Making turnbuckles is not a complicated process, follow these easy steps for realistic turnbuckles.

Begin with 0.5mm brass tube cut to a length of 3mm by using my easy to make jig. Once cut, run a 0.3mm drill bit through the tube to clean off any burrs.

Twist a piece of 0.13mm copper wire around a 0.3mm drill bit to form an eyelet, you will need two per turnbuckle. Cut the shaft of the eyelet to 1.5mm.

Insert an eyelet into each end of the 3mm brass tube leaving just a little of the twisted shaft showing. Add a small drop of CA (super glue)

to the shaft of each eyelet, allow to dry. The turnbuckle is now complete apart from painting. You could leave the turnbuckles natural brass because over time the brass will tarnish especially if handled with un-gloved hands giving a realistic finish. For painting I mix 50% Humbrol Metal Cote gun metal and 50% Humbrol Metal Cote polished aluminium and a dash of gold leaf, thin it out well before applying.

The 0.13mm copper wire is from stripped multi strand electrical cable, sizes may vary but try to get one as close to this size as possible.

The brass tube is available from


My jig is made from a piece of fibre with two cuts made with a fine hacksaw blade. The fibre is electrical insulating material but any reasonably hard material can be used. A piece of perspex about 5mm thick cut to size and glued to a piece of timber would work well. Nylon kitchen cutting boards are another product which could be used for the jig, again cut it to your desired size and fix it to a piece of timber.

Drill a hole and insert a pin to act as a stop for your tube at 3mm. Place your sharp blade over the tube and cut with a back and forth rolling action, don’t press overly hard as the tube will not roll. Excessive weight on the blade will crush the tube rendering it unusable. Don’t forget to run a drill bit through the cut tube to clean out any burrs.


Start by cutting 1.2mm lengths of 0.5mm brass tube, ensure the hole is clear by running a 0.3mm drill bit through the tube. Thread the line into one brass tube then through the end of the turnbuckle, I’m using 0.12mm monofilament.

Loop the line back and feed it back through the brass tube. I hold the tube with tweezers and hold the line close to its end with another pair of tweezers, a bit fiddly but mastered very quickly.

Once the line is through pull through a few inches of line. Holding both lines, slide the brass tube down towards the turnbuckle so it is close but not touching the eyelet. Apply a drop of CA to the line close to the brass tube on the end away from the turnbuckle, allow to dry.

With a very sharp blade or cutter, cut off the excess line as close as possible to the brass tube being careful not to cut the wanted rigging line. And there you have it, one rigged turnbuckle.

You can use 0.4mm brass tube but it will need to be drilled out to 0.3mm, more about this later.

The fitted turnbuckles

I feel that the turnbuckles enhance the appearance of the model by adding just that little more detail. The size is correct for this 1:32 scale model of the Bristol F.2b


Making eyelets is one of the easiest facets of the rigging procedure. In this example I am using 0.1mm plated copper wire twisted around the shank of a 0.3mm drill bit. Hold the drill bit in a pin vice and hold the pin vice in one hand. Place the hand twisted wire over the drill bit and clamp the wire in the jaws of an alligator clip. These clips are great as they have a built in “handle” on the same axis as the wire which makes twisting very easy.

Turn the clip between two fingers holding backward pressure on the wire. Keep turning until the eye on the drill bit is nearly starting to grab the bit, you should still be able to move the eye up and down the drill bit. Remove the alligator clip and take the eyelet off the drill bit, trim the tail to suit your eyelet needs.

The above photo shows the eyelets attached to the wing, the mono looped through the eyelets and the small brass sleeves to hold the rigging together.

Rigging lines in 1:32 and 1:48 scales

Real size   1:32     1:48

4.0mm    0.125     0.083

4.5mm    0.140     0.090

5.0mm    0.156     0.104

5.5mm    0.171     0.114

6.0mm    0.187     0.125

6.5mm    0.203     0.135

7.0mm    0.218     0.145

7.5mm    0.234     0.156

8.0mm    0.250     0.166

All sizes are in mm.          



It may be necessary to drill your brass tube to a larger size to accommodate the size rigging line you are using. Hold the brass tube in the jaws of a smooth flat jaw pliers, a firm grip is required but not overly firm as it will crush the tube. Leave about 4 or 5mm of tube protruding past the jaws. See picture one.

Picture No. 1

Picture No. 2

Pictured here is a piece of 0.4mm brass tube and I am drilling it out using a sharp 0.3mm drill bit securely fixed in a pin vice. Insert the drill bit into the brass tube, applying a little pressure and twisting your pin vice, see picture No.2, start drilling making sure to hold the pliers firmly. Keep drilling until you have reached the depth you need, but remember to withdraw the drill bit after every second or third twist to remove any swarf build up, a build up of swarf will break the drill bit. Once the drilling is complete, cut the tube to the desired length then push the drill bit through the cut tube to clean off any burrs from cutting. To do this, place the cut length of tube on a hard surface, hold with a pair of tweezers then insert the drill bit into the opposite end to which you just cut. Exactly the same technique is applied if drilling 0.5mm tube using a 0.4mm drill bit.

It does not take long to master the technique as long as you are using a good quality, sharp drill bit, I can normally drill around 150 3mm lengths before having to replace the drill bit, but that will depend on the quality of the bit you are using.

This is just a small selection of wire sizes available. Any type of multi strand electrical cable will give you a great range of sizes to cover just about every application, whether it be making eyelets or detailing the engine. A small length of cable will give you a heap of copper wire.

Multi Strand Electrical Wire

Drill another hole in the jig at 1.2mm so a pin can be inserted so as to cut the tube for the next step in rigging.

To make turnbuckles which will fit directly into the wing twist the 0.13mm wire but leave the tail (twisted wire) a lot longer. Cut a piece of 0.4mm or 0.5mm brass tube (make sure it is drilled out to 0.3mm first) to the required length then insert the tail through the brass tube leaving the eyelet just proud of the brass tube, add a drop of very runny CA to the twisted wire as close as possible to the brass tube.

Drill 0.4mm holes into the wing at right angles to the wing, only drill ¾ of the way into the wing. Keep trimming away at the tail of the turnbuckle until it fits into the hole with only a small amount protruding past the hole, this will allow for the bend. Glue the turnbuckle into the hole (straight) and once the glue has dried slowly bend the turnbuckle down to be in line with the run of the rigging, final alignment can be made after the rigging is attached.

Here is another application of the double ended turnbuckles, this time they are used in the fuselage frame bracing in my WNW Sopwith Pup. Rigging lines are attached to both ends of the turnbuckle, one end is passed through pre-drilled holes in the frame and pulled through until the brass sleeve just touches the frame, CA holds it in place. Place another brass sleeve onto the other line, pass that line through the hole in the frame diagonally opposite the first one, add tension to the line and add a drop of CA. Slide the brass sleeve down until it just touches the frame then secure it with CA.

Trim off any excess line with a sharp hobby knife or a scalpel, do not over tension the lines.

This last photo shows an eyelet cut short for fitment directly into the wing. Hold the eyelet by the eye with tweezers and dip the tail into a small drop of runny CA, quickly insert the eyelet into a pre drilled  0.3mm hole and allow the eye to just touch the wing, none of the tail should be visible.

Making eyelets using this procedure is so simple, I can usually make an eyelet from start to finish every 20 seconds so it does not take long to build up a good quantity of eyelets.

See making eyelets on the right side of this page  

Turnbuckles and Eyelets
Click any small picture for a larger image