Building Jan Müller's DH88 Comet - in 1/16 scale (finished)

  • Of course pilots had engine troubles while they were flying. You've simply created an even more realistic model then you would have had with two identical engines. :) Your work looks great by the way. You've crammed quite a bit of "stuff" into those engine bulkheads, but it all looks very neat...not messy or sloppy at all. You obviously spent some time planning this well.

    And not to be nosy, but those drawers in the background don't by any chance store some future projects of the planes that are pictured on them do they? I would love to see what you can do with a B-24, and there happens to be what looks like a B-24 drawing in the background. ;)

  • Hi Dustin, yes that's a B-24 Liberator. Once I was thinking about making a small box diorama in 1:87 with the Fiddler's Green B24 nose (free download), modified into a C87 transport, and a very good photo in the background of a C87 transport line-up. There are a few other 1/87 projects still resting in peace in that little cabinet.

    So many planes, so many plans, so little "Beharrlichkeit" (perseverance).


    PS. I'd really like to see you tackle the Suisei in 1/16. The model does seem to contain some clever and/or unusual solutions. And it will call for some ingenuity, even if you don't plan on making it a sound & light show.

    But perhaps, to avoid disappointments, why not go for enlarging a Halinski model of your choice yourself? At least, you will minimize the risk of unwanted surprises.

    PPS. This is the photo I was planning to use for a backdrop to the C87 diorama. The source is phantastic, please try it. It is the Library of Congress Farm Security Administration & Office of War collection of wartime color slides. You can access it here:

    I suggest you enter one or other of the following search terms: Aircraft Industry (86 hits), Consolidated Aircraft Corporation (35 hits), Transport planes (23). Enjoy!

  • I couldn't resist trying to do something about the engine problems of the Comet. So off I went to the electronics shop and bought an assortment of resistors for 2 euros, in the range 2-10 ohms.

    One in the middle range - about 5-6 ohms - seemed to do the job very nicely. The runaway engine is now tamed to the tune of the other one, and I am pleased. Both engines now run at an rpm which I estimate will be equal to warm-up or final approach glide, once the props are mounted. Which is nice - you don't want the model to spin around wildly hanging from the roof when you turn on the engines.

    The extra resistor is the big green one in the uppermost unit. Behind it you might just see the charging resistor of 33 ohms, which brings down the 3.7 volts from the charger to a reasonable charging current for the 2.4-2.8 volts accumulators. The lower unit has one of those, too, faintly visible behind the red wire.

  • The first skin parts for the engine pods are on, one of them - in front - better than the other. I found it quite difficult. Perhaps it would have been better to attach the joining strips to the skin parts before, and glue them on as a unit.

    I thought I would have better control over the positioning if I first glued on the joining strip, but in retrospect it would have been better to glue the whole thing on as a unit. Trimming would have been just as easy.

    You learn as you go along.

    I managed to get the hole for the charging jack, and the cut-out for the engine on-off switch right, though.

    Another good experience, which I learned on this site (I forgot from whom, but he should take a bow!) - the car-washing sponge in the first picture is an excellent tool; it is absolutely excellent for preshaping parts. And two of them are perfect for supporting the model upside down.

  • Leif,
    your thought is right. I always shape the skin parts first, then shape then joining strip. Join both and then slide it over the former structure. Do not glue the joining strip to the skin before shaping. You will not be able to get the proper shape and teh strip will be visible from the outside afterwards.


  • Progress for today (and last night) is skinning most of the right pod. I will not go into the first two sections of skin; they were a nightmare and I am very relieved that I didn't make a total disaster out of it.

    Problem was the inner skin, which also serves as joining strips. It is a beautiful way of designing, and I am all for it. I just didn't realize what a lot of dryfitting you have to do before even doubling a single skin part (outer + inner parts), since a perfect fit has to be accomplished both inside and out. This entails some careful measuring of exactly where to glue the inner part, and some trimming.

    This I missed out totally the first time, but learned it after a while. Next problem is that a double skin part becomes really, really hard when the glue has dried - which means you are in trouble if you haven't done your shaping properly beforehand.

    Jan's advice of course was very good (preshape before you glue on joining strips or inner skin parts), and I'll be sure to follow it slavishly from now on.

    The photos below show the nice part, and this is my small contribution. At the rear of the pods there are some really sharp bends, and you need to shape both the part, and the previous joining strip (already glued and dried) in two directions so to speak. The first picture demonstrates shaping of an already shaped part, although in the other direction, at the joint. I also preshaped the joining strip in two direction, so I wouldn't have to shape it in place, with the glue dryed again.

    The next photo shows massaging the parts when glued. This is my way of getting a really smooth (for me at least) joint.

    The last photo is just the present state of the pods - one finished except for the tricky nose parts; the next one waiting for a, hopefully, better treatment, now that I've learned a few things.

    As a small PS I'd like to say that my camera seems to be really flattering at times; the pictures generally show my joints up much better than they really are. But I am happy anyway.

  • I thought I would cover the other pod in a slightly different way, namely glueing the two side parts together first, and then glue the whole assembly on to the framework. Let me say at once that it wasn't the better way. Stick to Jan's advice and do one section at a time.

    Anyway, here's how it went:

    1. Glue the shaped back & front sides together. Press down on the shaping matt with your shaping tool to keep the shape and create a really good joint.

    2. Measure how much of the inside (joining strip part) needs to be trimmed away in order to make as good a fit as possible.

    3. Edgecolour the inside.

    4. Edgecolour the outside.

    5. Glue the parts together. Result is a good fit both inside and outside.

    (Continued next post)

  • (Continued from last post)

    1. Measure how much you have to trim from the already glued joining strip to achieve a good fit at the front.

    2. Trim the old, already glued, joining strip.

    3. After glueing the sides on the opening for the wheels can be sanded and slightly shaped. Edgecolour when all looks good.

    The rest of the pod was covered the same (recommended) way as the first pod, one section at a time.

    4. Now, at last, the overshooting part of the covering can be shaped (bent outwards). Two steel rods are helpful to keep the shaping to the line of the cutout in the framework for the wing.

  • Hi Leif,
    This tidy, clean work really impresses me. But what makes it special for a guy who does not dwell long on aircraft builds is the photography!

    Leif, there is just something about seeing the modeller work up a construction as he writes the text. Your photos follow the sequential steps so well. I think seeing your hands actually do the work makes it much more meaningful that just shooting static shots of completed work.

    Well done!

    Edited once, last by John ().

  • Thanks John, and I'm glad you said so, since here comes a mammoth one (four installments). It's the air intakes at the front of the pods.

    1. I glued in all the details on the right pod to learn how to do it (poor right pod, always the guinea pig it seems). Below the left pod in the background are the details that are to go into that one. Much ado about few details you might say, but I was plenty scared how this would turn out, since there are many bends and thin slices that have to come together as cleanly as possible. Here's how the left pod shaped up.

    2. We start by cutting up the joining strip glued in a long time ago. This is to enable shaping downwards.

    3. Next is painting all parts of the framework and other surfaces that might shine through in joints, etc.

    4. The bottom "chin" is already preformed. Now I am shaping it "the other way". The objective is to make a part of a sphere so to speak.

    5. The progress might not be entirely visible, but at least the edges have been softened up, so that they will respond better to shaping when glued in place.

  • (continued)

    1. The part above the chin is used to mark where the chin should start. In retrospect I think it would have been better to glue the chin in straight, and then trim this part.

    2. The chin is glued in. Softening the edges up beforehand enables pretty good shaping when it is now soaked in glue at the edges.

    3. The right air intake (preassembled) is put in and marked for trimming.

    4. The back edges are sanded until the part fits slightly lower than the framework, so that the covering part will be flush with other parts.

  • (continued)

    1. Preshaping the covering part at the difficult top. The trimmed subassembly has already been glued in.

    2. The covering part is glued in and massaged at the bottom...

    3. ... and the top. This is a VERY useful way of massaging a part to make it fit flush with other parts in difficult places - just use the edge of the steel rod and roll it rather hard on the very edge of the part you want to press into place.

    4. Here we are already on to the left side. The preassembled air intake (different shape) is marked for trimming. You can see that a considerable amount has to be trimmed away. This time it has to be done by sanding the front, so the previous edgepainting has to be remade.

    5. Glueing in the trimmed and repainted assembly.

  • (continued)

    1. The covering part on the right side had to be trimmed rather much, both at the rear...

    2. ... and the front. This is why I believe it would have been better to glue in the bottom (chin) part straight on first, and then trim the covering parts on both sides.

    3. The cover part has been glued in and is now massaged all around. The rear still needs a bit of pressing down by rolling the steel rod over it.

    4. I love white glue precisely because it allows you to work the part for quite a few minutes after glueing the part in. Here the cover is pressed together really tight with the preassembled inner air intake part.

    5. And this is how the two pods now look, for better or for worse. The glue is still not quite dry. The glistening from the glue joints will almost disappear once the whole model gets its final coat of matt varnish, so I am not too disappointed. Bends and cracks will remain of course, and I will have to live with them.

  • Leif,

    a great job you're showing us. And great means both a great (big) model and a great (more than good) quality!

    Cheers, Old Rutz

    Gründungsmitglied der HobbyModel-Gang und Luft46-Gang

  • Thanks, old Rutz. This might be a good spot for what's been on my mind during the whole of this procedure, namely the work of the designer, Jan Müller of this site. (And you can get the Comet in red or black at his own website, ""; the only colour missing now is the racing green.)

    I deeply admire the effort behind designing such a complicated section as the nose of the Comet engine pods (which should be useful if you ever think about taking on the Tiger Moth, Jan - another hint).

    I imagine designing even a straight fuselage could have its difficulties, but getting this section right really must have taken some considerable brain power!


    Dankbar für die Gelegenheit auf Englisch schreiben zu dürfen, kann aber Antworten problemlos auf Deutsch lesen.

    Edited 3 times, last by Leif Ohlsson ().

  • Hi Leif,
    I'm still watching this and I am amazed how well the Comet comes together even at this scale. Keep going!

    Man beachte die beiden Lufteinläße. Die Comet hatte zwei identische, gleichsinnig drehende, Motoren. Würde man heute wohl so nicht mehr bauen. Heute werden, wo möglich, immer gegensinnig drehende Motoren eingesetzt.


  • Today's is a regress - not progress - report. I added the exhaust stubs and covers, and decided the pods would do well from a coat of protective varnish; my usual gouache matt varnish (spirit soluble).

    They did not do well. In fact disaster struck.

    The varnish must have gone old, or not fared well by me having added alcohol in order to dilute it on earlier occasions. When drying, the varnish left huge white slashes, as if the pods had been sprayed with mud. This is of course the matting agent, which must have precipitated in some unknown way.

    The whole bottle of varnish must be thrown away, of course. For a moment there, I thought the engine pods would have to go the same way. But I will not have that.

    Resuce operation included trying to wash the matting agent out with alcohol (worked, but not particularly good). Next try was with petrol (or is it called white spirits?). This is what is going on in photo 1.

    Photo 2 shows what the pods look like now. It's as good as they'll get after this treatment. At least, no colour has gone. And tomorrow they will receive a complimentary coat of matt varnish.

    Water soluble this time. Make no mistake about that!

    When it is finished, this model will look like what the original must have looked like when arriving in Australia after flying through tropical monsoons and desert sandstorms...

  • I decided not to varnish the pods until they had gone on to the wings, and do the wings & pods in one go. I remember distinctly that I had done the fuselage two years ago (when the build was temporarily shelved), so only the wings & pods remain now.

    So I prepared to glue the pods on to the wings. The first step was to hook up and solder the lead outs from the wings to their counterparts in the pods. This will connect the batteries in each pod (ca 2.7 volts each; and each driving their separate engines) in series to get enough voltage to drive the LEDs in the fuselage and position lights in the wings.

    (Photo 1) This was tricky enough, since each pod now hung on to the wings by the wires, but not yet glued. Worse, however - infinitely much worse - was the fact that when I turned on the switches the lights would not work. A quick check with a voltmeter confirmed this new disaster - there was no voltage in the outlets in one of the pods, and in the other only when the engine was off.

    I thought things couldn't get much worse with this build, but this was almost it. At one point I was on the verge of just glueing the pods on, never mind the non-working lights. But then I thought there was too much work involved already, so I decided to operate on the pods to see if I could find the faulty connections. And of course I beat myself up inwardly for - obviously - not having checked the lead-outs before covering the pods. I can only blame a hopeless ambition to get finished before Christmas (hah!).

    (Photo 2) A new hatch was opened in the first totally fault pod. And I soon found a very badly calculated connection at the switch. Shortcutting this would solve the problem.

    (Photo 3) Soldering in this confined area was quite an experience; a regular surgical operation. But afterwards everything seemed to work as it was supposed to.

    (Photo 4) Replacing the cut-out hatch went rather smoothly. The cut was made so that it would seem like a regular maintenance hatch, of which this Comet now has two.

    (Photo 5) After repeating the surgery on the other pod, and finally soldering the leads to the wings on properly, time had come for a mock-up or dryfit.

    And I must say I am happy to be able to show all the lights now working (note the cabin lights emanating from the compass houses). It must have been some two and a half years ago since I was be able to see them like this - and then there weren't any position lights or engines.

  • Now this is really a pity with the old varnish :( . But i´m happy, that you managed the problems and work on with this great model. I bet it will soon be finished?


    Edited once, last by zec ().

  • It may seem like a small step, but for me it was big - the engine pods are mounted on to the wings; no longer just hanging there by their electrical umbilical cords.

    1. The fact that the wires had to be soldered before glueing the pods in made handling very difficult. Here you see my solution: One of the engine pods was taped to the wing with a sponge underneath to press it firmly to the wing. This enabled turning the model over while holding the other pod by hand while glueing it and adjusting the fit. My restless hands is a good illustration of the state of nervousness I was in at this stage.

    2. But it worked surprisingly well. Jan's (the designer) patterning was faultless, and the outward bent ends of the covering finally fitted right into their place. Here I am just touching up one joint with a little extra glue.

    3. Rubbing it down with the steel roll evens the joint.

    I think I will leave well enough alone for tonight and let the glue set really well before adding the remaining small piece of top covering tomorrow.

    PS. (edited): From the first photo I now see that I managed to dislocate the pitot tube in the process. Should have waited with that detail of course. But it is glued back in place now; no major damage done.

  • The remaining pieces of engine pods covering pieces are on; wings & pods have got their coat of matt varnish (water-soluble); and all is well in the best of worlds.

    Martin, I couldn't resist another one of your favourite views. Which reminds me to clean the cockpit windows a bit better next time!

    PS. I am following your X-plane-to-Blender thread with interest.

    Warm regards, Leif

  • Jan (the designer) once provided me with a drawing of the original landing gear. Today I rescaled it to 1/16 (attached below).

    And no, I will NOT attempt to replicate that! But the drawing was very useful to check on the dimensions of the wheels, particularly the thickness of them. This goes to the number of layers, and thickness of each layer. As it turns out, the wheel in 1/16 should be slightly more than 13 mm thick.

    This tallies well with Jan's advice to laminate all 13 wheel parts on 1 mm card (0,5 mm in his original 1/33 scale). However I am not completely happy with making the rills as thick as the ridges of the tyre; I'd like them to be thinner. So I'll think a bit about how to divide the 13 mms of wheel thickness into layers of differing thickness.

    Meanwhile, Martin, I couldn't stop looking for that haunting view I know you like as much as I do. I'm far from there yet, but the second photo is today's attempt. Windows are cleaned a bit better, but I don't think I'll ever get a completely clear look from the outside in - too many reflections it seems.

  • Wheelmaking can be fun and relatively painless, if you have a dremel-type of hobby drill or similar. Here's how I fared with the Comet wheels:

    1. Wheel parts where stacked and glued with a simple glue-stick. To get the correct thickness, I decided on laminating all ridge (high) parts on 1 mm card, and the rill (low) parts on 200g paper.

    In retrospect I believe I would have been better off following Jan's advice to laminate all parts on 1 mm card, since the rills turned out so thin that the colour had difficulties seeping all the way in to the bottom of the rills. But then I would have had to make fewer sections; which is a hard choice.

    All wheel parts were drilled and stacked on 2 mm drills to get them properly centred. In the foreground are four separate stacks of outer wheel parts stacked on a common drill. The center sections of these will be cut out at the next stage. In the background are the two main wheel stacks pressed between two pieces of scrap wood (from an old french window; very handy parts to have around).

    2. The centre sections of the outer parts are cut out. They are not glued to the main section yet, since the inner rims are to be formed first. To enable cutting with the circle cutter in spite of the 2 mm hole, a small piece of plastic tubing has been placed in the hole.

    The outer parts of the main wheel sections in the background have been varnished with matt varnish to protect the printed pattern.

    3. Here's the first use of the dremel - the inner rim of the outermost parts are shaped. The desired effect is a ballooning wheel.

    4. The rim part of the outer sections are painted. Do this well - in practice this is the last time you will be able to get at these parts, without risk of smudging the hub part printed on the outermost parts of the main wheel sections.

  • (continued)

    1. Here's the fun part - sanding the stacked wheels. The two outer sections have now been glued on to the main section of each wheel, and you can sand away to your heart's content. But beware - it is dirty work; better remove cameras, computers and the like. Also, watch out when you clean up afterwards - my vacuum cleaner swallowed a small wrench for the dremel, and I was unable to find it in the dustbag later!

    2. Now's the time for the second, overall painting. As you can see, the wheel I am painting is the one that didn't turn out so well. But I'm not overly disappointed - paint, and patterning (next stage) will hide many of the imperfections.

    In the background, note the small impromptu mandril for getting the thick wheel stacks into the dremel. It is a long 2 mm bolt with washers and double nuts, plus two pieces of card to protect the wheel. You can use the centre sections you cut out earlier.

    3. This, too, is a rather fun part - making the thread pattern of the wheel. I am not sure that the De Havilland Comet really had this kind of pattern, but I like it too much, and it is so fun to show it off. It is really one of the easiest tricks, in relation to the effect accomplished, and I do hope you will find it useful.

    The final trick is to drench the pattern and the main section of the wheel once more with VERY diluted black paint, so that it will seep into all nooks and crevices created during the whole process. You may have to do this several times, allowing each coat to dry up (that's when you see what you missed).

    4. Finally (almost), the wheels will get their small pieces of plastic tubing in the centre. They will then rotate freely on the 0.75 mm piano wire which will make up the framework of the landing gear.

    The last picture is only a mockup. The wheels haven't quite dried yet, and they will require some more trimming with black paint, plus a protective coat of matt varnish.

  • Spinners and prop blades are difficult. Here's how I fared with the Comet's:

    1. There were three sizes of discs provided in kit, one for each section. I decided to make several of each and tried an approach where they were stacked on to inverted 2 mm drill pieces while being glued (each of them first drilled properly of course). The height of each stack is just a tiny bit more than each paper part section.

    2. The stacks were sanded in the drill until each section fitted. This was a good way - you just keep sanding a little bit at at time, regularly trying out the fit of the plug. Next time I will make more of the larger disks so the plug will be unbroken (except perhaps the section where the prop blades are supposed to go in).

    3. The difficulty of prop blades is that they are not symmetrical and not just mounted at an angle. The front is curved while the back is more or less flat (often a typical Clark Y profile). And in addition they are curved like a section of a spiral, in order to get a larger angle of attack at the cente, and lower at the edge.

    Here I have glued on the bottom section, which ideally shoud be rather flat, although spiraled. The centre piece is 3 mm roundwood sanded flat towards the tip. Ideally, that should be spirally sanded (hah!).

    4. This necessitates a rather complicated shaping of the front piece, heavily curved towards the leading edge, while still spiralled. Very few designers have gone to work on this problem, and the Comet was no exception. The fit, if you try to do this on the provided prop blade shapes, is bad and requires a lot of sanding, filling and repainting until the result is acceptable. It was quite painful work (metaphorically speaking, at least), and I didn't quite get there this time either. I probably overdid the spiralling in an effort to get it right.

    5. Here's the finished result. Spinners had already been painted with gouache silver (water soluble) applied thin in several coats; then the whole assembly was given a coat of watercolour varnish (spirit soluble) to seal the paint; and finally a coat of matt varnish (water soluble) was applied to provide the proper sheen.

    The drill is a very good mount for aligning prop blades while glueing them in. And when you are all done you can even indulge in a little test run. Even though they run backwards in the drill, the props produce quite a satisfactory blow! (As they should - in the drill they are probably running a good 4000 rpm, which is full throttle in the original aircraft.)

    PS. Many compliments to the designer, Jan Müller, for making the spinner in sections instead of petals! The front section ends with a small hole, which is MUCH better than any other option. It leaves you free to at least attempt shaping the tip so that the hole almost vanishes. Very good.

    PPS. I trust Jan on the position of the prop blades. It seems very much more forward than in photos of modern replicas. But perhaps the 1930s version of the Comet really had the prop this much forward on the spinner.

  • I should have said that John has treated the subject of using plugs extensively in this thread.

    He is using it for closing small domes of the petal-fashion in architectural models, and made the plugs of wood.

    That's what inspired me to use card instead; otherwise the procedure is the same. Except that next time, I'll be sure to cut enough of the larger disks, so the plug will be shaped just like the real spinner. Shaping of the card skin then will be much easier, just like John showed.

    Honour, where honour is due. Thanks John!


    Dankbar für die Gelegenheit auf Englisch schreiben zu dürfen, kann aber Antworten problemlos auf Deutsch lesen.

    Edited once, last by Leif Ohlsson ().

  • I tried to get to the bottom of the issue of where on the spinner the props were originally positioned. The closest I came is a b&w photo from the 1934 contest. It confirms Jan's positioning in the kit (photo 3 below).

    The original G-ACSS is preserved in the Shuttleworth collection (photos 1 & 4). However, over time the positioning of the prop seems to have moved backwards.

    And in replicas built later, they are decidedly all the way back (photo 2).

    Bottom line: the kit accurately represents the original 1934 Comet.


    (Apologies for the odd ordering of photos; the site took care of that all by itself...)

  • Hi Leif,
    for me it was also astonishing to see the props positioned that far to the front of the spinners. But it can be clearly seen in most of the 1934 photos. I don't know the reason, maybe its just because it was one of the earliest constant speed props.


  • Oh so after 9 pages of leading us on, you finally come clean. You've been taking pictures of a real Comet, and all the background tools and equipment were just photoshoped in. It's ok I forgive you. ;)

    But honestly it looks great Leif.

  • hallo leif,
    die comet sieht ja schon toll aus =D> @)! mich würde ein bau im großen maßstab auch reizen... :rolleyes: :]. eine me-109 in 1:20 wäre ein traum... :rolleyes: :D! was könnte man da für ein tolles cockpit bauen!? binleider nicht so fix mit computer und drucker :(.
    wie ich sehe,baust du die räder genauso wie ich :D!? auf meine proxxon-maschine möchte ich auch nicht mehr verzichten...
    gruss nach schweden,michael

  • I can only recommend doubling, to 1/16, since all dimensions of laminating become so much simpler: * = 1 mm; ** = 2 mm. You could print ordinary parts on 200g paper or something like that.

    I noticed you were going for the Airacobra. Good choice. I made it in 1/16 and was quite pleased with the experience. If you do, you may want to have the extra details of the interior gun mechanisms and the engine, issued by Kartonowy Fan. Post a request if you don't have any other access to them. Several people here have them, I know (got them from a friend here, after the build).

    The P-40 was excellent indeed. I would look forward very much to your applying yourself to the Airacobra.

    Generally speaking, it is extremely rewarding to watch how the general level of skill in paper modeling has increased during just the last year or two. You should count yourself as part of the cutting edge of a new generation!

    As for some initial tips on printing in larger scales, see: "How to make larger prints in an ordinary printer". You could also look through parts of the "Enlarging the Yokosuka D4Y2 Suisei to 1/16 scale" thread, for tips on how to rearrange parts.

    You really don't need too much computer experience; a firm will to get there goes a long way. However, a graphics program which can handle layers, like Photoshop or Gimp (freeware) is a really great help.

    I wish you every bit of success and luck!


    Dankbar für die Gelegenheit auf Englisch schreiben zu dürfen, kann aber Antworten problemlos auf Deutsch lesen.

  • hallo leif,
    danke für die links! vieleicht ist 1:16 wirklich einfacher :rolleyes:? na mal sehen... am wochenende fange ich ein neues modell an :) wir haben montag frei-karneval, also langes wochenende :yahoo:.
    gruss michael

  • Leif,

    just dropped by to ask if and, if yes, when we could expect an update of the Comet? So far the model is greeeeeeeaaaaat, please continue!

    Old Rutz

    Gründungsmitglied der HobbyModel-Gang und Luft46-Gang