I have long been tempted to recreate the effect of polished Duralumin which many of the warbirds of the latter part of WWII sported as a factory fresh look. Initially camouflaged, a lot of the American aircraft later on saved time, money and weight by omitting the painting stage altogether. This allowed even a speed advantage when the surface was polished and accompanied by flush riveting.
The mirror-like surfaces reflect sky and ground and shine like a jewel under the sun which is a joy to behold.
There are several methods and techniques available to re-create these surfaces on scale models. Since I prefer building in paper, the painting-over and surface-buffing technique wasn't ieal because of the fragile nature of the base material - paper.
That left me the option of building out of glossy, metallic coated sheets, (which wouldn't glue together very well), or cover a paper model with reflective PVC sticker sheets, (where the sheet thickness would be an issue)...
So I decided to try a home grown, cost-effective technique to start of with and see whether it had potential.
The idea was to build a paper-model and then cover it with kitchen grade Aluminium foil. Inexpensive, good reflective material and how complicated could it be?
I chose to make a BF 109 because I still am fascinated by this aircraft. The shape is purely form follows function but there are so many clever engineering details grafted into this machine that the more I learn about it, the more respect I have...not only for the design and the designer, but also for those who built it and flew it.
I have no idea if BF109's were ever tried, tested and or flown in bare metal. I think not, because i haven't seen a single photo of one such so far.
Well then, here's a first.
As I built each part, I covered it with Aluminium foil. The great adventure had become and it was the beginning of a long tug of war which I almost gave up on half way.
I tried to glue the foil on with tacky sprayed on glue. But the moment I put the foil on, the glue droplets would show through as bumps. I sprayed one side, both sides, thick and thin. But it was a mess.
Then I tried to spray on fixative and use that as a tacky surface to glue on the foil. Very messy too.
Finally I settled for brushing on evenly white PVA glue and then lightly placing the foil on it with pressing down too hard.
That seemed to work. It gave me some time to shift the foil before it set and the PVA acted as a surfacer too.
So, peice by peice, panel by panel, I advanced....
Plus, with more nd more handling, inadvertantly, the model gets knocked about and starts looking like it's already been through battle before it's left the factory!
I did some minimum detailing in the cockpit to give an impression of an interior. The Erla Haube canopy was not easy to make at this scale. I tried to do it with just bending but it would be better to use heat from a hairdryer to soften the material an get a nicer transition...
I almost gave up halfway through, because I saw the surfaces getting damaged under my very own eyes and that was dispairing! But then I knew that if I don't go to the end of this exercise, I won't really have tried this way of working completely.
Once all the surfaces wre covered and the model completed. the excess glue had to be wiped off with an earbud that was slightly moist. That done, the model was complete...but didn't feel complete.
Something was missing....
Rivets! So with a pin, I began a journey of thousands of tiny pinpricks in as straight a line as possible on surfaces that were curved and often inaccessable. Impossible to use the surface as a guide to steady the hand..or it would ding.
I did my best and then the plane began coming to life...The scale felt right, the details added that 'join' to the panels and even in some cases made warped surfaces look like flight-stressed surfaces.
So, it sort of works, needs a lot of attention....but I wonder, if a glue that sets hard might be a solution to preserve the surface. And maybe slightly thicker aluminium foil might be more resistant.
I would do this again..larger scale. This exercise may have pushed me to the edges of my patience but it's also inviting me to find a way to crack it and enter a world of polished aluminium models that are easy and cost-effective to make but more importantly, look like the real thing!!