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Old 08-07-2009, 01:46 AM
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How to Make Aluminum Clad Card Stock

How to Make Aluminum Clad Card Stock (Part I)

By Gil Russell

Edited by Leif Ohlsson

7 August 2009


I wonder how many times modelers have experimented with ordinary aluminum foil in attempts to recreate a natural aluminum finish on their models. One method, developed for plastic models, applies aluminum foil in a manner similar to the method used for gold leaf. The underlying surface has to include all the desired detail before the foil is applied. Thinking about applying this to card stock took me around the block several times resulting in several shattered preconceived notions along the way. The strange part of this story is that the solution shown here is non toxic and uses commonly available materials.

A large variety of glues capable of bonding aluminum to paper were tried. One theory (a mishap of preconceived notions) was that to maintain flat unwrinkled paper a non-water based glue would be required. The problem with non-water based glues is that they generally require a fairly aromatic thinning agent. A goal was set early on to minimize the exposure to volatile organic solvents (VOCís). The VOC glue tests produced some interesting results but had to be eliminated from consideration due to their toxicity (3M spray adhesive produced an easy to layup assembly but failed to yield a smooth mirror like surface).

Smoothing Aluminum Foil
The first small breakthrough was discovering a method to flatten the aluminum foil in preparation for bonding it to the card stock. The trick is to mist a pane of glass with a water spray before carefully applying and smoothing out a sheet of aluminum foil onto the glass (shiny side down). The water adheres the foil tightly to the glass pane and in effect clamps it to the glass.



Figure
1 Water Misted Glass Pane

Do not use the cutting edge on the foil box. It only deforms the foil making flattening more difficult. Use scissors instead.

Aluminum foil thicknesses vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and have a direct affect on the use as described here. Reynolds Wrap Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil is used exclusively in this tutorial. I found it to be consistently thicker than other brands. Use heavy duty or extra heavy duty foil for models requiring moderate compound curves.



Figure
2 Laying Out the Aluminum Foil

Use a squeegee to smooth the aluminum to a perfectly flat sheet on top of the glass. Water sprayed on the aluminum surface aids the squeegee smoothing action.




Figure
3 Smoothing the Foil



Figure
4 Smoothed Aluminum Foil

Preparing the Aluminum for Bonding
The strength of the paper to aluminum bond depends to a great extent on the aluminum foilís surface condition. The foil has a minute amount of residual manufacturing lubricant left on its surface (yes itís edible). It will interfere with the bond if itís not removed.

Use a 3M style scrub pad with window cleaner sprayed on the aluminum. Scrub the aluminum surface using a circular motion to scour the entire surface well.



Figure
5 Cleaning the Aluminum



Figure
6 Removing Cleaning Residue

Clean the scrubbed aluminum surface with an absorbent sponge. Mist the surface with a slight amount of water and wipe with a paper towel. Spread a small amount of either isopropyl or ethanol alcohol on the surface. Finish by drying the surface with a paper towel.



Figure
7 Final Cleaning with Alcohol



Figure
8 Aluminum Ready for Bonding

(Continued in Part II)
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Old 08-07-2009, 01:55 AM
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How to Make Aluminum Clad Card Stock

How to Make Aluminum Clad Card Stock (Part II)

By Gil Russell

Edited by Leif Ohlsson

7 August 2009


Adhesive

After rejecting VOC based adhesives water based glues were tried. PVA based (Polyvinyl Acetate) white glue and Carpenterís (Aliphatic Resin) yellow glue did not achieve a good aluminum bond (It will work in a pinch but leaves unbounded voids). An ideal bond fails a peel test paper first. Aleeneís Original Tacky Glue was tried next and it surprisingly passed the peel test. After several practice runs I became proficient in producing nearly perfect aluminum clad panels every time.

Bonding the Paper to the Aluminum
Using a fairly fresh tube of Tacky Glue spread a pattern approximately the size of the paper thatís to be glued to the aluminum.



Figure
9 Applying Glue Pattern to the Aluminum

Use the squeegee to spread the glue evenly over the surface. A thinner film is desirable as it helps to prevent paper curl. Wipe excess glue off the edge of the squeegee to achieve a thinner layer.



Figure
10 Spreading the Glue into a Film



Figure
11 Aluminum Ready for Bonding

Carefully place the paper card stock into the middle of the glue area.



Figure
12 Placing the Paper

Gently burnish the paper with the cleaned squeegee. Burnish the edges with a small burnishing tool.



Figure
13 Burnishing the Paper



Figure
14 Burnishing the Edges

Allow the lay-up to dry. This will take anywhere from one to four hours depending on humidity, type of paper and the depth of the applied glue film. I generally allow four to six hours to insure that the glue has set and will not debond when the paper is cut out of the foil. With a sharp razor blade carefully cut around the edges of the paper stock. The aluminum clad paper will spring into a convex section as shown.



Figure
15 Cutting the Paper Out of the Foil



Figure
16 Sheet Curl

Remove the curl in the sheet by placing a towel or newspaper on top of the glass pane. I use a cardboard mailing tube to roll the curl out. A rolling pin also works but make sure to protect the aluminum surface with a newspaper or towel to prevent scratching it.



Figure
17 Rolling the Curl Out of the Sheet

Resulting Aluminum Clad Sheet:


Figure 18 Finished Aluminum Clad Card Stock Sheet

Epilogue
Legal size card stock was used in this tutorial. I recommend practicing with smaller sizes till youíre familiar with the process before moving on to larger pieces.

Most any weight paper can be used as long as the surface is fairly smooth. Rougher surface textures require a thicker glue film application with longer drying times. Sheets of tracing vellum make easy to apply overlay panels for models.

I regularly put the aluminum clad card stock through an inkjet printer to print part patterns on the paper backside. Remember to mirror reverse the pattern before printing.

A piece of adhesive backed shelf paper applied to the aluminum surface will protect the surface during the model building process.
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Old 08-07-2009, 03:38 AM
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Great tutorial! Thanks!
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Old 08-07-2009, 05:02 AM
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Very well presented Gil. This will work wonders for those who work in the larger scales,
and I would love to try it in my scale, but fear the thickness and stiffness just would not conform in the small scales.

Gil, you are truly a pioneer and a serious asset to the hobby.
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Old 08-07-2009, 05:06 AM
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Gil,

Thanks you soooo much. Great tutorial.
Thanks, also, for the hard work of experimenting.
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Old 08-07-2009, 05:46 AM
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absolutely incredible work. you have refined the process so even an boob like myself can do this many thanks gary
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Old 08-07-2009, 05:56 AM
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Werner Smuts Werner Smuts is offline
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Thanks, this is really nice. Thanks for showing us.

WIFE...!!! wheres the foil......!!!??
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Old 08-07-2009, 05:58 AM
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Outstanding tutorial, thank you Gil (and Leif for the fine presentation).

In my travels searching for Reynolds "Heavy Duty" (easily found in most grocery stores) and "Extra Heavy Duty" (scarce) aluminum foils, a visit to the Reynolds website (link) reveals an apparent re-branding of their foils. I wonder if the now named "Heavy Strength" and "Super Strength" foils are equivalent in weights to Heavy Duty and Extra Heavy Duty foils respectively?

Also, I found (and ordered) a roll of 0.003" inch thick aluminum foil from McMaster-Carr. It's 6" and and comes in a 50' roll (link). I believe Reynolds "Extra Heavy Duty" foil is approximately this thickness.

Truly great work work Gil, thanks again!

Mike
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Old 08-07-2009, 06:13 AM
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Great idea and good tutorial!
Now for the tacky bit... :p
What are the European equivalents for the tacky glue you use and for the thick Reynolds alu foil? Anybody an idea??
Regards.
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Old 08-07-2009, 06:43 AM
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excellent tutorial
(I run another forum that offers tutorials, and I really value a well explained and well detailed tutorial!)


can you show us some uses for the "alumi-card"
(patent pending...if you use the name, I want a cut!)


I'm just curious as to how well it cuts and forms?
How small of a part have you created with the "alumi-card"?
and what about printing on it?...will it even go through a printer?
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