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Metal Finishes

Metal Foiling Aluminium Powder Alclad

Metal Foiling
by Gordon Fraser

Metal foiling is about the only way of producing a convincing metal finish without possessing extensive painting skills. Be it a complete model or just parts of a model the basic requirements are the same.

Your model and surrounding modelling area MUST be totally dust free. Never be tempted to use anything other than a new sharp scalpel blade at all times. All joints etc must be totally rubbed down and smooth as any small lumps or dents will show through the metal foil. (After all, that is what we want the rivets and panel lines to do).

Always work from the rear to the front and bottom to top of your model. This will help to hide any join lines. (This is how full size aircraft are put together). Do not be tempted to try to cover too much of your model with one piece of foil.

Likewise there is no need to cover your model one panel at a time. It will just look too much. (A good tip is to spray your model all over with Halfords white primer followed by a look over the model to spot any imperfections in your filling etc.)

After that spray all over with a coat of Halfords Nissan silver. This will help to hide any bad trimming that you may do as you cut round each panel. Leave some areas on the model in just the silver paint.

If covering a model totally it is important to work symmetrically i.e. do the same panel on each wing or fuselage side as you go or the model will start to look very odd. Most, if not all, metal foils have a grain and if the panel is not covered in the same direction as its twin on the other side the model will again start to look odd.

Read and understand what I have said above, and you will see that if you plan your foiling along these lines you will not go far wrong.

The fact that the foil has a grain means that if you lay down a panel at 90 degrees to the previous panel you will find that each panel will reflect the light in a slightly different way. This is one way to create toning. Using foil with the bright side out you can recreate the chromed section on undercarriages, mirrors and hydraulic rams etc.

Use the "gold coloured" lead type foil from the top of your next bottle of wine, remove from the bottle and try to keep it as flat as possible. This can then be cut into strips to make "pre coloured" ejector set straps. (Martin Baker ejection seats have gold straps & blue straps fitted on them). Because they are "lead like" the straps will hold any shaping that is bent into them. You can also paint them to make any other strapping that your model may require.

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The foil adhesive that I use is produced by IPMS's Edgar Brooks. The best results are to be had by spraying the adhesive onto the foil. The adhesive can also be brushed onto the foil but it must be very thin with no bubbles present on the surface as these will show through the foil as little rings in the surface of the finished panel. (for shiny metal spray the dull side of the foil. For a dull metal finish spray the shiny side). I know that it seems obvious but I've made this mistake in the past.

Leave to dry for about 15 minutes or until the "milky white" adhesive turns clear. Now cut out a piece of foil that will cover the area required. Note that accuracy at this point is not required.

Smooth the foil onto the surface of the model using a dry cotton bud. Trim round the panel with a sharp scalpel and remove any waste foil from around the edges of the panel. If you tear the foil while cutting round the foil or find that you have placed the foil in the wrong place don’t panic just remove from the surface and locally wash the panel with a damp cotton bud.

You can remove the foil anything up to a week after fitting onto the model. The foil that I use is Sainsburys "Economy Wrapping Foil". I find that this foil is much thinner than the normal "chicken in the oven" type foil.

ID Models produce a sticky backed metal foil. You can get matt silver and full chrome A4 sized sheets from them and I also believe that they do a gold sheet as well.

These sheets are somewhat thicker than the Sainsburys foil and will not take a compound curve at all, but will still look good on truck bumpers, fuel tanks, and mirrors, etc.

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Natural Metal Finishes
Using aluminium powder and varnish

Dave Scott describes how he achieved that amazing finish on the Airfix Lightning seen at the last few shows.


During the year 1999 I searched for and experimented with all types of metal finishes, metallic paints, tin foil etc. I remembered reading an article many years ago where the modeller used metal powder and varnish. I dismissed this because all I could find on the shelf was polyurethane varnish and thought this may not work. Then, out of the blue, an article in a 1996 magazine solved my problem.

So here we go

Preparation - Stage One

Smooth down the surface of your model, assemble main body parts fully if possible, using whatever medium you feel necessary, i.e. wet and dry paper, buffing creams etc., until you achieve the highest level of smoothness. This is paramount to success.

Prime the entire model with polyurethane varnish 50% thinned with white spirit.

Leave for 24 hours, check over for defects and lightly rub down. Be careful not to erase your primer layer; if you do so you must repeat this process.

Stage Two

Apply one coat of thinned varnish mixed as before. Wait approx. 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 hours subject to room temperature. Note: a test piece is essential to obtain this time factor.

Apply the aluminium powder with a cotton bud direct to the model surface. This is truly a worthwhile moment as the bright silver finish is immediate.

Note: this powder goes everywhere, protect your work surface and keep away from drafts, as it becomes airborne easily.

As you hastily apply this powder to achieve an even finish you can buff the entire surface with a soft cloth dipped in powder. This will provide a uniform layer and level of shine.

Note: do not handle the model at this time, use gloves or cloth.

To seal or fix this system, apply acrylic clear coat or Klear floor polish. (But not spirit based, as this will dull the finish)

If you wish a brighter finish before you apply a sealer coat simply repeat the finish. To enhance your models even further try rubbing graphite powder into designated areas, ink washes etc.

I hope you have some success with this finish and look forward to seeing some of your models in the future.

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Metal powders can be obtained from:

Keygrove Marketing Limited
15 Houghton Road
Beds. LU5 5AA
Tel: 01582 605575 Fax: 01582 478240

The powders are sold in jars of approx. 30 grams in aluminium (silver), gold and bronze subject to stocks. Price: £5 inc. VAT, postage and packing.

Warning, these powders are inflammable and are not suitable for young or inexperienced junior modellers. Do not add water or flame

Alclad finish

There is a lot of interest in the Alclad range of metal paint finishes, with a lot of people confused as to how it should be used.

I don't think we can do much better than the words of a man involved with the product?

Pitfalls? You need a good mask/ventilation. Need to prep the model well. Not cheap. Application by airbrush. There is the possibility that it is going to be banned if EU regulations come into play again?

Where can you get it from? Little Cars, Hannants, and many others....

Last updated 20 January 2008

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July 2009, Milton Keynes Scale Model Club