A step by step guide for building balsa models #3

by Atte Hosiasluoma | October 20, 2018 | (3) Posted in How To

This is the third and last part to my series on how to build balsa model. In my last article I went over how to assemble the wing, how to cover the wing and fuselage with balsa and how to attach the wing, elevator and rudder to the fuselage. In this article ill be going over how to attach the plastic parts to the model, landing gear and give some simple tips on how to paint it and how to do some simple weathering effect.

Step 1: attach the plastic parts

When it comes to gluing the plastic parts I tend to glue them on before i paint the plane (you can either paint the plane first and then glue the parts on or glue them on before you paint it, its up to you).

To find out where the plastic parts are to be glued, use the back side of the plans to find where to put them.

Start with cutting the parts out and then try to see how well it fits to the place where it is to be glued onto (in my case i tested how well the nose would fit onto the fuselage). If the nose doesn't fit well take and slightly sand down the front part of the fuselage where the nose i supposed to be glued onto. As can be seen on the second pic there is some uneven parts on the plastic nose that are standing up. If this happen and you have covered the whole plane with tissue paper (in this case especially the fuselage) you will have to sand the edge down while holding the plastic nose.  But if you have covered the fuselage with balsa then you can take  and glue the nose directly to the body if it fits, sand the edge down until its even with the fuselage.

Next is to glue the bulges that can be seen on the plans (I was unable to finde what they are called). As with the nose cut them out and sand the edges down. Use tape or rubber band or even both to keep them in place as the glue dries.

Keep in minde that the amount of plastic parts may differ from model to model. Note there is still four plastic parts for the Fw 190 kit that aren't glued in place yet, the reason why is that they are to be glued onto the wing and if I would glue them on they would be in the way as i draw the panel lines later. I would also recommend not to glue the canopy or any other see trough parts on before finishing painting the plane.

Step 2: paint the model

After gluing the plastic parts on it's a good time to paint the airplane. it's up to the builder to decide if they want to paint the plane to look like a plane that existed in real life or just paint it however they want to, I personally prefer to paint them to look like planes that have really existed. 

If your painting the plant to look like a plane from a picture, movie, game or comic it’s a good idea to make sure that you got enough pictures of it to use as reference as you paint it. I’ll give some examples let’s say I want to paint a Bf 109 G10 to look like the one flown by Erich Hartmann, in this case I would take and Google Erich Hartmann Bf 109 G10 paint scheme to find some good pictures off the plane flown by him, the best ones would be those where you can see the planes both sides, top and bottom (I really recommend adding paint scheme into search bar when looking for a good picture to use as a base for your model). The same goes when painting a model to look like a plane from a movie or comic book, either by finding a picture of a pre-existing model of it or by using scenes from the movie or pictures from the comic book as references.  
I decided to use the game IL2 Sturmovik battle of Stalingrad as a reference on how to paint my model. Original I had decided on painting it to look like the Fw 190 A3 flow by an Erich Rudorffer.
 First of it looked like I could paint my model like it. I finished painting the underside of it and paint the rudder yellow but when it came to paint the rest of the plane It didn’t go as planned. I found out that I couldn’t mix my paint so that I would get the orange brown paint as can be seen on the picture, I tried multiple times until I started to get short on yellow and especially red paint. So, I gave up on trying to paint it like that (even though it’s my favorite skin in the game) and decided to try and paint it like this instead. 

This Fw 190 A5 was flown by Major Von Graf and was the second way I decided to try and paint my model like, it didn’t take long before I relised that it is to hard to paint a small model like my Fw 190 to look like that due to the many small details that would be needed to be painted (especially the many small triangles on the rudder as one of them). It would be way easier to paint the guillows 400 series Fw 190 to look like that.
 I finally decided to paint my model like this Fw 190 was flown by Lt. Alfred Messerchmitt.

A recommendation I can give to anyone that is going to paint a model is to first add a with layer of white paint on the plane before you start and paint it with any other color (don’t do this if the plane is covered with tissue paper same goes for any part that is covered with tissue paper). 

Here is some link to a few videos where there is given some tips on painting. three videos from the YouTube channel Quick kits. The techniques Owen goes over are used on plastic models, but the same techniques can be used on balsa or tissue covered model.

By this point I have finished painting the planes, but we aren’t finished yet, there is still a lot to do (plus painting the canopy of the plane. You can also see that I have painted the inside of the plane).

Step 3: making the back side of the canopy

For a weird reason guillows have made it so that the canopy is made in two parts. And believe me when I say that this is the most difficult part of this model, other guillow 500 series models in which you must make a similar part are the Spitfire, Hellcat and P-40 Warhawk.

First off you will need two things a copy of the pattern which can be found on the plans (either take a copy of it or cut it out) and a piece see trough plastic part. Either use double sided tape to stick the paper to the plastic part or draw the pattern onto the plastic part. After this cut it out, remove the part of the paper that is supposed to be see trough and either leave the rest of the paper or remove it. Next glue the part to the fuselage where it supposed to be put (it can be seen on the plans where). I personally had a hard time getting it to bend, it might be easier to use a thin piece of plastic instead. I recommend Using epoxy to glue it into place, don’t use plastic glue that you get in plastic model kit due to that they can cause the plastic to fog if you use it. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a pic of me gluing it in place instead ill show a pic of the plane in a later stage where you can see how it looks.

Step 4: drawing the panel lines

this is something that if you don’t want to add to your plane you can skip it, but I recommend that you do this because if it is skipped it will make the plane look boring from the underside.
As can be seen on the pick (my first balsa model a Guillows bf 109) the plane doesn’t look that interesting or good when seen from the underside. 
As can be seen on this pick (my Guillows Hawker Hurricane painted to look like those used by the finnish air force during the continuation war 1941 – 1944) drawing the panel lines makes the plane look more interesting and better on the underside.

To do this you will need a blueprint of the plane your building to know where to draw the panel lines. The best site to find these in my mind is www.airpages.ru due to that you can find blueprint for most WW2 aircraft there. 

It can be wort mentioning that the Guillows models aren’t 100% to scale, usually the rudder and tail are bigger than real and at least the Bf 109s models’ body is around 1.5 cm (if I remember correctly) longer compared to the length that it could be if it was in scale (this is probably done for free flight purposes I think). start with drawing the ailerons, flaps and separation line between the stabilizer, elevator and rudder, fine (for the rudder and elevator draw them before gluing them in place). The pattern for them can be found on the plans. Next measure the wing and zoom in or out on the blueprint until you got the wing on the blueprint as big as the models’ wing (the wings on the modes are usually to scale). Draw the lines first with a pencil and draw later over it with a thin sharpie, when drawing with, do any adjustment if needed to get it to look right. You can also draw the panel lines on the fuselage if you want. 

After I hade draw the lines I noticed that they were standing out a bit too much making it look weird in my mind. I compared my model to other models and the Fw 190 in the game and noticed that the panel lines on my model did stand out more than those in the game or on other models, so I used the game as a comparison to know which lines stood out too much. After finding out which of them that did that I took a cotton buds which had a small amount of white paint on it and rubbed it over the lines making them fade but not disappear (I only did this to the wings upper side and body letting the underside be as it is)

After this I glued the plastic parts that were left over from the first step on. On the first picture you can see how some parts aren’t to scale, the box that the part Is covering should be bigger than the plastic part but was smaller even thought I made sure that the lines where to scale (note that the lines on these two pictures haven’t been faded).

Step 5: making the nose guns opening (skippable)

This is an extra thing which you do not have to do on your model if you don’t want to or there is no nose mounted guns on the plane your building.In the kits there are stickers included that are to be placed on the nose to represent these, In my mind they do not look good and are to big compared to any pictures I have seen of the Fw 190. 
To start with draw them onto the nose. After drawing them use either a knife or a round small file to carve them out but the best tool to use for this in my mind is a drimmer.
Keep on filing them out until they are as deep as you want them. I couldn’t make any deep ones due to the piece of balsa I used to cover the nose was to thin. The easiest way I found to fix theses was by pouring some epoxy into the holes (I didn’t use putty due to having to sand it down afterward to get some sort of smooth look) and then painting them after the epoxy had dried.

 Step 6: landing gear (optional)

As with most, plastic models you have the option to have the landing gears in our out on the model and its up to the builder to decide if they want them in our out.
First of grab the parts from the kit. The only part that isn’t included is the piano wire needed to attach the wheels to.
Start with pressing the piano wire into the part (number L4 in the Fw 190 kit) and dragging it from around the middle of the part to the bottom of it. This is to make it so that when they are glued together they will fit easily together without the piano wire making it so that there is a uneven space between the wheel door and L4.

 After this bend the wire into the angle that is given in the plane, it may warry from model to model. Next glue them together and make sure that the  wire is standing straight and isn't leaning forward or backward.  

Glue the plastic wheels togheter and paint them, slide the wire trough them and cut of the extra part of it. Next tie a piece of rope around the wire tying two knots at least and put a small amount of plastic glue on the rope to make it sure that it doesn’t slip open. The plans show another way to keep the wheel from slipping out by bending the wire up, the problem with it is that it leaves quite a big gape between the wheel and end of wire which dosen't look that good if your after to make it into a scale model. 

Next glue the landing gears to the underside of the wing and I do recommend using a lot of epoxy as you glue them in place. Make sure that the landing gears stays straight up If they are to be so on your kit, while on the Fw 190 they are bent slightly inwards, so I used tape to keep them from wanting to stand up.

 When it comes to the tailwheel in the kit its nothing more than a piece of balsa cut out in the shape of the tailwheel. To add some more three dimensions to it add two pieces of balsa to the side and paint them before you glue them together.
After this stick a pin into the middle of it, pull it out and cut the head of the pin off. Add some epoxy to the dull end of the pin and push it into the tailwheel leaving the pointy ends sticking out. This is to prevent the tailwheel from bending after glued to the body and placed on all three wheels to stand. This will happen if you just glue it to the fuselage with epoxy trust me. Do the same thing to the antenna of the plane if it got one, this is also to prevent it from bending but from tightening the rope that goes from the antenna to the tail.

 Stick the pin into the fuselage and pull it out, add some epoxy to the needle and to the base of the tailwheel and push the pin all the way in and make sure the tailwheel is standing straight up and isn’t leaning to left or right.

 Step 7: some simple weathering (skippable) 

I forgot to take a picture of when I applied the weathering but ill try and explain how it did it as good as I can. To start with, I only applied the exhaust stains onto the plane. The reason for this is because I haven’t applied weathering before and its my first time doing it. I used the game as a reference on how it should look. First, I draw the smoke with a charcoal pen and smothered it out with a cotton buds, after this I took some watercolor paint and applied it with a brush drawing away from where the smoke starts all the way outwards which combined with what I drew with the charcoal gave the perfect look in my mind.

Step 8: painting some markings 

Depending on how you are going to paint your model you might have to make some own markings for the plane. One of the easiest way to do it is by making stencil. 
Start by drawing it on a piece of paper in the same size at which it is going to be on the plane.

After it put some double-sided tape on the back side of the paper and with a knife cut the shape out.

 Attach the stencil onto the fuselage (or wherever you need to put it) and then take a small sponge and use it to apply the paint (you can use a brush, but I find that a sponge works better and).

After applying the paint, I like to leave the stencil on until the paint has fully dried. Remove the stencil and do some touch ups if needed. 

Step 9: adding some extra stuff to the cockpit (skippable).

Theses following things are extra stuff and doesn’t have to be added and if your making your model into a free flight model I would recommend skipping this.

What I did was that I added a block of balsa so that the instrument panel sticker can be placed closer to where the instrument panel was on the real Fw 190. Also added a Lego figure to the model to make it look like someone is piloting the plane (I hate it when models or RC planes are without a pilot it looks just weird in my mind).

Step 10: making the guns and pitot tube

To start with, you are going to need toothpicks for both the pitot tube and guns. 

 To make the guns take and cut one of the pointy ends of the toothpick off and cut it down into the right length that the gun is to be and paint them at the same time. I used a tool (I don’t know what it is called) to make a hole into the wing at the points where the guns and pitot tube are to be located at. After making the holes into the wing wait for the paint to dry and glue them then into place with just normal wood glue.

To make the Fw 190s pitot tube use a toothpick which you cut into the length given on the plans, use a pin to make the short end of the pitot tube it’s too hard to make it in any other (yes on the picture the pin is slightly bent downwards, I noticed it after taking the picture and fixed it). The design of the pitot tube warries from model to model and on some models, it is easier to make the pitot tube out of piano wire. 

Step 11: gluing the canopy on

Start with cutting the canopy out and then paint it. One thing that is good to do before gluing the canopy on the Fw 190 kit is to with a pin make a small hole into the canopy for the rope that is to be the radio aerial to be pass through, put a small dot of epoxy into the hole and stick one end of the rope into the epoxy, wait for the glue to dry. Next try to see if the canopy fits onto the fuselage and if it doesn’t fit do any necessary changes to make it. Use epoxy to glue it into place because there is a risk if using plastic model glue that It will make the canopy fog up. I find using pins to keep the canopy in place as the glue dries as the easiest way, tape usually doesn’t work as well because it won’t hold it down as well as the pins does.

Step 12: propeller

I’m going to go through on how to make a scale propeller for any of the Guillows models or any other model airplane. While how to make a propeller for a free flight version is easy and I’m going to cover it in my article on covering a balsa model with tissue paper.

First off get a few sheets of balsa to make the propeller out of. In this models’ case I need at least three sheets of balsa to make the propeller (but I use four because I glue the paper onto one of them). take a copy of the propeller from the plans and glue it onto one of the balsa sheets. Next use two pins to hold the balsa sheets from moving as you use a knife to cute them out. After cutting them out take and round the edges.

Next cut the plastic spinner out. After you have cut it out take and cut a round piece of balsa and sand it down until it fits inside the spinner. 

Take the round piece of balsa and use a pin to make a small hole in the middle of it, take and sand down three places of it (every 120 degree) for the blades to slide into and make sure to sand them down in an angle. After this glue the blade in place, I prefer using epoxy for this. As the glue dries make sure that the propellers are right in place. After the glue has dried take and spin the propeller around to make sure that they are on the same height and not so that one of them are higher or lower than any of the others. After you have made sure that the prop is right take and cut out some small parts from the spinner so that the spinner can be easily glued onto the spinner, while you do that take and make a small hole on the tip of the spinner with the help of a pin. After gluing the spinner to the propeller take and paint it.

Next take the propeller shaft and do some changes to it (this is in the case if you are just making it into a model and not into a free flight), this is to make it so that it will be easier to slide into the plastic nose and make it so that the propeller will spin better. Cut it as on the picture and bend it then.
After doing it take and add a small amount of epoxy on the tip of the propeller shaft and stick it through the balsa and all the way until the tip if the shaft reaches the tip of the plastic spinner, but leave around 1mm between the bottom of the balsa and the thrust bearing so that the propeller will spin well (before gluing it in place take and stick the shaft in and mark where to cut it of so that the tip ends at the spinners tip). Then glue it into place on the nose with the help of epoxy, use tape to keep the propeller in place if needed but usually it will stay in place by itself.

Step 13: applying decals

Lastly add the decals onto the plane. start by cutting them out, next take and fill a bowl with warm water and put a decal into it, wait 5 second and take it out, test if it wants to start to slide if not put It back for 5 second and try again and keep on until it wants to slide around. Don’t keep it as long in the water that the decal fully comes of the paper because then the glue on the decal is fully removed and you will have a hard time trying to get it to stick onto the plane.

Then move the decal over to where it is to be placed and slide it fully of the paper and onto the plane. Take and remove any extra water and dry the decal with a paper towel.
By now the model is complete. 

I personally am mostly pleased with the finishing look of the model. The only two thing I which could have been done better is the joint between the canopy and the plastic part I hade to make myself, I’m not sure how your supposed to make it look good. The other thing is about the left wing, I’m not sure if it can be seen on any of the pictures but It appear that the left wing is 1-2 mm lower than the right one. This makes it so that plane is leaning toward the left and I’m pretty sure it happened when gluing the wings to the center section, luckily it doesn’t stand out too much

One of you asked in the last article how much the model weight’s, I checked it after finishing building it and the model’s total weight is 75 grams.

One thing I would like to mention is that you don’t have to follow the instruction exactly. Most balsa models are easy to modify, as an example I took a Guillows 500 series Bf 109 and made it into a Bf 109 G2 when the model is supposed to be built into an E model of the Messerschmitt.   

My next article is going to be about how to cover a balsa model with tissue paper and make it into a free flight model, for the article I’m going to be use a Guillows 500 series Hellcat. 

If there are any questions leave a comment and ill do my best to give you an answer.


Crazed Scout Pilot on June 19, 2023
Beautiful! Excellent job! It is pretty amazing to see how just a few pieces of balsa wood become a legendary fighter.
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A step by step guide for building balsa models #3