Vacuform Basics

Opening up cockpits and other areas
With the parts cut out, now's the time for a test fit and to start thinking about opening up the cockpit and other openings like wheel-wells etc. I do a test fit first to make sure areas like the cockpit actually line up - there's nothing more fun than to carefully clean up the openings in each fuselage half and then find they don't match!

The "score & flex" method works fine if the cockpit reaches the edge of part (as in the case of Koster's Martin Maryland in the photos) - just be careful you don't bend the part too much, but areas like windows and undercarriage openings need a different approach...

To clean out these openings, whatever you do - don't try to cut it them straight out - it's all too easy for the knife to slip and cause an accident to you or the model. What I do is drill a series of small holes inside the edge of the scrap area. Once the holes are all drilled, simply joint them up by "nibbling" and scoring with a scalpel and clean up the jagged edge with a file and wet 'n dry. This method takes a little longer, but it's much more controllable than just hacking with a knife.

Hopefully that wasn't too painful... I normally have the have the main parts of a vacuformed kit cut out and clean in an hour or so. The encouraging thing is that, with the parts prepared correctly, you're all ready to tackle the rest of the build, safe in the knowledge that the two most dreaded tasks in vacuform modelling are behind you. From here on it's up to your own skills - like any short-run kit, what you get out is largely down to what you put in. But that's why we're modellers, isn't it!
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About the Author

About Rowan Baylis (Merlin)

I've been modelling for about 40 years, on and off. While I'm happy to build anything, my interests lie primarily in 1/48 scale aircraft. I mostly concentrate on WW2 subjects, although I'm also interested in WW1, Golden Age aviation and the early Jet Age - and have even been known to build the occas...


Very nice article Merlin !! You explained it very well. After reading your article, I would like to try to do a vac model myself. What would be a good starter kit, or do vac's basicly have the same difficulty ??
AUG 23, 2005 - 11:01 PM
Thanks for that Rowan. Like so many I never realy considered Vacform kits, untill I won one in Costas's free draw give away. This is a great help seeing as I'm a total Facvorm virgin. looking forward to further instalments. Good idea Dave, I'm in on that. Maybe an informal on-line group build? Not sure if we would find 10 people with a vacform kit... . Cheers Henk
AUG 23, 2005 - 11:13 PM
Great Feature article, Rowan! I personally have messed a little with vacu-form while building the wood and paper airbirds, but have never tried to tackle a complete vac kit...your tips and technique just may prompt me to do so! Thanks for the time and effort to put something like this together, sir... Gunny
AUG 23, 2005 - 11:13 PM
Very good and very usefull! Tanks for sharing! Cheers and happy modelling! Prato
AUG 24, 2005 - 02:25 AM
I'd join in too! I have a TSR2 and a BAE Nimrod MR2 to build, but have shied away from them.
AUG 24, 2005 - 02:48 AM
Hi all Well, I guess I'd obviously have to join in! :-) I've got quite a few stashed away, so I'd be spoilt for choice. Hi mossieram No, the difficulty can vary greatly. Depending what type of aircraft you're interested in, it'd be worth you checking out the models produced by Aeroclub, Dynavector, Koster and Sierra Scale - there are plenty of others, but those four are good for starters. Sierra Scale's Consolidated P-30 and Fairchild PT-19 were the subjects of the first two reviews I wrote for Armorama. The model I'm building is Koster's Martin Maryland - a neat kit, but probably a bit ambitious for a first vacuform kit. All the best Rowan
AUG 24, 2005 - 03:18 AM
Rowan: Thanks for the article !!!! Very informative & filled in at least one question I had (angle of blade when scoring). I bought my first vacuform kit at the IPMS Nats -- the Sierra 1/48 P-30 / PB-2A. I wanted something "easy" (no big complex things) and yet something I hadn't done in plastic and something of interest to me. I'm very pleased with the kit (great scale drawings to help with adding detail), but had only gotten around to the marker step, although not as neat & complete as you describe, so tomorrow I'll be sure to get in the cracks & crevasses. If we're going to do a vac-GB, then I could be in with this kit, but I'd like to see a schedule for the GB, as I really want to get started on this. Again, great article & looking for follow-ons. John
AUG 24, 2005 - 01:15 PM
A big help for people taking that first deep breath before the plunge in to the alternative world of Vacs. And I notice its quite an old feature....I was a lot younger when this first ran on site, (not quite short pants). So its a good idea its given an airing as the subject of Vacs seems to be cropping up more often recently. Great job Rowan....any sequal(s) planned? Cheers Peter
JUN 04, 2008 - 12:50 AM
Very good ... How about a little more advanced methods like building the bulkheads and such. is there info on that too. Thanks, Kelly
JUN 10, 2008 - 08:34 AM
I'm with kelly on that one . More detail on bulkheads , and attaching the wings ?
JUN 10, 2008 - 11:16 AM