Proper Plane | Laminated Wood Propellers for British and German WWI Aircraft
Reviewed by Mike Swinburne
Proper Plane is a relatively new company, having come into existence in mid-late 2017. They excel in producing hand-carved wooden propellers for WWI aircraft in 1/32 scale, all of which come with appropriate resin prop bosses for the hub that have been copied from detailed 3d-printed masters. The propellers are made from laminated pear and maple, and finished with a thin satin veneer. Packaging is quite impressive also; single propellers are presented in clear acrylic tubes capped by wooden ends with foam inserts, and have a piece of foam separating the propeller from the hub to eliminate chances for damage. The twin prop sets are beautifully presented in a matte black box with insert card, revealing custom-cut foam to safely hold the propeller and the resin hubs.
I bought a few propellers in 2017 and fell in love with them; these props reviewed here represent the full current catalogue of products. The holes for the propeller shafts in all of these items are sized perfectly to fit the Wingnut Wings propeller shafts, I've not had a chance to see how well other kit manufacturers' prop shafts fit them yet. Earlier propellers made had larger holes drilled in them and I'm delighted to see that these have been reduced to eliminate the need to find a good fix for best alignment on a completed kit.
Gotha and AEG Bombers
The Heine propellers featured on the Gotha G.IV are the latest release, following close behind the recently-released Behrend und Ruggebrecht props for the AEG G.IV bomber. Both examples scale perfectly in all 3 dimensions with the equivalent parts from the Wingnut kits; I couldn't believe the AEG props were not oversized as the hubs are so large, but surprisingly enough everything matches the plastic prop.
German Scouts with Mercedes and BMW Engines
Three propellers are currently available for smaller German aircraft: Axial for Mercedes D.III engine, Axial for BMW engines, and a Heine. The BMW Axial has a greater blade diameter (taking advantage of the greater horsepower of the engine) and would currently only be used on Wingnut Wings' Fokker D.VII F kit. The Mercedes Axial is suitable for every 1/32 single seat I can think of that was powered by the common engine - the Albatros, Pfalz, and Roland D series of fighters, Fokker D.VII, and I'm sure many more. The Heine would be appropriate for Pfalz D.XII and the Fokker D.VIIs, but I'm not aware of other scout /fighter aircraft currently available that would have used this particular prop. The Heine included with Wingnut's BMW engine in the D.VII F seems to be the same size as the one on the Mercedes engine sprue, so the wooden prop here should be appropriate for all of the wartime D.VII family.
While the propellers are gorgeous, these are handmade products and it's not impossible that sometimes something is slightly off for the size. The case in point here is the hub of the Mercedes Axial being slightly larger than the plastic hub, so this one will be destined to go on an Albatros where the spinner will hide the larger hub. I have bought nineteen Proper Plane propellers including three other Mercedes Axials and this one example is the only size discrepancy across all of them. To compare, the hub on the Merc Axial I used on my recently-finished Junkers D.I was the exact same size as the Wingnut part, and the photo included here shows the propeller after I added a thin gloss coat.
Sopwith Camel, Pup (and Triplane?)
Two types of Lang propeller are available for the Sopwith Camel, and also a Sage prop for the Sopwith Pup. This Sage propeller should also be correct for Sopwith Triplanes. One of the two Lang props and the Sage have recesses routed for the pressed boss plate, and I'm looking forward to seeing how these look once assembled and attached.
Resin Propeller Hubs
There are a total of eight different types of German and British propeller hubs available at Proper Plane, all designed in CAD with an obscene amount of detail. Many of these 8 styles are included with the propellers already available and will be useful for also dressing up other kit props (the website gives the diameter in millimeters to assist in selecting the right one for your project). Also useful if you manage to break the original pieces or feed them to the carpet monster. I believe some already available are destined for several new propellers coming soon from the company as well.
The individual hubs cost $3 each; photos below are closeups of the hubs included with the various wooden props. Quality of casting in all examples is flawless and all hubs have enough room to cut them off the pour stub with a razor saw without damaging the parts.
Wooden propellers are not everyones' cup of tea on scale models - some will be of the opinion that the 1:1: scale wood grain looks out of place on a scale model, others will prefer to mask and paint the laminations, others may carve their own propeller from laminated paper to not have the wood grain. For others, it may simply be the price point; these cost $25-$27 for the single propellers and $60 for the pair of larger props for the heavy bombers. Fair enough, these are certainly valid opinions, and to the wood grain point I would at least comment that the visible grain is quite minimal with these products and the woods chosen.
On the other side of the propeller mindset are modellers who dislike masking propellers time and time again trying to get the laminations even, aren't pleased with their wood grain painting techniques, or simply find products like these add a touch of realism that while technically be out of scale, helps bring the completed model to life. Or the builder may simply want to save a bit of time to complete the model.
I have bought multiple wooden propellers from other companies over the years and with the exception of Doug Craner's products which are sadly no longer available, not one of the other products was correctly sized or not massively overdone with varnish. I'll highly recommend Proper Plane's products without hesitation and to my mind, they're all worth the money. Correct sizes, beautifully-detailed hubs, satin finish, and sharp trailing edges check all the right boxes. Most even have the holes for the hub bolts drilled all the way through should you wish to display a propeller off of the aircraft in a diorama setting. All items were purchased directly from Proper Plane, and I'm looking forward to their next releases - Garuda props for Fokker Eindeckers and Axial & Heine props for Fokker Dr.1s.
© Mike Swinburne 2018
This review was published on Sunday, June 17 2018; Last modified on Sunday, June 17 2018