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High Detailed Laminated Wooden Propellers


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One of the things that always amazed me in this hobby were the incredible wooden finishes many of the aircraft have, from the fuselage of the Albatros to the laminated propellers of pretty much all of the aircraft of the WWI era.


I have dedicated a lot of time, effort and profanity in mastering the technique, something I have yet to do but with each model I feel I learn something new and the level of detail goes up just another level.


I’ve had a lot of people ask me how I achieve the wood graining and lamination lines on my propellers. So as my current build has reached the point where I need them I thought I would document the process in detail. The items listed in the tutorial are there for reference and they can be switched out with other brands – however as I only use what is shown in the tutorial and I will be unable to answer questions on other products that you may wish to substitute.


What you will need:


•             A selection of Tamiya colours for the base coat – I used Tamiya XF-57 (Buff) for this tutorial but you can use other colours or combination of colours including Tamiya XF-55 (Deck Tan) and Tamiya XF-68 (Nato Brown).

•             Tamiya X-26 (Clear Orange) and Tamiya X-24 (Clear Yellow)

•             Tamiya XF-16 (Flat Aluminum) and Tamiya XF-1 (Flat Black)

•             Tamiya XF-22 (Clear) thinned 30/70 with Mr. Color Leveling thinner 400.

•             Tamiya XF-86 (Flat Clear) thinned 30/70 with Mr. Color Leveling thinner 400.

•             Uschi  van der  Rosten Blitz Dry

•             Tamiya X-20 Enamel Paint Thinner

•             Tamiya X-20A Acrylic Paint Thinner

•             Burnt Umber and Raw Sienna Artists Oil Paint (other colours can be used depending on finish you want)

•             Old Sponge

•             Needle nose tweezers

•             Old flat head paint brush

•             Masking tape (I used Aizu 0.4, 0.7 and 1mm tapes and Tamiya masking sheet for the main masks)

•             Very sharp Scalpel or cutter

•             4mm circular stamp

•             Stuff I mention in the tutorial but forgot to add here :D




Step 1:


Is to paint the propeller evenly with your base wood colour, in this case I used Tamiya  XF-57 (Buff) thinned 1:3 with Tamiya X-20A. I wanted a nice base to work from so gave it 3 even coats and left it to cure over night.




Step 2:


Now we start the first of the wood grain effect on the propeller. Using a drop of Uschi  van der  Rosten Blitz Dry and a little Tamiya X-20 Enamel Paint Thinner I gave the propeller a liberal coating and allowed it to sit for about 3 minutes to allow the chemical reaction from the Blitz Dry to take effect.




Using a piece of old bath sponge (The holes are much tighter than natural sponge and I fell gives a better finish) start gently wiping away the excessive oil paint. Allow the paint to build up on the sponge though as this adds to the streaking effect.


Once the majority of the oil paint is gone you can then use a brush to add more detailing. I have an old Tamiya Flat head brush that I used a pair of hairdresser’s texturising scissors on that gives a very nice random length to the bristles.




You should end up with a nice fine grain on the entire length of the propeller, if however you don’t you can just paint more oils on again and repeat the process until you are happy. 


I strongly recommend that you let this cure now for at least 24 hours, you’ll need a lot less but for the oil paints it’s  always best to make sure its fully dried before moving on to the next step.






Step 3:


Now we are ready to lock it all in, for this I gave the whole propeller a shot of Tamiya X-24 (Clear Yellow), you can go with the Tamiya X-26 (Clear Orange) and it gives the finish a very different feel – however I am going for a lighter wood finish and the yellow suits this more than the orange which really adds warmth to darker woods.


Again you need to let this full cure, I left mine for a good 4 hours before moving on to the next step.




Now we lock it all down with a coating of Tamiya XF-22 (Clear) thinned 30/70 with Mr. Color Leveling thinner 400. I love this stuff and it gives one of the most superior finishes I have yet to achieve. (I threw my Future in the bin!)






Now one of the nice little tips I was given is to clean out the airbrush with the Mr. Color Leveling thinner 400 and give the item a fine coating of pure thinner. This will give you a beautifully smooth gloss finish to the item






Now you will be man-handling this a lot for the next step so my recommendation is that you put it aside for a few days to let it cure and harden completely and work on another aspect of the build.


Step 4:


So your propeller should look like it’s made from a single block of wood now, with a high gloss finish. That’s good, if not do what I have done so many times and drop it in some thinner, clean it all off and try again.


If you are happy the next step is to make the masks for the lamination. For this I tutorial I used Tamiya Masking sheet, but I have also used 3M 30mm masking tape, it doesn’t matter as long as you can get a good contact with the surface, without it pulling off all your hard work after.


To make the masks I made a template in photoshop using the preset line weight the first oval is the length of the central lamination and then from there I worked outwards (You can also use a draughtsman’s oval  template to do the same) . I then printed this on to the Tamiya mask sheet, however I have also just printed it to a piece of paper and then laid a thin sheet of glass over it and cut from there.




Using Aizu masking tapes of 0.4, 0.7 and 1mm I filled in the gaps making sure that the central lines through the boss were straight and even.




I used the tweezers and the gridded cutting board to make sure they were placed accurately and then pressed firmly in to place using a cotton bud. The less you touch the masking the better as it will be put under a bit of stress during the process.




Step 5:


We will repeat the process of steps 1 -3 again, now this is where you can deviate and try other colours, however for this tutorial I went with Tamiya XF-57 (Buff) again giving the propeller two coats of paint.




You might want to take a little time to make sure the masking is holding up to the job! You can see where it has lifted up off the surface as the paint dried. I used another cotton bud to put it back in to place.




Step 6:


Time for the second application of the wood grain effect, again we paint the entire propeller with the oil paints (Again mixed with Blitz Dry and a little thinner).




Again we wipe away the oils gently using the old sponge working it towards the boss to create a different grain to the first layer, you might wish to add a few spots of oil paint to the surface as you work to change the effect you get.


Once you are happy with the finish you want to leave this to cure again for a good 24 hours, this is more important than the first as you will have a thicker coating around the masking tape where the oils have built up during the sponging and brushing of the oils.




Step 7:


Again we return to the Tamiya X-24 (Clear Yellow) to add some warmth to the wood and to add another layer off filtering to the finish of the propeller. Again it is best to leave this to cure before moving on to the next step as it will form a protective layer to the oil paints.








Step 8:


The moment of truth, time to peel off all that masking! Take your time here and be very careful. Start with the over lapping tape you used to fill the gaps and then remove the main masking. Hopefully you’ll be able to remove it all without scratching of damaging the paint work.








Now the reason why we didn’t lock this all down with Tamiya Clear was because we can clean up some of the line where the oil leaked underneath the masking or is too thick. For this I used a fine paint brush dipped in Tamiya X-20 Enamel Paint Thinner.


Step 9:


Now we can lock this last step down with a coating of Tamiya XF-22 (Clear) thinned 30/70 with Mr. Color Leveling thinner 400. I actually gave the propeller 4 fine coats and left to cure.

Now some of you might feel that it’s good enough however after toying with the technique I found a final coat of oils really did make a difference and you can see the difference in the photo below, the top propeller is the finished item with a final oil filter the one bellow is without.




Step 10:


We can now apply a final filter now depending on the look of the propeller so far you can either go for a light or heavy filter allowing you to blend the colours of the laminate a little and thus removing any harsh lines, it is also useful as it will pick out any imperfections in your finish and make it look like dirt trapped in a damaged/weathered prop.

For the filter I wanted to blend the colours to the lighter of the spectrum used so went with Raw Sienna.




The technique is exactly the same as before, a heavy helping of the oil paint mixed with a drop of  Uschi  van der  Rosten Blitz Dry and a little Tamiya X-20 Enamel Paint Thinner and after allowing the oils to dry a little, we brush it away with the flat head brush.



As you can see we now have lighter tones in the wood grain and the two laminations are more similar in colour range. You can apply more coats depending on tastes but the trick here is not to create another layer of grain but a very fine layer of translucent colour.

Also the Macro lens picks out some light scratches and imperfections, not to worry the final coat of varnish will make these invisible.




Step 11:


We now apply the final coat of varnish, for this we can go two ways depending on the finish you want. Tamiya now has a new range of Clear, Semi-Gloss and Flat varnishes and these are perfect for what we are doing here. I felt that the final coating was a little to shinny and looked unrealistic so I went with a very light top coat of the Tamiya XF-86 (Flat Clear)




I much prefer the satin finish to the wood at this scale.






Step 12:


So with the propeller fully cured it’s time to finish the off the detail with painting the boss. For this I used some 3M masking tape and a 4mm stamp – depending on the propeller you may need different sizes.



Now the last thing you want to do is ruin all your hard work so make sure you remove the tackiness of the bond, placing it on the back of your hand a few time helps.




Use your needle nose tweezers to position and then press down around the boss to expose the edge slightly and making sure there are no gaps ready for the base coat.




For this I used Tamiya XF-1 Flat Black and once dry I then dry brushed on Tamiya X-16 (Flat Aluminum) to highlight the raised detail.







You can then finally add more detail using inks, for this I use Mr. Weathering Colour (Multi Black) and filled in all the recesses and other detail, especially around the edging off the boss.




Now very carefully lift off the masking tape and hopefully you will be left with a very clearly defined boss. With hopefully a realistic laminated finish! I didn’t go through the decal process as from here you are home free – just apply the kit decals and apply a small coating of the varnish.






Thanks for reading and I hope you found it useful – feel free to leave comments and if you try it and find other useful techniques, modifications or colour combinations then please share!

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