Making Better Tie-Downs and Grab Handles

 Those ugly tie-downs ...

The blocky, molded on tie-downs so common on some armor models are often one of the first things modelers improve on - and one of the easiest.

There are numerous methods, from using fine wire to photo-etched parts, but replacements can also be made from something that's probably sitting in a desk drawer. 

Staples. They come in different sizes, ranging from the common size found in desk staplers to the heavy, broad staples used in staple guns. And it turns out they work great as tie-downs and brackets on 1/35th scale armor. This following illustrates using common staples as tie-downs on a 1/35th scale M-163 Vulcan.


 Lets replace them ...

On the M-163, the tie-downs were a solid piece molded on the hull and not very realistic looking. These were removed using a standard No. 11 blade and also a chisel blade. Once removed, it was determined standard wire staples would work as replacements. Next, a drill bit the size of the staple wire was found, and holes were drilled, using a pin vise, in the locations of the old tie-downs (image 1).


Using a pair of cutters (Image 2), one of the vertical legs of the staple was cut off (Illustration 1). This leaves an "L" shaped piece of wire (Illustration 2). 


The remaining vertical leg is then stuck into one of the drilled holes, allowing a determination to be made on where the bend for the new vertical leg needs to be made. A pair of needle-nose pliers was used to grasp the staple at the location of the bend and then remove it from the hole (Image 3). 


The tricky part was bending the staple, and it involved some trial and error. The quickest method seemed to be to hold the pliers roughly horizontal to a hard surface, such as a metal desk or a concrete floor. Contact between the existing staple bend and the surface was made, and then the bend was made (Illustration 3 - 4). 


This bent staple (Image 4) can then be tested in the drilled holes (Image 5). 


An alternative could be to bend the staple first and then drill the holes so the staple would fit into them, but, by pre-drilling, the location of the new tie-down can be positioned instead of having to worry about positioning based on the staple size.


Once the staple has been bent and found to fit in the holes, it was put into its location and the position was finalized. A spot of super glue was added to the underside of the hole, where the legs stick out, to secure the new tie-down. The hole size and placement should also be such that it holds the staple in place solidly by itself. After the glue has dried, cutters are used to remove the excess wire and trim it flush with the hull.

Project Photos


Image 1

Illustration 1

Image 2

Illustration 2

Image 3

Illustration 3

Illustration 4

Image 4

Image 5

 The result

For the M-163, 13 molded-on tie-downs were removed and replaced. The time and work was minimal, compared to some processes, the expense was zero, and the result looks much better than the original (Image 6).

Don't only use staples for tie-downs, though. The same method described above can used to make tool brackets from the heavy metal staples found in staple guns. Fine wire staples from smaller size staplers could even be used in 1/72th scale armor. 

There are probably even plenty of applications for the stiff wire from staples in all aspects of modeling - just experiment and bend away.

Project Photos


About the Author

About Landon (TempExp)


That's a good one Ronnie!!! I'll go for it mostly for tie downs, because ufortunately all the Italian AFVs grab handles have a round section ... Thanks for sharing
SEP 23, 2003 - 10:55 PM
(++) Hey Roadkill...Thanks for the info...I've been using the "Staple Method" for years..but out of necessity. I find the grab handles and tie downs are extremely fragile and I always end up breaking. Now I've got some good guidelines to follow. Thanks again...Bodeen
SEP 24, 2003 - 12:58 AM
Personally prefer lead wire. Bit softer and rounded like most handles. I shape it by wrapping it around either a brass rod or square brass tube that is the same width as the handle I need. Press it against a hard flat surface to get the angles a bit sharper and cut it where needed for length.
SEP 24, 2003 - 01:28 AM