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Scratchbuilding Shock Absorbers and Coilover Springs:
This article describes my newest technique for building coilover springs and shock absorbers.

Why is it that kit coilover springs and shocks just don't look like the real thing? The mold line down the center never helps, but the big problem is that you can't see through the spring. You can detail paint them, but that can get tricky. Here, I would like to present a technique I discovered just recently.

While working on a Revell Harley Dyna-Glide, I decided the kit coilover springs weren't going to cut it. I usually make shocks from aluminum or brass tubing, 2 sizes that telescope make nice looking shocks. This technique could be used on a Harley as some of them have covered spings, they just look like large-diameter shocks. Coil springs are very easy to make too. A bit of wire wound around a rod works just fine. I wanted a set of shocks with the rod visible though.

Then I hit on the idea of using some styrene coated wire that I bought a while back. It works great.

Here's the technique...............

Obtain some styrene covered wire from the hobby shop, in a diameter that closely approximates the diameter of the shocks you want to make. I didn't measure what I used, but it's about 1/16" diameter. Use a section of the wire as a form for the spring. For coilovers I prefer 24 guage bead wire, I'm sure other materials would work to, and the silver wire can be polished or left a natural metal color. Wind the bead wire tightly and close together onto the form.
Once you have a fair length wound (you might make some extra to save this step later), you'll need to seperate the coils. I do this with my thumbnail, putting my thumbnail into the groove between windings, and just turn the form. It's sort of like a screw, your nail will follow the wire, and spread the windings out a bit. This can also be done with a piece of sheet plastic the thickness you want the spaces to be. Just slide it in between the windings, press down, and turn. Slide it carefully off of the form when you are done.
Next, cut a section of the styrene covered wire the length you need for your shock, use a kit piece for a reference (assuming one is available). A little over halway down the length of the rod, you want to cut off the styrene covering. Mark the line and carefully cut through the styrene with a hobby knife. Just press into the plastic and turn the rod, the plastic will cut easily - the wire core will not.
Now gently slide the styrene covering from the wire. Be careful not to ruin the piece you slide off, it will come in handy later.
Once the covering is removed, you can see there is a "shock body" with a "piston rod" protruding from it. At this point the shock body (the fat part) can be painted the color of your choice.
The trickiest part of this technique is making the "spring retainers". These are simply plastic (or metal) discs that keep the springs from sliding off of the shock body and rod. These can be made with a punch set - punch them out of sheet plastic - or thin slices of metal tubing (plastic tubing is too thick to look right). For the tubing method, find a piece of tubing that slides tightly over your coated wire and cut thin slices from it. The next smaller size tubing should also be at hand because the fit on the rod will be very loose.A smaller size tubing is handy here to fill the gap, though there are probably other ways around that problem.
The covering that was removed to expose the wire is shown here, cut into short lengths to act as shock eyes - you'll need one for each end. The "spring retainer" disc has been slid over the shock body, as well as the "spring" being slid over the body and rod and cut to length. Paint the shock "eye" and "retainer" disc to match the shock body.
Add the disc and eye to the other end, and your shock is finished, except for final painting.

The spring winding technique also works for regular coil springs. Just use a larger form, use the kit piece as a guide, and slightly heavier wire (20 guage bead wire works nicely).

For the Revell Harley I was talking about at the beginning, I cut both ends off of the kit parts and spliced the new shock/spring combination in the middle. It was the easiest way to get the distinctive look of the mounts.

For shocks on most cars, you'll want to round off the top of the shock body to avoid a square-edged look. Evergreen styrene tubing and some music wire can also be use for this technique if you can't find the styrene covered wire. This is actually a better choice for shocks that won't have the spring surrounding them, it makes it easier to round off the top and has the added bonus of only requiring liquid cement for assembly instead of super glue or epoxy.