Model-making expert: “kraftplex is the ideal material for lasering”.

Hier zu sehen: eine 0m-Kastenlok des Typs RUR. Foto: Jürgen Hans/Jaffas Moba Shop

When he was a child, Jürgen Hans was given a model railway as a gift. As a teenager he lost sight of his hobby – and rediscovered it almost 20 years ago when his nephew began to take an interest in model building.

In the meantime, the 72-year-old from Gehrden near Hanover has turned professional. In his online shop “Jaffas Moba-Shop” he sells models of locomotives, buildings and all kinds of interiors – all constructed by himself. Kraftplex is used in many of his buildings. In this interview, Jürgen Hans shares his expertise and tells us why he likes using our material so much. He also gives some tips on processing and for beginners in model making.

Mr Hans, for a material to be suitable for model making, what properties should it have?

Depending on the result to be achieved, the material varies – at least in my model building. The intention is to recreate a model as closely as possible to the original. If a garden table has wooden slats on the surface, then I also build the surface out of wood, for example with plywood from model aircraft construction. I also want the people who buy my model kits to have as little work as possible. For coloured surfaces I often use photo or laser cardboard, because it is available in various colours. This saves the buyer having to paint the model himself. For constructive parts, kraftplex is my favourite material.

Why do you use kraftplex for constructions?

It’s because of the high toughness and strength of the material and its low susceptibility to breakage. A comparison with MDF regarding small, filigree furniture on a scale of 1:45: chair legs made of MDF in the same thickness as kraftplex make no sense. Once you get close to the leg – for example when it is released from the board – it is already off. This does not happen with kraftplex.

In addition, kraftplex can be bent very well.

Yes, I make conscious use of this property in some models. The backrests of my model kitchen chairs are bent. Some of my competitors construct such model furniture with MDF. And they then look clumsy. The curved backrest of the kraftplex chair makes the difference, the model looks much more alive. I also use the 0.5-CL kraftplex and its bending capacity for the body of some wagons.

Für diese Stühle, den Hocker und den Tisch, alles im Maßstab 1:45, verwendet Jürgen Hans kraftplex. Durch die Biegsamkeit des Materials sehen die Modelle viel lebendiger aus.
For these chairs, the stool and the table, all in 1:45 scale, Jürgen Hans uses kraftplex. The toughness of the material allows the finest, prototypical dimensions without risk of breakage and the small curvature of the backrests perfects the coherent effect. Photo: Jürgen Hans

What else do you like about kraftplex?

When I compare MDF and kraftplex again: I very much dislike lasering MDF. The binders in it usually make the cut edges sooty. The fact that kraftplex contains neither solvents nor binders increases the appeal of using this material for me.

What are the different versions of kraftplex (ST 1 mm, 1.5 mm, 3 mm; CL 0.5 mm) used for in your models?

The ST-kraftplex is good to use when it comes to constructive substructures. I use the 3-millimetre material for vehicle frames, for example, where you only look at the cut edge. This is perfectly smooth due to the laser processing of kraftplex, without any traces of powder. I like to use the smooth CL-kraftplex for visible surfaces.

From a model maker’s point of view: In what way could kraftplex be optimised even more for this field of application?

It is a pity for me that kraftplex no longer offers the smooth 0.8 material. With the 0.8-millimetre kraftplex, finer structures can be worked out. The intermediate step between 0.5 and 1.0 makes the difference for me. In addition, the not quite smooth surface of the ST variants is the exclusion criterion for many visible parts in model making. That’s why I sometimes glue a layer of 0.5-millimetre CL-kraftplex over the ST variants. Because that is smooth.

Model maker Jürgen Hans sits in his workshop. Photo: Sarah Franke

Which adhesive do you recommend for working with kraftplex?

Wherever it is possible and makes sense, I construct with plug-in connections; in these cases, I first plug in and then fix with a drop of thin super glue. Often I also use “Uhu hart”, a fast-drying special glue. If the assembly process takes longer, I tend to use small amounts of craft glue with a similar consistency to white glue, which does not dry as quickly. However, caution is advised with such water-based adhesives, because kraftplex, like other organic materials, reacts to moisture and may deform.

To what extent can kraftplex be coloured, what experiences have you had here in practice?

In my opinion, kraftplex is the ideal material for laser processing. For other mechanical processes such as cutting, grinding or drilling, kraftplex is not quite optimal. It can happen that the material frays a little. Good, sharp tools and careful work can remedy this.

Für das Innenleben vieler seiner Modelle benutzt Jürgen Hans kraftplex. Foto: Jürgen Hans
Jürgen Hans uses kraftplex for the shell of many of his models. Photo: Jürgen Hans

What advice do you have for beginners who are just starting to build models? What is the best way to get started? 

If you want to get involved in laser-cut model making, I advise you to use so-called “FabLabs” or “Maker Spaces”. You can find them in all larger cities. This has some advantages for beginners. For example, they have proper machines that enable high-quality work. In addition, such institutions also offer courses in which beginners learn how to operate the machines. The “FabLabs” and “Maker Spaces” also offer support in making things.

Interview: Sarah Franke