Building RC kits is such a fun part of the hobby, and for me personally it is often one of the most enjoyable processes. There are a lot of steps when building a full kit, so any kind of trick to make the build go smoother, or even turn out better, can be a huge help. With that goal in mind, we’re going to go over a handful of simple, helpful tips that will aid in assembling your own RC kit. These basics will go a long way toward ensuring your kit build goes smoothly and leaves you with a polished product. Let’s jump in and get started.
Clean Sprues, Flush Cuts
Full kit builds usually involve a lot of plastic parts still attached to their sprues, requiring trimming and removal. This can be done with just about any pair of cutters, but for the cleanest builds you’ll want to reach for a pair of flush cutters, or “flush cuts” for short. Flush cuts are designed specifically to leave a flat, smooth finish compared to the excess material left by standard cutters. As you can see in the comparison photo, there is still quite a bit of excess material left over from the standard cutters, while there is virtually no excess from the side that was removed with the flush cuts. There are several quality levels of flush cutters available, from the most basic all the way to extremely precise types used for competition scale model building. For most RC kit build purposes, any general-use pair of flush cuts will do the job nicely. Tamiya, Crescent and GodHand brand flush cutters are my usual go-to choices when trimming RC parts.
TRIMMING THE EXCESS
So now we’ve covered the basics of cutters, but what if you find yourself left with a part that still has some excess material? This could be leftover material from basic cutters or possibly some flash from the molding process; either way, excess material should always be trimmed away for the cleanest possible build.
For this job I reach for the trusty hobby knife with a standard blade. Just about any brand of regular hobby knife and a #11 blade will do a great job of removing excess material from most plastic parts. Always practice safe habits with a hobby blade, placing the part onto your work surface and cutting down and away from yourself to remove the excess. In cases of weaker materials, you can peel it away with the knife, kind of like peeling an apple, but once again just make sure you’re being safe and careful in the process. Be sure your blade is fresh and you should be fine.
PERFECT BODY POSTS
Continuing with the topic of trimming, let’s move on to a simple way of getting clean cuts on your body posts. Most kits will include generic length posts that can be used with multiple styles and sizes of bodies and will often require some trimming to be the perfect length for your specific model. To trim these posts, I first place the body onto the posts to figure out where it should sit, then I make a mark on the post where it needs to be trimmed. This is easily done with a permanent marker, a hobby blade, or by leaving a small indent with a pair of cutters. After the cut point has been clearly marked, I remove the posts from the kit and begin the trimming process. Place the post flat on your cutting mat and make a flat cut into the post with a clean, sharp, single-edge utility razor.
Once the razor blade has been properly situated into the post, continue the cut by applying even pressure straight down with the blade. The pressure, along with the super-sharp edge, will allow the blade to smoothly sink into the material, making a nice, clean cut through the body post. Besides the usual safety precautions of keeping your fingers away from the blade when cutting, I also recommend trying your best to keep the blade as perpendicular to the post as you can when trimming. Once done you’ll be left with a flat, clean cut that should require little to no touch-up afterward.
Most kits contain several parts that require threading metal screws and linkages into plastic. This is an easy task but oftentimes can stress the plastic by overheating the material due to friction. To eliminate this unwanted wear on the plastic, simply apply a bit of lip balm to the metal screw or link before threading it into the plastic part. A thin coating of balm on the threaded section is all you need and will make the threading process smooth and easy. The balm will also heavily reduce friction and heat buildup in the plastic, leaving cleaner threads and less stress in the material. A thin application of lip balm will also help free up stuck linkages on racing vehicles, making fine-tuning adjustments much easier when you’re out at the track.
LOCKING DOWN THOSE SCREWS
This may be a no-brainer, but it’s still well worth a mention. Using a thread-locking compound such as Loctite is the best practice when threading metal screws into metal parts. It may not always be necessary, but for most sections of a kit that require metal-on-metal contact, a simple application of medium-compound thread locker will do wonders for keeping screws in place and eliminate potential loss of hardware while driving. Even when the hardware is tightened properly it can still loosen with use and time, so reach for some thread locker to keep it in place. Always apply the thread locker to clean screws; otherwise it can hinder the staying power of the thread locker. Apply enough to coat the threads and wipe away the excess. Thread the screw into place, tighten, and you’re good to go. Simple as that.
On the topic of hardware, there are many types and sizes of screws used in RC kits. Using the proper size and style of driver for these different screws is important, as the wrong size driver can damage hardware. Additionally, it’s important to use good-quality tools as well. Cheap tools can certainly do the job, but investing in some high-quality tools for your toolbox will go a long way toward ensuring your kit builds go smoothly every time.
Generally speaking, a good quality #1 and #2 Phillips driver, as well as 1.5mm, 2mm, and 2.5mm hex drivers will do the job for most RC kits. An indicator of a quality driver will be the materials used for the tool, as well as its ability to fit into the proper sized screw and keep the hardware on the tip of the driver. This is especially important with Phillips screws, where improper fitment of the driver’s tip can ruin the screw. MIP, Wera, Tamiya, and various other major RC brands will be good places to start when shopping for your own high-quality drivers.
That about wraps up our brief list of tips. I hope you find these simple tricks helpful during your own RC kit building process. They’ve definitely helped me a lot over the years. As always, thanks for reading, and I hope your RC builds are a fun and smooth process. Until the next one, take care.
Text and Images by Lauren Short