This is a
Williams Brothers pilot figuretheyve been around
for decades. They are inexpensive, lightweight and simple to
finish: just glue the halves together and paint. They are much
better looking than some of the things Ive seen in airplanes.
Some guys cut the heads off rubber bathtub toys or stuffed animals
and stick them in the cockpit. Their creations are certainly
unique, but there is another way.
application, I attached a block of foam to the bottom of the
Williams figure because he wasnt tall enough to see over
the instrument panel. A block of balsa can be used for the same
purpose. To prepare him for the next step in his transformation
from William to Wilhelm, file or sand off the flashing around
the plastic. Then shape the foam block and blend it with the
plastic to form a body. Use some balsa filler and
a couple of coats of epoxy or finishing resin to give the foam
a smooth surface for sanding prior to painting.
pilot figure has a nose that would look cute on a teenage girl
but is hardly suitable for a fighter pilot, so I built him a
proboscis that a man could be proud of out of Epoxolitea
two-part epoxy putty made by Sig Mfg. Co. As it cures, it takes
on the consistency of modeling clay and can be molded into just
about any shape you can think of. He also had eyes that were
shaped more like those in an Egyptian wall painting than any
humans Ive ever seen. I added eyelids and some character
lines at the outside corners. Epoxolite enables you to be as
creative as you like. If you dont get it quite right the
first time, it can be carved, sanded, or filed into shape after
continues. The original figure has a smooth, heart-shaped face
like you would expect to find on a nine-year-oldjust not
manly enough for a WW I pilot. Again I used Epoxolite to fill
out the face and add a double chin (I figured that between missions
these guys enjoyed a lot of schnitzel and beer!). Simply put
an approximate amount of putty on the area that you want to change.
After a few minutes of cure time, you can shape it with a wet
finger or tool (any device you think is the right size and shape).
I used toothpicks, Popsicle sticks, a small pocket-knife blade,
a no. 11 hobby blade and a plastic coffee stirrer, but it is
important to keep whichever tool you use wet as you shape the
After I got
his face and chin filled out, he just looked like a fat guy wearing
a helmet with a tight chin strapnot macho enough to be
a rugged fighter pilot. I decided an old-fashioned soup-strainer
mustache would give the look I wanted. It was simple to make;
I just rolled some Epoxolite on a piece of plastic sandwich wrap
until I had something that looked like a long hot dog with pointed
ends. I rolled it on plastic wrap because Epoxolite is very sticky
stuff until it cures, but with the help of some water, you can
get it off plastic. Then I just stuck it into place, positioned
it with a wet toothpick and trimmed off the ends with a hobby
knife. When the Epoxolite was nearly cured, I used a wet no.
11 knife blade to make hair lines.
figure was wearing a long collared shirt, like something youd
expect to see on Elvis in the 1960s. No pilot in his right mind
would fly an open-cockpit airplane wearing an unbuttoned shirt
with long collarsthey would whip around in the wind and
beat his face bloody. I built a nice, big, lambs wool collar
that he could pull up around his face on those cold early-morning
missions out of a few more globs of Epoxolite smoothed with a
wet knife blade. Just before the putty became completely hard,
I wrapped eight pins with tape and prickled the whole
thing to simulate the texture of lambs wool. Compare this
picture with step 1, and you can see how a little putty can add
a lot of character to just another pretty face. William has now
made the complete transformation to Wilhelm. A paint job is all
that is needed to make him flight-ready.
THE PILOT: A good paint job on a pilot figure can enhance the
overall appearance of any airplane. On the other hand, it can
also spoil an otherwise good-looking model. The first step is
to get yourself the proper supplies; a few colors of paint and
some brushes are all that youll need, and since hobby paints
are available in very small containers, you dont have to
buy large quantities or spend big bucks. There are many brands
to choose from in all sorts of pre-mixed colors. The largest
selection can be found in hobby stores that sell plastic models.
Flat paints (as opposed to glossy paints)
are most useful for painting pilot figures because people and
their clothes are not usually shiny, though you may want gloss
paints for eyes or buttons. Youll need a few small brushes
as well; I used sizes 10/0, 5/0, 00 and some ordinary small brushes.
Once youve stocked up, its time to start painting.
Apply the lightest
colors first. Any overlap onto an unpainted area can later be
covered with a darker color. To speed up the process, I apply
two or three colors at a time. This works well as long as you
have a dry spot to hold onto and the paints dont touch
each other when wet. I painted the eyes glossy white tinted slightly
with black to achieve a very light gray. (Most people dont
have refrigerator-white eyeballs.) I painted the collar flat
white tinted with a little flat yellow and flat brown to simulate
the color of lambs wool.
have been added to the figure. The face actually has four different
shades of skin color. Peoples faces are not all one color;
cheeks and lips are redder, while the forehead and bridge of
the nose appear lighter because of overhead light. First I applied
the face colora combination of flat white, flat red and
flat yellow (the color in the center of the mixing dish). While
the face was still wet, I added a small amount of white to get
a lighter color for the bridge of the nose. Then, I mixed in
a little extra red to get the cheek color (that color is in the
upper right part of the mixing dish). Even more red was added
to get the lip color at the bottom of the dish. The face paint
doesnt touch the scarf, so I was able to apply the orange
color during this step also.
face paint dried, I added the mustache and eyebrows. Most pre-mixed
brown colors are too dark or too reddish to make a realistic
medium brown hair color. I lightened the flat brown with flat
white for these features. Remember, facial hair is not usually
glossy. If you want extra detail for hair, use two shades of
color in separate applications; this will create a highlight
effect. I also added irises for the eyes; this fellow has blue
eyes. If you use light blue paint straight out of the bottle,
your pilot will look like a Malamute, since most blue-eyed people
really have gray-blue eyes. To get a realistic color, make a
light gray by mixing gloss white and gloss black. Then mix the
gloss blue until you have a subtle bluish-gray. The same technique
can be used for toning down brown paint for brown eyes. When
painting the iris of the eye, dont make it a round ball.
The eyes iris is partially hidden by the eyelids. It appears
almost flat on top and slightly flat on the bottom. Take a look
in the mirror to see what I mean.
irises have dried, its time to add pupils using gloss black.
The pupils are round and are positioned in the center of the
iris. Wilhelm also needed eyelashes; hed look strange without
them. A thin brown line on the upper eyelid simulates eyelashes.
I also added a small pink spot to the inside corner of each eye.
The eyelashes, pupil and the corner spot really brighten up the
eyes and make this plastic dummy look much more realistic. I
also added the leather part of the helmet at this sitting. It
is a mixture of flat black and flat brown to simulate old leather.
Here is Wilhelm,
almost ready to go flying. I added the helmet and coat colors
at different times because I needed a dry place to hold on to
while I painted. While I was waiting for one color to dry, I
painted the goggles. The coat is an olive color made by mixing
flat brown and flat green. The helmet is glossy black because
I wanted it to be shiny. If you look closely, you will notice
that I added a small white dot to the upper corner of each iris.
This simulates the light reflection that we usually see in peoples
note on paint: this type of hobby paint is not fuel-proof. If
you intend to mount your pilot figure in an open cockpit, you
should give the flat colors a coat of clear flat urethane and
the glossy colors a coat of clear glossy urethane.