Aluminum Foil Paper

Discussion in 'Tools of the Trade' started by Gil, Sep 11, 2004.

  1. Gil

    Gil Active Member

    Hello All,

    This is an offshoot of the original Metallized Paper thread started by Darwin and is still ongoing. The material discussed and shown here concerns the uses of aluminum foil paper which I've developed from 100% cotton paper and common kitchen aluminum foil. Some results are shown first to generate interest.

    The photo below shows three hemispheres of various sizes (small is 12.7 mm, large is 18.0 mm wide) and a cyclinder with an oval top (8.7 mm wide). All were prepared from aluminum foil paper (home made), dapping block & punches and Aleene's Tacky glue. The reason for making

    The hemisperical shape was developed as part of the Wright Cyclone design which requires it as the forward part of the crankcase and to help suspend disbelief. Both the Wright Cyclone and the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 require a similar structure in the front.

    The cylnder was embossed, rolled and capped. Doesn't look like any engine part except a cut off bolt end...., or maybe a WWI rotary cylinder..., there's an amazing number of applications for this technique once mastered.

    The aluminum foil holds a very crisp embossing and forms without crinkling (paper does that somewhat on the inside but it doesn't show on the surface). And remember all the while, "Did I tell you it's made from paper"?

    Best regards, Gil

    P.S. There really is paper on the other side!!!
  2. jrts

    jrts Active Member


    Thats fantastic I watch each post in awe of the work and dedication shown for this topic. The engines for my B-17 will look better than the plane the way this is going. :lol:

    Thanks for the tips and research


  3. Could this have been in the old "How far can Paper be Stretched" thread. It is the willingness to try new techniques and materials that allow stuff like this to be done.
  4. Gil

    Gil Active Member

    Rob, Mark,

    It does share some relation to the "How far can paper be stretched" thread but only in that was when I became very familiar with paper, it's different types and how to perform paper casting. Paper casting has now been improved to the point that castings now exhibit a semi-gloss finish out of the mold. That's another technique that could be applied to the R-1820 to model the front gearcase/crankcase housing but I feel that the use of aluminum foil paper opens new and interesting ways to achieve the "suspension of disbelief" that's so important to the art.

    Just making the aluminum foil paper was a journey that involved many failures before it became routine and durable. The really neat thing about these investigations is the discovery of new derivative processes along the way.

    There are many more forming processes that are planned but the aluminum foil paper process must be covered first. It's got some nice tricks and methods for getting the job done.

    Tlll Next, Gil
  5. Leif Oh

    Leif Oh Member

    Can't believe that it's really paper, and that it would feasible for us ordinary people to accomplish this as well. Looking very much forward to detailed description and technique.

    Congratulations - you really did it, and proved it too!

  6. Gil

    Gil Active Member

    Beginning a Cowl Bash, R-1820 Gear Case & Textures

    Hello Once Again,

    I've been looking at effectiveness of different adhesives and how the interface between paper and foil affect the working ability of the media. Found some neat mixtures and products too. More on that later as it's still under development.

    Thought you'd like a peek at what's been going on in the materials development lab as of late. The foreground of the photo shows swatches of different textures developed by grabbing the nearest thing in the shop that had lots of texture and transfering it to a foil swatch. Some were paper mounted some were mounted after texturing. Once you start something like this you get a little crazy running around trying to find the next texture..., the whole World's suddenly a texture map waiting to be transfered. Window screen material, sandpaper, wood grain..., you get the idea. It's actually a lot of fun to see what it will look like. A running bond of bricks is easily done using the screen material and free foil. The backs are coated with acrylic modeling paste and backed with paper. The paste hardens and supports the texture when dry, neat and easy. Just paint and you're done. One of the textures has the appearence of a brick sidewalk others of diamond studded steel.

    In the back is a large hemisphere intended as the gearcase for the R-1820-97 and on the right is the first attempt at making a cowl. Need to make it in two pieces and then form it. The one in the picture was overworked to the point of cracking..., I'm a little out of practice but this was positive enough results to insure that the next attempt will be nearer to that required.

    Best and regards, Gil
  7. I can just see some one salivating over the possibility of a bare aluminum (OK ALUMINIUM) P-51. Just think what one could possible do with ship hulls.
  8. Gil

    Gil Active Member


    The idea is to see if a little forming can eliminate the segmentation seams. So far it looks like it may work. At first it was just a dreamy wish until I decided that it was worth seeing if it would work. I was suprised as anyone that it has worked as well as it has so far. I plan to finish the cowl unfolding tonight and give a two segment cowl a try.

    Best regards, Gil
  9. Gil

    Gil Active Member

    Al-Foil-Paper: Cowl - Second Build

    Hello to All,

    It's not quite ready yet but the design dimensions are right. An amount of stretch needs to be built in to the layout to account for stretching when formed. The foil paper is also from an experimental lot which has it's on peculiar problems. Hopefully the next try will be good enough to make four more for the B-17G.

    Best regards, Gil
  10. jrts

    jrts Active Member


    Realy looking good all the hard work is paying off.
    Should look great on MY B-17 :lol: what with the extras from Tonino as well.

    By the time the kit has been recoloured and the extras not much of the original will be left :roll:

    Love the work so far :shock:


  11. Gil

    Gil Active Member


    To tell you the truth I'm probably more amazed that it actually worked..., so much of the research ends up in the dust bin so it's fairly thrilling when something happens to go half decently in the right direction.

    I've made cowls out of aluminum foil for other models and developed a few special tools to help automate the forming work. I'll post a picture of these a little later in this thread after I've got a really decent looking cowl.

    Mark, I shouldn't say this but yes you can build P-51s, F4Us, Focke-Wulf and other craft using aluminum foil (any round engine is a natural candidate as the segmented cowl is a dead give away that it's card). It's a lot easier than you would think. Only caveat being that you need to take the time to make a few special tools (no sweat in your case) and go through a fairly quick and predictable learning cycle. I'm using all the tricks I learned from that experience with this one. I've always been interested in metal forming especially with those used in aicraft and a lot of that technique is actually used here. The only secret is how far you can stretch the material before it fails. This and the fudge factors for design allow for very predictable results. In fact the layout for all four B-17G engines is on one 8.5 x 11 sheet and it appears that I got it right the first time.

    It does seem that we're replacing a lot of the B-17G design. But that's the whole reason for this forum, improving the art of card modeling. My desire is to relieve the segmentation to the point that it becomes undetectable. Problem with this is how to do this while preserving surface embossing..., the ball turret is a natural candidate for replacement also..., as is the wing tips and the horizontal stablizer tips and the vertical stabilizer tips and....,

    Best regards, Gil
  12. charliec

    charliec Active Member

    Can I make the point that "foils ain't foils" (*) - normal kitchen foil is designed to give maximum burst strength for minimum thickness at the cost of some ductility. There are soft foils like the vapour seals on cans which have low burst strength so they are easy to pierce - these foils usually will have good ductility. It may pay to find the right type of foil for your application.



    ( I knew those years in the Aluminium industry would be useful one day ....)

    * - my apologies to those who can remember the Castrol ad.
  13. Gil

    Gil Active Member


    You are absolutely right. Passing the foil through a gas flame raising the temperature to 640-670 degrees Fahrenheit anneals it to the dead soft state. The dead soft material does "work" better than fresh off the roll (has a very dull sound to it).

    While we're at it can you confirm that most aluminum wrap is nearly pure aluminum in content?

    Best regards, Gil
  14. charliec

    charliec Active Member

    Before I try to give an answer I'd better fill in some background. Pure Aluminium is very rare (and expensive), the usual contaminants are Iron and Silicon from the smelting process - typically about 0.1% Si and 0.2% Fe.

    The processing properties of Aluminium can be drastically altered by very small amounts of alloying elements - from memory typical foil alloys are about 0.4% Si and 0.5% Manganese (Mn) (20 year old memory). The Mn
    has the same effect as in steel - causes work hardening when the foil is rolled and increases the bulk strength of the alloy so it can be rolled to small thickness. What you are doing by heating the foil is to relieve the work hardening of the foil induced in the original rolling.

    Just as an aside pure Aluminium used to be a sought after material for sculpture since it's so soft it can be cut with a knife.


  15. Gil

    Gil Active Member

    B-17G Cowl Development (Aluminum Foil Paper Development)

    Back once again,

    The following photograph shows four stages in the development of a 1:33 scale B-17G engine cowl. I deciced to use slightly thicker foil (36 gauge / 0.005") this time for better forming. K&S Metals 0.005" aluminum foil was used on this build but I decided to order an additional 12 inch x 25 foot roll from Dick Blick here in the States (retail outlet for St. Louis Crafts, Inc.). Total cost including shipping was $22.16 U.S. Dollars.

    The following describes the general process:

    1.) Cut out sections. Paper templates were printed and bonded to the foil followed by cutting out each part.

    2.) Sections being glued together (Aleene's Tacky Glue). White strips are low adhesive masking tape to hold sections together.

    3.) Completed segmented cowl sections prior to forming.

    4.) Finished formed cowl.

    From these experiments I am now motivated to start building the B-17G in an all aluminum skin.

    Best regards, Gil
  16. barry

    barry Active Member


    Wonderful piece of research and engineering the final result looks superb.

  17. Leif Oh

    Leif Oh Member

    That is so utterly good - and promising! Am I right in understanding that steps 1-3 could be done "by the numbers", i.e. requiring no other special skill than being scrupulously careful and accurate?

    Step 4, however, would be where the "art", or personal level of craftmanship, would come in, i.e. requiring practice in forming, and the handling of different forming tools.

    Really looking forward to seeing something about how you accomplish the beautiful roundness in the last stage. I know you have written about this before, but this should be the place of really going to town on that subject, wouldn't it?

    Best, Leif
  18. Gil

    Gil Active Member

    Barry, Leif,

    The results are such that they can be used as Leif says, "by the numbers". This should open up an avenue for all of us to build "real World shapes".

    Give me a little time to develop the "how to" article. I have developed what I term "hand held" English Wheels to perform some of the forming chores.

    I'm glad this worked out and that you guys have enthusiastically supported the ongoing progress.

    Best regards, Gil
  19. jrts

    jrts Active Member

    Hi Gil

    The result is amazing and I can't wait to read the how to article.
    All the hard work and skill gone in to this needs a good old pat on the back 8)

    The idea of a B-17 in silver, so now I have another version to try :lol:
    Don't forget Gil when you do yours a nice big construction thread please :roll:

    Keep up the great work its well apprecited.


  20. Gil

    Gil Active Member

    Aluminum Foil Paper - Panel Lines & Rivet Detail Develop

    Back once again,

    I have been investigating methods for scribing panel lines and embossing rivet detail in aluminum foil paper.

    The Photo below shows two test samples. Sample on the right used a small pizza wheel with rubber diaphram cloth as a backing to make panel lines and a pounce wheel for the rivet detail on the same material. Embossing depth is too deep for aircraft detail (better suited for steam engine boiler detail). Panel lines on the left test sample were scribed using a dental probe tool that has been buff polished to a razor point against a glass plate backing. The same backing was used to roll the rivet detail with the pouce wheel.

    Now to draw all the detail onto the B-17G skins so it can be transcribed. Still working on the easiest way to do that work accurately and with dispatch.

    Best regards, Gil

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