A BETTER BUILDING BOARD (and my shop)

 

          Hardly a week goes by without some modeler bringing up the subject of building boards. As with any open question of a general nature, there are as many suggestions as there are modelers! Here is what works best for me.

 

          Let’s dispel a myth right now – You don’t need a huge building board. Of course, you need a pretty good size work area, but not necessarily a large work board. My building board is only 2-1/4” x 15” x 48” and is suitable for wings up to 96” excluding tips and fuselages 48” or less between the firewall and the rudder post – that’s a big model, Bubba!

 

                   O.K. – I did say BUILDING BOARD, didn’t I? Have you seen the ads by the Paul K. Guillow Company (http://guillow.com ph: (781) 245-5255) advertising laminated balsa work boards? Theirs are 1” thick by 14” x 48”; good, but susceptible to warping. Just before leaving Miami, I ran into a source of similar balsa boards, except that they were ‘blems’ – or slightly damaged. I bought quite a few of them at less than half price. A retired cabinet maker, the gent who made my workbenches and some other custom pieces for our new home, was kind enough to indulge my whims and created what I call my ‘perfect building boards.’

 

          What we did was sandwich a piece of ¼” particle board between two of the 1” thick balsa boards. The three parts were glued, laminated, and weighted on a steel table to insure being perfectly flat; they were then trimmed and trued on every side. The result is a quite heavy, true, square, and portable building board (reversible, too). I actually use several of them for construction. I also use one that was quite beat up as a utility board. I use the good boards ONLY for actual construction, and try to keep them smooth and clean. As each piece comes off the board, I chip off any droppings of glue and then follow with a light sanding. Oh yes, if I am scratch building, a wing for example, I lightly draw plans right on the board and build from it. Since all the edges are square, you can use your T-square with confidence.

 

These boards should last me a long time, and are certainly worth the price. Should they ever become badly damaged, then could be run through a planer and re-trued and surfaced.

As for my shop and balsa dust factory, I had always worked in my bedroom as a kid, and then later in a spare room. For one reason or another, I never had a basement or garage. Most of my early work was done on a jeweler’s bench purchased new after WWII for 15 bucks from the War Assts Administration. I later expanded by incorporating an unfinished chest and a door to form a work area. I tried to build on ceiling tiles, soft pine, etc. They all worked, but lacked something. I needed better.

 

          First off, I have to state that I am indeed very fortunate in that after retirement, when my wife and I designed our dream home, moved to Gainesville, and had it built, I was able to incorporate the shop I wanted, even having it inside the house in a room that doubles as a den. All this with the blessing of my wonderful wife! (She got her dream kitchen; I got my shop.) The room is quite large, has a big walk-in closet with lots of shelves for storage, and has 3’ doors – one heading to the garage; the other to the screened patio. It also has a window right over the workbench and an exhaust fan off to the right. This allows sanding and the use of smelly solvents, etc. in the house. The fan keeps about 90% of the dust localized in a small easy-to-clean area and takes care of the odors.

 

          My workbench is a custom piece measuring 26” deep by 8 feet long. The center area is flanked on each side by no less then 11 drawers that contain most all my hand tools and supplies. It has a flat and 100% true top surface. Another free-standing unit measures 24” wide by 6 feet long. This unit has six deep drawers containing MonoKote, some balsa, and other supplies. This unit is on casters so that it can be rolled to the center of the room and used as a set-up table. Both of there units are mica-covered. There are no drawer pulls to catch and snag power cords.

 

          About the mica surfaces on the benches – When not actually building, I most often work on either the beat-up utility board or an old beach towel. I have a special terry beach towel reserved for covering the workbench when working with MonoKote or my other favorite, SuperCoverite.

 

          Hey guys, I don’t know about you, but I need all the help I can get just flying and we all know a straight model sure helps! These boards sure help in building a straight plane. Try one out.

                                                                                   -- Written by Lyman Slack