Tools are often underrated. Personally, when I got started with making things, I wanted to invest my cash into the more exciting things - motors, materials, sweet looking carbon-fibre propellors, all of that good stuff. I'm sure many can relate. However, I was quick to realise that surrounding yourself with the right implements and gadgets for building sure does make life a lot easier. Here are six great advanced tools for taking the experience of building RC aircraft to the next level.
Everyone knows we love a good glue gun here at Flite Test. They're so, so handy. Having the right one, though, is very important. My first glue gun was utterly incapable of delivering glue that would stay hot enough to make larger wings. Sometimes it's necessary to lay down meters of glue for one wing fold. If it dries too quickly, the wing won't fold and, very frustratingly, you'll probably have to cut out another wing to start over. If you need a better glue gun, we stock our favourite Adtech Pro200 Glue Gun on the FT Store along with some specially blended glue sticks that give you a longer working time. They're perfect for foam board.
These things are so convenient when you need to keep two surfaces touching for a long time! Having a few to hand can be a highly usable solution for glues that are not as fast drying as hot glue. They are especially suitable for balsa models, as you can see. Make sure you keep a collection of these in your toolbox, along with some vices, weights and elastic bands. Having these leaves your hands free to go and make a coffee or work on something else. It's all about efficiency folks!
Centre of Gravity Balancing Stand
Anyone who has built a flying model airplane will realise the importance of the, often illusive, centre of gravity. With smaller models, you can balance them on your fingers to find the CG, but this can often be inaccurate. With larger models, your fingers are not always strong enough! In either case, why not build yourself a simple balancing stand? Here's a 1-minute video to show you how easy it is.
Pushrods, pushrods, pushrods - they're sometimes a chore. They're even more of a chore if you don't have the right tools and no linkage stoppers. Josh Bixler prefers a 'hard link' between servos and control horns to using linkage stoppers anyway as there are fewer points of failure, so learning how to make z-bends in your wire is a helpful skill to have. If you're building a ton of planes, it's almost a requirement. You can use a set of ordinary pliers, but a special tool makes the process a whole lot quicker.
Again on the subject of efficiency and getting the job done quicker and easier, a jig to hold your wires when soldering removes much of the frustration that sometimes comes with complex wiring jobs. Here's one that we stock on our store that holds your wires. It also includes an LED and magnifying glass so you can see what's going on. Again, if you're building lots of planes and doing a lot of wiring setups for the power systems, it may be worth investing a little to help you out a lot.
If you're just getting into soldering, here's a short video we made a while ago to that covers soldering. It's not all that scary, I promise!
Balancing your propellors is very important. When you're scratch building RC airplanes, or just with aircraft in general, you never want to have a load of vibrations constantly shaking your airframe. Things can come loose and fail, especially motor mounts causing your plane to violently disassemble in mid-air. For a buttery smooth performance, I recommend that you pick up a magnetic prop balancer - it's the best way to ensure that you finish your plane right to get the best performance you can.
So, collecting an array of valuable tools that you can use every time you put together a new airplane is a great way to improve your experience with scratch building. It really does take it to the next level in multiple ways; not only will you have better-constructed aircraft, you'll have more fun.
Let us know about your favourite tool in the comments below!
Article by James Whomsley