- Published on Tuesday, 14 February 2012 07:52 Robin Jenkins
1/32 and 1/48 Propellers
The Micro Group
Prices: between $22.00 and $35.00 (from around £13.94 to £22.17)
I have written before that I believe WW1 aviation modellers are living through a golden age at present. Over the last 5 years, the standard of kits available in the 3 traditional scales has taken a mighty leap forwards. New companies, such as Roden and Wingnut Wings have entered the market with some stunning releases and existing companies, such as Eduard, have set the bar at new heights with their updated production methods. Along with these improvements, aftermarket companies have also greatly improved their products – except in one particular key area........
So you are sitting with your WW1 kit in front of you wondering how to update, change or improve your kit: decal sets are much better researched and a greater number of subjects are available; etched metal and resin detail sets have improved; reference works have never been better; there are even commercially made turnbuckles with which to anchor your rigging wires. But what about that key part that is usually at the front of (but sometimes, at the rear) of your engine? The world of the airscrew or propeller (the wrong term, actually) is a mystery to most modellers (below).
Credit and copywrite: http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/montrose/airstation/index.html
How can you improve the kit airscrew? A quick glance through any reference will show the complexities of size, shape, lamination, finish, pitch, twist, brass inserts and tip bindings that were present on these early wooden constructions. The modeller at present usually has to rely on their painting skills to replicate the original – and believe me, I have lost count of the good WW1 aircraft models I have seen whose airscrew does not match the overall quality of the finished kit. Yet what is out in the market to help the modeller? Well, apart from a small number of decal airscrew laminations (which never look correct when applied), basically nothing. I said this area of modelling had not improved – in fact, it has regressed; in the 1990s, a European modeller called Marty Digmayer used to produce hand-made airscrews, made to order in 1/48th and 1/72nd scale. They were a few pounds each and were truly masterpieces in miniature. Marty has now moved on to other commercial ventures, including being a writer and draughtsman for the Albatros Publications group and no longer produces his airscrews as a business. I bought a couple of his products in 1997 which gave me the incentive to start to solve the issue in the best modelling manner, by carving my own airscrews from laminations of wood. It is a long process, with around 4 failures to every success. One of my own four blade airscrews was recently seen on the site on my Roden 1/32 Siemens-Schuckert D.III that I used Wingnut Wings' lozenge decal to finish the wings with. However, I appreciate that other modellers may not have the time (around 22 hours) or ability to make an airscrew themselves, so when I was told a new company was manufacturing wooden airscrews for modellers, my interest was immediately raised.
The Micro Group is a small, US-based concern which manufactures 2 and 4-blade "propellers" in 1/32nd and 1/48th scale. A wide range of products are available and they offer a bespoke service for products a modeller might particularly want; all products are hand-made. This service includes e-mailed photographs back to the customer of the products being made, before they are posted out. A range of colours and woods are also available and can be specified by the modeller. The products are all glossy; this can be changed by the modeller via sanding or application of their own finish.
We have been sent one "complete" 1/32 sample and 3 propellers on their own; these terms will be explained as we progress. The variety of products is chosen to illustrate the range.
1/32 Sopwith Triplane "square-tip" propeller: $26.00 (£16.44)
This set shows how the product is supplied to the customer. Designed for the Roden kit, it comes with a "holder", which allows the customer to temporarily fix the propeller in place and use their breath to make sure it spins in a true manner, checking the airfoil. There are resin retention plates (where the structure of these is known) provided; I normally have to either scratch-build mine or carefully remove them from the kit airscrew and add them to my own airscrew. The propellor has a true centre of rotation hole drilled in it, which can be enlarged if so wished.
As someone who carves their own airscrews, I feel that for once my comments are 100% valid. The presence of the central hole is a very good idea, as is the provision of the retention plates (although in my sample, the detail was soft in this area and needs to be improved). The shape, pitch and size are good; I felt the choice of wood colours was not appropriate for most wartime Sopwith Triplanes, only a couple of photos I could find show light wood being used. The propeller could be restained by the modeller, but only if the gloss coat is removed first.
1/48 Gotha V Niendorf "pusher" (reverse pitch) propeller: $22.00 (£13.94)
This sample, and the remaining propellers, were supplied without the full fitment pack. Designed for the Hippo kit, this is a much better effort and replicates the complex Niendorf airscrew really well. I was very impressed overall. The Micro Group will offer discounts for products such as this where 2 propellers will be required for a model.
1/48 Airco De Havilland DH.2 2-blade propeller: $22.00 (£13.94)
I was less impressed by this propeller, which like the next one is suitable for Eduard or Blue Max kits (or even the old Smer kit, I suppose). The laminations are achieved by using a single colour wood with "glue" lines; I did not think it looked correct in this scale. The shape and size are not bad; the pitch may be slightly too pronounced, according to my drawings.
1/48 Airco De Havilland DH.2 4-blade propeller: $30.00 (£18.96)
The final product is a 4-blade propeller. This product uses 2 different woods with "glue" lines. The somewhat weedy appearance is actually correct and the pitch is spot-on this time. However, most photos of WW1 DH-2s do not show airscrews with this type of lamination or colour.
You may think I have been over-critical about the colour and laminations of some of the products; actually, this is not much of an issue. The modeller can stipulate the colours and laminations they personally require for their own product when they order. The size, shape and pitch are much more important and 3 of the 4 products are fine in this area.
The prices above give the standard costs for 2-blade 1/32 propellers and 2 and 4-blade 1/48 propellers; 4-blade 1/32 propellers cost $35.00 (£22.17). I appreciate this is a labour-intensive product to make, but I think that many modellers may think the propellers are on the expensive side. I would have been much happier were they around 25 - 33% cheaper, which would have given much better value for money. No website is available as of yet; communication, enquiry and order is via the e-mail address.
So What Do We Think?
An excellent idea resurrected from the 1990s. The provision of resin retention plates is good but their quality needs to be improved. The actual propellers themselves range in quality; be sure you stipulate the correct colour woods and laminations for your subject. The 1/48 Niendorf sample examined came very close to the quality of the old Digmayer products. Their pricing may limit their sales in today's climate.
A great idea that needs a little improvement
Our sincere thanks to the Micro Group for the review samples used here.