Hanging Around The Nerd Cave



     When I was 3 or 4, my dad hung a model of a P-40 Warhawk fighter plane in my room.  It was one of the Flying Tigers’ planes from World War II with the bad-ass shark mouth painted on the nose.  It’s one of my earliest memories and probably what got me hooked (get it?) on hanging stuff from the ceiling.  Ever since, I’ve always liked to take my decorating into the 3rd dimension, so to speak.

     At our previous house, the master bedroom morphed into what became The Nerd Cave, Version 1.0 not long after we moved in.   I soon thereafter discovered 1/18 scale aircraft models from (now apparently out-of-business) 21st Century Toys.  I fell in love and started hanging them up like it was going out of style. If you don’t know, 1/18 scale makes for a pretty large model.  I ended up adding 1/48 & 1/32 scale planes and had about 20 hanging when the house burned down.

     After my wife turned over the empty extra bedroom of our new home to me a year and a half ago, the only condition she placed on me was that I couldn’t hang up any airplane models. To be honest, I didn’t know she hated them so much.  If I recall correctly, she explained that she thinks they look tacky.  If by “tacky,” she mean’s “totally freakin’ awesome,” then I get what she’s saying.   Of course, she put no such condition on my son’s room, so I happily used the earmarked insurance money from my lost models to deck his room out like a miniature version of the Air & Space Museum. Here’s a pic of what he has going on today.  You’ll note some bare spots awaiting future acquisitions.

Planes...Planes everywhere.

Planes…Planes everywhere.

     Getting back to the Nerd Cave, I’ve filled up about 90% of available wall space with some great art, sculptures, etc.  Yet the ceiling remains untouched. It sits there…bare and desolate…mocking me.  While I may or may not have actually agreed to the “no airplane” condition…I frankly don’t recall…she certainly never said anything about space ships, rockets, or UFOs.  She’s now arguing that she meant, “Don’t hang anything,” but as anyone familiar with the rules of the Wish spell in Dungeons & Dragons knows, you have to be very specific. Besides, can we really trust someone whose story keeps changing? And it is my room at the end of the day.  If you no likey the planes, you don’t need to enter.

     Since I’ve been either too lazy or too busy (or a little of both) to get any models built since moving into the new place, I decided to go with a couple of pre-fabbed models for my inaugural hanging.  I found these sweet Klingon Bird of Prey and Enterprise models on eBay for a nice price and jumped on them like Gordon Ramsay on an under-cooked scallop.  Besides just looking cool, they light up.  And if you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know I loves me some lights.

What's the Klingon word for "Freaking Cool?"

What’s the Klingon word for “Freaking Cool?”

But Mike, How Can I Hang Stuff From My Ceiling?

     I’m glad you asked.  While I’m here, I thought I’d fill you in on how to actually hang a model like a boss.  I know it sounds easy, but if you Google it, you get alot of weird methods, some of which seem overly complicated and/or can damage your model. I’ve been using my method (not that I invented it) for years, and have never lost a model. This is how I do it:


     Note that I am not a registered or board-certified Hangologist.  This is just my way of doing it, so if your lovingly constructed Battlestar Gallactica does a nose dive into the carpet, it’s probably because you did something wrong. So don’t do something wrong.  And as always, use eye protection and care when operating power tools.  Once, while grinding a Tiger tank wheel down with a Dremel tool, I took a piece of molten styrene to the eye at about 80 mph.  It hurt REALLY bad and I’m lucky I didn’t go blind.  So be safe.

Materials & Tools You May or May Not Need

Small (plastic) drywall anchors (for heavier plastic & die-cast models)
Small eye hooks

Get some of these

Get some of these

4-6 lb test fishing line (for light models)
12-16 lb test fishing line (for heavier models)
Power drill with bits
Small pliers
Safety glasses (If you’re drilling or plan on dropping the model on your face)

Step One: Check Out The Hook While My DJ Revolves It

     Decide if you need to use an anchor in the ceiling.  I use them for heavy, metal/die-cast models, but for most plastic models, I don’t bother unless it’s particularly heavy. Your perception of “particularly heavy” may differ from mine.  Since I’ve been hanging stuff for years, I’ve developed a sixth sense about these sort of things.  You might say I’m something of a “Hanging Stuff Up Sensei.”. So, when in doubt, use an anchor.

     Once you determine where you want to hang the model, make your hole.  If I’m using an anchor, I drill a pilot hole with a small bit. If I hit a stud, there’s no need for an anchor. If not, I will then drill a hole with a bit one size smaller than the anchor diameter, then tap the anchor in gently with a small hammer or screwdriver handle.

     If I’m not using an anchor, I just hand-screw the eye hook in to the ceiling being careful not to wiggle it, thus enlarging the hole and making it loose.  Loose is bad.  As long as you don’t manhandle the hook once it’s in the ceiling, it should hold lightweight models quite securely.

     Note that some times the the gap on the eye hook isn’t large enough for the fishing line to pass by when you go to hang your model.  If that’s the case, before I screw it in, I take two small pair of pliers and use them to pry open the gap enough to allow the line to pass.

Step Two: Tie Some Knots

     Now that your hook is up, it’s time to make a fishing line loop.  Some people drill holes in models or tie individual lengths of lines to four points on the model.  For me, a simple loop is all I need 95% of the time.

     First determine about how far down from the ceiling you want the model to hang. For me, about 12″ is good.  So, I will need 48″ of fishing line plus about 8″ extra to facilitate tying a knot.

     Once I cut the line, I then tie the ends together using two square knots. Being neither a Boy Scout or a sailor, I don’t know how to explain that to you.  Thanks to Google, here’s a diagram so I don’t have to:

The Square Knot

The Square Knot

     Once you have your knot tied, check it by pulling on both sides of the loop.  If you get any movement/give, do it again.  This is not a place where you want to settle for “good enough”. Clip the excess line about 3/4 of an inch from the knot–just to be safe.

Step Three: Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper

     For aircraft, this one is easy.  Take your loop of fishing line and slip one end of the loop over the nose/propeller and the other end of the loop over the tail.  Then pull up both strands in the middle and hang it on your hook, as such:

Ya'll didn't know I was a graphic artist did you?

Ya’ll didn’t know I was a graphic artist did you?

     Depending on size, shape, weight, and center of gravity, you may have to adjust the attitude of the model at this point to get it to hang correctly.  Occasionally, if I have a model that’s heavily weighted at the front or back, I might double up the loops (wrap them around the fuselage) to provide a firmer (via friction) hold of the fishing line on the model.  For some awkwardly-shaped or large models, I might use two loops of fishing line to give me four points of contact/support on the model.  Always be careful when doing this that you don’t knock off any delicate parts (i.e. radio antennas, gun barrels, pitot tubes, etc.)

     Caution! Before you release the model and leave the fishing line to it’s own devices, make sure the model is being held securely.  A WWII aircraft with a propeller and a tail wheel provides great places for the loop to catch.  A modern jet or funky spaceship…maybe not so much.  So don’t just hang and release.  Check to make sure the model is secure before you set it free.  Once the model settles and stops turning, you can adjust the direction its facing by gently tightening the eye hook a quarter turn at a time.

     And you’re done.  Now you’ve got some cool models hanging from your ceiling and something else to dust (yayyyyy!).  And don’t forget to dust.  Nothing looks more uncool than a fuzzy Battlestar Galactica.  Until next time…stay nerdy my friends.

Copyright 2013 It Came From The Nerd Cave