Airfield Models - How To

How to Silk a Model Airplane Wing

May 05, 2015

What's New
Models Gallery
Model Building Safety
Mail & FAQ
Site Map
Site Feedback
Add to Favorites
Tell a Friend
Design and Build Contest
Items For Sale
Search Airfield Models

Back to Silking a Wing


Airfield Models ( Ailerons

All parts that are silked must be sealed as explained in Part 2 of this series.

The ailerons in this article were a little more challenging than more common styles of ailerons due to them being airfoiled.  Silking the first side was simple, but finding a way to hold them securely while silking the second side required some brain-storming.

Most ailerons are either flat or a straight taper which means they can be held to a small board using light-duty double-sided tape.  The board should be smaller all around than the aileron so the silk can hang. The tape will adhere to the silk so don't use strong tape.


Tools and Supplies Needed

  • Excellent ventilation.

  • Clear Nitrate or Butyrate dope thinned to brushing consistency.  Do not use retarder.

    If you used butyrate dope to seal the ailerons then you must use butyrate dope to attach the silk.  If you used nitrate dope to seal the ailerons then you can use either nitrate or butyrate dope to attach the silk.

  • Dope thinner.

  • Flat 1/2" or 1" natural hair paint brush.

  • Acetone for clean up.

  • Paper towels.

  • Sandpaper and sanding blocks to remove excess silk.


Silking Ailerons

Find a way to mount the aileron before applying silk. I clamped light-duty spring clamps into extra hands.  The extra hands would have chewed up the ribs so I didn't clamp them directly.

Unfortunately, this method of holding the ailerons only works for the first side.

Again, all wood that the silk will contact must be sealed to the point of being water-proof.

Wet the silk and place it on the aileron. With smaller parts it is often easier to wet the silk before laying it over the part.

Hold the silk with both hands and stretch it carefully.  Lay the wet silk on the aileron taking care to align the weave.

You may need to lift the silk and reapply it a couple times to get it right.

Work your way around the aileron stretching the silk taut. Stretch the silk taut.  In this case I do not want it to contact the top of the trailing edge.  That means I'll have to apply dope to small sections and rub it down.  If I don't do that the wet silk will naturally try to lay on top of the edge.
One side of the aileron is silked. Because there is so little contact area the silk will slacken as the water dries.  Keep the silk as wet as necessary to keep it in place.

There was a lot more blushing due to the aileron being much wetter when the dope was applied.  Again, it's not a problem but it's not real pretty now.

The first side of these ailerons was easy because I was able to mount it securely.

Aileron mounted to a stick with double-sided tape. Silking the other side of the aileron was much more difficult.  There are simply too many curves for me to pull this off successfully while holding the aileron in one hand.

I used removable double-sided tape attached to a stick.  The aileron was pressed onto the tape.  Because the silk isn't adhered to the ribs the mount was precarious at best but better than nothing.

The aileron clamped in a PanaVise and wet silk applied. The stick was clamped in my PanaVise.  As with the first piece of silk, this piece was applied after it was wet.

I doped the wet silk to the leading edge of the aileron and to the tip.  The silk was very taut.

The silk is tacked to the trailing edge at several locations. When the silk dried I tacked the silk to the trailing edge at each rib while pulling the silk taut.  I started at the middle and worked my way to both ends going back and forth instead of working my way to one end and then to the other.

After this was complete I doped the entire trailing edge.  There were several small wrinkles that I removed by melting the dope with acetone, pulling the silk tight and then rubbing it down.

These were the most difficult pieces to apply and took the most time which was entirely due to not having a solid mounting.

The wing and ailerons having all silk applied. The wing and ailerons completely silked.  Excess silk has been trimmed away.  After a good inspection to ensure everything is ok I will spray several coats of clear dope to seal and shrink the silk.


Attaching Silk to a Model Aircraft Wing using Dope
Silking Miscellaneous Items

Comments about this article


Back to Silking a Wing
Airfield Models Home


Copyright 2009 Paul K. Johnson