Paul K. Guillow’s Balsa Airplanes in MAKE Volume 28

MAKE Volume 28 will soon be in the hands of subscribers. Are you among the lucky group of folks who will open up their mailbox to find MAKE? Subscribe to experience the thrill of getting something in the mail besides “0% APR on balance transfer” credit card offers.

This issue’s theme is Toys and Games, and in it, Andrew Leonard writes about building Paul K. Guillow’s model airplanes, a balsa wood model airplane company that has been around since 1926.

I soon learned that while the golden age of the model airplane hobbyist scene belongs to the distant past, and nearly all the competitors that Guillow’s battled for market share in
the 1930s, 40s, and 50s are as dead as the dinosaurs, Guillow’s is still independently
operated and chugging forward. Remarkably, the firm still operates in the same Wakefield, Mass., warehouse complex that Paul K. Guillow, its eponymous founder and World War I Navy aviator, moved into back in 1933.

20 thoughts on “Paul K. Guillow’s Balsa Airplanes in MAKE Volume 28

  1. Loved Guillow’s all-balsa rubber band planes as a kid (Jetstream & Skystreak).  Dang near idiot proof.  I tired to make some balsa frame & tissue models later with very limited success.  Never saw any of their more advanced models in my local stores though.

  2. this would be a great maker tv show that make needs to do!!! ive built a few over the years ( as a kid and young adult ) but all of them ended up with “lets tape a few bottle rockets to it and see how fast she can go!!” most flew a few feet then exploded and blew the wings apart!! had great times !! and my parents still stick one of the simple gliders in a easter basket ( been doing this since i was about 5 ) as a family we all would take them out and throw them from the front 2nd story deck — we still to this day ( easter ) and my 3 year old son love them!!!

  3. I built quite a few of the Guillows planes as a kid and lusted after the larger 36″ wingspan models of the P-38 and Stuka.  Although for flying ability I liked the Comet brand WW2 fighters if about 18″ wingspan. I thought that they flew better.  

    Getting a kid (boy or girl) to commit their time to actually build one of these kits and then getting them to fly is a great lesson in patience and commitment.  The flying and trimming instructions supplied by the Guillows kits are second to none.

  4. I think the more complex models have declined (in the rubber-power space).

    Some of the simpler rubber-power models are still going strong however. People are DIYing them so the companies don’t sell many models.

    In fact, I designed the Squirrel model airplane to be much easier to make in order to get people back into building kits such as those Guilllow’s kits.

  5. Kit building is becoming a lost art in Radio Control/Free Flight.  All the kits are “almost ready to fly”.  I would check out independent modelers who sell short-kits. Short-kits have precut balsa, just add accessories.
    Bob Holman Plans

  6. Also, worth mentioning that I presented the Squirrel Model Airplane at the New York MakerFaire.

    The Web site for the model is at There are some pictures and video there in the blog. Also some pictures at the previously mentioned EndlessLift site.

  7. I stopped by the local hobby store last week, hadn’t been in there in nearly a year. They used to have a small (but always stocked) rack with various Sig and Guillows stick-and-tissue kits, and I’d been thinking of picking one up to get back into the fun of it. The whole rack was replaced with spare parts for the bazillions of ARF models all over the place… They still have the rack of balsa stock; apparently if you want an airplane it has to either be ARF or plans-built.

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