Weave A Sopwith Camel Seat…

…or everything you always wanted to know about basket cases (but were afraid to ask).

As lovely as Wingnut Wings Sopwith Camels are, there is a finite limit to the delights that can tumble out of an injection mould tooling. One such WWI item that really benefits from a hand built approach is the basket weave seat. You can imitate it in etch, you can cast it in resin but there is absolutely nothing that equals a hand woven miniature.

My scratch build efforts are concocted off the back of a truly gorgeous 1:16 Camel, created from raw materials by the very talented Ken Foran in 2004. These are Ken’s pics of his brass micro soldered 1:16 seat.

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I could well see the feasibility of using annealed wire in 1/16 but 1/32 was a different prospect to me and having no familiarity with brass work and soldering decided to adapt the materials and methodology to suit what I had to hand and felt able to manipulate successfully.

This was 2011 and the seat was intended for the revised tooling of the Hobbycraft Sopwith Camel. The build had been started in 2007 but stalled until being resurrected four years later, when I decided to cobble a home spun seat together. With the seat extant and the build stalled again, there was the advent of Wingnut Wings and my emails to Richard about a Camel from the WW stable drew the response that they had no plans to do one, given the (then) existence of the HC Camel. I didn’t believe it then and today, in 2017, five WW Camels later, I don’t suppose anyone else did either.

So, here’s a graphic illustration of why a hand crafted seat was such a compelling prospect.

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The first seat is Hobbycraft’s – intended to be covered in crude decal. The second is Mike West’s resin interpretation; no detail on the outside, the wrong size and shape, it was immediately ruled out too. Then there was an etch alternative but this was too two dimensional and so was also sidelined. Last in line is my basic frame; with this successfully created it was on to stage two…

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In the best tradition of making it up as you go, holes were drilled in the base and upper seat frame to accommodate brass wire in a continuous ‘x’ pattern, with two wires in each hole, CA’d in place.

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Several long sessions in the bunker saw the horizontal weave finished (a very relaxing exercise) – courtesy of Reflo fishing line at 3lb 6oz breaking strain. I started at the bottom, and wove three passes, before locking the loose end with CA on the rear support rod. A new run was started where the last one ended and several more runs were added. The reason for limiting the runs was to ensure sufficient tension in the weave was maintained. The line was very soft and supple and perfect in this application. Just some binding along the seat pan’s leading edge and a representation of the leather cover on the seat’s top rail remained before a trip to the paint shop for a nice drop of primer.

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Some Tamiya Deck Tan unified the materials and brought out the texture and structure.

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I sat and pondered the primer that ended up that cold tone you see in the previous pics and figured that was a good start as it’d ‘pull’ the warmth of the Tamiya Clear Yellow and Tamiya Clear Orange to come. The yellow was applied until quite a saturation was achieved. Orange in significantly less quantity biased the yellow in that direction. Once dry, homespun Tamiya flat clear coat (Tamiya Clear with as much Gunze flatting agent in it as I could get without frosting) was applied in half a dozen coats.

Flattening the finish lightened the tones – a deliberate objective. I decided I wanted a warm ‘cane’ colour (thanks Paddy)) so when the flat was dry I took some Yellow Oche oil paint and mixed it 50-50 with Liquin (Japan Dryer in the States). This was lightly applied taking care to avoid clogging the weave. The Yellow Oche was lightened with 50% white and applied – several times to lighten it back. When I started to feel I had it where I wanted it I put it aside for a day to see if I had the same opinion 24 hours later. Happily I did. Humbrol enamel flat black was run over what would become the leather coaming. This was no more than a base coat – the wire needed to be filled so I later used Lamp Black oil paint, again mixed with Liquin to achieve that. I intended the wire to be covered just enough to leave impressions in the ‘leather’ that there were bindings underneath.

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And that’s one way to put a smile on your Camel driver’s face…

Until next time.

Bad Wolf