A model vehicle - car
, boat or plane - looks a little odd if it seems to be operating with no driver. Aircraft have quite a selection of different scale 'head and shoulders' figures - road vehicles
seem to be made to standard scales so that driver figures are readily available - but boats are often made to a wide variety of scales and then need scale figures which are not readily available, and can be very pricey when they are!
I was asked recently about figures on the boats I make, which are continuations of the Keil Kraft EeZeBilt line. These were originally 'pocket-money' starter kits for young children, so they were very cheap, and the fittings were not bought, but made from available household items like paper-clips. I have continued that tradition, so making an EeZebilt remains cheap and encourages manual dexterity rather than a large wallet
Figures can be made cheaply by adding filler to a wire armature, but this does require a bit of carving skill. It is easier to start with a basic shape and alter it a bit, and the obvious place to start is with a model railway figure. Cheap Chinese copies of products
like the Preiser range
are available on Ebay for around 10p per figure - see the link below for example.
These figures are available in many scales from 1:200 up to about 1:24. The first point to make is that choosing a suitable scale to build your boat to will make it a lot easier to populate it with figures! I typically look to make boats at 1:24 or 1:48, two common scales for railways.
Now the only problem is that the typical figures for sale are not sailors or naval personnel. Instead they are usually civilians, railway staff or workmen. But that is easily solved by using a modelling knife. I have illustrated this below with a set of drawings for a 1:48 figure - see the PDF link below:
1 - a typical figure. Note the jacket
and tie lines embossed on the body. I wanted to make an Indian Naval Officer, so my first step was to look up the colouring and shape of their uniform. I find that they wear white, with either a plain-front tunic
2 - To make a plain-front, simply scrape away the clothes lines embossed on the figure's trunk. You may also need to cut any hanging parts of a jacket
away, or fill a hole with some modelling putty.
3 - To adjust arms, slice them off and then re-attach with Plastic Weld. The plastic will melt and conform to the new shape.
3 - To make shorts
, just trim the long trousers
in a bit at the shorts
hem, then carve the lower leg to show the bulge of a calf.
4 - An officers cap is easy to make. Stamp out two tiny paper disks using a sharpened brass tube, and cut one disk in half. Cut a slot across the figure's forehead, and superglue the half-disk in there to be the cap peak. The full disk goes on top of the figures head, and the excess glue is drawn by surface tension to make a brim. The glue will soak through the paper and make it hard. See the PDF below for details...