Making RC model airplanes using light-weight foam boards can be a rewarding hobby. The foam-centered boards can be easily cut into complex shapes that can then be glued into the desired model. Paper-faced foam core boards can be substituted for the uncoated Depron type of board. The paper coating can easily be stripped from the foam but it is often better to leave the coating as it makes a great surface to paint onto.
The steps to making a foam model plane are as follows.
Firstly, obtain a design from a reputable designer. You can find a number of different designs available on the Internet or design your own airplane on a sheet of paper so that you can later transfer the design to the flat foam sheets. It helps when starting out to use a design that has been made and tested by other modelers as they will have figured out the balance and the cutting steps.
Secondly, transfer the design to the foam board sheet that you want to cut. The most popular thickness of sheet is quarter inch or 6mm. If you have down-loaded the design you can easily scale the pattern by printing out the design on your computer's printer. If you need to print the design on one large sheet you can always use the services of a print shop or office stationery supplier who provides a copy service.
The printed design can be fixed in place temporarily using spray adhesive applied to the back of the plans or by taping the sections down in the waste areas.
The third step is to carefully cut out the pieces of foam board using a sharp scalpel, craft knife or specialist foam board cutting tool. Each of the tools has different advantages and disadvantages.
The snap-off craft knife has great strength and is good for straight cutting but due to its blade width is not suited to cutting smaller curved shapes.
The scalpel is ideal for cutting smaller pieces and curves but it often requires frequent blade changes to keep it cutting cleanly. It can also be quite tiring to use due to the design of the handle and the pressure required to keep the blade on the line you want to cut.
Specialist tools, like Foamwerks range of cutters, have several advantages that include ergonomic handles which make them comfortable to use, correct blade angles that give clean cuts and they have different blades available for cutting intricate curves. Foamwerks tools also have adjustable depth settings making them useful for scoring operations as well a full cutting. They can also be coupled with a rail that has a guide track for straight cutting.
Once you have cut out all your pieces you can assemble them into your model airplane.
Gluing the sections together in sequence is made easier by using a hot glue gun. The glue is easily applied and quick to set making the assembly process faster than if you use a wet or contact type adhesive.
You can use rubber bands and various tapes to hold the sections in place.
Ailerons and flaps can be jointed using different tapes. Duct tape is strong and flexible for these applications.
Many designs require the addition of a carbon rod or tube to add strength across the wings. These rods can be taped and glued into place.
Most designs have areas within the fuselage to facilitate the installation of the control unit, battery pack and motor. Access to these areas is usually through sections that have been scored and hinged allowing you to fold back the opening to insert the components.
You can get the components as separate items from a modeling supplier or a simple way to obtain all the required items is to buy a complete kit. Sometimes purchasing a complete kit for making an RC plastic model airplane can be more economical than buying components individually. When you get a pre-assembled kit you can see how some of the controls are connected and this can save you time when trying to figure out how to do it yourself. It is a simple process to gut the model plane kit and transfer the necessary pieces to your foam plane.
When you get more serious you can purchase a better controller with more options and you can get higher end motors and battery packs but when you are starting out the pre-assembled kits can help make things easier.
A good tip is to test fly your model plane before applying any decorations to it as often your early efforts can result is crashes and failures which can totally or partially destroy your model. Once you have the design working and flying successfully you can decorate the foam board plane with acrylic paint and decals to suit.
Foam board makes an excellent economical modeling material that you can easily shape into different models.