How to design plans for rolled fuselages from an unbuilt plastic display model kit - RC Groups
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Oct 30, 2007, 08:15 PM
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mcm1303's Avatar

How to design plans for rolled fuselages from an unbuilt plastic display model kit

The objective here is to create a pattern for a scale fuselage that can be used to cut out two pieces of sheet foam that can then be "rolled", i.e. shaped by heating via a heatgun and carefully worked into a full fuselage. When completed, the two foam fuselage halves are glued together to form a complete fuselage. Having a carefully designed starting pattern serves to facilitate the accuracy and scale of the final shape. The nice thing about this approach is that it's "minimally invasive" to the original plastic display model. It's relatively quick as well. You can go from the "Hmm, I'd like to build a..." stage to having a complete fuselage ready for paint and electronics in under two hours.
  1. Lay a fresh sheet of copier paper on a flat surface and place one side of the fuselage centerline side down.
  2. Take a pencil and trace the outline of the top half of the fuselage, including fin and rudder. Try to ignore any canopy cutouts--draw the line as if the canopy isn't there.
  3. Measure circumferences along the fuselage. There are a lot of ways to do this. A systematic approach is to take some tape that you can easily mark on and cut it into thin strips and place the strips vertically along the fuselage where bulkhead circumference measurements are to be made. Do about 4-7 of these and tape them to the fuselage then place marks where the tape intersects with the centerline on the top and bottom.
  4. Place the taped up fuselage on your drawing and mark the vertical alignment of your tape strips, i.e. place little marks on your drawing where the tape strips are along the top and bottom.
  5. In this step we transfer the measured circumference from the fuselage to the drawing. Do this by removing the first tape from the fuselage and tape it to your drawing, aligning the top tape mark with the top drawing mark. Make sure the other end of the tape aligns with the bottom mark (more or less vertically). Then mark the drawing where ever the bottom mark appears.
  6. Repeat this with all of the tape strips and remove the strips from the drawing.
  7. Lightly connect the dots along the bottom. If the plane features a canopy and a wing fillet, measure and/or estimate where these go and pencil them in.
  8. Cut out the outline you have just drawn and do a test fit by trying to wrap it around the fuselage side. Does it fit well? If so, you are done. Did you cut away too much in some places and not enough in other places? Draw cut lines on your pattern and little arrows showing where lines should be extended. In this way you can estimate what needs to be done to get a good pattern. Now make another pattern and place it over the fuselage and keep repeating this as necessary until you are satisfied with your fit.
  9. Once the pattern is ready, use it to cut out two pieces of foam, one for left and one for right and start rolling your proof-of-concept. Glue the pieces together and assess how it looks. If it looks good post a picture and a scan of your pattern so others may build as well!

One note on building the rolled fuselage, sometimes it's helpful to glue one bulkhead inside the fuselage in order to establish a vertical symetry. In other words, you don't want it to lay towards one side or the other.
Last edited by mcm1303; Oct 31, 2007 at 01:34 AM.
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Oct 31, 2007, 12:07 AM
RIP Sheba :(
Robster's Avatar
Thanks for posting that mcm1303! Been wondering how you guys do it. This is great information, I appreciate it. It's time to break out my old plastic kits, order some foam and get to work. I think I can do this!

Oct 31, 2007, 12:29 AM
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mcm1303's Avatar

Good luck and have fun. I hope this gets people experimenting. It will be neat to see what people come up with. I'll post pictures of my A6M2 Zero fuselage tomorrow that's in 1/48" scale. This technique will certainly work for simple planes. At some point I'm going to tackle an F-4 Phantom II and I'll probably have to make some adjustments/amendments to the approach. Also, if anyone has any suggestions to improve the technique presented, they are welcome.

Oct 31, 2007, 04:46 AM
Like a Boss
Heliman420's Avatar
thanks for the helpfull guide
Oct 31, 2007, 03:15 PM
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mcm1303's Avatar
Here are pictures of my Zero done using this method. This was my first one. I'm going make another without those silly stabilizer cutouts.
Oct 31, 2007, 03:53 PM
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metroidrc's Avatar
MCM, I did an F4 phantom II using a paper model. Did you see the thread?
Oct 31, 2007, 06:05 PM
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mcm1303's Avatar
Yes, I have seen the thread. The thing is, I'm convinced that you could apply the technique here to a Phantom so that you mostly build from a single piece of foam. How? The pattern would be made in the exact same way, except that you would cut a slit from where the top of the intake is all the way to the bottom. also you would lightly draw where the side intake comes away from the main fuselage so when you are forming, you will know where the key bends for the intake channels would be. Also at the tail of the Phantom is a rather strange and abrupt transition from full fuselage to where the tail section is divided between the two exhausts. This too could be solved by a vertical slit from the middle of the fuselage to the bottom of the fuselage blank. If done right, building a Phantom this way would not only be fast, but yield great looking results.

Note that the nose forward of the canopy would be excluded and added as a carved foam piece for strength.

Hmmm, I have just enough time to get to the LHS before it closes. I'll try it tonight!

Oct 31, 2007, 10:30 PM
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mcm1303's Avatar
The LHS didn't have a Phantom in 1/48 in stock. Still intrigued, I did have some work that I did earlier on a Polish Paper F4. I have chosen a somewhat arbitrary size of 18.3" length (suitable for AA conversion) and so I scaled the Polish Paper model and a side view I had so they matched my 18.3" target length. Then, in Photoshop, I stitched together all of the paper model pieces that I needed to make the single side piece, butting them up against the top line of the sideview and extending them down to however far they naturally reached. I'm posting what I have of the image so far. I'll refine it later, but I'm close enough to give it a try. (Hopefully this will work. I don't have the benefit of a fuselage side to ensure that the shape is correct.)
Last edited by mcm1303; Oct 31, 2007 at 10:40 PM.

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