8 Great Shop Tips

Nov 25, 2013 6 Comments by

We have a better idea than fighting the crowd at the mall this holiday weekend … spend some time in your workshop! With the cold weather officially here (at least for most of the country), it’s time to get back to building and repairing. To help with that, here are eight workshop tips that we hope will make your life easier.


I use this method to help hold onto my canopies. I take an 1/8-inch-thick piece of rubber sheet, cut just a small piece to fit onto the back side of the blind nut, and carefully glue it in place with CA glue. Once it is trimmed to fit, I drill a 1/16-inch-diameter hole from the front side through the rubber. When the canopy screw goes through the back side of the blind nut, the rubber acts like a nylon locknut. This keeps the screws from backing out and getting lost, saving me time and money.


I drive a van and found it gets very crowded when carrying multiple planes. I devised this wing rack using PVC pipes with foam covering and simple coat hangers. Bend the coat hangers to attach them to each end of the pipe, and each end of the coat hanger clips to each side of the vehicle. The second pipe is attached to the hand-hold assist on the second row of seats. To prevent swaying of the two racks, I attached a string to each end of the front pipes, and fashioned a hook and anchored it to the bottom rod of the head rest. The rear pipe has string attached to each end and attached to suction cups on the side window. With this setup I can carry three wings, which leaves the floor of the van free for the main body of the planes plus field equipment.


Here is the way I use my old credit cards and they fill a slot (no pun intended); I thought of this while building a wing. The jig I was using didn’t have slots deep enough to provide a good base to keep the ribs at 90 degrees. I was getting ready to destroy the credit card and decided to cut a slot in the card. The card is still destroyed, and I now have a great building jig.


Those few of us who still build from plans or kits have long known that wax paper is less than satisfactory protection of plans when gluing with CA. Here is my solution. Try using the backing sheets from your covering film. CA absolutely will not stick to this stuff. Try to save the large pieces from covering wing panels and use it to protect your plans. Save money while recycling.



Tired of your drab old cockpit? Spruce it up with a photo. You can get pictures of aircraft cockpits from magazines, books, or even online. Just take a picture with your digital camera, and edit it with your photo program to the correct size and shape. Print the picture on photo paper, and cut it to fit your plane’s cockpit. Paint the edges with a flat color that matches the background, drop your pilot in, and you’re all set.


Straightedge rulers tend to slide when you run a knife along them to strip balsa or make cuts in covering. To help guide your blade with more authority, try using an office supply cork-backed stainless steel ruler. The cork will grip slippery surfaces and create a straight cut on your balsa or covering. The cool thing is that the ruler will flex and follow the contour of a wing or fuselages. The cork-backed ruler can also be used for making panel lines one your plane because of its flexibility and straight edge.



Applying individual letters and number can be tedious. One way to make it easier is to first lay down a strip of low-tack masking tape (a little longer than what you need), sticky side up. Remove the figures one at a time from their backing and lay on the tape. Use one edge of the masking tape to keep them aligned straight so all you have to worry about is the spacing between letters. Apply the masking tape in place on the model and use your fingers to apply pressure to the letters or numbers in order to stick them down on the surface. Then, just remove the masking tape.



Keeping track of your hex wrenches or ball drivers can sometimes be a headache. You can spend some time looking for the size you need, and how would you know if one was missing? I took a short length of 2×4 and drilled holes large enough to stand each driver or wrench in it. Now I can easily find the one I need, and if any are missing, I know right away.

Great Planes, How-tos

About the author

Model Airplane News Executive editor. About me: I’m a publishing professional who has a passion for aviation and RC, and I love creating issues, books and a website that help RC pilots to enjoy this sport even more. I admire scale aircraft and enjoy the convenience of flying smaller electrics.

6 Responses to “8 Great Shop Tips”

  1. Larry Henrickson says:

    Gold as always, Debra! When will we see an article about YOU? I’m intrigued to know more about a leading lady in RC! I’m sure many would agree with me.

  2. Pete Lehotsky says:

    Love all these tips, especially the cockpit picture. You have solved my problem of sprucing up the cockpit without paying an arm and leg, for it. The “Tips section” is always the first selection in any magazine or newsletter like yours that I go to. Thank you for publishing these.

  3. Dave Bokus says:

    Really like your Shop tips Thanks

  4. Mike says:

    Sand the magnetic strip off the old credit card for security or just use redeemed gift cards! Now I know I can use them for something besides finishing epoxy squeegees.

  5. Roberto Guzman C. says:

    Good shop tips. I’ll use them in my next model airplane construction. I am a Mexican Aeronautical engineer and a teacher in the Mexican National Polytechnic Institute and have been a model builder and flyer since 1939. I teach Aerodynamics and make my engineering students design and build models, starting with hand launch gliders, rubber powered free flight models, C/L rat racers and C/L combat models,and if time permits also R/C gliders. I organize contests for each of the models they build, and add points to their grades, according to the model built, and the first three places in each contest they enter. Many of them continue building models after finishing their career as Engineers. Congrats on your tips. Keep up the good work. My e-mail address is rguzmanc@hotmail.com , if you are interested in contacting me.
    Roberto Guzman.

  6. Harry says:

    Great Ideas …. Keep them comin’ … Thanks

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