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Build Warren Truss Fuselage Sides for a Model Aircraft

May 03, 2015

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Airfield Models ( to Build Warren Truss Fuselage Sides

The second best fuselages possible for flying model aircraft are built using Warren truss construction.  This type of construction is also commonly used for flying surfaces.

The best fuselage is built of stringers or skins over round formers which results in an airplane that has better aerodynamics, is more attractive and, unfortunately, is exponentially more difficult to construct.

Most modern sport models have laser-cut balsa wood or lite plywood fuselage sides.  Lite ply sides are about the worst type ever conceived.  Lite ply has extremely poor strength-to-weight.  The only thing lite ply sides have going for them is that they're already "built" and are very cheap to manufacturer.

The fundamental truth is that you will never have a model aircraft that lives up to its potential until you're willing to do the work.  ARF's are always over-weight and kits usually include poorly selected wood that is heavier than necessary.  Kits can be corrected by replacing wood as needed, but that means cutting new parts which somewhat negates the virtues of building a kit in the first place.

Trussed fuselage construction was very common in days of old.  Many people who have entered the hobby in the last 20 years have never built a set of fuselage sides such as these.  I haven't conducted any polls, but I suspect most of these builders believe that trussed sides are too difficult or take too long to build.

I concede that trussed construction is more time-consuming to build than a slab of wood that's pre-cut, but that's the only disadvantage.  In other realms, trussed fuselage sides are far superior to solid sides.  Trusses have a high strength-to-weight ratio, are extremely rigid and are very light.  These are the most desirable properties for any airframe other than being straight which is dependent on the builder, not the construction materials or engineering.

How to Earn Bonus Points

When well done, truss construction has a functional beauty that is aesthetically pleasing under transparent and translucent coverings.  If you look at bridges and marvel at the engineering then you know what I'm talking about.

  • Sand sticks in pairs to prevent unintentionally rounding them over.Always sand everything.  That means all sides of every stick, the faces of all formers, the inside and outside of the fuselage sides and every other part in the airframe.  Sanding is something that anyone can do and the appearance of your model will improve tremendously.

    Tip! When sanding sticks, space them slightly apart on your bench and block sand two or more at a time.  This method helps prevent rounding over thin edges unintentionally.

  • Do not use CA because there is no way to control where it goes and it makes a really ugly mess. Use Carpenter's glue instead.

    Cut a bevel on the end of the toothpick or bamboo skewer to make a scooper to remove excess glue.  If you do this then no glue will be visible in your wood work and everyone at the field will hold your superior craftsmanship in awe.

This tutorial will take you step-by-step through the process and demonstrate how to build Warren truss structures such as fuselages and control surfaces.  One fuselage side can be built in just a few hours.  You should easily be able to complete both sides in a single day or at most one weekend while still having time to accomplish something else important like watching TV.


In this series

Part 1 Introduction

Part 2 Preparing the Fuselage Sides

Part 3  Making Upright and Diagonal Bracing that Fit

Part 4  Final Details

Also see



How to Join Multi-Panel Model Aircraft Wings
How to Build a Fuselage for a Model Aircraft

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Copyright 2004 Paul K. Johnson