8 Great Workshop Tips

Feb 05, 2014 13 Comments by
From pull-pull control systems to getting the most out of that bottle of CA, our team of editors and contributors has the answers you’re looking for. Here are 8 workshop tips that we hope will make your time in the shop more enjoyable and efficient. Enjoy!

Fine-Tuning Control Horns
When it comes to using a pull-pull control system, it is extremely important that you set up the geometry correctly. Measure the distance between the attachment points on the two-sided servo arm and make sure the distance between the attachment points on the horns on the control surface are the same. Oftentimes, standard control horns will be too short, so to solve the mismatch, use thin plywood shims between the control surface and the two horns. If the distances are not the same, the pull-pull cables will become slack on one side or the other as the servo moves the control surface.

Easy Markings
It has always been troublesome for me to use a stencil mask and spray paint to apply markings to my models. Paint always seeps under the edge and the markings don’t come out great. To improve the looks of my models, I have started to use a permanent marker and a reusable stencil to draw the outlines. Then I fill in the stenciled markings. This method works great on foam, Depron, film, plastic, and any other type of electric-powered model surface.

Heli Holder
When running up your helicopter, you need a sturdy and solid base. My solution was to bolt some metal brackets I had onto the top of my metal toolbox. Any metal bracket will work, as long as the bolts you use go around the skids to hold them in place. Tightening down the bolts secures the heli and you can safely check your heli’s blade tracking, check for vibrations, or whatever else you need to do to adjust your model. I also put extra bracing under the toolbox lid to ensure that vibration is eliminated. It works great!

Secure Bullet Connectors
When it comes to doing the hard wiring for large electric motors like this Hacker A60–16L, which powers my giant OV-10 Bronco twin, I don’t take any chances with bullet connectors. Even the best-performing model can have some vibration issues. Although bullet connectors are very tight fitting, I apply some heat-shrink tubing over the connectors. They hold everything securely and it’s easy to remove in case I need to do maintenance on the motors or the wiring. This will serve as cheap flight insurance!


Non-magnetic screws
When it comes time to install screws deep inside an airplane, we usually rely on a magnetic tip screwdriver. But often, the screws used to hold hardware in place may be made of non-ferrous metal. To help get the screw in its rightful place, try this trick. Use some tape, push the screw through it, and then place it on the end of the screwdriver. Next, fold the ends of the tape up against the screwdriver shaft and you’ve got a screw that won’t fall off. Simple and very easy.


Awl for one
For a quick way to make a hole for a screw in balsa, you can use a sharpened awl instead of a small drill bit. Simply push the awl straight into the wood and twist. This works equally as well with light ply. To strengthen the hole, thread the screw into place and then remove it. Add a drop or two of thin Zap CA glue and replace the screw.


Screwdriver I.D.
To help me find tools more quickly in my flightline toolbox, I use small, medium, and/or large white labels to mark the shafts of Phillips-head and common screwdrivers to identify their type and size in my electric flight box.


In a squeeze
CA glues are sensitive to moisture in the air and can thicken and/or harden in the bottle. To help prevent the glue from spoiling, I squeeze out the air before I replace the cap. This minimizes the amount of air/moisture in the bottle and helps the glue last longer.

Balsa USA, Debra Cleghorn, Zap Glue

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.

13 Responses to “8 Great Workshop Tips”

  1. Eric Brown says:

    While most of this is really good advice, I can’t imagine anyone recommending tying a heli down by its skids to a toolbox for a run-up. If you really must secure it to the ground, I would like to think there are lots of safer ways to do it, and even then it’s probably safer to just do a quick test-hop.

    Just my $0.02

  2. steve says:

    store your ca in the freezer and it will last indefinitely, I put it in about 4 layers of plastic zip lock bags

    • Nick Neville says:

      Don’t store in the freezer or frig after it has been opened or you will ruin the CA. Only store unopened bottles in the freezer.

      • Larry Henrickson says:

        I don’t know where you got that idea from, Nick. CA adhesives are all catalysed by water. The ability of air to hold water decreases as it gets colder, and below zero it can hold basically NO humidity. I store my CAs in the fridge and they have lasted right to the end of every bottle without being ruined. I guess they hadn’t read your opinion! I don’t even protect mine with ziplock bags – I WANT the dry air circulating around them ensuring no water is in contact with the CA.

      • pierson13Freddie Smith says:

        I must be confused now… I’ve tried to store CA, thick and thin, opened and sealed, in my freezer and ruined them all. At least two different brands in the stash too… Have I got a “wet” freezer? I’d love a definitive answer to the advice – any manufacturers reading these comments?

        • Debra Cleghorn says:

          From the Bob Smith Industries website:

          What is the best way to store CA glue? Should I keep open bottles in my freezer?
          – R. Pierce, Anderson, IN
          Exposure to heat and moisture are the two main factors in decreasing the shelf life of CA. If kept at normal room temperature (74°F) and humidity levels, BSI’s regular CAs will have a shelf life of over two years. Unopened bottles can be stored in a freezer, but this offers little or no advantage over storage in a refrigerator. CA bottles can be stored in a sealed container inside the refrigerator to isolate them from moisture. Adding a desiccant (silica gel) to the container can extend the life of the CA to over four years. Opened bottles that are frequently used should not be put into the fridge since condensation can occur inside the bottle. Accelerator should never be stored with CA.

  3. justinj3 says:

    That’s all good advice, thanks. The only thing I would like to contribute is that when you use tape as a stencil; if you spray the background color first it will bleed under the tape and blend in. Then you can simply spray your top color and it can’t bleed under the tape and will look much sharper.

  4. Nick says:

    On the markings once you have your outline mask it off with green frog tape available at all big box hardware stores. You wont get any bleeding

  5. Stan Kopreski says:

    All very good tips, EXCEPT for the heli hold down to check tracking and other things!!!
    That is just a MAJOR accident waiting to happen… also tying a heli down can induse ground resonance in the blink of an eye, and if the parts should miss you, all you will have left is a BROKEN heli…. In my book, DO NOT use this tip…
    Tracking can be checked a lot of other ways.. calipers to make pushrods accuratly, or in a hover.. but not tied down… PLEASE

  6. ROGER LINELLI says:

    what is a good not so expensive electric plane for pattern flying please?

  7. Brad Buschow says:

    Great stuff, the only thing I would add to squeezing the cyanoacrylate glue bottle, is point the tip0 end away from your face. Residue in the tip could come flying out, not fun in the eye. keep up the good work.

  8. José Rabello says:

    Great article, really, useful tips. About magnetic screwdrivers…

    Sometimes a magnetic screwdriver may trouble magnetic sensors. In some aerospace, UAV, uses, do not use them.

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