Portable Building Boards and Modeling Pins — A Well Deserved Update

Webmaster’s Note (JB): Please bear with me while I’am making changes to this web page this week while you are continuing to view it . . . 😉

Believe or not this crazy Web Page was the most viewed web page on our KCFreeFlight.org website last year in 2021—AND in the process it beat our HOME page by 93 visits !!!!

This web page made its debut in February of 2017 and because of the overwhelming popularity by you —our Global Viewers, was subsequently updated January of 2022 by KCFreeFlight.org Webmaster JB Nisley.
We hope you like the changes. Keep viewing and tell your friends. 😀

Well folks . . . . for the year, 2021, believe it or not—you, the visitors of this website, have made this page the NUMBER ONE viewed page for KCFreeFlight.org. The total views worldwide was an incredible 1459.

With this in mind, my webmaster, JB Nisley, felt the need to upgrade this page if so many of you were viewing it . . .

Here’s an endorsement from David Higgins of Everett, WA USA :

“If you want to build GREAT STICK AND TISSUE MODEL AIRPLANES using traditional and proven methods—then hands down this is the BEST SOLUTION for Portable Building Boards.”

Dave has been a builder of balsa models for over 40 years. He just so happens to have some very successful web pages of his own on this website.

Click banner or link below.

Check out Daves Glider Drawings to truly get a sense that he knows aeromodelling!

HI ! — Let me introduce MYSELF and my RED FACED FRIEND to my left.

It seems as though he must be embarrassed about something right now . . .
— I wonder if it was something I said? — 🙂
Anyway, I’m Ceceila the Ceiling Tile and the one you kinda know already is Marvin the Modeling Pin.
We’re here to assist you to make some building boards so you can get to building. Yea—the Fun Stuff!

Lets take a look at why in fact these crazy building boards seems to fit the bill
for most hobbyists in the Aeromodeling world . . . .

They certainly aren’t fancy or necessarily good looking. Below is the original image that JB used at the top of his 2017 webpage for the Building Boards and Modeling Pins.

Cutting Diagram with Sizes of Boards

Three (3) Reasons why these Easy to Make Building Boards are So Popular World Wide.

First is that that they are conveniently made from Ceiling Tiles that are readily available anywhere in the world (even in Longyearbyen) which is the world’s northernmost permanent settlement.) Sometimes you can find them inexpensively and individually priced at a Habitat ReStore near you. (At least in the United States anyway.)

At Restore you will often find sheets or pieces of Drywall also known as Sheetrock for dirt cheap prices. On the surface (no pun intended) this seems like a logical choice to build a model airplane on because it’s flat. But I would caution you here.

For most rubber powered airplane models less than 36″ wingspan (and even larger models explained below), it makes sense to stick with Ceiling Tiles for your choice of building board material. If you are building a one piece wing over 48” wide then yes, drywall is your answer. Keep in mind, however, that most of the time the plans call for building one half of the wing at a time so a 36” long building board in most cases works just fine. 🙂

The reasons for this is discussed in more detail in our Second Reason for using Ceiling Tiles—coming up next.

Second is that you can make three double thick flat building boards from one ceiling tile that fit various modeling tasks. The three sizes are 36”x 8”, 24”x 8” and 16”x 6”. While you are at it—make additional Boards for your buddies.

Back to the discussion of Drywall.

Drywall is a flat panel made of gypsum plaster sandwiched in between two sheets of thick paper. It seems to me that you end up pushing into something way harder than is necessary to hold down balsa.

I’ve been listening to John McAvoy’s Model Airplane Podcasts titled Free Flight Fanatic” which are chock-full of useful information.

In a recent podcast where he spoke about modeling tools, John made the comment in the podcast that he sometimes has to use a needle nose pliers to push the pins into his building board made of drywall at the base of the pin so as to not bend them. Imagine that!

I agree wholeheartedly with 99.99% of what he recommends EXCEPT for his use of Drywall as a building board! 🙂

And the Third reason is that I have found that ceiling tiles make the best material to push pins in. But you must make the effort to glue them face to face to make a LAMINATED PANEL or else there is no guarantee that theywill stay flat and true.

The two single boards are glued white face to white face (which is the acoustic rough side with the holes you don’t want) with white or clear glue, Elmer’s or I’ve been getting a similar 4 oz. bottle of Clear Glue (white of clear makes no diffrence) product similar to Elmer’s at the Dollar Tree stores called Jot Clear SJot Clear School Glue, 4-fl.oz. Bthat works just fine. Better yet, for maximum strength you can go with Titebond Carpenter’s Glue. In any case, heavily weigh the glued panels down on something really flat like a Formica (laminate) table top (or better yet a granite countertop) while its drying. Allow 48 hrs to set.

This process forces the boards to remain flat indefinitely because the warping forces are counter balanced, much like the counter-rotating left and right propellers while powering the flight of a Twin Pusher.)


This last link takes you to our History of HAFFA Part 1.

Second (2) is that you can make three double thick flat building boards from one ceiling tile that fit various modeling tasks. (Always a good thing.)

And Third (3), because the two single boards are glued white face to white face (which is the acoustic rough side with the holes you don’t want) with plain old white or clear glue (Elmer’s) or better yet Titebond Carpenter’s Glue and heavily weighted down on something really flat like a Formica (laminate) table top (or better yet a granite countertop) while its drying. (This process forces the boards to remain flat indefinitely because the warping forces are counter balanced, much like the counter-rotating left and right propellers while powering the flight of a Twin Pusher.) This last link takes you to our History of HAFFA Part 1.

Editors Note (JB): Not sure about that claim that it indefinitely stays flat but the ones I’ve been using since I put this page together in 2017 have held up nice and true—no worries about their flatness as far as I’m concerned. (I do keep them on a fairly flat shelf while not being used and not leaning up against something.) I’m extremely happy about that. “They continue to make all my balsa wood model airplane projects come out straight and true.”

So I’ve decided to keep the rest of the original page created in 2017 that follows pretty much intact. Why mess with success if you don’t need to?

—These three double thick portable building boards were made from just one ceiling tile.—

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-pin

But 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.

At 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.

This is a copy of the actual sketch for my original boards I made back in 2017. Certainly nothing fancy, but it works. Little did I know then that this webpage would become one of the most popular pages on KCFreeFlight.org !!! 😉
This is a copy of the actual sketch for my original boards I made back in 2017. Certainly nothing fancy, but it works. Little did I know then that this webpage would become one of the most popular pages on KCFreeFlight.org !!! 😉

At 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.

At 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.

binary comment—These three double thick portable building boards were made from just one ceiling tile.—

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”

modelers-building-pins-cartoon

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

hex bolts.jpg

The idea for this first tip came from an issue of Dispatch (our HAFFA newsletter) dated December, 2004.
The 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-case

At 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 electrical tape to make separate compartments for the pins.

4. Source for Supplies—Habitat for Humanities Restore

hex-bolts-in-bin
laminate-blocks
black-wing650

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 them 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.

This Hints’n Tips 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-pin

But 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-reduced
This is a copy of the actual sketch for my original boards I made.
little did I know that this webpage would become one of the most popular pages on KCFreeFlight

At 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.

 

binary comment
—These three double thick portable building boards were made from just one ceiling tile.—

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”

modelers-building-pins-cartoon

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

hex bolts.jpg

The idea for this first tip came from an issue of Dispatch (our HAFFA newsletter) dated December, 2004.
The 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-case

At 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 electrical tape to make separate compartments for the pins.

4. Source for Supplies—Habitat for Humanities Restore

hex-bolts-in-bin

laminate-blocks
black-wing650

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 them 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.