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P4Patti 03-08-2010 04:42 AM

Scale poseable pilot making
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Gidday Everyone

I've been toying with making pilots for years. Richard has been pestering me to make pilots and pilot clothes for his planes for as long as I can remember and over the years I've produced bits and pieces to keep him happy. I tried my hand at sculpting from polymer clay a few years ago and although the results were quite good, I found it a very slow, painstaking process.

A couple of years ago Richard made his first cnc machine to cut his own plane bits and things have developed quite a bit since those early days. We're now onto version 3 of the cnc machine with a 4th axis which we now use to cut pilot figures and accessories from 3D sculpts - as well as bits for planes. I have also learnt to fly so my interest in scale warbirds has now grown into a full blown obsession! I must admit I'm not particularly handy in the woodworking department - try as I did, I mainly succeeded in sticking my fingers together more than anything else! I now stick to the arty side of things instead! - like the sculpting, painting and sewing uniforms.

Inspired by a photo of a CAC-13 Boomerang named "U-Beaut 2" which had interesting nose art, Richard has been making moulds for this plane and now I've just finished a couple of pilots who will fly the 1/4 scale Boomers.

I'm so excited about these little guys I wanted to share it! What we wanted was a fully poseable, lightweight pilot that looked realistic and interesting, and in different scales. We made a lightweight soft foam body that has a wire armature inside which makes it fully poseable. Onto the ends of the wire we can put moulded arms, hands or gloves, boots and a head with a breast plate that fits over the chest. Then it's just a matter of pulling on pants and a shirt or jacket. I've been using Rhino 3D to scale patterns to fit the bodies.

P4Patti 03-08-2010 05:11 AM

RE: Scale poseable pilot making
Wow, those photos turned out bigger than expected! The last pic of "Eric the pilot" in the Boomerang cockpit - he's actually too big because he is 1/4 scale and that particular molding is a 1/5th scale which is on hold while the 1/4 scale one is being finished. I forgot to mention that the 1/4 scale pilot fully clothed weighs less than 300g.

While researching the project we found an old pilot who is still living who flew that particular plane and was able to name the guy in the photo as his CO, Eric Cooke. The nose art is a caricature of Eric with his big moustache. Our old pilot friend Tom was able to fill us in on the story behind the painting. We got Tom to supply us with a photo of himself from his younger days in service in New Guinea and we have modelled a pilot on him as well. This head was the first version and I'm still working on a better one - Tom thought his nose was too wide!! One of the pics of Tom below is him standing next to the cnc machine that cut his head, arms and boots :)

The next project is a 1/3 pilot for a friend building a Fokker Tridecker. We've decided to do the Red Baron - Manfred Von Richthofen. He's just been cut so a few steps to go til he's moulded and painted. I make a casting that can be sanded and primed til it's smooth then remould the worked head. He has the skull cap moulded on his head and I'll make a jacket with a big fur collar and scarf that will just about cover him up as they did in those open cockpits! We'll have to work on some goggles to sit on his cap. That'll need a 1/3 body to fit onto as well and the gloved hands and boots too.

After that another friend has a 1/5 Storch half built and he wants Hanna Reitsch, the famous female German pilot. I've started the 3D sculpt on that one so will post pics as these 2 progress. Richard has put his order in for a 1/6 "Pappy" Boyington for his Brian Taylor Corsair. He's the one I hand sculpted a few years ago and that was a challenge being so small! It's so much fun and such a challenge to try to make a pilot look like someone in particular.

The photos below are of Tom in his RAAF tropical uniform and the photo he supplied that I worked from. The next one will be better but see what you think of the nose :D

Hopefully I'll have more to post in the near future.

Happy modelling


P4Patti 03-08-2010 05:13 AM

RE: Scale poseable pilot making
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I'll try again with those photos ....

BOLTMAN 03-08-2010 06:38 AM

RE: Scale poseable pilot making
Hi Patti,

Great to hear you guys are back in the game!!!

Those pilots you are doing are fantastic, I might have to have a chat about a pilot or two for a couple of my projects.

Look forward to catching up soon.



Brad330l 03-08-2010 07:47 AM

RE: Scale poseable pilot making
Awesome, awesome work Patti.

I think the whole modelling world is happy you are at work again/still.
Have you still got my order on your books??????:D



P4Patti 03-10-2010 06:43 AM

RE: Scale poseable pilot making
Hi Brad, yes, I haven't forgotten you -you're still on the list :) It was a 1/5th Spitfire wasn't it? We were talking about Ben Affleck, is that still what you're thinking or do you have someone else in mind? Did you happen to see James May's "Toy Stories" on SBS a couple of Friday nights ago? He made a 100% Airfix Spitfire kit and had himself modelled as the pilot.

What sort of head wear do you want - scale head gear or a cap - send a pic of what you're after. It'll be interesting to see how much lighter the 1/5 scale body is, I plan to use thinner wire. The body mould hasn't been done for that size yet.

We've had weeks of torrential rain which has stopped us getting out to our day job a lot but it's been fantastic to get some time to do these modelling projects. We're really over the rain now tho!

Mick, we'll have to catch up some time. I'd be interested to hear what projects you have in mind for me :) We got the CD of the Boomerang pics too btw, thanks for that, it's been really useful.


Brad330l 03-10-2010 07:39 AM

RE: Scale poseable pilot making
Patti, I had just sent you a PM,,,, I will send another real soon.

Cheers, and thanks,


at-6 texan 03-10-2010 12:58 PM

RE: Scale poseable pilot making
Hi Patti i'm speechless[X(] if one day you decide to open a business of puppet pilot let me know that I put on the future list .. welcome back again and congratulations for yours crafts

foodstick 03-10-2010 02:16 PM

RE: Scale poseable pilot making
I love seeing work at this level.

warbirdmustang 03-11-2010 05:02 PM

RE: Scale poseable pilot making
Those pilots are great! Do you currently sell them or have plans to do so? If so, what kind of price would they go for in American dollars?

BobH 03-11-2010 11:16 PM

RE: Scale poseable pilot making
Pattie, asolutely wonderful work!.. For me the pilot is the center of interest in a nice scale plane. Sadly few of them exist. Looks like you have taking pilot making to a very high level. I'd love a 1/5 pilot too.. just to have one :)

Peter_OZ 03-12-2010 08:30 PM

RE: Scale poseable pilot making
bllody hell, that is amazing! to quote our venacualr, BEAUT, BONZER and bloody ripper!!

Oh grouse too hehe

Now if you can get me polots for the following - a 1/4 scale RAF for my Tempest build, 1/4 scale WWII Russian for my Yak 3 build, a 1/4 scale RAF desert scheme for my P40 and lastly 1/4 scale RAAF for my Spit my VIII (Gret Nurse) I will be most grateful LOL

What a wish list!!

geezeraviation 03-13-2010 08:08 AM

RE: Scale poseable pilot making
Patti, there's a real market out here for goods of this quality. Put me down for a Doug Campbell in 1/3 scale for my WWI N 28. I have lots of pictures of him. Seriously, outstanding work. People would line up for these.

P4Patti 03-14-2010 02:13 AM

RE: Scale poseable pilot making
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Hello to all - I'm hearing you! :)

It is extremely encouraging to hear such enthusiasm and we're now figuring out ways to become efficient at making the little pups. I suppose it's not really surprising because if we weren't able to find what we were after ourselves, then there must be lots of others in the same boat (plane?).

So in answer to your question Bryan, yes we are now planning to make them available to others. You'll have to bare with us while we get organised but we are currently working on body moulds for 1/6, 1/5, 1/4 and 1/3 scales. As time goes on we plan to produce each head in all the scales along with arms, hands, gloves and boots as well as accessories like caps, goggles etc. Because the heads and other parts are generated on the computer, once the "sculpting" has been created, they can be cut in all the different sizes quite quickly. It's great to hear all the wish lists, keep them coming! That gives me an idea of what I should be doing next. We're doing some costings so PM me for an idea of price if you're interested.

Who is Doug Campbell Doc? Pardon my ignorance. Send a pic and if you think he'd be a popular choice for a WWI pilot it's a definite possibility.

The historically correct uniform is something we're looking for in our own pilots so it goes without saying that we're continuing to add the detail - which is the fun part. I've just added the wing badge to Tom's uniform this morning and am really pleased with the way it turned out. There are lots of other badges like that on other uniforms and they add such realism, and colour as well to the uniforms.

Does anyone happen to have a pic of the radio head gear worn by the RAAF pilots in Mareeba/New Guinea? We're planning to put a set on Tom as he said that's how he flew - cockpit open, headphones on and goggles hanging around his neck. Like the photo below. Flying with the open cockpit is the reason he had such a receding hair line he reckons too :D

Also, does anyone know the colour of the flight suits worn by RAF /RAAF spitfire pilots in Europe? It's so difficult to tell from black and white photos. Every photo you look at seems to have different shades of grey amongst the individual pilots indicating anything from dark blue to khaki or brown!

I'd like to start making up a pattern for the flight suit and even the may west. The making of the clothing is quite time consuming and fiddly so I was thinking of just supplying the patterns to fit the different sized bodies and hopefully you guys can find someone to make them up. How does that idea sit?

I could perhaps do a step by step in the thread of how to put it together and painting techniques as well?


geezeraviation 03-14-2010 04:59 AM

RE: Scale poseable pilot making
Douglas Campbell was Americas first ace, flying Americas first fighter, the Nieuport 28, with the 94th Aero Squadron Hat in the Ring Gang. He flew with Eddie Rickenbacker and Jimmy Meissner tho somewhat less well known. I have several pictures in ground uniform as well as some in flying coveralls (sorry gang no leather jackets and silk scarves). I'll see if I can get the missus to help me figure out how to scan them into this infernal machine. Y'all have a great day.

BobH 03-14-2010 08:34 AM

RE: Scale poseable pilot making
Patti this may help you out.


P4Patti 03-19-2010 07:09 AM

RE: Scale poseable pilot making
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Thanks for the link Bob, the museums are one of the few places to get colour pics with their uniform displays. We have a friend going over to Tauranga in NZ soon and he is going to take pics of their flight suits and helmets on display for me.

Doc, the pic of Douglas Campbell in his ground uniform is a beauty. I personally like the dress uniforms rather than just a trench coat but the ultimate would be to do both.

I've been trying to come up with a figure of what one of these pilot pups would be worth from the time it takes. They're not your run of the mill sub $100 cockpit filler as you can see and there's nothing really I can find to compare it with so it's a bit difficult. I certainly enjoy making them and would like to see them gracing cockpits and hobby rooms but I'm not willing to do it for a couple of dollars an hour. Like all scale builds it's the detail that makes them better than the average but it's that detail that takes the time - like the the pleated shirt pockets and pocket flaps, trouser belt keepers to keep the belt in place, shoulder epaulettes, wings, badges .....

What would someone be willing to pay for that sort of time consuming detail?

But as an indication of what I'm thinking on price - a poseable, light body with a pair of arms, hand or gloves, a pair of boots and one of our existing heads (suggestions for popular heads would be welcome) $200, and then $150 to paint all the parts. The clothing/uniform making is extremely time consuming but I'd be happy to supply the patterns as I develop them. There is a reasonable range in 1/6 scale very cheaply from China but not much in the other scales unfortunately.

I believe that the body mould is fantastic as it is like a sculpted, shaped body and that gives the clothing shape, fit and form making the figure realistic and in proportion. I've used the wire in the past and wrapped it with padding but it didn't give the shape that I've now got.

Once the face likeness has been created and the mould made from the machined plug the relatively simple process of casting can be done. From this you get a basic, white, hollow, polyurethane resin shape. This has to be cleaned, prepped, primed and then I like to cover the grey primer with a white undercoat to give a light base to put the skin colour onto. I airbrush a very light mist of my skin colour made from mixing white, yellow ochre and burnt sienna (these colours make a more realistic skin tone than red, yellow and white) and build up very light layers. With the airbrush paints, because they are so thin and watery you'll find that if you apply them too fast you can get droplets on the surface instead of an even misting. By building up very thin layers you can achieve a lovely realistic look rather than brushing with a bristle brush and using washes in creases and wiping off excess. To the base skin colour I add more burnt sienna and deepen shadow areas with a VERY light mist of paynes grey. Be careful with this or you can end up making him looked bruised! Paynes grey is much more subtle than using black and is good for the edges of caps goggles to give a 3D effect. As it goes over the burnt sienna it actually looks brown not blue. For the lip colour I use burnt umber and white, and possibly a little burnt sienna but never red or pink! The eyes are a whole thing which I wont start on now but if anyone wants tips I'm happy to help.

We've just made a new 1/4 scale body and thinned this one down a little. The first one was a bit bulky and we didn't think 1940's pilots looked like gym junkies :) I've had to adjust the clothing slightly to fit so am making a completely new Tom and we've cut a new head with headphones on. The pics are the very beginnings of the new head with a mist of base skin colour on and also a screen capture of the 3D model Tom was created from.

Eric's head was also too big for the previous body, he looked a bit like a Thunderbird puppet! He's going to be remade as well and Tom tells me that Eric's moustache was a sandy colour and not dark like I'd painted it. It's great to have that sort of first hand knowledge.

Will keep you posted.


John Baligrodzki 03-19-2010 06:09 PM

RE: Scale poseable pilot making

As with the other responses I am completely impressed with your work. The second pilot in particular. It is astonishing the likeness and how real he looks.

As for price, if I was building a 1/3 scale Fokker Triplane, and was really scaling this bird out and wanted a Richtoven pilot of yours I would pay $250.00 + shipping for him.

I would think that if a scale purist needed a particular but obscure pilot the cost would be more. The question becomes how much more would they pay. I don't know.

Thinking about this, could you offer the option of unpainted versions that the builder could paint if they wanted? Also you may consider just selling the head/neck and the builder could come up with the rest.

Also, as these figures would be in a scale model you generally would not see much below above the waist. I would put the most detail into the head, and as I move down the body have less and less detail until you get to the waist. For me if you can't see it very well it does not need as much fine detail. If there is excellent detail at the top of the body a person might assume that this level of detail extends all the way to the feet when in fact it does not. (Unfortunately scale judges do not fall under this catagory!)

This is just my 2 cents worth. Again my thanks for presenting your talent and creativity for everyone to see.


John B.

warbirdmustang 03-19-2010 10:49 PM

RE: Scale poseable pilot making
I agree with John. Maybe offer them in "kit" form, unpainted and maybe even partially assembled, as well as offering the full blown painted detailed version so that you hit both ends of the price spectrum. They are great pilots, I would probably opt for the "kit" to save a few bucks and paint and finish it myself. I am not saying at all they wouldn't be worth the price, as it's very obvious the time and effort that has went into one of these scale masterpieces! Might just offer a cheapskate like me a less expensive way to enjoy your creations.
My .03 worth!

at-6 texan 03-20-2010 07:02 AM

RE: Scale poseable pilot making
Hi Patti i'm the first in list!;),if you decide to open the activity'.... tell me what are the costs of work related and I'll send cash at you! ...;)

P4Patti 03-21-2010 05:56 AM

RE: Scale poseable pilot making
Hi and thanks for the comments and input John and Bryan. It is most appreciated.

It sounds as though the real attraction is the recognizable, interesting faces. We could offer the head/neck on it's own as suggested for sure, even unpainted. As a thought, what about the head and a moulded-to-the-waist body, in uniform, as a cheaper option - under $100 so that the interesting, recognizable face is still there? That after all would be the main part seen. That would eliminate the need for the body altogether but it also eliminates the poseability.

There may be those that still would want the fully poseable pilots and we will continue to make them for ourselves regardless. But as there's a whole list of famous historic aviators that I'd like to do over time it's a way of offering these to people at an affordable price. Since we'll be making arms, hands, gloves, boots etc for ourselves, they could be purchased seperately if someone wants to make up their own creation from the parts. We can certainly offer all the bits as a kit unpainted as well as modellers do like to paint and finish things themselves.

I got my clay out today and had a play with making a shirt and detail onto one of the busts then did a moulding off that and it turned out really well! And it was such fun. I haven't done any sculpting for years so it took a bit to condition the clay back up. The faces were the hard bit but if that was done I could just add the uniform. Food for thought, let me know what you think.

We have also redone Eric, the one with the hat. He was too big and as one of the earlier ones, his face wasn't as good. It's been reworked and will be recut so that will be interesting to see the new Eric. I've added a moustache worthy of his reputation this time :) After all, it featured in the nose art.

And Mr Italy - you can certainly be first in the list. Just let me know which pilot you want and I'll give you my paypal account :D;)


at-6 texan 03-23-2010 09:34 AM

RE: Scale poseable pilot making
Thanks so much Patti for the yours kindness .... soon post a picture of my pilot aircraft ..
Ps. please Patti do not call me "Mr. italy" this makes me very offended !!!.(i'm not Italian !!!!!).[:@]
if you really want to give at me Appel you can call me with my Nick name! or my name ->"Sam".
thanks and soon!;)

P4Patti 03-24-2010 01:08 AM

RE: Scale poseable pilot making
Sam - sorry I offended you with the name. I certainly didn't mean it in any offensive way[sm=confused_smile.gif] I look forward to seeing your pic


at-6 texan 03-28-2010 05:17 PM

RE: Scale poseable pilot making
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Thanks Patti ....of course, but since Italy has long stood out for many questionable events, and since you are still proposing the same story ... I understand that Italians are stupid! ... but that's not why I hate the definition of "Italian". but because 'anything but I kind of mentality, tastes and political views different from the average Italian! ... and this way I think I could find it by going to Sweden!

ok that is may pilot to aircraft.........................because in many ways the history of this individual is to famose but sad .. I chose him as my pilot for my plane and scale 1/5....woman's and men's .....this is Mr. Hugers !!!....


at-6 texan 03-28-2010 05:22 PM

RE: Scale poseable pilot making
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[:o]OPPS!!!!!I was wrong picture !!!!......:D

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