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Build stronger landing gear and machine guns on World War I airplane models

How one modeler bolsters wobbly gear legs and easily broken or warped barrels with brass rod
Anyone who has built a World War I airplane model knows that the main landing gear can be, at best, wobbly or even downright fragile. The same can be said for machine-gun barrels intended for use with photo-etched metal details. While scale-thin, they can easily be bent or broken. Having had my fair share of accidents, here’s what I’ve come up with to make both landing gear and machine guns more durable for my WWI airplane models.
Brass rod to brace and mount landing gear

You’ll want to purchase a 1mm brass rod from a hobby shop or hardware store. Although you may be tempted to use rolled brass wire, you’ll never be able to straighten it enough for this use. Wipe down the brass rod and landing-gear parts with an alcohol swab or wipe. You want the parts to be as clean as possible. Leave the landing-gear legs attached to the parts tree.
Snip off a length of rod longer than what you will need and shape it with pliers to conform to the inside of the landing gear legs. On some models, you’ll have to make sure the rod placement accommodates the undercarriage airfoil. After you have it shaped correctly, tape the brass rod in position. Using thin-viscosity superglue, attach the ends to the landing gear and allow it to cure overnight.
Remove the tape (you may have to scrape away some that was accidentally glued). Remove any remaining tape residue with fingernail polish remover or acetone. Then, apply medium-viscosity superglue to build up the transition from the landing-gear part to the brass rod. You will probably have to use multiple layers. Let the glue cure between applications, and do not use an accelerator to speed the drying. Superglue accelerator can cause the superglue’s surface to craze, which is not what you want.

After you’ve created a smooth transition with the superglue, sand the new hybrid landing gear to the desired profile. Superglue will stand up to sanding, and if your bond is good, you shouldn’t have to worry about the brass rod coming loose.
Bend the ends of the brass rod with needle-nose pliers to duplicate the kit locator pins and trim them just a little longer than the kit locators, just next to the extended brass rod. Trim the plastic pins and then prime the parts. You may have to do some touch-up sanding.
I assemble the gear legs and airfoil with thick superglue and prop the lower wing level with equal spacers on both ends. After drying overnight, you may touch up any shiny
glue with flat clear.
Easily build a stronger machine gun

You can replace a fragile 1/48 scale or 1/32 scale machine-gun barrel with brass rod, too. I don’t get too hung up on the diameter of the rod used, but I recommend you use the smallest rod that the muzzle of the gun can fit onto.

Start by cutting off the kit gun’s barrel and then drill a hole in the remaining part to accept the brass rod. Again, always use brass rod, not wire, because the rod will be straight as an arrow. Cut the rod longer than what you will need for the barrel and either superglue or epoxy it in place.

We won’t go into the process of shaping photo-etched metal here. However, suffice it to say that once you have your cooling jacket formed, attach it to the barrel with medium-viscosity superglue.
If your brass rod is thin enough, you could cut the muzzle from the kit barrel, drill the opening, and superglue it on the end of the rod. I can’t abide a gun muzzle that doesn’t have a hole at the end. It is possible to drill the kit muzzle entirely, but there’s a good chance it will be crooked.

Instead, I cut a short length of aluminum tube with the same inside diameter as the diameter of the brass rod. Use the kit muzzle as a measurement guide and rock a razor knife against the aluminum tubing for a clean cut (I use aluminum because it’s easier to cut than brass). Clean up the ends of the new muzzle with a reaming tool and emery paper.
Trim the brass gun barrel so there’s just enough for the aluminum muzzle to collar and not show from the end. Then superglue the muzzle in place.
The muzzle might be a bit out of scale, but, to my eye, it looks just fine when the model is complete. The machine guns on a WWI airplane are its teeth, and they should look mean. I paint the gun flat black and rub it with powdered graphite for a metallic sheen. You can get the graphite by running the tip of a pencil on sandpaper.
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