Although modern ARF aircraft are remarkably complete right out of the box, there are still many steps that require some workmanship to complete the model. This weeks article will cover some of the different techniques to finish the airframe assembly, allowing you to match your efforts to the kit’s high quality.
Your model was almost assuredly built and packaged in a different temperature or humidity than where you live. It was also likely loaded on a ship for a journey across an ocean before reaching your door. As wood can be significantly affected by differences in climate, the model will likely change as it normalizes to your locale. The most noticeable effect is usually a slackening of the covering material in the form of wrinkles or bubbles. If you don’t own a hobby iron and protective fabric sock, you’ll want to pick both up the next time you are at your local hobby shop.
Start at a relatively low temperature on the iron, slowly testing the wrinkles for activation of the covering. Find the minimum temperature that will shrink the covering and place a mark on the dial for future reference. You’ll want to do this testing in open areas, avoiding seams. The most common mistake is using too much heat on the seams between two colors. This can cause the edge to release and create a wavy line or even a gap between the two. Work slowly, and avoid the seams if at all possible.
I also use a heat gun, but its proper use takes some practice and skill, so approach heat guns with extreme care. You will want to practice on scrap material with a heat gun, as it is very unforgiving. Once you’re comfortable with it, though, a heat gun is much quicker than an iron. The best technique I’ve found is to move the gun relatively quickly holding it at an angle to the part so you can instantly see the shrinkage. Varying distance and speed will allow you to adjust the heat that reaches the surface almost instantly. The heat gun is even less forgiving around seams, so avoid them completely. Placing wet paper towels over the seams can protect them from excess heat that might release the edges. I’ve also used pieces of cardboard as masks when using a heat gun.