Beginner's guide to fuselage assembling
Over the last two years, I have learned numerous tricks from several on-line modeling websites that have helped my model building tremendously. Although I am by no means an expert, I have learned a few tricks that I find useful, and combined with a little patience, some readily accessible tools and some imagination, I have learned to improve these skills, and I hope to pass them on to you.
This is an
attempt to offer some practical solutions to help modelers create more realistic
aircraft fuselages. It is not
the end-all and be-all of guides. It
is a description of the way in which I
build my fuselages. I am
always open to further suggestions, and love learning a new trick that will help
improve my building.
By far, the most common problem that arises in the building of a fuselage (I’ll leave the problems associated with painting that fuselage to another article) are the seams that occur due to a mismatch between the joining pieces. The fuselages of most model aircraft consist of two pieces – a left and right half that join at the top of the spine and the bottom of the belly of the plane. One of the goals (if not the goal) of building a model is to create a representation of something that looks like a smaller version of real thing.
Tools of the
trade – What you’ll need
Quick Discussion about glues…
everyone has their preferences as to what glues they use and why.
Saying that one type of glue is the best glue, is really nonsensical.
The reason is because the various glues available to modelers each have
their good points and their bad points.
The basic glue types are as follows –
glue is actually not as bad as one might think. It has a thick consistency, so that it can hold parts
together while they are drying. The
downside to the glue is that it takes forever to dry, isn’t super-dooper
strong, and has the famous problem of leaving “glue strings” wherever it
meets plastic. The glue strings are caused by the tube of glue being
old...when you get glue strings it's time for a new tube of glue......and hope
the stock at your local hobby shop is fresh...or the new tube will produce glue
strings as well. Tube glue also has
a bad tendency to find its way to the nearest set of fingers and leave smudge
marks all over your kit.
glue – my most commonly used glue.
Personally, I use Testor’s Liquid Glue, as I find that the Tenax brand
glue dries very quickly. This
glue actually melts the plastic and welds the 2 pieces together, proving for a
great seam. The biggest
advantage of liquid glue, however, is its “oozing” properties, which I will
– a great glue, and your only option for gluing brass or resin pieces.
CA comes in various viscosities (thicknesses) – thin
(water like) medium (similar to tube glue) and a thick gel.
There is also a vapor-less CA that is supposedly OK to use for gluing
clear parts, although I’ve never tried it.
CA has an interesting property in that left alone, it will usually cure
in anywhere from 30 min to according to the label – 2 hours, depending on the
temperature, humidity, alignment of the planets, etc. There is a nifty little product, however, called CA
accelerator which will cut that drying time down to about 2 seconds –
literally. Just spray the
stuff on, and voila – it’s dry. While
CA is great for quick job, I don’t recommend it for major seams, such as
joining two fuselage halves together.
The reason is that while CA is indeed a very strong glue, it does not do
well with sudden sheer force, such as dropping a part, or heaven forbid, a whole
kit. Many a modeler has dropped a kit on a hard floor, only
to watch the two fuselage halves split right open.
Another disadvantage of CA is that because it carries such potent fumes,
it will quickly fog and ruin any clear parts that you get it near. Coating
your canopy and other clear parts in "Future" before using CA will
prevent the fumes from the CA glue from fogging the canopy and other clear
parts. In other words, don’t use CA to glue canopies…instead, use….
parts cement. Pretty
much what it says it is. Not
the strongest, nor the quickest drying, but this cement does its job very well.
Another substitute that some modelers use is every day Elmer’s white
glue and even watch crystal cement which watch repair shops use....dries very
– unparalleled in its strength, epoxies still have their weaknesses.
Basically, they have to be mixed in the proper proportions (not much room
for error), and they have to have something to “grab” onto.
For example, I cut out some bulkheads to fit inside of a vacuform kit I
was building to add strength and to help the parts retain their original shape. Because the inside of the fuselage half and the
bulkhead were both glass smooth, the bulkhead popped right out the next day.
I have since learned to use a coarse grain sandpaper on any surface I
plan on using epoxy.
you are looking for more information on glue, I suggest that you check out the RMS
getting into the specifics of gluing the fuselage halves together, lets discuss
preparation a bit… There are several things that are advised before you begin
gluing parts together. One of these
is doing research. That is up
to you to decide. If you want to
learn every little bit there is to know about a specific plane before you build,
or if you just want to start building something to represent what’s on the
box, you decide. Another
recommendation is that the model be thoroughly cleaned before any parts are
assembled. This is actually a
pretty wise idea, as some manufacturers use a significant amount of release
agent chemicals to help the plastic pop out of the mold, and these chemicals
usually do nothing to help the paint you will be trying to put down later.
assuming that you are all read up about your subject, you’ve opened the box,
smelled the wonderful aroma of freshly minted plastic, and washed the parts,
let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.
I was building models as a youngster, my enthusiasm and excitement of having a
new kit would usually overwhelm my urge to patiently build a great model, and I
would start tearing the parts off of the tree by hand, twisting, tearing and
pulling as I saw fit. This
got the parts off of the tree, so I was happy.
However, believe me here – this is not a wise idea.
Not only does it leave serious pockmarks where the plastic was pulled
off, but you can also damage the part by bending or warping it.
Take your time and carefully remove each piece with either your knife or
a set of wire cutters, leaving a small piece of the tree still attached- no more
than 1/16” or so. Some
modelers use a special tool designed for just this purpose, and that’s fine.
Personally, I don’t think you need one of these unless you are cutting
brass from a photo-etch set, but whatever floats your boat….
Once you have removed a part, lay it flush against your cutting surface,
and very patiently, carefully remove the 1/16” stub that is left over.
The key here is to only cut
until you’ve reached the finished piece.
DO NOT cut into the plastic that you want to finish later.
It’s better to leave some of the plastic uncut than to cut into the
finished piece. It can always
be sanded off later, but cuts that are too deep must be puttied and sanded.
Removing this stub with a small modeling file works well too.
Removing this stub with a small modeling file works well too.
Usually, I start by removing only the major parts – the parts that you really don’t need to know the part numbers in order to successfully build a model. So I, for example, would cut the fuselage halves, wing pieces (two, three, four or however many pieces) and nose cone or engine cowl. I would also cut out the cockpit tub and landing gear well, if separate. Here’s where the fun begins.
OK, so the kit is held together with clamps, and you are satisfied with the way things look. Let’s get dangerous. As I said earlier, I use liquid glue for the majority of my building, and joining fuselage halves is no exception. If you recall, I mentioned a nifty little tool earlier that consisted of a glass tube attached to some hypodermic needle tubing. This tool isn’t completely necessary for this operation, but I do find that it helps. Once I look at a held together fuselage and say to myself “Perfect! I just wish it would stay that way once I removed the clamps!” I find an old #11 exacto blade. Using the sharp point of the blade, I carefully wedge the blade between the fuselage halves. This will now leave a nice long hair-line crack between the two halves. The great thing about liquid glue is that because it is so thin, capillary action pulls the glue long and far into this seam once the glue comes in contact with it. So, using either the glass tube filled with liquid glue or a fine tipped paintbrush (don’t use the brush on the bottom of the lid – way too thick, and glue will go everywhere but where it is supposed to), fill the crack with the liquid. If you are using a brush, be patient – let all of the glue leave the bristles and then reload with glue. Tamiya liquid glue has an excellent brush on the bottom of it's lid, which is very fine at it's tip, but also fairly long and thin to hold a reasonable amount of glue.
One trick I use to sometimes get things flowing is to squeeze the seam shut with the brush in the crack – this makes the line even thinner, and it squishes the glue out of the bristles. After that, the glue should be flowing. Because there will be multiple clamps on the fuselage, the crack won’t be too long, and that’s fine. In fact, I build my fuselages in several steps. I could be wrong here, but I don’t think you can put too much of the glue in. I mean, you don’t want it all over the place, but you do want enough in there. Once you feel that you have enough glue in the seam, gently pull the blade out. You should start to see that magic plastic/liquid glue ooze out of the seams. If so, congratulations!! Seeing this is like seeing a nice thick golden crema on top of a freshly extracted espresso, or a fat thick head on top of your beer. You have successfully joined part of the fuselage together. Now here is where I leave it up to your discretion. Like I said, I prefer to build the fuselage in sections – glue a few inches, let it dry and move on. The reason for this is simple – I can watch the progress of the drying glue (I know! How exciting!!) and not worry about what’s going on at the opposite side. Once I glue the two halves, I try not to touch them unless I have to. Also, if you do make a boo-boo, it’s easier to try to make the other pieces join properly. But that’s your call. Anyway, once you have done this, repeat and move on down the line. I know it may take a while, but getting this seam wrong will be pretty obvious or require a lot of repair work. Patience grasshopper….
Seam Clean-up and Surface
gluing all of the fuselage, I usually wait a good day or so to let the glue
fully cure. Once it is dry, I
begin the process of removing the plastic “ooze”.
the seam is relatively minor, I suggest you take the following approach.
Using the regular thickness CA, pour out a small amount onto a yogurt lid
and using a toothpick, carefully apply just a little of the glue to the seam.
As soon as you have applied the glue, spray it with the CA accelerator.
Immediately begin to sand the area down with sandpaper or a sanding
– CA that has been sprayed with an accelerator hardens very quickly.
If you do not sand this down quickly, the glue will be rock hard and will
laugh at your sandpaper
you sand the surrounding plastic! Sand
immediately after spraying accelerator!!
you have properly assembled the fuselage and filled any seams or sink marks, you
should pretty much be ready to go. After
filling all of the seams, I begin with a coarser sandpaper, 240 or so, and move
up stopping around 1000 grade. If
the aircraft is going to be painted in a very “revealing” paint scheme, like
a natural metal finish, I prefer to paint the whole plane with a primer first.
This usually highlights any mistakes that I may have made that need to be
corrected before the paint goes down.
are some spare reference pics..
Photos and text © by Steve Wilder