power tools for plane building - RC Groups
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Apr 29, 2012, 04:42 AM
wrong descision, wrong time

power tools for plane building

I am getting ready to move into our new house, and with that I will be gaining a workshop

Because of this, I'd like to add some power tools to my workshop to help with building projects. To date I've built mainly smaller foam planes from 1/4" foam board using a sanding block and xacto knife. Because I'll now have the room, I'd like to scale up

I have been kicking around the idea of getting a scroll saw or small band saw, and a bench sander. My dad had a combination bench sander (like this one: http://www.harborfreight.com/4-inch-...der-97181.html) and we used it constantly for all kinds of building projects. My question comes into which kind of saw I should get. I've used both scroll and band saws growing up, but not sure which would be the handiest for building R/C aircraft. Any and all thoughts are welcome on this, along with any other suggestions for tools I should be looking at.

I'll probably continue building with the foam board, but I'd like to build a balsa model here soon after I get my workbench built.

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Apr 29, 2012, 07:22 AM
Registered User
DeeBee1's Avatar
Hi Heath,

You're going to get a million different opinions, but here's what works for me. Some people will tell you to buy small general purpose power tools that can also be used for other jobs, such as repair work round the house etc. Personally, I tried this but found these types of tools a little inaccurate for model building and so I purchased a Proxxon/Micromark mini bandsaw and a Proxxon/Micromark mini drill press:



I've found these to be the right level of power and accuracy for model building. I didn't bother with a bench sander as I would have only used it for bevelling parts, which I can do with the bandsaw. Similarly, the band saw blade is narrow enough to do some of the cutting that a scroll saw would do.

I had a scroll saw, but hardly used it and sold it in the end (I also found it hard to use, but probably didn't practice enough!). I also tried a mini table saw, but again found that the bandsaw could do most of the jobs that I was doing on the table saw, although if you are cutting wide sheets of material, a table saw might be an option worth exploring.


Good luck! Let us know what you decide.
Last edited by DeeBee1; May 01, 2012 at 03:48 AM. Reason: Corrected spelling
Apr 29, 2012, 12:36 PM
Registered User
I have a scroll saw a band saw a drill press and a disc sander. I have been scratch building for quite a few years, I have need most all of them during my builds. When I started out I had a band saw and a disc sander, And I was able to build OK. then when I got my band saw & drill press, it seems like my builds from then on went a little easier. If I was starting today I would get a drill press and a band saw.
Just my two cents
Apr 29, 2012, 09:38 PM
Art Schmitz
6" bench vise, jig saw, drill press, disc sander/grinding wheel, 3/8 cordless drill, 3/8 110 drill,
and several soldering irons. Dremel tool.

Usual hand tools...common, duck bill, and needle nose pliers, many different sized screw drivers of each type, Exacto carving set with three extra #11 set ups. Aluminum yard stick, triangles, 12"x36" balsa building board. Three sizes of T pins.
Heat gun and Coverite sealing iron.
Apr 29, 2012, 10:44 PM
Registered User
Nergall's Avatar
Drill press first. It seems like a tool you'd rarely use until you have one. Once you have one, you wonder how other people live without one?

Scroll saw or band saw if you plan to cut parts. (Do you plan build? Kit bash? If so, you'll want one of those.)

I have a cheap Harbor Freight sander, and not knocking Harbor Freight, it works fine, it is just too small to be of very much use. Go big or don't bother.
Apr 29, 2012, 11:07 PM
Registered User
I use a scroll saw, band saw, Dremel, & hand held drill.

A sander / grinder will be next.

Can a drill press be used as a "drum sander" as well?

Oh yea - a Harbor Freight mini table saw can barely cut balsa stock more than 1/8" thick. Please don't waste your money.
Apr 30, 2012, 08:18 AM
Registered User
Nergall's Avatar
Originally Posted by SeamusG
Can a drill press be used as a "drum sander" as well?
Of course.
Apr 30, 2012, 08:41 AM
Registered User
DeeBee1's Avatar
Originally Posted by SeamusG
Can a drill press be used as a "drum sander" as well?
Well it can, but the bearings on most drill presses don't like lateral force very much, so you might find that the press looses accuracy over time if used in this way too often.
Apr 30, 2012, 02:53 PM
B for Bruce
BMatthews's Avatar
For sanding balsa or light duty wood drum sanding the drill press bearings would be fine. But it's not wise to do anything hardcore in terms of side loads on a drill press like heavy sanding of hardwoods or metals. It's all a case of a scale of the forces involved compared to the bearing sizes. Besides, if the drill press is a little bigger and uses a Morse taper tang chuck then any serious side loads will cause the Morse taper to quickly lose it's lock and walk out. Then the drum falls down onto the table. That's a good sign that you're pushing harder than you should....

If you're going to have any sort of sander I'd suggest that you include a shop vac in the sander budget and use some aluminium roof flashing or similar to make up dust catching shrouds around the sanding areas and have the shop vac handy to act as a dust collector. Sanding balsa and other light density woods makes one heckuva lot of fine dust which messes up everything in short order.

For saws I prefer the constant downward travel of a bandsaw over a scroll saw. But for the size and money you get a lot more throat clearance with a scroll saw. If you have the room I'd suggest a 14 inch bandsaw. It'll do anything you can imagine for model building and will come in very handy for any bigger wood working uses as well. If you're a little tight for space and funds then "settle" for a scroll saw. Not that it's a huge step down if you get a nicer one.

If you can manage it eventually get both. The scroll saw has the advantage of being able to cut internal holes by unhooking one end of the blade to pass through a hole where the bandsaw has to cut its way in from the outside.

In terms of priority for power tools I'd suggest the following;
  1. hand drill
  2. Dremel or similar rotary tool
  3. Drill press
  4. Band or scroll saw (I prefer the bandsaw)
  5. Sander AND dedicated or handy shop vac as dust collector.
  6. Table saw- A contractor style that will accept a variety of blade sizes including a very thin kerf 8 inch blade for resawing balsa sheet into strip stock.
May 02, 2012, 12:01 PM
wrong descision, wrong time
Thanks for everyone's feedback. I'm lucky that I have a number of tools already (including a dremel tool, and several cordless tools). I think I'll be looking at a drill press and a band saw. The really nice thing with both of those, is my wife can use them for her crafts and jewelry making. It makes getting the appropriate budget aproval much easier

Of course along with the above power tools, I'll be building a band saw style hotwire cutter, and a regular bow type hotwire cutter. These are to feed my foam additiction ...

May 03, 2012, 02:56 PM
B for Bruce
BMatthews's Avatar
Originally Posted by dumb_thumbs
.....These are to feed my foam additiction ...

There's help groups available for this illness.... .
May 04, 2012, 01:36 AM
Registered User
I use my disk sander quite often. Cut the parts slightly oversize on the band/scroll saw and sand to final shape.

May 05, 2012, 02:50 AM
Re-kitting Expert
Tarasdad's Avatar
Don't go cheap on a band saw, you want to spend as much as you can possibly afford and then some. Table flex, blade centering and other problems are common with a lot of the cheaper ones.
May 06, 2012, 11:13 AM
Registered User
LesUyeda's Avatar
"Don't go cheap on a band saw, you want to spend as much as you can possibly afford and then some."

Amen. I was doing furniture for my family, and made that mistake. Looked great, and the price was right. I spent more time trying to get it dialed in, and cutting right, that I did cutting. Then, in the middle of a project, the base casting actually broke, and I had to buy AGAIN.

May 06, 2012, 12:42 PM
Groundloop World Champion
old_dude's Avatar
You'll probably end up with a Dremel ....very handy for modeling and around the house. I prefer the cordless (even though I have a corded I had used for many years). If it doesn't come with a keyless chuck...GET ONE !!

THE practiced voice of first hand experience says, "DO NOT BUY A DREMEL DRILL PRESS !!" They will not give the precision you will want.

I use my disc / belt sander all the time ...... very handy

I have a Sears top end scroll saw that I've learned to use properly....important. Though I don't use it a lot, it is indispensable / irreplaceable for some jobs.

Lots and lots and lots of smaller hand tools


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