Picture of Covering a model airplane in Tissue
After doing my Instructable on making a model building board I could not help whipping out one of my kits and putting it together. In this case it is the Guillows Lancer. Being that this is a small rubber band powered model that needs to be light to fly correctly there are only a few options for covering the model. One you could cover it with a plastic film like Nelson Lite film or even colored plastic wrap, or you can cover it with good old fashioned tissue. I decided to cover mine in tissue as it is cheap and does not require any special tools or materials. This type of model is often referred to as a stick and tissue model, so it fits.

Back in the day one would attach tissue to a model with model dope and then shrink it with water. I have used dope in the past and it is nasty stuff, it smells bad and I'm sure the correlation with the drug is quite fitting. So instead I am going to show you how to attach the tissue using glue sticks and use alcohol to shrink it. This method is not only less toxic then using dope it is also cheaper then dope and it is quicker in my opinion.
dagob1 year ago

Now I know how to do it! Thank you very much!!! Excellent instructable!

I like the colours on your flyboy they look very nice together. Apparently thinned white glue is also a good substitute for dope however I haven't tried it though.
Ohm (author)  Big Baneser1 year ago
I have heard the same and you can brush it on which might be useful in some cases, at some point I will start building again and try the thinned glue method.
stabian5 years ago
I also noticed that when you use glue instead of dope to put the tissue on it doesn't stretch as well but this mostly would happen on a fighter plane or other with a round fuselage.
what exactly is dope?
Airplane dope is a lacquer. It was developed in the days when full-scale airplanes were made of fabric and wood. Dope shrinks when it dries, tightening the fabric. It also produces a lovely gloss finish. If you do it right, doped silk can look like polished metal. The first dope was made with cellulose nitrate, AKA guncotton. Modern dope is cellulose acetate butyrate, which doesn't burn quite as fast. Either will knock you sideways if you use it without plenty of ventilation, which is probably where the name "dope" came from.
davea9522 years ago
usahobby.com has kits. Also glue and dope.
vtstruct4 years ago
While it seems like a good idea to try something else to avoid traditional model airplane "dope" (lacquer) fumes by using a different adhesive, like a glue stick, the fumes from Krylon Crystal Clear spray which you used to finish the tissue are even worse! ...................................................................................................................................................... I tried it outside, and brought the model inside ten minutes later, and that stuff has a really choking odor, even after it has flashed off and dried to the touch. I'd rather use dope than that stuff, but would especially like it if something less toxic than either could be used for a finish. Especially since I have a family including a 4 year old who would have to put up with the fumes of anything I paint. Can't open windows in the winter, but that's the best time for an indoor hobby like model building. So, what to do? ......................................................................................................................................................... I've heard that water based acrylic "no-wax" floor finishes have been used for painting model coverings by some people, but not sure of what brand to use, or how to apply it. Anybody tried it? ......................................................................................................................................................... Also a note about UHU glue-stick. It is apparently water based (washable) and if it seems a little dry (old) you can wet the end with a little water I found and it goes on easier. But if you try to shrink the tissue with water mist, I found a few places where the glue let go on the model, since it got wet again and the tissue shrank. Same thing for steaming over a teapot (which shrinks less drastically than water spray). ..................................................................................................................................................... There are "permanent" glue sticks available (Borden makes one). I might try that. Wouldn't be surprised if it works better for water, but still can be removed if needed with alcohol. ............................................................................................................................................ Thanks for a generally helpful Instructable, and I think a little experimentation will solve the odor and glue sticking problems.
As a plastic modeler of over 49 years, various paints have been used. In the past 25 years, a lot of the older modelers use diluted down 'FUTURE' Floor Wax to give the model an over all even finish for decal placement and then they spray another coat to seal the decals in. The only problem I see with this is that if floor wax can eventually 'Yellow' over time, what happens to it in a diluted state over a long period of time on a model. I am old fashioned modeler, I have a home-made 2x2x3 paint booth for winter painting so I don't have to stop modeling or painting.

I use enamels, lacquers, airplane dope all year long when I'm building and it gets vented outside.
You can use clear matt spray coating used to spray over pencil or chalk drawings. Doesn't smell as bad.

And actually you don't need to do the two step shrink and then coat as this stuff must have alcahol as it re-wets and then shrinks it and gives it the lightly hardened coating. It is not a heavy coating. So it is light.
yapoyo vtstruct3 years ago
Here's what to do if you don't like Krylon:you can use a 50/50 mix of white glue and water and brush it on the tissue with a paintbrush.
mswilkinson2 years ago
I did not like using the glue stick. Here is what works well for me.

Get some "Tacky Glue" thats what its called. Its commonly found in the fabric dept of stores. even wal-mart.

Its like a fast grabbing elmers glue. I put some on my finger and run it around the edge of the frame that I want to attach tissue to. Then i wash my finger quickly, add the tissue and pull it tight. Doesn't have to be super tight because shrinking it down with a spray coat of alcahol shrinks it for you.

You don't put it on every piece of exposed wood. just around the farthest most edges.
m7272003 years ago
I have been using plane dope for years. I must say i am very impressed with this method. My only question is how does it stand up to using glow fuel? I have a tiny cox glow engine and you know how messy they can be with spraying fuel all over :)
I have used this method and the dope method. While the crystal clear coat MIGHT be fuel proof (not sure), it is not a solid coat like you get with dope. i give the plane several light dustings and it is light weight and strong enough for rubber band or light electric, But not nears a solid enough coat for fuel. So the fuel would penetrate it. Also dope adds strength to the tissue which helps with a gas plane as they tend to fly faster.
Mud Stuffin3 years ago
Here's an idea to replace the environmental hazards associated with butyl and petroleum distillates.
I haven't tried it but here's my idea.
Spray the tissue first with laundry sizing, let it dry . Then spray it with white vinegar.
Then let it dry out in the sun or bake slightly in an oven.
The UV from the sun might be a catalyser to break down or polymerise the starch.
hogthrob3 years ago
When I was about 12 I got a plane like this for xmas and built a perfect crisp frame with it. I then came to applying the tissue to tyhe wings I doped the top half first and it made the wings curl up like a banana!!!

This instructable would have been useful then however it would have scared the crap out of me if I had seen a photgraph on my then 64k computer.
jlyvers7433 years ago
Thank you so much for posting this. I will be looking for your instructable that you wrote about in this, on building the Building Board. This really seems like a lost art. My father used to do these model for gas engines but never got around to teaching me. I am going to start with my sons and see where it takes us.
All your instructions are very clear and the photos are outstanding. It is really a top notch instructable. The guys at the hobbie store only wanted to sell me the latest greatest pre-assembled junk they had. LOL I feel like a kid again. You made a believer out of me. This can be done! Thank you.
ive building a guillowsspit fire mk-1, almost ready for the tissue paper, thanks for the post man!!
hey me too
yapoyo3 years ago
I used plastic wrap instead and shrunk it with a hairdryer.
yapoyo yapoyo3 years ago
by tha way i'm building a guillows spitfire.
biged3 years ago
We are covering a WWII Waco CG-4A Glider with fabric. *3'=8" wing (900sq feet) ANYONE HAVE EXPERIENCE WITH THIS? I will send pics latter.
dwgcon123 years ago
Hi, Im new to this blog. Two questions. First, you cover wings and stabilizers with equal amounts of tissue simeltaneously for upper and lower surfaces and shrink them at the the same time to prevent wrapping correct? Second, Im looking to get about a square yard each of high quality tissue in red and blue to finish a fairchild d 24 that I'm building. Any idea where I and get those colors and quantities online? Thanks for your help
I'm building a guillows rubber band powered piper super cub
joshrocks984 years ago
hey do they make colored srpay? i want a cup yellow and my tissue is white
scud13334 years ago
In the past what i used for glue was plain white glue mixed it with some water then took a small paintbrush and brushed some onto the balsa wood. I then laid the tissue on top and applied more water glue mix on top waited for it to dry, then sprayed some water on it and dried it with a hair dryer. It worked very well for me.
Ohm (author)  scud13334 years ago
That works good too, especially in tight places, I like the glue stick though for doing larger panels, both are good options.
im building a guillows p-40 warhawk
I've Built two sizes. What scale are you building? If you are building the giant scale,1000,.2000 series, it looks great covered with 1/32nd balsa! not so good with tissue. Self adhesive monocoat works good too. I too am building yet anoyher guillows 20" wingspan P-40. hope it comes out great. GOD bless you and yours
It's a 20" and I never got it completely built I'm at the covering stage and manage to lose one of tail surfaces plus I've been working on a rc L-19 birddog parkflyer which builds suprisingly like an oversize rb powered model (even came with tissue for covering )
Where do you get the plans to build this models?
Local hobby shop or online like towerhobbies.com
pappa g5 years ago
hey, this christmas, save all the color tissue wrap, It DOES work as a covering for airplanes and it shrinks well! Just dont get the stuff that has a stencil or painted scene on it, hard if not impossible to get the 50/50 mix to flow thru and moisten it. Lots of free tissue and colors. GOD bless happy flying.
 did you get the red and yellow tissue with your kit? because mine came with gray and white tissue
Ohm (author)  annoyingfeatures5 years ago
No I bought it seperately, I actually used craft tissue, not ideal but it works, the gray and white tissue that comes with the kit is a bit unflattering. If you do use craft tissue make sure it is the kind that has color fast ink.
 i dont need to buy any, i was just wondering. but im covered because my dad has a collection of modle airplane tissue
stabian5 years ago
when i put patches on, I put the piece of tissue and cover it with dope so its nice and smooth because with glue it CAN make lumps.
The first model I made was a messeschmitt BF 109.
U2rocks!6 years ago
what if your paper isn't the right color? do you apply the clear and then the color or just the color coat?
Ohm (author)  U2rocks!6 years ago
If you can't go and just swap to another color between frames, like if you want to paint on scallops or other trim, you can as mentioned do a coat of clear, probably a mat clear so the paint sticks better then use acrylic paint as it tends to go on in lighter coats to save weight. This pretty much how they would do it back in the day, they would use dope to apply and seal white silk and then paint over that and then do a final clear coat to seal it all in, you don't need to seal it twice as you are probably not using a glow fuel engine.
U2rocks! Ohm6 years ago
Ohm (author)  Ohm6 years ago
You can see in the photo of the blue and yellow plane in the first step what I mean by swapping to another color, on the wings there is the blue bands where I cut the yellow covering out from between two ribs and cut a small strip to cover the space. Also for small bits of decoration you can simply cut out pieces of tissue and glue them to the base tissue, you just want to not do a whole lot like this as it adds weight to the plane and on these it makes a difference. Have fun and good luck, post a pic when you are done.
Frohmer6 years ago
I used the dope method for applying tissue for years, but the smell was getting unbearable. I tried the glue stick method and I found it to be much easier, quicker, and have better adhesion. Some notes on this: 1. I don't put dope on the frame to "seal" the wood as I've heard that it affects the adherence of the tissue to glue. 2. I put the glue stick on the frame first and then "activate" it with the rubbing alcohol. However, the tissue becomes fragile when activated, so be careful when pulling it. 3. The U-Hu glue stick is washable, so when spraying the water/alcohol mixture, the area that had the glue stick applied tends to bleed or fade some, so I cover these parts with Saran wrap when spraying.
Ohm (author)  Frohmer6 years ago
I find that it is easier to cut a piece of tissue to the right size and shape to cover the panel and quickly apply the glue stick and lay the tissue down. If the glue dries up a bit be because the panel is large you can fold the tissue back and use a little water/alcohol to re-wet the glue.
Lord_Master6 years ago
this is a good kit
Lord_Master6 years ago
How would you apply decals to the model. This is my first plane and I don't want to risk ruining it.
Ohm (author)  aainventor946 years ago
I would say, I haven't done it much myself but, after putting two light coats of clear on, soak your decal like normal and after you slide it off gently shake the majority of the water off. Place the decal on the model and gently use a folded paper towel to push it down and soak up the excess water. After it is dry put a couple light coats of clear over the decal to permanently seal it on the model. To be absolutely sure make a small frame of balsa and apply tissue to it, shrinking and clearing it as if it were on a model and try applying an extra decal to it.
thanks for the advice :)
i never got those glue sticks to work peases start to pop off after awhile so ill just stick with elmers glue all (good for paper models too)
kanamin7 years ago
I had that exact same plane as a child! I kind of messed it up though, I was pretty young.
KentsOkay7 years ago
Nice ible. However, I find using Elmer's glue that's been thinned down works better than other glues, and when used to tighten the skin it makes it stiffer than alcohol.
Ohm (author)  KentsOkay7 years ago
Yes I have heard the Elmer's works good and you can brush it on. Did you use the thinned glue as well to shrink the covering? I'm not sure how well that would work, on mine I shrunk it with alcohol and water in a 50/50 mix, you can change it up to change how much it shrinks. After it was shrunk the way I wanted it I then sprayed it with Krylon Crystal clear to seal it afterwards, this is the same idea as using clear dope or thinned glue to seal the tissue.
KentsOkay Ohm7 years ago
Yup. I shrunk it with 1/4 glue 3/4 water.
Ohm (author)  KentsOkay7 years ago
I might have to give that a try and see how it works, as dboyfly told me there are about a million ways of covering with tissue and they all work.
Ohm (author) 7 years ago
I have done that as well, I like this way a little better it is less mess in my opinion but they both work about the same. You can use the two together depending on what you are doing too. I am looking forward to the plastic wrap instrucable, I think it looks cool but have never done it myself. If I remember you just glue it down with glue stick or white glue and then shrink it with a hair dryer.
Bongmaster Ohm7 years ago
its done better with a low heat iron (assuming its the self adhesive type), but still needs a bit of initial gluing for a better hold :)
Nope...I'm talking plastic wrap that I snitched out of the kitchen drawer. Works like a charm.
oh you mean Cling-film :D now thats a good idea :) sticks to itself too :D. would be good for lightweight stuff :) . could you use pedalbin liners too (the thin type like i used on my 1st instructable)

yes saw that earlier today :3
Ohm (author)  Bongmaster7 years ago
Yeah I have a roll of blue in my kitchen drawer I'm thinking of doing a little peanut scale job with that.
rhino7 years ago
Nice work. Thirty years ago when I was building planes, I used to give my framework two coats of clear dope to seal it good. I would coat each section one more time as I worked on the fabric. The fabric would be coated with water in a hand sprayer until quite moist, then applied to the frame without regard to grain. The wrinkles would be pulled out and the fabric pinned to the ribs with straight pins. Sometimes you have to apply more clear dope and massage it in where you want the tissue to stick good. When dry, the pins would be pulled and the fabric would be sprayed again and blow dried on low heat with a hand held hair dryer producing an extremely taught no wrinkles finish ready for the clear dope topcoat. Also all frames should be sanded smooth prior to doping and covering. It is nice to see someone doing the balsa wood and tissue models in this day of instant styrofoam rc gratification. Two thumbs up.
Use a lighter prop not those plastic ones
I find using 50/50 white glue & water works better then a glue stick another trick to removing tissue paper is cuting it off w/ a raser blade
Ohm (author) 7 years ago
Well I got my new CVS camera to talk to my computer so here is the video I did of the first flight, just a short test hop.

Ohm (author) 7 years ago
Hehe I just noticed these were comments on the instructable, I just sent you an email directing you here :P Yeah if you search for tissue covering on google most well come up with links to forums and everyone says to use the Krylon Crystal Clear acrylic. It seems to work good I just need to put another light coat on mine as it still shriveled a little when I tried flying it on Friday.
dboyfly7 years ago
Krylon, I have not heard of anyone finishing tissue with it before this. Cool idea. Dan.
dboyfly7 years ago
Nate, Aha! I remember the Lancer. I actually built one about ten years ago. It is a great rubber flyer but I wasn't brave enough to try it with RC, plus, their would not have been a battery pack back then that would fly it. What are you going to use for a motor? It seems like a GWS system would be too large for it (unless there is a direct-drive prop adapter for the actual motor without the reduction gear assembly). The polyhedral wing would sure make it fly nice I bet. Good choice for micro RC! Keep me posted. Dan.
looks neat, how good does yours fly?
Ohm (author)  GorillazMiko7 years ago
Well I took it out this morning and had a go, it definitely need to have some weight added to the nose, I took off the landing gear so I lost some weight there. Also I think I need another coat of clear, it was real foggy today and the covering on the top of the wing wrinkled pretty bad, the bottom wasn't to bad. I have about a 15 sec video of the first flight, not very long but its proof. I just need to hack the camera it is in to retrieve the video, $30 CVS disposable camera.
ewilhelm7 years ago
I made a balsa and tissue paper plane that looks nearly the same as yours many years ago. When I started the project, I couldn't believe the plane would be strong enough to survive even a single crash, but shrunk tissue and balsa are a pretty remarkable combination.
Ohm (author)  ewilhelm7 years ago
Yeah the bare balsa frame is pretty soft and floppy, but when you get the stretched covering on it it becomes quite rigid.
Bongmaster Ohm7 years ago
I got a harvard trainer model still waiting to be built. its a rubber band model but i'll prolly convert it to run as an indoor micro rc :) should be fun to do :D wil be big enough for it..
Like being a kid again, Thanks.
CameronSS7 years ago
A 50-50 mix of Elmer's White Glue and water can be painted on with a paintbrush, and you can then brush it on top of the tissue and allow it to soak through. Instructable on plastic wrap covering within the next few weeks, if I can find the time to do it. It looks great and is surprisingly easy.