PE Advice Needed

I am building my first ship model ever. Been modeling for 50 years but this will be my first. I am doing a 1/350 Liberty Ship from Trumpeter and bought a number of different PE sets and some 3d Printed items. I am curious as to what adhesives are you using to attach the PE and if there are some special tools you use to apply such minute amounts of glue. Also curious if you prime the PE while it is on the fret. So far the build is going fine and I’m enjoying the experience.

Hi Christopher, welcome to the salty side!

In answer to your questions, we all do things differently and I’m sure you will get a range of responses. Here are mine:

Adhesive to attach the PE: I like polyvinyl acetate (PVA), or white glue, to attach very delicate assemblies such as radars or railing. It seems odd, I know, because the stuff isn’t designed for metal or plastic at all, but it is easy to work, can be wetted and repositioned when needed, and the bond is surprisingly strong and durable. I have models I built in the 1970s with rails (like these 1/700 U-Boats) that are still holding just fine!

I also use cyanoacrylate (super glue) on ocaasion when stronger bonds are needed.

Special tools to apply minute amounts of glue: I use copper wire. I have a length of old telephone wire (remember land lines?) with multiple fine copper wires inside. I cut off a length of about three inches and pull one of the wires out a quarter inch or so and use it to pick up and apply the glue. The plastic insulation with the other wires bundled inside makes a convenient handle.

Prime the PE while it is on the fret? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I usually don’t prime at all if using enamels (which tend to stick better than acrylics to etched brass) but will paint the parts on the fret before detaching them. This ensures full coverage over the often complex ship PE. At times I’ll attach the PE to the model and paint everything at once; either method seems to work well.

I’m glad you are having a good experience with your first ship, and your 50 years (!) of experience will definitely come in handy. Have fun with your Liberty - and here’s hoping you get as hooked on ships as the rest of us here!



Hi Christopher,

Agree with Tim, but would add a couple of things. On the adhesives I also tend to use Cyno acrylate, or superglue for jobs such as tacking parts like railings , or any larger etched structures in place to hold them, and then run PVA along the join. CA glue us great its quick drying, but does go brittle with age.

On the tools front, I found a number of years ago I invested in a quality pair of needle nosed tweezers, very useful for handling small parts. I cut parts from the fret with a curved blade, gently rock the sharp blade across the attachment point.

Good luck with the liberty, it is a nice kit, and the etch will really set it off, welcome to the site, Hope to see mor from you.

Cheers, Si


Thank you all for the replies. I did quickly realize that some of my tools needed upgrading to include some higher quality tweezers and another PE bending tool - my current one has seen better days. One of the more fun aspects has been calibrating my eyeballs to 1/350 as opposed to 1/35 or 1/48. Always enjoy looking at and admiring the ship entries at model shows and glad I’m finally giving a crack at one.

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Not wanting to pile on… I’ve recently started using Gel CA instead of the normal viscosities. It cures slower allowing positioning. It stays exactly where you put it. You can put on very tiny amounts with control using a toothpick or other needle pointed object. Finally, when part is where you want it, touch the a toothpick in some accelerator and just get it near the CA and it will kick it.

To apply long ship railings I tape the railing in places selectively with narrow Tamiya tape. Then “tack” the non-taped gaps with thin CA from the back where posssible When this sets carefully remove the tape and apply CA to the remainder.

I prime and finish color before fret removal when I can. If it’s bare brass metal, I pickle it in some vinegar to micro-etch the brass to help in paint adhesion.

Lastly, regardless of what I just wrote, gluing brass to styrene or to itself is iffy at best. Furthermore, if the CA doesn’t hold the first time, it gets worse with each attempt. Therefore, I’ve learned how to solder complex assemblies like masts and radar rigs. Once soldered correctly, they don’t come apart. I’ve given clinics on this.


Great tip with the tape for the railings. Will be trying that. I am using gel CA applied with an old airbrush needle. Also using Gator Grip acrylic glue for some larger flat pieces. I also recently discovered more magic from MicroMaster and Black Cat Models 3d printed goodies. Will be waiting for those to arrive and incorporate those to this build.

You can use Liquitex acrylic medium gel. Very similar to Gator Glue but better price for volume.