Creating Wood Finishes on Plastic
by Lee Rouse


I'll have to admit that I have been getting a little bored with modeling lately. It seems like every other aircraft model recently released been some variation of the Me109 or FW190. Sensing that it was time for a change, I pulled out the 1/48 Eduard Albatros DIII kit I purchased about 9 months ago and blew the dust off the box. This would definitely provide a new challenge for me - two wings (what a novelty!), rigging, colorful camouflage. Then there was that plywood fuselage which I would need to replicate using plastic and paint. Not only did the fuselage require a wood finish, but the interior of the real aircraft was also constructed largely of wood.

I found two sources of information very helpful in learning about how to create a wood finish for my model. One was an article from the October 1996 issue of Scale Auto Enthusiast. The article, "Wood Shop" was written by Tim Powers. Although written with car modelers in mind (remember the old Woody wagons?), the techniques described in the article are useful for any type of plastic model. Thanks, Andy, for scanning and emailing the article to me.

Another source of information, which I turn to A LOT for modeling information, is the Internet. I posted a message on the bulletin board at Hyperscale and managed to generate quite a discussion. What follows are the responses that my posting generated. I hope this is helpful. I highly recommend this bulletin board as well as the rec.models.scale newsgroup for developing a "hyper-" dialogue with other modelers and improving your skills. For more information on just how my Albatros paint job turned out, come to the February meeting!

Andy Renshaw
try this (its easy and looks awesome)
Mon Jan 17 12:16:34 2000

try just painting the area a tan color (sand works well), then just go to the local hardware store and pick up a wood stain in the shade you want. Brush it on and wipe it off if you want in the direction of the grain. It will look like real wood, and you can gloss cote it for a lacquered finish.

Val Bueno
Ever thought of colored pencils?
Mon Jan 17 08:50:11 2000

A friend of mine here in Hawaii had an interesting idea for wood. He painted the area a generic wood color, then he would draw in the grain with a lighter/darker colored pencil. Then seal and finish as usual. I thought it looked great.

Pegasus decals are coming soon
Mon Jan 17 05:46:25 2000

Pegasus has announced that they will be releasing two shades of wood paneling in both 1:72 and 1:48 scale. WW1 is their thing and they put alot of effort into their decals, so I'm expecting the best. Their website is www.pegasusmodels.com and from there you can order directly. I've used them several times and have been very pleased with the timely delivery to the U.S. from

Mon Jan 17 01:16:19 2000

two methods I use,
first paint a base coat of matte white (don't know if gloss works) let dry then brush over it with your only slightly stirred wood color, The white shows through as the grain
No. 2 paint your favorite wood color and then after it dries go over it with Tamiya clear orange-works for me!

Fred Hocker
Sun Jan 16 23:39:00 2000

If it matters, most modern aircraft plywood that I have seen is of birch, which has a pale color and very subtle grain in its natural state. Other possibilities include mahogany (popular since the turn of the century for marine plywood), which has a reddish-orange color, also with fairly subtle, relatively straight grain. It also tends to have fine black flecks, but these would not show at 1:48. Oak is not usually used for structural plywood. I do not have any references for the specific woods used on WWI German aircraft, but color photos of surviving aircraft suggest one of these two woods, usually without wild color variation or prominent grain. The varnish used early in the 20th century tends to give any wood a slight red or amber hue, especially if multiple coats are applied.

Scott Fraser
Re: simulating wood grain??
Sun Jan 16 11:38:34 2000

If you know of any good tobacco stores, ask for the thin sheets of wood which are inside the humidors high-quality cigars are packaged in. They are about .015" thick and are REAL WOOD. Nothing looks like wood quite like wood does...

Tom Kailbourn
simulated plywood
Sun Jan 16 11:31:33 2000

Try this: paint the wood-paneled portions of the airplane a light tan or buff, as an undercoat, and allow to dry well. If there are multiple panels, mask them off one at a time, and dry-brush the panel a mid-tone brown with a flat, soft natural fiber brush. Give the brush a little waver as you go across the panel, to simulate the contours of the grain. It may take more than one complete pass on each panel to get sufficient grain, but don't overdo it. Wood grain, especially in small scales, is subtle. Let the panel dry, and mask a new panel and repeat the process. When finished with all panels, let the plane dry thoroughly, then spray or brush on a compatible satin clear coat, to simulate varnish. Good luck.

Tom Kailbourn
another variation . . .
Sun Jan 16 13:06:35 2000

Reminds me: there is a variation on the dry-brushing stage that I described. This owes a tip of the hat to the oldtime wood-graining decorators. Presuming you are working in oil-base paints (as opposed to acrylics), try doing the graining with your brown enamel mixed about 50-50 with some oil-base clearcoat or varnish.

Well, there it is. Should be enough information there to get you started if this an interest.