Phantom NY Pilot Boat

On to Copper Plating

November 6, 2015

Another week, another little bit of progress (slowed by vacation).

The hull painting is finished, ended up with 3 coats.

The waterline was marked using a custom waterline marker, based on what I saw others here build.  (The slot for moving the pencil up/down is horrible – limited by the tools I had close by, but it works.)


So, it was time to start coppering.  I’ve seen a number of small jigs posted by others for cutting the copper strips.  I decided to go with the method of cutting the 1/4 tape into 1/8 strips, rather than halfing the tape.  My first jig was a small block that holds the tape, provides a spot to cut, with a small hole below the cut piece to let it fall through.  This worked fairly well, and let me get started quickly.

The tape is held in place by a small ‘tongue’, that was sanded to reduce its thickness and allow the tape to slide beneath it.  It took a few tries to get the thickness just right (so it applies enough pressure to keep the tape in place, but loose enough that I can still slide the tape in).


However, after a few minutes of cutting, the cuts were no longer clean, and strips were starting to bend/crease.  My jig was set up so that the wood block base was my cutting surface.  Turns out that each cut was carving into that base, and after some number of cuts I had actually cut away the base below the tape.

So, I built a 2nd version of my jig.  The angle of the photo makes the jig look like the cut strips wouldn’t be straight, but that’ just the photo – in practice things are lined up straight.


In this version, there is nothing below the line where I’m cutting.  The open space (just above the tape, toward the top of the photo) near the strip lets me put my blade in, press it firmly against the jig, and slice through the tape.  This avoids putting any downward pressure, and gives the cut strip a large opening to fall through.  As long as I get the blade firmly up against the jig, I can get a clean cut every time.  With this jig, I was able to cut about 15 uniform strips a minute.  (Assuming that the ballpark of needing around 400 strips mentioned by another poster is right, coppering should require about 30 minutes of cutting total.)

The jig is ugly, but it works.  I decided not to spend any time cleaning it up since it won’t be used for long.

Actually laying the copper goes pretty quick.  I have the model upside down in a vise (holes in the top are for screwing in the ‘handle’).  A magnification lamp goes right over the area to be coppered.  I found that some very fine point tweezers worked great for picking up a strip, and sliding the tweezer’s point between the tape and the backing.

Every few strips I stop to smooth them out.  For this I’ve been using the handle for an X-acto knife – it is solid and round, and allows me to roll it along the tape.  I haven’t yet run into a crease or bend that didn’t smooth out.

I’ve already got more copper on than is shown in this photo, but here’s an earlier look at the first few pieces…


Exciting to be done with the carving and moving on to making something look ‘done’, and really looking forward to moving on to the top side.

Things have gone well enough that I decided to go ahead and order my next kit – the Model Shipways Bluenose while Model Expo was having a big moving sale.  It was tough to have a kit arrive, look in the box, then put it in the closet, but I’ve still got a ways to go on this one.  My wife, who has been very supportive of my previous plane builds and the Phantom, is starting to get a little nervous after she saw the size of the Bluenose…might be time to buy a bigger house.