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The Top Flite Woodpecker makes many covering jobs easier but may have more uses in the shop than you think.
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Top Flite Woodpecker

Lets make hundreds of little holes in our planes

Text and photos by Tom Hintz

Posted – 8-28-2015

There are moments in RC flying when a ridiculously simple-looking tool can have a huge impact on how our planes look. And like many tools there is another less obvious use for the Top Flite Woodpecker. Oddly enough this tool is designed to prevent bubbles under our covering and between layers of covering but I also use it specifically to pop bubbles in another type of material.

The Basics

The Top Flite Woodpecker is nearly all steel with a plastic-covered aluminum handle to enhance control and comfort. The business end consists of a series of washers inters-paced by four spiked wheels made from hardened steel for durability. All of these components ride on an axle that can be taken out to remove one or more of the spiked wheels to adjust the width of the trail of holes the tool creates. This is most handy for punching pockets to absorb gas beneath stripping and other thin covering accents.

For Covering

When used in balsa or soft ply sheeting the Top Flite Woodpecker (left) makes a bunch of holes that gives the gas released by the covering adhesive a place to go rather than make bubbles under the new covering. When making wing bags from the quilted silver insulation (right) the Top Flite Woodpecker makes puncturing all those little pockets of air easy before sewing.
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The Top Flite Woodpecker was originally designed to make it easier to get a clean, bubble-free covering job over expanses of sheeting. Running the Top Flite Woodpecker over the balsa and even ply sheeting creates a bunch of little pockets that give the gas created when the covering adhesive is heat activated someplace to go rather than form those frustrating bubbles that never really go away.

When applying trim made from covering the gas-based bubbles are even more of a problem but here again, the Top Flite Woodpecker saves the day. You do have to be way more careful to apply the Top Flite Woodpecker only to the area covered by the trim pieces. Top Flite makes this easier by making the width punched adjustable. You just have to take the time to do that.

Non Covering

I decided to make some of those quilted insulation wing bags and realized that we have to pop all of the bubbles where we want to sew. I used the wife’s pattern wheel that has small teeth on a single wheel but that is only marginally useful and takes lot of running over the bubbles from both sides. A friend who had made some of these wing bags told me about the Top Flite Woodpecker tool and the problem was solved.

Used at its full ¾” width the Top Flite Woodpecker kills all of the bubbles in a path along the edges of the material that fits the shoe on most sewing machines perfectly. Plus you only have to run over the material from one side as the teeth on the spiked wheels penetrate easily.

Remember that penetrating efficiency of the spiked wheels when you choose where to perform this task. Use the Top Flite Woodpecker on a nice wood table and you will be creating dozens of little divots in the table surface that will not help your status around the house at all. Lay a piece of carpet or other heavy material down that will keep the spikes off of the surface. It actually pops the bubbles a little better on a piece of carpet anyway.


The Top Flite Woodpecker is comfortable to the hand and easy to control for when we are laying down trim (left) made from covering, over covering. The spiked wheels (right) are hardened to be sure they last a lifetime.
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The Top Flite Woodpecker is a great tool for covering that prevents the frustrations of chasing bubbles that refuse to go away totally. As we learned above it has another use wen making wing bags and there are probably more that I have not found yet.

With a street price of $15.95 (8-28-2015) the Top Flite Woodpecker doesn’t break the bank but it can save a ton of cash if you do a lot of covering or more importantly re-covering when the bubbles get too bad. Coming from the folks that also make MonoKote means it really is the right tool for lots of covering jobs.

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All written, photographic and drawn materials are property of and copyright by Tom Hintz and 2013-2017. Materials cannot be used in any way without the prior written permission of the owner.
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