How to Make Model Airplanes

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While not as popular as it once was, airplane modeling remains a satisfying pastime for creative aviation enthusiasts. While there are many ways to make model airplanes, such as sculpting from wood, or molding with plasitc, this article will focus on building models using glue together plastic kits. These kits have been around for many decades and there is much more to making a model than just gluing the pieces together.

Things You'll Need

  • Glue-together airplane kit of a plane of your choice
  • Airplane glue
  • Flat wooden toothpicks
  • Rubber bands
  • Old newspaper
  • Filler putty (intended for plastic models)
  • Small paint brushes of varying sizes
  • Tweezers
  • X-acto knife (or similar modeling knife)
  • Sandpaper (both fine and medium)
  • Model airplane paint (both spray paint and brush paint are available) and are used for different purposes.

Getting started

  • Choose an airplane kit. Model airplane kits may still be easily found at hobby stores. Ebay is another good source, if you are looking for something unusual. If you are inexperienced, do not pick a kit that is too complex. If you read the box, the difficulty level is usually printed somewhere.

  • Read the instructions completely before attempting to begin working on your new model. Sometimes there may be choices that must be made in advance. For example, you may need to decide whether the landing gear will be retracted or extended on the final model. Decisions like this often affect the order in which certain parts need to be assembled.

  • Exercise patience when getting started. These models are not designed to be assembled in a single sitting. Expect to spend days, weeks, or even months depending upon the complexity of the model you choose.

  • Decide if you will paint your model. With a little effort, you can greatly improve the realistic appearance of your model by painting it. You should decide this early, as some parts are best painted before the model is fully assembled.

  • Take care in separating the plastic parts from the plastic frames they are attached to. Try not to use too much force or you could damage the more delicate parts. In some cases, an X-acto knife will make this easier. Just be careful not to cut yourself. It is best to remove parts one by one, as they are needed, rather than separating them all in the beginning. Pieces are usually labeled with numbers and letters, which are sometimes imprinted on the frame rather than on the piece itself.

  • Choose a work area that is well ventilated (to protect against glue and paint fumes), and secluded from children or other people who could accidentally knock something over.

Assembly

  • Follow the instructions in order. They are usually ordered the way they are for a good reason.

  • Larger pieces, such as the fuselage and wings should be spray painted before gluing them together. Lay them on newspaper and spray the paint in slow even sweeps.

  • Use a flat wooden toothpick to apply the glue. Always use glue sparingly. A thin coat on one of the edges to be glued is all you need. Otherwise it will squirt out between the two pieces, making an unsightly blob on your model when it dries.

  • Set aside pieces that have been glued together, and allow them to dry before working with them again. In some cases, you may want to use rubber bands to hold them together while they dry.

  • Examine components that have been glued together, after they have dried, and look for uneven areas, rough spots, or gaps between the pieces. Use sandpaper to get rid of rough spots. Use putty filler to fill in gaps or cracks. Always give the putty time to dry before working further with the piece. After it dries, it may be necessary to sand the puttied area a little, so that it is completely smooth.

  • Use tweezers to hold small pieces that need to be painted by brush. Wait until all glue and putty is completely dried before painting.

  • Paint internal pieces, such as instrument panels, engine parts, and landing gear before gluing them inside the airplane.

Tips & Warnings

  • Never use super glue in place of airplane glue. Airplane glue is much easier to get off your skin.
  • Because of the glue and paint, this is inappropriate for children. There are snap together model available that are more appropriate for children.

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