Wood Modeling Process

I was inspired to enter wood model making by two people in my life, the first being a neighbor and friend of the family whose workmanship was highly skilled and the other was through my Scroll Saw Landscapesgrandfather. At 8 years of age my parents purchased a scroll saw for me which I used to cut out primitive animals, landscapes, and simple puzzles. In the years that followed my grandfather shared with me the art of balsa carving using an Xacto knife and WWII airplane spotter book (which provided aerial, side, and frontal views of aircraft). This was a hobby that he had as a young man going through the second world war. Using the resources he gave me I set to work, and it is perhaps this start through him that gave me my love of aircraft and equipment through the world war II era which you will see Balsa Planespredominantly in my work. With time I wanted to build bigger models than balsa wood allowed for, so I ventured into the size that I work in primarily today using scrap pieces of wood and materials. I never had much money to spend on the hobby so otherwise rejected materials and inexpensive tools have been my means to model making which makes it a feasible craft for anyone that has the time and motivation to get started. With that let me walk you through some past projects so you can get an idea of the process behind modeling.


The first thing you need in wood modeling is an idea, followed by a plan. What is it that you want to create? Furniture? Cars? A Dollhouse? Airplanes? Whatever it is have a solid idea of what you want to build, the size, colors, how it will be used, and so forth. Do you plan to build your project for children to play with or for display? That is a key question since children will amaze you in their ability to destroy what you thought was a strong piece of work. -even model airplanes have to fly across the room you know! I build very differently based on the answer to this question. Next you need to make or acquire a drawing to work from. In many cases you will find a line drawing on the Internet that you can use for your model, but if your model is customized you will simply need to draw your own. Get a compass, protractor, paper, pencil, and an eraser! I hope you like math! If you're not comfortable drawing your own plans you can do some searches for whatever you intend to make or you are welcome to use the drawings I have made on the Tips and Blueprints page.

After you have a drawing you need to transfer the dimensions to your lumber or material and cut it out or carve it to your specifications. Then assemble your pieces, paint, urethane, and you're done! Ok, well it's easier said than done. Plan to spend a few hours on each model; I typically have anywhere from 2-6 hours invested by the time I am finished depending on the complexity of the project. So let's take a look at some past projects.

Corner Fireplace Framed

Above I had taken scrap wood pieces during the time that we were having our house built, and erected a mach corner fireplace for my room. A few pieces of lumber, screws, sheetrock, trim, and paint made for a nice addition to my bedroom.

Corner Fireplace with Sheetrock

In the above picture I am getting my first glimpse of what the finished product would be; here I am 13 years old.

Finished Corner Fireplace

Finally we have the finished product set up in my room. I took some cut up birch from our woods and interlaced some special "fire" effect lights to give it that warming glow. Black fabric hung on the backside gave depth to the interior and contrasted the lights. -great project!

Below is a series of pictures of a boat building project that I started and never finished, but it may show a little more of a construction process that I typically go through.

boat 1

boat 2

boat 3

boat 4

Below is the 3 step process in making some Sherman tanks. Here the wood pieces have been cut out to specification and sanded smooth.

Tank Cut Outs

Next the parts are glued and assembled.

Tanks Assembled

Tanks Complete

Lastly they get a coat of paint... or not.

Tanks Painted

Aside from paint, staining is a great way to go especially for something like these ships which will have a wood deck appearance or the AK47s which will have a wood stock look to them.

staining 1

staining 2

When you paint spraying is by far the easiest and usually the best finished appearance, but I have found that cheap acrylic paints followed by a clear urethane spray also yields good results when a detailed hand paint job is required.

painting 1

painting 2

One thing to keep in mind is that modeling takes up space, sometimes a lot of space! I have often had my bedroom floor, desk, kitchen table, or any other available space consumed by models in process. So just be aware of this before you begin and make sure this won't be too much of a problem for others! ;)

Cluttered Room

Cluttered Desk

That's it for now! Be sure to check out my other links on Tools to Get Started as well as Tips and Blueprints. Thank you!