Scratch Built Gotha IV in 1:144

Last year I caught the WWI air combat bug and have been expanding and developing my kit ever since. I'm still working on a million other projects at the same time yet manage to make regular progress. I bartered some terrain I made for a bunch of 1:144 scale planes, hand marked my eight by ten foot felt mat with hex nicks, and built a bunch of home made aircraft stands. After mashing up a bunch of rules and taking the best juices from each my local club has had several enjoyable sessions so far. All I need now are some bombers!

I got tired of waiting for the 1:144 scale kits to go on sale so I decided to scratch build my own planes. Have I ever done aircraft in 1:144 before? Nope. Would never stop me, and shouldn't stop you either! First I scoured the internet for a cool looking bomber and settled on the Gotha IV. Next I printed out an image of the plane until I had a size which was bigger than a normal fighter, but not too big for my airplane stands or storage.

Since I had no clue what I was doing I decided to make the plane first and then swing back later to take a bunch of pictures. I wanted to go through this process once and decided to make three bombers at the same time. Boy was I glad I did once all was finished. I started with the wings and cut out the upper and lower sets from a sheet of bass wood using my print out as a template. I then clamped all three sets of wings together and sanded the edges by hand to get them uniform. I then drilled holes through the wings for the supports using the spots noted in my print out. I managed to knocked out all three sets in very little time.

The vertical supports are made from thin sewing pins. I wanted something small and easy to cut, yet remain strong enough for handling. I held the upper and lower wings together and pushed all the pins through from the bottom up. Then I gently lifted the upper wings using my hobby knife tip to pry the up. Be careful! I checked wing height by inserting the handle of a paint brush to get them uniform by inserting it between the wings. I then double checked the result by laying the wings over my print out.

Once the wings were all mounted I made the body of the plane from 1/4 inch square balsa wood stick. I kept cutting a little at a time and laying over my print out to get the angles correct. Always use a fresh hobby knife blade and do a little at a time. Once all three bodies were done I sanded the sides on some fine grit paper to get the facings flat and uniform. It takes very little effort to sand or cut this stuff so go slowly!

As you can see the vertical supports came out very nicely even though the pins were all askew when first inserted. This meant there will be some friction which will help to hold the wings in place and give the whole structure strength.

I left the heads on the sewing pins to give better support and grip from the glue. Here I used super glue. The washer will cling to the magnet of my aircraft stand and hold the plane aloft. Notice I put a splurt of glue around the inner hole to give a better grip on the washer which can be ripped out depending on how strong your magnets are.

Once the glue was dried on the bottom and inner surfaces of the wings I clipped the top pointy ends flush with some fine flat nippers. I then applied some glue to the top of the wings over each to seal the deal.

Over all the general assembly took very little time. What took a while was checking and rechecking my initial cuts against my print out to make sure things were lining up. As you can see it was well worth the triple checks!

The sewing pins work just fine for the supports. On the real plane these were thicker and plank like instead of poles. For my purpose pins will do just fine. I also skipped the thin wire idea I had for the diagonal cross wire supports. That level of detail would have been cool but insane.

The engine nacels were cut by hand and by eye. I tried to find some sort of bead in the craft store for an easy solution, but in the end cutting these was easy. The props are sewing pins with their heads cut off and bent. The pointy end sticks into the center of the engine. Also note my rear machine gun which is a pin stuck in at an angle and cut to length. There would be a gunner ring here, but I'll simply fake the effect with a black dot of paint once all else is done.

Hand a little trouble with the bass wood sheet splitting when I tried to cut the vertical tail section. I simply substituted thick plastic sheet from the trash bin and it came out just fine.

A distinct feature of the Gotha was the front gunner position. The ring in particular was noticable so I wanted to be sure to include it. Note the machine gun is a pin stuck in at an angle and cut off for length. My rings were made by wrapping a pin around needle nose plier tips, but any small metal ring would do.

The tires posed an interesting challenge. I decide to go with on set of double tires instead a set of two per side.

Next I located some metal snaps in the sewing aisle at the craft store which would be the right size. These would fit nicely into some coffee stirs sticks I had on hand. Notice also the gentle sanding of the nose which gave it an upward sweep. It only took three passes to make that dent so go easy!

The coffee stirs I had where two tubes fused together. The one tube was slightly larger than the other. I used the larger of the two holes to insert the snap tips into with a dot of glue. I then cut down a pair of sewing pins and inserted them through the smaller tube. I then bent the wires using my pliers to make brackets. I was going to insert these into the wood, but decided to just glue them. In retrospect I probably would of just used a single pin bent into a U and inserted into two holes in the wing. Instead I used lots of glue to make sure these suckers never come off!

I let the plane dry and gave her a test flight on my aircraft stand.

Once all glue was dry I painted the planes with a base coat of black gesso. I have read a few articles on this technique and am sure it will be an excellent result. I am also counting on the tough nature of the gesso to help hold the planes together. What better way to get the paint to dry faster than a flight over the gaming table?

Proportion wise my models are smaller than what they would be in true 1:144 scale. As you can see they work just fine when compared to a fighter escort. The added bonus is they are extremely light and thus being at full height on my flight stands poses no problems. Now all I have to do is settle on a color scheme. Can't wait for my gaming buddies to try and rush my helpless bombers as they lumber onto the game board. Cheers & Enjoy!

© 2010, Gabriel Landowski