Thread Tools
Jul 23, 2001, 04:33 PM
Registered User
Drewmotion's Avatar

Tissue and Dope Covering Techniques

Hi everyone, I'm new to the hobby of peanut scale balsa model planes.(new to the balsa airplane hobby altogether) I started an Albatros biplane this weekend, and I'm about ready to cover the balsa with the supplied tissue. I have been scouring over the internet, trying to find information on the correct way to cover the model. Some of my questions would be, do I cover the whole wing with one piece of tissue, or do I cut out smaller pieces for each section of the wing? How do I attatch the tissue to the balsa frame? If I overlap the tissue, will I be able to see the seams? I'm sure there are a thousand other questions that will pop up when I start the covering. Is there a good website that thouroghly explains the process? Thanks for any advice on the subject.

Sign up now
to remove ads between posts
Jul 23, 2001, 08:19 PM
Registered User
Pat Daily's Avatar

First, use good japanese tissue to cover with. commercial tissue has no grain, jap tissue has a grain and adds lots of strength. Dope the edges of the framework with butyrate or preferably nitrate dope, lightly sand and dope again. Attach the tissue with dope thinner and pull gently to remove wrinkles. when dry, pin it to the building board and shrink with a water or alchol aerosol spray. Use different pieces for wing tips and compound curves. I always have the grain (you can tell which way the grain runs by tearing a small strip--if it tears straight, then you are tearing with the grain--experiment) running spanwise or the length of the fuselage. After shrinking, brush or airbrush on one or two coats of thinned dope that has been plasticized with a drop or two per ounce of oil of wintergreen--this keeps it flexible. Another way to attach the tissue is with water thinned Elmers or glue sticks. All work well. there are several free flight websites (start with DC Maxecuters at that have links to places with more in depth explanations.

Pat Daily
Jul 25, 2001, 04:31 PM
Registered User
Rotten Robbie's Avatar
Here is a site to look at:

Lots of good stuff relating to tissue covering.

Aug 06, 2001, 07:41 PM
Registered User
There are actually many techniques for applying tissue which will work. I happen to use the method mentioned by Pat. A couple footnotes (if I may )-

I'm not sure if it's lighter or not, but I apply a balsa sealer (instead of dope) as the first coat. I find the dope really soaks into the wood otherwise. When it's dry, you will see little balsa "hairs" sicking up, and it will feel a little rough. Sand it lightly just to remove these hairs. It should feel very smooth afterwards.

Also, I have never found there to be a lot of time to adjust the tissue to pull out wrinkles. Just try to get it as smooth as possible as you apply the thinner; later when you shrink it you'll be surprised at how many wrinkles come out.

I like the oil of wintergreen idea; would my LHS have this?

One thing I want to try some day is coating the surfaces with some aliphatic wood glue (such as Tite Bond), then ironing on the tissue when it's dry. This glue is heat-reactivated, and a quick test shows that this "works". I'm not sure how the glue would like being wet during the shrinking stage though; maybe use Tite Bond II instead.

Best Regards,

Aug 06, 2001, 09:21 PM
Registered User
This is one of those skills that cannot be learned in a book, and which is comprised of many techniques applied in sync. It is very much a hands-on skill to learn. You can't study it to death or talk youself into a skill level. Just go practice it. Your first results will be lousy, and they will continuously improve over the next forty years of practice provided you pay attention to what you're doing and keep your eyes and ears open to learn improved techniques.
May 04, 2004, 07:04 PM
Registered User
This thread is pretty old . . . but here is a good link I've found. (I fly electric, but am looking at rubber models- they seem like fun)

May 04, 2004, 07:36 PM
Big gov never Works
St. Martin's Avatar
Originally Posted by PeterH
This is one of those skills that cannot be learned in a book, and which is comprised of many techniques applied in sync. It is very much a hands-on skill to learn. You can't study it to death or talk youself into a skill level. Just go practice it. Your first results will be lousy, and they will continuously improve over the next forty years of practice provided you pay attention to what you're doing and keep your eyes and ears open to learn improved techniques.
This is the advice I believe to be most accurate of all, and what I would have said.

I am constantly recieving emails, and asked in person for "old time" covering instructions. I learned on my own, as a boy. There was no one avail. to help first hand. Many errors came about through the learning experiance. And I'm still learning. Everyone seems to develope a system that works for them, with usually the same results.

Visit local HS's and ask about people in your area who perform this covering technique, there are clubs nation wide . First hand instruction is the best route. When you locate someone who is willing to help, treat him like
"gold", as it will be a learning experiance that will reach into many areas. As the covering job is only as good as the work under it.

May 05, 2004, 02:48 AM
Keep off the Grass!!
Adrian Britton's Avatar
SAMS Catalogue has articles written by top designers/experts on these subjects. Here is what I wrote (copying the described techniques for the most part) in the destruction leaflet for one of my Aerographics designs....

Deal with the centre section first, then the outer panels of the wings

Working dry, cover all three wing panels on their undersides. For the top of the centre section, one piece is needed. On each of the top outer surfaces only, use two pieces, one from the root to R9, plus a separate piece for each tip. Tack the tissue at the centre of a root rib and gently stretch towards the tip. When secure, work spanwise, starting at the centre and working outwards, fixing chordwise as you go. Use a little extra clear dope as an adhesive where needed. For the tip pieces only, dampen the tissue slightly before applying.
The tailplane and fin are covered the same way. Hinging the elevators and rudder is carried out after doping.
Use fine (600 wet & dry) paper to sand off the edges of the tissue from the structure.
The FUSELAGE should have its top and bottom covered first, followed by both side panels. Dope should only be applied to the perimeters taking great care to avoid spoiling the glazed areas. You could mask these off; try experimenting with a scrap ‘mock up’ of this type of structure if you need to feel more confident. My trick was to dope on a piece of tissue to the window area, fold and dope the overlaps around the window frames before attaching these 1/32 sheet side panels to the basic fuselage with the glazed areas already attached. I treated the top window similarly The tissue should be damp to cover the nose deckings and nose block and in the case of these, dope the full areas through the tissue
I used one of Mary’s ex-perfume ‘squeeze the bulb’ sprays (well rinsed out) to spray water mist. Read on however, steaming is another method if you are confident and equipped.
Steam shrink the wing and tail areas, as steam is gentler than water shrinking. Support and weigh down the wings in their ‘washout’ mode as they dry. Try to avoid warps, but correct with steam and opposite twist if they do occur. Any slight wrinkles on sheeted areas can be lightly sanded and sealed with dope. Examine your work critically and correct anything you are not happy with using puddles of thinners if necessary."

Wish I could practice wot's preached! As age is wrinkling me, more of them permanently decorate my pathetic covering attempts!
May 05, 2004, 09:38 AM
Registered User
Graham Smith's Avatar
Start off covering a small part of the model, like the rudder, to help develop your technique. Then its easy to remove the tissue and start again if you make a mistake
May 05, 2004, 09:42 AM
easily confused
mu2freighter's Avatar
Pat made a good point; don't overlook it...use alcohol instead of water to shrink tissue. Also, I find that you can further control shrinking by spraying over the surface rather than directly at it, allowing just the 'fallout' to dampen the surface. Alcohol comes in different strengths; I use 90-ish % isopropyl for its minimal water content. If you need more shrinkage you can go to alcohol with a higher water content, or you can use fallout from straight water...

Feb 26, 2008, 07:32 PM
Registered User
For sticking tissue, you can use Balsa Loc, brushed on thinly and allowed to dry, then apply the tissue with a medium hot covering iron. It can be shrunk with a light misting of water and immediate drying with a low heat gun.

Thread Tools

Similar Threads
Category Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Tissue Covering Techniques PROACE 1/2A Planes 28 Apr 08, 2010 11:04 AM
Alert Reynolds Plastic Covering Techniques Smash McCrash Parkflyers 5 Jun 17, 2008 07:17 PM
Tissue & dope covering crowe04 Free Flight 13 Nov 22, 2005 05:01 AM
Covering techniques (Oracover Lite)? smau1 Parkflyers 1 Sep 08, 2002 10:32 PM
Tissue Paper and Dope Covering Drewmotion Electric Plane Talk 3 Jul 24, 2001 08:05 AM