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Modelling On A Budget: Rescribing Raised Panel Lines

Article by Paul Nortness

So, you've picked a subject for your next model kit. You travel down to your local hobby shop and browse the shelves. You see several kits to choose from. There is the older kit from the 70s-80s for about 20 dollars, or you can spend about 80 bucks on a brand new kit with all the bells and whistles. Sure, that new kit has nice engraved panel lines and fancy new parts. Don't automatically discount that old kit just because of its age though. I will teach you some easy tricks that will dress that old kit up and get it ready for the ball.

This model kit is a 1:32nd Hasegawa F-16C jet airplane that cost me $20.00. Even with the cost of aftermarket decals, it was still about $80.00 cheaper than the newer alternatives.

Most model kits from the mid 80's and earlier have raised panel lines. These lines are actually easier to fix than you might think and make a huge difference in your model. All you need is a pin vise, sewing needle, a scribing tool and some Dymo tape. Dymo tape is a hard plastic tape that you put in label makers. Most office supply stores carry it and you can usually find a 5 roll pack for about 5 bucks. This is also an excellent time to check your reference photos and add or remove any panel lines that may be on the aircraft you are modeling. Sometimes, a model company will use a prototype aircraft to create their model and panel lines may be present that are not on a production aircraft, or vice versa. If you need to remove a line, just sand it off!

f16 model kit

To scribe your panel line, cut off a piece of Dymo tape, no bigger than 3 inches. Apply the tape along the panel line. This tape will serve as a template. Put your sewing needle into the pin vise. Slowly drag the needle along the edge of the tape. Make sure you go slowly and precise. This is where a lot of patience is your best friend. About 4 or 5 passes should do it. Remove the tape and move on to the next line. Remember, go slow and take your time. For longer lines, do them in segments. pin-vise-with-dymo-tape Once you have gone over all the panel lines with your pin vise, give all the parts a light sanding with 500 grit sand paper. This will be wet sanding, so make sure you have a water bowl close at hand. Once you've sanded, it's time to go over the lines again with the scribing tool. You don't need to reapply tape this time, just run your tool through your new panel lines and at a slight angle. This will pull out any excess material left over and will widen the line and give you a nice recessed panel line that looks just like it was molded that way.


Now, let's turn our focus to the rivets. Rivets are represented on a model with little circles. Again, check your resources (try searching on the internet for images of your jet) as sometimes model companies go a little crazy with rivets. In order to add these, we are going to use a "pounce wheel". This is a tool that has a little "gear" like wheel at the end of a handle. You can get pounce wheels in different sizes to produce various size rivets. All you need to do is apply pressure and push the wheel across the surface. Do not go back, one pass should do it. A second pass could end up with a duplicate row of rivets. Just repeat this process until you have added the rivets where you need them. Just make sure you work slow and diligently and you'll have it in no time. Once you are done, give all the surfaces another pass with your 500 grit sand paper and rinse all the parts under cool tap water and scrub them with a tooth brush. This will help remove any excess plastic that may be in your new lines.


These older kits can lack detail in places like wheel wells and cockpits. A lot of time wheel wells will be missing plumbing, etc. These details can be added using spare sprue. All you need to do is hold some sprue to a flame until it starts to sag. Kids out there, make sure you get help from mom or dad..we don't want to burn down the house now! Once the sprue begins to sag, you can stretch it and bend it into different shapes. Once you get it into the position you want, splash some cold water onto it to "freeze" it into position. Then, cut to size and glue it in. Spare lengths of wire and a soldering iron work great for detailing as well. Just remember to check those reference pictures before making any changes.

Have fun and happy modeling!

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