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Builder Basics: How to build an acrylic-rod display

Make an in-flight aircraft model look grrrrreat!
RELATED TOPICS: MODELING TOOLS | AIRCRAFT
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The NATO Association of Tiger Squadrons was established in 1961 as an informal way for NATO air forces to work together. Every year, aircraft from several member and honorary member nations gather for a public relations/media event with camaraderie as the centerpiece. From the modeler’s perspective, the best part is the collection of flamboyant Tiger-themed paint schemes from each squadron. 

Ever since seeing a picture of a Belgian F-16 in NATO Tiger Meet markings, I’ve wanted to build one. I was able to pick up a sheet of decals from DACO (No. DCD4846) that depicts an F-16 of Belgium’s 31 Tiger Squadron during the 1998 event — beautiful colors on a black background.

Next, to find a kit. I picked up an old 1/48 scale Academy kit on sale that would fit the bill. Technically, it’s not the correct subvariant, the main difference being the absent tail parachute. However, for this build I decided not to care. In addition, I was going to build a wheels-up configuration with a pilot, eliminating much of the detail work on the cockpit and landing gear. Those areas always slow me down!


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Wheels up, doors closed: As you can see, a fair amount of filler was needed to smooth everything out.


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A 1/4-inch clear acrylic rod holds the aircraft aloft and is anchored in a wood dowel in the model. The grooves were cut to allow the plug to clear internally. I used epoxy to attach the plug before installing the tailpipe — but make sure everything fits before applying epoxy.


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To bend the rod, I clamped a heat gun to a table and, wearing heavy-duty gloves, heated the rod in one spot until I could bend it. If you want a gentler curve, heat a larger portion of the rod and bend it around a round object.


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I drilled a hole in the wood plug to receive the rod. It’s a friction fit, so I can remove it from the model for transport. It also made a good grab handle during the decal process.


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Epoxy holds the other end of the rod in a hole I drilled in a sufficiently weighty wood base. After a coat of Tamiya white primer, I sprayed Testors black gloss acrylic. Each tiger stripe is a separate decal; overall, it took eight hours and a lot of decal solution.


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The finish coat is Microscale satin; a clear gloss would have looked toylike. No need for weathering — these aircraft were kept immaculate during the meet. I sprayed the base with metallic paint, mounted a home-printed 31 Squadron decal on a sheet-styrene placard, and my tiger was ready to pounce!


A version of this article appeared in the July 2017 issue.

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