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Modeling Tips

We offer these tips‚ as submitted by members and friends of the Central Pennsylvania Model Car Club‚ to help you build better models and get more enjoyment from our hobby.

A note on safety! Kids‚ PLEASE check with your parents before trying any of these tips‚ especially the ones that involve hobby knives‚ glue or paint! Let them know what you’re doing and make sure they say it’s okay. And everybody (even experienced builders) should read and heed all the warnings on any of the products they use!!

Battery Terminal Detailing.

A simple way to detail batteries without the expense or nuisance of photo-etched parts is to sand away any cable detail except the terminals themselves‚ use a pin vise to drill a small hole at a sharp angle right where the old cable would have ended and insert your favorite red and black wires. Some simple detail painting (round wooden toothpicks make excellent "microbrushes") of the terminals is all that’s needed to make them look like the real deal. D.P.

Hurst-style Shifter.

Shirt pins (You know‚ the eight sharp little devils you generally find seven of before you put on a new dress shirt) with the little ball at the head end are great for replicating the traditional 4-speed shifter. Paint the head white and with a steady hand‚ put the "H" pattern on the ball with a fine brush or toothpick. Bend the shaft to the desired angle and epoxy it it into place. You can use the kit "boot" by cutting off the plastic shifter and drilling a hole to accept the pin. D.P.

Leather or Vinyl Seats.

For a believable leather look on plastic‚ shoot seating surfaces in the appropriate color primer‚ and after they’ve dried‚ rub them with your fingers. The higher and outer areas where you rub will take on a different sheen than the recesses. As an alternate‚ you can follow the same process‚ but topcoat the seating areas with semi-gloss. If you spray a gloss color for the seats‚ you can still topcoat with a flat or semi-gloss to cut back the shine. D.P.

Save That Windshield!

Every once in a while you’ll find a kit that has blemishes on the windshield. Cracks or bad tire "burns" usually mean replacement‚ but minor scratches can be removed by polishing with good automobile wax. Just dab some on‚ and keep rubbing until the wax and the mark is gone. For deeper scratches‚ or minor glue marks‚ you can use polishing cloths‚ progressing to the finest grit and finishing with wax. Some people use toothpaste with good results‚ too. Even a "good" windshield benefits from a good waxing to bring out the shine. Just exercise patience and be careful to support the part while you’re polishing or waxing so it doesn’t crack. D.P.

Better Spray Can Paint Jobs.

Many modelers use airbrushes‚ but there are just as many who are more comfortable using aerosol cans. Following these three simple pointers can all but guarantee a nicer‚ smoother paint job using these "rattle can" paints.

Shake the can vigorously to mix the paint thoroughly. It sounds obvious‚ but that agitator ball is in there for a reason. Remember to shake the can periodically during the painting process‚ too.

Fill a sink with hot TAP water and allow the can to sit in it for 10 minutes or so prior to painting. This warms the paint and slightly increases the pressure so it sprays more evenly and lays down more smoothly. DON’T EVER heat the can using a microwave‚ stove or open flame! You’ll either get hurt or hurt someone else if you do. At the very least you’ll have one monster mess to clean up.

Clean the nozzle after you’re done. Hold the can upside down and spray till only propellant comes out‚ or remove it and clean it with the appropriate thinner. This will help prevent an uneven spray pattern and/or sputtering the next time the can is used. D.P.

Aluminum Drive Shafts.

Plastic driveshafts almost always have noticeable mold lines that are a pain to remove without making them look out of round. A slick and easy alternative is to cut a piece of aluminum tubing (your hobby retailer probably has brass and styrene‚ too) the diameter you need to the length of the driveshaft between the universal joints. Then‚ cut off the joints‚ leaving enough of the original shaft to insert into each end of the aluminum. If they are too big to slide inside the tubing‚ simply scrape off excess plastic until they slide in. Detail the u-joints with paint and install. This also works for making half-shafts for Corvette or Jaguar-style independent rear suspensions. D.P.

Do-It-Yourself License Plates.

Tired of seeing the same license plate decals over and over and over again? Acme Platemaker (listed in our links section under "Reference Sites) allows you to create personalized license plates from almost anywhere for almost any year. Simply follow the directions on the site to create special tags that you can copy or e-mail to yourself‚ save and re-size‚ print and use to give your model a special touch of realism. And if you don’t have the ability to print on decal paper‚ just use photo grade paper. The paper backing gives the plate scale "mass" and can be easily attached to your model using a drop of white glue. Save paper by filling a sheet with a bunch of different plates. D.P.

Time To Get Sharpie.
Sharpie markers are great for the black border around the edges of windshields (especially NASCAR kits)‚ use blue and red markers for fuel line fittings...when drawn over silver paint‚ the ink gives the fittings an anodized look. Yellow markers for battery caps...paint flat black‚ scrape the paint off the cap and dab with the marker...yellow shows on bare plastic but not on the black. Red‚ yellow‚ and orange markers are handy for tail lights‚ parking lights and side markers. A.W.

Bare Metal Foil.
To get good clean cuts on Bare Metal Foil‚ sharpen your new # 11 hobby blades first. You can use old polishing cloths and begin by stretching a 4000 grit sheet over a hard smooth surface. Draw the knife blade once on each side‚ just as you would a knife on a whet stone. Proceed thru 6000‚ 8‚000 and 12‚000 grit sheets...once on each side of the blade per sheet. Finish by stropping the blade through some liquid polish on a sheet of paper. A.W. (Please be careful using this technique. A sharper blade is a safer blade‚ but they will inflict serious injury if used carelessly.)

Side Marker Lights.

To get a more realistic appearance from your side marker lights, burnish Bare Metal Foil into the recess and surrounding engraved "chrome". Trim the foil as you would on any chrome trim, leaving the lens area of the light foiled. (This helps overall appearance by providing a reflective backing behind your "lens".) Be sure to burnish it down with a cotton swab as completely as you can, lining the interior with the foil. Once the foil is trimmed, turn the body in its side and flow a drop of turn signal red (as shown here) or amber and let it set up. There are several sources like Testors or Tamiya for translucent pearl paints designed specifically for turn signals and stop lights, and the results are much better than using opaque paints. Use just enough for the paint to reach and cling to the sides of the recess, giving you one very realistic side marker.

"Super" Glue.

No‚ not the guy stuck to the I-beam by his hard hat stuff‚ but simple‚ white multi-purpose glue. When building assemblies that you want to paint before attaching them to a chassis or body‚ the worst part is scraping away the paint to expose the plastic so the model cement will bond the parts. An easy way to mask these little holes and pins is to put a little dab of white glue on them‚ let it set for a few hours and then paint. After the paint has cured‚ you just prick the glue drop with the point of a hobby knife and the glue will either peel away or pop right off. It is not affected by lacquers or enamels and a small bottle can last you for years. White glue is also handy for attaching headlight lenses and other small parts because it dries clear. Some builders even use it to mock up assemblies because it holds well‚ but will break apart easily without harming the plastic. D.P.

Strip It! Strip It Good!

Chrome plating can be removed from styrene by using brake fluid‚ Castrol Super Clean or Wesley’s Bleach White. The length of time you need to soak the parts will depend on the thickness of the plating and the underlying lacquer basecoat. Once cleaned‚ you can either paint the parts using the various metalizing paints available at your hobby shop or send them to a plater for a fresh dose of "bling-bling". Most paints can also be removed using CSC‚ but be careful...styrene and resin do not react the same way to many chemicals. For example‚ some resins will become rubbery if exposed to CSC‚ but others won’t‚ so it’s best to talk to the folks who sold you the parts for the recommended method for stripping or cleaning their resin. Another paint stripping technique (depending on the type of paint and material the kit is cast in) is 91% Isopropyl alcohol. It is sold in pharmacies and many grocery stores and is relatively inexpensive. On a prepainted snap kit‚ for example‚ the alcohol started to remove the paint almost instantly‚ and was completely clean in less than an hour‚ and it had no evident effect on the plastic lying underneath.

Painted die-casts can also be stripped easily‚ but with a slightly different technique. After removing any and all plastic from the body‚ go to your local parts store and pick up some aircraft stripper. This stuff works extremely well‚ but is made with nasty chemicals‚ so follow the usage instructions on the label. After you’ve removed the paint and cleaned up the body‚ apply some etching primer to improve paint adhesion. Finish it up by top coating with your favorite automotive lacquer. Do yourself a favor and use strippers made specifically for metal when you’re re-doing your die-casts!

Be warned that even the everyday compounds we often use in this hobby are flammable‚ poisonous and/or caustic. Extreme caution‚ good ventilation and common sense are the most important tools you have at your disposal‚ so use them all when dealing with chemicals!D.P.

Tired Tires!

One of the easiest steps toward realism is scuffing your kit’s tire treads. You can either rub them using a sanding stick or sand paper‚ but an easier way is to get a bolt and some washers as close to the inside diameter of your tire as you can find‚ and use a nut to capture it at the end near the bolt head. Put the threaded end in the drill chuck and spin the tire‚ holding the sanding stick or paper against the tire. It’s that easy! D.P.

Cutting It Close!

For those of you who build factory stock subjects‚ Bare Metal Foil is your godsend or the bane of your hobby bench when it comes to the thin wheel arch trim common on so many vehicles from the ever since the 50’s and 60’s. To tackle those diabolically thin parts‚ try attaching a round tooth pick to your hobby blade. By extending the tooth pick past the edge of the knife blade‚ you can maintain a constant distance from the edge and the tooth pick won’t be as likely to tear the chrome on the inner lip of the trim. You’ll have to test how wide this "fence" leaves your cut‚ but once you set it‚ you’ll make a more consistent and even cut. Dave Young

Weather Report.

A simple method for muddying up your off-roader or light commercial work vehicle is to take water-based craft paint‚ thin it somewhat with water and apply it to your model using an old spray bottle. The trick is to thin the paint enough so it flows through the spray nozzle‚ but no so much that it runs after you apply it. Try it out on a scrap body‚ because the results will vary based upon the spray bottle‚ the paint you used‚ distance from the object and degree to which you thinned the paint.

You can also spatter "mud" onto a vehicle by applying paint to an old tooth brush‚ and using a toothpick (or your finger) to "flick" the paint by drawing back toward yourself across the bristles. Go the OTHER direction and YOU’LL get weathered!

For more subtle touches‚ you can use various chalks and weathering kits available at most hobby shops. D.P.

A note on safety! Kids‚ PLEASE check with your parents before trying any of these tips‚ especially the ones that involve hobby knives‚ glue or paint! Let them know what you’re doing and make sure they say it’s okay. And everybody (even experienced builders) should read and heed all the warnings on any of the products they use!!

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