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Installing Pinned Hinges — Workshop Tips for Builders

Installing Pinned Hinges — Workshop Tips for Builders

Making control surfaces move requires the installation of hinges. Many ARF and several basic kits today use the convenient and easy to install CA cloth hinges. But for this project being a fun fly plane (Florio Flyer 60)  and having a larger than stock engine, we want something more sturdy to stand up to the wear and tear and vibration, especailly in the tail. For this I rely on the pinned hinges from Du-Bro.

To install them you have to cut hinge slots in the edges of the control and flight surfaces and the easiest way to do this is with Du-Bro’s Hinge slot cutter tools. These are very easy to use and you can cut all the slots and insert all the hinges in an entire plane in less than 30 minutes. Here’s some of the details for the process.


You need few tools and supplies. The Du-Bro hinges and Hing Slot Cutting tools are available at most hobby shops. The glue I like the best to secure plastic pinned hinges is the product “Hinge Glue” from Pacer Zap Glue. The long skinny applicator tip makes getting the adhesive deep into the slots a piece of cake. But this is done of course, after the model has been covered. (Note: The Pacer Hinge Glue has been discontinued.) Pacer Formula 560 Canopy Glue is the same adhesive as Hinge Glue and makes a perfect substatute. It dries clear instead of yellow, but it works just as good…

First things first, use a marking pen or pencil and find the centerline of the control surfaces and determine the locations of the hinges. Use your finger tips and strike a centerline along the edge of the surface and then flip the surface around and check to make sure your line is centered. For a glow powered sport plane, I always uses at least 3 hinges per surface and most often 4. Two hinges is not enough as if one fails, you will lose the entire surface in flight.

Use the forked tool that’s the width for the hinges you are using (here the 1/2-inch hinge tool) and insert into the edge of the surface at your marked location. Use a rocking motion and slowly push the tool into the surface about 3/4 inch deep. Make sure to center the tool and keep it parallel to the surface. If it is angles, the ends will protrude out the side of the surface.


Clean out the waste material from the middle of the hinge slot with the clean out tool. This picks the material cleanly out with a sweeping motion and the width of the tool blade makes the slot perfect for the hinge to be glued into it.

Here you see the freshly cut slot and the leading edge slightly recessed (about 1/16 inch) with a hobby knife. This helps minimize the hinge gap between the mating surfaces.


Here you see the difference between the recessed hinge slots in the rudder (left) and the yet to be recessed hinge slots in the elevator (right). Having neat, tight fitting hingelines and slots both looks better and helps minimizes the chances of control surface flutter during high speed flight.


The same tools are used for the ailerons. Shown here is the hinge inserted and you can see that it protrudes through the leading edge strip. This is fine as there’s plenty of gluing surface covered to properly support the hinge. In larger planes where less than half of the hinge leaf is covered with balsa, you have to glue in additional material to form a deeper hinge slot pocket.


For hinges to operate sloothly and not bind, it is important to install all the hinges so they all fall in line with each other. This hinge alignment is especially important for longer surfaces like the ailerons on this fun fly airplane.

A helpful tip here is to apply a small amount of fine oil to the pin inside the barrel of the hinge to prevent glue from binding it up. Another technique is to use some patrolium jelly. Just make sure not to get any on the hinges tabs that are glued into the wood.

That’s it for today. Thanks for stopping by my workshop. Next time I will be assembling the control linkages and installing the control horns, then it will be time to prep the airframe for covering and finishing. Until then…. Build Something!!! 

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Updated: July 15, 2015 — 3:56 PM


Add a Comment
  1. Gentlemen,

    You have described a “tried and proven” method for making hinges do a great job. However, I noticed there was not a mention of the application of a VERY LIGHT OIL (3-in-1 or afterrun oil) applied TO ONLY THE HINGE LINE AND PINS. That will keep the glue from entering the pinned holes and hinges during the drying process. I usually go back after an hour and “move the surface and clean them again”. This makes the hinge move with less resistance which provide more actual torque to the movement and control of the surface, rather than “moving glue”.

  2. George Stated What I was going to state. Oil or Vaseline the Hinge pins.

  3. THanks for the reminder guys! I will add the comments to the article. Cheers,

  4. Is there a recommendation for a glue to be used in place of Pacer Hinge Glue which is no longer available?

    1. you can still get Zap Hing glue:

  5. Instead of using the Dubro tools, I use the Great Planes Slot Machine. Works very well for this and the CA type hinges. They have two different cutting blades depending on the type of hing your using..

  6. John can you tell me were you can purchase the Zap, Pacer hinge glue? I checked all three distributors and they indicated it was no longer available.

  7. For sports models up to 2 metre winspan, I use wide hinges cut from a plastic milk bottle with 3 tooth pick anchorages on each side. I also drill a 1/16″ (1.5mm) hole at each end of the hinge slot to prevent the balsa splitting. Works fine for me.. .

  8. And let’s not forget the old tried and true Baseball stitch hinges using the over and under figure 8 pattern to “Sew” the hinges together. I know a lot of Fun Fly Guys who use Sullivan Kevlar thread (used for Pull-pull) rudder control, and it is really really strong. A little biit of thin CA applied in the two end holes is all that’s needed to lock i into place. Not very attractive, but amazingly strong and very free moving.

  9. Mickey, I have sent an email to Frank Tiano to see about the availability of the Pacer brand glue. I will post what I find here.

  10. I warm up the vaseline in the cap til it’s liquid and dip only the hinge line part in It , wait til cool and wipe of excess.

    1. Mal Barker:
      Thanks for the tip on how to make the job of putting Vaseline on the hinge pin and ensuring that it penetrates the metal hinge pin and how you wait till it cools to re-solidify before wiping it off. I am assuming that a piece of cloth lightly dampened with high percentage (90+%) Isopropyl Alcohol to clean the hinge gluing surface after wiping it off initially would be the best way to ensure a clean gluing surface on the hinges. I feel that a damp cloth over a soaked cloth would probably work well without removing the Vaseline from the hinge pin. Again I am only assuming and would like some positive input with this. Thank you,

  11. I have a bag of Robart Hinges and the drill alignment jig. I have never used them yet, but considering using them in my next build or ARF Assembly in place of the included CA Hinges, which I do not trust with any of my recently purchased ARF Sporty and Fast Models. A retired Engineer and Modeling Friend of mine uses them in his larger scale models and glues them in with Gorilla Glue and has never had one come out. For some reason, many of the members in my club do not like them for some reason. With the jig, it seems like the centering and alignment with the hinge pins to be perpendicular with the control surface is solved and far less work. Although for real accuracy I have considered using my new drill press with a nice accurate drill press vice, but my friend just uses his rechargeable Dewalt Drill as he says the jig does the centering with the threaded in guide for the pin hinge size being used. I used this Dubro Hinge tool years back in some of my early models that I still fly and the hinges are not perfectly installed, nor am I satisfied with the center line of the control surfaces, which is probably why they do not fly the best, but they do fly just the same, just not as pleasing to me or to those watching, LOL. You can really notice it when doing a roll, it is a weird looking roll, so the alignment does really make a difference. Looking for quality hinge methods and quality hinges that last the life of the model that will not allow any control surface flutter, which is generally fatal to the model. If anyone can shed some light on the Robart Hinges, please email me at: Thank you

  12. Hey Dale. Robart hinges are great too. I use them all the time with my scale projects. The only thing I would recommend is using a section of sharpened brass tubing to cut/drill your hinge pockets. I find that they product a much cleaner hole… You can also use regular old elmers carpenter glue with sung fitting holes. The water in the glue swells the wood and really grabs the hinges, and gives you plenty of working time. Then when the surface is in place, you can just use a damp sponge (with water) to wipe away excess glue from the hinges.
    Have fun!

  13. Mickey Cohen, hey you are correct! The Hinge Glue has been discontinued due to poor sales… however Frank Tiano, says that the Formula 560 Canopy Glue from Pacer is exactly the same type of glue except it cures clear instead of the yellow color of the Hinge glue… I will update the text in the article.

  14. On some of my models, I have also “pinned” the hinges with toothpick stock to lock them in place after they are installed. Obviously, that is easier done before covering.

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