Modeling Flame for Flame Throwers

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I have been asked to give a detailed step by step description of how I have modeled flame for Flame Throwers. I got the idea after watching color footage of World War II flame throwers in action. The first thing I noticed is that the flame comes out white, turns yellow, then orange as it goes down range. The black smoke only comes in view after the flame has contacted an object. With this in mind, I did an experiment purely to fill in some time while waiting for a model to dry here and there.

The items I used:
  • White wire
  • Cotton balls
  • Superglue
  • Yellow acrylic paint
  • Red acrylic paint, to mix with yellow and make the orange.
  • Black acrylic paint
  • Clear Gloss acrylic
  • Step one
    I started with a white wire to give it some support, the diameter will depend on the size of the nozzle dispensing the flame. It has to fit inside the nozzle when done. You can always cut the wire shorter so start with some extra for the distance you want. Remember that these are Burst weapons. So long sprays from a man portable would look strange.
    I attempt to make it look as if it had just started to fire.
    Step two
    Spread a cotton ball by gently pulling it apart, I try to keep it somewhat round in shape. Stick the wire through the center. Apply superglue to where you want the flame to start.
    Push the cotton ball down over the spot and gently push it to contact the glue. After the glue takes hold you can stretch the cotton ball away from the nozzle end. This starts the flaring out of the flame.
    Keep stretching out cotton balls and place them in line until you get the length you want. Cut the wire short and pull the last cotton ball over the end of the wire to hide it.
    Step three
    Airbrush the cotton with the yellow. I airbrush the yellow at a father distance than normal, about 6-12 inches. This allows a misting effect. I keep this up until I still have the white at the nozzle, blended into the rest, which at this point is almost all yellow. Some white cotton can still be seen through the yellow, this is the effect of the misting.

    Next I add a small amount of red to the yellow and blend it on to the end of the yellow. If it looks to orange donít worry. I apply one more misting of yellow to tone it down.

    Last I add just a touch of black to represent smoke. I know that I said that the film that I watched didnít produce smoke until it hit something. To me it just looks better and gives it depth with the hint of smoke. The last thing I did was to spray the entire flame with clear gloss acrylic.
    The steps I took and the paints and material used are probably not the only things you can use to get this effect. They are just what I used. Weather enamels or other paints would work, I can not say.
    Would plastic rod work instead of wire, probably. With wire you can always reshape it, if it gets bent. It is up to what you want to try, and if this gives you ideas, go for it.
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    About the Author

    About Don Franklin (gunnytank)

    USMC retired 1979-2001. I was an 0351(Anti-tank/assualtman), 1811 M60A1 Tankcrewman, 5963/79 Tactical Data Systems Tech. Now work for the FAA as a NAVAIDS/COMM tech. Modeling semi seriously since 1995. I mainly do 1/35 USA armor and 1/72 scale USMC aircraft.


    Nice tutorial! Love it!
    OCT 21, 2007 - 10:41 AM
    Very nice feature. When I signed up for the flame thrower campaign, I wondered how can I mke my tank shoot flame, now I know. Thank you for sahring your technique.
    OCT 21, 2007 - 11:20 AM
    What a great help this will be! I saw it done more than thirty years ago and have never been able to replicate it myself.
    OCT 21, 2007 - 03:00 PM
    Excellent article Don nice and simple and from easy to find items perfect, it looks like it would also suit rocket plumes. thanks for sharing cheers Keith Forsythz
    OCT 21, 2007 - 08:41 PM
    Great article. I really like this kind of tips. Very well explained. Thank you very much!!!! Mig Jimenez
    OCT 21, 2007 - 09:16 PM
    Keith - you're dead on I have a MaK. kit that has a backback type rocket system and I've been contemplating using this method. The only twist would be to switch the colors and end with white.
    OCT 21, 2007 - 10:10 PM
    Fantastic idea, very original. i cant wait to try it.
    OCT 22, 2007 - 08:15 AM
    Pure genius . Just the thing for the Dragon IWO figures. Thanks for sharing. Mike
    OCT 22, 2007 - 01:16 PM
    Scot,.. mate this is really cool, simple!!,for ages I've wanted to sculpt a 120mm figure, but with the flame active, and I can see by teasing the cotton wool carefully you could show it engulfing some thing... thats cool cobber..Phil..
    NOV 30, 2007 - 02:47 PM
    Very well done!!
    DEC 11, 2007 - 05:54 PM