RCU Review: Geoff Barber on: Designing & Installing Instrument Panels

More On This Product

  • Research Airplanes
  • Research Boats
  • Research Cars
  • Research Helicopters
  • Research Engines & Motors
  • Research Radio Equipment
    Contributed by: Geoff Barber | Published: March 2010 | Views: 22374 | email icon Email this Article | PDFpdf icon
    RCUniverse.com How-To: Instrument Panels

    How-To Article by: Geoff Barber (gabarber) Email Me

    If you're like me, and I think a lot of you are, you just can't help but add a few easy details to your airplanes. One of the easiest way to add detail, without spending countless hours and dollars, is to install an instrument panel in the cockpit.

    Now, the Super Cub I'm using for this article came with an instrument panel decal. I installed it when I built the plane, but after sitting in the sun at the field, the decal started coming loose and rolling up. At the time, I just pulled it out and threw it away, but it always bothered me to have that spot open on the dash.

    I thought about purchasing an instrument panel, as there are a few places online that make them, but I thought "Why can't I just make it myself?" So that's just what I did. Follow along with me and you too can make your own instrument panels!

    If you're adding your panel to a new airplane before you finish assembly, install it before the windshield/ canopy. If you're adding the panel to a finished airplane, remove the windshield/ canopy. Trace the outline of the panel on to a thick piece of cardstock- I just happened to have an empty check book cover handy, so I used it to trace on. After you have your pattern, simply cut out the pattern.

    Make sure that your pattern fits, and trim any additional material if necessary. Once you're satisfied with the fit, trace the outline on to a piece of Balsa. The nice part here is that almost all modelers have some balsa on hand, regardless whether you build from scratch, kits, or even ARFs.

    Cut out your panel from the piece of balsa, and sand it to fit. It's nice to have some basic building tools at this point, but a block and a piece of sandpaper will work fine too.

    Double check the fit of your new panel at this point. One thing I did on my panel was to sand the top edge flush with the curve of the decking on the nose of me Super Cub.

    It is time to figure out the layout of your instrument panel. The internet is a great place to find illustrations for this purpose, and that is where the gauges for my panel came from. You can just print out a panel and glue it in place, but then it's no different than having a decal. After I found the layout I wanted, I cut the holes in my panel with a piece of brass tubing sharpened to cut circles.

    Next up was to finish trimming the holes to the correct size. This is easily done using a rotary tool and a sanding drum or grinding bit. I used two different bits and beveled the edge of each hole to give it a mare finished look. Sand the panel flat now, and get it ready for painting.

    Depending on the panel you're making, and the plane it's part of, you can paint your panel any color you want. I chose to paint mine with a flat black acrylic crafting paint. If your panel is in an open cockpit, you will want to use a fuel-proof paint if the plane is powered by a glow engine.

    As I wanted to have two different sized gauges on my panel, I printed two different sizes, and cut the gauges out, leaving some paper around them to glue them to the back of the panel.

    Here's the mostly finished panel. The gauges are glued to the back of the panel with CA. I chose to cut a strip out of a small plastic bag and glued that strip to the panel before the gauges. This gives the gauges a shiny look. After the panel was installed, I drilled two holes and glued in small nails. these simulate the knobs and switches on a real instrument panel.

    This is a very basic, straight forward instrument panel. From here, your panel is limited only by your imagination. You can make your panel as real as you want. There are different ways to make the gauges- I've heard of people using the plastic blister packs from cold medicine to make more realistic gauges.

    I don't like to spend my hobby money on items that I can make myself. If you're like me, and you enjoy detailing your planes without spending a lot of money, the you'll definitely like making your own instrument panel!

    Comments on RCU Review: Geoff Barber on: Designing & Installing Instrument Panels

    Posted by: Jaybird on 03/08/2010

    Posted by: hairy46 on 03/19/2010
    Very nice thank you! will try tonight with one for my Spitfire!
    Posted by: s2flyer on 03/22/2010
    Or you could buy one from Bob Dively Models. They have a nice 1/4 scale J-3 Cub cockpit.
    Posted by: ctxray on 03/23/2010
    Interesting and simple
    Posted by: rc6 on 03/23/2010
    Awesome I will have to try that this weekend on my Sig Four Star 40.
    Posted by: Albert Din on 03/23/2010

    Posted by: Albert Din on 03/23/2010
    Very nice idea, I will try to make a full display panel for my new B-24.
    Posted by: Albert Din on 03/23/2010

    Posted by: Electricub J3 on 08/25/2010
    Excellent article! But where on the internet can you find illustrations for gauges etc. to print out
    Posted by: saeid.mgh@gmail.com on 09/18/2013
    good idea...can you help me??? i want to make little version of me,i mean my shoulder to up(as a pilot)...it would be great... :)
    Page: 1

    The World Models30% PT-17 Stearman ARF (U.S. ARMY) Some may call me lucky. I would agree! One of the reasons that the PT-17 is so close to my heart is that I have a personal co...10/03/2015
    Bomberfield USA 201527th Annual B-17 GatheringEvery year, the end of the summer brings the big birds back to Monaville, TX, for a festive fly-in weekend at the local RC si...10/03/2015
    HeliMaxVoltage 500 3DThis quad is absolutely not for the faint of heart, but if you·re an established heli pilot with some experience under your b...10/03/2015
    EstesProto ZSo it's the middle of winter, or the wind is blowing like crazy outside. YOU have an itch to fly something - what do you reac...09/28/2015
    DromidaVista FPVIs there anyone out there that didn't love the Dromida Ominus FPV? Released early on in 2015, the Ominus FPV quickly became a...09/25/2015
    HUBSANX4 Pro - Ready to Fly FPV QuadcoterA sleek, styled quad-copter available in an FPV or Deluxe setup. What you plan to use the X4 for will determine which version...09/20/2015
    ST ModelArcus MThe Arcus M by ST model is here to change the status-quo by introducing high-end options in a compact and affordable airframe...09/20/2015
    Seagull ModelsT-34 Mentor Seagull Models, distributed by SIG manufacturing in the US, has recently introduced their own version of this prop-driven mil...09/20/2015
    Seagull ModelsRadial Rocket ARFThis is the first in a series of Seagull aircraft that I will be reviewing for RCUniverse. Like the rest of the models that w...09/13/2015
    EHANGGhostThere's been a lot of talk about drones in the news lately, and most of it has been negative. When I talk to people about the...09/13/2015
    DromidaVista UAVIs there anyone out there that didn't love the Dromida Ominus? Released in late 2014, the Ominus quickly became a huge succes...09/13/2015
    RCGF120cc Twin Cylinder Gasoline EngineWhile RC gas engines have been around for quite a while, the demand for high quality twin cylinder variants is fairly recent....09/13/2015
    RevellNano Hexagon"Take multirotor flying down to a micro scale with the Nano Hexagon drone. This tiny six-rotor marvel is small in size but bi...09/07/2015
    Phoenix ModelsCessna 182 GP/EP ARFNew from Phoenix Models is their 182 Skylane. A 65.5" wingspan places it squarely in the .46-.55 size range, making it easy t...08/31/2015
    Flight ModelMini ExcellenceThe Flight Model Mini Excellence is a 1M sized precision aircraft that I can only assume is targeted towards pilots that are ...07/19/2015

      Return to Magazine Homepage

    RCUniverse is a service of Internet Brands, Inc. Copyright © 2001-2015.  Privacy Policy

    Search | Marketplace | Event Central | Local Clubs | Magazine | Product Ratings | New Products | Discussion Forums

    Photo Gallery | Instructor Search | Field|Track|Marina Search | RCU Youtube Channel | | RCU Twitter!

    Member Locator | Advertisers | Hobby Vendor Resources | Rate Manufacturers | Sign In/Sign Up

    Products Videos WattFlyer.com RC Classifieds

    RCU4 | | 0 | 1 | 03:59:52 AM EST | NC