How to build convincing dial rims ?

If the last models of companies like Roden, Eduard or Ardpol are not so bad cockpit panels, in many cases they lack a lot of tiny details, are really wrong or overdone due to molding limitations.  Quite often, old kits (like Revell, Airfix or Frog), vacforms or shortruns are no panel at all.  If you want to build a convincing instrument panel, you have to apply many simple techniques.  The whole process is long and tedious but the final result worth it.

Here, for a first step, we will learn how to build convincing dial rims as (humbly) this.

Because dial rims found on the market (as those provided by Reheat) are note always appropriate, you have to scratch them.  Many friends use a punch and die set in its usual manner to make this task.  But I always disliked these technique because it is uncertain : offcenter, disformed, broken rims are current.  You have to make many attempts before to have a perfect rim.

The next method provide you a faster, easier and cleaner technique to make a profusion of rims in less than 2 minutes.  On top of that, these technique can find many other applications where a perfect tiny flat circle is wanted

Material and tools

The material required is only small copper wires of various diameters.  Currently, I use the finest I can find (0.1 mm to 0.3 mm/4 thou. to 12 thou.).   Don't buy your copper wire.  You can find a lot of usable wires in old electrical cords or electronical equipments as radio or TV windings.

Tools required are :

  • a set of drill bits of appropriate diameters or a punch and die set,
  • a modeler knife with a new nr 11 blade,
  • an electronician flat pliers with smooth jaws,
  • a second pliers.
Necessary tools to make dial rims


To begin, take a drill bit (or a die) of appropriate diameter and a copper wire between yout thumb and index finger.  Hold firmly the whole thing.  The wire must be parallel to the drill bit.

making dial rims : step 1

Wind the wire around the drill bit.

The number of turns depend of the quantity of rims you want.  Make always more turns than necessary because a number of them may be loss in the whole process.

making dials rims : step 2

After each 5 or 6 turns, compress them together to make a regular spiral.  Continue until you have wanted turns.

making dials rims : step 3

When you finished, remove the spiral off the drill bit.  You must get a regular spiral like a tiny spring

making dial rims : step 4

Cut the spiral with a new blade.  Process slowly and don't cut more than 3 or 4 turns at a time.  For smallest spiral, you could not cut more than 1 or 2 turns at a time.

After each cut, turn slightly the spiral.  You shall loss a little bit of wire, but each circle shall be clean and complete.

Don't use a cutting mat, it's too soft.  Use only a hard surface, like an old mirror or a piece of glass.

making dial rims : step 5

When finished, you must have a small pile of single turns.  Not yet a perfect circle, but wath I call an open ring.

making dial rims : step 6

Put 1 or 2 rings between the jaws of your electronician pliers.  Pay attention at the placement of these pieces.  If they are misaligned, you could miss your rims.

making dial rims : step 7

Possibly using the second pliers for more power (It depend of the wanted result) press firmly your pliers.

making dial rims : step 8

After these final step, you must obtain a result like this on the picture.

As you can see, not all are perfect.  But an half hour suffice to obtain a big amount of these rims in various diameter

making dial rims : step 9

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