Paper models, photos and musings of a Paper Kosmonaut

PK's little page of tutorials

Hi all,
Here's where I would like to show you some of my techniques and tricks I use building paper models.
Some of them are known, some are perhaps mine, but it always might come in handy to see some tricks and stuff to improve your modeling skills. I also learn every day and I think it is a good thing to share.
Here's the first one:

How to roll nice cones

First you cut out the cone shape. Sometimes you don't even have to keep the glue strip on the part. I sometimes even make an edge glue of these things.

Secondly, take something thin with a conical shape. A knitting needle is perfect for it. I cut this one short to about 10, 12 centimetres for easy handling.  I also filed smooth the rear end of the thing. You don't want metal splinters in your hands and fingers.


Next, lay the flat cone shape in your hand, preferably on the fleshy bit, opposite your thumb. Put the pointy bit of the needle (it is quite stump, don't worry) into the palm of your hand, right above the middle part of the cone part. Now move the needle over the cone part without lifting the point in your hand. Put some pressure on the paper when moving it around in a clockwise and anticlockwise movement. The paper will automatically start to curve. Repeat these movements until you get a satisfactory curve in your part.

In the end you'll end up with something like this. It already has gotten a cone shape. You can now put a glue strip inside,  you can try an edge glue with CA or, in the case of an engine bell, put another (black) inner cone inside (make sure in that case that the seam of the inner cylinder is on the opposite side of the outer seam!

And here's how this cone ended up as the nose cone on a solid rocket booster of a Delta II.

An invisible and better way to reinforce tubes
Most rocket models need a kind of reinforcing from inside in the long tubes they consist of. Usually the model comes with a couple of circles to be cut out and shoved in the cylinder. Sometimes the circles can be a little off in the curve and leave a nasty scar or imprint in the hull, visible on the outside.
This technique prevents that from happening and also gives a little more sturdiness to the complete tube.

First, the tube. Roll it with a smaller, stiff rod or tube and leave it for a night to set  in this rolled-up shape. Glue the tube as you are used to. I always glue with an inner strip to get the outside flush. (or almost flush.)
 See that the hull is thin and easily bulged. This we do not want to happen so we reinforce it.

Take a piece of paper. I usually use hobby paper because it is easy to roll and glue. Use the paper with either a colour that almost is the same (I used blue paper inside the Delta II rocket) or just plain ugly looking colours you'd never use for anything else but somewhere inside where it's not visible. Like this yellow paper which came in a package I bought for one or two euro's with all kinds of colours; pink, yellow, baby blue, spring green you name it. The weight of the paper was more important to me. It just comes in handy on occasions like these. (check though, if your outer hull paper is not transparent so you won't see through it and discern something yellow!) 
Anyway, roll it up tightly around a rod or tube.

Now, push it inside the outer tube. Make sure the edges are flush with the rim of the cylinder or shorter if you need to add a glue strip for an upper or lower part like a cone or a base part.

Make sure to try and get the paper as tight as possible against the hull. You can do this by placing the outermost part of the rolled up inner part against the glue strip inside the hull. Then try and roll out the inner tube as tightly as possible against the outer skin. Then you can start to insert the reinforcing circles. The biggest advantage is that you don't have to get them spot on the exact diameter. Just add or take off some of the inner rolled tube to get them snugly fitted inside. They don't have to be super tight, as long as they stay in place. The top and bottom circle can be glued in place.

The use of an inner paper "wall" against the outer hull causes the reinforcement rings to be invisible but nested tightly inside the tube.

And there you go! sturdy cylinders. You can also do this with much larger cylinders, of course. Most of my more recent rockets have these extra walls inside.

How to make a desert landscape (with a runway) for a diorama base plate

You start out with a base plate, I usually buy a picture frame at the thrift shop. Those big deep frames are great, I think. When I make a floor based diorama (as opposite to wall-based) I discard the glass and use it at the inside of the frame to support the MDF / hardboard surface. This time I made a desert landscape for a runway at Edwards AFB in California for my SCA-Enterprise diorama.

I draw lines where I want to make the landscape and where the runway will be. Then I tape the runway and the edges. 
For this desert floor I used a sand coloured acrylic paint which I just squirted on the surface. I spread it out with a brush so the whole desert surface was covered.

Now here's the trick. I use bird sand (the stuff used in birdcages) and I sprinkle it into the thick wet paint. With a brush I start to push the sand into the paint. The paint dries very quickly with this stuff added so you have to work small areas, one at a time. Add more sand until you get the desired effect.

Just gently push it in.

After a while you really need to rinse out your brush because it will be filled with sand.

Here's what it looked like when I was happy with the result.

Then you take away the tape to get a nice separation line between the desert floor and the place where the runway will be.

For the runway I used dark grey sandpaper # 1200. I lightened it up a little with chalk and darkened the middle with charcoal and black graphite pencil to accentuate rubber streaks and tracks. Keep in mind to have them all in the direction of the length of the runway. Aircraft usually don't tend to land crosswise on runways...

Seams can be camouflaged by drawing white or yellow runway lines along their edges. Actually you are accentuating them, but because of that line they don't bother at all.

How to find the centre of a circle

Wahey! You've cut out a great circle but now you cannot find the centre any more. How can you find it back? That actually is very simple.
NB. Do this with a pencil, so you can erase the lines easily.

You need to draw two lines. Use a ruler, try to find a spot where you can draw a line of which the length is easily divided by two. See below; I used 4 cm from end to end so 2 cm is the middle of the line. Goshumgolly, ain't I smart?

At another point of the circle, do the same. Find the middle of the drawn line and just mark it.

Now, draw a line at exactly 90º from the centre of each of these lines.

There! You've found the middle of your circle. Now use it.

How to create a seascape diorama 
(also useful for plastic modelers!)

It's time to do some seascaping.
I use transparent acrylic paste which dries hard as rock to make water surfaces. It’s white when applied but dries 100% transparent. There also is an opaque white variant. There are several manufacturers of this stuff, it’s available in art supply stores. Artists often use this kind of stuff to mix with colour to make those nice thick clumps of paint you often see in modern artworks, which is called impasto. But is also is very good in imitating water.

All it takes is a bit of practice, First try this on a small scale. A little row boat on a 10x15 cm picture frame, or something like that. Try making a wake, white heads and all. get to know the feel of the paste, how you can extend it with your brush, how fast it dries. Then do the big diorama you want to make. A little research online on how wakes and waves can look, and how frothiness of water behaves around ships and cliffs might come in handy. I once did a diorama with a rescue helicopter and it was a good idea to study photos of what the rotor wash of the helicopter was doing to the water surface. It made the scene so much more realistic.

I usually make my dioramas on a photo frame. It provides you with a nice bordered area in which your scene will take place. Choose one, from the thrift shop, for example, on which there is enough space (plus a little more) for your models.

test your models on the background plate for size and scale and placing.
Start with an underground. It can be the hardboard backing of the picture frame. On this, you paint the colours of the water. In this case it's blue, but it also can be muddy or green or even yellow if there's a beach involved. Also, paint something like a wake or white water parts. Extra tip: in case of a ship, you must have made a waterline model. Paint the red/black part of the ship below the waterline on the underground. It will provide the model with extra depth. Okay, when your underground is ready and dried it's time to do the water.
I added a red hull, it is a nice little touch. Unfortunately, I cannot really discern it after I finished it...
I use a glass plate to apply the acrylic paste layer to. I place it on top of the painted underground. It gives the diorama just a little more depth, literally. You can of course also directly apply the paste on your base plate itself. It will get watery too but it might just lack the transparent top layer which for me just does the magic. That is all up to you.
I use a fair amount of acrylic paste and roughly spread it out with palette knifes. The second step is to use flat big brushes with hard bristles to spread it out more evenly over the whole surface.

I start with a kind of stippling technique to get structure in the paste. I hold the brush vertically and just push it into the paste. The hairs pull the paste up a little and create a nice random structure. Rotate your brush often otherwise the structure of the brush hairs stays the same. You want to have it as random as possible. Gradually work the paste around. Try and have an overall equally divided amount of paste. Don’t detail too much in this stage.
It is a little hard to see yet because the paste is white until it has dried, so it looks a really wild water surface but in the end it will become really tranquil, actually. So you need to add some roughness with white paint after it has dried.

the drier it gets, the more detail you can add, the finer the chops of the water surface can become.

The surface looks so rough and wild here, but keep in mind that all of it dries transparent.
Now you can place your model(s) in the wet paste. When they are placed, try to avoid touching them because they might move and get excess paste on places you don’t want them to have. they will dry with the paste into place. With some extra paste you now can add the wakes on both sides of the bow and add the stirred-up water behind the screws.

The thin layer now gradually starts to dry and you can use the smaller brush again to refine the structure. It works best when you use the brush vertically again, dabbing it into the paste and just keep stippling around. With a fan-brush you can create extra effects like small rolling waves. Short strokes, lifting the brush up at the point the wave is at its highest, so you pull up the paste a little.
When you are done, don’t forget to thoroughly rinse your brushes! 

Wake added, the rest of the 'water' already has dried and is transparent.

As you can see, the paste is completely transparent and the added wake is too.
You need to re-accentuate it with some paint.

Here you can see I also added some small waves. Make sure you keep the added wake and stern wave in scale. Or kind of...
After a couple of hours, the thinnest parts are almost completely dry. The white parts of the paste are curing slowly but are still wet. Here and there you can see you have to add some acrylic paste. a Wake might be too shallow, for example. The frothy water behind the stern might be too lumpy, it might need some brush action to make it more sharp, whirling, spattering, if you know what I mean. The paste is a little thicker now so it reacts well to some extra moulding. Let it dry overnight until it is rock hard and fully transparent.

After it has dried, you’ll see it becomes apparent that the surface will really need some accentuating. Time for nuance and adding white heads to the wake and waves. Again, flat, hard brushes work fine. In this scale, I find titanium white often is too white. I use a colour called ‘arctic’ which has a whiff of blue mixed into it. Take a dab of paint, and stipple it almost dry on an old piece of newspaper. then continue the same action on the water surface. Softly, randomly, keeping in mind that less is more in the beginning. You can always add, it’s harder to remove.

Step back and look at your work continuously. Where does it need more white stippling? add a little and check again.
The smaller waves and the choppiness of the water can be accentuated by dry-brushing. Take a tiny amount of white paint, brush it on an old newspaper until it is almost dry and then you ever so lightly stroke the brush over the heads of the water and the waves. It'll leave a whiff of paint on the tops, just enough to highlight them. it's a technique you have to get into but it really works.
When you accidentally added too much paint somewhere in the process, directly try and remove it with a little water and a sturdy brush. Push it out of the surface. Acrylic reacts quite well to removal with water before it has dried completely. Soak up the excessive water with a paper towel. If it is dry already, try and scrape it off using a small blunt knife point. The paste won’t damage that fast, but be careful.

The wake and stern wave can be generously dabbed with paint. In here, you perhaps can use some titanium white after all. But be sure to leave some open space here and there so you still have some transparency in between the white froth. Not done completely, but good for now, let it dry.

Now: Do other stuff. Have dinner. Have fun with friends. Go to the pub. Walk the dog. Go to work. Take a holiday. Play a game of Risk. Read a book. Watch TV. One of them, or all of them.

After you left it alone for a while, look at it again and perhaps you’ll see some spot you missed. Retouch and eventually, ready you are.
I hope this tutorial was easily understandable and I hope you can apply it to your own models, too!

How to get your printer to work with 3rd party cartridges 

It is a drag when a carefully prepared print comes out of your machine all magenta and blue but no yellow and black. Shoot, your cartridges are empty. Now, when your printer tells you to replace the cartridges, you often are in for a big financial blood-letting. Printer ink is more expensive than human blood. LITERALLY. Absurd as it sounds, it actually is. Especially when you obey your printer and buy the brand it demands. You should be able to buy the cheaper, recycled, refurbished or otherwise easier-on-the-wallet 3rd party ones you want to buy, but lots of printers just plainly reject strange cartridges. I found a way around this and it is very simple.  
Most cartridges have a kind of ID-chip on them which assures the printer its manufacturer will get even more busloads of money. Lots of 3rd party cartridges also have these chips but the printer often stubbornly refuses to recognise them. Just carefully remove the 'new' chip from the cartridge and replace it with the original one. Your printer is fooled and you have cheaper ink at your disposal. This is also the method when you buy those external ink reservoir with 'fake' cartridges attached that go into the printer. Just replace the 'fake' chips with the original ones and you are ready to go.
These chips are nothing but an ID, the printer uses another system to check on the ink volume. (mine does that with an IR beam through a small window in the cartridge.)

Just to show: this is one of the non-responsive chips I removed from a 3rd party cartridge. The shown cartridge is an original Brother one.  The transparent 'blob' on the chip is a remain of it being 'welded' to the chassis of the 3rd party cartridge. I had to cut it off to have it removed. The genuine Brother-chip was also 'spotwelded' into place and also needed to be carefully cut loose. It was put in its new bedding without any glue, but since it is on top of the cartridge, that wasn't something to worry about. The printer immediately accepted the cartridge.
Now, every brand has its own cartridge shapes, often even varying per printer (for f*'s sake, why?) but almost all of them have those chips. Study them well before removing them, how they are fitted, how they maybe can be removed without destroying them or the embedding. Some slide out and into their places, some are 'welded' on the cartridge and you'll have to cut them loose. When removing the 'new' cartridge, try to leave as much as possible of the embedding just so the original chip will have a good fit. You might be left without the solid attachment, but if the chips are accurately placed on the same spot in the new 3rd party piece, there shouldn't be any problem. Even when they are loose. In some cases they might be able to be secured with a tiny drip of rubber cement behind them.  
Just don't forget they are the 'real' thing and move them on to the next ones when the time is there. (I have put a note on the cartridge door of my printer (Brother MFC-J5320DW - an A3 capable printer) of which ones were replaced and to remind myself mine are laying loose on top of the new cartridges.)

Oh yeah, not unimportant too: you also have to remember, those chips communicate with your printer. Meaning they tell the machine how much ink they *think* they still have left. If you replace them with new cartridges, the chips still think otherwise. Which in its turn means that when the cartridge is not even half empty, it might start to complain it thinks it's empty. Trouble. No prints. There is a remedy to this: a chip resetter. A small battery-operated device you can put on the cartridge chip and just erase its memory. Problem solved. They cost about 20 euros, (you imperial folks have to figure out for yourselves how much that is in inches, feet, pints and gallons.) and last about ten printer's life times, I guess.

[DISCLAIMER: I won't take any responsibilities for eventual mishaps, ink spillage, loss of parts and/or equipment, printer failures or any other thing that possibly could go wrong. I assume you know what you're doing when following these tips and you're responsible for your own actions.]

Now, all that said, there also are other easy ways to trick your printer. One really interesting method is CIS. Continuous Ink System. A reservoir outside your printer, filled with CMY and Black and small tubes leading into permanent cartridges in your printer. Easy to control, cartridges are self-resetting, so no trouble with miscommunication between cartridge and printer. A set will set you back about 50 euros, but after that, you will have a significant decrease in ink purchases.
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