Modeling Recipe #1: Scratch Building Realistic Springs

Springs are very prominent elements in many machines. And you may want to replicate them realistically in you models, from 1/100 Gunplas to 1/16 tanks.

Why would you want to create your own springs for your models?

Springs are used in suspensions, antennas and other parts of AFVs like tanks or troop transports. They appear in plane landing wheel structures. In civilian industrial vehicles and trucks. And of course, they can be added to any sci-fi models.

More often than not, the parts that come with the kit have several drawbacks:

  • They are out of scale, as it is difficult to use the appropriate dimensions in plastic molds and pieces.
  • They are solid instead of hollow, which make them look unnatural once installed.

Because of this, I create my own springs whenever possible.

Scratch-building springs 101

Springs are very easy to model using thin wire, a needle, and very basic tools like tweezers and scissors.

You can get the basic idea in this video, then read the detailed instructions below.

Steps to scratch-build your own springs

Step 1

You will need a syringe needle and thin wire.

Check some original blueprints for the correct measures or, as a last resort, try to model the overall dimensions of the kit part.

Insert approximately 10mm of the wire inside the shaft or cannula of the needle.

The needle diameter should match the diameter of the spring you want to replicate, or sligthly smaller if you will be using a relatively thick wire (0.3mm or bigger).

A pointed needle is more convenient; as they are beveled, you will have a grip point when you start to wrap the wire. However, they are typically available only in thin diameters; in case you need a wider spring, you may need a blunt needle, that are available in a much wider array of widths.

Step 2

Start wrapping the wire around the needle cannula.

If you are using a pointed cannula the bevel will prevent the wire from spinning around; if you are using a blunt needle you will have to hold the wire in place with a bit of blue-tak or modelling putty.

Once you start wrapping the wire around the needle make sure to keep it tight, or the spring will look deformed once finished.

Step 3

Every few turns of the wire (I typically do it every 5 turns), using a fine pair of tweezers, press the spring to make the coils as close to each other as needed. In most scales, this means touching each other.

Also, continue keeping it tight around the needle shaft.

Compare your spring's length with the original part length, in order to continue doing this process until you reach the appropriate size. You can also use a digital caliper for maximum precission.

Step 4

Once you've reached the correct length, remove your spring from the needle.

Step 5

Using a pair of sharp scissors, cut both edges of the wire. On one end, the one that was inserted inside the needle and, on the other, the excess wire that you have not wrapped around it.

For a compression spring, you can cut them at the exact end point of the spring.

If you are modeling a tension spring, leave a few milimeters of wire when you do this. Because finally, you have to use your precission tweezers to bend these ends to model the hooks (or loops or eyes, depending on how you call them).

And that's it! You have a quality realistic spring to install on your model.

What do you think? Will you try this? What other recipes would you like me to create for you?


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published