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Scale panels and Louvers

Scale panels and Louvers

This Henry Haffke design was built as part of a team effort with Henry and myself working together to finish this impressive icon of National Air Racing fame. Here are more of the finishing techniques I used to detail the Ike.

Scale Exterior Panels

One of the details that’s a real part of the Howard Ike (or any other classic air racer from the 20s and 30s,) is the metal panels used to finish the fuselage with. Much of the airplanes were covered with fabric, but around the engine and the cockpit, basic sheets of metal were used. Here’s how I replicated this obvious detail on my 1/3-scale model.


After covering all of the areas with fabric, (I used 21st Century painted Coverite,) I use thin poster board stock to establish the size and shapes of the various panels needed. The engine cowl section is all covered with balsa sheet and it will be finished with two layers of .75-oz. fiberglass cloth and Pacer Z-Poxy finishing resin.

Once I had all the cardboard templates made, I cut all the panels from 0.015-inch fiberglass G-10 sheets available from FTE (franktiano.com.) You can only use these panels for flat areas. Panels that have compound curves won’t work, but this is OK. Most of the early aircraft used flat section panels and kept curved and formed parts to a minimum.


Here the panels are being fitted into place. To make it easy to screw them into place I drew in the screw holes with CAD and used a laser to cut them out.


This close-up shows the overlap of the panels with the fabric covering and the bare balsa surfaces. Also not the fueler cap is in the scale gas cap position.




To keep the sheet panels from buckling, start in the center of the panels and add the screws to every other hole, and work outward to the edges.


The G-10 fiberglass sheet material also makes great templates. I used it to guide where I was going to add the raised louvers on the glassed surface of the engine cowl. Justy slide a hobby blade into the slot and all the louvers will be equally spaced!


And talking about raised louvers, here some of the aluminum louvers are being added! Let’s look at the technique more closely

Scale Louvers and Exterior Surface Detail

Ok, with the smooth scale exterior panels in place, here’s the skinny for making those characteristic raised louvers that are so much a part of any scale model of the Howard “Ike” Racer. Being done in 1/3-scale and using laser-cut panels and templates makes this task a lot easier.


Like I said before, all the panels and templates are made from G-10 fiberglass sheet material available from FTE (franktiano.com) I used 0.015-inch sheeting and it is very easy to bend into place. I made pattern templates from thin cardboard to develop the size and shape of the panels and then I scanned the patterns into CAD. I redrew the panels so I could laser-cut them to size. I also laid out all the screw holes and the angled slots for the raised louvers so everything would be evenly spaced and straight.

In this photo I am cutting through the slots into the engine cowl section with a hobby blade so the louvers can be pressed into place.


Here, all the aluminum louvers have been inserted into the louver slots. Each of the louvers is made from 0.020-inch thick aluminum flashing material cut into ¼-inch wide strips. Using the template, the ends of each louver is bent about 90 degrees and is inserted into the slot. The aft edge is raised about 1/8-inch and the front is pressed down against the panel. Thin CA glue is used to secure each louver into place. The outer bends in the louver strips is bent to match the angle of the slots cut into the fuselage panel section.


To install louvers in the fuselage / engine cowl section, I taped the template into place and then cut the louver slots with the hobby knife using the template as a guide.


Here with the template removed you can see all the evenly spaced louver slots cut into the fiberglass finished balsa surface that makes up the engine cowl side panel.


Here are all the side louvers installed and glued into place.


The full-size Ike had a two piece cowl arrangement with a long piano hinge running along the center top of the cowl. I replicated this detail with a piece of plastic covered wire. I cut rings around the wire in evenly spaced sections to look like the barrels of the hinge run.


Next, to form the hinge leaf edges, I applied ¼-inch wide strips of aluminum heating tape on either side of the wire. Using a length of sharpenedmusic wire, I next pierced evenly spaced holes into each tape. This makes a neater hole that a small diameter twist drill.


The final touch is to screw into place the small screws. The detailing is now ready to paint.



Mask off the model along the edges of the panels to cover up the fabric covered sections. I use double layered newspaper and painter’s tape for this.



Now with the model masked off, apply two light mist coats of FeatherCoat Primer from F&M Enterprises, (scalestits.com), and then after waiting 30 minutes, apply a coat of PolySpray silver undercoat, then 3 or 4 light mist coats of Poly Tone White! All my Poly Tone paint supplies is from F&M Enterprises and applied with a HLVP (High volume low pressure) spray gun.




The finishing touches for any scale model, are the decals and aircraft markings. Here the lettering was produced to match my documentation by Callie-Graphics.com.

Note: the scale exhaust stacks are none functional. Only lengths of aluminum tubes inserted into the side of the cowl and painted black.

FTE: franktiano.com

Callie Graphics: (505) 281-9310; info@callie-graphics.com

F&M Enterprises: scalestits.com



Updated: April 29, 2019 — 3:37 PM
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