10 Top Shop Tips

10 Top Shop Tips

Here are a few of our favorite tips for building, staying organized and making the most out of everyday items. What are some of your go-to tips and tricks? Share them in the comments section!


Head over Heels

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | 10 Top Shop Tips

When it comes to mixing and applying epoxy glue, you can do the job much quicker if you keep your bottles upside down. Make a simple holding fixture from some scrap wood and place the bottles in holes drilled through the top shelf. If your workshop is not heated, use a heat gun or hair dryer to heat the bottles before squeezing the resin into a disposable mixing cup.

Using What’s at Hand

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | 10 Top Shop Tips

When you are in a pinch and need an extra set of hands or a holding jig to make a soldering job easier, try this. Use a set of vise grips to hold a pair of offset pliers as shown. The vise grips are heavy enough to make a stable base and a rubber band wrapped around the pliers handles allows them to clamp your work without slipping.

52 Squeegees

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | 10 Top Shop Tips

When it comes to spreading resin or epoxy glue, nothing beats a plastic laminated playing card. Cards are stiff enough to pull the resin, can bend to apply resin over rounded surface and are cheap enough to be disposable after each use. No cleanup needed!

Custom Tool Holder

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | 10 Top Shop Tips

Being organized at the workbench saves time and minimizes hangar rash when you accidentally place a wing of other unprotected part on top of something sharp. Cut a piece of 1-inch thick board to a 3-inch width and about 6 inches long. Route four grooves into the top surface and leave about a ¼-inch space between them. Attach small rubber cabinet-door pads to the bottom and you have a nice convenient place to hold your hobby knives, pencils or other round-handled tools so they won’t roll off your workbench. A painted surface is optional.

Internal switch

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | 10 Top Shop Tips

Here’s a simple way to keep the outside of your model looking clean and neat. Instead of cutting a large opening in the side of the fuselage and mounting the radio switch externally, mount the switch internally on a plywood tray and then attach a thin piece of music wire to it. Drill a hole in the switch toggle, and bend a 90-degree “L” into the end of the wire. Drill a small hole in the fuselage side, slip the wire into the hole in the switch toggle and use a lock collar to secure it. Add another 90-degree bend on the outer end of the wire and sliding the wire in and out to activate the switch will be easy.

Color coding

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | 10 Top Shop Tips

Here’s a trick for when you start flying more advanced airplanes, gliders or helicopters that require various auxiliary mixes and functions. Often it is necessary to find and activate various switches on your transmitter to control the functions of your model. By slipping short lengths of different colored fuel tubing over the switches, the search for that specific switch is much easier while dividing your attention between the switch and flying the model.

Straight surfaces

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | 10 Top Shop Tips

The best way to set up your model for maximum performance and response to control inputs is to have all your control surfaces centered at their neutral positions without the use of trim or subtrim adjustments using your programmable transmitter. I like to make mechanical adjustments when you are building or setting up a model. I use a piece of scrap balsa and a couple of clothespins to fix the surfaces to neutral. Now you can make up and install your linkages without guessing at the center position. Do this along with the servo powered with the receiver so it is also in neutral position.

No sand repair

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | 10 Top Shop Tips

Sooner or later, most fiberglass cowls crack or become damaged when the screw heads holding them in place chafe through and enlarge the holes. Clean and then lightly sand the damaged surface. Next, mix up a mixture of 20-minute epoxy and some microballoons, (or filler made from finely chopped-up fiberglass cloth) and then apply it to the damaged area. Let it fill up the crack or enlarged hole. Now place a piece of sandwich bag over both sides of the repair and squeegee the resin out until it is smooth. Let it dry overnight, drill a new hole and lightly sand with fine sandpaper. Shoot some spray paint on it and the repair will be almost impossible to see.


Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | 10 Top Shop Tips
Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | 10 Top Shop Tips

The best way to reach into model airplanes and install servo screws is with a magnetic screwdriver. Of course, you can also make your own simply by placing an inexpensive button magnet (available at RadioShack) on the side of your screwdriver. This way, the screw stays on the tip and you can guide it into the servo grommet and attachment hole. The magnets are also handy for gathering screws on the workbench so they don’t roll around and get lost.


Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | 10 Top Shop Tips

A friend of mine lost his plane recently because the tape on his elevator servo came loose during flight. When I use double-side foam servo tape (I use 3M attachment tape), I always clean the servo case with some rubbing alcohol and then apply some clear tape to the case before applying the foam tape. I also make sure the surface to which I stick the servo is clean for a proper bond. If your servo case is dirty and has leftover foam tape adhesive in it, be sure to clean it before reinstalling the servo. I have found the Crayon Away (available at Walmart) works great for removing that leftover tape residue.



  1. GREAT ARTICLE… keep them coming,,,

  2. I cut coffee creamer containers just below the necks. They make a perfect epoxy stand to hold them upside down.

  3. Good hint on recycling credit cards, but you can also collect and use a lot of gift cards. I use them to spread glue, stiffen a surface to mount control horns, motor mounts, and such things. It doesn’t seem to take long to collect too many if you have a habit of using gift cards for gas and shopping.

  4. If you are into making your own indoor, or small park sized foam RC airplanes, but need a thin, lightweight fuselage shell, consider recycling foam drink cups. I tend to laminate the thinner foam cups to stiffen the foam fuselage shell and the methods works well with urethane glue if you use it sparingly. The best detail about the process is the foam cups are already round and flexible. Cut off the bottom and you have a nice cone that will easily accept the shape of an aircraft fuselage framework.

  5. You should consider compiling all the tips into a booklet or book.

    1. I would buy that. Much simpler than cut and paste all the individual tips to an file.

    2. me three

  6. Whenever I read through tips and tricks like this I always learn something new and useful. Chances are good that something you’ve discovered to make building or organization better in your shop will also help someone else.
    Keep them coming!

  7. Another tip for using playing cards.
    They can be used as a 90 degree square complete with a relief cutout at the corner.
    Also, If you live in a state that has a casino, they render old cards useless by clipping a corner or drilling a hole through the pack. They are more than happy to give them away, and for our purposes, perfectly usable.
    FYI, by “old cards” I mean they may only be 2 days old, which is old in casino terms.

  8. I have been making paper clad foam boards for park flyers. I picked straightest dowels from hardware store and drew a Sharpie line on it with a straightedge. Then slowly used band saw to divide it end to end through the line. Sand it and glued to leading edge of wing. My friend uses whole dowel.
    I used clear Gorilla Glue.

  9. I keep a pad of 3″ X 3″ Post-It notes handy. When I need to mix some epoxy, I pull off a note, stick it to the workbench and mix away. It is easily transportable and the sticky holds it in place while I mix and work. When finished just throw away.

  10. Another tip for the internal on/off switch is to be sure that the switch is activated to the Off position with a Push on the wire instead of pulling to turn off, thinking of safety and quick activation in case of an emergency cutoff is m
    needed. Easier to Push Off than to Pull Off.

    1. I disagree with your reasoning because i used to set my switches up with in as off till i was at the field with a formula 1 and the person that was holding the plane ready to launch bumped the switch off as he let it go. No one hurt but cost me a little tony. Since that day always in is on

    2. I also use a red cloths pin clamped to it in the off position.

  11. Excellent comments fro everyone and advise.

    I have one better than the glut bottle upside down….. By two of these 90z square fancy soap dispensers for your bathrooms. Tell the girlfriend or wife to not toss after using. Rinse them out and you have a perfect epoxie pump kit….. Much like the west system. I keep refilling them too. Best is one press is always an equal amount. No mess. No need to even lift them off your table to use. Better too because those small red caps can come off and then say goodbye to your table and that epoxie part.

    You may use my name: Michael Reiman, Palm Beach, Florida

  12. For the switch, when u drill the hole in the fuselage, use a brass servo screw grommet and push it into the hole. The flat part on top will keep your covering from pulling up and the rest of it will keep the wire from wallowing out the hole over time. It also makes the hole look nice and clean.

  13. I learned 99% of my building and flying skills from Hints and tips from magazines. There is a wealth of information in these helpful ideas.

  14. I love that one of the steps to the “no sand” fiberglass cowl repair is to lightly sand the area.

  15. Only invert the epoxy bottles while you are actively using them. Otherwise, stored inverted long-term, they will leak out and create a huge mess – happens every time. Been there done that. I use empty 28 ounce tin cans to invert the epoxy bottles, only while I’m doing epoxy work. The cans “just” hold two of the standard sized epoxy bottles. Even if they leak during use, the mess stays inside the can, not on the shop table.

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