Build your first flying scale model - Chapter 11 - Markings and finishing touches

As mentioned earlier, I chose to add the silver markings to the blue airframe using painted decal sheet. It is fairly time consuming, but has the benefit of requiring no masking at all. Also, if you mess up, the decal can easily be removed and a new one put in its place. I would only recommend trying this route on a gloss, or satin finished model - with a matt painted model you will have difficulty getting the decal to slide over the surface, and adhesion will not be as good.

Firstly I airbrushed an A4 sheet of clear decal sheet with Xtracolour silver enamel but you could just as easily use a suitable spray can. Clear waterslide decal sheet is available from many model shops, but I buy my mine in bulk from Tango Papa Decals in the USA. They do high quality white and clear sheet at very reasonable prices (e.g. an A4 sheet of clear is just 90 cents).

Here I have cut out a section of a copy of the plan with the first two wing registration letters. A section of painted decal film slightly larger than the paper pattern was also cut out. The paper was taped over the decal onto the cutting mat as shown.

With a sharp blade in the knife, you must now cut through the paper pattern and just into the decal film. There is no need to cut right through the decal paper - just the painted film on top. You can use a steel rule for the straight bits, and cut the curves freehand (not as difficult as you probably imagine).

When you have finished, the paper letter will lift off as shown, and is a good sign that you have not missed a bit.

After you have finished, the tape and paper can be removed.

Cut around an individual letter as shown and soak in water.

Once the decal sheet has started to slide, remove the bits from the outside and inside leaving just the letter on the decal paper.

Now the tricky bit - you must persuade the decal letter to slide onto the wing. Use plenty of water to keep it moving - I find a wet paint brush works well to help push it around without damaging it. You may get a tear here and there (I did) but these tend to be invisible once the decal is dry. You can see on this photo how the tissue starts to swell and go wavy due to the applied water in spite the layer of paint.

As you can see here, however, the tissue and decal both tighten up nicely when dry. The letter A has just been applied, so a slight rippling can be seen under this letter, but not at all under the G which is completely dry.

Here is the complete registration on the top wing. The letter positions were based on those shown on the kit plan, using the wing ribs as a guide to correct placement. The lettering under the wings was done in exactly the same way.

For the fuselage stripe I made a card template to copy onto the decal film. Here is the stripe prior to applying it to the fuselage.

The first decal broke into three pieces, but I got it on in the end - happily the breaks are virtually invisible.

The fuselage lettering is cut in exactly the same way as the wing registrations

To help line the letters up, the paper pattern can be a useful guide. Hold it over the decals and see if they line up with the holes. I put on the G and the last W first, then worked backwards until just the dash was left.

Here is the finished result.

Next step - let's get the prop on the front. A hook must be added to the prop shaft and I chose a diamond shape for this model to keep it simple. After you have done it, twiddle the shaft between your fingers and check the bottom point of the diamond looks stationary and does not wobble. Adjust the shape if necessary - this will minimise vibration.

Place the prop on the shaft and let it rotate. Normally one blade will always fall to the bottom because it is heavier than the opposite blade. To balance it, either some weight should be added to the light blade, or material removed from the heavy blade. The latter is the most common method.

Plastic can be simply removed from the top of the heavy blade by scraping it with a modelling knife blade. As you can see, this can get rather messy. Keep checking every so often, and stop when the prop balances when put back on the shaft. A balanced prop will tend to stop at any random position after you have spun it.

Scraping is also sometimes used to reduce the weight of a plastic prop to avoid a nose-heavy model. Both blades can be scraped until they are virtually see-through if you want to go that far.

For washers, I usually use slices cut off the back of plastic nose buttons. I did not worry about getting them particularly thin for this model, because there is not a huge amount of clearance between the prop blades and the lower nose. Thick washers help to push the prop out a bit further.

The shaft is threaded through the back of the nose bush, the washers added, then the prop. At the very least you then need to put in a 90 degree bend in the wire so it engages the freewheel clutch moulded into the front of the prop. I also carried on and included a winding hook before cutting the off the excess wire.

With the nose plug installed in the model you can see the relatively small amount of clearance between the lower blade and the nose. You can also see that I painted the nose plug silver to match the stripe, and added some strips of silver decal above and below the nose to link up the two stripes.

Control surface breaks can be added using a fine permanent marker pen and a ruler, though I chose to depict them using decals. I printed a series of fine black lines onto clear decal film, then cut them out and applied them. I only just got away with it, as the dark blue colour means that any bit of silvering under the clear decal film shows up like a sore thumb. This was the best one on the whole model (which is why I photographed it, of course). On gloss white or silver finishes it works a treat. One benefit of this method is that you can reposition the lines before they dry.

On a model finished with coloured tissue you can apply outlines from thin strips of black tissue

Next the wing struts which we painted earlier need to be cut to length and fitted. In order to give wood to wood contact, I cut small rectangles out of the tissue at the attachment points.

The struts were cut to the correct length by trial and error, then the ends chamfered to give a neat fit. They were attached using aliphatic glue.

Final job was to paint the wheels made earlier, which had previously been given two generous coats of sanding sealer. For tyres I like to use a very dark grey rather than black, because I think it looks more realistic.

The wheels are kept on the wire axles by pushing short lengths of plastic tubing over the end of the wire, then spotting cyano on the end. Aluminium tube could also be used, and this could be kept on by crimping with a pair of pliers if desired.

So, here she is, finally finished - 4th June 2005.

I am very pleased with the way the model looks, and also with the weight, which is 20.5 grams without noseweight or rubber. I now need a calm day to try some test glides in the garden.

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