So, you've just completed building your best model airplane or spaceship ever! Congratulations! But what if you want it to look like it's flying? And you don't want to hang it from the ceiling? Some models come with stands, but I've not seen too many model planes that come with a stand. What to do?
You can make a very attractive and stable stand for your model for a ridiculously tiny amount of money, and almost no skill, using common materials that you may already have.
Step 1: Spend Just a Bit More Money
You've already spent 10 times the price of the model getting it to look like the picture on the box... Don't display it on a flimsy, sloppy stand, or an ugly one for that matter. And there's no need for the price of the stand to equal the price of the model. For about 20 minutes of work (not counting drying time) and somewhere between zero and a very few dollars, you can make a stylish stand that has plenty of weight to it, so your prized airplane won't suffer a premature crash.
All You Need Is...
Few dimensions are given here, because you will need to size this to your model airplane (Or Spaceship, or...)
- A small bag/box of Plaster of Paris, or plaster of Home Depot if you don't feel like going to France. You can make several stands from 5 pounds of plaster.
- A piece of brass or aluminum rod, wire or tubing stiff enough to hold the weight of your model, and long enough to display the plane as you'd like, plus about 2 inches. 1/8" or 3/16" should work well for most scales. If you've got a ginormous plane, scale this up accordingly. You can also use music wire, which is a lot stiffer, but also a lot harder to bend, and may need to be painted for a nice appearance. Either way, find this at your favorite hobby shop. A low-budget alternative for small models is copper (solid) 14-gauge house wiring with the insulation stripped off.
- A plastic tub (I like to use margarine tubs, some TV dinner trays work nicely also) sized to give a stable base. The 1 pound margarine tubs work well for most 1/72 or 1/48 planes, unless they're bombers. Just don't use one that doesn't have a slight taper, or you'll be cutting the mold from the plaster! Again, scale up (or down) as necessary.
- A Popsicle stick, finger, or other stirring utensil.
- Water (DiHydrogen Monoxide, H2O) There is a spout with a knob or lever in your kitchen that dispenses this. MSDS is attached. Avoid breathing this in liquid form.
- A drill, and a drill bit the same diameter as your chosen rod/tubing.
Step 2: Put a Little Thought Into It
Before you get too carried away, stop and think how you are going to mount that plane to the wire. Many jet planes lend themselves well to putting the stand wire up the tailpipe, but a propeller plane, and some jets, will need a hole drilled in the belly. You may want to do this before you paint and detail the plane, because drilling the hole stands a good chance of splitting the seam, and you'll then have to fix that. Drill the belly hole at, or as close as you can get to, the point where the plane balances (The center of gravity). This will make everything much more stable.
Step 3: Getting Moldy
Figure out how much plaster you'll need to fill your plastic tub to a depth of 1/2 to 1 inch. You can measure and mix the plaster in the tub if you want; no point in dirtying up another container. Add just enough water, a bit at a time, to get all the dry plaster stirred in, and have a consistency slightly thinner than toothpaste. You want it just runny enough that it will flatten out when you set it on a level surface. Stir well, tap the mold on the table a few times to get the big bubbles out, then let it sit on that level surface overnight.
Step 4: Remove Mold
No, not the mold in your basement! (Lysol spray can help with a small infestation of that.)
Now you can gently persuade the plastic mold off of your fresh piece of plaster. It will probably need a bit of cleanup. use a sheet of coarse sandpaper to flatten the back if necessary, or if it's not level. If you don't like it, just make another. Plaster is almost as cheap as dirt.
Feel the casting you just made. Does it feel cold? If so, even though it is hard, it's not dry yet. Plaster sets via a chemical reaction, so even though it's all set up, it will still have water trapped in it, which needs to dry out. This could take days. You can do everything else you need to do with it before it's dry, but if you're planning to paint it, some paints might not stick as long as it's moist. It will also be more fragile when it's moist.
Step 5: A Boring Experience
Boring a hole, that is. Get your drill bit that matches the size of your rod, and drill a hole about 3/4 of the way through the center of your plaster piece. By now, you should have figured out how you're going to mount the plane to the stand, and what angle you'd like it at. Bend your rod into a pleasing shape that will hold the plane at your preferred angle. Do this before you mount the rod in the hole. Plaster is hard and heavy, but doesn't have much structural strength. Test fit to see how good a job you did.
Some models will not be very stable just having a rod stuck in a hole in their bellies. Especially if your model is still under construction, the best way to stabilize it is get a piece of tubing about 1/2" - 1" long, and the next size up from your rod. The rod should slide smoothly into this without being loose. Glue this firmly into the model as a "socket" for the stand rod to slide into. You've just cured the wobblies!
Step 6: White Is Drab
Your stand will work fine at this point. Just glue the rod into the hole in the stand with super glue or epoxy. But a white plaster stand looks a lot like... A white plaster stand. Paint the base the color of your choice. I use black, because the stand should be inconspicuous. Your brass or aluminum rod can be painted with the base, or left alone. I usually polish the rod up a bit and leave it bare metal. You might also want to glue a piece of felt or cork to the bottom so it won't scratch the furniture. You shouldn't need to glue the model to the stand.
Now put a placard on it if you like, and go show it off to it's best advantage!