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Weld seams

"I'd like to duplicate unfinished weld seams on a few model cars and trucks I'm building, but I haven't had much luck. I've glued small-diameter plastic rods to the bodies and tried to flatten them with the hot tip of a soldering gun, but they don't look right. Any ideas?"

That question came in from frustrated modeler Ben Cochran of Galesburg, Michigan. We've been burning the midnight oil in the Tips & Tech workshop, playing with a technique for making weld beads that will be attached to a diecast model.

Unfinished welds can add visual interest to a truck, a car under construction, a completed rat rod, or just about anything else made of metal. Here's what the T&T R&D department came up with:

I picked up a spool of small-diameter (1/32") electrical solder. That's still too thick to represent a scale bead, so I flattened it by pacing on an anvil (the back of a vise would work too) and whacked it with a small hobby hammer. Don't worry about the irregular edge. I got it down to about 1/64", which is a good thickness to work with, but now it was too wide, so I trimmed the flattened solder into 1/32" wide strips - its original width.

In order to emboss the characteristic "crescent" beads in the solder, I made a nifty little tool from a piece of 1/16" brass tubing, with one end shaped into a half-moon configuration by filing away one side of the tubing. Make sure the tubing is long enough so it acts as its own handle. I laid the thin solder strips on a hard surface and pressed the beading tool into the solder to create the bead.

The best part about this technique is that when you're done, you have flexible strips of realistic solder beads that can be added anywhere, to any model. (Be sure that the model you're adding the beads to is, in fact, a metal car. That '64 Corvette would look mighty odd with welded fender seams.)

The strips can be attached with epoxy or super glue, and can be painted to represent seams under a coat of primer, or polished to look like clean, unfinished beads. After I attached the welds to the model, I sanded them just a tad to look like they'd been gone over with a coarse file.



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