Tutorial by John Selvia:

Tutorial PART IV

Surface Detail Build-Up

Okay, we have our aspirin bottle with a styrene sheet applied, we have spare model parts, and we have our styrene sheet strip cut to size with a Chopper or X-Acto knife. We’re ready to lay stuff down.

You now can use regular model glue to attach smaller styrene pieces since we wrapped the bottle(s) with styrene sheet first. We glue smaller pieces partially around the bottle to create raised panels on the sheet that is already there. Vary the thickness, length and width of the pieces (1 or 2 inches long and a half inch or so wide), and offset the pieces so the edges do not line up.

Next, add a second layer of smaller panels on top of SOME of the other panels (don’t overdo this – you need just a few additional panels on top of the previous ones).
Now, cut a bunch of shorter rectangular pieces from your styrene strip, and place those on. Again, don’t overdo it, just a few to bring out detail.

Rounded Panel Corners

I use rounded panels quite a bit – and sometimes rounded smaller rectangles on top. 

First, use a Sprue Cutter, X-Acto knife or scissors (if sheet is thin enough), and cut off the corners at a 45 degree angle. Next, use 320 or 240 grit sandpaper, until you get your desired roundness. On thicker stock use 80 or 100 grit.

More Interesting Detail

What is a Nibbler?  A Nibbler is primarily used to cut designs into sheet metal PC Cases. But I’ve discover a better use – to make perfect rectangular cuts in thin sheet plastic. 

You use it like this: Place the sheet plastic under the cutting head and squeeze the handle to make the first cut. Continue cutting around the edge to get the pattern you want.

The Nibbler will only cut a small amount into the edge of the plastic, but if you keep pushing it forward, you can make your cuts deeper with each squeeze of the handle. 

The end result are panels that look very much like the panels on a Star Wars Millennium Falcon. Yes there was a Nibbler in 1977. When done cutting, use sandpaper to round corners if you prefer. 

Here are a few Nibbler pre-cut panels.


Once you’ve got a single bottle built up, it’s time to create more. Repetition adds to a model’s personality and sense of realism. Not only the small details (like rectangles), but also repetition of larger forms (like multiple bottles).

Thickness of the chosen sheet material should suit the design scale of your model.
Closeup of the Middle Section
Note the box used to create the extension with the small bottle. This was easily made with pieces of sheet styrene shaped and glued together.

Closeup of Top Section
Need a spacer? Make it by cutting out 2 bigger circles in the diameter you need, then cut holes in the middle of them to fit the pipe that runs down the center of all your objects. Next, cut out a srip the height of the spacer and bend and glue between the 2 circles.
End of PART IV. A few more photos of Nurnies applied.


Please see the next blog which contains “Scratchbuilding and Kitbashing” Tutorial Part V by John Selvia.

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