A Discussion on Scale Thickness

What are dead giveaways of a Braille scale model truck, tank or figure?

Here are a couple hints:

For figures

  • a telephone pole posing as a spear
  • hanging rope posing as bow string
  • invisible bow string
  • a baseball bat posing as a sword

    For softskins and tanks
  • a steering wheel thicker than the driver's arm
  • tree branches posing as mirror mounts
  • a spear posing as an antenna I personally think omitting the item is better to keeping an oversize one as it distracts from the overall appeal of the model. When you look at a model its shape and color should come first not the antenna or the mirror.

    The quest for the thinnest usable wire/rod

    The thinnest rod I have found is a brass wire .006inch (6thou) or 0.23mm in diameter. This is done by Detail Associates, a provider of railroad modeling accessories. 6thou represents 1/4in pipe in HO scale. It comes as 5 straight 30cm wires. I know you can find thinner (5thou) wire in rolls but you would have to straighten it for most purposes.
    Now this wire has a scale diameter of .432in or 1.7cm. That is already pretty thick! Actually it is too thick for bow string, antennas, mirror mounts. I use it nevertheless for lack of anything better. A bow without a string looks weird to me.
    Fishing line and hair is thinner but more difficult to manipulate. You really have to make it taut where wire is straight. For an archer, just cut to size and fit with two drops of superglue.

    Spears, Pikes, and Lances

    For spears and lances I use 20thou steel piano wire. It has a perfectly round section and is perfectly straight. Drooping lances are not in my book.
    A real spear is typically 1.25in (3.175cm) in diameter, which scales down to 17.4thou in 1/72. 20thou is too thick but 15thou looks dinky!
    My Macedonian phalanx (all 12 of them) is equipped with 5m pikes. 11 are 20thou, 1 is 15thou. Can you spot him on the photo? He's the first one I did and the rest were upgraded to 20 thou!

    Scale swords

    Etched brass would be ideal for scale swords. It's flat and can be etched to the proper length and shape. I still have doubts about using etched brass for thick or round items but this would be a slamdunk.
    Swords seem to be an afterthought for figure sculptors and manufacturers. They are either cast too short or misshaped. Italeri makes the best cavalry sword and sabers but they are invariably too short! Strelets has my vote as the worst, their swords look more like clubs.
    I have tried plasticard swords without much success. You have one shot at cutting the sword out of your 10thou card. It is almost impossible to file afterwards because of its size. I now mostly stick to carving the original figure's sword, replace the arm, and/or lenghten the blade with wax.

    Tha above Waterloo Belgian Carabinier is built using an Italeri French Dragoon figure. Its sword has been lengthened 3mm with wax.

    Vehicle mirrors, wipers, and steering wheels

    The other problem that modelers face is that all that sticks out from the model has a tendancy to break. Either you don't ever touch your model again or you have a ready supply of spare mirrors or spare patience (have you noticed how model building is fun but model rebuilding is not).
    I have only partly solved this issue. It one of the reasons why I started basing my models. The Ford WOA2 must have had its antennas and crank reglued or replaced half a dozen times. It is a heavy metal model, very difficult to handle delicately. You had to apply so much pressure with the fingers to lift it that the varnished paint was wearing off. Hence the base.

    The jury is still out as to whether mirrors belong on my models. They are always scratchbuilt as no manufacturer includes useable ones if any and I'm not sure they're worth the effort. The same goes for windshield wipers.

    A last word on steering wheels. CMSC make a great set of assorted steering wheels in metal.

    Another related topic would 1/72 biplane rigging! I recently acquired the Red Baron's Fokker triplane. This is going to be interesting...