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Jack Crumbliss
2 articles

My First…..or… How to Quit Worrying and Love the Foil

March 17, 2014 · in How-to · · 22 · 1.6K

Ok gang this is the aircraft I lost my Virginity too ! A 21st Century Toy P-47 that I sanded the markings off except the black area. I had STARED at my adhesive bottle for a couple of YEARS and I wanted to build a 1/32 Trumpeter English Electric (I love saying that) F1A Lightning. I did an Airfix 1/48 and used Metalizers and wasn't happy with it.
I wanted the 1964 Number 56 Squadron demo team the "FIREBIRDS" and knew it had to be "foiled" to get the finish I wanted, or so I thought.

I needed to try it before I pulled my big kit out and looking around for a "victim" I spotted the 47 on the wall hanging there gathering dust.

I had a little experience with Bare Metal Foil and knew that was not the answer, so to the grocery store and picked up CHEAP foil to start.

I had found a few articles on the web and a couple in magazines and figured they were doing it the HARD way, as the adhesive directions said brush the stuff on the foil, let dry and apply, too messy. I have always had a hard time following directions and knew from my limited BMF experience that the adhesive on the foil would be hard to handle and wasteful.
I started putting it on the panel, burnishing it with a "make-up applicator" (looks like a Q-Tip but one end has a large flat pad ) that I purchased in the make-up dept. at Wallyworld, but didn't know about steelwool yet.

I know that aluminum sheet generally comes in LARGE rolls (first grain) then is stamped or cut out (more machine marks) and in a lot of cases rolled(more grain) to put a curve in it and not all panels have their grain running in the same direction.
I started to foil the 47( shiny side down) and turn the foil on some panels a different direction so it would reflect different and once in awhile hit a panel with 2000 sand paper and discovered that I could dull it, but you could also polish it to a mirror shine if you wanted it to look like chrome.

I figured steelwool would be perfect medium to grain the foil and would rub with the grain on the foil or go opposite to get a different look and it worked.

When I finished foiling I sprayed it with Future,as I had some trouble with decals sticking to polished Metalizer's in the passed and I wanted to test the Trumpeter decals on it.
Some say do not overcoat finishes as it ruins the shine, but on foil you want to tone it down some or it looks TOO SHINYand will patina and start to show fingerprints (skin oil) that were not removed with alcohol or mineral spirits ,it might take afew years but they will come. They will come on your painted NMF also if exposed and not clear coated.
So the Trumpy decals are for 111 squadron and laid down nice and I have a British T-Bolt
I built 3 models for a 2nd Bomb Wing Headquater display in 1999 and were all Metalizer finish and look good IMHO,but still look like silver paint to me and I grew up around NMF A/C on military bases and it just was not good enough IMHO.

If you want horror stories about other NMF methods, brother I gotta bunch and for the most part they STINK and are MESSY.

Please feel free to ask questions as I have no problem in shepherding you to the

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22 responses

  1. Thank god my Aspergian?OCD doesn't extend this far. 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing the technique, it most certainly looks like metal. I wasn't aware about the need of clear-coating afterwards, but it sound logical.

    ONe question I have is the durability of the foiled panels, especially the risk of damage in places such as wing trailing edges, tail feathers, landing gear covers - which may require some handling. Do you need to apply much special care when handling the model?

    • Thank You Martin for peeking in

      In handling the model during construction and after, you do need to watch the foil around areas that have edges that are exposed (landing gear doors) to keep from peeling the edge up, but you can rub it back down even after it's clear coated.

      For the most part the leading and trailing edges of flying surfaces are done with a wrap-around technique, so there are no exposed edges, learned the hard way. There are always risk when you handle your model and after you do a couple you will know how to handle and fix things.

      I found during construction that the more foil you have applied the more slippery it will get in your hand, it will slip between your fingers.

      I Future all my models at some point and unless you have a meter to measure reflectivity you wouldn't know it, and it gives a consistent surface for paint, decals etc

      I don't know if anyone else keeps their models, or cares what they look like in 10 years, but I have had fingerprints come through on un-coated painted NMFs and I assume the foil will also unless you never touch it without protection.


  3. How much time did it take you to foil that model?

    • Hi Nikola
      Understand the P-47( 1/32) was my first foil job and from the time I took it off the wall and completed it was about 30hours
      To be honest I don't track build time as some do, but if I did this now it would be about 20 and would look a lot better.

  4. Thanks for the tutorial. You about have me convinced to give this a try.
    Do you foil the whole aircraft, seal it & then apply overlaying paint.

    • Hi Al

      I found that applying paint on non-coated foil will chip really easy, so if you are a fan of WW2 Japanese aircraft, have I gotta deal for you..
      You just want to be careful when you remove any masking to avoid pulling up the foil, I use BLUE painter tape and Frog Tape which is similar to Tamiya tape, but wider and CHEAPER 9sorry Mr. Tamiya) and my favorite SILLY PUTTY

  5. It looks ok to me Jack, I think that trying all the different techniques to achieve the required effect you want could be time consuming . But the the finish is what counts, and that looks the part.

  6. Thank You Simon
    I will post some more pics of my other builds soon so you can see how I progressed to now. This 47 was a Grand experiment and looks pretty plain,
    but as I told others they get better

  7. From what I can tell, it came out spectacularly...nice job.

  8. That's the way to model! Nothing will ever look like real aluminum better than real aluminum! I was going to BMF my B-29, but I did a test piece and the decals didn't adhere too well. Now that it's a year later, they wanting to kind of stick! What would happen if you rubbed the foil with alcohol before applying decals? (I'm assuming why they didn't want to stick to the BMF, some kind of oil or residue.) Carl Bachhuber does the differential sanding trick on his R/C planes. You should check them out, they look great AND they fly! (Would hate to stuff one in though!)

    • Thank You Josh, The decal quandary I think comes from residue as you said or the foil is too smooth and the decal has nothing to adhere to. I have had decal failure on polished Metal paint, but never put decals on non-overcoated foil.
      Residue "should" be able to be remove with alcohol and I think that your year old BMF my have patinaed just enough for the decal to have something to stick to?
      I Future my models before paint and decal and have never had a problem

      • The only plane I ever had problems with decals not sticking was my B-58 I did in the nineties. They're still on, but their grip on the model is tenuous at best! I think more the decals fault that the metalizer. Did you see that guy's planes I mentioned?
        P.S. FYI, there is a Lightning in the air again! ZU-BBD flew down in South Africa and it sounds like the two single seaters won't be far behind!

  9. Jack,
    Like I said before, I really admire your work. I will be satisfied to await each one of your builds and complement it accordingly. You have my respect.

    • Frank,
      Thank You very much for the kind words.
      You Sir, have my respect for finishing more than one MACH 2 kit
      I finished one...after putting it back in the box 3 times before getting it done...only for a "Special Category" that a friend sponsored.
      My thought... Mach 2," The speed it was traveling when it
      hit the WALL"

  10. said on March 19, 2014


  11. Nice! Yes nothing looks like Alu, but Alu! I have done a few 1930's 1/72, s with foil over the silver cowlings, as a way to get confidence but never tried it in real anger! However I've found the best foil glue is a good coat of any Humbrol gloss enamel over the area to be foiled, preferably a light colour (I used gloss yellow), works a treat as a foil glue!

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