Repairing Tissue Tears on Model Aircraft

Article & photos by Jeff Nisley

The first half of this article addresses SMALL TISSUE TEARS while the second half deals with the LARGER ONES. This page is just one of an increasing list of Hints’n Tips.

Let’s get started.

HAFFA long time member, Mike Basta, introduced me to his method of fixing small tears in tissue back when I was new to this hobby back in 2016. The process was widely used by some aeromodelers in the past but I’m not sure it is widely known today.

Basically the technique hasn’t changed. What has changed is the use of a new type of glue used to make this technique even better. For years Mike used Duco Cement, however there is a better option.

With little fanfare a few years back, Elmer’s Products, Inc. introduced a totally clear version of their rather “milky” formula they had in production for ages—simply called Elmer’s Glue. I can remember using it in grade school back in the 50s. Yes—I’m getting up there in years. “Now—low and behold you can get what they call ‘Elmer’s Washable Color Glue’, and even a product known as ‘Elmer’s Glitter Glue, Great for Making Slime’. The kids can have fun with those whereas we will stick with the plain vanilla ‘Elmer’s Washable Clear Glue’ (no pun intended).”

“Now—low and behold you can get what they call ‘Elmer’s Washable Color Glue’, and even a product known as ‘Elmer’s Glitter Glue, Great for Making Slime’. The kids can have fun with those whereas we will stick with the plain vanilla ‘Elmer’s Washable Clear Glue’ ( no pun intended).”

This Clear glue, believe it or not—is the secret to making an almost invisible repair to tissue tears anywhere they happen on a model aircraft. Back in the old day’s you would simply make a patch to cover the rip or tear and call it “battle damage” or some referred to it as “hangar damage”.

If you follow along below in my Slide Show Tutorial and give it a try yourself, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to make these “oops” go away, or at least not draw your attention to them.

Repairing Small Tissue Tears on a Model Aircraft
— A Step-by-Step Slide Show Tutorial

Hopefully if you have viewed the Slide Show Tutorial above, your take away was that the fact that the glue we are using is washable, thus we are able to make the repairs less visible. In essence in the past if you were using Duco Cement, you were not able to “clean up” the excess glue because it couldn’t dissolve.

One important thing to consider is to begin making the tissue repairs to your plane before they become larger. This is a good reason to stay on top of this. With a little patience and practice you can get your plane to look closer to it’s prior state of having little or no tears.


Sometimes it’s obvious that trying to repair a really big rip or tear is just out of the question.

Look closely at the first and last slide of the slide show above. (You can click on the dots under the slide show to navigate to those photos, or just use the left and right arrows.) On the last slide of the show you will notice that there is a bay of tissue just above the brown strip and to the left with the tissue missing. The first slide of the show, however, shows tissue having been added.

What I want to point out here is that it’s hardly noticeable that I have replaced a bay of tissue on the stab. One way you can tell is that the tissue appears to have some wrinkles in it. What you are seeing here is the tissue before it is misted with water or 70% isopropyl alcohol. It should tighten up and the wrinkles should go away when it dries. For more about this process, see my web page Five Helpful Tips for Applying Tissue to Models

So when the damage is too great, and you can limit the area to be cut out to be a bay or two of the structure, you can totally replace the torn tissue in the offending bay or bays. To do this, carefully cut the tissue right up to the side of the balsa with an X-Acto blade (also marketed by Elmer’s Products Inc. BTW), trying not to cut into the balsa by holding the knife blade straight. You can see in the last photo of the slide show how this should look when the tissue is cut out of the bay.

Next step is to replace the tissue. To do this, carefully measure the width of the bay for the width of the piece of tissue you are going to use. I use millimeters abbreviated as mm. If you are not familiar with the metric system I urge you to quickly read this: How to Measure Centimeters. We are one of only three countries in the world that doesn’t use the metric system. Here is an interesting article titled Why the United States Doesn’t Use the Metric System. If however you prefer to use inches, go for it if it works for you. I just think it’s sometimes easier to use this system, but I must admit I trade off to US measurements sometimes, especially when I am dealing with balsa sizes for example that are measured in inches.

Now cut a strip of tissue the width of the bay, keeping in mind that you want the length to be longer so as to hold on to it as you glue the piece of tissue in place. It can be of any length as it will be trimmed later. At this point you are basically applying tissue to your plane like you normally would.

If you are relatively new to applying tissue, or could use a refresher course, this subject is addressed in Tip number 1 of my Five Helpful Tips for Applying Tissue to Models web page. Ron has a series of 5 videos that are great. They are called Ronny Gosselin’s — How To Cover a Model with Tissue Videos. You can find the links to his series if you go to the link of the 5 TIPS web page above.

There you have it. Hopefully this has been helpful information to add to your growing set of Aëromodeling skills. If you liked this tutorial and article, leave a comment below in the LEAVE A REPLY box below. Thermals. — Jeff Nisley—

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