Easy (well, easier!) Engine Cylinders

Feb 05, 2013 4 Comments by

To scale modelers, there is inherent enjoyment in the challenge of producing models that represent full-scale aircraft.  The models themselves run the gambit from very loose semi-scale likenesses to full-blown museum scale models.  Certain model subjects tend to force the modeler’s hand when they possess physical characteristics that must be copied to make the model look “right”.  One such feature, which gives headaches to modelers around the world, are exposed engine cylinders.  Sometimes we are lucky enough to find commercially available cylinders of the proper engine in the correct scale but what do we do if there is nothing suitable on the market?

I have seen many solutions, some of which look great and some of which look dreadful!  For my latest subject, a Peter Rake designed model of the obscure Macchi M-16 biplane, I was forced to make 3 engine cylinders to replicate the exposed Anzani engine.  Luckily the cylinder shape is not very complicated and I am not making a Master’s-level scale model, but I was still faced with a decision about how to make credible cylinders.

I recalled an article I’d read by renowned scale modeler Martin Fardell in the May 1985 issue of the British publication RCM & E.  Fardell was in the process of modeling a particularly challenging subject in the Armstrong-Whitworth Siskin.  The full-scale aircraft was a between-the-wars British biplane powered by a 14 cylinder Armstrong-Siddeley Jaguar engine.  The engine was un-cowled and completely exposed.  Fardell’s solution was to produce a series of discs in various thicknesses and diameters which when stacked and glued together produced very credible engine cylinders.  This sounded like just the ticket for my build and I counted my blessings that I only had to make three cylinders instead of 14!


Step 1:  Gather Materials
There are no exotic or elaborate materials needed for this technique.  You will need wood of two different thicknesses, one for the “body” of the cyclinder and one for the cylinder “fins”.  In the case of the Macchi, I used 3/32” balsa for the cylinder bodies and 1/64” ply for the fins.  You will also need 2 metal washers that are the diameter of the cylinder body and 2 that are the diameter of the cylinder fins.  You will also need a bolt onto which you can fit the washers and a pen and straight edge to “line-out” your parts.  An electric drill or drill press and sandpaper are the only other materials needed.IMG_5636

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4 Responses to “Easy (well, easier!) Engine Cylinders”

  1. william sidney says:

    it is great you did a out standing job on the buld \

  2. Phil Hultin says:

    I used a similar method to make a 1/6 scale Clerget engine for a Sopwith Camel. I needed a fair bit of nose weight to balance, so instead of balsa I used hardwood for the cylinders. Also, my power plant was an E-Flite Power 60 brushless out runner motor, which is almost exactly the size of the Clerget engine casing, so I built my dummy as a ring that fits around the e-motor. Although the dummy does not spin like a real radial, it looks fantastic inside the cowl.

  3. Scott Copeland says:

    Sid- Thank you very much!

  4. Scott Copeland says:

    Phil- I fully believe your Clerget looks fantastic! WW I rotary engines have cylinders that look very credible when built this way.

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