Soda Can P-51B build tutorial in 1/48th scale

Discussion in 'CAN MODELS (Both aluminium and Tin)' started by gman_93643, Nov 7, 2017.

  1. gman_93643

    gman_93643 New Member

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    For this opening tutorial that I was encouraged to post, I chose one of my favorite aircraft to start with, the P-51B Mustang. This was a project that I built a few years ago when I began experimenting with bulkhead and former construction in the evolving process of building with cans. So without further adieu, lets jump right into the build!

    One of the first things that has to be done is to get your cans into a more friendly format and in basic terms that means getting them ready to be used as a flat surface. This means that before you do anything, your cans obviously need to be shelled. Here is how I complete this step:

    Using a hobby knife I carefully cut off the rear of the can first. Then I use a pair of hobby shears to cut up the seam that is usually found near the nutritional information and the bar code. I then carefully use the shears to cut off the top of the can. But in order to make the cans lay as flat as possible, I also cut off about an eighth of an inch from each end to remove any jagged edges created during the shelling process:

    [​IMG]

    When completed, your cans should look like this:

    [​IMG]

    Here you can see we have no jagged edges and the cans when placed on a flat surface will enable one to trace their template parts onto the the inner can surface. It will also go a long way towards the next step, which is extending our can surface.

    Unlike paper modeling, with cans you are dealing with a surface roughly 8 inches by 3.25 inches depending on your cut. This presents a problem when working with parts that are larger than that surface. The obvious solution is to extend your can surface:

    [​IMG]

    As you can see, I have laid down a bead of glue on the edge of one can then laid the second can over that bead and then run my thumb the length of that surface to smooth out any bubbles or waves. The nutritional info has been lined up at one end so we have a clean surface to work with. Now I take some weight such as a pile of encyclopedias and place them on top of this surface for 3-5 minutes. Remove the books and if you need to, repeat the process to extend you can surface as far as you need to.

    Now we are ready to trace the parts onto our cans:

    [​IMG]

    I prefer to trace my pieces onto the inside surface with a fine point Sharpie. Some builders prefer to trace it on the outside surface. For me personally, its easier on my old eyes to trace it onto the less busy inner surface so I can be more precise with my cuts.


    I know already, let's get on with the build, so here we go:

    [​IMG]

    To make our first bulkhead section of the P-51B, I trace and cut out my first fuselage piece as well as my formers/bulkheads, Each former/bulkhead has a top and bottom piece out of can, a piece of out of Darice craft foam, which can be obtained from Walmart or Hobby Lobby, and a piece out of aluminum sheeting. Instead of foam, some builders prefer to use card stock or cardboard, but my experience has been that this does not build a stronger model. In my humble opinion, the combination of the foam, and aluminum sheeting sandwiched in between the top and bottom piece of can makes for a stronger former or bulkhead as seen here:

    [​IMG]

    A vertical line is drawn with the Sharpie to give us a point of reference when we insert the former/bulkhead into the the fuselage section. This step is probably very familiar to most paper modelers since you roll and glue the fuselage section, then insert the front and rear formers into the piece so that it looks like so:

    [​IMG]

    I'll pause here for now before moving forward with the build for any questions, comments, etc. At this point I have completed one section of the fuselage of the Mustang and using the same techniques, we will shortly move on to the next...
  2. Revell-Fan

    Revell-Fan Co-Administrator Administrator Moderator

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    Thank you very much for posting this tutorial! :)

    One question: What glue do you use to join the flattened cans?
  3. gman_93643

    gman_93643 New Member

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    I find that any super Glue Gel works the best for this. It is more forgiving if you don't get the cans lined up as straight as I did on the first attempt, which still happens to me from time to time. Brands that I have used include Testors Super Glue Gel, Zap non drip Gel, and Loctite super glue Gel,
  4. micahrogers

    micahrogers ...And the Wife...

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    Do you only laminate the Bulkheads? Are the skin sections just the can? so many questions
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  5. Rhaven Blaack

    Rhaven Blaack ADMINISTRATOR Administrator Moderator

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    Thank you for posting this tutorial. I will be following it closely.
  6. gman_93643

    gman_93643 New Member

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    The formers/bulkheads are constructed by cutting out a back and front piece out of can, a corresponding piece out of craft foam and finally a piece out of aluminum sheeting. The aluminum sheeting is then glued to the inside surface of one of the can formers/bulkheads, then then the foam is glued over that. The remaining can former is then glued over the foam. This gives us a former/bulkhead with a wide gluing surface that is both strong and flexible at the same time. Hope that helps!
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  7. zathros

    zathros -----SENIOR---- Administrator Moderator

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    Maybe on the next section you could post a 3/4 view of the piece showing the bulkhead in place, and a sequence build up of a bulkhead. Since these will be typical, one time should be enough for the whole model. :)
  8. gman_93643

    gman_93643 New Member

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    In response to the questions, comments concerning the formers/bulkheads, I threw together a quick tutorial to illustrate precisely how I make these when employing bulkhead construction.

    Here we have the aluminum sheeting in the top center, followed by the card stock template. On the second row, we have can followed by craft foam in the middle and finally a corresponding piece of can.

    [​IMG]

    So I start by gluing the aluminum sheeting to the inside of one of the can pieces. As indicated, I've cut the sheeting piece slightly smaller than the normal pieces. Its only purpose is to provide strength and rigidity:

    [​IMG]

    Some builders use cardboard, but over the years after taking these unique works of art to craft shows, IPMS competitions and just to put on display, I've learned that the inquisitive nature of people to touch often does in the model. And quite frankly I enjoy letting astonished folks pick these up and handle them knowing full well that they aren't going to fall apart since I've built them sturdy enough to be handled. Moving on, we now come the next step:

    [​IMG]

    Here, the craft foam has now been glued over the sheeting which was previously glued to the inside surface of one of our can formers/bulkheads. The main purpose of the foam is to provide a wide gluing surface that can more easily be inserted into the ends of the can fuselage sections.


    [​IMG]

    The remaining can former/bulkhead has now been glued over the foam, creating one former/bulkhead ready to be inserted into a completed fuselage section.

    [​IMG]

    As you can see, we have a wide, but flexible gluing surface that will give us durability while giving us ample time to insert the bulkhead into the completed fuselage section which is always tricky. Getting it aligned on a paper model is one thing, but when building with cans, you have to have these lined up just right, or you're left with wide gaps that you have to figure out how to fill later, or opt to re-build the section in question. The Darice foam when used with super glue gel gives me ample time to insert the former/bulkhead into the front and/or rear of a fuselage piece without drying so quickly that it is aligned poorly...

    More to come...
  9. zathros

    zathros -----SENIOR---- Administrator Moderator

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    That last picture is is exactly the picture I was looking for. Thanks!! This opens up so many possibilities. I am thinking of making a mini English wheel for compound curves. A Large C-Clamp would work well for the frame, and I have lbs. of Ball bearings.. Wheels a turnin'........:)

    You could easily make fantastically durable R/C craft with this technique!
  10. gman_93643

    gman_93643 New Member

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    So now that I've hopefully clarified the process I use to create the bulkheads/formers for these models, I will continue on with the build.

    Just like paper models, the process for bulkhead built soda can models is quite the same. We now cut out the pieces to create the next sections of the fuselage including the bulkheads/formers for each section:

    [​IMG]

    The process is much the same at this point; we roll the fuselage section and glue it on the tab and assemble the two bulkheads/formers for the section in question as shown in the previous step. We then insert each of the bulkheads/formers into the front and back of the fuselage section. The next section is completed in much the same manner as the first:

    [​IMG]

    And using this process, its on to the next two sections

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    And then finally, we stop and assemble the first three completed sections of the fuselage as we would a paper model:


    [​IMG]

    As you can see here, the first three sections of the mustang have glued together nicely along the bulkheads/formers and have created a nice pattern with the cans while also preserving the lines of this beautiful aircraft model. Now we add the final section that we have completed to this point to our model:

    [​IMG]

    Again, when our can bulkheads/formers are carefully and accurately inserted into each bulkhead section, the can contemporaries glue together much like the paper ones do. The addition of the Darice foam gives us ample time to maneuver the bulkheads/formers into position when used in conjunction with super glue gel. This process insures that each section can fit together seamlessly much like the process seen in paper modeling. The difference here is that when the can sections start to come together randomly, they produce a unique and sometimes stunning pattern that adds to the aesthetic beauty of these models. When building, I tend to refrain from purposely aligning the cans strategically and instead opt to let the pieces fall where they may. More often the results are more positive than if I had aligned them on purpose...

    More to come...
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 11, 2017
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  11. Revell-Fan

    Revell-Fan Co-Administrator Administrator Moderator

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    It is amazing to see how clean everything is! :)
  12. Rhaven Blaack

    Rhaven Blaack ADMINISTRATOR Administrator Moderator

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    That looks really good!!!
  13. zathros

    zathros -----SENIOR---- Administrator Moderator

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    Thanks for going into detail. These must be incredible sturdy models when done. Well done. :)
  14. gman_93643

    gman_93643 New Member

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    That they are Zathros, I am glad you hit on that aspect. I have a 4 f00t Antonov An-225 hanging in my living room that was built using this same construction technique.

    But depending on the context, these have to be built tough. Many, like this particular model, went to a person who was hospitalized and I knew that it would be handled constantly. To that end, I had to build it to survive in an unforgiving environment...
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  15. micahrogers

    micahrogers ...And the Wife...

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    Do you paint them to look like the real item? Or do you leave the printing on the cans visible? I understand the aesthetics for seeing the can printing, just wondering if they could be painted.
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  16. zathros

    zathros -----SENIOR---- Administrator Moderator

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    I think the painted can would paint easier than unpainted aluminum stock. I use a special product when painting car parts, a very thorough cleaning, then wipe with this product, and you wait 6 minutes, then have a 15 minute window for painting. I use it for renewing clear coats on my motorcycles, and it really renews a stock old paint job, keeping the originality. Bare aluminum would require a treatment, priming, or etching primer. Some of the new etching primer paints might work, I haven't tried them though. :)
  17. gman_93643

    gman_93643 New Member

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    Honestly, in the entire 20+ years I've been building with can, I have never really bothered to attempt it.

    I guess the main reason is that over time I have developed techniques and tricks that allow me to attempt to replicate the real item. Take this model here that I built over a decade ago as an experiment-the F4U Corsair. With this model I wanted the all blue finish with the insignias and markings as well as the checkered pattern on the cowling:

    [​IMG]

    And each of these was replicated out of can. For the finish, I cut out only the blue portions of the can, which if memory serves me right was either RC Cola or Pepsi, and strategically paneled them over the base structure. Then the decals were cut out of red, whit and blue can and glued together to produce the insignias on the wing and fuselage. Finally, the checkered pattern was created by cutting out white areas of can and overlaying the red areas in an alternating pattern until it was complete. So, in a sense, in my mind at least, I eliminated the need for painting by utilizing this build technique. By reproducing what I need out of can, whether it be, insignias, markings, patterns, and even the finish, I have no need to paint the model in question. I've seen some can models painted, but I must confess I prefer my own methodology over paint.
  18. zathros

    zathros -----SENIOR---- Administrator Moderator

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    That's a nice representation of a Corsar. I guess or believe, th reason why people ask is that we tend to "greeble" models here. For instance, someone wanting to make a Corsair with a real wing airfoil shape, would have more problems trying to match, than just painting afterwards. I think I cam going to buy some cheap aluminum flashing with the money I get from my bottle and can returns, and start out with clean stock.. The machinist in me cries out for that, though in reality, every kind of metal is "stock" to me.

    I built this trike out of .050" wall thickness exhaust pipe, it has disc brakes, 24 speeds, and rear suspension. I did the machining of the hubs, shock mounts, and all the welding. The Ackerman is set to the contact patch of the rear wheel. There is absolutely no scrubbing of the wheels when this turns the tightest of radii. It goes like the dickens too!! :)

    Recumbent Trike.JPG
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  19. gman_93643

    gman_93643 New Member

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    When I started building R2D2 from cans, people asked me if I intended to paint him like the real thing and I told them no. There are R2 building groups that do precisely that and what I wanted to achieve was different. I wanted mine to proudly display his labels so that people would know that he wasn't built from the typical materials. Every time he went on display, people would walk up to him and ask, "is he really built out of all cans?" and they would gently tap him and when they realized he was all can, their jaws dropped. It's the same with any soda can model. People walk up to them if they see them at a display, flea market or craft bizarre and they ask the same thing and then they touch them and that is the novelty of the art. I understand the need for added realism, but this is where soda can building takes a slightly different aspect since its about the material as much as it is the model...
  20. zathros

    zathros -----SENIOR---- Administrator Moderator

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    It's craft-art. It is in it's own category, and is quite popular. I think people just act as this forum uses all mediums to achieve a desired effect. Just as we are not paper purists, we don't knock those who wish to be, or those who wish to display the Soda/Beer Source aspect of these models. I have seen some labeled Hot Rods that look really excellent. Personally, I don't really drink, unless it's Whiskey (Tennessee Sippin' Whiskey is the best, I had a 40 year old quart given to me, it took me 8 months to drink), but seeing the Budweiser done up like that demonstrated the popular culture of the day. If they ever change the can designs, those models will be very sought after. The Guinness one below looks like something the company could put out and make money on. ;)


    sandy-sanderson-beer-can-cars-5.jpg
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