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Photo-Etching and Soldering Your Own Brass Model Parts

If you’re a fan of highly-detailed scale modeling, you may already be aware of the YouTube channel PLASMO (Plastic Models), a consistently mind-blowing video tutorial series hosted by Czech modeling wizard David Damek.

David builds planes, tanks, cars, gaming miniatures, dioramas, you name it. His model building, painting, and finishing prowess is impressive, but where your jaw ends up on the floor is when he takes a kit to an entirely different level by super-detailing interiors, creating vehicle engines, cockpits, and removable access panels (complete with detailed insides). And to accomplish this, David frequently uses little more than bits of wire, scrap plastic, and cardboard. He makes it look almost easy, but anyone who has attempted this kind of modeling knows they are watching an absolute master at work.

For hardcore scale modelers who do super-detailing, there is an active marketplace of “aftermarket” parts. You can buy a model, say of a jet fighter, and then buy additional engine, cockpit, landing gear, etc. kits to incorporated into your build. Most of these kits are flat, brass-etched parts that you have to cut out, assemble, and either glue or solder. Until I saw the above video, I didn’t realize just how easy etching your own brass parts can be. This opens up all sorts of possibilities to me as someone who builds and paints gaming miniatures and terrain and likes to add all sorts of narrative details.

The etching process, similar to etching circuit boards, basically involves preparing the brass sheet, spraying it with a photosensitive material, exposing the image onto the brass sheet using a UV light, developing the image, and then etching away what’s not your desired parts using an etchant bath.

In the video, David shows you two different etching methods, a more traditional method, using sodium hydroxide for the development agent and ferric chloride 40% as the etchant, and one method using 1 part hydrogen chloride 31%, 1 part hydrogen peroxide 30%, and 1 part H20. The latter method is much quicker, but David says he prefers the older, slower method.

In this second video, David shows you how to solder together aftermarket or homebrewed brass parts. For smaller brass parts, you can just use CA glue, but for larger components, like the jet fighter cockpit he assembles in the video, soldering is the smarter way to go.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

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