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FROM THE April 2010 ISSUE

Test-fitting a model

Q: I do a lot of test-fitting while I’m building a model, just to make sure that everything fits properly before final paint and assembly. But I sometimes have trouble keeping everything in place – even with tape.  

Short of growing another pair of hands, is there any way to make test-fitting easier?
       
Brian Foster
     via E-mail


Ken: Brian, we like how you think.  We’re big advocates of test-fitting sub-assemblies, for the very reason you mentioned: obtaining a perfect fit.  

By far the best way to temporarily assemble a work in progress is a method that modeling guru Mark S. Gustavson has championed for years: pinning.  

In a nutshell, this technique involves inserting a pin into one piece and having it fit into a corresponding hole in a second piece, thus aligning the two pieces and holding them together. The main advantage is that you can assemble and disassemble a model countless times – and each time you do, the pieces go back into the exact same place. As a bonus, pinning strengthens the joint.

The pins don’t have to be very long: just enough to catch the corresponding hole in the second piece. I use straight pins that can be easily cut to any length that I need.  

Start by deciding on the pin location, then drill a pilot hole in the first piece, and secure the pin with super glue. Cut the pin to length, being careful to file the end to get rid of any burrs or nubs.  Press the first piece (and the pin) against the second piece to make a mark where the second hole will be drilled.  

Drill out the second hole, and the pieces are ready to slip into the same place – every time.

Space doesn’t permit us to list everything you need to know about pinning, but this brief overview should point you in the right direction, and get you thinking about this handy technique.

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