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This is one of the most important issues for digital card modelers. When you buy a printed kit you don't have a choice -
you just have to live with whatever the publisher gave you. On the other hand, you can print digital models by yourself, and
this gives you a great advantage but also presents you with a hard decision - which paper to use.
In the past, I've relied heavily on plate bristols. These were thick, 100lb, 2-ply bristols with acceptable forming characteristics but with some drawbacks. As art papers, they come in 9"x12" sheets and have to be cut to 8.5"x11" sheets before printing. They also displayed some bleeding when printed, especially when printing thin black lines.
Nowadays, I most often use some kind of coated, matte photo paper. Two examples would be Epson Presentation Paper Matte and Staples Photo Supreme Matte. With a thickness of 44lb and 61lb, respectively, those papers are on the thinner side as card stock goes, but that is the thickness I now prefer for a majority of the parts. Parts to be tightly rolled - masts, gun barrels etc., - I will print on generic, thin copy paper.
The word "double" may be misleading - "laminate" is possibly more precise. What I mean by this is that some parts, pointed
out on the sheets or diagrams, have to be "laminated" or reinforced, so the thickness of the part treated this way is 1mm.
Normally, the paper you will print on is 0.1 - 0.3mm thick, so it's obvious that just gluing together two pieces of this
paper won't do. You can either use three or four layers of the basic paper or just one of appropriately thick cardboard.
I prefer the latter solution as it requires only one glue application.
There are two reasons why some parts need reinforcement. First, some parts need to be less flexible, for example all elements of the ship hull. Second, sometimes more gluing surface is needed. This is illustrated in Fig.1. Case #2 is a regular "tab" connection. As I don't like this type of construction, I prefer the connection depicted in case #1, where no "tab" is involved. The joint is cleaner and more precise but it requires that the gluing surface be incresed by "doubling" or "laminating" the part. This issue is connected to the next FAQ.
Because they are not needed in most cases. As I mentioned above (see Fig.1), using tabs usually results in unsightly gaps between connected parts. Fig.2 shows, in an exaggerated manner, a gap which results when gluing a part to a flat surface - see case 1. Case 2 illustrates how to avoid the above mentioned gap by using a separated tab, a tab that is not created by bending a section of the part but is a separate piece of paper. Since tabs are not visible on the finished model, they can be made from scrap paper if the kit you are building doesn't supply them on the sheets.
Related to the "tab" issue is the way in which parts are designed. Fig.3 and 4 show three different approaches to designing a simple box. Cases 1 and 2 on both pictures illustrate design which relies on "tabs". Case 3 demonstrates a design principle widely used in Digital Navy models.
Onboard catapults, chart house windows, platform supports etc., all these elements require precise cuting and bending of
delicate patterns. Plastic modelers simply reach for a fret of photo-etched parts to offset plastic kits' inability to replicate
the above-mentioned patterns with satisfactory quality. Also, they usually have a lot of problems with proper shaping of the
photo-etched parts, painting them etc. With paper, we don't have to go this way. Let's photo-etch in paper! The secret lies
in the proper sequence of operations. I'll illustrate all of them in the following pictures:
1. Cut out the portion of the sheet containing the part which is about to be "photo-etched". Then, before you start cutting out all those small "empty" areas, score all of the bend lines and make all required bends. Esentially, form the part to its final shape before any cutting work is done. At this point, I often paint the reverse side of the paper in matching color.
2. Cut out all inside "empty" spaces, leaving intact the paper around the part. This will make holding the part in place easier.
3. When all the inside cuts are done, "free" the part from the rest of the sheet.
And there you have it. Since all the bends were already formed, you don't have to endure all the pains plastic modelers go through when bending and forming real photo-etched parts.
This is how I do it - first of all, I print gun barrels on very thin paper - like copy paper #5 on the picture above. Cut out
the part and run it a few times on the edge of the scissors. This will give it some tendency to roll. Note that, in the case of
the gun barrels, the parts are sections of the cone, not cylinders. Nothing looks less convincing than cylindrical gun barrel -
smoke stacks are cylindrical, gun barrels are conical! Next, start to roll the part as tight as you can - for now without
applying any glue. You may help yourself with a small bit as a rolling guide. In the case of really thin gun barrels, just roll
the paper on itself - don't worry that initial bends are not smooth, they will be covered by subsequent layers of the paper. (See Fig.9)
When you have the paper "worked down" enough that it rolls easily, it's time to apply glue. For this, I exclusively use Barge rubber glue. Here, the adhesive needs to be very tacky but has to give you some time to adjust, if necessary, the orientation of the surfaces being glued. Roll the part almost to the final shape, leaving only a narrow, 2-3 mm section unrolled. Not letting the part to "spring" back and unroll, apply a thin coat of glue and complete the "roll" so the printed areas of the paper line up. Next, roll the part between your fingers for a moment. Because the glue is not completely dry yet, small imperfections in the position of the edges of the paper can be corrected. This way, I was able to make, for example, the main gun barrels for the H.M.S. Dreadnought in 1:700 scale, or 5" aa guns of the IJN Fuso in 1:250 scale, all of them with nice taper and proper scale thickness.