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Model Airplanes

Model Airplanes is a terrific and fun hobby to get started. Below is a terrific introductory article where you can learn the basics and how to get started. You can help grow our learning community by contributing your knowledge to the article. Just click on the edit tab in the wiki article below.

Use the white subtabs above to navigate the other Model Airplanes resources. We have a Model Airplanes forum where you can get your questions & doubts answered, a page with Model Airplanes how-to videos, a page with the best handpicked links to other sites, and a page with the best Model Airplanes books and products.

Good Luck and Have Fun!
Duncan Davis

 

Introduction


There is nothing quite like a miniature model of any flying aircraft. Given the size of an actual aircraft, models become the best way to have a collection of this vehicle type. The process involves a kit, some glue, and patience. However, this is only the first step for the hobby.




The project may begin with a box of plastic elements, but there is no end to the amount of customization that is possible for a professional model builder. Some of the options may include a unique paint job, a conversion to a different vehicle, or a modification to a model, like battle damage. The only limitation is how detailed do you want to get.




It should be noted that models of aircraft can be divided into two major categories. These are static and flying models. Static models have more detail and are meant for displays. The flying model simulates the physics found in aircraft, but they tend to have little resemblance to real aircraft.




Tools for static models


If you find that you are serious about pursuing modeling, you’re going to need a number of tools to help in the process. These tools are broken up into two major groups. The first is the essential tools of the trade. These tools enable you to get the proper amount of detailing found in professionally built models.




The second group of tools is more for luxury. These tools make the process easier and the outcome better. These tools are also more expensive so only get them if you find your hobby has turned into a passion. It’s recommended that you start with the basic tools before working your way up to the luxury tools.



Essential


Assembling a model by hand is only for the youngest and most basic model builder. These sets most likely have a snap together design with no tools required. Those types of models need little to know guidance and their outcome will show a very basic model.




When you’re ready for the ones you want to display, you’ll need a few tools to help accomplish this. The following paragraphs will introduce the tool and describe some of the functionality of the tool.




The first tool is a hobby knife. The knife comes in two parts the blade and the handle. The normal blade type used in model building is a number 11. The average brand for this knife is Exacto knife. The hobby knife is a great tool for removing plastic pieces from the sprues (the plastic frame that holds the pieces. It also is useful in removing the flash (extra plastic that is still attached to your piece) from the pieces. You can also use the knife in a dozen other situations that you might come across in the process of building the model.




Safety glasses are an important part of model building. When you`re cutting pieces tiny shards and debris are likely to fly about causing minor annoyance and/or injury. Since a good degree of eye sight helps in the model building process, it’s wise not to chance blinding yourself. The safety glasses also play a substantial role in protecting your eyes from harsh glues paints and other materials you might need throughout the build.




Sand paper can prove to be invaluable when trying to achieve a high degree of detail. It can be used to sand away excess glue or create a much smoother surface when painting. It’s recommended to get a variety of grits for these purposes. 400 to 1000 are perfectly suitable ranges when selecting the fineness of the grit. Some modelers go as fine as 2000 for their models.




Fine tweezers make an excellent tool in model building. During any detailed model build, you’ll find occasions to handle extremely tiny pieces. These pieces require a fine tool to allow you to grip and place the piece while still being able to see the piece. The fine tweezers are custom designed exactly for this task.




Paint brushes are a modeler’s best friend. Even when you use airbrushing techniques, you’ll still find that small out of the way parts will need a touch of paint. You can also use these delicate brushes to maintain your models. Perhaps they need a delicate dusting or a small piece needs a touch up to its paint job. Check with your local hobby store to determine if they recommend certain sizes for various jobs.




Pins prove to be ideal for applying a very fine bead of glue. They not only have the ability for amazing precision, but they also give the modeler great visibility on where the glue will be applied. Since the pins are made of metal, they will resist bending or warping like other options you might think of to accomplish this task.




Toothpicks may not be ideal for applying glue like pins, but they do have their uses. Mostly they’re best for stirring your small containers of paint. They also are a good for testing the color and consistency of your paint. It also helps that they’re really cheap.




Glue, without it your models won’t stay together. Check your kit for suggestions on which glues will work best. If no suggestions are given, Testers Glue in the tube will serve for most things. You can also get the advice from the clerk at the hobby store.




Filler, this usually comes in a tube. The large scale equivalent would probably be cocking. Its use here is to smooth out areas between glued parts. Once applied and set, you can use sand paper to smooth the area and get it prepped for painting.




If you aren’t sure if a part fits together, tape makes an excellent tool for helping to figure this out. Tape also makes it easy to cover areas you don’t want painted. Use it similarly to how you’d paint around a window.




Disposable gloves make a nice addition to your modeling tools. Some glue will recommend keeping away from contacting your skin. This will aid in making this possible. Also, gloves will help prevent finger prints when you get to the painting stage of your modeling project.




Finally, paints and thinners are the final essential tools. This will be where the primary amount of customization of your model comes in. It’s recommended that you select the thinner that the paint used recommends. This will insure the most optimum effectiveness and reduce damage to your model.


 



Luxury


As you build more and more models, you might find that certain areas of the process must have an easier method. A lot of times they do. However, it’s really only justifiable if you use the tool more than a hand full of times.




The following tools outlined here are designed to not only make your life easier, but give a more polished model. They may take some time to figure them out. Once you do, it will make a world of difference.




The first two tools are the cutting pliers and razor saw. Both are designed for very precise cutting of small object. This makes pieces held by the toughest sprues a breeze. They can also come in handy if you need to convert a model and need a piece cut.




For those who want a more specific tool, you do have the option of a sprue cutter. This tool is specifically designed for modelers to remove parts. The only draw back is that it has a little less functionality that the cutting pliers and razor saw.




To get more visibility when assembling or painting your model, you can always invest in a desk lamp that has a magnifier. The magnification is not terribly powerful, but it does give you an edge in dealing with very small detail work.




If you find you get tired of gluing and filling, you can move to a more advanced glue. It’s called Cyano-acrylate glue. Many refer to it as C.A. glue. This will not only glue pieces, but it makes excellent filler all in one. It is a very strong product, so it’s recommended to wear safety glasses with it.




When attempting to get a better paint job on a model, it’s recommended to use either a spray can or airbrush. For an airbrush you’ll also need a small air compressor. Due to the application process, you will eliminate streaks left behind by brushes.




Other accessories that can aid in the painting process help the modeler more than the model. Three such pieces of equipment are the paint booth, turntable and hot-glue gun. The paint booth will help ventilate and catch loose paint that shoots from the spray variety paint applicators. It is perfect for those who don’t have the option of building your model outside.




The turntable allows the modeler from touching painted areas. The turning action also means they don’t have to get up from where they are sitting.




The hot-glue gun is used slightly differently. By utilizing the glue on a scrap piece of material, you can use it to position small plastic pieces when painting them. Fortunately, this is probably something you already have and won’t be an additional cost.




Finally, for the most advanced modelers, there’s the dremel motor tool. This is both a cutting and grinding device that makes alterations of plastic pieces possible. It’s recommended that when you begin using this tool, start out with more basic models that are less expensive. This will give you plenty of practice so that when it does matter you’ll have the experience needed for the job.




Preparations for Static Models


Before starting you will want to prepare a few things first. The most important point is deciding where you’re going to build the model. A flat sturdy surface is essential for this task. Many people will choose the dining room table for this very reason. However, the model may take more than one sitting to complete.




This is why you should look for certain things when selecting a work space. First, is the surface flat and sturdy? Second, is there adequate lighting? Third, is there proper ventilation of the area? Fourth, is it okay if things spill in this area? With these questions answered you can determine the perfect spot for model building.




Now that you have a work space all picked out, you need to prepare the parts. This includes washing the pieces before assembly. In the model making process, the pieces of your model have to be pulled out of a mold. To do this a mold removal agent is applied to the parts. This agent will prevent other materials from adhering to the surface of the pieces, this includes paint you might try using.




This is why you should wash your pieces first. Take a pan of soapy water and lightly scrub the parts in the sprues with your finger. You can let the parts air dry on a paper towel or other soft clean surface. If beads of water settle on the parts you should use a blow drier to prevent them from spotting the pieces.




You can repeat this process before painting your model. The oils in your fingers can have a distorting effect on your paint job. They may leave finger prints and or cause an uneven coat of paint.




Fix parts that are defective in some way. This includes removing flash from the pieces. You can cut this off with a hobby knife. Fill in sink spots if necessary. Sink spots are typically caused by necessary techniques in the molding process. They show up as depressions in the plastic. Most of the time, these spots are put in out of the way places and don’t need filling. However, if the piece is highly visible you may need to use filler.




Another fix that some parts need are cosmetic than anything else. For example a part may contain a copyright stamp by the manufacturer. This will be very noticeable if you’re going for an extremely detailed look. You can remove this writing with some rubbing with sand paper.




Read and make notes on your instructions. Many times the instructions will give you a good idea where the tough spots are in your model. You can make note of them and prepare yourself mentally to handle them. It also is good to make notes if you plan to alter the model’s design in certain areas. The instructions also are likely to provide a list of paints to use for an accurate portrayal of the model. With a list of paints in hand, you can have what you need when you need it.




As stated before, a model may take more than one sitting. This means you might want to prepare an area for storing pieces. For decals and small pieces that have been painted, you should use zip-loc bags or similar type container for storage. For pieces still in the sprues you can fit these back in the box. Make sure to separate these pieces with paper towels to prevent scratching of the pieces.




Now that you have all your tools and the prep work out of the way, you can begin building your favorite models.




Conclusion


As with any small scaled version, you first must ask yourself whether you want the detailed look or the functionality. This question will determine which form of model aircraft you peruse.




People of all ages have been fascinated with the world of aviation. No matter how you approach model aircraft building, it makes the perfect way for anyone to explore this vast world of flight. The skies are the limit.