Design Class: Foam Planes from Balsa Plans

by FliteTest | October 8, 2018 | (10) Posted in How To

Got any traditional balsa wood plans around? You might be able to build a foam board model from them. Here's how. 

If you're wanting to design a model from scratch, you'll often have more chance of success if you start with an existing model. You can switch up one of our Flite Test designs super easily - but what if you want to go to the drawing board? If you've got some balsa plans in a draw somewhere, you can often use them to base a foam board model from. It's very simple to do, so let's show you.

You will need:

  • A balsa model plan
  • Foam board for the model itself
  • Cardstock for the templates
  • Paper for tracing the plans
  • Pens and pencils
  • A metal ruler
  • All the normal tools you'd find in an FT Crafty Kit
  • A bit of lateral thinking

Step 1: Identifying the plans

First, you're going to need to choose a good plan to work from. This is absolutely critical for the success of the project. Try and go for something a plan to build a relatively simple balsa wood model to start with. You don't want one with lots of rounded, complex shapes to reproduce - get one that's square with lots of straight lines. 

Step 2: Creating Templates

For this, you'll start by transferring the standard shapes of the aircraft to paper before making more rigid templates with the cardstock. Before you start, here's a video from Josh showing you how to make solid templates. 

  1. Grab some paper and lay it over the plan.
  2. Trace the main faces of the fuselage and wing. For the fuselage, create seperate top and side pieces. 
  3. Now trace these paper templates onto some cardstock for rigidity.
  4. Draw lines on these pieces to show where seams, score cuts, and removed foam will go. This is where the lateral thinking comes in. Try working to our A and B fold technique style. 

Step 3: Forming the model

Building a model from a plan that wasn't intended for foam board is a little different from assembling one of our speed build kits. It takes a little more fiddling around and 'making it up as you go'. As long as you have the basic shapes, you should be able to muddle through and assemble something that represents the original balsa plan airplane in foam board. 

Hey presto! It's an airplane. 

Step 4: Test Fly! 

All that's left is to unleash the aircraft let her go! What's great about building from balsa plans is that they will recommend what power choice you should go for and show you where the CG would be. This should all be similar for the foam board version of the model which makes it extremely easy for you to set up and get flying. Have fun with your new absolutely unique RC airplane!

Extra tips

  • Keep your templates - you can build another plane.
  • Share you templates online so others can build your design.

Will you try this idea? Let us know in the comments.

More from Design Class:

How to Sketch Airplane Ideas

Article by James Whomsley

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Hasiru on November 7, 2018

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Hasiru on November 7, 2018

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Phoenix 24 on November 7, 2018
Now I know what to do with some of the old plans my great grandpa gave me! Thank you for this!

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Mclags on November 8, 2018
Could have saved me a bunch of time on that H-1 guys hahahhaha.
Maybe A MkII in foamboard....
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drewbuckley on November 8, 2018
Also if anyone has a 3D Printer you can print out the time consuming Ply parts from the plan and just cover in balsa and film. Did a full Calmato 40 Sports low wing this way. Cheep and really just like the original balsa plane.
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Jackson T on November 8, 2018
Nice idea! What about foam plans to balsa planes?
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Chick on November 8, 2018
I've built several this way. I scan the balsa plan in sections on my printer in sections showing the views of what need to be cut in foam. These are standard 8 1/2 x 11 paper sheets. Tape them together as needed to have the entire part you need to copy such as the wing, side view of the fuselage, etc. Then I draw revisions as needed on these copies. Glue these to poster board with spray glue. Then you cut these out to make your patterns to be traced onto the foam board.
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rick_harriss on November 8, 2018
Aerofred - - is a great source of 1000's of down loadable plans.
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uberjay on November 8, 2018
I did something similar, only instead of manually tracing the plans onto poster board I redrew the original plans within my CAD / drafting software. Then you can print them or have them CNC cut for you. Did this with Phil Kraft's Ugly Stik plans that are floating around out there. Oh, I also scaled the plans down by 50% and made it out of EPP - great indoor flyer. ;-)
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Design Class: Foam Planes from Balsa Plans