


7 Easy Clevis Keepers
If a clevis were to pop off one of your model’s control horns, you could lose control and crash. A simple and cheap way to prevent this from happening is to add a clevis keeper. Simply slice a thin section from some model fuel tubing and slip it over the clevis. It will act like an O-ring and keep the clevis securely in place without binding.


Handy Clamp
8 Handy Clamp
There are a hundred tasks in modeling during which you simply need a third hand. Soldering connectors to wire leads is a good example. In a pinch, you can use a pair of pliers with its handles wrapped with a rubber band. The pliers are heavy enough to act as a steady base and the rubber band provides enough clamping force to hold delicate items without damaging them.


Simple Building Board
9 Simple Building Board
You don’t need a complete building bench or table to build model airplanes; just use a straight piece of pine board. But to make it easier to insert pins to hold the wood parts in place while the glue dries, get some cheap Peel-n-Stick cork sheeting from a hardware store or a convenience shop and stick them to the building board. Place your plans on top and protect it with some clear kitchen wrap or wax paper. Should the cork get damaged or you get some glue on it, simply peel the cork away and replace it with a new piece.



Sheet Separator
10 Sheet Separator
If you build from plans or kits, you have to cover your model. Often, it is very difficult to separate the covering film from its backing sheet so you can iron it into place. The easiest way to do this is to apply strips of masking tape to each side and use them as pull tabs to separate the two thin layers of plastic.


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Add a Comment
  1. We need more of these type of articles. Good job.!!!

  2. Good tips been using most of them for years.

  3. Instead of stickers on the battery packs being charged; use a bag clip like you find on a loaf of bread. Put the clip on while you are charging; take it off when you put it in the aircraft.

    1. I use (and re-use) really small clothes pins, available at any craft store or the craft section of Wal-Mart. I paint some green for charged & some red for discharged. They’re small enough that they don’t take up much room in my battery box.

  4. Now like Paul said, this is what is needed in a larger “how to” section of the magazine, if not the whole magazine.

  5. Great ideas, with one exception. I would definitely not clamp bare pliers onto main battery leads without some protection. Even duct tape over the jaws would help insulate them against shorts.

    1. I think they were only showing this as an example of how you can hold something with out the use of another hand. You still need to use common sense.

  6. Charge status, Michaels has mini clothes pins, paint red ones for “need to be charged” and green ones for “good to fly”. a pack of 20 are $4.

    1. Easier still is to use just green clips. When you charge a battery, put on the green clip. When you put the battery into the plane, take the clip off. Any battery that doesn’t have a green clip is in need of charging. This way, you only need half as many clips and you don’t have to worry about remembering to put on a red clip when you take the battery out of the plane.

  7. I have used Tip #2 for years and every new pilot that I teach hears from me just how simple but essential this little safety method really is. Even at slow RPMs, the prop is hard to see and it does not care if your flesh and bone are in the way. Bottom line, you lose every time if your body and a spinning prop try to share the same space!

    1. don’t forget to check prop balance after painting the tips

  8. A very good collection of useful ideas. I’ve used an awl for a parts sticker and it works well. However I’ve gone back to using the tip of my trusty modeling knife pushed in at an angle. The part stays in place better without twisting off if you bump a side or former while putting the part into place in tight quarters.

  9. I simply wrap a rubber band around charged packs. Remove band prior to flight, battery without band needs charging.

  10. An even easier way to track your battery’s charge: slip a rubber band around the cells up near the leads to indicate the battery is charged, then roll it down to the other end to indicate a used battery. Partially used? Put the band in the middle.

  11. out of the 10 tips I learned 9 NEW things. Thanks alot.

  12. Mixing epoxy on post-it paper is not a good idea, the paper absorbes the hardener more than the epoxy disturbing the mixing quantity.

    1. I have done this for years. It does not disturb mixing quality. We are only guessing at a 50/50 mix anyway! Come on!

    2. Actually the ratio is not that critical, tests were done a few yrs ago and given time almost any mixture will harden, and I’m sure what ever leeches into the paper won’t make any difference what so ever.

      1. Been using expired credit cards, hotel room keys, promotional credit cards, etc… epoxy usually pops off when dried, and if not, just throw it away….easy, free…

  13. Another way to differentiate a charged Lipo from a used one is to use those same clamping cloths pins mentioned above. If you’re really ambitious you can paint a few red and a couple green and attach the green ones to those packs that you’ve charged and once you’re done with a flight attach a red one when you remove your pack from your plane. The cloths pins have a nice groove in them so they stay attached to the wiring from the pack nicely and tend to not fall off.

    1. I also use small clothespins to flag lipo charged status – doesn’t matter the color. When I finish charging a pack I put a pin on it. When I get to the field, if a pack has a pin on it: it’s charged. No pin = used. That way, if a clothespin falls off I assume: used pack. Avoids guessing. (BUT, before I install ANY pack, I do a charge check, just to double down.)

  14. Don’t forget to balance the propeller, particularly after painting the tips as in suggestion #2.

  15. I use the lid from a personal size yogurt container to mix my epoxy. After the epoxy hardens, simply flex the lid and the epoxy pops right off. I keep several lids so while one is hardening I can use another.

  16. When I charge my battery I wrap a rubber band around it. When I use the battery to fly, I remove the rubber band

  17. The post it note mixing is a good idea. I use single serving fruit cups or pudding cups. Not only do I get a tasty snack, but I get a mixing cup also! You can also reuse it, just pop out the old dried glue and you are ready to use it again.

  18. A friend of mine had the problem of losing track of which flight batteries were full charged and which ones had already been used. It cost him an airplane one day when he started to fly with a pack that was already mostly discharged. He solved this problem by having two battery boxes – one green and one red. When he finishes a flight, he takes the battery out the plane and puts it into the red box. When the green box is empty and the red one is full, he goes home. This eliminates the need for stickers or other markings to try to keep track of which battery is which.

    1. I carry and use a little voltage check meter each time I pick up a battery! More accurate, efficient, and never lies!

  19. I use a 2ft. by 4ft. ceiling tile on a board to build on, works great.

    1. Usually can’t buy just one. Sold packs of 10. I used insulation board. Bigger, cheaper.

  20. For batteries I use small Velcro labels marked “charged” and “discharged”. Works great!

    1. I always check the voltage of my battery before each flight. Way more reliable, however I also use a box to carry charged batteries and another for discharged.

  21. Using pliers while soldering leads will act as a heat sink therefor making soldering difficult especially with large wires. Use some scrap plywood or hard balsa between the jaws and the wire to prevent heat transfer. 1/8 inch thickness would be fine.

  22. I use soft drink 12 pack cartons cut up into 4″x4″ squares to mix epoxy.

  23. I keep one of my business cards rubber banded around each battery and write the chasrge date on it, crossing out the previous charge date. A “charged” battery with a months old charge may not be effective. An old charge date tells me to check it with my volt meter to be sure.

  24. Regarding the charged battery above, I use clamping close pins to tell me which batteries need charging. Also, I use parchment paper (available at any grocery store) to protect my surface when gluing. It does not have static electricity problems as do other films.

  25. Tips like these are the best reason to subscribe to a magazine. It makes us happier in the hobby and probably will encourage more people to stay in it because the frustrating aspects of it are reduced.

    More, please!

  26. Use a battery checker to determine which batteries need charging and their condition just before flight. I mark a battery after a flight to show the total number of flights. This is handy if you have multiple batteries for a plane and wish to use them equally.

  27. I’m learning to build my first plane (with a lot of assistance since it’s my first), and have already seen some tips that the guy who is helping me learn is using. Keep these tips coming, since I have a desire to build some more kits in the future.

  28. Another great mixing surface are playing cards. 52 in a deck and for measuring the glue you have all the marking distances. The cards are also stiff which I like.

  29. For determining charged vs discharged lipo packs, I put a piece of masking tape across the deans plug after charging. I take it off right before flying and leave it off until I charge it again. I also write the date of charge and voltage on the tape with a small tip marker. This also works well as a reminder when putting batteries in “storage mode” when they are not going to be used for a time such as in winter.

  30. Some of your better lumber yards will carry a product called homosote. It is sound deadening material that comes in 4 x 8 sheets. It’s about 40 bucks a sheet and it’s the best building board you’ll ever have. Pins push easily into it and I myself use the entire sheet for very large builds but split it amongst some buddies and your set for life.

  31. Homasote is proper spelling, sorry people…

  32. Another great building board is donnacona, a low density, lightweight, easy to pin 4’X8’X5/8″ sheet of soundproofing board. Combine it with an inexpensive 36″X80″ standard mahogany door blank placed on 4 to 8, 36″ high plastic bins with clear drawers in them, and you have a complete “building center” with all the storage you will ever need! The donnacona board can either be left full size, as is mine, or trimmed to the same size as the door blank if space is limited. Door blanks are an amazingly rigid platform to build on, reducing the risk of building warped parts. Lay your entire plan out, cover it with clear sheeting and you are ready to build almost any sized project. I have built numerous .40 to 1.20 sized projects on mine. As long as it is always covered with plastic you will never have to replace it!

  33. To determine which batteries are charged and which ones aren’t no real trick is necessary. I simply spent 15 dollars for a lipo tester, it tells the voltage of the pack, as well as individual cells. At the field, all my batteries are charged when I get there and go on one side of stand, label up. As they come out of the plane, they go on the other side of the stand, label down. If I somehow screw this SIMPLE system up, and am not sure about the status of a battery, I simply pull out this inexpensive device, available from every rc website and LHS, and double check. This device will actually even balance the cells in a pack, if needed. This means that the are no stickers to remove or fall off, no colored clips to buy, that can fall off. I never take a charged pack home because I’m just not sure and have to forgo a flight to play it safe. I have never lost a plane because of a dead battery accidently installed, and have never taken a charged pack home on accident. These devices are about the size of a box of matches, fit easily into your field box, or pocket for that matter. After spending all the money for planes, radios, receivers, batteries, I do not understand why you wouldn’t spend fifteen dollars for one of these testers, instead of trying to come up with an ad-hoc method for keeping track of battery status. Trucks and toss are great, but sometimes are just not necessary.

    1. Trucks and tips, not trucks and toss. Stupid autocorrect. Fly em if you got em!

      1. Tricks, wow, for a smart phone this thing is dumb.

    2. I agree Shelby… with your battery status technique you know exactly the charge level. Some batteries do not fully charge due to age or inadvertent over use. Some planes I’ll risk the older battery but on my favorites I always precheck the battery with the cheap lipo tester. 100% guarantee to be charged.

  34. I would not be leaving batteries fully charged ‘for over a month’ or even more than one day. They will swell up if left fully charged very long. That is why there is something called a ”storage voltage level”… Also dangerous to leave them at full charge. Best, easiest, and most reliable way to tell charged from discharged is to use a tester every time. I have had several friends claim they just charged a batter, and found a bad cell, or not charged. Especially larger planes that have a separate receiver battery,, always check before each flight the voltage status. SAVE YOUR PLANE!

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