This article is a culmination of ongoing work that has been carried out on a
modelling project as well as numerous discussions on the same subject at the
Tyneside IPMS UK model club. In this work we shall describe one technique that
has been developed to replicate scale welding based upon real-life methods of
welding processes. We shall describe the tools and materials used for such work
and then illustrate in practice both some simple and complex examples of scale
welding. The article will be finished with a brief description of other methods,
both scratch building and aftermarket products that can also be used to
replicate such effects.
Basic Welding Techniques
Virtually all types of welded joint are classified into two major types:
A Fillet weld is roughly triangular in cross section between two sections
that are not in the same plane.
A Butt weld is a weld between two sections in the same plane.
Other weld types often referred to are lap welds, corner welds, edge welds
etc but basically these are just variations of the two weld types above. Note
that in our work here we are not concerned with the physical process of welding
but only the visual product that remains once the welding process has been
In all cases of replicating weld seams some thought must be made prior to actual
application as to what kind of effect we are trying to achieve. This must take
into account the materials to be welded, the circumstances under which work
would have taken place and the skill level of the welder. Whilst the latter
three points may seem a bit excessive to be concerned with, if you are trying to
make your scale welds as accurate as possible they should be considered. With
respect to materials and armoured vehicles we are usually looking at either the
welding of armour plates or on-vehicle accessories. The welding of armor plates
is usually done under factory conditions with skilled personnel. This should
mean that welded joints are very uniform and neat; i.e. the welding of armour on
German tanks especially in the early years of World War 2. This can be
contrasted with the skill level of Russian welders of the same period whose main
tasks were not necessarily to do things perfectly but instead to complete them
fast. If you look at welds on Russian vehicles of this period we can see on
average that the weld quality on AFV’s was of a very mixed quality. As the
project work to be carried out here is on such a Russian vehicle of this time
period we will attempt to show weld effects of both good and poor quality.
Some examples of weld joints that can be easily replicated and are relevant to
all types of vehicles of all time frames can be illustrated below.
The Tools to Be Used
So how can we replicate such effects? We need a set of tools. In our case our
welding torch will be a set of hand made brass formers, our weld beads will be
milliput and our section to be joined will be the plastic, brass sections etc of
In order to make a tool that can simulate the look of a weld bead we have to
identify exactly what such beads look like. If we look at the diagram to the
right we can see how a weld is formed. It should have the look of a number of
evenly spaced ridges that have a half moon shape and that run a distance with
A finished and very neat weld seam can be seen in the photo to the right. This
is the purest form of welding we would like to achieve but as we will see this
type of effect is far from what is often seen on fighting vehicles. The kind of
results we will replicate will be ‘rough and ready’ but in keeping with the
vehicles of the time.
The tools to be used to create such effect should therefore be capable of
creating a half moon shape when applied to our welding material. To create such
tools we need to use a number of brass tubular sections, in our case K&S brass
tube was used in a number of small diameters. It is best to make a number of
such tools from as many varied diameters of tubing that can be obtained in order
to make welds of different widths.
Making the Tool
To create the tool we need to perform the following steps.
With the final resulting tools being developed as below.
For the weld seam itself I always use superfine white milliput. I have tried
other materials, most recently Revell Plasto putty, but in most cases I have
found the cohesive consistency of such materials in small quantities to be very
poor. When using Milliput you can roll this material to very thin diameters
provided you keep the material wet. I mix my Milliput and roll it on a wooden
table top in a pool of water and with a bit of care and attention can roll out
>1mm diameter lengths of putty. I have found once you have created a desired
putty diameter you have a relatively short working time as in such small
quantities the Milliput tends to dry out quite quickly.
Once you have your Milliput welds lengths it is a simple matter to ‘drape’ them
around/on the unit to be welded. Make sure when you do this you keep you
applicator (fingers?) wet as in such small quantities the Milliput has a
fantastic ability to stick to anything other than what you want it too!
For the sections to be welded a certain amount of preparation is also necessary.
When making a fillet weld there should really be no modifications made to the
sections as the putty can be applied directly at the desired location. If a butt
weld is to be made it is best to score the surface as per the weld example
pictures so that the weld can be built up properly and does not stand too proud
of the sectional surfaces when finished. A good tool for creating such scribed
lines is a panel scriber of the type seen here. This tool has a reverse cut
blade that creates cut lines that leaves no burs in a plastic surface. I
understand that aircraft modellers also use this type of tool frequently for
re-scribing panel lines on aircraft. By creating a groove into which the putty
can be set you are guaranteed to keep the putty in place while making your weld
Basic Welding Simulation
Now that we know how to make our weld seams let us put the practice into theory.
In this section we shall make some simple welds.
Example 1: 90° fillet weld (convex)
Example 2: 90° fillet weld (concave)
In our next example we shall perform the same process as described above but
this time we shall replicate a concave weld. The same process for creating a
roll of milliput and priming the sectional surfaces with water is as previously.
In this case though instead of blending the edges of the milliput into the
adjoining areas, we force the milliput into the corner surfaces as smoothly as
possible. This we have done here by the use of the end of a paintbrush. Once we
have the milliput in the shape we desire we must once again wet the surface and
leave to allow a skin to form.
To create the weld seam in this case we must use the CURVED back edge of the
weld tool. This is used in exactly the same manner as in the previous weld but
in this case we will leave our ridges in a concave shape. This is illustrated in
Pic 7 before the final blend of the edges into the surrounding sections has been
carried out. The image does not show too clearly the concave nature of the final
shape of the weld but rest assured this is the exact shape you get. This can be
compared to similar welds on vehicles and once painted and washed/weathered will
blend in very well with the surrounding detail.
Example 3: 90° butt weld
Complex Welding Simulation
In this section we will look at some examples of more complex welding effects.
We shall only cover two examples here but the range of effects to be achieved is
only dependant upon what the effect is that you are trying to replicate.
Example 1: 90° multiple fillet weld
A multiple fillet weld is a join that has overlapping weld seams that are
designed to give a greater strength between the join of sectional surfaces. The
effect that we are trying to replicate here can be seen in our examples as
described in the section on Basic Welding Techniques. In our case though we will
cheat slightly as we do not need to create an entire series of overlapping
Example 2: multiple butt welds
In this example we shall go one step further and attempt to create a more
complex example of welding. In this case we will create a triple butt weld where
one weld section has a very different consistency from the others; essentially
we will try to create a splatter kind of weld effect.
In the same manner as before we have a butt weld template to which we have
already applied a single weld bead (convex), using the methods as described
previously, see Pic 15. In this example you can see a small run of milliput to
the left of this seam. This is a small roll of milliput I added as a base filler
as I had made the butt weld sections a bit too far apart!
In Pic 16 we have added the second weld seam. These have layered nicely together
but as before no final blending is done until the final weld is added as we do
not want to apply too much water which could have the effect of dissolving too
much milliput and thus ruining the fine detail on the weld ridges.
The next stage is to create a weld seam that has a much rougher surface
consistency. In order to make this I have used a product called CAST’a’COAT ®
that is available from the Small Shop in the UK. This is a product that consists
of sets of granular materials in two grades. The idea behind this product it to
replicate the rough surface effects on a variety of materials and surfaces.
In order to create a ‘splatter’ type weld I decided to mix in some of the coarse
grained CAST’a’COAT into a roll of milliput before application to the weld area.
This can be seen in Pic 17.
Once this was mixed in, and by this I mean the CAST’a’COAT was rolled into the
surface, rolled back into a ball, rolled out again and into more CAST’a’COAT
until I had a nice consistency of material throughout the volume of the milliput
and not just stuck to the surface.
The weld was then applied to the sectional surfaces but this time was detailed
with a toothpick as I did not want to create a ridged effect here. The toothpick
was gently pressed into the weld surface and a certain amount of material was
picked out to the sides in order to simulate a very messy process indeed. The
end result prior to water blending can be seen Pic 18. The final result looks
very rough but even at this stage the splatter weld has a very rough feel to it
surface that with correct painting/washing etc will dramatically bring out the
A good example of the effect I was trying to achieve here can be seen below
(again from an SU100). We can see very clearly the triple weld with different
consistency effects. In hindsight I should have created the example above
actually in the gully of the template I used for this example as it would have
shown to much better effect the weld join across the entire flat surface.
Example image courtesy of TankMaster (www.tankmaster.com).
Other Methods for Scale Welding
This article has covered one method for accurately replicating weld seams on
scale military vehicles. Of course this is not the only means to do this and
other methods exist in common practice that includes both aftermarket products
and other scratch-building processes.
Perhaps the most common alternative method for replicating weld seams is to
use the stretched sprue/styrene approach. In this method a circular section of
styrene or plastic is heated or bent to fit the shape of where a weld seam is to
be made. An application of liquid styrene glue is applied to the parts to be
welded with an amount of his glue being applied directly all over the surface of
the weld bead. Once this glue has significantly melted/softened the weld this
part can be detailed by using knife blades, toothpicks etc.
While this method does work I have found that it is very difficult indeed to get
an accurate pattern to form on the weld as the material never resolves to the
correct surface plasticity as is required to work with. You either find that the
weld is still too rigid to surface detail or in fact becomes too soft and will
hold no detail. I have tried this method using the weld tools I have created but
could not correctly replicate the ridged effect of a weld.
The use of what is really a low-temperature soldering iron is
another method for creating weld seams. In this case the pyrogravure is actually
applied to the surface of the kit (which may also be previously applied
stretched sprue) and is used to ‘melt’ tiny areas to get the desired effect.
I have never tried this method but have seen some very nice but also very bad
results from using this tool. What you have to remember is that in modifying the
actual surface of the kit you are changing the surface volumes into shapes that
are not meant to exist – i.e. the melted material is not removed but is pushed
to one side. This can result in raised areas that do not replicate real volumes
being modelled. Also as the tip of a pyrogravure tends to be round (I am sure a
tip the shape of a tool described here could be fabricated) when welding you
will not achieve a ridged effect in your work.
In summary as I have said I have seen some very good results produced when using
both of the methods I have described above. However in my never ending search
for accuracy in my work and in the interests of realism I have not found these
methods generate the effects that I desire.
Two products that exist as aftermarket products are from ABER and Archer
Transfers. From ABER you get a very fine fret that has a number of weld seams
that can be used for various effects. I have seen these and do not really care
for them as the patterning on them is too regular and repeated and the runs tend
to be of too constant a width.
With respect to the Archer Transfers (at the time of writing I am not sure if
these products are still actually available) these are designed to work by
creating a slightly raised surface once applied so that when painting &
weathering they can be made to stand out. Again I have seen but never used this
product but as above I have found the runs to be too regular in shape. Also
their very nature as transfers does not give them enough of a raised 3D shape
that is often required when replicating such effects.
A product which we have discussed at the Tyneside IPMS model club that would be
of use would be weld seams that are similar to ATAK/Cavalier zimmerit sheets.
Very thin sheets of resin could be created with a wide variety of weld effects
to replicate much of what we have covered here. It would be nice to see a
manufacturer introduce such a product.
Hopefully I have shown here an effective, highly accurate and cheap method for
replicating all types of scale weld process seen on military vehicles. The
method is simple and relies only on common tools that are available to all
modellers and in fact is quite a quick process to replicate one you have carried
it out a few times.