in Germany 1918, the German Imperial Aviation Service has decided to
have the Red Knight's old Albatros re-engined and recovered. Corporal
Schultz is testing the oil system for leaks after having hand-swung
the prop of the gleaming new Mercedes 180 hp engine. Both the pilot
and chief mechanic seem quite satisfied with the progress so far......
in Montreal, eighty two years later, I am sitting in my workshop wondering
how I can pull this little scenario off. I know Model Expo has a 1/16
Albatros model on the market but is it too large? How big a diorama
would I have to build? What about the 1/16 scale figures? Where can
I find all the research material? These and a hundred other questions
popped into my mind.
I thought, why not make the hangar one self-contained unit acting as
its own dust-proof case. I could open up the sides, the roof, and set
the windows in plexiglass, thus allowing the scene to be viewed from
all angles. I then searched for the 1/16 scale figures and found that
both Tamiya and Dragon had many action figures available. I would however
have to demote Field Marshall Rommell and put him in the Air Force and
in the wrong war (hope he doesn't mind). The World War II Luftwaffe
figure became a World War I pilot and a German Infantry figure became
the mechanic with oily rag in hand.
on to the model's workshop contents. While I could easily build the
furniture from scratch, what about the tools, lathe, oil and gas cans,
etc.? Doll house manufacturers sell many of these items in 1/12 scale
and tools come in various sizes therefore the difference in scale was
not a concern.
being settled, it was on to the hangar. How would I build it? Of course
it would be made of wood, but where would I find all the miniature lumber
without it costing me a fortune? Then my coffee habit finally paid off.
Why not use wooden coffee stir sticks and maybe tongue depressors too?
The local building supply store would provide the scale pine lumber
for the studs and trusses. Problem solved. And so it went two retirement
years and 1500 hours of shop time later and the project was finally
it was done
The aircraft kit
Expo's Albatros D.V (MA1001) comes in a well packaged, sturdy cardboard
box. The contents are well identified in individual plastic packets.
The miniature lumber quality is excellent as are the laser cut parts
on the plywood boards. The 47 page instruction booklet and 6 plan sheets
are very well done but they do need a lot of careful study. The illustrations
are clear, however, I do differ with the order in which the aircraft
is constructed. They recommend building the wings and stabilizer first.
I did the fuselage first. I find that having the fuselage completed
gives me an added incentive to go on during the not so interesting tasks,
such as building up the wing ribs, etc.
lot of time was spent cleaning up the Britannia castings. Some of them
were slightly bent and there was some pitting and rough spots on the
metal. With careful re-alingning, filling with epoxy paste and sanding
smooth, the problem was soon remedied. The only real problem was with
the turnbuckles since many of mine were poorly cast. I probably got
a bad batch.
instructions suggest using the kit supplied metal colored thread for
all the rigging. I, however, replaced this thread with .006 mm diameter
fuselage is built on a kit supplied jig. Construction is easy if you
follow the steps carefully. No major problems were encountered in fitting
any of the wooden parts together. I used both wood glue and super glue.
Some filing was required on the metal parts in order to make everything
fit together properly.
you want to stain the wood, I recommend that you do it before assembly.
In fact, I even stained and sealed the wooden wing ribs before removing
them from their laser-cut plywood boards. I used an alcohol-based permanent
tan colored stain, Primacolor PM-70 (sand). I then spray laquered the
wood using Watco brand semi-lustre.
wings and stabilizer went together easily by carefully following the
Mercedes 180 hp, 6 cylinder engine, is a kit in itself with over one
hundred Britania castings. I did however find some of these parts a
little difficult to handle, such as installing the small springs to
the rocker boxes. Other than the usual de-burring of parts, the engine
went together with super glue and five-minute two part epoxy.
the metal parts throughout the aircarft were degreased, sealed and primed
before painting. I used Windex amonia window clearner as a degreaser.
It is important to remove any residue mold release agent (used during
the manufacturing process) or any oil from your hands. I sealed the
metal using spray laquer or brushed it on using a solution of 2/3 laquer
and 1/3 laquer thinner mixed in a small jar.
sprayed or brushed on a thinned down coat of Gesso over the laquer (50%
water 50% Gesso). Gesso provides a good tooth for paint to adhere to
and has been used by artists and craftmen for centuries. I use the Liquitex
brand 5308, available in any art supplies store.
made my own pilot's seat from 1/32 plywood. I bore out lightening holes
in the back of the seat and made a seat cushion out of Kleenex tissues.
I took a stack of tissues about ¼" thick, drew the seat pattern on the
tissues and cut it out with an x-acto knife. Using a mix of 25% carpenter's
glue and 75% water, I soaked the seat cushion thoroughly and then put
it in the microwave oven for approximately 30 seconds. The cushion puffed
up into a nice looking seat which I then painted to look like leather.
is one area at the bottom of both forward cabane struts that I thought
looked bad. I found them to be obviously out of scale, so I covered
these areas with oil stained rags made out of the glue and water soaked
tissues. I drapped these tissue rages so that they look weighted and
dried them in place using a hair dryer.
Albatros D.V is well represented in this kit with only two areas in
question. The kit was missing a small auxiliary strut that goes from
the leading edge of the lower wing and then back to the forward inter
plane strut. The other is in the rigging (Ill. 3). There seems to be
another anti-drag wing wire going from the nose of the fuselage to the
top of the outer wing interplane strut.
the aircraft in the diorama is being depicted as "under construction",
the amount of details you put in is optional. However, I prefer to put
as much detail as possible and I decided to partially skin the monocoque
type fuselage using 1/32" plywood and simulating the screws with dots
from a grafite HB pencil. I hand carved a cherry and walnut laminated
wooden propeller and tail skid using the kit supplied items as patterns.
hangar is made completely of wood. The frame was constructed much as
you would a real hangar. Joists, studs and trusses are of cut-to-scale
pine lumber and the floor and walls are made of wooden coffee stir sticks
and tongue depressors whose ends have been cut off at 90o. Everything
was glued together using Lepage's carpenters wood glue. The simulated
nails are ½" sequin pins available from any dressmaker's shop. The windows
are 1.5mm sheet plexiglass sandwiched between two built up window frames,
thus avoiding having to cut individual window panes. The lighting is
a standard 12.6 V (1.2 amp) system, wired the same as a model railroad
layout, using a transformer for power. I used amber model railroad bulbs
and some old Christmas bells as lampshades (See Shep Paine's "How to
Build Dioramas", pages 120 - 126).
weathered all of the wood in the following manner. The stir sticks are
made of hardwood (birch, I believe). In order to soften the wood to
make it more porous, I boiled the sticks for 15 minutes, then on the
dry, raw wood, I painted washes of a mix of Nimbus Grey tinted with
a small touch of Payne's Grey. When these were dry (I used a hair dryer
to speed up the process), I brushed on one or two very thin washes of
Raw Umber. Using an old stiff bristle toothbrush and a very small amount
of the same thinned Raw Umber paint, I finger-flicked (my term) a fine
spray of paint over everything to give it a weathered look (Ill. 4).
This same method was used to weather the hangar furnishings. In order
to make the blueprints on the tabletop, I photocopied a rigging plan
of the aircraft to scale and then lightly washed Ultramarine Blue paint
on the drawing side of the plans. I then rolled them up to fit the tabletop.
heating stove is a 1/12" scale Chrysnbon Inc. Furniture Kit F260. The
legs were cut off in order to bring the stove to 1/16" scale. I painted
it flat black using Carbon Black.
use the Jo Sonja brand of acrylic paint because it is a gouch-acrylic,
water-based paint that dries absolutely flat. Adding varying amounts
of water-based varnish to the mix gives me complete control of the degree
of shinyness of any surface. As an added touch, I placed metal filings
around the lathe, wood chips and oil stains on the floor as well as
a few bird droppings on the roof. In future hangar dioramas, I will
probably add a few bird nests in the rafters and a couple of mice running
around the floor (just kidding......I must be going over the edge!)
than modifying the uniforms from World War II to World War I, there
were no major changes to the positionning of the figures' anatomy. The
uniforms were altered by simply cutting off unwanted parts with a number
11 x-acto knife or building up some areas with A + B epoxy putty. It
was mainly a process of simplifying and changing the style of the uniforms.
The figures were both glued and their feet pinned to the hangar floor.
Shepperd Paine thoroughly covers figure modification and figure painting
techniques in his book on "How to Build Dioramas". Figures used were
Tamiya's Rommel Kit 36305, Tamiya's Luftwaffe Pilot Kit 36302 and Dragon's
Signaler Kit 1608.
primary objective in doing this diorama was to tell a story, to capture
a moment in time, to take the viewer back to a different era and thereby
create a three-dimensional work of art. It was my intention to have
the aircraft as the focal point. This is the reason why I left it in
pretty much pristine condition in contrast to the general griminess
of the hangar. All the figures are positioned looking towards the aircraft
in a relaxed stance in order not to draw attention away from the main
placement of the ladders, saw horses and furnishings is such that nothing
is placed 90o to each other. Try to avoid lining things up in too much
of an orderly fashion.
diorama was lit much like a stage. The lighting emphasizes the aircraft
itself which downplays its surroundings.
use of color should also be taken into consideration. Grey is a neutral
color and does not draw one's attention. Red and green are opposites
on the artist's color wheel and therefore can be used to create color
In my work I am not a rivet counter, however I do like to have lots
of details to keep the piece interesting. I try to be as accurate as
possible, however I will use artistic licence for effect. Before and
during a project, a lot of my time is spent researching the aircraft,
hangar types, uniforms, tools, etc.
In retrospect, I am quite satisfied with the results of this, my first
aircraft diorama. Many thanks go to Shep Paine for his inspiration and
to Mark Miller for his wonderful website on the Albatros.
am a retired pilot and flight operations officer. I spent twenty eight
years in aviation doing everything from sweeping hangar floors to flying
the 1960's, I helped my father restore a full size 1929 Curtiss-Wright
Travelaire bi-plane D4D (CF-JLW) which now resides at the Reynolds Museum
have spent the last seventeen years in the visual arts, teaching woodcarving
and making decorative birds of prey sculptures.
my working years, as a hobby, I constructed a 1/72" scale model of H.M.S.
Victory over a fifteen year period and 6,000 hours of shop time.
have been married to the same women for 39 years as only she (Micheline)
could put up with me and my hobbies.
presently have a Newport 28-1/16" diorama underway and am also working
on a Wright Brothers Flyer. I hear through the grapevine that Model
Airways has a 1/16" scale Jenny in mind, Hmmm! Now if I can only keep
this 62 year old body in shape!
is no glory in war but there is honor. This aircraft model is dedicated
to those airmen of all nations who fought honorably in aerial battles
of the past, in the hope that there will be no more.