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Tips to apply aluminum foil and rivets to an airplane


Johnny_K
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A number of modelers have asked me to share how I finish my models in foil and how I add rivets. Following are photos of a few airplanes that I have finished in Bare Metal Foil.

 

3rrlTH1.jpg?1

 

 

SYlSkf9.jpg?2

 

a4zVVbw.jpg?1

 

03AgJcd.jpg?2

 

XYCvB2R.jpg?2

 

In the past I have tried to attain a natural metal finish using a paint product such as Testors' Metallizer paints or Alclad. I was never satisfied with the results because the final finish always looked like a painted surface. I never figured out what the problem was until I studied photos of actual airplane with natural metal finishes. Each fuselage/wing panel of the 1:1 planes had a subtle difference in appearance. The colors of the panels were different and the natural grain of the aluminum  panels varied. These differences are difficult to achieve using a painted product. My first attempt at finishing a mode in foil was the  P-47  in the above photo.  

 

TOOLS:

sM5kbix.jpg?1

To apply the foil you will need a magnifying device, hobby knife with replacement blades, metal ruler for measuring and cutting the foil from the backer sheet, good tweezers, paper stumps for buffing the foil, post-it-notes for making measurements around curved surfaces, and 0000 steel wool for adding grain to the foil. 

 

JSydxjM.jpg?1

 

snYngO1.jpg?2

 

The tools for making rivets are a magnifying device, post-it-notes for spacing the rivets, a rivet tool and a flexible straight as a guide for the rivet tool. I use a RB Productions rivet tool. It includes four toothed wheels with different tooth spacings.

 

CLEANLINESS: 

RtS2tvB.jpg?1

 

All work surfaces and tools must be kept super clean. Even small bits if dust, fuzz and hair will be amplified in appearance if trapped under the foil. The only way to fix the foil in the photo above is the remove the foil, clean the model and start over.

 

APPLY THE FOIL:

I have tried to make my own adhesive backed foil using kitchen foil and an adhesive specially made for aluminum foil. The result was a mess. So now I only use Bare Metal Foil, which is an adhesive backed aluminum foil that is available in multiple colors. I use Matte Aluminum and Chrome. I have tried other foil products but none even come close to Bare Metal Foil's realistic appearance. All of the other metal foils were just too thick and too shinny.

 

I spray the Matte Aluminum BMF with Simple Green  glass cleaner to reduce the shine of the foil. Just spray it on and wipe it off. 

 

gyihk4L.jpg?1

First: Clean the panel that will be covered with foil. Then cut a piece of foil that is slightly larger than the panel to be covered. Lift one corner of the foil from the backer sheet with your hobby knife and remove it from the backer sheet with tweezers. That's right, each panel must be individually foiled. Smooth the foil lightly using a finger.

ISWQoYN.jpg?1

Next, smooth out the foil starting at the center using a paper stump (available from a craft store). 

 

yjhcjza.jpg?1

Rub, rub, rub, and rub until the foil is smooth. Note the natural grain of the foil.

Yd7txBh.jpg?1

Trim the edges of the foil along the panel lines. If you have steady hands you will not need a straight edge to help trim the foil.

dhNAQuZ.jpg?1

The foil's grain can be enhanced using 0000 steel wool. Lightly rub the foil only once. 

 

CAoyppH.jpg?1

You can use different colored foil to add visual interest to your model. The foil on the left is Matte Aluminum, the foil on the right is Chrome. The majority of foil on my models is Matte  Aluminum with a few panels finished in Chrome. If too many panels are finished in Chrome the model will look like a checker board (not good). 

 

TaxMket.jpg?1

The foiling is finished, now it is time to start the riveting.

 

FfXs4vb.jpg?1

 

NkITSuA.jpg?2

I use a flexible straight edge and a rivet tool to make rivets. The straight edge was made from an old lettering template.

 

LSdy5Jo.jpg?1

It is extremely important that the lines of rivets are straight and that they are equally spaced. I use a ruler to equally space the lines of rivets and mark the spacings with a black marker (note the black dots on the wing). The marker is easily removed with a wet finger. The rivet tool punctures the foil and slightly lifts the foil. I lightly rub the rivets with a paper stump to smooth out the rivets. 

 

fLAMKzD.jpg?1

 

FFtOTBX.jpg?1

The final result is realistic looking rivets and metal panels. There is no need to highlight the panel lines with paint. One more thing, make sure that all painting, such as the deicing boots, is performed prior to applying the foil. Masking tape will pull off the foil.

 

I realize that finishing an airplane in foil is not for everyone. My 1/48 B-29 and B-47J took over 100 hours to complete. Foiling an airplane is a marathon, not a sprint. All that is required is a lot of patience and steady hands. If you find the foil to be too shiny you can weather the foil with weathering paint. Just don't go overboard or the model will look like it was painted.

 

In the event that you would like to try foiling an airplane I would start with a 1/48 P-47. It has simple fuselage shapes and not many compound curves.

 

 

 

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Very tidy and meticulous working methods, Johnny. Faultless results! 

 

I've been using the adhesive foil that builders use for joints on insulation sheets etc. 

I'm familiar with it and it works for me. 

IMG_20190221_222537

 

It's pretty tough and can take a fair bit of burnishing and working. 

But I don't usually go panel by panel. 

This is me going right along a C46 wing top 

IMG_20190312_230843

And I beat that wrinkle into submission! 

 

Total admiration for your intricate work 

😎

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16 hours ago, Swamp Donkey said:

Looks great. I fancy giving this a go. Do decals go straight on to the foil, or any varnish needed? Thanks for sharing this

 

SD

Noooooooooooooo. No varnish or paint of any kind. That would make the foiled finish look like a painted finish. Just add a drop or two of dishwashing soap to the water that the decals will be soaking in. Using  a brush, apply water to the model. The decals side around real easy on the wet foil. 

 

2jRhl8V.jpg?3

However, the carrier film can be real visible on certain decals. This happened on my F-104.

 

WJ3ieVu.jpg?4

After that experience I have learned to put a decal on the underside of the wing first to see what happens. It the carrier film is visible I will need to trim the carrier film away from the decal edges.

 

6cHaXtl.jpg?1

Or, buy replacement decals from Kits World.  The carrier film on their decals is as clear as vodka. Notice in the photo above that the carrier film is invisible.

 

 

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Fantastic resource. Thank you for taking the time to put this advice together. Soon I will be entering the world of foiling myself so it is timely!

 

A question for you: what do you do about curved lumps, bumps and other irregular surfaces? I'm thinking of the gun blisters (potentially the wrong term - I'm talking about the oval-shaped lumps which go above the guns) which you get on the top of a Spitfire's wing, specifically, but I'm sure the same problem arises with drop tanks.

Image for example - shamelessly ripped off Google Images, not my model:

IMG_1118_fs.jpg

 

I would not know how to approach that!

Edited by mahavelona
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On 3/23/2019 at 4:53 AM, mahavelona said:

Fantastic resource. Thank you for taking the time to put this advice together. Soon I will be entering the world of foiling myself so it is timely!

 

A question for you: what do you do about curved lumps, bumps and other irregular surfaces? I'm thinking of the gun blisters (potentially the wrong term - I'm talking about the oval-shaped lumps which go above the guns) which you get on the top of a Spitfire's wing, specifically, but I'm sure the same problem arises with drop tanks.

Image for example - shamelessly ripped off Google Images, not my model:

IMG_1118_fs.jpg

 

I would not know how to approach that!

I have a solution for your questions. I'll let you know tomorrow (Monday in the U.S.)

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@Mahavelona , bear in mind metal finish Spitfires were very very few and far between, though there were at least 3 examples out of the 20 odd thousand!  Most silver Spitfires were a paint known now as High Speed Silver.

 

Nevertheless a method of foiling over lumps and bumps would be welcome.

Edited by malpaso
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I use artists paper stumps to help blend the foil in.

 

I start from the highest “flat” area of the bump and work my way down.  Usually don’t have any issues with wrinkles.

 

Sometimes however for irregular surfaces it’s better to use triangular pieces vs square as it is waaay easier to handle.

 

Some people feather the edges with a fine grit piece of sandpaper but I’m too lazy for that. 😏

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1 hour ago, malpaso said:

@Mahavelona , bear in mind metal finish Spitfires were very very few and far between, though there were at least 3 examples out of the 20 odd thousand!  Most silver Spitfires were a paint known now as High Speed Silver.

 

Nevertheless a method of foiling over lumps and bumps would be welcome.

Thanks for that tip; perhaps I will need to do some more research! 

 

1 hour ago, Beazer said:

I use artists paper stumps to help blend the foil in.

 

I start from the highest “flat” area of the bump and work my way down.  Usually don’t have any issues with wrinkles.

 

Sometimes however for irregular surfaces it’s better to use triangular pieces vs square as it is waaay easier to handle.



 

Some people feather the edges with a fine grit piece of sandpaper but I’m too lazy for that. 😏

So, it seems to be a fairly simple case of getting the shape right then blending the wrinkles in?

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In a way.  You really shouldn’t have wrinkles although sometimes you can easily make those wrinkles disappear with some muscle.

It’s a malleable product that is flexible, it will naturally be able conform as you will see.  Use that to your advantage, it also stretches too which I then tack in the direction I want it to go.  Sometimes using the razor to cut if it’s being really stubborn.

 

The best thing to do is to just dive in, you’ll understand right away how it all flattens down.  There was a guy on FSM that had a great write up on a P-38.

Edited by Beazer
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I apply foil to the 'bumps' in two stages. first I foil the bump, starting at the top. As Beazer stated, sometimes it is necessary to cut the foil along the center. Next I foil the wing around the bump. I don't even try to foil drop tanks. I just paint the tank with Testors' Metallizer Aluminum and buff the paint to a hard shine.. 

Edited by Johnny_K
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Bulges and compound curves are the challenge, for sure. 

I'd agree, a blister or a nacelle into wing shape needs to be done as an "island", and then foiled around. 

I've done a few drop tanks as required, and they are doable. Bear in mind the real tank is fabricated from sheets of bent metal joined together too. 

It is not a perfect, mysterious, seamless obelisk. 

IMG_20190325_212621

 

IMG_20190325_212725

 

As has been said, when tackling a compound section, start in the middle and work outwards and don't let the spare foil gather in one wrinkle. 

 

Antenna and gun barrels etc that are moulded on the wing or fuselage pieces are a bit of a pain. 

My method is to cut them out of the edge of the main piece, leaving a half-round hole. It can be saved until later and be glued back in the hole. 

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Sigh. Looking at those pics makes me feel bad at my attempts to do that. 

 

Anyway, question for someone here. Getting Bare Metal Foil here is a tedious process that fills me with loathing. Have the Foil Adhesive from Microscale, and played around with it last year and hit a substantial razor blade in the candy floss of life. Whilst getting the thin aluminium kitchen foil over the leading edge, I pulled up a big chunk of foil I put down a few days earlier behind it by removing the excess off cuts. 

 

- How long does that adhesive take to fully cure? The edges were not very attached, but the rest of the foil was bonded like nobodies business. Is it better to put the glue on the plastic or are the instructions to put it on the foil to be obeyed without question? 

 

- would it be a good idea to lightly sand the plastic beforehand (1000/1500 grit?) to give the adhesive a rough surface to key onto? 

 

Any other tips would be greatly appreciated. 

 

Edited by Evil_Toast_RSA
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On 19/03/2019 at 20:47, Johnny_K said:

A number of modelers have asked me to share how I finish my models in foil and how I add rivets. Following are photos of a few airplanes that I have finished in Bare Metal Foil.

 

3rrlTH1.jpg?1

 

 

SYlSkf9.jpg?2

 

a4zVVbw.jpg?1

 

03AgJcd.jpg?2

 

XYCvB2R.jpg?2

 

In the past I have tried to attain a natural metal finish using a paint product such as Testors' Metallizer paints or Alclad. I was never satisfied with the results because the final finish always looked like a painted surface. I never figured out what the problem was until I studied photos of actual airplane with natural metal finishes. Each fuselage/wing panel of the 1:1 planes had a subtle difference in appearance. The colors of the panels were different and the natural grain of the aluminum  panels varied. These differences are difficult to achieve using a painted product. My first attempt at finishing a mode in foil was the  P-47  in the above photo.  

 

TOOLS:

sM5kbix.jpg?1

To apply the foil you will need a magnifying device, hobby knife with replacement blades, metal ruler for measuring and cutting the foil from the backer sheet, good tweezers, paper stumps for buffing the foil, post-it-notes for making measurements around curved surfaces, and 0000 steel wool for adding grain to the foil. 

 

JSydxjM.jpg?1

 

snYngO1.jpg?2

 

The tools for making rivets are a magnifying device, post-it-notes for spacing the rivets, a rivet tool and a flexible straight as a guide for the rivet tool. I use a RB Productions rivet tool. It includes four toothed wheels with different tooth spacings.

 

CLEANLINESS: 

RtS2tvB.jpg?1

 

All work surfaces and tools must be kept super clean. Even small bits if dust, fuzz and hair will be amplified in appearance if trapped under the foil. The only way to fix the foil in the photo above is the remove the foil, clean the model and start over.

 

APPLY THE FOIL:

I have tried to make my own adhesive backed foil using kitchen foil and an adhesive specially made for aluminum foil. The result was a mess. So now I only use Bare Metal Foil, which is an adhesive backed aluminum foil that is available in multiple colors. I use Matte Aluminum and Chrome. I have tried other foil products but none even come close to Bare Metal Foil's realistic appearance. All of the other metal foils were just too thick and too shinny.

 

I spray the Matte Aluminum BMF with Simple Green  glass cleaner to reduce the shine of the foil. Just spray it on and wipe it off. 

 

gyihk4L.jpg?1

First: Clean the panel that will be covered with foil. Then cut a piece of foil that is slightly larger than the panel to be covered. Lift one corner of the foil from the backer sheet with your hobby knife and remove it from the backer sheet with tweezers. That's right, each panel must be individually foiled. Smooth the foil lightly using a finger.

ISWQoYN.jpg?1

Next, smooth out the foil starting at the center using a paper stump (available from a craft store). 

 

yjhcjza.jpg?1

Rub, rub, rub, and rub until the foil is smooth. Note the natural grain of the foil.

Yd7txBh.jpg?1

Trim the edges of the foil along the panel lines. If you have steady hands you will not need a straight edge to help trim the foil.

dhNAQuZ.jpg?1

The foil's grain can be enhanced using 0000 steel wool. Lightly rub the foil only once. 

 

CAoyppH.jpg?1

You can use different colored foil to add visual interest to your model. The foil on the left is Matte Aluminum, the foil on the right is Chrome. The majority of foil on my models is Matte  Aluminum with a few panels finished in Chrome. If too many panels are finished in Chrome the model will look like a checker board (not good). 

 

TaxMket.jpg?1

The foiling is finished, now it is time to start the riveting.

 

FfXs4vb.jpg?1

 

NkITSuA.jpg?2

I use a flexible straight edge and a rivet tool to make rivets. The straight edge was made from an old lettering template.

 

LSdy5Jo.jpg?1

It is extremely important that the lines of rivets are straight and that they are equally spaced. I use a ruler to equally space the lines of rivets and mark the spacings with a black marker (note the black dots on the wing). The marker is easily removed with a wet finger. The rivet tool punctures the foil and slightly lifts the foil. I lightly rub the rivets with a paper stump to smooth out the rivets. 

 

fLAMKzD.jpg?1

 

FFtOTBX.jpg?1

The final result is realistic looking rivets and metal panels. There is no need to highlight the panel lines with paint. One more thing, make sure that all painting, such as the deicing boots, is performed prior to applying the foil. Masking tape will pull off the foil.

 

I realize that finishing an airplane in foil is not for everyone. My 1/48 B-29 and B-47J took over 100 hours to complete. Foiling an airplane is a marathon, not a sprint. All that is required is a lot of patience and steady hands. If you find the foil to be too shiny you can weather the foil with weathering paint. Just don't go overboard or the model will look like it was painted.

 

In the event that you would like to try foiling an airplane I would start with a 1/48 P-47. It has simple fuselage shapes and not many compound curves.

 

 

 

Very educational, thank you :worthy:

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  • 6 months later...

Well, I've never used the Microscale product, but a probably simmilar solution called gilder's milk (or "Anlegemilch" in German) normally used to apply leaf metal. When I put it on the plastic part instead of the foil, it adhears very well. In fact so well, that I can mask the foil with Tamiya tape for painting glare panels etc.

What I found out works even better than this is an oil mixture used by professional gilders. There are different mixtures available that differ in the time they take to become sticky after being applied. The one I use takes about half an hour, but stays tacky for at least five hours. It has the added benefit that it being a nonpolar agent, it distributes well and evenly over the plastic. On the other hand it takes it's time to fully cure, much like oil paint. But when it finally is cured, it's rock solid.

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