Plastic model airplane building is a hobby that appeals to a wide variety of people and age groups. From the youngster building his or her holiday gift to the veteran re-creating a piece of history. Following the basic instructions is generally a good place to start, but there is a whole world of knowledge beyond the instructions. Here are some tips for creating a better-looking model:
Wash the parts first. The parts are made by injection molding, and are covered with a release agent to help un-stick them from the mold. This agent will prevent paint from sticking well to your model. Wash the parts in soap and water, then air dry. You can use a hair dryer to help.
Cockpit. Assemble and paint the cockpit next. The cockpit will be permanently enclosed within the fuselage halves, and will be nearly impossible to paint later.
Minimize glue. Use only a thin line of glue on each side of the fuselage, or each side of the wing. Use only a dab to attach small parts. You can apply the glue with a pin to have better control over the amount of glue. Excess glue gets onto the surface of the model and creates lumps which must be cleaned up with sandpaper.
Alignment. Take care to line up the wings and tail relative to the fuselage. A crooked airplane is easy to spot. Use tape to hold the larger pieces together to check the alignment, before you apply glue.
Gap Filling. Sometimes after gluing there will be gaps between pieces. A gap between the fuselage halves, or where the wing joins the fuselage, is common and easy to spot. Fill these gaps with putty, or with cyanoacrylate glue (super glue). When the filler is dry, smooth with sandpaper.
Paint with Brush. If painting by brush, get at least 3 sizes (wide, medium and fine). Try not to overlap your brush strokes, or repaint an area that is still wet. Wait until the paint is dry then apply another coat if necessary. After painting, clean your brushes thoroughly with the recommended thinner, and store them upright in an old cup.
Spray Cans. Paint delivered by spray can will give a smoother finish than the brush. Cans cool down as they are used which causes the paint flow to slow down. Place the can in warm (not hot) water for ten (10) minutes or so to fix this.
Airbrush. The airbrush is the ultimate tool for painting model airplanes. It is like a spray can with much more control. The air pressure and paint volume can be controlled (in some types, simultaneously) allowing the user to paint fine lines at will. If you plan to keep building models, it is a worthwhile investment.
Canopy. The clear plastic canopy has frames that need to be painted. This can be done with a fine point brush and a steady hand. A better option is to use masking tape to cover the canopy, then use a sharp hobby knife blade to cut and remove tape from the frame portions. Then paint, and after drying remove the remaining tape.
Gloss Coat for Decals. The water-slide decals (markings) that come with the kit will look much better if applied onto a gloss surface. A clear gloss overcoat should be applied, then after drying apply decals.
Flat Coat. If the airplane has a naturally flat (matt, non-glossy) surface, then after applying decals, paint with a flat clear coat.
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