The propeller plays a significant role in the realistic appearance of a scale model aircraft, especially if it’s laminated wood. With a little effort, you can capture the effect of wood laminations by using any ordinary wood prop. First, refer to a 3-view drawing and scale-up the prop to the right size for your model. Note: This procedure will require alterations to the prop that might compromise its strength and therefore must be used for static display only. With that in mind, it is also possible to recycle damaged props for this purpose with good results.
1. This 13X6 will work nicely as a scale prop for my Goldberg Cub. Those non-scale sharp edges will have to come off.
2. I removed as much of the clear finish as possible with acetone and a cloth. Don’t forget to wear eye protection and solvent resistant gloves. Then, using an X-acto knife, I removed all the sharp edges and rounded the tips.
3. I sanded the propeller thoroughly with 150 grit sandpaper to smooth out the rough edges and remove any remaining traces of clear finish, followed one more time with 400 grit sandpaper. You can really notice a difference in this photo.
4. Now you are ready to apply the dark seam lines that will represent the glue between the wood laminations. Use a No.2 pencil and your best eye. I draw the lines lightly at first so they’ll be easy to erase for making changes. When you are satisfied with their position, darken them in. It is helpful to refer to a photograph of a full size prop.
5. You can create the illusion that each lamination is a separate piece of wood by alternately staining one lamination while leaving the one next to it natural. Use a light stain so as to offer only a subtle difference; I use Minwax Golden Oak. A small modeling brush works nicely. When dry, spray the prop with two coats of clear finish. Let it dry overnight. I like using Krylon Gloss Crystal Clear Acrylic; it seems to be compatible with the Krylon line of paints.
6. There is usually a portion of the prop that is painted. Mask with tape, and spray the area with the appropriate color (I used Krylon khaki). Remove the tape and let it dry overnight.
7. I simulated the brass leading edge by masking off the area and applying gold spray paint. I removed the tape right away and let it dry overnight. The illusion of rivets was done by applying Testo
rs silver modeling paint to the “brass” portion with a toothpick.
8. Apply two Sensenich propeller decals (available from Major Decals) and let dry for 24 hours. Apply two more light coats of gloss clear and Voila! You have a beautiful scale propeller!
9. Make sure to replace your beautiful display prop with a “flying” prop before taking off. After all your hard work, you don’t want to risk breaking it.
By Mark Duval