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Cockpit Canopies-Acrylic Coating

Klear Introduction

A good aircraft model must have a perfect scratch-free and shiny cockpit canopy.  Removing scratches from canopies and other clear parts is covered in the article ‘Cockpit Canopies – Scratch Removal’ .  This article deals with improving the clarity and shine of clear parts with a coat of acrylic varnish.

Background

Even if you are fortunate to find that the clear parts of your model are not scratched, or distorted, they can probably be improved considerably by giving them a coat of acrylic floor varnish.  This will improve the clarity and shine of the plastic and many modellers believe that it makes them appear thinner and nearer to scale thickness.

The magic product for doing this is none other than household acrylic clear floor varnish.  It is made by Johnsons and goes under a number of names in different parts of the world.  In the US it is sold as ‘Future’ whilst in most of Europe it is known as ‘Klear’.  It is an extremely hard wearing clear acrylic varnish that is easy to apply and a large bottle can be bought at a very reasonable price.  At the end of 2009 the formula of this product started to be changed to a milky brown liquid.  Although this looks very unappealling, reports are that it still works just as well for further information see the article ‘Using Acrylic Floor Varnish’ .

Method

Klear can be airbrushed on to clear parts such as cockpit canopies.  Care is needed to clean the airbrush thoroughly and promptly because when Klear dries it is very difficult to remove.  However, many modellers prefer to coat cockpit canopies by ‘dipping’ them and this is the method shown here.

You will need to decant a small amount of Klear into a small container.  The container should be large enough to easily dip the entire canopy.  It is not wise to put the decanted Klear back into the bottle so unless you wish to discard the decanted Klear you should use a small container with an airtight lid so it can be used again.

Eurofighter canopy 4 This contraption was made to hold the wet canopy.  It is simply a jar lid with rows of cocktail sticks held in place with three strips of Blu Tak.

The process is quick and it is important to have your work area set up with everything you will need before you start:

  • Small container of Klear;
  • Canopy and something to hold it (normally tweezers);
  • Paint brush;
  • Paper towel;
  • Somewhere to put the dipped canopy;
  • Cover for the dipped canopy.

Eurofighter canopy 5 Pick up the canopy at the edge with a pair of tweezers.  Try to hold it somewhere other than a place that will remain clear such as the canopy frame.

Eurofighter canopy 6 Dip the canopy into the Klear so that it is completely submerged then immediately remove it.  When removing it, slowly draw it against the edge of container to remove any excess.  You will find that most of the canopy is covered with a thin layer of Klear, but it may form thick ridges at the bottom.  This is what the paint brush is for.  Touch the excess Klear with the paint brush so that it soaks up some of the excess and rub the brush on the paper towel.  Repeat this until the excess Klear is removed and then put the canopy down somewhere it will not stick.  I have created a miniature drying rack for this from a jam jar lid and cocktail sticks (see photo below).

Eurofighter canopy 8 Klear dries very quickly so you only have 30 seconds to a minute to work before it becomes too tacky and will no longer smooth itself out.  If you have not produced a satisfactory result by this time you can either try dipping it again or take it to a sink and quickly wash off the Klear with warm soapy water.  You must avoid the temptation to meddle with the Klear when it has begun to dry.

Eurofighter canopy 9 The canopy should now be covered so that dust and hairs do not settle on it.  There should be a gap at the bottom to allow air to circulate or the Klear will not dry.  Leave it to harden for at least two days before handling it.

If you need to remove Klear when it has dried, use ammonia or a household cleaning product that contains Ammonia such as Windex window cleaner.

Eurofighter canopy 7 This is the finished canopy after dipping and it can be seen how clear and shiny it has become.

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6 comments

  1. In the UK, the product is now called Pledge Multi-Surface Wax or somesuch… don’t appear clear (cloudy liquid) but reported to do the same thing. I still can’t find it at any of my local supermarkets, so have gone with the new Humbrol product, just called “Clear”. Info at Airfix.com site, with video demonstrating use: http://www.airfix.com/shop/humbrol/coatings-and-thinners/ac7431-humbrol-clear-125ml-bottle/

  2. Hi Kris,

    I have used the new formula of Klear and having not been able to try the previous formula I cant compare the two. What I hated is the smell of it! It made my model smell so weird and actually made me feel a little sick! ha
    If you want to use a product that works just like this and is made for the hobby (and not floors) there is Humbrol Clear that has recently been released and has the same properties as the original Klear.
    Here is a YouTube video link of it in use: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ByMhacC5vAE

    Cheers
    Jack.

  3. Hi Kris,

    Like your articles but I am frustrated. Every modeller know that Klear is great stuff but I now live in New Zealand and cannot seem to be able to get it. Any suggestions for an alternative?

    Steve

    • Hi Stephen,

      I had an old bottle of Klear. Did not realise that it is now difficult to get. Alasdair and Jack have offered some solutions. Check their comments for alternative solutions.

      Alasdair and Jack – thanks for your input!

      Kris

  4. The best reference I’ve ever found on using this stuff:
    http://www.swannysmodels.com/TheCompleteFuture.html

    I use it as a top-coat for all my models, often with the Tamiya matt-coat mixed in to dull down its beautiful shine. Anyway, the article above has some tips like that, info on tinting it, and a pretty detailed list of regional brand names (or similar products) and where to get them around the world. (Including New Zealand, Stephen)

  5. I agree, pledge is the safest way to have a shiny canopy on your model. But beware. Not to use maskol (Another Humbrol crap product) on it, as it removes the thin film and leaves stains on the canopy. You can also remove pledge from the canopy with plain alcohol, even if it is painted