making rivet heads on model kit surface

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Senior Airman
Nov 15, 2006
East end
A couple of months ago, with a coincident, I found a method to form rivet heads on model kit's exterior surfaces.

I have been on a Monogram/Hasegawa B-17G for more than two years but it was held up due to the kit's exterior was way too "clean." As can be seen from actual a/c photos, the surface of the B-17 is surprisingly roughened with numerous rivet heads planted on the flat sheet metal. Since I couldn't find any good way to re-create the rivet heads on the kit at that time, I have been away from the project for more than a year, and had started another project, the A-36A in 1/32 scale, build from scratch. I needed some of rivet heads be formed even on the Mustang's surface, though not as many as on the B-17.

The method I found is as follows;
1) make liquid stylene plastic, by mixing pieces of plastic material with solvent type plastic kit glue such as Liquidpoly from Airfix or one of the Tamiya Cements. In my case Tamiya's white plastic sheets were used to make the special mix.

2) make an own "rivet tool" or two by closely lining up the sawing needles on a small piece of flat plate. The needles are then fixed with superglues. Be sure that the end of the needles are lined up on an arch with the radius of 2 to 2.5 inches. I made one when I made the Lancaster but used it quite differently.

3) prepare the surface of the wings, fuselage and other parts by wet sanding with #320 sandpaper. You can scribe not only on the panel lines but also for accentuating the lap joints of the sheet metal on the real planes.

4) draw rivet lines on the surface using pencils. This should be done carefully. The work should be started from a small area and then proceeded step by step.

5) apply the mix generously onto the surface with a flat brush and wait for about 20-30 minutes. You will have not so rough surface for brush application, after drying for that length of time. Be careful not to leave your fingerprints on the half-dried surface. I used a pair of latex medical grove here.

6) you can see the lines drawn on step no.4. Then use the rivet tool to create rivet heads by slightly digging up on the softened surfaces. For this the tool can be tilted somewhat.

7) If a certain area (entire fuselage or wings) was finished, I recommend to paint them to the base color at this step. This enables to grasp the texture of the working at early stages and can be used to adjust, touching up or to re-working on that area. Also, handling of the model on the steps thereafter will result in a certain half-grossy condition on the painted surface. Actually this is a result of holding by human hands and fingers.

8) In my case of the B-17 "The Leper Colony," the wings, the tailplanes and the fuselage are all removable. Also the control surfaces are cut and corrected.

I exhibisited this hastily finished model at JMC Contest run by Hasegawa held early this month in Tokyo8).


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Don't you need a straight edge to guide your rivet tool? How do you prevent it from marring the surface when it's still wet with the liquid cement mix?

Also, I'm curious how you handle the figures. Did you have to reposition those pilots from standing figures or did you find them in sitting position. What is your method of paining them?
I did it mostly without straigt rulers. The tool has good directional stability. The surface will be sufficiently dried for working after 20 minutes or so but be careful when handling it.

Figures; since there was not enough time to paint them in the methods used on the AFV, I used decals for the life jackets and the parachute harnesses which have been put in place by decal softer liquid then glued with Future like liquid. I used this technique for making the inspection panels on the airframe. So far this works very finely with me.

Figures are composite of several kits', mostly Tamiya and old Monogram ones. In the case above #4 engine (critical engine) is shut down and the propeller is feathered. All other props are with blades in coarse pich positions for cruising. The co-pilot has the control with the pilot put his hand on the yoke but I should have align the positions of the yoke.


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That is awesome! I was looking for a way to do raised rivets some time ago for my Mustang wheel wells and never found a pratical way to do it.

What's the consistency of the liquid glue/plastic mixture? Also, can you explain a bit more about what you mean by "Then use the rivet tool to create rivet heads by slightly digging up on the softened surfaces. For this the tool can be tilted somewhat."?

I don't get how you get raised rivets using a tool that looks like it will make indentations. Is plastic tacky so the pins pull it up?
Great idea mate, thanks! Been wondering how to do the heavy riveting on an Italeri C-47...they are really obvious on the real thing!
I would say the tool or the each needle end be;
1) pierced, an angle up to 40 degrees from vertical, to the bottom of the sotened layer. Then,
2) dig up the layer with the end of the needle.
This is a composite of digging ups and tracking on the desired and predetermined path that is the row of the rivets.

I am thinking to make a better tool which has a finer and more straight row of the rivet heads. Above all it took just three days for making almost of all the rivet heads. More days were spent on making the figures and other details including air outlets on the upper surfaces on the wings.
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Some more details....


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thin>thai is right. A bit more than normal liquid cement I guess.
Thanks Shinpachi-sama and mina-sama (everybody). But I see the present tool is way too coarse for working on the smaller planes. I expect somebody works out Douglas SBD or Supermarine Wallus using the technique shown above. That must be great model of all time.

About B-17 crew

While making the model I have been watching and listening to the ww2 documentary film DVD "Memphis Belle" countless time (it is good to brush up my listening complehension skill).

I thought of the young men who had to fight and fly the bombers. Since I am a hobby pilot myself I knew something about being at 25,000ft for extended hours only with simple oxygen supply and thick clothes, and totally without heating and pressurization. So I can imagine how it was in the B-17s flying at that height, though, in part.
But the things I cannot imagine at all are fighting, enduring and above all repeating it. I read "The Serenade to the Big Bird" by Bert Stiles, while I was not working on my model B-17, and had learned the flying in it was far more difficult than as can be imagined from the photographs and, the model.
I once had a chance to get on a real ball turret in a B-17 at Chino, Calif. It was truly amazing experience and I was even horrified when sitting on the seat. Field of vision through the round glass was astonishingly small. I would respect all the people endured the War, including the young people who flew and fight in the B-17.


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