Saturday, 15 June 2013

Making an indoor balsa wood chuck glider

I've been meaning to teach my 10 year old son how to build balsa wood indoor chuck gliders for some time, so today we visited The Hobby Box, an excellent model shop in Uckfield, East Sussex, to purchase some balsa.

Materials list:
  • 1/16 x 3 x 36 inch balsa sheet for the wings (1.6 x 75 x 915 mm)
  • 3/32 x 3/32 x 36 inch square balsa strip for the fuselage (5 x 5 x 915 mm)
  • PVA wood glue
  • Metal ruler
  • Modelling knife
  • Fine sand paper
I created a design in metric because that's easier for the modern metric thinking child to deal with.

  • Fuselage: 25 cm of the 5 x 5 mm balsa strip.
  • Tail plane: 2 cm x  9 cm from the 1.6 mm balsa sheet.
  • Tail: 4 cm high x 2.5 cm base x 2 cm top trapezoid from the 1.6 mm balsa sheet.
  • Two main wings (left, right): 3 cm x 18 cm rectangles of the 1.6 mm balsa sheet.


Cut the fuselage from the 5 x 5 mm balsa strip.  Cut out the tail plane and tail.  Glue the tail plane to the end of the fuselage. Gently sand to smooth the edges. We used tiny pins to hold it in place while drying.

When dry, glue the tail on top of the tail plane.  We used some Lego bricks to hold it vertical while drying:

Cut out two of the 3 cm x 18 cm main wings from the balsa sheet and glue these half way along the fuselage.  I decided to have about 3cm of dihedral so 3 Lego bricks to hold the wings into position while drying seem to do the trick:

We also glued a small slice of 1.6mm sheeting on top of the wings to add a little more strength on the join.

Finally, add a small blob of Blu-Tack or plasticine to the nose to balance the chuck glider.  Ensure the chuck glider balances when one holds the plane with a finger under each wing tip.  Add more weight if it stalls, remove weight if it nose dives.

My son built the chuck glider in the pictures under my instruction.  It was the first time he had used a metal ruler and a modelling knife for cutting, so some help was required to get him to cut straight and confidently.   After he was happy with the tailplane he measured and cut the tail and wings all by himself.  I explained the way to trim the glider and in no time he had it flying perfectly.

By our reckoning these cost about 50 pence per glider to build.  Not bad at all.


  1. Hi Colin
    Thanks ever so much for these instructions. My son was given some balsa for his 7th birthday, and this looks the perfect place to start.
    This morning we got as far as gluing and pinning the tailplane. Can I check with you please, what thickness of sheeting you used to strengthen the wing joint?
    In our excitement to get on with it, I neglected to notice that the instructions vary slightly from the component list, and we cut the first pair of wings to 2cm wide rather than 3cm. My fault entirely, but perhaps you could change the component list to state 3cm width for the wings please, just in case anyone else is as impatient as us!
    Many thanks again,

    1. Thanks for the feedback, I've made the relevant changes to fix it.

  2. How far down from the nose do you have to fix the wings? wheres the centre of gravity?