For the Solite challenged... - RC Groups
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Jul 22, 2002, 12:54 AM
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Martin Hunter's Avatar

For the Solite challenged...

Hi gang!

I keep noticing, in various threads, people having problems with Solite (Nelson Litefilm). Personally, I love it and have it go on quick and easy, but only with specific technique. Here's a copy of a post I made in a Wing-E thread so that all of you can see it in a thread of its own. Enjoy!

Yes, Solite and Litefilm are the one and the same. The only difference I've noticed is the instructions that come with them are slightly different.

I'll try to explain my technique with this stuff. Unfortunately the camera battery is dead so I can't take any pictures, but I'll take some at a later date for future reference.

Let's take my Wing-E and let's use one of the transparent blue sections for an example. I did the transparent blue first, but it really doesn't matter which one I talk about as they're all virtually identical. I make sure I have one straight edge of covering, and I use that for the inboard rib edge. That is, I use it for the edge that will fold down onto a mid-wing rib and where the white will overlap. I cut out enough for about an inch to two inches overhang. This may seem excessive, but I like having some to hang onto.

As you cut it (sharp/new #11 or razor blade) from the covering roll, it will naturally be on it's back. That is, the covering's shiny side will be down, backing up. Either tear a corner or use scotch tape to get the backing off, making sure the covering stays FLAT on your building board. If it lifts, even a little, it can double back on itself very easily. Peel the backing back using your free hand to flatten the covering. When it's all of, you're left with the bare covering sitting shiny side down just next to your wing. Roughly line up the straight edge with where it will be on the Wing-E rib. I don't mean to place the plane on top of the covering, but instead to put it next to it. It's as if you had peeled the covering off the wing and layed it shiny side down above the wing on the board. I hope that makes sense.

Grab the covering by the edge furthest away from the Wing-E and pull it down over the wing. Initially, it takes some getting used to to get the idea as to how much to lift it up without either sticking to itself or pulling right off the board. If, at any point during this transition, the entire chunk of covering leaves the board, consider yourself hooped. If you can salvage large pieces, do it, but otherwise the static cling takes hold. Pull the edge down over the wing until it's past the trailing edge of the wing the approximate inch or two for the overhang you cut. Don't worry about 100% perfect alignment, as you can still adjust it, even if this is over another layer of solite. Keeping things straight and only pulling on a corner to adjust the covering makes sliding it into position dead simple.

Iron down the straight edge, as that's the edge you're aligning, and at that point you can carefully lift the Wing-E from the board. Keep it flat and watch for the overhang to grab itself. Prevent that if you can, but if it does happen, it's not a biggie, as it's just the overhang. Pull the side opposite the straight edge taught and iron it down in the center, then work to either outside corner. Work your way along the leading and trailing edges, but do NOT try desperately to iron out wrinkles, as you'll likely just make them permanent fold lines. All of my tacking and ironing is done at a bare minumum of temperatures. My iron ranges from off to 1 to 4 for settings, with a variable knob for all settings in between. Solite likes "1" on my old tower iron. Don't worry about shrinking it with the iron, as that's where the heat gun comes in. Once all edges are tacked, worry about the spots where perhaps you had a wrinkle that made it to the edge. Using your heatgun sparingly work the wrinkle while pulling the overhang down to hold your tackline along the edge. Turn the wing over on the board, and trim the overhang. Iron all that stuff down as you see fit and you're ready to do the other side of the wing.

Note that I haven't yet shrunk the main mass of covering in between all the edges.

Cover the opposite side of the wing. Eg, if you just covered the bottom of the left wing, now cover the top of the left wing. Once you've covered the other side via the same technique and trimmed and ironed down the edges, you're ready to shrink.

Fire up the heatgun! Work quickly from end to end, and try to avoid the areas where different colors of covering come together. Do NOT hold the heatgun over one spot closer than 3 inches or longer than a few seconds, or you'll be swearing at me and patching a hole. The solite shrinks better than any other covering I've ever used, so rest assured even the most nasty wrinkles and excesses of covering will probably come out.

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Jul 22, 2002, 01:31 AM
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Chuck's Avatar

Very good writeup. I saved it for when I get the nerve to try covering something, but with your penchant for using the camera, I'm surprised there were no pictures. Or does that come in a later installment?


Jul 22, 2002, 01:34 AM
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Martin Hunter's Avatar
The camera I use is my parents, so I steal it once in a while. They are away for a week and took the camera. Pictures will come, but they'll be a week away.
Jul 23, 2002, 04:41 PM
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columbiarcdude's Avatar
Hi Martin,
I really like Solite too. It sounds like your method is the finesse way to use it and keep it from doubling over on itself. I use a different method. Mine is more like a brute-force or gimmick method.

First I cut my piece of covering a couple of inches bigger than the part to be covered. Now with the backing side down I run a piece of 1/4 to 1/2 inch masking tape around all the edges of the top. Any cut edge that is going to be a seam I skip the tape. After taping, flip the piece over. I also use scotch tape to help get the backing off.

With the tape around the edge, the covering is now stiff and won't fold back on itself readily ... BUT if it does, it's real easy to pull apart. So just cover as normal and when you trim the edges, you trim off the making tape too.

Thats all there is to it.

Jul 23, 2002, 05:38 PM
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BEC's Avatar
I like that (and the idea in another thread to mist a little water above the stuff before peeling off the backing to cut the static).

The tape might prevent the tearing I saw sometimes when peeling off the backing, too.

Ideas for the next "confrontation with Mr. Nelson".
Jul 23, 2002, 06:40 PM
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Martin Hunter's Avatar
Cool tips! I'll have to try a few of those myself. Now that I've got my "system" down, I'll go and mess it all up
Sep 30, 2002, 02:24 PM
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cathode's Avatar
Excellent writeup! How do you do seams, do you just end the stuff on a spar (or other wood piece) and then overlap the second color onto that same piece? Can you layer the stuff, i.e. decals?
Sep 30, 2002, 03:22 PM
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Martin Hunter's Avatar
Seams depend on the location. Generally, large chunks of aircraft can be covered once you're comfortable with the covering. I try to make my seams at less obvious locations such that you really have to look in order to see them. Places such as corners of the fuselage or the leading/trailing edge of the wing and/or tail feathers work perfectly.

To use an aileron as an example: I cut the piece generously larger than the aileron itself. Strip the backing per above and iron down the covering on the flat part of the aileron. Once ironed down, trim the edges down to about 3/16" or 1/4" all the way around. Cut away corners that will fold onto themselves when you start folding the covering around the bends, and start slapping the folds down. You can overlap from the other side. One thing you always want to avoid is butting up one piece of covering against another, as you can be sure the covering on one side will pull back when you shink, leaving you with a gap.

Layering can absolutely be done. My Cessna was done with white solite everywhere and then I added the blue trim overtop of it.

Here's a trick for cutting out simple patterns and basic designs like the angled part of the fuselage striping on my Cessna: Steal a flat flat flat (that's flat as in no bumps. Flat, got it?) glass cutting board from the kitchen. Peel the backing off the solite and put it adhesive side down on the cutting board. It may take a try or two to not get any wrinkles, but it comes off the glass relatively easy. It sticks to glass good enough that you can now go knife nuts and cut out whatever you want. Be warned that the more complex you make your cut outs the more likely it is that the covering will tear when you yank it off the cutting board.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here's a drawing showing my typical overlapping techniques and where I ideally put seams on things like a fuselage or wing. Otherwise, if you're putting seams in areas like where colors change, make sure you put the darker color on top, otherwise it can show through the lighter color.

Sep 30, 2002, 05:01 PM
Senior Member
I finally attempted my first covering job - the wing on a GYM-E. I have to say, I found the SoLight pretty easy to work with and am thrilled with my results! It is far from perfect, but looks good to my eyes. Even when it folded on itself, I never had a problem seperating it without tearing, and it was even opaque, which is apparently tougher to seperate than the transparent. I just took my time and was as careful as possible while following the directions.

Maybe it seemed fairly easy because I have never worked with any other material and I was doing nothing complicated, but I like this stuff! Now I will finally move ahead and finish my Switchback...all this time I was holding off on covering, and it is really no big deal! *kicks self in butt*

Thanks for the tips Dreamer - especially the ones about cutting patterns using the glass. I was scratching my head trying to figure out how you guys were doing some of the fine details like that, but heck, I am thrilled just to be able to get a single color on at this point!
Sep 30, 2002, 05:17 PM
Registered User
BEC's Avatar
And of course the Gym-E will be OutrunnerZ powered, right?

On topic: I've now done three airplanes with LiteFilm/SoLite and have pretty much made friends with it. So far it seems to be holding up well on the airplanes.

Gotta buy a box of single-edge razor blades, though.
Sep 30, 2002, 05:38 PM
Senior Member
But of course, BEC!

Oh yeah - that was something I noticed as well...ya need LOTS of razor blades.
Sep 30, 2002, 10:04 PM
the journey is the reward
Hammer Head's Avatar

Saved and printed!

Great stuff Martin.


Sep 30, 2002, 10:20 PM
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chuck-webb's Avatar
I use my wife's cutting table that she uses for her quilting fabric to cut covering. It has a self-healing surface with grid lines that makes sizing easy. I also use her rotary cutter with a straight edge. I try to do this when she is not home as she seems to think this will dull the heck out of her cutter.
Sep 30, 2002, 10:31 PM
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Martin Hunter's Avatar
mmmmmmmm.... cutting table. That would be the ideal, I'd think, but I'd never tried it myself.

Sorry I forgot to mention the razor blade issue. A dull blade can make the difference between a nice straight cut and a horribly ugly tear.

Jim, congrats on your first covering job! Let's see that switchback ready to fly now

Sep 30, 2002, 10:40 PM
Registered User
BEC's Avatar
I have a little self-healing cutting mat (6X12 inches) and after using my rotary cutter on the SoLite when doing my current Switchback, I keep thinking about getting a bigger one. Maybe I could get one and store it with the sewing supplies when I'm not covering a plane - that could work.....

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