Tuesday, 20 May 2014
The Tao of Struts Has No Beginning, No End
I use 24 gauge copper wire, which is soft enough to bend easily, but stiff enough to give the model a bit of strength without looking too much as though all the struts are made of logs. I straighten the pieces of wire by rolling them against my cutting mat with a fine file, which also leaves the surface of the wire with a rough tooth that seems to be helpful in gluing and painting.
The wing struts pass right through the lower wing. This is a 1/300 scale Heroics & Ros model (a Hannover CL-IIIa) and the wing is already pierced for the white metal struts that come with the model — other manufacturers require a bit of drilling to be done.
To begin with, I apply a small pool of superglue to the underside of the upper wing, and just rest the strut in place until that has gone off enough to keep the piece of wire in position. Then I fill the holes around the struts through the lower wing with more superglue, and add a little more around the top ends against the upper wing to create an encapsulating boot for maximum support.
I started out using liquid superglue because of its very quick set time, but I found that it tended to leave a crystalline cruft around the joint when it cured. For that reason I now favour superglue gel, which cures cleaner, though its slower cure time means I have to take things a bit more deliberately.
Once the glue has cured thoroughly, I snip the wire off close to the wing surface and then file the proud remains down flush. The soft copper files quite easily.
The undercarriage is bent up out of a single piece of wire, as you can see here, and then an axle is glued in place inside the 'elbow' of the assembly. The wheels are just card, cut with an appropriately sized punch. Once they're set, the superfluous outer lengths of axle will be snipped off close.
This process, once complete, adds a considerable degree of strength to the white metal models. I wouldn't go flinging them about or standing on them, but they will bear a reasonable amount of handling without disintegrating.