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Working with - WOOD! On a Model car-Part ONE

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  • Member since
    October 2019
  • From: New Braunfels, Texas
Working with - WOOD! On a Model car-Part ONE
Posted by Tanker-Builder on Saturday, March 6, 2021 4:46 PM

Hi Ya'll;

       Took a few steps back and started a Wood Model of a Steel ship. Well, I could backdate it using planks instead of panels! So, taking a break I got to thinking.( I Know, that's dangerous for old folks, Supposedly). Not So. I was sitting looking at a Model Car ! ( Well, that's where my plastic building started).

       It happened to be the REVELL " California Wheels" level -3-1949 Mercury Station Wagon. I can remember going to shows where wood is used to good advantage on models. You know, How'd they do That! Here's an idea. Try to form a mind picture. I don't have a working camera now, at all. (Note:)We are working with Wood! Measure Twice, Cut Once

      I started by cleaning up the Body parts. There were some Glaring spots in the body that needed sanding to contour correctly! Then there's this. The Mold break lines! They are fairly light, But,  in nasty places! The one at the rear top goes right around the back hatch and then terminates halfway down the "C"pillar. This gives the pillar and close-by trim a nasty bit of shaping!

     It's easy enough with gentle shaping with a Small medium, sanding stick-120 Grit! Now for the Wood. You have, like many modelers, options here. Paint and Stains and Washes. Who needs them? Yes, It can be easier that way. But it'sa a Woody Folks! So how about some Real Wood here? Yes, Real wood ! 1/4" x 1/8" thick strip 36" long! As smooth and pure of grain as you can find.You want it to be tight enough that the wood looks creamy! Basswood, Not Balsa! Remember that! You cannot use the cheaper option. Why? Grain is to large and it's too brittle!

     I know, you're gonna say, "Well, on the real car it was steel with wood overlays. How do I duplicate that here?". It's not that hard. First you Must cut out the Hatch and the Tailgate! Why? the tailgate will give you your first taste of doing the rest. You must Remove, Yes, remove the outside wood framing to the inside surface level of the rest of the tailgate. The Top hatch will be replaced with a full wood frame. Note: We are working with Wood-Measure Twice, Cut Once!

      This Frame is NOT one piece either! You have the top, bottom and center pieces.The center pieces are two pieces side by side. The ends are separate pieces. This is where we learn how to work in wood. You take the pieces,close to the size with the openings a little smaller than they need to be. The end pieces Must be wide enough to shape to the outside and inside of the frame.

      Same with the top and bottom. Now, here's the scary part. Do you know whata chamfer is. No? Well it's an angle coming in a joining another piece. We won't use these though. take the bottom and top and find the center. Bass Wood is best for this. The grain is somewhat rougher in Balsa so more fragile which is what we don't want.

 Now lay out the pieces and get ready. Take the top and Bottom. Wide side flat, Cut, at the center, a small triangular notch top and bottom allowing the pieces to overlap the window openings Make sure they are straight on both ends. DO NOT use C.A. Glue here!! A good carpenters glue, Brand -Your choice!( Small bottle) is best. Now cut from your center piece( See! ) I am not going to make you use two. Just one wide enough to intrude into the window openings. Cut the ends in a triangular shape to fit into the top and bottom. Now, laying them flat and using a bit of glue on a toothpick, apply to the parts and glue together and let dry!

     That then, is your Top, Bottom and Center of the hatch! After it's dry then get the side pieces. Remember to let them intrude into the window openings a little. Cut the top shorter than the bottom. Cut the joints at an angle. A slight one only. The ends are almost upright! Now after making the joints match, glue and set aside to dry and be shaped later!

      Here's where the work comes in! Prepping the Body parts. First, I have to ask you. Do you have the oddball shaped Micro saws in your tool collection ? They are P.E.and sharp but fragile.( they bend easily) If not that's okay. Don't rush out and try to find some. Take the tailgate and look at it from the side. It's about maybe 1/8" to 1/16" in thickness. This is a result of the molding process. Now we have to take the framing that stands out, OFF this gate. Micro saws allow this easier, But, it will try your patience. You can Use a sander and sand them off.You MUST NOT go any deeper than the inside surface. So check regularly to make sure you DON'T round those edges!

     When it's done and the edges are straight to the inside surfaces, sand with 600 WET on a block, Using circular motions makes for a better finish! and set aside. Now set out the Wood strips for this. These must be the right size going in. Because there's no openings here! What you will do is this. You will Measure twice and cut once every step of the way. Measure the outstanding "wood" BEFORE cutting it off. This will give you your depth and width.

     Shape each piece so that it fits the gate well. A thought here:Take the car and if you can, take photos of the car and make sure you have outlined the outside wood pieces using a  Fine-Liner or Architects pencil. make paper patterns, But remember some of those pieces curve two ways. This must always be kept on your mind!

    You can message me at any time and I will gladly answer your burning questions. I want this to be an Enjoyable, Difficult, but Achievable project! I believe it will give you a new outlook on the blending of talent and new ( Plastic) and old (Wood) blending in the most obvious melding of both media! See ya at part Two!


  • Member since
    November 2009
  • From: Twin Cities of Minnesota
Posted by Don Stauffer on Sunday, March 7, 2021 8:59 AM

I use wood all the time for my scratch ship kits.  I use any of several tight-grained woods- baasswood, aspen, or even top grade clear pine.  Basswood is the most expensive but is a wonderful wood to work with.  Pine is cheap but the grain is more open.  Aspen is in between in both factors.

When I got into modeling all car  kits were wood, and what I learned building them I usefor scratchbuilt cars.  Cars are small enough that the cost of basswood is not a factor.


Don Stauffer in Minnesota

  • Member since
    September 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Sunday, March 7, 2021 2:57 PM

I splurged a while ago on a high quality mini table saw. It's probably close to paying for itself as I can make thin strips of any species I want.

Slow going, not the kind of thing if you want to make planks for the decks of the 1/96 Constitution, but nice to have.

I use drill bits as a gage to set the fence against the blade.

I didn't pay for a digital readout to set cuts as in my opinion it's most effective to cut a lot of wood that is identical size, not necessarily a particular dimension.

One other neat detail is the plate the blade comes up through. I bought a set of maybe 5. They are clear plastic and install into the saw table recess with a couple of flat head screws. They came with no slot for the blade. So you lower the blade, install the plate, turn on the saw and raise the blade. The result is a zero clearance fit that won't eat strips of wood.



 Modeling is an excuse to buy books.


  • Member since
    November 2009
  • From: Twin Cities of Minnesota
Posted by Don Stauffer on Monday, March 8, 2021 7:48 AM

I should have mentioned in my post above, if you are starting out with wood scratchbuilding, do NOT use balsa wood.  It is used by flying model aiplanes for its low density and hence low aicraft weight.  But it has very open grain, which is hard to seal and fill.  If you are not concerned about weight, use one of the denser woods I mentioned above,

Don Stauffer in Minnesota

  • Member since
    October 2019
  • From: New Braunfels, Texas
Posted by Tanker-Builder on Monday, March 8, 2021 11:30 AM

Hi Bill!

       Listen,You wanna laugh? I have a neighbor whose into fine cabinetry and such. A lot of resto work. He has a saw I would've paid hundreds for years ago. Now he had that problem. The opening for the blade was letting small strips fall through.

 These small strips were trim on some pieces. I got him to remove the plate and replace it with a similar thickness Lexan and do what you did in miniature! He now gets all those strips cut just right and they don't fall through. I did the same with my Scroll Saw and my small bench top Band-Saw



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