Building the Model Airways 1/16th Scale Sopwith Camel

A Plastic Modeler Takes Leave of His Senses

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love my X-ACTO

By Doug Robertson

I've been a plastic modeler for nearly my whole life and I've built almost everything from airplanes to tanks to ships to space to sci-fi. I've even built some of the old Revell sailing ships - I still have the U.S.S Constitution on my shelf.

But one thing I've always wanted to build is a true museum quality WWI bi-plane. One of those open frame wood and metal models that shows all of the construction details of the original. So when Model-Expo made its Sopwith Camel kit available in monthly installments, I decided the time was now and took the plunge.

I'm sure beer was also somehow involved in the decision.

Follow along as this plastic modeler learns to love basswood and white metal.

The Kit

The kit from Model Airways ships in eight monthly installments, each sub-kit containing everything you need to finish that section.  Kit 1 includes, according to Model Airways, "all the tools you'll need". Uh - not really. The tools that come with the kit are an X-ACTO (with one blade - You're not finishing this with one blade.), a handheld pin drill with a nice set of small bits, a small rat tail file, 3 sheets of sandpaper of various grades, a pair of diagonal cutters (not a particularly good pair I might add), one paint brush (one?),tweasers, plus wood glue and super glue. Each kit also contains whatever paints will be required for that step. While they certainly provide most of what you'll need and I suppose it would be technically possible to complete the kit with just these tools; anyone who tries to build this thing without a dremel and a wide assortment of bits is in for a difficult time.

Info on the kit is available on the Model Expo website:

Those who'd like to follow along while they point and laugh can download a pdf file of the kit instructions.

STEP 1 - Building the basic fuselage structure

STEP 2 - Finishing the fuselage

STEP 3 - The top wing

STEP 4 - The bottom wing

STEP 5 - The empennage

STEP 6 - The landing gear

STEP 7 - Mounting the top wing

STEP 8 - The engine and propeller

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