How to Use Bare-Metal Foil

By Dennis Doty

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I have worked with Bare-Metal Foil since the mid-1970s. As a model car builder who could never paint the chrome trim on a model and come up with anything but a mess, Bare-Metal Foil was a true miracle product. Nothing can ruin a great looking model car faster than scrawled painted-on chrome trim. I mentioned my problem painting chrome trim to a hobby storeowner in the Detroit area and he clued me in to a product he said would solve all my problems.

He gave me the phone number of the Bare-Metal Foil and Eldred Mason. So I called Eldred and he told me about the virtues of Bare-Metal Foil, I have to admit to being skeptical. No product could do all he claimed and be that good. However, after using Bare-Metal Foil in my first "how-to" article that ran in the April 1975 issue of Car Classics magazine I found that Eldred did not exaggerate the virtues of his product. Bare-Metal Foil was as good as he stated, maybe even better!

Bare-Metal Foil was not difficult to use, and with great success on my first project, I would say practice just makes it all easier. It is very important to prepare the surface to be covered with the Foil because if there is even the tiniest imperfection, covering it with Bare-Metal Foil will only accent it. This Foil hides nothing. Before applying Bare-Metal Foil wipe the area with a cloth dipped in sudsy water. I use regular dish washing liquid, in an old plastic jar lid. This removes any oils from handling and allows the Foil to adhere better. If you have painted the model and there is any orange peel, it will show through the Foil and ruin the effect. If your paint jobs are not the best when using enamels, you should Foil the model twice, the first time before painting. Once the paint is dry, cut around the Foil you applied to the raw plastic with a sharp #11 X-acto style blade. Remove the earlier Foil, and then reapply new Foil as described. For lacquer finishes, rub the paint job out smooth before applying the Bare-Metal Foil, and before you wax the model.

Just about any model builder will already have the basic tools needed to apply Bare-Metal Foil to a model. The basic tools are, two #1 style hobby knives with the popular #11 style blades. The two knives are necessary for trimming the Foil from around the moldings. You'll need a sharp blade, either a new blade, or one freshly honed to like new (or better). The second knife can have a bit duller blade as this is used to cut the Foil from its backing. This extra cutting would quickly dull a blade used for both purposes. Even this second blade can't be too dull because a dull blade won't cut the Foil, it will just tear it. You should also have a straight edge of some kind when cutting longer strips from the backing sheet. I use a 6" metal ruler. Needle nose tweezers may not be a necessity, but they will help you lift the Foil from the backing and it makes it easier to position the Foil on the model. The kitchen will hopefully provide the other "tools" needed, round and flat toothpicks. Make sure the round toothpicks are truly round. Some brilliant companies are now selling "round" toothpicks that are square! The flat toothpick will need to be modified to allow it to get into any tight areas you may be covering.

Bare-Metal Foil cuts easily once in place. When trimming the excess Foil from around the moldings, use a light touch on the knife. A sharp blade needs little pressure beyond the weight of the knife to cut through the Foil. Too much pressure and you risk chipping the paint, or slipping and ruining the job, maybe the model, and maybe a finger or thumb that may be in the way of the slicing blade! Lifting the excess Foil after the trimming is usually no problem, just grip a loose end with the tweezers and carefully pull. Don't pull quickly because if the blade didn't cut all the way through the Foil, you will pull up the work. If some areas haven't been cut through, get the Foil in firm contact with the trim piece again, and make the cut again. In stubborn cases, it may be difficult to get the tweezers under the Foil. When this happens, use the chisel end of the flat toothpick to pull up one end of the excess Foil so the tweezers can get a grip. Once the excess Foil is removed, go over the cut with the flat toothpick to insure the Foil is in tight contact with the trim piece. Then burnish the Foil with a soft cloth, which not only gets the Foil in even better contact, but also removes any adhesive residue that may have been left behind.

It should also be mentioned that Bare-Metal Foil is one of the best products you could ever use for masking. Certainly not the cheapest, but the best! When painting two-tone model cars, Bare-Metal Foil will give you a great hard edge that is nearly impossible to get with any other masking mediums I have used. When masking side trim for a two-tone effect, cover the trim piece with Bare-Metal Foil, trim it to the top of the molding, then mask off the lower part of the body with cheap masking tape and paper (if you are painting the top of the model car first). Once this first color has dried a bit very carefully run the blade over the trim piece to insure a sharp line, with no chance that removing the Foil and masking will lift some of the paint. Once the first color has dried, apply Bare-Metal Foil to the trim again, but this time cut it on the bottom of the molding, mask the top off and paint the lower color. Repeat the above steps for removing the masking when you can. By masking the trim line as described, there should be no paint on the trim, and this will give you a better looking model as a coat or two of paint can take the crispness off a trim piece.

For model cars, I just paint the headliners to cover the Bare-Metal Foil on the underside of the roof. The Foil is so thin; it isn't noticed on a shelf model. I do make sure there is enough Foil to cover the inside of the vent windows, then just carefully paint around these. That will not do for a contest quality model. In these cases, check to see if the inside moldings are visible on the interior of the car. If they are, you will likely have to apply more Foil on the inside to duplicate these interior moldings. Here things like the headliner should be painted before you apply the Bare-Metal Foil trim around the window moldings. For a shelf model, painting over the excess Bare-Metal Foil hides it well, but for contests, you will have to do more.

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#1 The tools needed to apply Bare-Metal Foil are likely already owned by any model builder. They are: tweezers to lift the Foil from the backing and help locate the Foil on the model, two X-acto style knives with #11 blades, flat and round toothpicks, a straight edge for longer cuts from the backing sheet, container of soapy water and a cotton cloth to clean the model and dry it off before applying the Foil (a cotton handkerchief works great).
#2 The flat toothpicks will need to be modified for maximum efficiency. I use a Creations Unlimited Flex-I-File pad to do this, but regular sandpaper of a file will work. Sand or file the round tip of the flat toothpick to a chisel point. This will allow the toothpick to get the Bare-Metal Foil into all nooks and crannies you may encounter.
#3 Using the second knife, cut a piece of Bare-Metal Foil large enough to more than cover what you will be covering. Don't waste it, but you do have to have extra Foil to trim to size. The straight edge really helps in making long cuts so there is less wasted Foil.
#4 On a model car I always start with the windshield frame molding, but switched to the rear window to better show how to cover the frames with curved corners, which is where I always start. Cut small squares of Foil and using your finger, press it in place. Then roll your finger to get the Foil on the inside of the molding, pressing the excess against the inside of the roof.
#5 Using the round toothpick, burnish the Foil in complete contact with the molding, smoothing out even the tiniest wrinkle. This is most important as any wrinkles at this stage will ruin the looks of the finished model.
#6 Now, using the chisel end of the flat toothpick, work the Foil completely into the crevice to get the Foil in complete contact with the trim molding. The flat toothpick is also useful for smoothing any remaining wrinkles there may be in the Foil. Before going on to the next step, turn the model over and burnish the inside pieces of Foil in firm contact with the headliner, using the flat toothpick.
#7 Cut a straight strip of Bare-Metal Foil to connect these corners. Again, work on one edge at a time, press the Foil firmly in place with your finger, roll the Foil under and get it in firm contact with the headliner. When this is done, use the toothpicks to get the Foil in firm contact with the trim piece, just like you did with the small corner pieces (except, doing long straight pieces like this are MUCH easier to do).
#8 On this model, the bottom corners were at a 90° angle and don't need a separate corner piece before being covered. Just apply a length of Foil to cover the trim. Press it in place with your finger and cut the bottom piece as shown, along the inside of the molding. Then just roll the Foil over to the inside, as you have done previously. Burnish this piece in place, then move on to the other two edges. Overlap the bottom piece as you did the side pieces.
#9 Using the sharp knife, carefully cut all around the molding, being careful not to slip and cut the Foil you just laid down. If that happens, stop and burnish the Foil to a firm contact again and continue. That will usually be all that is necessary, but if this OOPS! is visible, you will have to remove the damaged piece and install a fresh piece of Foil.
#10 After cutting all around the molding, carefully remove the excess Foil. Then go over the cut again with the flat toothpick to make sure the Foil is in perfect contact with the molding. This step may not be necessary all the time, but it is easy and is insurance that all the Foil is firmly in place. Finish by rubbing the Foil with a cloth to remove any adhesive residue that may be on the body, and this also polishes the Foil and gets it in even better contact with the moldings
#6 Now, using the chisel end of the flat toothpick, work the Foil completely into the crevice to get the Foil in complete contact with the trim molding. The flat toothpick is also useful for smoothing any remaining wrinkles there may be in the Foil. Before going on to the next step, turn the model over and burnish the inside pieces of Foil in firm contact with the headliner, using the flat toothpick.
#7 Cut a straight strip of Bare-Metal Foil to connect these corners. Again, work on one edge at a time, press the Foil firmly in place with your finger, roll the Foil under and get it in firm contact with the headliner. When this is done, use the toothpicks to get the Foil in firm contact with the trim piece, just like you did with the small corner pieces (except, doing long straight pieces like this are MUCH easier to do).
#8 On this model, the bottom corners were at a 90° angle and don't need a separate corner piece before being covered. Just apply a length of Foil to cover the trim. Press it in place with your finger and cut the bottom piece as shown, along the inside of the molding. Then just roll the Foil over to the inside, as you have done previously. Burnish this piece in place, then move on to the other two edges. Overlap the bottom piece as you did the side pieces.
#9 Using the sharp knife, carefully cut all around the molding, being careful not to slip and cut the Foil you just laid down. If that happens, stop and burnish the Foil to a firm contact again and continue. That will usually be all that is necessary, but if this OOPS! is visible, you will have to remove the damaged piece and install a fresh piece of Foil.
#10 After cutting all around the molding, carefully remove the excess Foil. Then go over the cut again with the flat toothpick to make sure the Foil is in perfect contact with the molding. This step may not be necessary all the time, but it is easy and is insurance that all the Foil is firmly in place. Finish by rubbing the Foil with a cloth to remove any adhesive residue that may be on the body, and this also polishes the Foil and gets it in even better contact with the moldings
#11 On model cars with windshield wipers molded in place, I cover these separately before covering the lower windshield molding. Trim the inside pieces of Foil and remove it if it touches the molding. Otherwise trim the Foil from the wipers when you cut the excess Foil from the windshield frame. When the wiper arms are quite high above the cowl, don't press the entire piece of Foil in place, just press down the front of the Foil, then use the flat toothpick to gently push the loose Foil down into the crevice. Work the Foil carefully in place, but a slight tear won't matter IF it is on the body or frame molding. Finish covering the windshield frame.
#12 On this AMT 1967 Shelby GT500, there are no indications of the upright windshield moldings. These will have to be carefully cut freehand, using the most steady hand you can muster. Refer to photos of real cars in cases like this, to make sure you are getting an accurate representation of the trim piece.
#13 In models that have them, vent windows are a challenge as there is usually not a lot of surface for the Bare-Metal Foil to adhere to. Cut a piece of Foil high enough for the back post and wide enough to cover all four edges. Press the Foil in place on the outside edge and burnish in place. Cut the Foil like you did for the 90° corners, top and bottom on the back of the post, folding this piece of Foil on the side of the post, burnish in place and then fold the Foil over to the inside of the post and again burnish in place.
#14 Any Foil that sticks out beyond the leading edge of the post should be carefully trimmed away. Now cut the bottom and the top of the rest of the Foil and fold it over the front facing surface of the post. The excess Foil at the top and bottom should be trimmed a bit.
#15 Now it is just a matter of covering the front and bottom edges of the vent windows. This is pretty much as you have done for the rest of the moldings so far. Get the Foil into all the edges of the vent, then just trim the excess Foil as you have before.
#16 For me, drip moldings that are chromed are next. Because of the thickness of the plastic for many of these moldings, covering the curved corner requires a bit different technique. Press the corner piece of Bare-Metal Foil on the inside edge first, then work the wrinkles out with the toothpicks. Once these tight curves on the thick part of the molding is done, it is easy to connect the longer sections of the molding. Here, a piece was needed for the front molding by the vent window, a piece for the top, and a last piece for the molding at the back. If there is molding on the door tops, do this next.
#17 If the model you are Foiling has any other side trim, cover it now. This includes side trim, trim around the wheel wells, rocker panels, hood and front and/or rear fender trim, and any other trim pieces along these lines as some of the hardest pieces to Bare-Metal Foil are coming up!
#18 Door handles and keyholes are among some of the most difficult moldings to cover. Two pieces of Foil may be necessary for a door handle. If that is the case, apply the bottom piece first, work it in place fully, then remove the excess Foil before covering the top of the handle. One piece can usually be made to work, press it in place on the top of the handle and carefully fold it under the handle, pushing it in place with the flat toothpick. When it is pretty much over the handle, press it firmly in place with your finger.
#19 Carefully work the wrinkles out until the handle is a one-piece plated unit. It is amazing how well Bare-Metal Foil covers most door handles in just one piece. Trim the Foil around the handle, then carefully run the sharp blade around the key hole, pressing on the Foil frequently as you are cutting. There is not much surface for the Foil to grip on a keyhole.
#20 Once you have cut around the keyhole, again press the Foil in firm contact. Using a flat toothpick, carefully push the Foil away from around the keyhole. You may have to do the keyhole several times to get one covered. Be persistent, it usually works out! If you have to cover the keyhole again, place the new piece of Foil so it is close to an edge of keyhole. This will make it easier to push away and allow the excess to be removed.
#21 In most cases, this will be the hardest trim to cover. Not always as some scripts will be even more challenging!
22 Emblems and scripts are next. On big separate letters, like the G-T-O on this Monogram (1969) kit, cover them with one piece of Foil, then trim the Foil away from the letters, one letter at a time. I trim things like the middle of the "O" and the "G" first as if these don't come out right, just lift the Foil (a piece of masking will usually easily do the job) and start again. Smaller letters are much harder to cover, as, again, there is not much surface for the Foil to get a grip on.
#23 Scripts like this, cover the molding, then trim the Foil around the outside edges. Carefully paint in all the areas of the script that should be body color (using the same paint used on the body, here I sprayed out some of the black on a card and brushed it on). Let the paint dry, wrap a piece of paper towel around a flat toothpick and apply a drop of thinner to the tip. Then go over the script, being VERY CAREFUL to not touch the body with the paper towel as the thinner will harm the painted surface. Rub the paint carefully off the raised areas of the Bare-Metal Foil. This will leave the body color paint in the low areas, giving you a very realistic script, without a great deal of effort.
#24 Interior parts need to be covered in Bare-Metal Foil too, especially door handles, window cranks, trim, and the like. Dash boards also need this dressing up, especially on models of 1950s cars, like this dash for a 1957 Chevy. If the instrument is in a deep bezel, you may need to cover the instrument face first, then cover the bezel. I finish the gauges with a bit of black wash from The Detailer
#25 This mild custom Lindberg 1961 Chevy hardtop had the chrome side trim masked off with Bare-Metal Foil before painting, leaving the white plastic to give the finished model a two-tone effect with very little effort.
#26 While trim moldings around the trunk area may look difficult to cover, they are really quite easy. There are few pieces of trim that can't be covered if the desire and patience is there. Quite a bit of Bare-Metal Foil was used on this interior, including the center of the steering wheel.
#27 Even a mild custom like this benefits from Bare-Metal Foil as while the door handles were removed, the chrome trim distinguished the car, and the model, and Bare-Metal Foil is the finishing touch to exacting realism in a scale model.