Our December issue of MAN will include an article I wrote about painting and finishing models with scale Stits and Poly Tone paints. I touch on Rib and Surface Tapes briefly so here are some more details on applying these scale details. When it comes to large 1/3-scale models, these kind of details are all the more important for a good professional looking finish. For these techniques, I am showing what I did on my Balsa USA 33% Fokker Triplane kit.
For most of my experience in finishing model airplanes, the “go-to” product has always been paper hair setting tape. The pink colored paper tape “Beauty Mark Styling Tape ” is available at most “Sally Beauty” Supply stores (www.sallybeauty.com). Another tape I like to use is CVS brand cloth bandage tape. This has a finer pinked edging and works very well as it has a mild adhesive backing. It is not as flexible as the paper tape so I use it mostly for straight flat applications. It comes in several widths and I use it for wing ribs, and wing Leading edges, tail surfaces and fuselage stringers. For Trailing Edges and tight radius edges I use the older paper tape. If you are applying tapes over Stits Lite fabric, you can also use the surface tapes available from F&M Enterprises, as they are cut from the same material, but does not have adhesive applied to it.
Start by doing the smaller surfaces first and then go on to bigger ones. It is important to have a clean and smooth fabric covering before applying the tapes. I have found you can apply tapes before, or after applying the Poly Brush to seal the fabric.
By the way, F&M Enterprises also offers scale rib tapes cut from the same material used for Stits Lite fabric. It works great as well.
Here you see the cloth surface tapes applied to the tail surface ribs and the paper tape applied to the rounded outer edges. Here about two coats of Poly Brush have been applied.
Here I have started to apply Poly Brush to the rest of the horizontal stabilizer. The more coats you apply, the smoother your finish will be.
A good rule for applying tapes is to apply all the short ones first and then apply the longer edge tapes to cover the ends of the short
ones. First apply the short tapes and apply them slightly over long so you have some overhang.
Do not wrap the short tapes around edges, instead cut them flush with the edge and then use the longer ones to finish up the edging treatment.
This makes the edge tape smoother and neater. As I mentioned before, you will find that the fabric bandage tapes work great in straight lines but are not as flexible as the paper hair styling tape. I use the paper tape to wrap the trailing edges. It works great for this and the combination of both tapes is very useful for a nice scale appearance.
Above you see the tapes applied to the aileron. I did add a couple coats of Poly Brush under the tapes.
Here I am applying more Poly Brush to the tapes. Be sure to fill in their weave for a smooth finished look.
Once you have applied your tapes and several additional coats of Poly Brush to fill in the surface weave of the cloth covering, use stiff wire hooks and hang your control surfaces to dry overnight. If you leave them flat on the workbench or horizontal, you will mare the finish and dust will settle on the parts.
The same techniques applies to all the cloth covered parts of your model including the fuselage. Here the surface tapes have been applied and one coat of Poly Brush has been applied over the tapes.
I apply tapes and Poly Brush to all areas where sub structure edges and corners comes in contact with the fabric. For the fuselage, I prefer to do all this with the fuselage horizontal on the workbench and work one side at a time.
Just like the control surfaces, after the fuselage has been done, I hang it on stiff wire hooks from the shop rafters until dry.
With vintage airplanes like the Fokker Triplane, the wings are under-cambered and if you heat the fabric too much or don’t do a good job gluing down to the underside of the ribs, it can pop free and bridge the surface of the ribs. Here’s a trick I use to prevent this.
Take a sharp awl and poke a hole into the center of the rib cap-stripping. It dies not need to be very deep.
Take a “00″ screw (it does not have to be counter-sunk but) and screw it into the hole.
Tighten it down so it recesses into the cap-strip but be careful not to strip out the threads.
Apply a drop or two of thin ZAP CA glue around the screw head so it wicks into the cloth.
Now repeat this process for all the ribs in the wing.
Now apply the tapes to the wing ribs and the around the outer edges.
When applying the wider Leading Edge Taping, I like to place the wing up on edge so I can eye-ball the straightness of the tape by sighting along it from the wingtip. Take your time and make sure all your tapes are applied straight.
Here you see the paper tape applied around the wing tip to cover the covering seam.
As with all the parts of the model, apply several coats to the tapes to fill in their weave and to build up the surface and smooth and blend in the tapes with the rest of the covering surface. Also note here the the tapes are centered overe the rib cap-strips and the corner edges.
Here the wingtip has been filled with Poly Brush. Notice also that the rib tapes extend over the Leading edge sheeting and the ends are covered over by the wider Leading Edge tape.
Once finished, hang the wing panels to dry over night.
After you have applied the Poly Brush and it has dried overnight, you can continue with your paint job. Here the silver “Poly Spray” undercoat has been applied.
Here’s a closeup of some fuselage surface tapes all silvered out. Make sure they are all applied flat and there are no lifted edges. No amount of paint will cover up mistakes. If you find lifted edges, apply more Poly Brush and press the tapes down until dry.
Here’s the wing Leading Edge. Notice how everything lays down nice and flat.
That’s it! Now all you have to do is paint, mask, paint, mask and paint your model…
Adding the fiberglass panels gives the plane a scale appearance. But that’s another technique.