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Harry Woodman Republished

By cam in Internet
Sun Sep 08, 2002 at 07:55:13 AM EST
Tags: Internet (all tags)

Scale Modeling is a fairly modern hobby, originating as a commercial industry in the latter half of the last century. The scale model hobby and industry has been a dynamic area for the appropriation of new technologies, information and methods into the improvement and advance of the hobby. This undoubtedly comes from it's scratch building origins.

In scale aircraft models, one of the most influential modelers of the mid 20thC was Harry Woodman, who published his idea's and methods in "Scale Model Aircraft in Plastic Card". This work has been out of print for 30 years until recently when the book was web published by Peter Leonard. The republication continues the history modelers have for adapting new affordable technologies to the promotion of scale modeling.

Scale Models of modern technologies such as aircraft, ships, trains, tanks and cars, date back to Leonardo Da Vinci when he made a scale model of his famous gyro design, since then scale models have been used for design of ships, development of scientific theories and plain love of the hobby. With the increasing affordability plastic materials such as bacalite and increasing common injection moulding techniques, the 1930 in England produced the Frog "Penguin" range of plastic aircraft kits. The modern plastic kit was popularized in the 1950's by the manufacturer Airfix. At the time Airfix was a comb manufacturer and produced some promotional tractor kits. Woolworths, liking the potential of plastic kits, ordered a series of construction kits form Airfix. The first of these was Sir Francis Drake's famous ship, the "Golden Hind". This kit is still in production today.

Scale Plastic modelers have also been quick to appropriate any new or affordable technology and as the love of the hobby involves such a wide range of people from a wide range of backgrounds, new methods and technologies get absorbed quickly into the common knowledge and consensus of scale modeling. Some examples of this technological appropriation have been resin moulding, vacuum moulding and brass etch. The web has been no different. Modelers have always been keen to show off their work and share their knowledge, forming national groups and national competitions such as IPMS. As modeling is a very visual hobby as the final creation is often a finely detailed and highly colorful object, modeling transfers to the web well. Websites have sprung up all around the net showing off individuals own models, artists models, clubs models, interest groups models and periodicals such as Chandelle, internetmodeler.com, hyperscale.com and modelingmadness.com.

In this environment of adaptation and appropriation of technology have sprung several innovations. In the last 20 years modelers have led a small cottage industry revolution. In aircraft kits, the commercial producers have been limited by the high cost of making long run injection moulds and this has led to what is commonly known as "one-oh-nine-itis" after the large number of kits on the German aircraft, the Messerschmitt 109. With the huge amount of subjects available to kit, cottage manufacturers and industries have appeared that supply limited run injection kits, resin kits and vacuum kits. Often in multi-media format where the parts included in the kit can include injection moulded plastic, vac-formed clear canopies, white metal components and the ever present decals.

This do it yourself aspect comes from the highly specialized art of scratch-building, or creating a model without the benefit of a kit. Most of the cottage industry manufacturers started as scratchbuilders due to being dissatisfied with the availability of kitted subjects. The most influential scratchbuilder in the latter half of the 20th Century was Harry Woodman. In 1973, Harry Woodman published a book through Model and Allied Publications on the art and hobby of building, "Scale Model Aircraft in Plastic Card." There were 3000 printed and the book has become a collectors item due to the importance of the information contained in the publication to the scale aircraft modeling community.

Recently "Scale Model Aircraft in Plastic Card" was republished on the web by Peter Leonard, a talented scratchbuilder and WWI aircraft modeling enthusiast. Peter republished the work to his personal modeling website on which he publishes his own work. Peter had been trying for several years to have Woodman's work republished in book form, but had been unsuccessful. Finally Peter asked for permission to publish the book as a web edition from Harry Woodman and the web published version appears in it's current form at, http://www.wwimodeler.com/harry/woodman.html

The web publication of "Scale Model Aircraft in Plastic Card" is important for many reasons. It is a work that had no outlet in the paper publishing world, it's focus was too small for commercial return. However both Peter, who was prepared to republish it without profit and Harry, the author both saw the publishing and distribution of the information as being more important than the commercial return. Peter has not only formatted the information suitable for web publishing but has added greater value from the original publication by including pictures in a manner that augments the text, and adding extra information that led to the writing of the original book.

Peter has published a minority interest work in an innovative manner that takes advantage of the web medium. Subsequently the original work has extra value added to it and will have a far greater audience, and hopefully, a wider effect. Peter apart from creating scratchbuilt models, was also involved in the model kit cottage industry having produced resin kits for the Bristol M1C and Sopwith Dolphin. Peter is definitely continuing the appropriation of new and affordable technologies for the promotion and benefit of the modeling hobby and industries. I conducted an email interview with Peter to gain further insight into the web publishing of Harry Woodman's work.

Q: What was Harry Woodman's effect on the skills and technologies of scratch building model aircraft?

A: Harry Woodman's influence on the entire hobby has been huge. Before Woodman plastic card was generally used by aircraft modelers as a substitute for sheet balsa in conversion work. As well as being a keen aircraft modeler himself Harry woodman was also an accomplished ship modeler, very familiar with card modeling techniques and well able to see the full potential of the new material. After Woodman plastic replaces wood as the medium of choice for scratch builders.

Q: When did you get your first copy of Harry Woodman's Scale Model in Plastic Aircraft?

A: In 1975 from Harrow model shop. I still had my original copy until about four years ago, by then a collection of dog eared loose pages held in the card cover with an elastic band. A friend begged it from me when I obtained a new copy at the IPMS UK nationals.

Q: What did you do to get it published again in paper form?

A: The initial impetus came from an exchange on the WWI Modelers Mailing list during which I suggested that someone should contact the publisher about a possible reprint. As a result of opening my virtual big mouth I found myself seconded.

After tracking down the publisher on the Internet I commenced a long e-mail correspondence working my way up from office junior to commissioning editor. It was quickly apparent that the publisher had no idea what the book was about or whether they still had the rights to publication (I was already looking to a possible web edition at this stage). Although interested NEXUS discovered that they had no master copy in the library so I sent them mine.

An editor was appointed and the author contacted and for a while everything was going swimmingly. Then, suddenly, everything ground to a shuddering halt and all communication ceased. Repeated e-mails went unanswered and telephone calls were not returned. Through the author, who was suffering similar frustrations, I learned that NEXUS had sold all their modeling titles and had no further interest in the project. The Web Edition then proceeded with the blessing of the author who retains the copyright. To this day I have heard nothing more from NEXUS and have not had my copy of the book returned.

Q: Why do you think it is important for this work to be published and remain in publication?

A: Scale Model Aircraft in Plastic Card is a landmark publication for our hobby. It inspired and enthused a generation of modelers and was influential in creating the cottage industry movement. Despite much of the content being redundant after thirty years the philosophy at its core still has the power to inspire and enthuse generations more.

Q: How have you augmented your publication of Harry Woodman's work?

A: At the outset I determined to change as little as possible. However, it soon became obvious that a straight page for page transfer to the web would be extremely unsatisfactory. The Web is a much more visual medium than print and the book illustrations were grouped together in a way not necessarily relevant to the surrounding text. Text and images were therefor edited together with regard to context rather than to the original layout. This still left large slabs of text devoid of any illustrations and images were imported to fill the gaps.

Once the layout was finalised links to related sections were established and duplicate pages with the necessary different navigational elements created. In order to give some background to the book I also included as an annex one of the magazine articles which preceded it and which led to the publication.


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Your level of scale modeling activity?
o Never done a kit 23%
o Did some kits when I was a teenager 69%
o Did a kit with my son or daughter 0%
o Have returned to the hobby in later age 2%
o Have been a kit builder throughout my life 1%
o I suffer from AMS (Advanced Modeling Syndrome) 2%

Votes: 71
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Airfix
o Woolworths
o Golden Hind
o individual s
o artists
o clubs
o interest groups
o Chandelle
o internetmo deler.com
o hyperscale .com
o modelingma dness.com
o Messerschm itt 109
o personal modeling website
o http://www .wwimodeler.com/harry/woodman.html
o Also by cam

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Harry Woodman Republished | 15 comments (7 topical, 8 editorial, 1 hidden)
Hooray! (3.50 / 2) (#1)
by imrdkl on Sat Sep 07, 2002 at 03:05:04 PM EST

I only ever worked with plastics, but this seems like a great new way to occupy my copious spare time.

Scratchbuilding with Wooden Components (5.00 / 2) (#13)
by cam on Sun Sep 08, 2002 at 07:24:59 PM EST

I only ever worked with plastics

I tend to model in World War I aircraft, they match my historical interest and I tend to build to make history come alive. I am no artist in the genre by any means. World War I aircraft are cool because they have open cockpits that allow for scratchbuilding all the bits and pieces. The rigging is also fun IMO too.

In the 1:48 models I like to cut thin strips of wood, like Cherry timber, and then soak them in Acetate to give some structural rigidity. I then use that to build the interior struts and framework. A bit of 0.005 gauge wire to simulate the rigging and the cockpit looks wonderful.

I tend not to build World War 2 aircraft or Jets as their cockpits tend to be cold and austere with lots of bright green metal. I also think rigging a WWI aircraft adds more to the rustic feel of the plane. I rig with 0.005 gauge stainless steel. It has the added benefit of adding structural strength as well, undercarriages tend to be shaky, adding a cross rig of wire and it is taut. Part of the reason for that construction back then anyway.

The real hardcore scratch builders will create a wing structure with all the ribs, rig the cells for imporved rigidity and then cover it! So it is all hidden (nuts!). Robert Karr's Handley Page and Gotha are like that! So is Shae Weiers Bristol Fighter! Often the model aircraft on display you see at museums have been done by scratch building artisans. Especially in the odd scales. One of my friends is scratch building a 1/9 Salmson for an American Aviation Museum. They required that the model last a life time so it is being made from aluminium tubing and purposefully fully rigged under its skin for greater structural strength.

You can get high quality and low cost wooden kits these days too. Cottage Industry designers and manufacturers like DCP Models laser cut their wood for quality. Amazing for a backyard operation. I am continually impressed at the technologies modelers will bend to their use. DCP Models kits are big too, 22 inch wingspan on the Brisfit, good for those that suffer from poor eyesight. I havent done a wooden one yet, will have to finish the basement first so have some room to put such a big bird :/

Eduard also sell brass photo etch kits that are like fold up origami called strip down. They are sheets of brass etch that you fold up together and comes out as an aircraft without it's outer skin. Remarkable engineering to achieve that level of quality. Eduard at the moment though are one of the leading manufacturers for quality and multi-media kits. The old Eastern block countries joining the global economy has been a great boon to modelers with manufacturers like Eduard (Czech Republic), Roden (Ukraine) and Eastern Express (Russia). They have been producing high quality kits with a good trade off in price.

Freedom, Liberty, Equity and an Australian Republic
[ Parent ]

Congrats (3.50 / 2) (#8)
by godix on Sun Sep 08, 2002 at 12:47:54 AM EST

I've never been interested in modeling but you provided enough basic info that I was able to understand the article. Congrats, there aren't many on K5 that could do that.

Don't mind the plummeting noise, mojo always makes that sound after I post.

Slumped acrylic (4.00 / 2) (#12)
by epepke on Sun Sep 08, 2002 at 04:46:52 PM EST

That sounds interesting. Perhaps it is like a technique I discovered as a kid to build a phaser but have never seen in print. You take 1/8" acrylic and heat it to a bit more than 300 degrees Fahrenheit. At that temperature, it becomes rubbery. It is fairly easy to stretch over a wooden mold and hold until it cools. You need welding gloves or something not to get burned. Take the excess off with a Dremel saw or something, and you have a nice part.

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

Very Inventive Technique (4.00 / 1) (#14)
by cam on Sun Sep 08, 2002 at 07:33:11 PM EST

You take 1/8" acrylic and heat it to a bit more than 300 degrees Fahrenheit. At that temperature, it becomes rubbery. It is fairly easy to stretch over a wooden mold and hold until it cools.

An excellent technique! And further proof of my opinion in the article that modelers will come up with all sorts of inventive techniques and technologies to achieve the final model.

Vacuforming is similar. Styrene is placed across a male mould and then heated. For commercially producted vauform kits, the vacuum pressure suck the styrene onto the male mould. I have read of modelers putting a male mould in the oven with thin styrene over the top and letting the styrene slump onto the mould. Check out Alberto Casiriti's vacuformed model of the Nieuport 27

Freedom, Liberty, Equity and an Australian Republic
[ Parent ]

Thank you (4.50 / 2) (#15)
by epepke on Mon Sep 09, 2002 at 12:06:02 AM EST

I appreciate the compliment. I was pretty impressed with myself, but I was, like 14 at the time. I used household rubber gloves, filled with water, to keep my fingers from getting burned. Later on, when I could afford welding gloves, I found they worked quite well. I'm familiar with vacuforming, too.

The nice thing about acrylic is that it's almost impossible to destroy. You can even sand it and polish it to a nice finish with red rouge on a wheel.

Incidentally, acrylic solvent works very well for styrene. The trick is applying it. I use one of the small metal tubes that come with certain aerosol circuit cleaners. They're supposed to stick on the nozzle to deliver a small spray in a tight place. But, you just take the tube, immerse it into the solvent, and put your finger over the end. Then place the tip of the tube in the seam and release the finger. Capillary action makes the solvent go nicely into the joint. In a stretch, I've used glass eyedroppers where I melted the tip over a flame an pulled it to a narrow tube. However, it's kind of hard to measure the solvent properly in an eyedropper, and there's always the risk of having it boil, which makes a mess. There is also the option of slightly moving parts with the solvent. I've been able to fill small holes by making a paste of styrene dust with a little acrylic solvent.

I was wondering if somebody had come up with a good way of making a pebbled finish on a part.

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

[ Parent ]
Harry Woodman Republished | 15 comments (7 topical, 8 editorial, 1 hidden)
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