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Realistic wire wheels for 1/12 scale motorcycles


By Mario Covalski  

One of the biggest challenges for a modeler who builds motorcycles in 1/12 scale, is to modify a wire wheel and make it look realistic; specially without having to buy an aftermarket kit. Anyway, there are no kits for this kind of modification (except for one of the Acu-stion for the Tamiya XV1600 kit), so it's not possible to get one. So any modeler attempting to do this task must rely in his/her ability in order, to get a good result.


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Realistic wire wheels for 1/12 scale motorcycles

by Mario Covalski © 2003 Modeler Site

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One of the biggest challenges for a modeler who builds motorcycles in 1/12 scale, is to modify a wire wheel and make it look realistic; specially without having to buy an aftermarket kit. Anyway, there are no kits for this kind of modification (except for one of the Acu-stion for the Tamiya XV1600 kit), so it's not possible to get one. So any modeler attempting to do this task must rely in his/her ability in order, to get a good result.

 

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Wire wheels are nearly as old as wooden ones, and vehicles have been using them from the beginning of the 20th century. Essentially, they are very simple: a metal rim, a center hub that generally acts as a brake drum, and steel wires placed in such a way, that, their structure turns out more solid than the new alloy wheels
The spoke diameter depends on the type of motorcycle, the time which it's from....etc, but normally it's about 5mm, perhaps thinner for a motocross or thicker for a Harley. So, the spoke diameter in 1/6 scale would be 0,8mm, and in 1/12, would be 0.4mm, or less.

In the1/6 scale motorcycles I used to build, the plastic spoke diameter was 0,7mm (it looks like this was the minimum thickness for an injected "spoke), so, they were in scale. I love working with plastic so I preferred to "clean" them removing the flash and "rounding" them until I got to an acceptable result.

But this is not the situation with a 1/12 scale wheels. I've checked all the kits that come with wire spoke wheels and neither of them had less than 0,7mm diameter. So, even if we work with plastic, we'll never get a result in scale.

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Tamiya 1/6 BMW R90 wheel

This note aims at explaining a step by step procedure on how to modify a plastic wheel adding wire spokes, using simple materials and no special tools.


Previous considerations

There are two kinds of wire wheels, those using drum brakes, and the ones using disk brakes.
The first kind are very old and as simple as a bicycle wheel; that is, the spokes go through a center hub (they are visible), which at the same time acts as a brake drum.
The second kind of wire wheels use brake disks; so the hub is much smaller, the joint is more sophisticated, and can't be seen most of the times.
Here, I used the wheels from a 14018 Tamiya kit, a Honda motocrosser of the 80s, with drum brakes, which makes the job more complex, because the joint between the spokes and the drum is visible.

The Tamiya kit provides each wheel in two halves, making the detailing task a little bit easier, but at the same time it's difficult to get a nice finishing, as we'll see at the end of this note.

 

There are two basic ways of working

1) To cut away all the plastic spokes, glue both wheel halves, drill all the parts and thread the new metal spokes. It sounds simple, but it's not so, you should make a jig for this purpose (like the one used when building the real wheels because you lose all the references once you cut the plastic spokes), the jig will keep an accurate wheel alignment.
It's possible to achieve this task, but would probably demand more skill and time, and I thought that it would not be worth spending 20 hours on building a couple of wheels while constructing the whole model would take me 10 hours.

 

2) Nevertheless, it's hard to get a nice job and you will have to be very careful not only when joining both halves once finished, but also at the moment of painting the ring.

To illustrate this note, I decided to carry out this second and easier method. The final result wasn't the expected, because of the lack of practice, and because I was eager to write this note. Anyway, I think this method is ideal, and you'll get a surprising result, just by paying attention to some details.


Tools

Here's the list, nothing special:
A scissors or side cutter for plastic
A flat file.
A pin vise ( I recommend the Tamiya's).
A 0,3mm drill.
Good quality CA (it should be used cold)
Two flat pliers.
0,4mm tinned cooper wire ( used in telephony or PC connectivity).
A magnifier ( a must-have tool, although your sight were excellent).


Building step by step a wire wheel

Before starting, you should draw a diagram of each wheel, showing the spokes location; but if you have another kit similar to this one, or a digital camera to take photos of each half, you can omit this step.

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I had two of them


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