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|Suppose you're building
from plans that show the wings held on with rubber bands, but you want
your plane to have bolt-on wings instead. This is not hard to do,
even if it's not shown on the plans.
The plane in the photos is a 40 size Telemaster from Hobby Lobby plans
by Joe Bridi. You can see the trailing edge stock in the first
photo, covered with a layer of glass cloth held on with thin CA
glue. In the plans there are wing hold-down dowels through the
fuselage, and the wings are held on with rubber bands.
I wanted to attach my wings with bolts, but if I put wing bolts through
this trailing edge stock, the wings would break off as soon as I open
up the throttle and jerk the elevator a little bit. (Ask me how I
know this.....) What this plane needs is a piece of 1/16" plywood
to spread the load to the structural members of the wing when the bolts
are clamped down on the trailing edge stock.
Trim this plywood to a shape that looks nice. I like to put a
nice curve on the front, and then sand a taper into the curved part to
make the Monokote blend nicely. I did this curve with a compass
after finding the point on the center line that would reach both sides
and the front on the same curve. Also, make sure that the grain
runs from front to back to allow the plywood to bend with the dihedral
After this piece is ready, check for proper fit and alignment, then get
ready to glue it in place with medium CA. After you do this on a
couple of planes and get better at it, you might find it helpful to put
some accelerator on the wing surface to make it stick instantly.
You can see in the photo that I added a little bit of balsa on either
side to help the plywood reach all the way to the edges of the trailing
edge stock. Here's what it looks like after it's been glued on.
Remember when you start the wing installation your windshield should
not be in place yet. Leave it open so you have a clear shot at
the wings through the front bulkhead with a long drill bit. In
the case of a low-winger, make sure you don't put the chin block on
until the wings are installed.
The next thing we need to do is put some hard wood in the wings to
attach the front dowel. These particular wings were constructed
with no shear webs or plywood joiners in the middle rib bays, just like
the plans show. The glass cloth gives the wings bending strength
at the root, and the plans assume you will be using rubber bands, so no
plywood is needed in the middle. Assuming that you built your
plane this way, here's one way to get some hardwood in place to attach
the front wing hold-down dowel.
This little project involves digging a little hole in the root ribs
with an XActo knife and a utility knife to gain access to the back side
of the hardwood spars. Once I finished that, I used epoxy to glue
a piece of 1/8" plywood to both spars, as well as another piece on the
back of the leading edge sticks. Note that the piece of plywood
at the spars will have to be a couple of inches long to reach the top
spar and leave enough sticking out the bottom to anchor a quarter inch
Once you have these tabs in place, it's time to get a long drill bit
and drill a hole all the way through for the dowel. Notice that I
have installed a 1/8" plywood plate on the front of the balsa fuselage
bulkhead. There is another plate just like it on the inside
surface of the bulkhead as well, so the dowel will be anchored in two
pieces of plywood on the bulkhead. When drilling a long hole such
as this one, it is a good idea to drill pilot holes first with a long
1/8" bit, then move to the 1/4" bit for a 1/4" dowel. Hold
everything firmly in place and go slow.
After you have the hole all the way through, put in your dowel. I
like to chamfer both ends slightly so they'll go through the holes more
easily. As you can see in the photos my drill bit didn't go
straight. It never does... The important thing is to hold
the wings in place on the center line and then it doesn't matter if the
drill wanders a little bit to one side.
After you get the dowel glued in place, you can try it on for size and
see if everything still lines up. (Never mind that ink
squiggle. I was just trying to make my pen write for the
Once you have the front dowel all done you can go ahead and put on the
windshield. Now it's time to move to the back of the plane.
I dug around in my scrap box and came up with a piece of 3/16" plywood
about an inch wide that would make a nice rear wing bolt anchor.
I trimmed it to length and stuck it in there with a little bit of
corner bracing under each end. (Notice the grain direction on the
corner bracing. This is much stronger than using standard
We want the bolts to go through the middle of this anchor rather than
at the front or back of it, so I drew guide lines on mine. The
line is 5/8" from where the trailing edge of the wings will be, and the
two cross lines are simply an inch in from each outside edge.
Once you have these dimensions figured out, transfer them to the wings.
Now what we need is two drill bits. One of them should be the
diameter of the shaft of the bolt, not counting the threads. The
other is a larger bit, the size of the outer diameter of the bolt
including the threads, to drill holes in the wings for the whole bolt
to go through.
Using the smaller drill bit, and holding the wings firmly in place with
your other hand, drill ONE HOLE, but not the other. Be sure that
the drill bit is perpendicular to the surface you are drilling.
In other words, if the wings have slant caused by dihedral and the
sloping airfoil, don't drill straight down, drill straight into the
plywood, which will cause the bolt to slant into the anchor plate a
little bit. If you don't drill straight into the plywood wing
plate, your bolt heads won't lie flat on the surface.
Remove the wings from the plane and harden the hole through the anchor
plate with thin CA. Give it a shot of accelerator to make sure
you don't foul your tap with super glue.
Now tap the hole for threads. Press firmly, and be sure to follow
the path of the hole. Usually wing bolt holes will be drilled at
funny angles because of the slant of the airfoil, so don't push yoru
tap in straight down if the hole slants to one side.
Remove the wings from the plane, then drill out the hole in the wing
trailing edge to the larger size to accommodate the bolt. Trim
the bolt to a reasonable length (enough to thread through the anchor
plate, plus about 1/8"), and chamfer the end with a pencil sharpener.
Bolt the wings in place with your first bolt, and THEN drill the second
Remove the wings, drill out the second hole to fit the bolt, thread the
second hole in the anchor plate, etc.
There is a good reason why the holes are done one at a time.
You'll find that the drill bit likes to wander when it hits a piece of
plywood. If you drill both holes at the same time, your wings
won't be aligned properly by the time you get to the second hole.
So just take the time to switch back and forth from one bit to the
other a couple of times and do one hole completely, then the
Here's the finished installation.
The procedure is pretty much the same for a low wing plane, only upside
down. If the fuselage bulkhead covers the leading edge of your
wings you'll want to think ahead and install plywood anchor plates
inside your wings at the leading edge and at the spars. Then
drill the dowel hole right through them instead of having plywood tabs
sticking out of the wings. You can adapt this basic method to
just about any plane you build.