|The Fuselage is
coming from Germany, so there will be some time to kill. The
first part to arrive was the resin Instrument panel from Thompson
Fuselages, created by Airwolf_Crazy from the ScaleRCHelis forum. This
resin panel had all the instruments in the right places, and was
pretty darn well made. I started playing with one of those
"Pocket Picture Frames" you see online for 15 to 40 bucks.
Hmmmm... I wonder if we can get this darn thing to work as an
The first step is to
drill (mill) out the holes for the instruments, displays, and LED's
that I plan to populate the panel with. I have end mills in
Metric in .5 mm increments, so it was easy to match up the instrument
holes with just a few individual hole sizes. The X-Y table on
the mill allows accurate placement of the mill head before you drill,
and the sharp cutting tools make holes in resin cleaner than a laser.
Below, you can see the back
side of the upper and lower instrument panels. The back is milled out to
accept the display and has relief's for the LED's where the thickness of
the resin changes due to surface details. The hole at the top of
the larger panel is to pass wires for the smaller.
Now that the panels are
milled, it's time to paint! I cleaned off the little
"dingleberries" left over from the casting process, then airbrushed
a base coat of Tamiya dark grey. Break out the tiny brushes!
Here they are, 90% painted
(I did a bit more later). The screw heads were in the casting,
apparently made with Starwood rivet material. I painted them gold
leaf, which was very bright, as I knew that after painting on the screw
slots with a teeny-tiny brush, they would lose some visibility.
The two smaller "glass" displays were merged into one, to accommodate
the color LCD display.
After painting, it was time to install the LED's in the Upper Instrument
Cluster. To get everything to fit in the chamber I milled in the
back, I used a 1970's wiring technique called Wire Wrap.
Basically, you use Kynar insulated 30 gauge wire, and a tool wraps it
around the component pin. Very compact. To further reduce space, I
replaced the 5 inline resistors with a SIP (Single-inline-pin) resistor
pack- another relic of vintage electronics, but it fits the requirements
exactly! The assembly terminates in a standard servo plug, and can
take 4.8 to 6 volts.
Below we have the main
panel, ready for it's own embellishment, and the recently completed
To create the instruments,
I first scanned the back of the panel and created a 1200 DPI
reference. Using Illustrator and Photoshop, I located a
high-resolution version of each instrument on the internet, and placed
it on the graphic. Each instrument has a black surround, to
prevent "light creep", and the places where the overlay must
be cut out for LED's and displays are coded in grey. The panels
are now airbrushed with 2-part automotive clear, to protect the paint,
and give me a glossy surface to apply the dry transfers (we will cover
that with matte satin later).
To get the needed contrast
(something I was not happy about with the Dauphin), I printed one copy
on transparency film, the other on ultra white bond. After
registering them EXACTLY, they were laminated together with West System
epoxy and a roller:
Here is what the completed
laminate looks like when held up to the light. Sorry, but it is a
bit out of focus, my camera wants a bit more distance than I was
shooting from. From a 1200 DPI master, the characters on the instruments
are actually very crisp and clear. I will get a better picture
after it is mounted and has proper backlighting later.....
I created the lettering in
Adobe Illustrator, and sent the file off to Ambient Graphics (now known
as Cliff Digital). As usual, the next morning I had my overnight
package with the dry transfers! Applying them was relatively easy,
although the individual letters are only 1 millimeter tall (and that's
the capital letters!), After they were applied, I
covered them in a coat of Satin Clear (Krylon)