Wind in the Wires

The problem with our hobby is that the internet has turned it into a twisted shadow of what it should be. I’m not saying that building plastic model kits is the most wholesome activity in creation. That appelation is probably reserved for restoring Matchbox cars. But it’s a pretty good, clean activity that involves a remarkably low number of encounters with law enforcement.

Unfortunately, interent forums (beginning with Usenet newsgroups) became prime real estate for assholes who like to turn everything into a macho competition. Perfectionism feeds on insecurity, and vice-versa, and if you hang out on a forum long enough you grow blue hair on your forearms and pointy ears.

It’s true.

The more you try to match the one-in-a-million masterpieces displayed in a forum–accompanied by the most glib denials of personal feeling ever foisted off on a gullible teens and others–the more you fall into the rabbit hole of tail chasing badness.

The less fun the “hobby” becomes the more time, money, personal happiness, fruitful relationships and small pets are sacrificed on the altar of “realism” as we attempt to prove to our parents and older siblings that what we are doing behind our locked bedroom door IS NOT a waste of time!

The model building, I’m talking about.

The funny thing, though, is that even the most dedicated ball-buster of a super-detailer is going to step gingerly around the issue of…


When the subject comes up, the usual nasty snark melts away as the assembled company grows red with shame and mumbles something about hearing their mom calling them home for supper.

Rigging, you see, is still a dark art and it baffles people who claim to wear the holy mantle of Merlin and to be “master modellers” with two l’s.

Those who practice this art do not share its secrets openly, under pain of pain.


  1. Simplify. Cheat. Make the pattern LOOK like the original but cut corners to make the job easier and more fun. This is something that would, without fail, bring out the fangs in our favorite forum trolls/regulars but they won’t be able to fang you because the dumb bastards will not know what you did. The Brotherhood of the Jedi Knights, erm, I mean the Brotherhood of Biplane Riggers, keep their mouths shut.
  2. Collect reference materials so that you can have something to simplify. Nowadays, Wingnut Wings has provided all of us with wonderful references that are free to download from their site. So get on it. Things have never been so good.
  3. Use EZ Line. EZ Line is a lead-pipe cinch. That means that if your saddle won’t stay upright on your horse, you get a piece of lead gas pipe and use that for leverage to tighten the cinch (the strap under the saddle that holds the saddle on the horse). There, ya bastard. SLIP NOW!
  4. Get some mini-teensy drill bits and something called a “pin vise” to use as a drill. You don’t need power tools to drill tiny holes in plastic. Just tiny drills and a twisting motion. Do not use the “double ended” pin vise. Get the one with a single “vise” end. Dont’ ask me how I know this.
  5. Okay, I bought the “double ended” pin vise like a sucker and there is no way to use it without modification. You have to put the “butt” of the tool in your palm but if that is the other vise, you’re screwed. Literally.
  6. Plan your work. Work your plan.
  7. Begin the “rigging plan” at the very moment you begin building the kit. You do not build the model, THEN rig it. Rigging is an integral part of the building process. It has to be, because some of the rigging is not going to be possible after assembly.
  8. Paint as you go. Use brushes only. Much easier.
  9. Expect to have to put in your ten thousand hours. Much practice is required to be able to rig. Many mistakes will happen. There is no try. Do. Or do not.
  10. Cultivate an attitude of high mystery. If asked questions, do not attempt to explain how you did it. Just nod, smile, and say something like “It is obvious to one who already knows the answer.” Do that.

Well, that about covers it. The important thing about rigging, as I’ve discovered (the hard way) is that it IS DAMNED HARD TO DO. Especially in 1/72 scale. It is only possible if you are having fun.

It’s impossible to anything well that you do not enjoy.

10 Replies to “Wind in the Wires”

  1. Good advice. I’m still on my first rigged biplane. Its in a box somewhere; I guess. Dunno. But its still in the works. 🙂
    Just have to figure it out. Have a load of biplanes..
    Well around my place theres another trick I’m pulling off – build French! Most peoples around here know very little french and those that do don’t build models. Trick is to build you need to get some info. He, he ze French only write on their builds in French at least many of them. So trawling the muddy waters of French model building websites isn’t an option of your average Danish modelbuilder.
    Only met one other French builder – very nice fellow btw.
    All about keeping the Hyenas off your back.

  2. So build only French Biplanes you say?

    Ah, thanks Dan. I will try and hunt down some of that EZ line. I tried, momentarily, using stretched sprue…the gladiator is still in its box, ready for more work. That was 10 years ago, so I hope it is anyway…Yep, I have weakened from time to time, especially with some of these new airfix biplanes that are out now, and they sit there in the boxes. I just don’t find the ‘idea’ of the rigging fun. That being said, I will try it with the EZ line (when I can find some) and see if that makes things easier.

    1. What makes EZ Line great is that you don’t have to worry too much about getting the “tension” right. Just stretch and glue. But it’s still not really that easy. You have to drill some holes and do some planning. I tried to avoid hole-drilling on my Airfix Gladiator and almost ended up back in the locked ward.

      Don’t make my mistakes. Drill, baby, drill.

  3. Only one problem about EZ-line – it doesn’t like sunlight. Makes it sag and lose elasticity. Looks bad. I’ve stopped using it because of this. Could move my models away from the winter garden but it have the abundance of light year round so.. remove the EZ-line. Pity.

    1. Hey folks.
      I haven’t rigged any bipes since using mom’s black thread.
      I do have a Lindberg p6e that came with actual wire, I’ll try that when I get to it.
      Wal Mart crafts section has all kinds of fine wire thread etc.
      A quick internet search will find all kinds of doctrine, intricate little hardware, and various thread type stuff.
      I have an Eduardo BE.2. I bought it because of an Ernest K. Gann quote, a German Ace describing early allied aircraft as “something that Leornado da Vinci would have invented”. He wasn’t far off.
      Anyhow have fun.

  4. My models rarely see direct sunlight, so I am not too fazed.

    Except maybe when I take them outside to play…and make those noises, you know the ones…

  5. Flat Nichrome wire is available in many widths and thicknesses, it makes good rigid flat wires that were used on many Pipes and monoplanes, in the 30’s and later. It doesn’t have an aerodynamic profile, but it’s much closer than round wire for looking real. It’s easy to find on internet sources like evil bay and amuzon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.