Introduction: Easy Balsa Glider

You can make an easy balsa (wood) glider with some dollars (or pounds) and two hours.

It will fly for some meters and gives you a lot of fun, plus a solid introduction to aircraft.

You can see the funny video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RF-HplrFmOo

Let's start!

Step 1: Materials

To make this glider you need:

1 x balsa piece of 3.2 x 76 x 914 mm (1/8" x 3" x 36")

2 x balsa smaller pieces of 3.2 x 10 x 914 mm (1/8" x 2/5" x 36")

Hot glue

Metal (or plastic) ruller

Step 2: Prepare the Pieces

  1. Cut out from the big balsa piece three small pieces of 40 mm. They will be the parts for the tail.
  2. Cut the leftover big balsa piece in two equal parts. They will be the wings.
  3. Cut out from each of the big parts a piece of 80 mm. They will be the end of the wings.

Step 3: Prepare the Tail

  1. Cut a triangle out from each of the three 40 mm pieces, 20 mm side and as long as the longest part as shown in the picture. Keep the small pieces for later.
  2. Stick together two of the three pieces by the 40 mm side with hotglue. Don't put too much and as the hotglue gets cold remove the leftover hotglue from the top side.
  3. With the help of one of the squared pieces for the wings, that forms 90º, stick the third piece by the 40 mm side again to the other two. It has to be exactly at the middle as shown in the picture. Also well aligned so the plane flies straight. Use again enough hotglue and remove what is more than necessary.

Congratulations we have the tail ready!

Step 4: Prepare the Fuselage

  1. Measure 400 mm twice with the thin balsa piece and cut them.
  2. Stick them together with hotglue. Don't put too much, just enought to hold them.
  3. At 10 mm from one end measure 40 mm as this will holds the center of the tail.
  4. Measures also 3 mm deep on that 40 mm measured before.
  5. Cut out that part with a cutter.

Step 5: Place the Tail on the Fuselage

  1. Now insert the tail on the place we made on the fuselage.
  2. It has to be well aligned so you can see the fuselage follows the main line while the long rear part of the tail is perpendicular.
  3. Use enough hotglue to stick them together.
  4. Put also hotglue below, between the fuselage and the bottom part of the tail.

Step 6: Form the Wings, Stick the Wings to the Fuselage

  1. Stick two of the small triangles on a thin cardboard. They have to be parallel to be well aligned, as shown in the picture. It will be the angle base.
  2. Cut a thin triangular part along the parts for the wings. It gives more surface to stick them together.
  3. Stick first one end of the wing to its main wing, use the angle base (step 1 above) to form an angle between them. This shape of the wing gives stability when flying. Don't use too much hotglue and remove what is not needed.
  4. Stick the whole finished wing to the fuselage. Again help yourself to keep the wing perpendicular to the fuselage.

Your balsa glider is nearly ready!

Step 7: Balance the Plane

  1. If you through now the glider it will fall down from the back, that's because the back weights more, but that's normal.
  2. We need to counter balance that with some weight at the front tip of the plane.
  3. Use some plasticine or little coins. Add some and weight the plane holding it at 1/3 at both sides of the wings, as shown on the pictures above. The plane will keep itself balanced.
  4. This part requires some patience as you don't want to add too much weight.
  5. Through the plane several times and repeat the previous steps until the plane glides-

Now your new balsa glider is ready to fly. Try new tricks and leave a comment if you made it. Enjoy!

Step 8: Make It Stronger, More Aerodynamics

After some flights your plane will crash and eventually it could get broken as mine at the weakest part that receives more of the impact: at the front of the fuselage just before the wings.

To solve/avoid this you can:

  1. add a dumping system: with some tape forming a little cushion at the tip of the plane. That's the critical point that, if the plane crashes flying forward will cause more stress to the structure, and can break it. If the tape falls, stick it with two little dots of hot glue: one at the top and one at the bottom between the plane and the tape. Add the weight to the tape too and make the whole thing aerodynamic: see picture.
  2. and reinforce that part below the wings: cut two sticks and stick them below the wings along with the fuselage as shown in the pictures. It should reach two centimeters before the wings so it reinforces enough. See how some aditional little cuts at the front and back of the sticks gives them more aerodynamics.

You can make the plane more aerodynamic so it will fly more with the same effort, to do so:

  1. cut some top front part of the wings to give it a rounded shape.
  2. at the top rear part of the wings you can cut also but more flat.
  3. at the tail do the same as shown in the pictures.

Step 9: Repairs

Once you start flying the plane will break eventually as any other flying thing.

Here you find the most typical fixes, most of them includes:

  1. Clean the affected area, to fix better the glue and parts.
  2. Measure the affected area and search for support of new parts you need to add. This is because if you fix only in the exact affected area it will break again on the same spot. Instead, fix sticking also strong areas, then the whole plane becomes stronger. It adds more weight but that's the cost of fixing instead making a new plane. Usually fixing is faster, cheaper and good enough.
  3. Create the new parts you need. Always try to use the direction of the wood fiber (those darker lines on the wood show them) along the maximum effort.
  4. Stick with wood glue for long term, also hot glue externally for short term.

Comments

author
JacSjoerd (author)2017-04-27

this brings back memories. We even had national tournaments in the Netherlands with these thrown planes. They are easy to make and can fly up to a minute with a bit of practice. You can even loose them when thrown in a thermal.

Nice instruction, I like the part where you think about repairs.

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Bio: I'm an Electronic Engineer and I have build some small robots and microcontroller based systems. I started with 14 years old controlling an arm ... More »
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