Last modified: Saturday, January 6, 2001 6:20 PM

part 1     part 2     part 3     part 4     part 5

For the FG-42 project, the perforated flash suppressor/compensator demonstrates an aspect of this issue of precision. The most instinctive way to make the perforations would be to take your drill directly to the styrene tubing. However, you'd be lucky to get anything resembling precision unless you had the tubing clamped down, and used a drill press with some means of feeding the part through at fixed spacings. If you've done all that, you've got a primitive milling machine. Instead, I took a thin flat sheet of styrene and driled the perforations on it, before wrapping it around the tubing. The drill pattern was designed on a computer and the printout was glued onto styrene before drilling. Even so, perfect results are nearly impossible, since the part is so small and the drill bit drifts slightly. This is about as good as I'll be able to do though. There are a few other problems with this-- one is the seam left from wrapping it. I might be able to fix it with some putty, as long as the putty doesn't clog any of the perforations. (If I'd thought to measure the length of the wrap, I could have lined up the perforation pattern at the seam-- duh!)

So the main task of scratch-building is figuring out what materials to use in a given situation. The first choice for regular parts is usually styrene, because it's so uniform. It would be foolish to make a barrel out of clay for example, because it would never look as symmetrical. There's a pretty good selection of sizes to choose from, but you are limited by what's available. A lathe would open up your options considerably, but for the lathe-less, this is an acceptable compromise.

For oddly-shaped pieces like the stock, you could use a number of different materials-- wood, clay, putty, plastic. It's all a matter of what you're used to, since the strategies for working each of them is different. I chose clay because it was faster, but it does have its problems. I can't really see clay forms very well because of the translucency and discolorations within it-- I alway notice problems after it's been cast & primed. The stock is supposed to be made of steel-- my guess would be that it was sheet steel, stamped with the ribbing pattern, and riveted together. Since the ribbing needs to be very uniform, half-round styrene rods were used. To make them look stamped, I will need to putty the edges so that they're rounded where they join the stock.

The bayonet, being long and thin, was made from piano wire, flattened & sharpened to a pretty nasty tip by grinding. Not the sort of thing you'd want to include in a kid's toy. To make it look less needle-like, I may broaden the base with putty. It is connected to the barrel with strip brass-- this forms a strong but pliable connector, from which the bayonet can be removed for business-use.

I had only a vague idea about the sight-- I carved it out of styrene, to the rough shape. Then in the process of grinding the shapes, it dawned on me that the sight was probably hinged. I don't know if this is true, but that realization helped me make sense of what I was carving. That's always a good idea, and the main reason why having the 1:1 thing in front of you is preferable.

11/17/98- Another less-than-exciting pic. I've moved on to the receiver section, trying to figure out the best way to make the main bulk. My first impulse was to use two tubes glued together for this, but I changed my mind because the solid block is closer to the overall shape. The tube component can be added as surface detail with the half tube I've made. As with the magazine, the block needed to be built up as a composite of styrene forms, since I didn't have a single piece that was big enough. I hope to be able to engrave the flipside detail, and use putty to fine tune the detail. The magazine is detachable mainly because it's just as easy to do. Besides, I can make castings of the magazine and use them to fill out a bandolier.

11/19/98- Isn't this exciting? (grin) Fortunately, I remembered that I had a book called "German Automatic Weapons of WWII", which helped a lot with realizing these and other details. The 1/16th scale model version really wasn't adequate since I couldn't tell whether some details were actual detail or flaws! Here, I've added a few styrene parts and contoured the block. The fine detail (which is so fine it can't be photographed clearly) is sculpted on with Magic Sculp. This is an epoxy putty with a very fine grain, and it's really cheap if you buy it in 5 lb tubs. Initially, it's very soft and sticky, so it feathers & blends easily, but is difficult to detail. You have to have a really light touch to keep from distorting as you sculpt, and it's very frustrating. Like Milliput, water can be used to smooth it and keep your tools from sticking. It takes an hour or two before it reaches a point in its cure cycle when it can be detailed with a heavier touch. It reaches a rock-hard state apparently while you sleep. It sure doesn't do it while you sit & watch it...

11/21/98- Making the forward grip ribbing has been the hardest part of this project so far, and now my neck really hurts! I tried to do this several ways on test scraps-- engraving with a Dremel and scribing... they looked much worse than this. Instead, I cut a trough for the putty, leveled it, and used a wire to make the parallel ribs... it sounds easy, huh? (hah!) This close-up makes the faults very apparent: To the naked eye, they're not that bad-- really! :^) Also, the folding sight has scribed detail which comes out looking like fungus in this pic (because it's dirty).

there's more...