Lt Cdr Edward 'Butch' O'Hare
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Butch O'Hare Chicago Chapter - IPMS-USA

The How-To-Hootch: Display Stands Made Easy

Photo A
Photo A
“To stand or not to stand, that is the question . . . ” In the early days of plastic model aircraft (‘50s and ‘60s), stands were a mandatory item in kits. Most of the kit stands, with the exception of Revell, were pretty clunky looking, and most ended up in the landfill. Until recently, if you entered a model on a stand in an IPMS contest, you were wasting your time! As such, I would never have considered building a model on a stand.

About five years ago, as my display shelves were getting full of gear down aircraft, I realize that if I put some aircraft on stands, I could almost double the number of models I had in each case. I remembered the neat Revell stands--a clear base disc with a clear support--so I started looking at the McMaster-Carr supply catalog for possible materials. I wanted a stand that was easy to make and inconspicuous. Here’s what I came up with:

Building the Stand

Materials: The stand base is made from extruded clear acrylic discs, available in 2", 3", 4"... diameters and two thicknesses: approximately 1/8" and 1/4" thick (see attached material list, item #3). The vertical support for each stand is made from 1/8" diameter clear PETG plastic rod for small, lightweight models (material list item #2), and 1/4" clear tubing for large, heavy models (material list item #4).

Photo B
Photo B
Construction: For small models, use a 2- or 3-inch, 1/8" thick disc). Drill a 1/8" hole in the center of the disc. Then attach a 4" to 5" piece of 1/8" PETG rod to the disc. (The end of the rod is slightly crimped--with pliers--to ensure a tight friction fit between the end of the rod and the disc.)

For larger models, use a 4" disc. Drill a 1/4" hole in the middle, and attach a 4" to 6" piece of clear tube (again, using a friction joint). Note that this stand is attached to the model using a short 2"to 3" section of 1/8" rod, which you can insert into the model (see next section) and then into the 1/4" support (which has a 1/8" inside diameter opening).

Attaching the Model

The stand attachment opening in the model is added shortly after the fuselage halves are joined. At the midpoint of the fuselage, drill a 5/32” hole into the bottom of the fuselage (photo A).

Next, place a section of 5/32” diameter aluminum tubing (K&S Engineering stock #103) through the hole and super glue it into the fuselage (photo B). Then, sand the bottom of the aluminum tube flush with the lower fuselage. You now have an aluminum sleeve in the fuselage, with a 1/8” inside diameter. The 1/8” stand support will slide directly into this opening. Note that this aluminum sleeve is also excellent for holding the model for painting and decaling. (Use a 1/8” barbecue skewer to hold the model and insert the skewer into a piece of Styrofoam--see photo C.)

A few parting thoughts after five years of building and using these stands:

Photo C
Photo C
  • A lot of airplanes look better on a stand with gear up, vs. gear down on the ground.
  • Stands seem to make no difference at IPMS contests these days. Many "stand" models have received firstplace category awards.
  • The acrylic discs are a little pricey ($2.50 to $4 each), while the rods/tubes are fairly cheap (84 cents for 6 feet of 1/8” PETG rod, and about $2 for 6 feet of 1/4" tube).
  • As a cheaper alternative to the acrylic discs, a 12" by 12" sheet of 1/8" thick PETG is $4.25 (material list item #1). This sheet can be cut into 16 3" by 3" squares. To clean up the saw cuts, sand and polish the edges, and you have 16 bases for about 27 cents each.
  • Another alternative to the acrylic discs is small square or round wood bases that are available from craft stores. Paint or stain them, add the clear vertical support, and you have a nice stand.

Material List

All of the referenced plastics materials are available from McMaster-Carr Supply Co. in Elmhurst. Materials can be order online, paid for by charge card, and picked up at the will-call desk:
600 N County Line Road
Elmhurst, IL 60126-2081

Will Call Hours
Monday - Friday7:00 am - 6:00 pm
Saturday7:00 am - 2:00 pm

Note that I have also included information on clear polycarbonate sheets (item 5). I have been using this material for vacuforming canopies for several years, and it beats any other clear material I have ever used. Plus, the cost is less per square inch than the comparable material from Squadron or MicroMark. It comes in 24" by 24" sheets, and in various thicknesses. (I have been using .010" and .015.)

Specs, part numbers, and prices:

1. Clear PETG Sheets 1/8” thick-Smooth Finish

Clear PETG Sheets

Good Electrical insulator
Thick. 12" x 12" 12" x 24" 24" x 24"24" x 48" 48" x 48" 48" x 96"

1/8" ±0.012"85815K144.25
 85815K247.64
 85815K3513.46
 85815K4526.02
 85815K6545.22
 85815K8581.75

2. Clear PETG Rods-Smooth Finish

Clear PETG Rods

-Sold in 6-ft. lengths (1/8, 3/16, 1/4)

Sold in 6-ft. lengths
1/8" ±0.005"8325K13$0.14
3/16" ±0.007"8325K150.28
1/4" ±0.010"8325K170.51

3. Clear Extruded Acrylic Discs

Clear Extruded Acrylic Discs

Color: Clear
Temp. Range: 32 to 160F, unless noted
Softening Temp.: 191 to 239F

Cut from sheet for clear, smooth face. Thickness tolerance is ±0.006" for 0.118" thicknesses and ±0.012" for 0.236" thicknesses. Meets UL 94HB for flammability.

Sold in 6-ft. lengths
2" ±0.031"8581K22$2.47
 8581K33$2.66
3" ±0.031"8581K233.02
 8581K343.25
4" ±0.031"8581K243.91
 8581K357.84

4. Clear Butyrate Tubing

Clear Butyrate Tubing
Clear Butyrate Tubing

Plastic Butyrate, Color Clear
Length 6' Outside Dia. 1/4"
Inside Dia. 1/8"

Each (6')
8565K31
$1.84

5. Polycarbonate

Polycarbonate

Color: Clear, unless noted
Temp. Range: -40° to +200° F, unless noted
Softening Temp.: 290 to 315F

Thick: 24.5" x 24.25" 24.5" x 48.5"

BOTH SIDES GLOSS
0.005" ±0.0005"85585K102$2.33
 85585K72$4.10
0.010" ±0.0010"85585K1033.92
 85585K737.02
0.015" ±0.0015"85585K145.45
 85585K249.50
0.020" ±0.0020"85585K156.97
 85585K2512.18

Comparable to Lexan, Hyzod, Tuffak, and Makrolon. At only half the weight of glass, this material maintains excellent clarity and impact strength over a wide temperature range. Often used as windows, instrument gauge covers, machine guards, and signs.