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Scratchbuilt leaf springs

One of the best ways to enhance a model car's suspension system is to do away with those thick, clunky, poorly detailed leaf springs and replace them with a set of properly scaled scratchbuilt springs.
Florida modeler Keith Schafer's great tip that can serve as a simple introduction to scratchbuilding and give any model with leaf springs a great new personality:

"Materials needed for the springs are aluminum or brass tubing, brass rod, strip styrene, and glue.

"You'll need to make a fixture so all the springs will be uniform. Drill "blind" holes (don't go all the way through) in three-scale-inch increments along a piece of 1 x 2 scrap wood. The holes should be the same size as the brass rod pegs that you'll be using for shackles (Fig. 1).

"Select a tubing size that is appropriate for the spring. The tubing will be the 'eye' of the spring and should fit perfectly over the pin in the wood. The width and length of the styrene leaf will vary from project to project, but 1:1 spring leaves are typically about two inches wide and 1/4 inch thick.

"Carefully wrap one end of your first styrene 'leaf' around one tubing 'eye.' Bend it slowly so it won't break. Position the eye over one of the pins. Measure the length of the spring you need for your model; this will determine where you place pin #2. Allow enough material for the springs's arch, which will also vary from model to model (use the kit spring as a guide).

"After you have placed the second pin, slip a second 'eye' over the pin, carefully wrap the leaf around the eye, and secure it with epoxy or ACC adhesive (Fig. 2). Ken's note: The first leaf could also be made of strip aluminum or brass, which may wrap around the pin a little more easily.

"Without removing the spring, add as many 'leaves' as needed. Glue them in sequence to the main leaf (Fig. 3). When the glue has set up, remove the spring. The additional leaves will help the spring hold its shape. Use thin strips of plastic, brass, or aluminum for the anchor straps (Fig. 4).

"To mount the spring to the frame of your model, line up the spring against the frame and use the eyes as guides to drill small holes into the frame. Glue pins (the same size as the pins on the fixture) into the frame and slide the spring over the pins (Fig. 5). Glue the axle to the springs and you're ready to go."

Approaching any scratchbuilding project as a series of simple steps will make the whole process less intimidating, and the end result is a model you'll be proud of. Thanks for the great tip, Keith.


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