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Model Plane Construction: Covering a Wingtip

Model Plane Construction: Covering a Wingtip


Covering a wing panel with film covering is fairly simple and easy to do, even for those with little skill; that is, until you get to the wingtip. Of course, all wingtips are different shapes, and not all fall in the category of difficult to cover. Some have a gentle taper to a rounded tip with very few compound curves, making covering a simple process. Others can be more difficult. The wingtip I describe here is one of those that can’t be covered along with the wing. The better way is to cover it separately. Although you will end up with a seam on the final wing rib, you will find it a more reasonable approach to success.

I went through this covering process with UltraCote film covering several times and noticed that it makes a difference how the film covering is cut from the roll. I found it best to leave extra material when covering the length of the wing, and then use the piece trimmed off at the end to cover the tip. Using a piece of film cut parallel to the edge of the roll will cause it to sag severely in the shrinking process. The secret for success is to make sure the piece you cut is perpendicular to the roll edge. Oh, yes, this tip will also work with MonoKote.

So, heat up your covering iron and trim iron, grab a sharp knife and follow along in the photos my process for covering that pesky wingtip.

Tools required for covering and covering the wingtip. (DSC9749) Typical problem wingtip, with the covering problem occurring between the gusset and the leading edge. Cover the wing panel and trim off at the last rib, leaving a generous overlap ironed down against the rib. The rib thickness is not enough surface area to retain the film when shrinking. Note: Black marks indicate the amount of overlap covering fore and aft.


On the piece of covering to be applied, develop a contour to fit the rib for an even overlap seam, generally to the shape of the rib contour. The overlap should be approximately 1/4 inch.


Using the trim iron, tack the covering at one end to the rib just inside the black mark. Later, you can remove the black mark with alcohol. Grabbing the loose end, pull it across the top of the rib for an even-width seam, and iron in place. You are now ready to tack and iron down the opposite side.


Before you start to tack down the covering, place the wing on the workbench with the wingtip extending over the edge. Use a sandbag to hold it down, so you’ll have two hands to work with. Starting near the front, pull the covering straight down and tack it in place. Work along in small increments toward the trailing edge. Now, move to where you started, and do the same thing going forward. Try and get the covering as tight as you can. Lift and retack, if necessary, as you go along. The covering should lay flat and tight without gathering and bunching up.


Trim off the excess covering, and seal it in place with the covering iron. Using the trim iron, shrink the covering staying away from the seams on both sides. Gently glide the iron over the surface until the covering is wrinkle-free. You will have to do this four times, on each side of each tip, to complete the wing.


What a beautiful wingtip, and not a wrinkle to be seen. A covering job you can be proud of!


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Add a Comment
  1. Good hint, I just find it much easier to use the Cover Tugger, and pull and heat…

  2. First wipe the wing film with acetone to move traces of oil from manufacturing. Reduces lift after a season or so’s flying.
    Is it better to do the tips before or after the main panel? I have tried both ways & 1 advantage to tip first is that trimming the inboard end of tip covering is not as critical because of folding over the rib. If it is a light structure the tension might tend to warp the rib doing it tip first.

  3. Should be easy enough to cover that tip with the main piece of covering material, without using a separate piece.
    Takes a bit more heat, and a bit more “skill”, but the result is MUCH better!

  4. Like Jerry says, this tip is intended for modelers who are not that much experienced in the art of covering airplanes, and for that this is a very good technique. We do not need to be as skilled as for example Faye Stilley, who has made so many beautiful covering jobs over the years. For many, covering their airplane – or even patching an existing covering with a hole in it – is the most difficult part of modeling. Techniques like this can help them getting a good result.

    With practice, skills will improve and after a while you will start to stretch the film over the tip, elliminating the seam on the wing rib – unless you intend to use two different colors for wing and tip.

    Clean and smooth surfaces, adequate heat, stretching the film, “always” apply dark colors over lighter and HAVING PATIENCE, are probably THE best ways to achieve a good covering job. Personally I use denaturated alcohol for wiping the film. It has a less “agressive” smell than acetone and removes oil just as good, giving a clean surface for the overlapping seam.

    Also, some covering films are stiff as heck – rather unable to conform to complex curves. Then it’s a must to use this technique, no matter what. Other films are very soft/”stretchable” and will flow over complex curves almost like a coat of paint when heated and stretched. It’s difficult to say what film is the best, but my experience is that as structures gets smaller and more intricate, a softer/more stretchy film gives a better result.

  5. A great write up which should interest even for the more experienced modeller as contoured wing tips can really be a PITA to cover.

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