Home / Construction / Techniques / How to Create Realistic Weld Beads

How to Create Realistic Weld Beads


Weld bead Panther 1 The front edge of this Tamiya Panther Tank shows massive weld beads where the two front edges are joined like a giant jigsaw puzzle.  The join is represented well on this model, but this is not always the case.

In this article the various methods for creating realistic weld beads are described.


Weld bead Panther 2 This is the turret of the same model as above and again the construction of the tank is very obvious with the thick interlocking side and front pieces welded together.  Welding made a much stronger join than bolting or riveting used on other tanks.

There are a limited number of ways to join metal to metal and welding is one of the most common.  Most military vehicles are made up of metal plates joined together either by some form of bolts and rivets, or by welding.  Welding two pieces of metal leaves a characteristic ridged effect along the join line.  This may be raised or level with the metal surface.

Recently issued good model kits may reproduce these weld beads very well.  However, older kits tended to either leave them off or reproduce them badly.  Modeller’s may therefore be left to recreate them.  This may also be the case where a join on the model coincides with a weld bead on the real vehicle in which case the join line needs to be turned into a weld bead.  Of course, if a modeller is doing a conversion or scratch-building then he/she will have to create any weld beads themselves.

Warning For All Methods

Weld bead PZIV This is a turret from a Dragon Panzer IV with extremely good weld beads reproduced.  When a model is a good as this it makes life much easier for the modeller.

Weld bead PZIV 2 Once again you can see excellent weld bead representation on the front edge of this turret.  The problem here is that when gluing the front of the turret this weld bead might be damaged or there may be a join line that has to be disguised so some additional work might be needed to bring the weld bead back up to standard.

There are several methods available and how well each one will work depends on both the situation and the products used.  For example, using liquid cement to ‘melt’ a thin strip of plasic strue will work differently with different brands of liquid cement.  Also each of these methods does require some skill and practice.  Therefore, we cannot emphasise enough that before embarking on any of the following processes you should practice on spare materials to check you can reproduce the desired effect before trying them out on your precious model.

Quite often the weld bead will follow a join line on the model.  However, if it does not then you should clearly mark the line of the bead by some method – do not attempt to create a straight line weld bead freehand because the results will be disspointing and even a small amount of deviation of what should be a dead straight line will be obvoius.

Methods For Creating Weld Beads

1. Craft Knife

For tiny beads that do not need to be raised much above the surface of the metal, a bead can be acheived by using the craft knife with very sharp point.  Lightly press and turn the point of the knife in the plastic and repeat this over and over moving along the bead line.  If the result is a little too jagged then paint a little liquid cement over it with a tiny paintbrush to soften it.  If the level needs to be built up, this can be done with a little Mr Surfacer.

2. Textured Epoxy Putty Line

This works best for larger raised beads.  If possible, use masking tape to mask off the area where the weld bead should be placed.  Leave exposed plastic only the same width that you want the bead to be.  Mix some epoxy putty such as Milliput.  You will only need a tiny amount so will probably have to leave this job until you need to mix some putty for another task.

Roll out the putty into a very long thin ‘sausage’ shape and lay it on the plastic.  The weld pattern is then pressed into the putty using a sculpting tool, probe or even a cocktail stick depending on the exact pattern you are aiming to reproduce and the scale.

3. Stretched Sprue and Liquid Cement

Weld bead M113 1

This Tamiya M113 APC shows how not to do weld beads.  This is an older model and the beads are too large for hand rail that they are supposed to be supporting.  Some rectification work will be needed here and it is best to remove the original weld bead and start again from scratch.

A popular method of creating aerials and wires on scale models is to used stretched sprue.  This is where a length of spare plastic sprue is held over a heat source such as a candle and then the two ends pulled apart to leave a very thin piece of flexible plastic.

Weld bead M113 3 This is the M113 APC after the welds have been improved.  The railing on the left was done with Milliput, the railing on the right done with poly-goop.  They both look identical, so it all depends on what you prefer to work with.

Depending on how soft the plastic is and how fast it is pulled the stretched sprue can be thinner than piece of hair.

Weld bead M113 4 Here is a close up of the corrected weld bead on the M113 railing. Compare it to the photo above (the colour is different because the model has had a coat of primer).

Such a piece of stretched sprue can reproduce a weld bead by lying it on the plastic kit and then painting liquid cement on it.  Give the liquid cement a few seconds to ‘melt’ the sprue and the kit surface and then using a probe, or similar tool, the weld texture can be created in the softened plastic.

4. Pyrogravure

A Pyrogravure is essentially a very small soldering iron with a very fine point.

Weld bead M113 2 Here a weld bead has been created around the hinge fixing by using epoxy putty.

If you have one then this is probably the quickest method for creating weld beads and, in fact, it may be the main purpose that some modellers buy one in the first place.  For welds that are sunken or level with the surface the weld bead texture can be created simply by pressing the hot tip into the plastic and moving along the line of the weld bead.  For raised weld beads a thin plastic rod or piece of stretched sprue has to be laid down and the pyrogravure used to melt it so it melds with the surface. Care needs to be taken not to overdo the effect.

5. Waterslide Decals

Decals are usually made to be as thin as possible so that they look painted on.  However, Archer Fine Transfers produce a series of decals that are the opposite.  They are five times thicker than normal decals and so appear raised above the surface that they are applied to.

These decals are intended to be painted over and provide surface details to models.  At least two sets in the series are devoted to simulating weld beads:

  • Surface detail set No.5 Perfect Weld Beads .05, .25, .030 and .040 inches wide (AR88005)
  • Surface detail set No.6 Arc Weld Beads .05, .25, .030 and .040 inches wide (AR88006)

These waterslide decals can be applied to any suitable surface and when painted over give a good impression of a weld bead. I have not tried these but reviews in modelling magazines are very favourable.

GRAB YOUR FREE STEP-BY-STEP VIDEO GUIDE !Here you'll find the BEST on the web video tutorial on how to make 1:48 scale WW2 German jet. In our friendly step-by-step video guide we cover topics like: drybrushing, applying washes, applying decals and many more. Do not miss out - WE GUARANTEE THAT YOU WILL LEARN SOMETHING NEW!!!!New GraphicName: Email: We respect your email privacy

About Kris

GRAB YOUR FREE STEP-BY-STEP VIDEO GUIDE !Here you'll find the BEST on the web video tutorial on how to make 1:48 scale WW2 German jet. In our friendly step-by-step video guide we cover topics like: drybrushing, applying washes, applying decals and many more. Do not miss out - WE GUARANTEE THAT YOU WILL LEARN SOMETHING NEW!!!!New GraphicName: Email: We respect your email privacy