The making of a model-plane

Here are the different steps which can be followed to make a 1/500 scale model plane with custom-made livery. ( I follow almost the same steps when doing die-cast models in other scales)..

  1. The first step is to find a base die-cast plane that is needed to make the model. Since the existing livery has to be erased it is always better to select a plane with very simple decoration.
  2. To work on the fuselage without damaging the coating on the wings it is better to separate them from the fuselage. The best way is to work with a hand vice . Some of them are fitted with soft rubber jaws. This reduces the risk of scratching the plane when separating the body from the wings.
  3. There are many solvents on the market .When the plane is having a tail made of plastic it is a must to proceed with a light solvent. The best and least expensive in France and most other places are either solvent used to clean the shoes or the cleaner used by ladies to erased varnish on their nails ! The beauty of it is that it does not damage the coating of the plane itself..Using tweezers to hold some cotton impregnated with solvent it is relatively easy to remove the existing livery. Every effort should be made to save the cockpit windows and others doors and windows .This will ease your task later.It is possible for instance, working with an Air France or Lufthansa 747 to save all doors and windows since the fuselage is all white. When the fuselage is free from the former livery it is advisable to rinse the fuselage with plain water to stop any further action of the solvent.
  4. The difficults part of the task is still in front of you. You have to choose between handpainting with a brush (which usually turns out disastrously) or for those working on the 1/500 scale making your own decals since ther is nothing available in the market. One way is to start with a good picture from a post-card , aviation book or airline litterature. It is very easy to calculate the ration of reduction between the picture and the model taking into account that when photocopying the picture through a laser colour machine ther is always 1% or 2% shrinkage .The 2 copies obtained (one for each side are too small to be transfered to a plain decal sheet (too expensive). Usually it is better to obtain several reductions of different liveries and assemble them on a A4 sheet. The A4 sheet when completed with several liveries will be processed to the laser copying machine in the same way. At this time you do not use regular copy paper but a plain decal sheet of the same size.Make sure when you buy the decal sheet that is has the ability to be processed through a copier, since somedo not. Sometimes the owners of copying machine are reluctant to use their equipment to do the reproduction and it may take some time to convince them to do so
  5. Reproducing a livery from pictures cannot meet every need. There are colours which are very difficult to obtain or the livery can be too sophisticated because it contains a mixture of several coloured cheat lines (the former livery of UAL is a good example). The best results are achieved using plain coloured decal sheets, which are available in different colour. Here again the size of those cheat lines will have to be very accurately calculated. With a small cutter the cheat line can be made to size and assembled on the fuselage one by one; starting preferably from the top one. Ensure they are straight ,not too wide or too narrow and at the correct level. Airlines logos will be processed through laser copying machine as explained above.
  6. In some cases, Avianca for example, where a large part of the fuselage is red, the best method is to spray the aircraft body. In car spares hops, there is always a wide selection of spray can which will do the job as long as proper consideration is given to the size of the model to be coated and the strengh of the spray. It should be done quickly and carrefully. It is obvious that all parts of the fuselage not having to be coated must be isolated.
  7. In conclusion the making of the livery is often a combination of decals and painting.
  8. Another way to proceed is with a ready made decal in a different scale but having the livery you want.You can reduce it in the same way ; but unless you have a PC having the logiciel to modified pictures , you cannot process the decal through a copying machine, because most decals are made on coloured paper which will will come out the in the copying process! The best way is to transfer the entire decal sheet ( as you would do on a kit) to a transparency , dry it and then proceed to the reduction.
  9. When the work has been completed and the fuselage is dry and reunited with the wings , a light coat of varnish should be applied to avoid yellowing of the decals. A glossy acrylic picture varnish works very well .
  10. Good luck and yes , in that scale alone, I have completed so far 245 airliners of different types with custom-made liveries.(See the lists and pictures above). It means that what I say works!.

To be frank I started years ago with Dinky-Toys, Aero-Minis and 1/200 scale model planes.