Airfield Models - How To

Make Painting Boards

May 05, 2015

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Airfield Models ( to Make Painting Boards

I've painted many models that I've built over the years but have yet to devise a system that is relatively consistent in its use while being simple and reliable.  With more custom projects coming in I decided it was time to get smart and make my life easier.  With each model I painted I was rigging a new system to hold the parts.

This system is new to me so I would be less than honest if I claimed it's the best system ever.  I'll have to learn how to use it effectively before I can make any serious claims about it.

That said, I put a lot of thought into various ways to make painting jigs and most had problems that made them more trouble than they were worth.  This system should be flexible as it allows fixtures to be placed where needed on the board and a variety of fixtures can be adapted to work.  For now I'm using extra hands but I'm sure I'll need to make special fixtures for some projects.  Hopefully they will be adaptable so that they can be used more than once.

I made several boards so that I'm not tempted to over-crowd one board which makes painting much more difficult.  When the items on the board are painted, I can put the board out in the sun while the paint dries and start painting parts on the next board.


Making the Boards

Draw a grid on the board(s). I decided to make each of my boards 12" x 48" using 3/4" MDF.  This piece allowed me to make three boards in addition to the two I had already made.

Draw a grid in whatever increments you think will work best.  I decided on a 1" x 1" grid which meant drilling 11 x 47 (517) holes in each board.

This is one of those times when having a light drill is a blessing.

Much after the fact it occurred to me that rather than drawing a grid I could have just laid a piece of pegboard over the MDF and used it as a drill guide.

Drill holes fairly deep without going through the board.  A wheel collar makes a good depth-stop. Use a wheel collar as a depth-stop.The extra hands are flexible so I wasn't worried about making the holes exactly perpendicular which would have taken far longer.  A good eyeball is all that is necessary.

Drilling all these holes took about 2-1/2 hours.  I don't regret doing it, but no, I never want to do this again.

I used a wheel collar as a depth-stop on the drill bit to prevent drilling all the way through the board.  The holes are drilled approximately 5/8" deep.

(I'll bet 90% of everybody just stopped reading this page)

Cut the boards apart and finish the edges. The boards were cut apart using a circular saw guided by a straight edge clamped to the boards.

I used a 1/4" rounding bit in my router to clean up the edges.

A hanger is inserted so the boards can be hung on a wall. A mirror hanger is added to the back of each board so I can hang it from the wall out of the way.

I used my Dremel router to inset the hanger slightly.

Use a router, routing table or table saw to cut grooves for support strips. This step is probably optional for most builders.  I added strips to the board to support the fixtures I make while painting them.  Most of the model parts I paint will be held by extra hands so the support strips won't be necessary.

I used my Dremel tool with a router base and 1/8" straight routing bit to cut full length grooves approximately 1/16" deep to receive the support strips.

Glue the strips into the slots.  Sand them flush. I cut 1/8" plywood into 3/16" wide strips using my Microlux Table saw.  I would rather have used inexpensive pre-cut hardwood but I didn't have any on hand.  The hardwood I do have was fairly expensive and I didn't feel this was a good use for it.

The strips are glued into the routed grooves using thin CA.  I used a long sanding block to level the strips and rounded over the ends so they wouldn't cut up my hands while moving the boards around.

Seal the boards with a good, durable paint.  A couple coats of wax doesn't hurt. Finally a good coat of paint was sprayed all over to seal the boards.  MDF is easily ruined when it gets wet.  I applied a couple heavy coats of car wax to help prevent overspray from sticking when painting models.
I added an eye-bolt to each board to hang my spray gun. An eyebolt was added to each board so I can hang my spray gun to it.  I have a clamp-on style airbrush holder that will be clamped to whatever board is in use at the time.

The eyebolt was cut off using my Dremel tool.

The gun hung on the board. The spray gun placed on the hook.
These parts were painted and then hung on the board to dry. Vertical presses for my magnetic building system are slid onto a piece of music wire held by extra hands.

Wheel chocks have a screw threaded into them that is held by the extra hands.

Lots of parts drying in the sun. Shown here are four sets of fixtures and miscellaneous other pieces that were lacquered and are now drying in the sun and not filling my shop with fumes.
Danish Oiled parts drying in the sun. These pieces have a bolt threaded in and were then soaked in Danish Oil.  They are clipped to extra hands to dry in the sun.


The Amazing Scroll Saw Paint Shaker
Make Pallets to Hold Parts for Brush or Airbrushing

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Copyright 2006 Paul K. Johnson