20 Field & Bench Tips

Dec 09, 2013 14 Comments by

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. Here’s 20 popular tips that will make your hobby time easier and more successful. Be sure to leave comments about your favorite field or bench trick or tip.


1 Charged Battery ID 20 Field & Bench Tips
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 Charged Battery ID
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
Propeller Safety Tips
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 Small Parts Sticker
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 Emergency Screwdriver
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 Throw-away Epoxy Mixing Pad 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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.

Featured News, Great Planes, Horizon Hobby, How-tos

About the author

Model Airplane News is the #1 RC aircraft magazine. More readers trust Model Airplane News to provide them with the latest information and newest product reviews than any other RC publication. Published by Air Age Media, the largest multi-media company dedicated to enthusiasts of radio-control planes, helicopters, cars and boats, aviation and diecast collecting, Model Airplane News is distributed around the world.

14 Responses to “20 Field & Bench Tips”

  1. Paul says:

    We need more of these type of articles. Good job.!!!

  2. Larry says:

    Good tips been using most of them for years.

  3. allen hess says:

    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.

  4. Dave B says:

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

  5. wayne machado says:

    A rubber band around a charged battery is an easy reminder… remove it when you use the battery-replace it after charging.

    An artist pallet knife is great for mixing and applying epoxy… forget to clean it after using — just sand it clean

  6. Allen Barbée says:

    I had a bad issue using a pine board because it warps after a while with changing humidity and heat. The Guillows or GP balsa boards are better.

  7. castor sanche says:

    thanks for help me on tricks and save my airplane and my time

  8. David says:

    I use a mini screw driver (think eye glasses repair) to install servo grommets and eyes. Thread the brass onto the screw driver first then the grommet (but not onto the brass eyelet). Then hold the screw driver inverted so the parts don’t fall off and use the screwdriver to work the rubber grommet onto the servo then push in the brass eyelet all in one easy motion. With a little practice you can easily put all 4 eyelets and grommets on a servo in less than a minute.

  9. David says:

    To keep track of my charged batteries, I just put a velcro dot ( glued to a small flat piece of plastic labeled “Charged”) on the velcro patch used to hold the battery onto the model. As I use the batteries I place the removed “dots” on my field box to keep track of how many I have left to use.

  10. David says:

    I put a cheap white bed sheet under my build area to help keep the area clean and glue free and aid in finding dropped items. If I can’t find that small item quickly, I just pick up the sheet by the corners and fold it in half and dump the contents into a bucket…much easier.

  11. Jack Abel says:

    A 3/4 or 1″ thick sheet of styrofoam makes a great building board. You can usually find them 18-20″ wide and 4′ long. Great for sticking pins in. Note, however, cover your plans with waxed paper. Some glues will eat into the styrofoam

  12. William Davisson says:

    I love tips and tricks for building rc airplanes. I would like to see a book or magazine devoted to it

  13. Frank Foti says:

    Great ideas!. This should be a regular feature. Solicited ideas, with name credited ,will also stimulate solicitations.

  14. Gord Grant says:

    Drill various sized holes in a block of wood (about 1 1/2″ thick) that can be used to hold a variety of screwdrivers, hex drivers, hobby knives, and a host of other hand tools…..much easier to find quickly as opposed to keeping in a tool box!
    Keep up the great work! We need more of these ideas!

Copyright © Air Age Media. All rights reserved.