Portable Building Boards and Modeling Pins

Portable Building Boards and Modeling Pins — by Jeff Nisley

This Tips and Techniques article deals with I think some new ideas concerning building boards and modeling pins. Here is the first of 4.

1. Portable Building Boards

One of the first necessities needed to be successful in building stick and tissue model aircraft is to have a good building board. Most would agree that ceiling tiles make great work surfaces that take pins to hold down the pieces of balsa wood as they are glued down.

modeling-pinBut the modeling pins—some call them grip pins (more on these below) that I am now using are too long to stay within the 5/8″ thick ceiling tile without protruding to the other side. (see photo at right). So I decided to double the thickness.

I decided to make 3 sizes so I glued them back to back with Elmer’s white glue (carpenters glue will work also) and weighted them down on a Formica counter top (A Granite counter top would be even better as far as flatness is concerned). To my amazement the resulting 1-1/4″ boards were incredibly strong (no warping), and I believe they will have no problem staying perfectly flat, no matter what surface they are set on—which wasn’t the case before.

building-board-dwg-reducedAt left is the sketch I used to make the different sized boards as shown at the top of this page. They were cut out of a single 2′ x 4′ ceiling tile.  The layout gives you two pieces of each size you need.

Please note the layout of the cuts on the drawing and also you need to make the cuts in a certain order to achieve the end result.

The boards ended up 1-1/4″ thick by 36″ x 8″, 24″ x 8″ and 16″ x 6″. These are perfect for me to spread out my work by working on a wing using the 36″ board, set it aside, work on the fuselage using the 24″ board, set it aside, then the stab with the 16″ board. This is assuming the plane I am working on will fit these sizes. You can make the boards any size. My point is that prior to these portable building boards, I did all my works on a single work area, so it was off limits until the part I was working on was finished. This now gives me more flexibility on what I now can work on, and when.

One thing I did do that doesn’t show in the photo above is that I did put clear plastic shipping/packaging tape on the edges of the boards so they don’t flake. If you have been around ceiling tiles you know what I mean.

2. “Modeling Pins” or “Grip Pins”


The next thing is modeling pins.  I urge you to try these as apposed to other pins you use to pin down the balsa parts of the model you are working on. The vintage ad at right for these (circa 1995) called them building pins.

You can only find them on the internet but there are several sources. I’ve found that they are sometimes hard to get as the websites that advertise them will suddenly be out of stock on them. So my advice is to go for it and order them if they are available and not wait. Search Google for “modeling pins”or “grip pins”.

Unlike the illustration at right I put a small piece of balsa, say 1/16″ thick between the pin and the wood to make sure I don’t dent the wood as seen in the color photo above.

3. Use of Hex Nuts to Force the ribs of your wing or stab to be at perfect right angles

The idea for this first tip came from an issue of Dispatch (our HAFFA newsletter) dated December, 2004.
hex bolts.jpgThe tip was from Don Slusarczyk and basically his idea was to use hex nuts to line up ribs and other parts of a wing while constructing it on a build board. He also suggested using straight edges where possible to keep things perfectly straight. At left is my first attempt at building a wing section from scratch, and I have found that it works quite well. I should also point out that various pieces of Legos could also be utilized in a similar matter as they have 90 degree sides as well. The hex nuts force the ribs to be at perfect right angles to the spars and with the use of the metal rulers my leading edge and trailing edge ended up very straight indeed. Not all wings are designed with straight lines as my P-30’s but the idea is to use straight edges where you can.

pin-caseAt right is the case that I keep my assortment of pins. I use the thumb tacks to hold down the wax paper that goes over the drawing to keep glue from sticking to the dwg. and I use “T” pins to hold down the Hex Bolts among other uses.. The case was a “find” at the Dollar Tree store. Look in the “tools” isle for a set of small screw drivers. I take the screw drivers out and use the case. For a dollar you can’t go wrong. Notice also that I used exlectrical tape to make separate compartments for the pins.

4. Source for Supplies—Habitat for Humanities Restore


One other “Tip” I’d like to share is that the Hex Bolts holding the ribs in place in the photo above were purchased at my local Habitat for Humanities Restore at quite a substantial discount. While I was there I also picked up a set of small shelves that were perfectly square and ideal for use on my build board to make sure the fuselage (or other parts) is straight and at 90 degrees. They are covered with plastic laminate so I believe glue sticking to laminate-blocksthem will not be an issue. You may not be able to find exactly what I happened to come across but if you look for items with a creative eye, you may find your own treasure-trove of useful items for doing modeling tasks.  I picked up a useful metal ruler for 25 cents—a real steal. For those looking for used ceiling tiles for use as a build board, they had a stack of them waiting for us bargain hunters.

If you have an idea for a Tip or Technique, let Jeff Nisley know at the monthly meeting, or email him at jeffnisley@ymail.com.