How to Make a Model Biplane

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Early biplanes were simple but effective flying machines with lightweight frames supporting cloth-covered wings and a thin-skinned fuselage.

Things You'll Need

  • Box of 100 toothpicks 2.5 inches in length
  • Hot glue gun
  • Hot glue stick
  • 1 square yard of high thread count white muslin cloth (32 threads per inch or higher)
  • 3 buttons, 1 inch in diameter
  • Clear plastic sheet 8 x 11 inches
  • Spool of black sewing thread
  • Scissors
  • 3 wooden coffee stirring sticks 1/8 inch x 5 inches
  • Utility knife
  • Straight pin with plastic rounded head 1 inch long

Construct Fuselage Frame

Make five square boxes by hot-gluing 12 toothpicks together. This is done by gluing four toothpicks end to end in a square and then connecting two such squares with four toothpicks to form a cubical box measuring 2 1/2 inches square.

Align the five 2 1/2-inch square boxes and hot-glue these together to form one rectangle measuring 12 1/2 inches x 2 1/2 inches by 2 1/2 inches.

Using the utility knife, cut one wooden stirring stick into two pieces measuring 2 1/2 inches each and use hot glue to secure these pieces horizontally across the midpoint of each end of the 12 1/2-inch rectangle. The 12 1/2 inch fuselage will now have each open end divided by a 2 1/2 inch x 1/8 inch wooden strut.

Construct the vertical and horizontal tail sections by hot-gluing five sets of four toothpicks hot-glued to form a square. Hot-glue three of these squares together to form a 7 1/2 inch x 2 1/2 inch horizontal tail section and glue this to the bottom of the rear of the fuselage.

To form the vertical tail, hot-glue the remaining two squares to the top of the rear cube in the fuselage, gluing the bottom of one square to each side of the fuselage and joining the opposite ends tepee style at the top before final gluing.

Cut four toothpicks in half using utility knife. Using hot glue construct a rectangular box using eight 1 1/4 inch toothpicks joined by four full-sized toothpicks. Attach this rectangular box on the bottom of the fuselage beneath the second set of squares from the front of the fuselage.

Insert and glue in place one toothpick into the center hole of each of two 1-inch buttons. Glue toothpick ends opposite the buttons together to form one solid axle. Glue axle in place at the midpoint of the rectangular box placed in Step 5, to form landing gear.

Construct Wings

Each wing will consist of seven 2 1/2 inch x 2 1/2 inch squares of toothpicks glued end to end, forming a wing measuring 17 1/2 inches x 2 1/2 inches.

Construct two of these.

Center the bottom wing frame beneath the fuselage, crossing under the second set of squares from the front of the fuselage and fitting around the landing gear box. After ensuring equal wing span on each side of fuselage, glue in place.

Make four cubical boxes by gluing 12 toothpicks together. Glue one cubical box on each end of the lower wing frame. Glue a second cubical box on top of the previously placed box.

Place the upper wing centered on the fuselage and resting on the upper tier of cubical boxes joined to the lower wing. Glue in place.

Complete Fuselage and Wings

Cut muslin fabric into 2 x 2 inch strips. Apply hot glue and mold individual, overlapping strips to wings , fuselage and tail sections until all surfaces are covered. Allow or cut a a 1-inch circular gap in top of the second cubical square of the fuselage to form the pilot's cockpit.

From transparent plastic sheet cut a 1 1/4 inch x 1/4 inch strip and glue this in front of the second cubical square in the fuselage, to form the cockpit windshield.

Using utility knife cut wooden stirring sticks into six pieces 1 inch in length. Glue the six wooden pieces evenly spaced around the perimeter of the remaining 1 inch button to form the propeller. Insert straight pin with rounded head through the center button hole and push pin into and through the the wooden strut placed in the nose of the fuselage in step 3 of section 1.

Once glue has dried and the fabric skin is stabilized use clear nail polish to coat all fabric surfaces.

Tips & Warnings

  • To add more detail to the biplane use black sewing thread to tie in wing end supports to fuselage and to run between the vertical tail and the cockpit.

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