Magnetic Building Board - RC Groups
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Aug 19, 2012, 01:12 AM
AMA 910957
EJWash1's Avatar
Build Log

Magnetic Building Board

I returned to the Hobby in the fall of 2007 after a twenty-plus year hiatus (career, raising a family). Of course, when I left the hobby, there was no Internet. When the Bug hit me to get back into the hobby that I so loved when I was young, I scoured the ‘Net and found so many sites pertaining to the hobby. Through R/C Groups I came across Airfield Models ( There I found and became very intrigued with (the site’s owner) Paul Johnson’s magnetic model building board system. I vowed to build one of my own.

Over the last few years, I’ve been collecting the components of a magnetic building board system. I have the metal table top, the magnets, and the framework material to build a torsion box that the metal top will rest upon. Being that I was dabbling in building three different models at one time, what I lacked was time commitment to putting the building board together. Well, I’ve put all other building projects on the back-burner and have committed all my spare time to getting my magnetic building system up and running. This is not to say that it will be ready in 30-days or less, it only means that I will dedicate my hobby time to this project and this one only.

I thank Paul for sharing his site with us, not only for the magnetic building board system, but all that his Airfiled Models website gives to the Hobby.

The specs of my building board are as follows:

- 36” X 76” sheet metal building board top
- 3” thick, 1/2” MDF torsion box matrix to accommodate sheet metal building board
- magnetic fixtures ranging from 3-1/2” to 15-1/2w” in height.

Well, here we go!

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Aug 19, 2012, 01:51 AM
AMA 910957
EJWash1's Avatar
I have on-hand the following "bits-n-pieces"

- 36" X 76" 16-gauge (.0598") sheet metal building board top

- 3" X 1/2" MDF torsion box matrix (4" on-center spacing)

- 1/4" MDF torsion box top and bottom sheeting

- 1-by oak torsion box side trim

- 3/16" 10-ply birch ply fixtures as follows:
12 - 3-1/2"
12 - 5-1/2"
12 - 7-1/2"
8 - 9-1/2"
8 - 11-1/2"
6 - 13-1/2"
6 - 15-1/2"

- 300 1" X 3/4" ceramic cabinet magnets

I ordered two (2) 2' X 4' sheets of birch ply from Aircraft Spruce & Specialties. After cutting all the fixtures, there was enough to mill several of the bridges, piers, and spacers that Paul shows on his site. All components are available on the Airfield models site, but being an avid woodworker, I wanted to make my own.

I am fortunate to have a well-equiped woodworking shop. The use of jigs is a great advantage to making the necessary repetitive cuts. Being that a lot of the pieces needed for the building board system are very small, the cutting jigs are a HUGE plus safety-wise. My body parts are nowhere near the blade of my table saw or other power tools. SAFETY FIRST!

In order to keep continuity with all the many components, I built many jigs to mill the wood.

Last edited by EJWash1; Aug 19, 2012 at 02:03 AM.
Aug 19, 2012, 01:58 AM
AMA 910957
EJWash1's Avatar
All fixtures cut and next step will be drilling holes in them to accept hold-down clamps. Lets see... sixty-four (64) fixtures... two holes per inch of each fixture... that's gonna be a LOT of holes!

Aug 19, 2012, 05:52 AM
Registered User
Ej - my last run of fixtures was nearly 50K holes for everything. And then I went back and cleaned every single one by hand using a lot of fine sanding cones in a moto tool. Nice job on your set. I have a bunch of new stuff coming for my system. I hoped to have it ready by Sep 1 but that's not going to happen. Hopefully Oct 1. You'll like it and you'll be able to replicate any of it you want.
Aug 19, 2012, 05:54 AM
Registered User
PS. This was about two or three fixture runs ago.
Aug 19, 2012, 02:18 PM
AMA 910957
EJWash1's Avatar
Thanks CafeenMan!

50k holes!

(Ever see the movie 'Holes'?)

Well, I need to bore 1016 holes in the fixtures for the vertical presses, and another 156 for the magnets.

That is one SLICK drill jig your buddy made-up for you. The drill bushings are an added plus. I Googled "drill bushings" and found several. Due to price, I think I'm going to have to think of another avenue.

I had formulated one idea of using a (say) 6" X 30-ish" (?) piece of 3/4" MDF for a drilling bed. 3/4" X 1" to 1-1/2" stock attached to the long sides. Now we have a trough, as it were. My table saw blade has a kerf of 3/32". A kerf would be cut across the through every 1". The kerf would be cut 3/8" deep into the MDF trough base. This trough would be positioned on top of my drill press' table. I would use a 3/32" ply "gate" in the through kerfs to position the building board fixtures on the trough. With a 9/64" drill bit positioned in proper position over the fixture, bore a hole in the fixture. Move the ply gate to the next kerf, reposition the fixture, bore the next hole, and so on. I'll more than likely use the hold-down clamps to eliminate movement of the fixture while drilling. I still have not figured out a way to "freshen" the backing after boring holes...

Aug 20, 2012, 08:34 AM
ARFs Are Me
TomCrump's Avatar
While I seem to have scaled back on my building, I'll follow your project, Earl.

I may never build a magnetic board, but you never know, I may pick up a useful hint, or two !
Aug 20, 2012, 12:02 PM
AMA 910957
EJWash1's Avatar
Thanks Tom. Good to have you along for the ride!

Every time I lay something out on the building board, I keep saying to myself, "I've got to try that magnetic system!" So, now here I go!

Aug 20, 2012, 12:03 PM
Visitor from Reality
A fascinating 'read'. The closest I've got to a magnetic board is the sheet steel - which has been sitting propped up against the wall in the 'bike shed' half of the small spare bedroom that's my present 'balsa dust factory'. What with one thing and another, I suspect it may remain there some time to come.

I suspect if I could impell myself to buy all the magnets and build all the needed jigs, it would be a vast improvement on my present arrangement for building. Which mostly revolves around a couple of Guillows balsa wood boards and a lot of pins!

Aug 20, 2012, 01:21 PM
Registered User
They are top notch! I started building with one over a year ago and I love it. One of the best things is anything spilled on it just scrapes up. The jigs that act as a vice are great as well. Like having many hands. Order more magnets than you think you will need. I'm always running out and need to order more.

Aug 20, 2012, 01:57 PM
Registered User
My friend made me the drill bushings. Basically he heated them on a stove coil AND took a torch to them at the same time and then dipped them in oil. In the process they shrunk slightly which I think was a good thing. It took a couple of bits to bore them out but they're a good fit.

If you want me to, I can drill the holes in your fixtures for you. Turn-around would be at most two days. PM me if you're interested.
Aug 20, 2012, 10:34 PM
AMA 910957
EJWash1's Avatar
I appreciate the offer.Trust me, it's tempting. Although, I really need to carry this project out. I really enjoy the challenge.

Aug 21, 2012, 08:12 AM
Registered User
No sweat, EJ. I have plenty to do anyway. I had planned to make an indexing system by drilling a hole in a table mounted to my X-T table. Then drill, lift and move, drill, lift and move, repeat. My machinist friend told me I'm insane. One of the voices argued with him but the other voices agreed. So I paid him to make the jig.
Aug 21, 2012, 01:18 PM
wood is good
loNslo's Avatar
Well! I'm glad I decided to spend some time just searching the forum, this morning, EJ.

A magnetic building board is so very tempting, right now, as I have just received a Great Planes .40 J-3 Cub kit. But I'll likely just do it the old fashioned way, and watch and learn from this thread, for now.
Aug 21, 2012, 02:26 PM
AMA 910957
EJWash1's Avatar

Thanks again for the offer. Being a woodworker yourself, I'm sure you can appreciate the satisfaction of bringing "raw lumber" to a fine piece of furniture (at least my wife thinks it's "fine furniture"...). I won't get into the shop until this coming weekend. I mentioned that I was using MDF for the fixture sled bases and basswood for the alignment battens. I'm thinking of using either HDF (I think my woodworking store stocks it) and maple for the front and back rails.

Unless the clouds part and the Sun's rays shed light on a better idea, I'm gonna go with the hole boring jig I drew above.


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