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Dec 28, 2010, 12:55 AM
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casor's Avatar

Fabricating a ¾ pilot in 1/8 scale

There does not seem to be much on making scale pilots or enhancing commercially available pilots, so I am taking a shot here. I hope mine does not come out looking like the "creature from the black lagoon", but here goes.

Flying a WWI open cockpit model without even a profile pilot is a big “no no” for me since you can see this detail (or its omission) when the model is in the air. In particular, my DH2’s open cockpit is a huge hole in the nacelle and exposes some of the radio gear and the battery tray. Although my model is 1/9 scale, I found a nice 1/8 scale pilot bust from Maxford that looked like it would fit, but I felt it would look a bit silly if I simply stuck the bust on a stick and installed it in the cockpit as is. This might look OK in the air, but not on the ground. Further compounding the need for a decent pilot figure is the scratch built the Lewis machine gun which draws attention to the cockpit. In general, a cockpit is the focal point on any model since it is where the people would be, therefore some modeling effort should be spent on this detail.
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Dec 28, 2010, 12:57 AM
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Build up of a pilot bust

To the Maxford pilot, I felt I had to add at least the rest of the torso, most of the legs and the arms/hands to complete the illusion of a full pilot in the cockpit. The plan here was to leave off the lower legs since the battery tray would interfere with these. Not a big deal as, in the real DH2, the pilot’s legs and feet fit way up front in the nose, under the instrument panel. I also planned to make the figure removable for access to the radio gear and to use the pilot’s torso to house my receiver. No seat would be necessary as the DH2’s seat was quite small and you cannot see any of it with the pilot in place.
Dec 28, 2010, 12:59 AM
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Build up of a pilot bust - photo

Here are the basic components I started with – the Maxford bust and some building foam sheet. I made some basic shapes and took some measurements from myself (!) to get the proportions about right. Note that professional sculptors proportion everything from the dimensions of the head – which I did not do.
Dec 28, 2010, 01:02 AM
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Basic assembly

In all this, I tried to assemble and work the add-on pieces in such way that if I had to start over I didn’t have to undo much. The foam torso was affixed to the bust first with epoxy, after hogging out the inside of the bust to save weight and to give me room for the receiver. I rough shaped it to the bust and then I coated the bare foam with Minwax Polycrylic which allows vinyl spackle to adhere better and prevents primers from attacking the foam. The torso was then coated in spackle and sanded. I then epoxied on the roughly shaped legs and spackled them in.
Dec 28, 2010, 01:03 AM
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Blending and priming

After smoothing down the multiple applications of spackle with 150 and then 220 sandpaper, I brushed on Polycrylic over the spackled areas and primed the assembly with very light coats of auto body primer. The primer really highlights where you need to contour the additions and also brings out all your mistakes! More spackle, Polycrylic and sanding. Once I had the contours right, I began to build up continuations in creases, folds and seams in the flight suit on my additions so that these would blend in with those on the bust.
Dec 28, 2010, 01:05 AM
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More blending and detailing

I am assuming here that the pilot is wearing a heavy flight coat that extends below his waist. To that end, I added a piece of plastic to represent the coat bridging over one leg to the other. I am also test fitting his right arm that will be holding a control column. At this point, a decision must be made either to glue on the arm and finish it in place or to work on it off the model. I chose the former as it would allow me to blend in the upper arm with the pilot’s shoulder and it would be easier to work on with it being supported by the rest of the figure.
Dec 28, 2010, 01:09 AM
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Wrinkles and more details

I added more detail to the flight coat and blended it in with Polycrylic and vinyl spackle. I also added a few wrinkles to pants with the same. It was quite a mess at first – I used a toothpick to apply the wrinkles using spackle only, and slathered on a lot more than I needed. When that set up, I painted on some thinned spackle to blend it and sanded it all down a bit with 220. I also used a 3m scotch pad to round everything out and this worked well.

The wrinkles in the pant legs are bit hard to see in the photo. BTW, after sanding, make sure you prime as the irregularities in the white spackle are really hard to see. Just sand every - spackle and primer - together. Keep working it - if you take off too much or have a hollow spot, just spackle right over the primer.
Dec 28, 2010, 01:12 AM
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Test Fit!!

To see the pilot in context and to check the overall fit, I stuck him in the cockpit periodically. This is also called “bench flying”. It is amazing to me how you can tell if things just “look right” when you have a detail in the correct setting. I think I am on track here so far. This is as far as I got and will be posting more very soon……

Dec 28, 2010, 01:23 AM
a.k.a Maltone
Pat Lynch's Avatar
Great description Rob - looking forward to the rest! The model is rather nice too

Dec 28, 2010, 01:31 AM
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Thanks Pat

Originally Posted by maltone
Great description Rob - looking forward to the rest! The model is rather nice too

I have to say that the whole scratch built pilot thing is little scary for me - there is a lot of "art" involved and I am a "connect the dots" kind of guy. But with not a lot of options for a full or 3/4 pilot, sometimes you just have to do it yourself. This particular model really needs a pilot, so I had to "man-up"!! Attd a photo of the rest of the model.....
Dec 28, 2010, 02:26 AM
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Fixing an arm

With all my cutting and fitting, the pilot’s arm did not quite line up at the back with the shoulder. I simply epoxied on a piece of foam and blended it in – more Polycrylic and vinyl spackle.
Dec 28, 2010, 11:07 AM
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vonJaerschky's Avatar
That is a beautiful DH2, Rob! Nice job on the pilot, too.
Dec 28, 2010, 01:23 PM
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Onto the left arm!

I am going to try to have the pilot’s left hand doing something, so wanted to get it into the correct position. I used a piece of card and cut a profile of the arm which helped me get the proper dimensions and angles. I rounded it out before pinning it to the torso. I also test fitted the assembly in the cockpit and there is absolutely no shoulder room now with the other arm in place. This actually told me that I had it right as photos of the real airplane show pilots wedged in the cockpit with almost no wiggle room. The forearm is still a bit thick, but I will now whittle it down and then spackle.

On the other arm, I schmutzed it in and sanded in some wrinkles - still some more sanding to do but getting there.
Dec 28, 2010, 08:12 PM
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D-Rock's Avatar
Very nice indeed, both the pilot and model.

Dec 29, 2010, 03:23 AM
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casor's Avatar

Thank you guys

....for all the compliments on my "stuff"

Here are the specs on the model:

Plane: DeHavilland DH-2
Designer: Rob Caso
Type: WWI fighter
Scale: 1/9
Wing Area: 510 sq in
Wing Span: 40 in
Length: 35 ¾ in
Flying weight 34 oz
Wing Loading: 9.6 oz/sq ft
Finish: Sig Koverall, nitrate dope, Minwax polycrylic varnish, Krylon flat green spray, Tamiya sand spray, Testors Model Master for markings and details.
Power System: Hacker A20-30M brushless outrunner, APC 10x5 prop Castle Creations 18 amp ESC, FMA 2100 mAh Li-poly battery
Radio: JR 12x, Spektrum D6100 E receiver, (3) Futaba 3114 servos, scale pull/pull controls, rudder, elevator, aileron, throttle, functional tail skid
Full Throttle Power: 12.75 amps, 150 watts, 70.5 watts/lb

• Squadron Signal Publications #171, “DeHavilland DH-2 In Action”, ISBN 0-89747-408-2
• Aircraft Archive, “Aircraft of WWI Vol 2”, ISBN 0-85242-984-3
• Profile Publications # 91,“The DeHavilland DH-2”
• Flight Journal, April 2008 (Full scale modernized replica)
• Model Airplane News, April 2005 (Dave Johnson’s 32” electric model)

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