Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Easy 15mm Vehicle Aerials

Since I've had a few comments about my vehicle aerials over the years I thought it was about time I actually detailed in a post what I do - rather than just responding to comments.

I've heard of many different ways of doing vehicle aerials - the common one seems to be using brush bristles, but I have heard of people using piano wire (ouch!) and melted down plastic sprue stretched thin. I came accross the method I use by accident somewhere (I can't remember where so can't give credit) and a few weeks later a local discount supermarket had fishing gear on a special offer. I picked up a pack of two reels of fishing line for a couple of £'s and have been using one of them ever since.

I use a pin vice to drill out the relevant number of holes (normally in tank turrets).

My trusty (squeaky) pin vice.
My own system is that command vehicles get two aerials as well as normally having a crew figure in the turret. This helps them be easily identified on the tabletop. I do try to keep the placement of the aerials as accurate as possible but I know that they are more representative than anything else. As I understand it long 'whip' style aerials would rapidly be shot away in combat or become fouled under trees, but I do like the longer style.

This picture of 33 Armoured Brigade Shermans actually shows three aerials in the turret.

Not my picture - used without permission!
I like the fishing line as it paints easily, is easy to work with and cut, is safe and is flexible enough that it springs back into shape if it gets bent.

This is the stuff I use - I can't talk about it's usefulness for it's intended purpose I'm afraid!

Once I've drilled the holes (normally done when I am building the model and applying stowage) I snip some fishing line to the lengths I want. I normally aim for one to be longer than the other slightly but that's just what looks 'right' to me. 

I then test fit the fishing line into the holes, just to make sure they are drilled out and not filled with varnish or paint. If required I do a quick spin of the drill bit just to make the fit snug. The thickness of the line fits well with the 2nd largest size drill bit I have (I've long since lost the packaging for those, so no idea what the measurement is - if in doubt start small as you can always widen if the hole is too small). 

I then carefully dab a small amount of superglue onto the end of the wire. Sometimes it goes on like a little bead of glue, other times it just coats the bottom of the line and forms a bead when you hold it upright. I then carefully put the line into the hole, making sure that the natural bend of the line is in the correct 'direction' - ie, it bends slightly backwards towards the rear of the turret. If it stuck straight up I wouldn't mind, but I think it looks better with a slight bend in it and I try to make sure the lengths I snip from the reel have a curve and no kinks making it stick out to the left or right. 

'natural curve' as you can see here. I snipped this bit out as it had a little bit of a funny shape to it.
Once the glue is dry - it may sometimes require a little bit of holding in place to get it to stay in the right direction - it's a simple matter of carefully painting the fishing line with a little black matt paint. I normally do this before the final spray of matt varnish, just to give it a little more protection. 

When I am doing new vehicles for the first time I will normally try to find some reference pictures just to get an idea where the aerials are supposed to be. It's worth being careful with the smaller models as the places where the aerials should go on the turrets tend to be quite brittle and will snap off while you drill. This is especially true of the British armored cars. I have started doing the same with my infantry models that have radios as well, just because I like how it looks - but I will have to go back through all my models at some point and do all the radios (along with upgrading the basing with the aid of some flower tufts - more on those later). 

The fishing line seems pretty durable and along with decals and stowage are small touches that I think really brings the vehicles to life. Well worth the effort of trying yourself!


  1. I like this method. Wonder what size drillbit you use?

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Dai, the fishing line is apparently 0.35 ømm (0.035mm?) so it might be a 0.05mm drill bit.

  2. Thanks for the great tutorial. I may give this a try on a future company. :-)

    1. I'd be pleased as punch if you did Cameron!

  3. Have you ever tried to find black fishing line for this? It must exist somewhere!

    Do they deform.over time in storage?

    1. I've never thought to look! Good idea!

      Storage wise I have mine on magnetic bases so they are fine. I have put turrets in foam cases before and I can't say I noticed any deformity over time. Saying that the turrets tended to get a 'hole' in the foam on their own.

  4. Top Tip!
    Funnily enough, I've today just bought a small fisherman's bag from Aldi to use as a carry case for my camera when at shows

    1. Thanks Roy. It's a Lidl that's near me and I always keep an eye on what specials they have. I'm pretty sure I got some floor mats from there to try and make into fields as well!

  5. Think I'll have to try this as well! it does improve the look of the model.

    Can you recommend anywhere online for stowage? I like that look on my tanks too but could do with adding more, especially those oil drums and camo netting etc. Your Shermans look very good indeed :)


    Just became a follower, the Golden Retriever with the sunglasses and sunhat!

    1. Hi Lee - thanks for the follow! I've left a comment on your latest blog post. I'm planning to post something soon about what I use for my models, so stay tuned!


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