Power tools

Power tools are split into two types, hand-tools and stationary tools. Here I discuss both types. Before I start, though:

You can get good results with a cheap machine and a quality bit/blade, but not the other way around.

The cutting surface, whether it is on a saw blade, or on a drill-bit, is imperative to get a good finish.

Belt Sander

One of the first electrical tools you would want to buy is a belt sander. It is an incredibly useful machine. When cutting parts such as wing formers, it is quick and easy to cut them to the rough shape with a saw and then sand them to shape on the belt sander. I normally use grade 80 sand paper for plywood and grade 120 for sanding balsa. You can either use a table-top mounted sander, which is idea, but with a little ingenuity, it is also possible to use a normal belt-sander mounted to the table.

Drill Press

A drillpress is good for one thing only. Getting holes drilled perpendicular to the wood. Is it worth the money? You decide. If you decide to buy one, try it out in the shop. There are three things to look out for. 1) How easy is it to change speeds, 2) How wobbly is the drill-bit when drilling. The chuck must be absolutely stable and slop-free, and 3) How much motor power is available.I have had some Chinese table drill-presses that really sucked. Be careful when buying this one.

Dremmel/Proxxon tools

These days, a Dremmel-type tool or a Proxxon miniature drill is hard to beat. It can not only be used as a drill, but it can also get into tight spaces, as well as handle attachments like router bits and saw blades.

Band saw

A band saw is really nice to have. With a slim high-teeth-count band, you can cut wing-ribs and fuselage formers really close to the line, and sand the rest on a belt-sander. It is almost as fast as buying a wood-kit, when you include the shipping time. You can also cut aluminium with it, if you have a fine-toothed blade.

Fret Saw

Fret saws are used to cut out the insides of e.g. fuselage formers. They are also great at cutting lighting holes. I have put the fret saw in the electrical tools section of my website, but considering their price and how much the actually get used, a hand-tool fret saw is probably a better investment.

Table Saw

To modellers, a table saw is useful for ripping your own wood-strips, like fuselage stringers and wing spars. You can buy spruce strips at really low prices, so unless you make loads of models, or have other uses for a table saw, the investment may bot be worth it. The standard saw-blade that comes with the saw most likely has too few teeth per inch, so remember to include the price of a new saw-blade when buying the saw.

Mouse sander

Black and Decker calls their mouse sander a “Mouse Detail Sander”, but I have a fealing that Black and Decker’s idea of details is quite different to what we modellers call details. So, this sander is not required when sanding wood, but it can come in handy, however, when sanding down filler on a fibre-glassed fuselage or on glassed wings on really big models.

Lathe

The lathe is for metal work. You will most likely never need a wood-lather for building model aircraft. The lathe is quite an expense, and from my experience, 99% of modellers buy their metal parts, such as landing gears, from Robbart or some other landing-gear expert.

Router

The router works in conjunction with the metal lathe.

CNC Router

The CNC is a computer controlled router. With the right software it is possible to carve rather intricate fuselage parts. The CNC router is able to cut 3D pieces, as long as there are no under-cuts. An example is cutting fuselage halves from foam, which can then be used as molds for fibreglass lay-ups.

Laser cutter

The laser cutter is similar to a CNC Router, but it can only cut flat pieces of wood or acrylic. It can not cut 3D objects, and most hobbyist lasers really struggle with cutting metal. If you want to cut fuselage formers, wing profiles and other flat pieces of 3mm ply, then it is ideal. BE CAREFUL of the cheap Chinese laser cutters from e-bay. The software that comes with them is crap. Do not even try. I did, and IT DID NOT WORK – Full stop!

3D Printer

I have no experience with 3D printers, and I consider it kind of cheating, but they do produce stunningly detailed parts. They are mostly used for cockpit details, machine guns and other smallish plastic parts. One thing to note here is that that are pretty good at making plugs that can then be used for molding weird shapes like exhaust stacks. This machine will turn us all into computer nerds. If it goes mainstream, this might be the end of a lot of hobbies, including R/C scale modelling. 


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