With time, experience and lots of trial and error, we all learn the best way to do this or that. The simplest things can often make the biggest difference. This article highlights 20 popular tips that will make your hobby time easier and more successful.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
11 Propeller Balancer (Clear Spray Paint)
While balancing plastic propellers instead of removing material from the heavier blade, use clear spray paint to add weight to the lighter one. Often, only a slight amount of weight is required and a light application of paint sprayed on will do the trick. Wait for the paint to dry before rechecking the balance.
12 White Towel Drop Zone
There’s nothing more frustrating than losing that small screw, nut or bolt in the grass at your flying field. Whether you fly at a club flying area, at the park or in your backyard, you can avoid losing small parts by placing a white or other brightly colored towel under your model while you work on it. If you drop something, it will be easy to find.
13 Alignment with a String
Many built-up flyers require you to glue the tail surfaces to the fuselage. For your model to perform right, they have to be installed properly aligned with each other. The vertical fin and rudder need to be 90 degrees to the horizontal stabilizer and elevator. A simple way to accomplish this is to tape a piece of string to the tips of the stabilizer and loop it over the top of the fin. Apply slow-setting glue then tape the string snugly into place. Use a square to make sure the fin is 90 degrees to the stabilizer then lock it in place with a third piece of tape on top of the fin.
14 Clevis Opener
An easy way to open snap-shut clevises is to use a common screwdriver. Simply slip the blade into the clevis and twist. It works much better than trying to use your fingers and/or fingernails.
15 Clear Scuff Guard
If you fly from a hard surface like a paved runway or parking lot, all too often the underside of the wingtips can get scuffed up pretty badly. Simply add a layer or two of clear shipping tape and your wingtips will have an added layer of protection. Clear tape can also be used to protect the soft under-belly of foam flyers that don’t have landing gear.
16 Free ID Labels
If you have ever had a model airplane get caught in a strong wind and fly away, you know it can be impossible to find it should your model head over those faraway trees. You can greatly increase your chances of the model being returned to you if you apply an ID label. This is an AMA requirement and a simple and often free way to do this is with a magazine, and/or those return-address labels that come in the mail. Peel and stick and you’re good to go.
17 Popsicle Sticks, Coffee Stirrers & Toothpicks
Sometimes it takes the simplest thing to make a big difference. When it comes to an odd job or repair, a simple piece of wood is all you need. If you need to strengthen a broken foam wing, a small section from a popsicle stick inserted then glued in place with 5-minute epoxy will do the trick. How about mixing some epoxy to repair that wing? Hello, coffee stirrer! Or when trying to get a little dab of glue in a tight spot, a toothpick can be invaluable. There are many other quick repairs you can make if you have these low-buck (or even free) building and repair materials in your toolbox.
18 Magnetic Small Parts Holder
An easy way to keep small screws, nuts and washers from getting lost on your workbench is to add a stick-on magnetic strip to a plastic food tray. You could also use an old solid magnet to keep the metal parts from rolling around.
19 Workbench Organization
There’s nothing worse than having to stop working on your model to make a trip to the hobby shop to replace a lost screw or nut. To greatly speed up assembly of your model airplane, you need to stay organized. Use an old egg carton or a plastic container box to organize all the small parts and pieces that come with your model.
20 Easy Servo Grommet Installation
To properly install your servos in medium to large electric models, you should install the small brass eyelets that come with the servos. Without them installed, the servo attachment screws can crush the rubber grommets preventing them from isolating the servos from vibration. Use a long, small-diameter screwdriver to quickly press them (brim-side down) into place.