Here's a short tutorial showing you how to make some great little chuck gliders from balsa wood in just 5 minutes!
Gliders are great to experiment with. They can be made cheaply, with hardly any material, and can teach you a lot about basic aerodynamics. You can make them with your friends and fly them wherever and whenever! There are no electronics - it's just the bare minimum needed for flight. Let's make one.
- Balsa sheet
- 1x BBQ Skewer
- 1x nail or screw
- Hot Glue Gun
- Hobby Knife
Building a Glider
Start by finding some thin balsa sheet for your wings. You'll be using a BBQ skewer as the fuselage of you glider, so find this too.
Measure out the shape of your wings. Make sure that your wings are about 25% longer than your skewer. I decided to make mine 1.5" thick at the centre.
Draw out one half of the wing at a time to be joined together later. You can hand draw the outer curves of the wing to your own design if desired. If not, just go for a simple squared wingtip.
Cut out your wing carefully and then sand it into shape. Make sure to taper the leading and trailing edges so that it cuts through the air cleanly.
Go ahead and cut out another wing by tracing around the first.
Glue these two together and stick a strip of balsa on top for extra strength. You'll want to make sure you have some dihedral in your wings to make them self-level. Without this, the aircraft will probably be unstable during flight. Use some extra skewers or some spare material to prop up each wing evenly until the glue hardens.
Moving onto the tail, make a judgment about how big you want your tail to be based on your wingspan. To keep things simple, you can make a V-tail by cutting out just two pieces of balsa.
Stick them to the BBQ skewer at roughly 90° of each other.
Next, attach the wings. Just use a small amount of hot glue. It helps to have a small cutting mat (like the one pictured below) to make sure that everything is aligned.
The final step is to balance your glider. Use a small nail and attach it loosely with tape to the nose. After finding the correct CG under the front of the wing, you can attach it more permanently in place. Moving this weight backward and forward can govern the flight path of your model.
These things make for a lot of fun! All you have to do is give it a nice big toss forwards and it will soar away. You can simply hand launch them or try something more complicated such as dropping them from an RC aircraft.
You can experiment with different wing sizes, shapes and tail designs to see what's the furthest you can make your glider travel. Customise them to your heart's desire and see what happens. Why not see how a swept wing performs? All you'll need are more offcuts of material!
Article by James Whomsley
Editor of FliteTest.com