Balsa Building Basics

by FliteTest | May 13, 2015 | (9) Posted in How To

While passing through Dayton, Ohio Josh and Peter stopped by Radical RC and picked up some laser cut balsa build kits and wanted to go over a few basic tips to help get you started in balsa building.

Dave Thacker is the designer of the kits that Josh and Peter are building.

These balsa kits are laser cut and tabbed to fit precisely, making the build process go quickly.

Similar to building a foam board kit, you'll want to have a good work area to setup and build everything.

These Radical RC kits have some basic plans and parts lists. You'll want to read over the parts lists of plans like this and be sure that you have everything you need in your kit.

There are many types of balsa kits available but there are some basic building tips that are universal. First, double-check that all of your parts and pieces are in your kit and also be sure to prepare your work area.

Josh likes to use the boards from a drop ceiling for his balsa builds. They offer a cutting area as well as a place to pin down your balsa (if needed).

Wax paper makes a great surface to help keep glue from sticking to your work table.

Scratch the surface to see which side has the wax on it and place the wax face up.

Wax paper also offers a see-through layer for building kits that require you to align with paper plans.

There are many types of CA (Cyanoacrylate) glues to choose from, each offering thier own qualities. Unlike foam board and hot glue, balsa pieces need to fit tightly together (without gaps) in order for thin CA to adhere.
CLICK HERE for a full list of glue options.

Plastic Transfer Pipettes are a great tool to get glue in areas that are hard to reach with your glue bottle.

You will need to get a few of these as they will only be good for one use.

When getting your parts separated from the molds, it's a good idea to stack matching pieces together so they are easier to organize and assemble as you build.

Always be sure to fit your model together BEFORE glueing. 

Once you're happy with the fit of your pieces start glueing.

You'll want to sand your balsa frame before covering otherwise the sharp edges could pierce the film covering. When sanding your balsa kit be sure to sand with the edge grain so you don't break the glue connections.

These tips are just a few of the basics to get you started with your balsa builds. We encourage you to pick up a balsa kit and give it a try! Stay tuned for future episodes where we'll be diving in deeper to the build process and other types of kit building along with balsa scratch building!

Thanks for watching, be sure to let us know any tips that you might have by joining the discussion in the FORUM.




Jimsonite on May 17, 2015
i'm looking forward for more videos about balsa building! n1 work!
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durwin24 on May 13, 2015
Who saw the racoon??
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BirdMan9876 on May 16, 2015
I did!
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TimmyGT on May 13, 2015
I really want to try building one of these balsa kits but i'm a little intimidated....I think I'm just gonna order one and go for it, if it comes out terrible I'll just tape some small explosives to it and finish my balsa building career with a bang!!

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Guy123 on May 29, 2015
Hey Timmy. Don't be intimidated, it's not as hard as you think and can be really rewarding.

Why don't you start with a free flight balsa kit to get started? It means you don't need to worry about electronics and routing your cables and it takes up much less space.

Hope it goes well!

And explosions, always.
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c.sitas on May 13, 2015

If you take your time and identify all the pieces,try fit, and layout on the build plan, you can't miss. Treat it like a work of art .They are fairly tough,but not like foam. When you crash there is mostly a lot of work to get it back. Depends on how bad the crash was.Even so it'll be like comparing a Caddie to a VW. You'll have fun----for sure.

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Multiversal RC on May 14, 2015
Peter, what is that monster of a cargo plane that was in the last episode and had it's wing sticking out from behind the wall in this one. Are you putting yourself in this one?
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canuck on May 14, 2015
I started building with balsa in the late 60's when that was pretty much all there was. I can still remember the smell of dope we used to cover tissue paper. I would have like to have seen a build especially since the kits are even more straight forward. There's nothing like completing a balsa kit for a feeling of accomplishment. My first successful rc trainer was a Q-tee
plans still available. I would be a great electric 3 channel conversion.
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ScottyZ on May 15, 2015
So, I'm assuming you still have your "friend" in the ceiling? LOL cute.

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docmorty1 on May 26, 2015
T blocks that span 3 or more ribs make easy sanding , I use 2 pieces of scrap wood glued together to form a T , gluing one long edge to the middle of the other so that when you look at it from the end it looks like a T, glue sand paper , double side tape or adhesive side sand paper to the flat top side of the T, works great! use paper filter mask so you don't breath in the dust
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docmorty1 on May 26, 2015
I have repaired many / lots of balsa air planes ,. mostly for other fliers. and it seems to take more time as you have to asses / CRAP / the plane... I fixed a bi-wing and took it out to maden flight.. after chasing everyone on the field just trying to get control of the plane after take off, some how I landed it! CRAP, took off the wing covering at the field , what I found was that the wing spars where shattered just past where I could see with out uncovering the wings. the CRAP your plane is the best. have fun building!
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rinferno on May 14, 2015
My first airplane was a Sig Kadet from the seventies, I love this article because most kits today are arf or rtf kits. I enjoy building to this day, you get more satisfaction from building and covering your airplane from start to finish and choose how it will look. Even in a bad crash you can still rebuild them. I hope more people get into this, it may new to some, but old to others, but the satisfaction comes from you building it, hope to see more. Thanks to all at Flitetest
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BonBenE on May 16, 2015
Whats tha FliteTest-style canard-plane in the back. Is that an upcoming project?
That would be so awesome. I was thinking about building a canard-plane on my own for the last few weeks...Looking forward to it :-D
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legobo on December 12, 2015
its a shinden they're making
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docmorty1 on May 26, 2015
remember to use zip lock type baggies to keep all your parts together as you separate them into letter/number parts, it keep you from losing parts. and easier to clean up / put back in the bag / box for later building.
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BirdMan9876 on May 16, 2015
Hello Flite test, Iv'e looked on the Radical RC website, and to my disappointment it seems to be that you cannot order these kits online. Is this just a miscommunication, or do I have to drive to their shop to get it? Because if I can order one of these kits, That would be amazing!

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Noobi1951 on May 14, 2015
I'm really looking forward to future episodes!
I started out with balsa in the 50's, and U- control (long strings that allow you to get really dizzy), and later in the 80's (?) with an Electric Lady (one fatal flight). I was away from the hobby for years until finding Flight Test, and DTF. Yahoo, crashes no longer cost lots of money and time!
But now I'm afraid that you guys have done it to me again. I feel the draw of balsa once again. SHAME ON YOU ; ).
You really should do something about that furry beast in the ceiling, they can cause a real mess.
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oohawkoo on October 6, 2015
XD i love building with balsa ... but those free flight kits can be so fiddly and annoying :O specialy the ones with masses of stringers =/ .. for what ever reason no matter how careful i might be while building they almost always come out wrong for me T_T ... they so easy to build a twist into =/ then its almost impossible to get stright again ... well practice makes perfect so they say =3 ... i build em quite a lot lol working on a hawker hart atm ... and wouldnt you know its got a twist ! very slight in the fuse to the right T_T damn it !... oh well it does look nice tho
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Balsa Building Basics