How to make a convincing looking fabric covered interior using tissue paper
This article is part of a series:
Most of you know that I have a soft spot in my heart for any aircraft that has two wings, and is mostly covered with fabric. Last night I had a good idea (at least I thought it was), and I wanted to share this with you all.
A while ago I wrote an article on how to get a streaky looking finish on World War One Fokker aircraft, using the 1/28 scale Fokker Dr-1 Triplane that I had backdated to the earlier F-103 prototype that Werner Voss was shot down in.
This is a follow up “how to” article with the idea that I came up with on how to get the inside of the cockpit to look like it was actually covered in fabric.
I recently picked up a sweet little 1/32 scale model of the Bucker Bu-131D.
This is the Revell of Germany kit, and it is actually an ICM kit that has been re boxed by Revell. This has been a great model for me to get going on. Lately I’ve been on a biplane kick, and this build is a follow up on the Fine Molds Ki-10 Perry that I recently finished.
The cockpit of the Revell/ ICM Bu-131D is splendid as it comes from the box. It has a separate tubular framework that represents the basic cockpit structure very well. I have been wanting to get going on this kit every since it arrived in the mail. But one thing was keeping me from building it.
I wanted a way to show the fabric covered side walls and floor. Last night I had a brain storm and this is what I came up with. If any of you have build balsa wood flying models, it will look very familiar to you…
I started out by spraying on the red brown primer color on the interior of the fuselage and lower wing.
I used enamel paint for this. I don’t know how acrylics would work here, since the clear liquid is also an acrylic paint. You could probably use acrylics for the base color, it’s just that I have not attempted it myself. I would recommend trying it on a scrap piece of plastic first.
This red / brown color is an approximation of the first layer of dope that was used on various German aircraft in the mid 1930’s era, and I believe it carried on throughout the remainder of WW2. This red brown primer would have sealed the fabric, protected the inner structure from the elements and moisture, plus it would have helped to shrink the fabric tightly and removed most of the wrinkles.
The next part of the process came from when I built balsa wood flying “stick and tissue” models when I was a boy… If any of you have done this type of building, it will look very familiar to you. I used some tissue paper I had that was off white in color, that looks almost like unbleached linen would. You could also use white tissue paper and probably get similar results.
This stuff is very transparent. Here I am holding it against the instruction booklet. You can see right through it. My wife was kind enough to use her iron and she smoothed out the paper to where it was nice and flat.
The next step was I took a big paint brush and simply brushed on some clear floor acrylic. This stuff is called “Future”, or “Pledge” depending on what country you purchase it in. It might even have a few other names…
Then I simply placed the tissue paper on the wet Future and started brushing it down tightly against the interior walls of the fuselage.
It dried fairy fast, and once it started sticking to the plastic, I began trimming off the excess. I should have waited longer, as the tissue paper does not cut very easy when it is wet. If you wait until it has dried completely, it will be much easier.
These next steps show how I simply brushed on more Future and used the brush to make it penetrate into the tissue. The brush was used to press the tissue tightly against the plastic. This removed any air bubbles and wrinkles.
This is a VERY important step.
As the Future floor acrylic dries, it starts looking more like the tissue paper and becomes flat with no more shine to it. At this point, the fabric effects of the tissue paper begins to appear too.
Here in this next picture, you can see how the tissue paper has almost completely dried. It is looking more like how the interior fabric covered walls of the cockpit would have looked on an original Bucker… The red brown primer dope is showing through to the inside of the fabric. This is the exact feature I was trying to duplicate.
Since the lower wing section is also covered in fabric, I gave the center section that will be visible a coat of tissue paper and Future too. Here it has been trimmed to size and is almost dry.
This next photo shows how the tissue looks when it’s all said and done. It has a fabric effect, and also shows the red brown dope primer showing through it as it was on a real plane. This same technique can be used on any fabric covered aircraft. I would do a little research to determine what base color was used as a primer dope on the plane you are building.
I only used red brown on this one because that’s the color the Luftwaffe used during this era. You could paint it in an aluminum shade, or another color of your choice prior to applying the paper.
This picture shows the fabric effect very nicely… Notice the lower section of the fuselage has not been covered yet.
The following photo shows everything you need to do this process. It’s very simple to do and will look great once the RLM 02 tubing framework is added and the fuselage halves are glued together. Also in this picture I have started the process that will complete the lower section. I’ll come back after it’s all dry and paint on the side stringer / longeron that is present and runs along the entire length of the fuselage. The stringer will get painted to represent a wooden part.
Since I was on a roll, I decided to cover the other half of the fuselage… Here’s how it looks to start with. Notice it has already been painted using my home brewed red brown color. I will trim the excess tissue paper away after it dries this time. I expect this to work much better.
With one half completed now and drying, I started on the other side. I’m using the Future bottle as a prop to hold the completed side as it is drying. Here you can also see the large paint brush.
I brushed on a coat of Future…
and laid the tissue paper on the Future while it was still wet. I used the paint brush and more Future to garnish it down tight against the plastic side walls. I stopped at the fuselage stringer / longeron as the tissue was too thin to cover the entire half in one attempt.
This is how the Bucker looks at the moment… but now I have had time to post this article, I can probably get the last section of tissue paper installed.
The technique I came up with has lots of possibilities, and can be used on various large scale planes, such as a Hawker Hurricane, or any other plane that had a cockpit with fabric covered sides. I do think it will be most useful for the World War One and Golden Era types, such as Sopwith, Nieuport, De Havilland, Curtiss and other planes of this sort.
************ update *************
I have made more progress on the Bucker 131D. I used a balsa wood plank stripping tool and made two stringers / longerons for the sides of the cockpit.
These wooden parts were glued in place using CA glue. Once the glue had fully cured, I installed the fuselage sidewall tubing and throttle quadrants.
The completed cockpit floor was painted using RLM 02, and then glued to the lower wing center section as per the instructions.
The fuselage halves were glued together and following this the lower wing was installed too. Now it is starting to look as it should. You can see how much of the fabric surfaces are visible on this model. I do think it was a worthwhile effort, and now it looks even more realistic.
I hope that you can try this method out to make your own “pilot’s offices” look a bit more authentic.
Please let me know what your thoughts are on this, and as always, “Comments are encouraged”.