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Old 03-27-2013, 06:38 PM   #1
Mysterious
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Default Fixing balsa damage, how do I do this?

Hey everyone, I have this balsa profile plane that I bought from a club member via my local hobby shop. My buddy who supposedly is more experience than me was helping me glue in the parts and he managed to break part of the frame when gluing in the servo on the wing. And now he has told me he does not want to continue working on it. Admittedly the balsa at that area is very thin and fragile, however I don't think he was being as careful as he should have been. Regardless, I'm now stuck with a broken plane that I either need to fix or sell to someone who can fix it and fly themselves.

So my question here is the following:

1)The spot it broke appears to be fairly flat, so I'm thinking maybe I could just buy some balsa and cut two matching squares or rectangles include them directly over that panel area for reinforcement. And just have the servo hole precut so that it would fit him properly. Is that probably the best route?

2) How do you cut balsa? What tool do you use?

3) What clue would be best to adhere the square to the existing balsa frame?

4) How thick of Balsa do I need?


I am a complete newbie to this, that is dealing with balsa planes, so talk to me like I'm four years old please. Thanks







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Old 03-27-2013, 07:30 PM   #2
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honestly I'd slap a flat piece on top and cut out what you need for the servo and drop it in. AS for thickness...what thickness do you have. It is a delicate area but very fixable and she will rise and fly again!!!!
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Old 03-27-2013, 07:51 PM   #3
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I'd do the job 'right'.
Cut out a panel of the covering between the first rib and where the wing joins the fuselage. You will then need a piece sheet of 1.5mm (1/16") balsa. Cut back the damaged wood with a modelling knife or razor blade to give some straight edges to join to. Cut and trim a piece of balsa to fit the missing rib part ensuring grain runs in the right direction. Best glue with something like Titebond wood glue which dries slow and so gives you time to adjust. Pin the part in place to allow the glue to set. Now cut and trim a piece to fill in the outer sheeting. you will need to cut out a (1/32" thick) plywood piece that glues under the sheeting to reinforce the area where the servo screws go. Glue all in place that in place and one set sand smooth and flush with adjoining wood with very fine sandpaper glued onto a flat piece of wood or a 'proper' sanding block.

It looks like there is probably plywood under the sheeting and your ham fisted friend has tried to cut out the servo hole to accommodate a larger servo... dont do that, get the right size servos!

Re-cover with clear film making the overlap over the rib so you cant see it.

take your time, it's not as hard as i might have made it sound.

Wish you lived close because i could sort it for you in half an hour.
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Old 03-27-2013, 08:33 PM   #4
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I think JPF has hit it right on. I would remove a good chunk of the outer sheeting to get a good working area for that rib. Then replace the section of sheeting using a solid gluing technique. Like the interlocking pannels used in the construction. You said you bought the plane at a LHS from a club member, they should be able to direct you to a local building guru for help.
I subscribe to a couple of woodworking magazines to build on my plane building techniques.

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Old 03-27-2013, 08:40 PM   #5
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Great advice....I guess it comes down to are you a builder or a flyer. I go for function not always best looking. Either way this is very fixable.
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Old 03-27-2013, 11:41 PM   #6
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Yep, The Plane is Ruined Send it to me LOL, Ok Just kidding JPF Gave you some great Advice, thats not a bad injury, just take your time, dont rush the job, make it perfect Take care and have fun, Chellie

I may be getting Older, But I Refuse to grow Up I am Having to much Fun to Grow Up LOL
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Old 03-28-2013, 01:11 AM   #7
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ok,here goes.........,m suggestion is the same as fishingfool. use minimal effort for a repair on a profile balsa flier. the reason is this....the air life of a shock flier can be relatively short compared to say a larger ,scale built model your totally in love with the way it looks every time she goes to the field.....

i have flown several profile birds and the desire to push them results in abuse and many repairs till they weigh to much to fly like they should.[3dx yak,precisonareobatic shockflyer both destroyed and replaced...lol]

so really my point is this,is this the prettiest plane in the hanger that you hope to preserve for ages to come..or is it going to be trashed from hard flying days of pushing the limits to learn areobatics. if it's the 1st ,take your time and do the very best repair to make her pretty again. if its the 2nd,fix her quick and fly the heck outa her cause shes bound for many more repairs.Attached Thumbnails





just my humble opinion. stu

narrow is the place to land...wide is the space to crash....choose the narrow way!
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Old 03-28-2013, 02:00 AM   #8
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Simplest fix is the right fix...

Slice the sheeting to give straight edges, removing broken wood. The forward end gets just sliced right off. Rear gets cut to appx 1/2 way across the lightening hole and straight up to meet the hole.

Just lay a piece of balsa stock alongside the broken rib(s) and carve to match the airfoil shape. Overlap the original rib by 1/4 inch at front and rear.

Lay in a new piece of balsa the same thickness to fill the removed sheeting. Trace the outline of the lightening hole on the opposite wing and restore to the original hole shape.

Cut out the servo mounting hole in a similar manner.

If the original had some form of doubler inside the wing skin to aid in supporting the servo then reinstall similar material. (not a bad idea to put a piece of popsicle stick to give the servo screws more "bite" if there was no doubler material.

Repair covering with clear packing tape or iron on matching covering.

Any lesser repair that would hold up would take just as long to complete... and probably add more weight.
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Old 03-28-2013, 02:30 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Mysterious View Post
Hey everyone, I have this balsa profile plane that I bought from a club member via my local hobby shop. My buddy who supposedly is more experience than me was helping me glue in the parts and he managed to break part of the frame when gluing in the servo on the wing. And now he has told me he does not want to continue working on it. Admittedly the balsa at that area is very thin and fragile, however I don't think he was being as careful as he should have been. Regardless, I'm now stuck with a broken plane that I either need to fix or sell to someone who can fix it and fly themselves.

So my question here is the following:

1)The spot it broke appears to be fairly flat, so I'm thinking maybe I could just buy some balsa and cut two matching squares or rectangles include them directly over that panel area for reinforcement. And just have the servo hole precut so that it would fit him properly. Is that probably the best route?

2) How do you cut balsa? What tool do you use?

3) What clue would be best to adhere the square to the existing balsa frame?

4) How thick of Balsa do I need?


I am a complete newbie to this, that is dealing with balsa planes, so talk to me like I'm four years old please. Thanks
For those of us that have repaired this type of damage to many times, repair of this model is fairly minor. Maybe an hour or two?

Everyone who responded in this thread have very good points that will work well. I'd like to add that you will need first make certain the covering is secure to the balsa areas around the busted part, the leading and trailing edge, up to the next adjacent rib. Use a covering iron for this purpose. Then with a very sharp knife, (ie new single edge razor blade) cut out the open covering between the busted area, and the next adjacent rib. If the covering is not first secured to the balsa around the edges of the panel, cutting out the center with the sharp knife will allow the covering on the ribs further out to sag also. Now you've got real problems.

Reason why? If you just remove the covering over the busted part, it will be much harder to get access to for the repair. And, when recovering the new covering over the unsupported existing covering, you will likely get wrinkles that can't be removed.

So, after the balsa is fixed, cut a new piece of covering that overlaps the balsa areas by perhaps 1/2 inch or so. Secure it with the covering iron around the edges first, then shrink down the center portion.

As for cutting balsa, if you've got a local hobby shop, look for one of those razor saws, along with its handle. These saws have very fine teeth, and will easily cut balsa. Also you will find a piece or three of sandpaper glued to a straight piece of wood useful for tweaking the balsa parts to an exact fit. I've picked up a sanding belt for a power belt sander, cut it in two, and glue it to a piece of cabinet grade Oak lumber from the local lumber yard. That will last for years.

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Old 03-28-2013, 03:40 AM   #10
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I'd just get some thin balsa and epoxy it underneath the missing peice and re-cover, or just put a peice of clear tape over it. Or you could also just cut a whole square section and glue it in and then cut your servo hole in.

Function over form.
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Old 03-28-2013, 08:37 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by hayofstacks View Post
Function over form.
I'll take both where I can

Doing the repair 'right' will take the model back to new condition and will take maybe an hour if you work slow. A sloppy lash up will take 15 minutes to do but it will look horrible forever.

For me it's well worth investing 45 minutes to do a job that I'm proud of. A sloppy job would just irritate me for all the time I had the model. But that's just me, some just want to get the model in the air as quickly as possible, and that's ok too.
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Old 03-29-2013, 01:36 AM   #12
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I personally don't care how I looks as long as it flys right. With such a small area damaged on the underside of the wing, I doubt anyone would ever notice.

It is nice having a good looking plane if you fly with other people though. I almost always get comments about how my repairs look. But if I make a repair, 90% of the time its at the feild. I've actually ripped my wing out and flattened the fuse when I hit hard one day doing something stupid. 20 minutes later with some ca and baking soda/salt flat dirt (yeah I know...) for filler, and I was back up flying for the rest of the day.
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Old 03-29-2013, 01:45 AM   #13
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The repair in question here... its just as easy to do it right as to do it sloppy.
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Old 03-29-2013, 03:06 AM   #14
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Default Fixing balsa damage, how do I do this?

Thanks for all the replies. I appreciate all the input. For some reason the balsa on the underside there where it broke is incredibly thin. Maybe 1/32. That seems extremely fragile for a spot that's good to get a lot of pull. I looked at the other side and it's extremely thin as well. I bought a sheet of 3/32 balsa. I think I'm going to cut a square or rectangle for both sides. It may not end up being the prettiest repair but I think putting a good rectangle or square with my servo whole precut for both sides to ensure balance over both wings is probably the best idea. I've read all the more exact and clean solutions you guys suggested. Obviously that would look better and probably be a little bit more aerodynamic but I'm not that skilled at this and this is my first repair. So I think I may play a little safe as I said And just go with the bigger square to ensure there's enough stability on both sides. I figure I will cut back with a razor or X-Acto knife the covering and then glue the parts on and then tape with hinged tape where the cuts were. But we'll see when I sit down and take a better look at it and try to think things out. I might go half-and-half I'm not sure. Thanks for all the replies, they are always appreciated. I think I'll look up some repair videos on YouTube to get an idea of what's involved.


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Old 03-29-2013, 03:36 AM   #15
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There is where my popsicle stick idea comes in...

INSIDE place popsicle stick rails from rib to rib under where the servo screws go through.

Its hidden. It adds very little weight and it adds tons of support for the servo

And its easy
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Old 04-25-2013, 09:24 PM   #16
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popsicle sticks good idea.

peal back and remove covering.
glue popsicle sticks as shown in red.


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Old 04-25-2013, 09:47 PM   #17
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Just 2 pieces of popsicle stick per aileron servo (as on left side of above picture)... repair the balsa and covering. It will be fine.
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Old 06-06-2013, 04:11 AM   #18
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i don't know but learn some from the thread
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Old 06-06-2013, 10:48 AM   #19
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As this is a 3D machine and weight is critical ... why not use the servo as the strongback - that is probably why the area is thin and apparently weak.

Basically ... thin balsa ONE side of damage only to sheet and also to rib, carve to shape .... use contact glue to fix or CA or wood glue (PVA) ....

Slot in servo ... dabs of hot glue round servo ... wet finger to smooth out.

I don't think screws were intended on this ?

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Old 06-06-2013, 12:57 PM   #20
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As the thread is a couple of months old it's almost certainly too late... But Nigel, yes, screws are intended. There are small 'patches' of thin plywood glued to the back of the balsa to take the screws, pretty much a universal arrangement on small to medium balsa 3D models.

What's almost certainly happened to the model here is some Neanderthal has decided that rather than drill pilot holes (far too much effort) for the screws he's just try forcing them in using brute force and ignorance.

Brute force and ignorance plus lightweight balsa 3D models don’t sit well together.
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Old 06-06-2013, 06:11 PM   #21
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I think its fixed or crashed already but i like watching the thread anyways.lol joe
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