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5 Great Scale Building Tips

5 Great Scale Building Tips

When it comes to building  airplanes, all scale modelers seem to have mastered the art of Imagineering. Where sport models are utilitarian and have basic Monokote finishes and switches are easily accessible and located, scale planes are all about looking realistic. Here are some basic workshop building and detailing tips as well as a few other just handy ideas to make your workbench more user-friendly and your models more realistic.

1. Repurposing is a new term but for modelers it’s old-school.


Check out this excellent treatment of the cockpit combing on this 1/4-scale Fokker D.VIII. The material is replacement golf-club grip tape. It’s made of leather and looks great. You could also get some old clubs from a fela market and carefully remove the old grips to save some bucks.

2. Hiding Servos

This is a old requirement. When you build a model with an open cockpit, you can locate your servos somewhere else, install a false floor, or simply place something over them to gain the attentions of the viewer. With my 1/3-scale Howard Ike Racer, to keep the tail weight to a minimum and to keep the pushrods reasonably short, I had to locate the servos in the cockpit.


So by adding some support braces from Lite-ply and adding some stick-on screen door magnetic strip material, I made my aluminum pilot seat removable.


Matching strips were added to the seat and the seat simply snaps into place. Now add a few details with common hobby/craft supplies and the finished treatment completely covers the servo installation.


3. Removable Fuel Tank Installation

Whenever I bury a fuel tank, (or a smoke oil tank,) sure enough, it will eventually form a leaky fitting. To make maintenance a bit easier, I always install my tanks in a removable tray made from plywood that screws into place.

tank battery

You can see here that this tray is serving double duty by also supporting my radio and engine ignition battery packs. The tray slides into place and is guided to the front of the fuselage with hardwood side rails built into the formers.


Here you see the tray in place. The view is through the wing saddle area. The two screws are easy to get to and hold the batteries and tank securely in place.

4. Staying Connected


Now this is something you did not think about years ago. Today, there are all sorts of online sources for building and detailing information, (like on modelairplanenews.com) as well as building forums and other modeling websites. While following a How To technique, I often skip printing out the instructions on paper and just use my Ipod in the shop. But! And this is important to know, electronics do no take kindly to drips of glue or splashes of paint solvents. Simply slip your electronics in a Zip lock bag and seal it from the elements. Many touch screen work through the thin baggie and you can stay connected. But don’t try this with electronics that have cooling fans like PCs and Tablets. They need proper ventilation.

5. Stay organized


I’ll go on the record and tell everyone, I just HATE hangar rash and I try to eliminate its causes in the shop. Ruin a nicely primed and fiber-glassed wing surface by placing the wing on the workbench with a screw in between and you’ll know what I mean. The best thing I’ve come up with is staying organized. Clean your workbench every night when you are done for the evening and keep small screws and hardware items in organizer boxes. This also helps speed the building process.

That’s it. if you have some good ideas, share them and leave a comment below.


Updated: July 23, 2015 — 8:49 AM
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  1. If you need to install a pull string for navigation lights etc. in a prebuilt wing, attached the end of the string to a small round split fishing weight. Holding the wing in a vertical position, drop the fishing weight attached to the string in an entrance hole and the weight will pull the string through the wing. Find the interior openings by tilting the wing toward the supposed opening in the ribs until it reaches the desired other end.
    I hope the helps.

  2. Thanks Gerry. I’ll steal that idea for my next project. I’ll be sure to tell everyone it was your guidance.

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