Aircraft in Flight: Mounting Models on Stands

I enjoy seeing aircraft in flight. After all, that's where they belong. On the ground most aircraft look cumbersome. So I guess it was only natural that I would gravitate towards the practice of mounting models on stands. In fact I intend to mount the majority of my 1/72 scale models in flight.

My first efforts concentrated on conventional circular poles for mounting. After encountering and solving problems with this approach (namely the model spinning on the pole) I thought about how I could come up with an attractive, solid and yet rapid method of mounting my models.

What follows is a step-by-step guide to the technique I have (following much experimentation) arrived at. As you will see, I use commonly available modeling materials. Where appropriate I have clearly shown the products I use to allow readers to easily duplicate my results.

As you will see the effort involved in mounting a model on a stand using my technique is much less than you may originally think.

The basic technique involves inserting a square (or rectangular, as long as its not round) tube into the model. This tube will act as the receptacle inside the body of the model for the stand (made from metal, normally brass or aluminum). Depending on the size of the model to be mounted, different size stands and therefore receptacle tubes are required. Further down in this article you will find the actual sizes and brands I have found work best for different scales.

The benefits of this technique compared to others I have seen or tried are:
  • The inclusion of the stand can be left until the main construction of the model has been completed.
  • Visible evidence of a stand being used on the model is kept to a minimum (in most cases a simple square hole).
  • Strength. Using metal pole and having a mounting point in the model that is the full depth of the fuselage result in great strength.

The Method
To illustrate this procedure, I have included several step-by-step photos.

In sequence the steps involved are:
1. Locate a suitable position on the fuselage for the locating hole (ie away from any weapons, drop tanks or pylons)
2. Drill a hole at this position and using a sharp knife, shape the hole into a square of the correct size to snugly accommodate the plastic tube
3. Insert the plastic tube into the fuselage (with a little protruding), adjust the angle of the tube until the model is in the desired position. Secure the tube to the fuselage with plastic glue.
4. When dry, trim the excess tube and sand flush.

Figure 1 Having decided to mount this model in straight and level flight, the mounting point for the stand is pretty much on the centerline of the fuselage. A hole which is slightly smaller than the final hole for the plastic tube is drilled.
Figure 2 Here you can see the drilled hole has been enlarged and shaped to accommodate the plastic tube. In a nutshell, the tube fits into the model and the stand fits into the tube !!
Figure 3 Close in shot on the tube in the fuselage. Notice how a small amount of excess tube protrudes from the model. This will allow us to firmly glue the tube to the model. Once the glue dries cut off the excess and tidy with sanding and filler as necessary.
Figure 4 This is Hasegawa's beautiful F/A-18F Super Hornet kit in 1/72. Initially I wanted to display the model in level flight and attached the stand in that way. However I later changed my mind and all I had to do was put a slight bend in the brass rod to achieve a gentle bank on the model.
The Materials
As much as possible I like to use off the shelf materials. Doing so means I can readily find what I need and keeps the price down :)
However sometimes when off-the-shelf components are not available, we need to use our creativity (one of the things I love about modeling).

This table shows compatible sizes of both plastic tube and brass rod. Which size combination you use depends on the physical size of the model you are mounting.
Evergreen Square Tube Brass Square Rod or Tube Works well for ...
1/8" (3.2 x 3.2mm) Part 252 1/16" Square Brass Very small 1/72 aircraft (eg X-29)
3/16" (4.8 x 4.8mm) Part 253 1/8" Square Brass Large 1/72 or small 1/48 aircraft (eg 1/48 A-4)
No square tube stock available.
Refer below for details on scratchbuilding.
3/32" Square Brass Medium 1/72 aircraft (eg F-8 or F/A-18)

Figure 5 Probably the smallest rod you would want to use for mounting plastics aircraft models. The 1/16 rod is quite thin.
Figure 6 An excellent choice for small 1/48 aircraft. The A-4E at the top of this article has this size stand.
Figure 7 I have found that 3/32" tube is best for the bulk of my 1/72 modern fighter collection. Unfortunately, Evergreen do not manufacture a stock tube that fits this size rod. So, it was necessary to make my own tube from channel stock instead. Note also that you can use either solid or tube brass for the stand. Each has about the same strength !!
Figure 8 To manufacture a tube to fit the 3/32" rod, lay two section of channel over the brass rod as shown above. Apply generous quantities of styrene liquid glue to the plastic whilst the brass is in place (the glue will not affect the brass and it can be extracted once the glue has dried).
Figure 9 Another view of the two sections of plastic channel ready for gluing.
Figure 10 One the glue has dried, extract the brass rod and trim the excess plastic from the edges of the channel sections.. The result is a perfect tube for accommodating the 3/32" rod.
Figure 11 This shot of my X-29 shows that with some creative placement of the mounting point and choice of angles here is almost no limit to what can be achieved !