Date: Mon Aug 3, 1998
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** This section is a collection of "advanced" building techniques - various
** ways to build models that are substantially better and/or different
** than those available in kit form. Examples include scratchbuilding and
** panel-line scribing.
** If you are just starting out in modeling you may want to avoid trying
** these techniques until you have a few kits under your belt. Beginners
** may well consider these techniques ridiculously extreme, however after
** you've been in the hobby for while you may well be bitten by the
** "Advanced Modeler's Syndrome" bug and go off in search of the ever
** more-perfect model, at which time this information is likely to
** become very valuable.
** The material here is far from a "text book" treatment but includes a
** lot of general information and some more specific tips.
[Q] How do you restore engraved panel lines that have been lost to
[Q] filling and sanding (or that were never there to start with)?
[A] firstname.lastname@example.org (Charles Metz 4/97)
SCRIBING PANEL LINES
by Charles Metz
with contributions by others as noted
Four distinct issues arise in scribing a plastic model: (1) choosing the
tool to use; (2) planning where to scribe; (3) guiding the scribing tool;
and (4) making corrections. My experience in using the techniques
described here is restricted to aircraft, which is all I build, but I feel
confident that the methods will be useful for other kinds of styrene and
resin models as well.
1. CHOOSING THE TOOL
The best tool for scribing surface detail into plastic depends upon a
variety of factors, the most important of which are the hardness of the
styrene or resin and the complexity of the detail to be scribed. (Art
Murray points out that kits scribe differently due to the inconsistencies
of the plastics used in kits. A simple solution: Use the unseen underside
of an aircraft wing, car body or ship hull to practice a little. This
exercise gives one a feel for the properties of the plastic used in the
kit. Art especially recommends this when using the Micro Mark Plastic
Scriber described immediately below, because the width *and* depth of lines
scribed with this tool vary with the pressure exerted: the softer the
plastic, the less pressure that's needed.)
In general, I prefer to use a hook-shaped tool that is made especially
for scribing plastic and can be purchased in the USA, for example, by
mail-order from the "Micro Mark" hobby tool company. (Actually, this tool
is simply a curved dentist's pick that has had its tip re-ground into a
sharp "plow" shape.) The main advantage of this tool is that it removes a
tiny v-shaped "ribbon" of plastic as the tool is pulled along a soft
plastic surface, so no "ridges" remain beside the scribed line to be sanded
down. However, this tool does not work well on very hard plastic (because
it cannot smoothly "dig out" a ribbon in that situation), and it is
difficult to manipulate around sharp corners or when creating intricate
Another basic tool for engraving surface detail into plastic is a steel
machinist's scriber that has a very sharp (preferably carbide or diamond)
tip. It "scratches" instead of "plowing," so it creates raised edges on
each side of the line that must be removed with sandpaper or very fine
steel wool; sanding debris must then be removed from the scribed line with
a sharp pin. However, this tool is easy to manipulate around corners
(inside a template, for example), and it works well on hard materials
(because it was designed to make marks on metal!).
A pointed (e.g., number 11 X-Acto) knife blade held in a slender handle
also is helpful in some situations, because the tip of such a blade can be
manipulated very precisely. However, a knife blade's disadvantages are
that it tends to "wander" along the path of least resistance through a
plastic surface, and it tends to cut too deeply. In situations where a
pointed knife blade seems best, I either use the *back* (rather than the
sharpened) side of the blade tip, or I scribe the line very *lightly* once
or twice with the sharpened side of the tip to establish a guide and then
rotate the knife in my hand before going over the line several times again
with the back of the blade tip. (Kevin Martin points out -- and I agree --
that an old, dull No. 11 blade works best.) Like a machinist's scribing
tool, a knife blade creates raised edges on each side of its line that must
be removed with fine sandpaper or steel wool. Incidentally, a pointed
blade is the *only* tool that can be used for "free-hand" scribing -- but
this is very difficult and should not be attempted without years of
At one time Tri-Master sold a very useful set of thin, photoetched
razor-saw blades with various concave, convex, and straight edges that
are especially handy for special tasks such as scribing around sharply
convex surfaces -- e.g., over the top or bottom of a fuselage or
around the leading edge of a wing -- but these saw baldes have been
unavailable for several years. (Lee Rouse and Woody Vondracek recommend
a trick proposed by Bob Steinbrunn in FineScale Modeler. Using a
Dremel tool, cut small notches across the sharp edge of an old #11
blade. This gives the blade the appearance of having small saw teeth.
Then insert the blade into its handle and cut/saw across the surface
to be scribed. Simon Craven just pointed out to me that similar
blades can be obtained from Airwaves (ED Models), in Shirley, West
Midlands, UK. Airwaves doesn't have a concave edge, but there are a
couple of curved ones and several different straight edges.)
The basic rule here is simple: "Think, draw and look before you scribe."
First, decide *where* to scribe lines. Usually you have two options:
where you found raised panel lines on the kit, or where scale drawings show
panel lines. Drawings often disagree about the locations of panel lines in
my experience, so consult photographs whenever possible. However, you'll
probably have to make at least some arbitrary decisions, because at least
some panel lines probably won't be visible in the photos you have.
Next, use a sharp, soft (e.g., No. 2) pencil to draw *every* panel line
that you intend to scribe. I prefer to prime my model with light gray
paint before drawing the lines. This isn't absolutely necessary, but it
makes the penciled lines easier to draw and easier to see after they're
drawn. You can "sketch" the lines lightly at first if you wish, but it's
important eventually to draw each line *carefully* using a straightedge --
and perhaps templates, as described in the next section. Wherever you find
that you've drawn a line in the wrong place, erase it and redraw it
correctly. It doesn't matter if pencil smudges make your model dirty at
this point: keep drawing, erasing, and re-drawing until you think you have
all of the panel lines drawn perfectly.
Walk away and do something else. Then come back in an hour -- or the
next day -- and look carefully at your model from as many different angles
as possible. I can almost guarantee that you'll find some of the lines you
drew to be slightly misaligned if you look long enough -- and, of course,
you'll have a *long* time to look at your model after it's finished!
Getting lines parallel (when they should be) or perpendicular (when they
should be) is particularly difficult, and alignment is much more easily
judged by eye than by any measurements. If you're working from scale
drawings, also compare the penciled lines to your scale drawings and make
corrections as necessary.
Now keep repeating the previous paragraph's tasks until you can't find
any more errors in your penciled lines.
I don't want to make this planning step seem more difficult than it
really is, but I can almost guarantee that "Murphy's Law" will ensure some
misaligned and/or incorrectly-located scribing if you're not careful here.
Correcting scribed lines is a lot harder than correcting penciled lines.
(Art Murray points out that when raised panel lines are sanded away from
a styrene model, a line of lighter color plastic will remain where the old
line used to be. This line can then be used as a guide for the new scribed
panel line if desired. Chris Bucholtz notes that this trick works
particularly well on kits molded in silver plastic. Jennings Heilig adds
that raised panel lines that have been sanded off can be accentuated --
particularly on dark plastic -- by airbrushing them lightly with either
lacquer thinner or super glue accelerator -- neither of which should be
3. GUIDING THE TOOL
It's very difficult to guide a scribing tool accurately "free hand," so
the tool should be moved along a smooth, hard, raised edge whenever
For straight lines, a thin, slightly flexible metal strip or ruler works
best. (Except in a few very simple situations, ordinary metal rulers,
which tend to be too thick and too rigid, aren't very useful for scribing.)
Some thin stainless steel strips -- usually about 5 mm (i.e., 3/16 inch)
wide -- have been sold specifically for this purpose and I own several, but
I don't know whether any of these are currently available in stores or by
mail-order. You can make a similar scribing guide that is almost as good
simply by purchasing a cheap steel carpenter's "measuring tape" (which
rolls up inside a container approximately 5 cm -- i.e., 2 inches -- in
diameter), breaking open the container, and cutting off 10-30 cm (i.e.,
4-12 inch) segments of the steel tape. Having several different lengths is
handy, and you can easily throw away and replace any pieces whose edges
Another kind of metal guide has been sold specifically for the purpose
of scribing geometric shapes onto plastic models. Mine were made by
Tri-Master but are no longer available. (Art Murray points out that
Verlinden currently markets scribing templates for both 1/72 & 1/48 scale
aircraft; he also notes, from personal experience, that they have very
sharp edges and should be used with caution!) Templates of this kind are
basically thin stainless steel sheets or strips that contain circular
and/or rectangular openings of different sizes; the outer edges can be used
to scribe straight lines, and the edges of the openings serve as guides for
scribing circles and "hatches." A similar, more widely available guide of
this type is a draftsman's (in the UK: draughtsman's) "erasing guide",
which is a thin stainless steel rectangle (often about 8x10 cm -- i.e., 3x4
inches) with rounded corners, which has variously shaped openings cut
through the sheetmetal. Plastic draftsman's "drawing templates" that
contain circular or rectangular openings also can be helpful, but they're
more awkward to use because they're thicker. (As an aside, I'll mention
here that plastic draftsman's *circle* templates are very useful as masks
for spray-painting round national markings onto clear decal stock -- just
block off the circles surrounding the one of interest with masking tape.)
Guides of the kind I've described so far aren't very useful for
irregularly curved lines like those on the underside of a Spitfire or P-47
fuselage, for example. In these situations, the best approach I've found
is to (i) define the desired line with the edge of a sharply-cut narrow
strip of flexible masking (not "Scotch") tape; (ii) scribe *lightly* a few
times along the edge of the masking tape with the tip of a machinist's
scriber or rather dull X-Acto blade, just deeply enough to serve as a guide
for careful subsequent scribing; and (iii) then *gradually* deepen the
established line by repeatedly going over it with one of the tools I've
described above. Be *very* careful in step (ii), because the edge of the
masking tape is thin and soft.
(Kevin Martin adds that to rescribe sharply curved lines such as those
around a P-47's wing fillet, he burnishes masking tape over the area to be
scribed and then marks the line with a pencil. After removing the tape,
Kevin applies it to a flattened piece of thin aluminum sheet cut from a
beverage can. He cuts the shape with scissors and cleans it with a
flexible file -- or ladies' fingernail polishing board. This can then be
used as a scribing pattern. Woody Vondracek recommends making templates
from .010 styrene, which is easy to cut and will last through a couple
models. He puts a strip of 3/4 inch white artist tape over the curved
lines (before sanding) and rubs a pencil over it to get the shape. He then
sticks the tape on the styrene and cuts it to shape. A French curve helps
to get smooth curved lines.)
A particularly difficult task in scribing plastic model airplanes is
getting neat and parallel circumferential fuselage panel lines (i.e., panel
lines that go *around* the fuselage), because it's very difficult to hold a
metal straight edge at the correct location, and it can be difficult to
avoid "waves" and "wiggles" if you apply strips of masking tape as a guide.
By far the best approach I've found to this problem (which I learned from
my friend Wally Splitt) employs the rather rigid, colored plastic embossing
tape (e.g., "Dymo" brand) that is sold for making embossed self-adhesive
labels. Buy the narrowest (usually 1/4 inch -- about 6 mm) width of this
tape -- in a bright color, if possible, so you can easily see where to
scribe; cut a strip long enough to go around your model's fuselage; cut
this strip in half with scissors somewhat raggedly along its length; remove
the protective backing from the half strip so that the tape's adhesive is
exposed; and apply the half strip of tape around your fuselage so that its
straight (originally outer) edge is where you want the desired panel line.
If the fuselage is tapering along its length at the location where
circumferential line is to go, the tape can be applied most easily on the
side of the line *toward* which the fuselage becomes smaller in diameter.
You can then scribe the line as you would if masking tape were serving as a
guide. The advantages of the plastic embossing tape in this situation are
that (i) it's flexible enough to wrap around your fuselage but rigid enough
to help you avoid "waves" when you place it along the desired panel lines,
and (ii) it's thick and rigid enough so that you don't have to be *quite*
as careful in your initial light passes with your X-Acto knife as you must
be with masking tape. The tape's adhesive is crucial in keeping the
guiding edge firmly in place but it wears out quickly, so don't be "penny
wise and pound foolish": use a new piece of tape as soon as the old
adhesive starts to weaken -- usually after only one application.
4. MAKING CORRECTIONS
No matter how carefully you've tried to scribe your lines, you've
probably made at least a few mistakes at this point (I make a lot), so
you'll have to correct those errors.
After you've scribed *all* of the lines you want, wash your model gently
with lukewarm water to which you've added a little mild dish washing
detergent (the kind used for washing dishes by hand -- *not* the kind used
in automatic dishwashers, which is harsh and contains bleach). Use a soft
toothbrush to remove all pencil smudges from the model's surface and all
debris from the scribed lines.
When the model is *completely* dry (a hair drier used *carefully* on its
*lowest* setting can speed things up here), apply a thin coat of primer
(again, I like light gray). Then after this paint is dry, carefully
inspect your model from *all* angles in *good* light, and use a soft pencil
to circle the locations of all flaws in the scribing.
Fill each marked flaw with the *minimum* required amount of a
fine-grained, strongly-bonding plastic-modeling putty. I like Dr.
MicroTools red putty for this purpose, and I apply it with the tip of a No.
11 X-Acto blade. In situations where you want to *eliminate* a scribed
line that was in the wrong place or that extended too far (e.g., past a
corner), simply fill the line with putty (or *thick* superglue, as noted
by Chris Bucholtz) very slightly above your model's surface to allow for
shrinkage. In situations where a scribed line needs to be *narrowed* or
made less deep, fill the line using putty, let it harden *partially*, and
then carefully rescribe through the center of the filled line with a No. 11
X-Acto blade. In situations where your scribing tool had slipped and a
"false branch" needs to be eliminated, use a combination of the two
previous techniques. Partially hardened putty is *much* easier to rescribe
than fully hardened putty, and you'll quickly learn by experience how much
to let the putty set up before you rescribe through it.
After the putty or superglue has dried completely, carefully wet-sand
each corrected flaw (and any raised edges along scribed panel lines) with
600-grit wet-or-dry sandpaper. Then return to the top of this section and
repeat the process until you can't find any more flaws in the newly-primed
I hope it goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway: scribing panel
lines on a model is a technique that requires some experience to get right,
so you should practice on an old or unimportant model first.
The sequence of steps that I've described here can be a bit tedious for
a large model that must be rescribed completely, but it really isn't
difficult, and the entire process can be accomplished rather quickly when
only a small amount of "touch up" scribing is needed to repair a few
engraved panel lines that were damaged during kit construction. Scribing a
model can even be relaxing, if you aren't in a hurry!
Charles E. Metz
[Q] How do you "scratchbuild" ? How do I get started?
email@example.com (Andrew Madison 1/96)
There's the odd tidbit of what its about in the more dramatic
conversions described in Fine Scale Modeler. Which is pretty much
what I would recommend for anyone contemplating scratch building for
the first time. If you have a fairly contained conversion in mind,
start there. It gets your feet wet, you play with some sheet stryene,
and you end up with 90% of what a scratch build is all about: a unique
subject unobtainable "out of the box".
Another way to get started, and I presume you have a project in mind, is
to just go ahead start building. Yup, that's right, start carving out
sheet styrene. You'll learn a couple of things in your first session.
First off, you'll be able to estimate how long it will take you to
complete the general construction on project. The first item, element,
sub-component you tackle will start out slowly, but as with all things
modeling, you'll soon build up experience with what sheet, tube, and
channel can and can't do for you. You'll also learn quickly what you
need to go back to the hobby store and get. When I'm in total build
mode, I'm constantly making lists of tube diameters to get, sheet in
various thicknesses and largest widths for my next trip to the shop.
And you might estimate that the rest of the project might go more
quickly. What will soon happen is you'll run into some kind of
"engineering" decision. How some part actually exists in 3-D is not
obvious from the 3 view drawing. There's an interference from a door
and a scoop. The wing needs reinforcement or armature of some kind to
make it strong enough to hang engines (even plastic ones) off of.
Generally, a scratch build will never speed up from beginning to end.
You can make an estimate of how many hours/days it will take to complete
the model from this first session. You balance that estimate against
other modeling goals.
But in my opinion, "engineering" decisions are the fun part. The
solution may not be immediately obvious, but if you contemplate the
issues, something will pop out. Studying the drawing a bit, and you
begin to visualize the main structure, You realize that the door is out
of scale, or that a brass rod will be small enough to give you the
And there's another problem. You think you've copied the 3 view
drawing, start to place that next chunk of sheet against the partial
model, and it doesn't fit. Ooops, made a mistake somewhere. And
sometimes, you realize, yup, 10 hours of work dimensionally wrong,
you'll have to do it over. I'm sort of like Norm Abrams, I check twice,
cut once, assemble the part, then go back & double check that the part
is the right size. I'm paranoid, because I screwed up big time once.
Whether you plan things this way or not, the project will proceed in
sub-components, As I build, after nearly each piece of styrene that goes
on, I will dry-fit the in progress assembly against the part/s it will
mate with, just to make sure everything is dimensionally correct. I had
one sub-assembly with 8 or so hours of work in it turn up just flat
wrong, it wasn't going to fit (what?!). I reviewed the drawings,
comparing them to my nearly finished sub-assembly and realized I had
misunderstood a spacial relationship in the parts. Rip, rip, rip, clean
up, clean up, then start re-cutting the correctly shaped pieces. But
when it came to actually mate the parts for real, I needed almost no
filler. Hey, its true, want anything done right, you have to do it
The other important thing you'll learn, even after spending a couple of
hours on a "test the waters" project is if you want to finish it. Maybe
you'll realize the scale is wrong. Maybe you'll realize that a 1/48th
scale USS Lexington will be bigger than your workshop, completely clean
out your bank account, and will be finished sometime in the year 2043.
You'll also either have enjoyed the first couple of hours going into the
project, and think you'll someday have a proud addition to your
collection, or that this project is going nowhere, and that something
else deserves the effort.
Most common tools, hmmm, (but there's more than that). Here's what I
usually start out with:
- Sheet styrene, various sizes and thicknesses. But only anticipate the
first round of building. The remainder will become obvious as you
- Evergreen Rods & Plastruct Channel of various forms. Again, anticipate
only the first sub-assembly.
- 1-1 scale drawings of the MODEL. If they're available, I photocopy
reductions or enlargements of the 3-view drawings of my intended
subject to the correct scale. There's nothing like just putting the
part on the plans, to see if its the right size. You can also
reproduce extra copies, glue the paper to the styrene, and parts
cutting is almost connect the dots.
- Number 11 blades, lots of `em. They get dull quickly cutting sheet.
- Drafting compasses. One is sufficient, but I usually have 2 or 3
dimensions going at once. They can also help scribe circular panel
lines, and can even cut circles (though I made a custom tool that
takes my hobby knife for that).
- A drafting quality ruler. That plastic thing used in elementry school,
doesn't make it. I even interpolate between millimeter marks.
- Panel Scribing tool.
- Superglue, several different types in the small bottles (they go bad on
me before I use them up.)
- Accelerant, makes construction almost a joy. But careful, a little goes
a long way.
- Small thickness brass sheet, for scribing panel lines.
- Sandpaper, all grades. Sometimes a part doesn't fit. A swipe at 80
grit and magically it does.
Here are other items I have, that help, but are optional:
- Calculator. Sometimes I need to convert dimensions from my original
- Various saws.
Tungsten scribe, its cuts a deeper groove than the scribing tool.
Dremel Motor tool, the chain saw of scratch building.
Small drill bits.
Brass rod & tubes. For detailing, and reinforcing, purchase as needed.
Airbrush. A gazillion hours into the project; you're not going to
brush the overall finish on (unless that's appropriate).
Start thinking about insignia. Having custom dry-transfers printed
are pricey. But there are generic decal sheets of all kinds. Maybe
raiding an existing model's decal sheet could work. Go to art stores
and see if they have a font, color, & size combination that would
work. Or there's using a PC/laser printer/photocopier to make the
[A] firstname.lastname@example.org (Cookie Sewell 1/96)
Two good tools that I can recommend (available through model railroad
shops like Walther's in Milwaukee) are the Northest Short Line Chopper and
the True Sander. One cuts plastic parts the identical same size every
time, and the other sands things to an exact 90 degree (or preset) edge
angle. Another one is the so-called "Polish" razor saw availabel from
Meteor Productions (made in Poland by laser cutting what looks like a
Gillette Blue Blade, and does it ever WORK!!!)
While I do armor, there isn't that much different in the tools. If you do
armor or ships, generally the first place to start is the hull. With
armor, next comes the suspension (steal this from a kit if at all
possible, where that razor saw comes in handy) and upper hull. Finally
the turret and or weapons system. Very logical progressions, and not as
hard as one would think.
[Q] What is/are vacuforms?
[A] email@example.com (??? 9/97)
"Vacuform" is a Mattel trademark for a machine which copies
small items in sheet plastic. The copies are produced by stretching
heat-softened plastic sheets over a mold, using suction from a vacuum
device to pull the warm pliable plastic into a closer reproduction
than might be achieved by a simple "heat and smash"
technique. Mattel's original vacuform could copy small toys such as
"Hot Wheels" car bodies.
More properly referred to as "vacuum-formed" kits, the first
commercial airplane kits were copied from a "master" original
hand-crafted carving in wood or clay. The main components, generally
the fuselage halves, wings, and stabilizers, were then copied. The
surface was devoid of detail except for the most prominent bumps and
deepest crevices. Early Rareplanes, Execuform, ID Models, and KPL
kits were of this type, known as "male masters." By engineering a
cavity mold, also known as a "female master", exterior detail rivaling
the finest injected plastic kits can be achieved. Many of these
vacuum-formed kits exhibit pimples from small drill-holes in which
allow vacuum suction to draw the softened plastic sheet into the
deeper parts of the cavity mold. Whereas injection tooling requires
thousands of dollars worth of equipment to start, many copies of a
vacuform can be made relatively cheaply, of particular interest to
niche markets. Biplanes from World War I in 1/72 scale, for example,
lend themselves particularly well to the vacuform technique, since the
fragile, thin wings can be reproduced from a single thickness of
vacuum-formed plastic. Not surpassingly, a successful vacuform
commercial release often generates enough interest on the part of an
injection kit company such that an injection kit may follow!
PUKALA'S PROGRESSION*: From IPMS/Houston; related to Murphy's Law:
1. As soon as you scratchbuild a model, someone will release a
vacuform kit of it.
2. As soon as you finish a vacuform kit, an injection molded
version will be released...
[Q] How do I assemble a vacuum-formed kit?
[A] firstname.lastname@example.org (??? 9/97)
Vacuum-formed parts must be separated from the surrounding sheet
plastic by scoring with a hobby knife, or scribing tool, then gently
flexing until the parts separate. One then needs to sand away the
thickness of the plastic till a part (half) remains. A standard method
is to fix a sheet of wet-or-dry sandpaper to a hard flat surface with
double stick tape, then sand in a circular motion. Warm water with a
drops of detergent helps keep plastic dust to a minimum and prevents
clogging the "pores" of the sandpaper. The double stick tape can also
help keep a grip on the parts being sanded. Alternatively, but not
recommended, one may try to cut the parts flush, or cut widely around
and belt sand away the surrounding plastic remnants. Trailing edges
can be filed or sanded to a sharpness difficult to achieve with
injection kits as well, however mating the halves requires care. Once
all the parts are cleaned up, they can be assembled similar to any
other kit, noting that there are no pins, line-up holes, or tabs.
Most models at this level will remove such parts from injection kits,
anyway, since there is often enough error in manufacturing to produce
mis-alignment! Small tabs from scraps of leftover surrounding plastic
sheet can be glued to the fuselage halves in an alternating fashion to
provide both some alignment and joint strength. A kit usually is
comprised of the fuselage and flying surfaces, and a canopy clearer
than in most injection kits. Other smaller parts do not lend
themselves so well to the vacuum-form technique, and although the
outlines of props, wheels, engine faces, struts, guns, etc., may
appear on the sheet plastic, alternatives from the "spare parts box"
or after-market details in white metal or resin are often used. If
the smaller parts are to be used, they should be reinforced by filling
with epoxy for strength, prior to cutting from the main sheet, filing
Assembly should proceed with liquid plastic cement or cyanoacrylate.
Tube glue should be avoided, as it tends to melt the plastic.
Squadron Putty or Testors filler is probably best avoided, for the
same reason. Small blemishes can be filled with these putties, but
using more than a thin film is not recommended. Better alternatives
are two-part fillers, such as Milliput, or gap-filling super glue.
Aerosol insulating foam makes a good, light weight filler for parts
which might require strength, and balsa or metal spars are a good idea
for larger wings. Airfoil shapes are available from Contrail (Now
Sanger?) and Strutz.
[Q] What companies produce vacuform aircraft?
[A] email@example.com (??? 9/97)
(Some of these companies are defunct, but the molds often survive in
5 Silverwood Ave.
NG15 9UB England
- mixed media mainly British, both 1/72 and 1/48; some
low-pressure injection kits (trainers, esp.) large
selection of metal parts
Aircraft in Miniature Ltd.
(Includes Transport Wings and Historic Wings)
- 1/72 airliners
Obere Vorstadt 21,
Albstadt 1, Ebingen, Germany
-long-established German company, many selections now available
Airframe - defunct male-mold Canadian company,
- many 1/72 WW I subjects
Airvac- X-1 / hypersonic series
Alpha - defunct European - male mold
Atkins-UK-defunct- 1/48 WW II
P.O. Box 97
Usk, WA 99180 USA
43A Glasford St.
Tooting, London SW17 9HL England
- 1/72 WW I mixed media & decals
Britavia defunct British firm!
ul Pilotow 10G/33
80-460, Gdansk, POLAND
- Polish with injection details, many unique non-Polish/(Swedish) items
04 BL Poirier Ville,
St. Laurent, PQ H4R 2J5 Canada
- 1/72 Canadian subjects, 1930's
Krayser Str.10, 45276 Essen Germany
- 1/72 German WW I
400 3rd St.
W. Easton, PA USA 18042
- Male molds, larger scales (1/48 bombers, 1/32 fighters)
Contrail ( Now Sanger)
- Noted for British planes of the 1930's mainly 1/72, some 1/48
Cooper Details - USA
- Noted for resin details, several 1/48 full kits
Cramer Craft- UK- Defunct
Dynavector - British 1/48 full multimedia kits
P.O. Box 190084
St. Louis, MO 63119
- US/Czech connection
Main Road East Hagbourne,
Didcot, Oxon OX11 9LJ England
Execuform aka Nostalgia on Wings
P.O. Box 7853
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
- USA, male molds, 1/72 '30's era, many civil - Naval types,
also USN 30's
P.O. Box 42-093
Homedale, Wellington, New Zealand
- outstanding supplier of canopies
Formaplane - England - defunct - produced lesser-known WW II types
Frankmodels - German -combined with Airmodel
22 Slayleigh Ave.
Sheffield, South Yorkshire S10 3RB England
- several British post-WW II types in 1/72
ID models - England- larger scale (1/32) Hard to find
JMGT - 1/48 French designs 71 Grande Rue 95760Valmondois France
Joystick- England 1/72 WW I
Karl As - German -1/48
Koster Aero Enterprises
25 Glenridge Drive
Bedford, Massachusetts 01730
- USA-1/48 mainly WW II
- WW II 1/72, many male molds
Libramodels-England- WW I
Lone Star - www.lonestarmodels.com/index.htm#TOPICS
- 1/48 WW I and more
Maintrack Project X
79 Queens Road Hastiness,
East Susan, TN34 1RL England
- Post-WW II experimental jets
MPM -Czech- mainly short run injection. Several 1/72 & 1/48 vas
Nova -USA- 1/72 large jets
29-31 Trafalgar Street, Lowestoft, Suffolk, UK NR32 2AT
(Web Site promised soon: http.//www.hannants.co.uk/)
- Pioneer range now sustained by Hannants
Roseplane -USA- http.//www.swiftsite.com/rosemonthobby/
- 1/72 WW I
RVF- USA - defunct, male molds, 1/72 50's jets
Sanger- Help, I need this address!
910 Indian Hills Drive.
-USA mainly German WW I
Sutcliff- UK- British inter-war 1/72 seems to have become Contrail
Truckers' Mate - Sweden - Fokker CV 1/72 may have been its only kit
930 Foul Bay Road
Victoria BC V8S 9BG Canada
- 1/72, Eastern Bloc connection
VLE- 1/72 1920's Fakers
P.O. Box 327
Richmond Michigan 48062
Welsh Models - UK- 1/144 civil
93 Fonmon Park Road
Rhoose, Barry, South Glamorgan CF6 9BG UK
P.O. Box 1834
Dearborn, Michigan 48121
3349 Wildridge Dr.
NE Grand Rapids, Michigan 49505 USA
-1/72 (and 1/48) USA with ? Czech conncection- all eras &
[Q] How can I make my own vacuforming machine?
[A] firstname.lastname@example.org (??? 9/97)
Circuit board available from Radio Shack has the requisite
perforations for the top platform. A 4" X 6" box sealed with RTV
caulking can be constructed with a keyhole bored to accomodate a shop
vac. A heating frame of two layerers of wood can be used to hold the
plastic using either staples or wing nuts. Remember wood ignites at
about 450 degrees! A candle, stove, or toaster oven can be used for a
heat source. A hot air hair dryer does not provide enough heat. I
melted my original Mattell vacuform using a Wagner power paint
stripper. (Not recommended as a heat source.) I also melted our
dining room table formica surface with a butane torch. (also strongly
NOT recommended) The properly heated plastic will sag due to gravity.
About half the depth you expect to be molding is a good estimate.
Some trial and error is necessary, since plastic heated too little can
be removed from the platform and reheated, but over heated plastic
will likely separate from the carrying frame, leading to molten
plastic blobs falling and hardening in the worst places.
"Do It Yourself Vacuum Forming" is published by Douglas E. Walsh,
and is available directly from him at:
272 Morganhill Dr.
Lake Orion, MI 48360
Coommercial machines are available to make magnetic signs etc, much
larger than required for the usual modelling project. Check your
yellow pages under "Signs."
An available source of cheap vacuum pumps for people without a vacuum
cleaner with a hose attatchment:
American Science and Surplus
3605 W. Howard St.
Skokie, IL 60077
Fax: (800) 934-0722
[Q] Where can I get styrene for vacuforming?
[A] email@example.com (??? 9/97)
Support your LOCAL HOBBY SHOP!
Squadron Mail Order
1115 Crowley Drive
Carrollton, TX 75001-5010 USA
Evergreen Sheet Styrene
12808 NE 125th Way, Kirkland,
Washington 98034 USA
340 Snyder Heights
NJ 07922-1595 USA
1020 South Wallace Place,
City of Industry, CA 91748USA
[Q] I sanded too much. What now?
[A] firstname.lastname@example.org (??? 9/97)
Frequently, the pieces flex as sanding progresses, leading to a
less-than-perfect fit of two halves - for example, leading to an oval
fuselage where circular was desired. This can be rectified by
shimming with plastic strips using super glue or (carefully) with
liquid cement such as Tenex; or with two-part (epoxy) filler such
[Q] How can I make bulkheads that fit?
[A] email@example.com (??? 9/97)
A contour gauge, available at hardware stores, gives a good idea of
the necessary shape. Another method is to use clay or similar media
packed into the area, then rremoved and sliced thinly.
[Q] How should I do the canopy?
[A] firstname.lastname@example.org (??? 9/97)
A vacuum-formed canopy can be filled with plaster of paris for backing
strength while masking with tape or Bare-metal foil. This gives
support while cutting out, and a chance to make another copy if you
ruin the original. Many kits come with 2 canopies just for this
liklihood! Gummy residue can be removed with isopropyl alcohol on a
beveled toothpick (preferably BEFORE a coat of Future). I place a
thin bead of Miliput to the cockpit surrounding to test-fit the
canopy. Removing the canopy before the putty is fully hard, I trim
the inside with a #11 hobby blade, then after full curing, sand the
outside to blend with the fuselage, Voila! it should be a perfect
It should be attatched with Elmers white-glue, watch crystal cement,
MicroClear; or Tenex will work on different plastics, but won't bond
to epoxy. Cyanoacrylate superglue will fog the inside of the canopy.
I have rescued fogged canopies by infusing Future into the cockpit
with an insulin syringe and needle, then carefully covering my needle
track with a brushload of paint. (Putty is not usually necessary for
such a small hole!) In my experience .010" clear butyrate is superior
to clear styrene for vacuum-forming canopies.
IPMS Canada Random Thoughts Volume 21 #1
Scale Aircraft Modeling (Alan Hall, Editor)
Volume 9 #11 August 1987 - Vacuform modeling - The basic steps
Fine Scale Modeller
Vacuum-form kit, Spring 1982 p28
Vacuum-formed aircraft, building your first, Nov/Dec 1985 p50
Vacuum-forming canopies, turrets, and lenses, Aug 1986 p38
Vacuum-forming machine, building, Oct 1986 p40
How to Build Vacuum-formed Kits Nov 1992 p35
Assembling vacuum-formed parts, Jan 1993 p36
Final assembly of a vacuum-formed conversion, July 1993 p32
Final assembly, paint, and decals, March 1993 p70
Tackling a bigger project, Feb 1993 p46
Building and Improving Vacuform Models Kalmbach Publishing
"Do It Yourself Vacuum Forming" by Douglas E. Walsh
FAQ Table of Contents