1:32 Scale Academy Sopwith Camel

by brae  

My finished 1917 Sopwith Camel Replica.

It has been a long time since I put together a plastic car model, and I have never done any sort of aircraft before let alone one with rigging.  I learned a whole bunch of new vocabulary words during this part of the project, too!  No, not new curse words...actual aeroplane terminology.  :D

As with scale houses, there is a wealth of information out there on the internet.  I found everything from novice builds to finely detailed expert builds.  I opted for a 1:32 scale plane since a 1:12 scale replica would have overpowered the building itself as well as my condo.  Haaaaa!  I think the one I chose looks appropriate for scale and enhances the project without taking over completely.

Considering the scope of my project and the fact that the aeroplane was meant to be one element in that larger project instead of a stand-alone piece, I used the base kit as is but put my painting and aging expertise to work!  This is your basic plastic model and, as such, some detailing is lost and some is likely historically inaccurate.  The kit was inexpensive, but I was able to eek out enough detail to suit my tastes without breaking the bank.

The wings of the original were fabric as were the tail and back portion of the body.  After working with the Chrysnbon bathroom in the Heritage, I knew any little mark would show under spray paint.  ;]  And, I had to fill in many injection marks on the pieces.  So, while I was at it, I decided to try an experiment.  I sanded the pieces with a linen weave pattern with a sanding stick.  I sanded front to back and then perpendicular from side to side to create a very subtle matte cross-weave texture.  Since flat paint still often has a sheen when sprayed over shiny plastic, I figured that even if the fabric texture didn't show up clearly it would at least tone down the shine on the paint finish.

Here is the original shiny plastic.

And, after the sanding...

After the spray primer coat, the finish didn't necessarily register as fabric, but it had a great matte, non-plastic finish.  That was a success to me!

After the spray top coat of Testors Flat Light Aircraft Grey for the underside and Testors Flat Olive for the top side, the finish was just as I wanted.  Well, I did have a few spray paint mishaps that required sanding and refinishing...but it's an old replica, right?  :D

The shiny red nose turned out so well, I couldn't bring myself to age it or dirty it in any way.

Not much of the engine shows, but I detailed what would be seen.  It's obviously a simplified version of the original, but I figured painting and making it grungy would be detailing enough.  I brush painted the four engine parts with Testors Aluminum.  Once that was dry I used black and brown acrylic washes to fill in the details, which it did wonderfully.  It has the look of an oiled and working machine.  :D

The "wood" portions were easier to mimic than I thought they would be.  When I read that you were to first paint the base color and then paint on the wood grain, I thought, "Riiiiiiiiiiiight."  But, it works!  :D  I used a hand painted base coat of Testors Flat Light Tan followed by Testors Flat Military Brown, also hand painted and then wiped away with a paper towel.  Maybe it's not fine woodgrain, but it is remarkably convincing.

There are some fantastic scale cockpit modifications people have done to accurately reflect the original planes, but I ended up using the original kit piece as is.  I did the same wood grain finish on the interior walls, floor and dash based on the various models I had seen other modelers build.  On the interior, I used black and brown acrylic washes to tone down the shiny new finishes.  The instruments were first painted with a toothpick to fill in the black background.  I then used a sewing pin to paint the instrument details using Liquitex Iridescent Bronze acrylic paint.

I had read that the guns were molded upside down in this kit, but with my shortened build timeline and the fact that I really didn't want to start deconstructing parts, I used the guns as is.  My model wouldn't be the most accurate besides, and it would have been a lot of work for a minor payoff.  :D

Show of hands...who knew what a turnbuckle was?  :D  I sure didn't...but I found out about them in a hurry when researching biplane rigging.  I found a tutorial on making these scale miniature approximations, but after seeing just how blasted tiny the materials were, I went with a more simplified approach.

I basically used the kit method, though I used black "transparent" thread instead of the kit supplied black fiber thread.  I also waited until after the plane was assembled to add the lines.  I didn't see how you could add the lines during the body assembly, then keep them out of the way and clean during the painting process.  This meant a bit more headache in the end, but it worked out well.

I mostly just used super glue gel to hold the wires in place in the predrilled kit holes.  For the ones in the body, I cut small lengths of brass wire and slipped them into the holes with the wires.  This plugged the hole and held the wire more securely. I dabbed black paint on them later to remove the obvious brass shine.

I started with the tail section, and in this photo you can see the brass pins before I painted them.

In the overview shot, the painted brass pins are no longer obvious.  :]

The decals were not the easiest things to deal with, and I admit to being out of practice using them.  But, the end result was pretty good and this was meant to be a weathered replica, so any imperfections actually worked to my advantage.

I followed most of the recommended placements and others I made up from the available decals...like the triangle with a logo in it shown below.

I made one substitution during the rigging process.  There was supposed to be a straight wire from the bottom of the plane running perpendicular to the wheel assembly.  I knew there would be no way to get the tension correct, so I used a cut off head pin.  It doesn't look like a substitution at first glance and it added stability to wheels besides.

I was terribly out of practice with building plastic models and this was my maiden voyage with rigging, but I love the end result!  Overall, I enjoyed the process of putting the model together even if I don't foresee myself making a whole squadron of these.  ;D

I found these fantastic Scene Master spotlights on amazon.com and instantly knew they would be perfect for lighting up the plane.  They have a vintage industrial look about them that complements the plane and building.  They are labeled multi-scale, and I think they work wonderfully in my scene.  In the final layout, I used only one of the pair that were included in the package.

I aged it with brown and black acrylic to remove the plastic sheen.

The sign verbiage is taken from the Wikipedia article on the Sopwith Camel.  I printed it on paper, pasted it onto a primed wood scrap and staked it into the ground with some wire.

Be sure to check out these sources and inspirations:
- Excellent video of the same model kit with snappy music
- Beautiful kit model by Des Delatorre

18 comments

Comment from: Teddi [Visitor]

Brae - you constantly amaze me with your talents - and the scope of what you can accomplish with genius precision!!! I truly appreciate the difficulty of this part of your project as I’ve “assisted” my hubby in model car builds… You did a fantastic job on the plane - can’t wait to see the whole project!!!

09/01/12 @ 10:21
Comment from: Michi (Bell and Crow Miniatures) [Visitor]

I just wanna know how Keli figured out it was an aeroplane??!! How????? I mean I know my “steampunk” theory was a bit off but I never imagined a plane! Great job! It looks fantastic!

09/01/12 @ 10:40
Comment from: Carol [Visitor]

Well done, Brae! The prop came out especially well, and that woodgrain can be especially tricky. Another way to make lines for rigging–rotate a piece of unused sprue over a candle flame until softened, then stretch it apart quickly. Hold til dry. The centermost section should be nice and uniform, and can be cut to length, painted and liquid-glued in place.(Just in case the biplane modelling bug bites again) &#59;) ….C’mon reveal-day!

09/01/12 @ 11:11
Comment from: Modern MC [Visitor]

I have to have those spotlights. Beautiful work as always.

09/01/12 @ 13:46
Comment from: Kathi [Visitor]

Wow! There is NO limit to your artistry! Your plane is amazing!!!
Will Snoopy be part of the scene too? :D Thanks for sharing this. Great job!

09/01/12 @ 14:51
Comment from: brae [Member]  

Thanks so much, everyone!!! :D

Yes, Snoopy will be there, though you might have to look close for him. :>>

09/01/12 @ 15:28
Comment from: rosanna [Visitor]

Brae, you never stop amazing me.
Your ingenuity, your ability and great taste are mindblowing.
I love what you have done with the biplane and I cannot wait to see the whole project.
I already know it will be wonderful

09/02/12 @ 02:50
Comment from: Keli [Visitor]

You are amazing!

09/02/12 @ 03:43
Comment from: brae [Member]  

Thank you!!!! :D

09/02/12 @ 07:23
Comment from: Tony [Visitor]

Fabulous!! Every single detail is perfect, i have actually been lucky enough to stand next to one of these aircraft on start up seeing yours also brought back some fond memories :) Congratulations on a fantastic build :)

09/02/12 @ 07:37
Comment from: Keli [Visitor]

Okay, so let’s recap…you’ve got a henhouse, chickens, a basket of eggs, a farmhouse hutch, a curio cabinet, a dogwood with a bench underneath…so you made a liitle farmhouse, right? Then you show me an airplane. AN AIRPLANE! What am I supposed to make of all this now?!? This is seriously driving me nuts!!! How do all of these things fit together? Are the chickens really Rhode Island red herrings? Argh!

09/02/12 @ 11:24
Comment from: brae [Member]  

:)) Yep, that’s a good recap. Tomorrow you will see!

09/02/12 @ 18:09
Comment from: Lyssa [Visitor]

I feel a neener neener coming on!!!!!!!

Keli, your post has me rolling!!!

09/02/12 @ 18:52
Comment from: Keli [Visitor]

Rolling? Me too…in agony!…the suspense is killing me. I keep pacing around the house muttering “is it a little museum? a country airport? There’s a sign in front of the airplane, and a spotlight, it’s obviously on display…but on display for chickens? Is it a crop-duster?”

Then my husband pipes up “it’s Charlie Brown’s house"…and I yell back “shut up! I’m thinking!”

This puzzle is causing me severe emotional distress! Arrrrgh!

09/03/12 @ 03:08
Comment from: brae [Member]  

:)) The wait is over!!! :>>

09/03/12 @ 07:56
Comment from: steve65 [Visitor]  

Wow, awesome model and a great review.
I have just purchased this kit, I usually model 1/35 armour and this will be the first aeroplane I’ve built in over 20 years. I’m looking forward to trying your sanding techniques for myself.

12/23/13 @ 04:07
Comment from: brae [Member]  

Thank you!!! :>>

12/23/13 @ 07:27
Comment from: Mark [Visitor]  

Very cool. I love these Planes. I’ll eventually get my hands on a 1/28 scale Sopwith Camel to go with my same scale Fokker DR1 and Spad XII.
If you want to see the Spad XIII “Google” Snoopy’s other plane and click on images.

03/21/14 @ 22:43