Adding Scale Details to a Pilot Figure

Sep 03, 2013 5 Comments by

When we build large scale models, the small details really make the subject come to life. This is especially true with scale pilot figures and busts. For my recent 33% scale Fokker Triplane project, I needed a properly dressed aviator to fill out the cockpit. This is how I turned my Pilot Portraits (Mike Brent) Mini-Me pilot figure into a fairly good representative of a WW1 aviator.

original mini me

Original Pilot figure is made with a molded full-length body from “Officers and Gentlemen” with a custom carved Balsa head carved and painted by Mike Brent of Pilot Portraits. Great civilian figure but not good for WW1 Fokker Triplane.


First Step, give the little guy a crew cut!


Next off with his ears too! A sanding bar makes quick work of this wooden block head!


Next I used Sculpey Polymer clay to add the leather helmet details. You roll it out to about 1/16 inch thickness and add the clay one panel at a time to form the seams.


I used a hack saw blade to push the stitching imprints next to the seam lines. To texture the clay to look like leather, place some clear food wrap over the clay and roll a crinkled up ball of aluminum foil over the plastic wrap.


Clean up all the edges and then place the bust in a 275 degree oven for 15 minutes to cure the clay. Remove from the oven and let cool. Don’t try this technique with molded plastic pilot busts as the plastic will soften and deform. Works great with wood and resin cast pilot busts.


You can add more details on top of the cooled clay surface. Here the goggle strap and retainer straps have been added and detailed.


For the goggle skirt, I also made the details from clay. Originally I was going to use thin foam tape but this did not look scale.


Here the goggle skirt has been applied and baked on in the oven. The small indents looking like stitching was done with a small screw driver.


Here’s the other side of the bust.


To make the goggles I first scanned a pair of vintage goggles and imported the image into my CAD program. I then traced the image to produce a working drawing I reduced to 1/3-scale.


Using the drawing as areference, I made a plug from bass wood so I could vacuum form the lenses.


My Vac box is nothing  fancy as you can see. It works great hooked up to a regular vacuum cleaner.

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I placed the plug on top of a small piece of window screen and sealed the box around it with tape. Place the box ready to go next to the oven.


I then taped some thin clear plastic to a carrier sheet made from 1/8 inch plywood.


Place the plastic and plywood in an over as shown and heat in a 350 Degree oven until the plastic starts to sag through the opening in the plywood.


When the plastic is ready, switch on the vacuum and quickly move the plastic and plywood sheet on top of the plug and press down. The vacuum will suck the plastic into place and the plastic will start to cool off.


Don’t force the plug out of the formed plastic. When the plastic has cooled enough, the plug will fall out on its own

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Here’s the formed lenses


To make painting masks simply trace the plug with a soft pencil on some tape.

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Here is the mask on the plug with the waste tape removed

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Add the masks to the formed lenses and spray with a mist coat of primer and then a light coat or two of silver paint. Be sure to add a protective coat of tape inside the lenses to guard against over-spray.


Here are the finished goggle lenses. I was going to use this stick on foam tape as a skirt, but the clay looked much better.


I used Model Master paints to finish the pilot bust. Flat black base coat with a dry brush of “Leather” on top. The strap is Light Sand that will be darkened with some pencil carbon dust to bring out details.


Here the finished pilot bust a waits a new full-length body! To make the goggles lay flat against the rounded helmet skirt, I used a heat gun to soften the center of the goggles while protecting the lenses and pressing the goggles in place with my fingers.

Lightweight Torso

Since the pilot is a fair distance aft of the model’s CG, I could not use the molded plastic body. So, I made one from lightweight sponge foam.


Simply cut the foam to shape and size to stuff the clothing.


I ordered a beautifully hand crafted leather jacket, gloves and pants from Wendy at

These look great and of very high quality.


Nice attention to detail and the leather is as smooth as butter.


The pants are over long so when the pilot is in a seated position, you gather up the top and form his butt section.


Like Dr. Frankenstien I made the body with cut and fit trial and error until the cloths looked right. To close up the jacket, I used a little spray adhesive to stick it in place over the foam stuffing.


Placed in his seat with boots and gloves in place, our intrepid aviation is ready for action! To help the arms and legs hold their shape, I cut and inserted lengths of coat hanger wire in the knee and elbow areas.


With a pair of Spandau machine guns added to the Triplane, Baron von Mini-Me is ready for duty!black scarf

Don’t forget the neck scarf! “Contact”!



Featured News, Gerry Yarrish, Scale

About the author

Senior Technical Editor About Me: I have a lifelong passion for all things scale, and I love to design, build and fly scale RC airplanes. With 20 plus years as part of the Air Age family of magazines, I love producing Model Airplane News and Electric Flight.

5 Responses to “Adding Scale Details to a Pilot Figure”

  1. Alex says:

    Awesome work, Gerry!

  2. Flyoz says:

    hehe looks suspiciously like Her Yarrish,,, hmmmm

  3. Billy Norris says:

    great job

  4. CMunsk says:


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