Skill Builder: Model Plane Building “Secrets”

Fun & Games
Skill Builder: Model Plane Building “Secrets”

In support of the latest issue of MAKE, Volume 28, MAKE contributor Stefan Jones sent me a link to this PDF of a booklet from the 1950s on model airplane building. It was put out by Sterling Models and reprinted from Flying Models Magazine. Our Toys and Games issues contains a wonderful Maker Profile of Paul Guillow, pretty much the father of “stick and tissue” plane kits and balsa wood gliders. This PDF will whet your whistle while you’re waiting for your issue.

Did you ever build a Guillow model plane kit? We’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Secrets of Model Aircraft Building


Medicine Man Glider

6 thoughts on “Skill Builder: Model Plane Building “Secrets”

  1. Scott Edwards says:

    I sure did! Great memories. Nothing like building a balsa frame airplane.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I did too. I made a Guillow stick and tissue glider that had (I think) a 5′ wingspan.Maybe 4′ It was big, tho. It was a heck of a lot harder than I anticipated. I was pretty ADD, so sticking with something that took that much patience was a real accomplishment for me. She was a beaut. The first time my dad and I took it out for a flight, a gust of wind caught it, it barreled into the trees on the edge of the field, and ripped off one of the wings and badly tore the doped tissue. I was heartbroken.

  3. Joseph Cummings says:

    Oh, heck yeah! I built many of them! Mustangs, Spitfires, Focke Wolfes, Tiger Moths… Unfortunately, they all met the same fate as Mr Branwyn’s glider!

    These last few months, I’ve been jonesing to build another – I think I will!

  4. Stefan Jones says:

    I had a very discouraging experience as a little kid trying to build a Guillow’s biplane of some sort. I thought my father (who had stories about building planes as a kid) would help, but after a couple of evenings he went back to his usual (ahem) liquid recreations.

    Really, without a mentor of some sort something as complex as a stick-and-tissue model is an incredible leap for a kid. I read the books, but they were not a substitute for practical craftsman know-how . . . and the money for the right tools and supplies.

    Hell . . . while I can confidentially call myself a skilled model rocket builder, a more recent attempt at a stick-and-tissue model still proved to be quite a challenge. I’m one panel of tissue away from finishing a Guillow’s Cessna 180. I made a lot of mistakes, fortunately none of them “fatal.”

    Pictures here:

    As it happens, the Guillow’s support forum has just started a “build along with us” thread on the Cessna 180. Lots of pictures and advice from master builders:

  5. Carl Scott says:

    I am building a 1950’s Guillow’s profile balsa model. I am looking for instructions for painting/decaling as a static model. Anyone know of such a resource?

  6. Carl Scott says:

    I am building a 1950’s Guillow’s profile balsa model. I am looking for instructions for painting/decaling as a static model. Anyone know of such a resource?

Comments are closed.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn
Maker Faire Bay Area 2023 - Mare Island, CA

Escape to an island of imagination + innovation as Maker Faire Bay Area returns for its 15th iteration!

Buy Tickets today! SAVE 15% and lock-in your preferred date(s).