DIY Balsa Rack

DIY Balsa Rack

Wayne McNab writes, “I am an organizing kind of guy. I hate messes even though I seem to be very good at generating them. Up until four years ago, I had been out of model aircraft for about 20 years. My memory was of a time when if you wanted to fly, you had to build. The kits were ‘die crushed’, and lots of times the parts had to be cut out of the sheet even though they were supposed to just push out. You could handle the sheets and the parts would stay attached. Enter laser cutting, that wonderful process, which along with CAD design has generated precision dimensioned and cut parts, and a sheet of parts that falls apart if you even so much as look at it. Compared to the historic option, I much prefer this, but I wanted a method where I could sort through sheets to look for specific parts without having  to reassemble the sheet.

My solution is very simple. Acquire some thin but stiff cardboard, 1/16 to 1/8 inch, and cut it the size of the balsa sheets. This can be acquired at more good craft stores. Putting this under each balsa sheet allows them to be moved around or stacked without disturbing the parts. With an additional piece on top of a bundle of sheets, and some elastic bands, becomes a very secure way to store and protect the sheets of the kit.

I also found that by building a dowel rack, the cardboard backed sheets can be stacked and accessed separately without having to sort through a bundle of sheets. Because there is a space between each sheet you can see the parts you are looking for.

This rack is very simple to make. Mine was made from standard 3/16- and 1/2-inch dowel, and a piece of pine shelving. Start by cutting 2 pieces of 1/2-inch dowel 19 1/2 inches long for the verticals, 28 pieces of 3/16-inch dowel 5 inches long for the horizontal racks, and a piece of 3/4-inch-thick pine shelving cut 7 x 14 inches for the base.

Each 1/2-inch vertical dowel will have 12 holes 3/16-inch diameter drilled into it, placed 1 1/2-inch apart. Place the first hole 1/2 inch from one end. All these holes are to be square to the dowel, without rotating the dowel while drilling otherwise at 3/16-inch racks will stick out at all angles. After drilling, press a rack dowel into each hole. These can be glued, but if the fit is tight, glue won’t be necessary. If you have taken care drilling, all 12 rack dowels will be inline.

Drill two 1/2-inch holes in the base 12 inches apart, 4 1/2 inches from the front edge. The 1/2-inchverticals fit into these. The verticals can be glued if you wish, but I made mine a snug fit so they can  be taken out and stored flat when I am not using the rack.

That’s it. A simple half hour project to neaten up your workspace. You will wonder what you ever did without it.”

Balsa Rack DIY


Updated: January 6, 2016 — 10:15 AM


  1. ‘Die crushed’…in all these years I’m surprised I’ve never heard that before! Thanks Wayne!

  2. A great idea.

  3. Nifty idea, Wayne! You gave me an idea for doing the same thing, but with a slight twist. I used your basic idea, except I used heavy, corrugated cardboard (cut from large boxes). One of the cardboard sheets for each “bundle” has a 3/4-inch by 2-inch tab on one end. These tabs are staggered much like the tabs on file folders. I write the sheet number (or name) on the tab, and just stack the rubber-banded bundles on a shelf by the work bench, leaving the tabs sticking out on the end that is easiest to see. If I need the rib sheet, I just locate that tab, and using the tab, I work that bundle out of the stack, pushing on other bundles so they remain in place. I already had the shelf in place, so I didn’t have to make a doweled rack. Works great and keeps things neat. Thanks Wayne.

  4. Great idea, could have used one on my last build

  5. Don’t they develop a bow? I put mine on a flat surface between the dowel rods..

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