Simulating wicker seats for small scale WWI aircraft
If you like World
War I aircraft, you probably know that many of them used wicker
seats for pilots and crew. Yes, wicker seats, pretty much like the ones
you have on your porch. If it sounds strange, remember that light
metals such as aluminum were not common back then, and these furnishings - which were made from a variety of plant fibers, like bamboo, willow, and rattan -.provided
a stiff and light solution, exactly what you need in an aircraft.
Before we go any further, wicker does not refer to the material, but
the style of weaving... don1 ask me.
Examples of wicker seats in WWI fighters.
anything in aviation, this type of seat was quickly standardized and
became part of the aircraft construction like any other component.
of the Sopwith Camel pilot's seat (left), an original sample (center),
and an excerpt of the Sopwith drawings for seat B28211.
to modeling, the question here is: how to include a decent
representation of wicker seats in my WWI aircraft? I recently faced
this challenge when working on my old Airfix Hannover CL.IIIa in 1/72
scale. And maybe the problem is the scale... In 1/48 or larger scales,
the problem is not so challenging. I recall the modeler Ken Foran many
years ago when he scratchbuilt his award-winning Sopwith Camel in 1/15 scale.
He simply knitted copper wire around the seat's skeleton to obtain an
amazingly realistic seat. But applying the same technique in 1/72 scale
does not seem possible... at least for me.
models come with a geometrically accurate representation of the pilot's
seat (some others are terrible!). However, because WWI aircraft did not
have canopies, when you look through the cockpit opening, the first
thing that you see is the seat. And wicker seats have that unmistakable
texture which can be distinguished even in 1/72 scale. So, how we
Roy Sutherland's Barracuda Studios
comes to the rescue here, offering several models of wicker seats with
an unbelievable level of detail and all three popular aviation scales.
The texture of these accessories must be seen. It is trully just a
matter of shooting a wood color and then apply a dark wash to have
a very decent seat in your model.
I said, a few weeks ago I was scratchbuilding the cockpit interior of
an Airfix Hannover and had to include a decent wicker seat. Because of
the pandemic, however, ordering a seat (plus the many months that it
would take to arrive in my country) was out of the question. I needed a
simple solution using materials I have at home. It all started with a
few gift wrap stripes or Easter egg stripes. I have a few around my
workbench to simulate belts and stuff. Some of them have a very
prominent weave pattern that resembles the aspect of the wicker seats
in scale. So, why not to use the stripes to form a seat for my 1/72
The first step
is to select the type of wicker seat you want to replicate. You need to
draw a plan of the unfolded seat in scale. It may be tricky to cut the
stripe to make a perfectly symmetrical seat. In my case, I rather chose
to split the seat into two parts: the backrest and the seat, but
if you prefer, you may cut the whole seat as a single piece:
The backrest is more
or less cylindrical, so I spread superglue on the aft face of the
backrest (which will not be visible) and shaped it against a cylinder,
brush handle, or whatever having the correct diameter. It is important
to mention that the superglue will flow to the 'mold' by capillary
action, so you may want to use a female mold (like the one shown
below). This helps to preserve the weave texture on the visible face of
the backrest. Hit with an accelerator and pop it out of the mold. The
seat is essentially a half-circle. It can be cut with a hobby knife or
glued on a thin plasticard and punched out. In the second case, you
don't need to reinforce it with superglue. It is also possible that the
technique works with other types of glue. I opted for superglue to
you made the backrest and the seat separated, it is time to glue them
together to assemble the seat. Use small drops of glue at key points
and let it dry:
fill small gaps with more glue or paint. A coat of primer will help to
spot small flaws. Because the tissue is impregnated with
superglue, light sanding is possible if needed. Be careful to
avoid cracking it though, as corrections at this point will be
If everything is
fine, proceed with the painting. Remember to use a dark brown wash
to highlight the weave texture, after all, this is all about texture.
For the records, I used Vallejo Wood from their Model Air range as a
base color, then I applied a wash of Liquitex Sepia ink. Once dry, a
coat of flat clear was airbrushed, followed by a light drybrush
with ochre drybrush-paint from Citadel:
And that's it.
Quick, easy, and will trick your eyes alright. In case you are
interested, here is the fuselage of the Hannover, with my improvised
wicker seat in action:
Not all of my ideas work well, I admit. But this one seems to do the trick.