They’re handy, but dangerous! The cutoff wheels on the ends can do most of
what those three saw blades do, with less risk of bloodshed.
Even a simple Dime Scale model requires many tools,
several chemical products, and careful attention to safety.
Do you build model airplanes
or simply fly RC?
There was once a time when you had to make your aircraft if you wanted to fly. Turning balsa sticks,
foam, wire, and covering material into
something that can take to the sky (or in
my case, trundle along the ground) was
the heart of our sport.
These days, with so many terrific RTF
models available, a pilot can choose
to fly without ever building a model.
Although a growing number of us do it
that way, I can’t help but feel sorry for
them because I think they’re missing
out on fun. For me, nothing beats the
satisfaction of choosing and building
my own miniature flying machine from
I recently helped the Santa Fe Dam
RC Modelers present an aeromodeling
demonstration at a school. The club
members did the outdoor RC flying and
my son, Jeff, and I flew indoor models.
There were choppers, quadcopters, fixed-wing models, and an ornithopter.
We had an attentive audience of
happy, interested, and nice kids, but
their education lacks in the knowledge
that modeling can provide. They were
baffled by the complex technology of a
simple slip-together balsa glider. These
youngsters had never before faced
anything so manually challenging.
What a shame for this generation of
children! The fine motor skills that they
could develop while building an airplane
or helicopter would come in handy
What is to
become of our
if the kids
how to build
and fly model
and look what happened to those
civilizations! Okay, bad example.
Making models brings its own set
of dangers and cautions. But make no
mistake, the hazards are mostly minor
and are nothing compared to the joys of
constructing one’s own flying machine.
Building a model requires equipment
and many different skills. Acquiring these
abilities and learning to use the tools are
part of the fun. Getting hurt by them is
That’s enough philosophy! It’s time
for some solid safety advice. I’m all about
preventing bloodshed, so my first tip is
to make sure no one else is home when
you sneak that big, new kit box into the
house. (If you’re single, never mind.)
When past that dangerous moment,
there are two
basic areas of
of a model
decades. Nearly every model was made
from this special lightweight wood until
foam came along. Balsa splinters are rare,
and you’re not likely to be crushed under
a giant balsa beam. The same goes for
foam. Our worries are more related to
the adhesives and paints we put on our
These days we have a variety of
finishes for our models, some of which
were not originally intended for this use.
This is called “off-label use” and modelers
are famous for doing it.
It is believed that our old-fashioned
dope was originally intended as coffin
varnish, which is appropriate for me
because many of my models are doomed
from the start.
Combining random chemicals is a
renowned recipe for trouble. Products
that are harmless individually might react
with one another and cause problems.
This is the downside of off-label usage,
because the manufacturers cannot
predict what crazy things people will try.
Modelers are often on the cutting edge
of trying crazy things. Some finishes can
be used on top of one another, and others
cannot. The old advice to “test on an
101 Model Aviation OC TOBER 2013 www.ModelAviation.com
SAFETY COMES FIRST