The fuselage adds some complexity to our covering procedures because of the compound curves and the overall shape of the fuselage. Plus we have three different colors that have to be added on to different parts of the fuselage. The placement of the color seams will have to match up from one side of the fuselage to the other and this will involve some planning and careful layout of the design — so let’s get to it!
YOU’LL NEED You will still need all the same equipment as we used on covering the wing. However, for this installment, I mainly use the covering, straightedge, oven mitt, electric scissors, hobby knife, covering iron and heat gun.
Step 1: The first step is covering tight corners and unusual profiles with smaller pieces of the matching covering. In this case, the three main areas are where the rudder fin joins into the fuselage, on the belly pan and at the end of the wing flaring. The rudder fin is all in yellow and just needed a small strip of covering to create a nice clean joint. On the wing fairing I needed to add two different colors and then cut a clean line between the two different colors.
Step 2: Now I can cut out my covering for the fuselage. I started with the yellow because it is not as dense a color as the silver. If I laid down the yellow over the silver, you would see the silver showing through the yellow at the seams. Large pieces of covering, like this one for the fuselage, are easier to cut out with electric scissors.
Step 3: There is one part in the color scheme that requires a curved arc in the covering. For this I resorted to the pantry and found a can of beans that matched the arc of the curve. Using the can as a template, it was very easy to cut out the curved line that was needed on the yellow pieces. I used the same can to cut out the silver covering side pieces that complete the covering seam.
I cannot emphasize the need to always use the sharpest blade you can for each cut. I frequently change out my blade after about three or four cuts like this one. To save time and make two identical pieces, one for each side, lay down two sheets of covering face-to-face or back-to-back before making the cut.
Step 4: Now it is just a simple matter of measuring and marking the sides of the fuselage with the location of the covering and ironing it down. Notice that I started at my cutout/seam first and worked the iron back to the edges of the fuselage. Because the placement of the color line is critical, always start from there and iron back. I placed the yellow covering about ¼ inch in to where the silver covering will go to create a nice overlapping seam.
Step 5: One of the hardest parts of using heat covering for multicolored paint schemes is getting a nice straight line at the seam where it the colors meet. Making the cuts before ironing the pieces on will work on simple cuts but can be an issue when going over compound curve such as on a fuselage. Plus as you heat the covering down it tends to shrink a little and create a wavy, not so straight line at the seam. I found that heat covering does not stick well to clear packing tape, so at my seam line I laid down tape so that it extends about ¼ inch under my covering. Then I used regular masking tape to create my cut line for the seam. Editor’s tip: Pre-stick the tape to material, such as your pants, so that it is not so tacky. This will make it much easier to pull up the tape later on. This is especially true if it is laid down over previous covering material because packing tape really sticks to the covering. If you don’t do this, it will adhere so well to the covering that it may pull it up when you try to pull the packing tape off.
Step 6: Now I ironed down the covering, as I normally would, right over the tape. The masking tape gives a nice, easy-to-see cut line through the covering. Using this guideline and a straightedge, I made the seam cut. Then I pulled up the tape, which leaves about a ¼ inch of loose covering that will need to be ironed down. (Note: in this shot I did not use one piece of silver covering all the way down the fuselage side. I did on the other side and it required a lot more work and time to lay down smooth. I just placed the seam at a location where I will add a panel line later to make it disappear. This is a much easier way to do it and the seam is not really all that distracting to begin with.)
As you can see, I ended up with a nice straight seam that was preshrunk and, once ironed down, left a very straight line.
Step 7: For smaller panels, such as this one that goes on the belly of the fuselage, it is easier just to pre-cut everything and iron it on. I used my iron at a lower temperature so that it only activates the glue and sticks down the material. At this temperature it will not really shrink down the material much, thereby maintaining my 1/4-inch overlap.
Step 8: My final step is to cut out all the openings in the covering by using a soldering iron. The soldering iron cuts easily through the covering, leaving a nice clean edge and at the same time seals the covering down for a permanent finish.
Step 9: Using the same techniques, I am able to finish off the fuselage with some nice clean lines that separate the different colors.
Here is what I have so far: a finished color scheme and a plane ready for the final details to be added.
Great article and a great help. Now, what can you discuss openly about covering a giant scale top flite p51D gold edition with fiberglass.
Wish I was that talented. Guess I am in too big of a rush to go fly. Nice work and finish.
I’ve been building model airplanes for 65 years and I’ve never come across John’s technique of using packing tape and masking tape to make clean, straight seam cuts. See, even old-timers can learn “new” tricks! Gonna try this on my next covering job. The photos are worth a close look! Look at how carefully the wood has been prepped for covering. Lots of good info here. Thanks for a great article.
Great idea on using the packing tape.
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