Scale Model Tips – A Basic Guide to Scribing Panel Lines
While some models already show excellent definition and attention to detail, there will be times when, by necessity or personal preference, additional handiwork is required to give it a more realistic finish. Below is a guide to scribing panel lines – an excellent technique for adding detail and character to your chosen model.
One of the difficulties with scribing panel lines is that the quality and properties of the plastic can vary from model to model. This adds some guesswork to choosing the correct tools for the job, but a good practice is to test your chosen tools on the unseen underside of your model prior to beginning the actual scribing process.
Test your chosen tools on the unseen underside of your model prior to beginning the actual scribing process
With the above in mind, here is a list of tools you will need for scribing panel lines:
- A steel ruler – six inch is recommended, but you can use longer depending on the length of your model parts
- Dymo tape – hard plastic tape available from stationary suppliers
- Hobby knife with new blade, and additional new backup blades
- Scribing tool – a good quality steel scribe can be obtained from your local hardware store
- A sharp sewing pin
- Fine grade sandpaper
- A lead pencil, sharpener and eraser
- Dishwashing detergent
- Modelling putty
Planning to scribe
Before you begin, it is essential that you have a plan in place for where your scribe lines will go. There are typically two options here – either you can scribe where you find raised panel lines on your kit, or you can refer to drawings, which show the location of panel lines. To ensure accuracy, it pays to also refer to photos of previous completed models or the real plane, car or ship.
If you make mistakes, simply erase the lines and draw again
Drawing or mapping your panel lines
Using the sharpened lead pencil and your steel ruler, draw every panel line that you plan to scribe on your kit. If you are not 100% confident on the location, you can draw the lines lightly, but you will need these to be well defined and precise before you start scribing. If you make mistakes, simply erase the lines and draw again until you have all your required panel lines in place.
Take some time now to step away from the model and clear your head, before returning to analyse the full kit for line accuracy (placement and straightness). You will no doubt pick up errors or lines you missed the first time – keep fixing these until you are satisfied that they are all present and correct. Pencilled lines are far easier to amend than scribed lines!
Guiding the scribing tool
Now that your pencil lines are in place, you can use the Dymo tape to add a makeshift guide for your scribing tool. Measure a length of tape slightly longer than your drawn panel line and cut it using your hobby knife. Carefully stick the tape onto your kit, along the desired panel line – place it around 1mm away from the pencilled line, to allow your scribing tool to run exactly along the line instead of beside it.
By starting just below the top of the drawn panel line, you avoid damaging the edge of your kit
Holding the Dymo tape in place with your free hand, place the tip of your scribing tool just below the top of your drawn panel line and lightly run it down the length of the line. Repeat this process until you have achieved your desired panel line length and depth.
Now go the opposite direction from the point you started, to scribe the remaining small length of the line. By starting just below the top of the drawn panel line, you avoid damaging the edge of your kit.
Repeat the above steps to complete each of the panel lines you have drawn on your kit. Use the sandpaper to sand away any raised edges or loose piece of plastic that the scribing process may have caused.
Making any corrections
No matter how good you are at scribing panel lines, mistakes happen from time to time. Once you have completed all your desired panel lines, wash your model kit in a bath of lukewarm water and a little dishwashing detergent. Scrub the kit gently with the toothbrush to remove any pencil markings or smudges and any leftover debris from scribing.
For minor flaws, apply the minimum amount of modelling putty possible
Allow your scale model to dry completely (a hair dryer can speed up the process), then inspect your kit carefully and mark any scribing flaws or mistakes with the lead pencil.
For minor flaws, apply the minimum amount of modelling putty possible. If you wish to remove an incorrectly placed scribed line, or a “branch” caused by your scribing tool slipping, fill the line(s) with modelling putty and allow to harden. If you only need to narrow or shorten the depth of a scribed line – fill it with putty and allow it to partially harden, then use your hobby knife to re-scribe the line to the desired width and depth.
Scribing, or re-scribing, can be a daunting task – especially with larger scales. It will take time to get right, but remember that you will gain experience through your actions. Instead of focusing on the larger project, take it one line at a time so that you maintain a sense of achievement. By breaking it down this way, you are more likely to complete the task at hand, and you’ll be left with a more detailed model that really stands out!