Creating Balsa Sheeting (sheeting wings and fuselage)

Creating the balsa planks necessary to sheet a rc airplane can be a challenge to many people, but if you have the right method, it really is quite simple and actually a lot of fun. I am going to show you the process I use to create the sheeting (planks) for my beechcraft bonanza from TopFlite.  I think you will agree after looking over this process, that there really is nothing to it. Of course, I would recommend practicing with some scrap pieces before attempting to create them for your actual model airplane. So let's go ahead and look at the steps to create balsa sheeting for an radio control airplane.

Balsa Sheeting For RC Planes…Easy as 1,2,3,4,5,6

Step 1. Use a smooth even surface to lie your planks on before you begin. I like to use a glass table, but even a flat wood board will suffice, just make sure that it is large enough to accommodate your sheets of balsa wood. As you can see from the photo below, this is where I make my balsa sheeting.

Glass Table For Building RC Planes

Step 2. I used two 3 inch x 36 inch balsa sheets that will be glued together to make the final 6 inch wide planks that will be used to create the wing center section. When you are preparing to make sheeting, whether for the wing or the fuselage of your model airplane,  you have to take the time to trim the edges of the balsa sheets that will be joined. You will never find any wood that you buy to be true and straight. So never assume you can just glue two pieces together and it will turn out just fine.

3 inch x 36 inch balsa sheets marked and prepared for gluing together.

Step 3. Trimming the balsa sheets in preparation for your rc airplanes skin is an important step, don't skip it. Probably one of the easiest methods for creating straight and true edges is to use a straight edge and a hobby knife to trim the balsa straight. As you can see in the pictures, I like to use a metal yardstick and clamps to hold everhthing secure to my glass table (see the pictures below).

Joining edges must be trued and staight before gluing togetheruse a hobby knife to true the joining edge of each balsa sheet

Step 4. Creating balsa sheets for an rc airplane is seen as a daunting task to many model airplane builders, but following these steps can make it really simple, just as easy as gluing two pieces of balsa together. But before we get to that step, we need to do this step. Now we use masking tape to pull and hold the two balsa sheets together. Building rc airplanes uses a lot of ordinary household items to build them and I say this because some people think you need to use fancy tools to build really amazing rc airplanes. You don't and I know this from building radio control airplanes for almost 30 years. So let's continue with taping the two balsa sheets  together. You have to use a bit of pulling when you tape the  sheets. What I mean by this is to place the tape on one sheet and pull the tape slightly as you put the tape onto the other balsa sheet. You will know you have done it correctly when you see the balsa sheets bow (as seen in the pictures).

Tape the two balsa sheets together to prepare for gluing the seam.Side view of taped balsa sheets. Notice the bow in the sheeting.

Building rc airplanes requires a bag of tricks that you develop over time in order to finish a model, but the good news is that you can build a great model airplane even after your first attempt.

Wing Ribs Glued To Main Spar

I am glad that I have the magnetic building board to build my model airplane with. It really make a difference when it comes to building accurately. I really believe that it makes the best building scenario for rc airplane building. You are essentially creating custom fixtures every time you build a new model. This is really cool.

So at present, I have finished up gluing the doublers

Building Center Section Of RC Plane Wing

Building any portion of an rc airplane requires a proper setup, as you have seen in the previous post (leveling rc plane building board). If you are not leveling your building surface before building your rc planes, then don’t be surprised when your plane is warped and difficult to fly…

Ok, back to the details of the construction of the wing center section. I began with laying the plans on the building board (remember that for constucting the wing center section of my rc plane, I am using a magnetic building board).

The following video details how to protect and cover your plans, like most modelers, when I started, I did not cover them. The first time that I glued the plans to my model, was when I realized that it was not such a good idea when building rc planes. Soon after that I started covering them with wax paper (thanks dad). Now, I know that many of you still like to use good ol’ wax paper, but keep an open mind and check out the video.


Building a straight and true center section for a rc airplane is all about proper preparation. Usually when I remove the ribs from the die cut sheets, I take the time to sand each one (of course do not alter the airfoil shape). In the early days I used to just remove them from the die cut sheet and just start building a part for one of my model planes. Now I know that just because they were die cut parts, doesn’t mean they are free from rough edges and what not. So clean up those edges first, alright.

As you can see in the picture set, I have the ribs removed and I am ready to glue on the doublers for added strength to the wing ribs that will be holding the wing to the fuselage in my beechcraft bonanza model plane.

label top and bottom spars to avoid using wrong one on plans for rc airplaneby labeling the ribs for the model airplane, I avoid making simple mistakesgluing dowel doubler onto the wing ribs for the wing center section

using thick CA glue to adhere trailing edge doubler to wing ribsecuring basswood center spar to rc plane plans with magnetswing bolt plate is where we will screw nylon bolt to secure wing to fuselage

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