Introduction To Using Bare-Metal Foil

By Dennis Doty

By Dennis Doty

I have been building models since the mid-1950s. In all that time, I did my best to avoid having to scribe panel lines. This wasn't the only reason I built so many custom cars (I do love building a custom), and in the 1960s, it wasn't uncommon for a custom builder to just putty the door and/or trunk lines and make a smoothie. The reason I feared scribing in new lines was that there were no specific tools available for doing this - at least as far as I knew. This is easy to understand when you consider the best "tool" I found for scribing was the tip of a broken X-acto blade (#11, naturally). If you have ever tried this, you know it is less than ideal for scribing lines. Straight lines aren't too difficult, but try a corner! Those who did scribe panel lines this way usually stocked up on extra tubes of body putty! Those who scribed lines a lot likely developed a technique that either worked for them, or found (or made) a better tool.

That has changed today, as has just about everything about the hobby (except for the true enjoyment it still gives a builder), and so has scribing panel lines. The Bare-Metal® Scriber is a tool model-builders would have almost KILLED for back in the 1960s. This simple looking tool is so easy to use. I can't imagine anyone having trouble mastering it in just a few minutes. Like any tool, you do have to treat it with respect. Used with care and finesse, though, it creates panel lines so quickly and easily, it becomes as indispensable a tool as the #11 X-acto blade in a #1 handle. And it truly is not a difficult tool to master, just work slowly and with care and you should have no trouble right away.

When using the Bare-Metal® Scriber it is important to keep the tool perpendicular to the panel you are scribing. If you are off, it will gouge the sides of the body and make the gap look excessively wide. This is why you must work slowly and be aware of how you are holding the tool. This is especially important when using the Bare-Metal® Scriber to open doors or trunk. If you are not working the Scriber perpendicular to the surface, you easily could have a wider gap between the opening part and the body. If this happens, there is no need to discard the body and buy another kit (although you won't find a manufacturer who would say that is ever a bad idea!) you just fill the gap with sheet plastic. This was often necessary when using older methods of cutting out doors and trunks. If the gap is too wide, glue .010" thick plastic strips to the sides of the doors or trunk lid. Let this dry fully. These strips must be a little higher than the part, then once the glue has fully dried, cut and/or file the plastic down to the thickness of the opening part. If curves are involved, this will be a very tricky step, but necessary if the gap is excessive. Once the filler piece is sized to the part, test this part in the opening on the body. The plastic filler will likely be too thick, making it necessary to file or sand the plastic down to get a good fit in the opening for the piece. Do remember to make the gap wide enough.

Paint adds thickness too. If the gap between door/trunk and the body isn't wide enough, once the model is painted, the part may not fit in the opening. Even if it does, there may not be enough clearance and opening the part will cause the paint to chip! The width of the gap between door/trunk and the body is critical, and should be considered before even primer is applied to the model.

Worked correctly, the gap created by the Bare-Metal® Scriber is just about perfect once the paint is on the model. When using the Bare-Metal® Scriber to aid conversions from a 2-door model to a 4-door model (or vice-versa) when you intend to cut the doors out, scribe the new door line to the depth of the original door line, then continue on to the other sides, as you did for the trunk. Like the trunk, it is best to break through all lines at about the same time.

While the steps used here refer to a model car, the same principal applies to all types of models and should be adaptable without a great deal of trouble. Just remember to think a project through before you start. This way if a problem comes up, it is usually fairly easily tackled. Each application can be different, but that is what makes modeling not only fun, but challenging at the same time.


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#1 When mold parting lines cross door lines (or the openings for the trunk or the hood, when they are molded to the body), even when you have sanded the mold line down, small traces may remain in the door lines. To remove these, I use the tip of the Bare-Metal® Scriber to gouge this line away and duplicate the original shape of the valley. Naturally not necessary if you intend to scribe these lines deeper, or to actually cut out the opening piece.
#2 The Bare-Metal® Scriber can be used very effectively to cut out doors and trunk lids (etc.), and more quickly than you would imagine when just thinking about it. Start with a light pressure on the Scriber until you are below the original molded in line. Do a pass equally on all lines so you don't break through the plastic too early. You want the depth of the scribe to be equal on all sides of the opening.
#3 As you can see, the scribe is getting close to breaking through. Also note that all scribes don't appear to be of equal depth. Before proceeding with breaking through the plastic, try to even up the depth of the scribes as best you can.
#4 Corners will almost always require a bit more scribing after the regular panel lines have broken through. Turn the model over and finish cutting these corners. You might want to tape the piece being cut out to the body to hold it in place while you do the corners.
#5 Some light sanding will be necessary to smooth the edges of the opening part and the edges of the body. Do as little sanding as is necessary to make sure the gap between the opening part and the body is not excessive. If the gap is excessive, you will have to do some additional work as described in the text.
#6 Just add the hinges and then the fun begins as you make up the trunk for the model. Good research material for this is a must, unless you are making a custom. Also remember, making door jambs that look correct is even more fun! The Bare-Metal®Scriber should also be able to cut the panel out of the interior once you have opened the doors, but don't cut the interior door out until you have made the door jambs and know where these fit against the interior.
#7 For the car modeler, converting a 2-door model into a 4-door version requires some research, Original catalogs are a great help, but finding an actual car and taking lots of detail photos is ever better. Also make some sketches of the details, and then take as many measurements for these sketches as the owner of the car allows. You may not get this opportunity again - unless the model you are replicating resides in your own garage. Remember, do not take any measurements unless you get permission from the owner (a cloth measuring tape is best, too, as you are not likely to scratch anything).
#8 Start the conversion to a 4-door by making any modifications necessary to the top. In most cases the side openings for a 4-door are much different than that of a 2-door. In many cases you will have to fabricate an entirely new top, either from scratch, or modified from another model car. This should be done before you start scribing in the new door lines.
#9 Before scribing the new door lines, remove the old door handles. Some builders can cut things like this off a model and reuse them. I am not one of those modelers. The solution is to either buy replacement door handles, or cast your own in resin. Bare-Metal® Foil Co. offers casting kits, and casting this type of part should be very easy. Just be sure you make up several extra sets, and do this before you cut the door handles off!
#10 Tape a piece of cardstock to the door and mark the forward edge of the cardstock on the door using a pencil.
Make a vertical mark on the cardstock and the door to make sure this template can be lined up exactly. Using the reference you have, draw the shape of the door line on the cardstock.
#11 Remove the template and cut out the door line, then tape this back in exact position. Using the template as a guide, VERY CAREFULLY, and with quite light pressure on the Scriber, start scribing a new door line. Until you have a good trench going, keep the template in place. Once you have a good depth, you can remove the template and finish cutting the door line to the depth you prefer. Flop the template and use it for cutting the door line on the other door, measuring carefully to make sure the doors are in the same position on each side of the model.
#12 On this model I extended the bottom of the door line first as it had its own guide line in the rocker panel molding.
#13 The technique for making the template for the back door of this model is different than for the front door. For this door it is easiest if you cut the door shape out first. Keep checking to make sure you have it accurate, then tape this template to the body, and again mark the forward edge in case you have to remove the template - you want to be able to get it in exact position again if necessary.
#14 I scribe the easy cuts first. Then cutout in the roof and the straight cut; then tape the back of the template to the body to better hold it in place. The curved cuts (and corners) are a bit more tricky, but not really all that much more difficult. Just use a very light touch for the first passes until you have a good trench going. Start at one end of the door line and work to connecting with the other. This motion need not be in one stroke - whatever is comfortable for you, one long stroke, or several connected short ones. Just keep working the line until you have the depth of the cut equal to the other lines.
#15 Once the door lines are pretty much at the correct depth, draw the scriber, using light pressure, back and forth along the line, in a "sanding" motion. This will smooth out the scribe a great deal and give the model a more finished look.
#16 Now you can putty the old back door line (and any imperfections where the Scriber slipped), smooth the putty and paint the model - AFTER you have duplicated these scribes for the other side of the model. It really is easier than you might imagine at the start of the project. The black wash was applied to just show the door lines better. I also scribed the front part of the door lines a bit deeper as this helps the original lines match the new lines you have scribed
#17 Many early plastic kits had door and/or panel lines that were raised rather than recessed. It was much easier for a manufacturer to tool this type of line, but it sure didn't look authentic. To scribe these lines in, first make a pattern. Tape a piece of paper over the panel, making it large enough so you can include things like wheel openings in the pattern, for lining up the template later. Using a pencil, rub over the raised panel lines to create a good outline on the paper pattern. Do this for all the opening lines on the model.
#18 Remove the pattern and cut the opening out of it, along with things like the wheel openings to line the template up on the body. Once you have the paper pattern cut to the exact shape, transfer the shape to cardstock. Make sure it all lines up correctly. Now, sand the raised line smooth and tape the pattern in position on the body. Now you just carefully scribe in the correct line as described before. This will sure look a lot better than the old raised lines for the opening parts!