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Scratchbuilt panels and how to cut them out cleanly

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  • Member since
    December 2014
Scratchbuilt panels and how to cut them out cleanly
Posted by Ffowcs on Sunday, April 1, 2018 4:38 PM

I'm currently building the Airfix 1/24 scale Focke Wulf 190 A5/A6. It is an old kit dating from the 1970s or early 1980s and hasn't, to the best of my knowledge, been newly tooled or upgraded but it is still a very good kit. In comparison with Airfix's modern releases in 1/24 scale, namely the de Havilland Mosquito and Hawker Typhoon, the FW190 and the other kits of the 1970s and 1980s in this scale fall behind but in their day they were the best in the industry. 

Superdetailing is not my aim but I still wish to go a little further with my FW190 model than an OOTB finish. For a model of its size the parts count is somewhat low. I have bought after market guns and seat belts to enhance the model. I plan to leave wing panels open in order to display the guns underneath. There will be no problem here as the said panels are tooled separately. However, there is another panel that I've opened up myself, which is the quite large equipment access panel located on the port side of the rear fuselage. On the real aircraft the panel in the side gave access to some of the radio equipment, oxygen bottles and the aft fuselage tank. I got the idea to display this panel open on my model after seeing period photos of the real aircraft showing mechanics at work with the panel open. The panel hole is large enough for a man to easily pass through it and it is known that some pilots carried their ground crew in the aft fuselage when heading west to escape Soviet Forces in the last days of WW2. It was cramped enough for one man but some FW190s carried two or even three men in the aft fuselage. According to Ospreys FW190s Aces on the Eastern Front book, one FW190 pilot shot down a Soviet reconnaissance aeroplane over the Baltic Sea whilst carrying his mechanic.

I hadn't tried cutting out a panel on a model before and knew I was taking a gamble. One thing I had read about was that I should firstly use a sanding tool to thin the plastic behind the panel that was to be cut. This meant there would be less plastic to cut through, therefore making it easier, and also the edges of the panel and surrounding fuselage that would be visable would be thin like the skin of the real aircraft. 

Having used my Dremel tool to thin the plastic I then went on to try and cut out the panel with a hobby knife, using a brand new sharp blade. Unfortunately, I was still unable to cut out a clean, crisp edge as I'd hoped. Of particular problem was tring to follow the curved lines of the panel at the corners, a task that is difficult to do with a knife. When I place the cut out panel door against the hole, as if to make it closed, and holding it against the light, there are gaps showing. I've tried various ways of correcting it, including modeling putty and placing a thin plastic card inside the fuselage overlapping the edges to get the right corner curvature but these have not been sucessful. Although the mistake will not be so obvious with the panel door modeled in open position it is a situation I'm far from happy with. I messed it up once and paid for a replacement fuselage part but I did it wrong again. Buying a replacement part is not cheap.

Can anyone advise me on how to cut out aircraft panel lines, especially as in my case where there are curved corners please? Are there any special tools to do this? Thank you.

By the way, I wanted to add a couple of images to this post showing my panel access but was unable to do that ; my images are on a file on my personal computer, not on a cloud based source.


  • Member since
    August 2014
  • From: Willamette Valley, Oregon
Posted by goldhammer on Sunday, April 1, 2018 5:31 PM

Try using a flexible circle template, on of the green plastic ones.  For a corner radius you can form it over the piece and use the back side of the blade to keep scribing till you cut through.  You are going to end up with a little gap due to blade thickness in any case.

If you get a rough edge, or one out of whack, you can use either stretched sprue or some thin styrene rod formed and glued to the edge, then sand to fit, and even it out.

  • Member since
    December 2014
Posted by Ffowcs on Sunday, April 1, 2018 6:33 PM

Hi Goldhammer

Thank you very much for your reply. What you say sounds really good. I've already cut out the hatch door but will try out the stretched sprue or thin rod to smarten out the edge. I'll try it out and let you know how I got on. I look forward to doing this.

  • Member since
    July 2012
  • From: Douglas AZ
Posted by littletimmy on Sunday, April 1, 2018 7:43 PM

I usually "discard" the cut-out part, and scratchbuild a new part to fit. I do it that way because the blade width can distort the dimension's of the cut out part. Trying to "fill it back in" is , sometimes, an "Excersize in Futility". ( Depending on what scale your working in,  the blade can cut a gap as much as 3 inch's wide in 1/72 scale. )

An "Example" .... I wanted to build this Mack truck with the windshield "OPEN" ( just like the real truck could do ) But in order to do that I really needed two kit windshield's to do it. Because the cutting process removed a LOT of material from the windshield frame.


I know, it's hard to tell that the windshield is "Actually open", because this truck is 1/87 scale , but this is how I did it. I "Had"  to cut a second windshield frame to fit the opening. The frame I cut out was un-usable because by cutting it I removed a scale 3 or 4 inch's from the inside diamiter of the frame.

As for posting picture's to the forum,... there are "MANY" hosting site's you can use. ( Dont use Photobucket, This forum has "Condemned them to H E Double Hocky Stick's ! )

I use ...

No problem's !

 Dont worry about the thumbprint, paint it Rust , and call it "Battle Damage"

  • Member since
    January 2013
Posted by BlackSheepTwoOneFour on Sunday, April 1, 2018 8:04 PM

Everyone is well aware of the Photobucket fiasco. Old news actually...

  • Member since
    September 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Sunday, April 1, 2018 10:24 PM

As mentioned, you don’t get both the hole and the panel.

i drill a series of small holes, then cut between them and clean up with a file.

 Modeling is an excuse to buy books.


  • Member since
    December 2014
Posted by Ffowcs on Wednesday, April 4, 2018 8:48 AM

Hi everyone who's replied to my post.

Thanks to the tips I've had in reply, I've done a good job of the panel hole, and I did this by using styrene rods to straighten the edges. I understand what people say about the panel and how I would lose some of its dimensions after cutting it, as someone said the width of the cutting knife's blade will distort the edges. However, I've been able to keep the panel in this case because the hole it was cut out from was made slightly smaller through filling. I also filed and sanded the edges of the panel.

I wish I could show you my work but I still haven't learned how to upload photos onto the site. I know other members have discussed this on the forum and their posts are there for me to read. I'm sure I will be okay when after I've read some of them. My photos are on Flickr, I don't know whether there is any particular procedure as how to create a link from FSM forum to photos on Flickr?


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