How to Build a Zeppelin Wooden Model

Written by john reinhart
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How to Build a Zeppelin Wooden Model
Long, elegant zeppelins were the height of luxurious travel in their day. ( Images)

Perhaps no other airship was quite as famous as the Graf Zeppelin. Launched in 1928, she logged over a million miles during her 590 flights ferrying over 34,000 passengers to destinations all over the globe. The long, cigar-shaped hull is iconic of a more luxurious age, when people took time to appreciate the journey as much as the destination. You can build your own zeppelin simply by reducing a wooden dowel to the appropriate dimensions and adding some details. Carving an airship out of wood is an easy job that allows you to capture the zeppelin's long, elegant shape.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Reference material with good images of a zeppelin
  • Wooden dowel, 2 inches in diameter by 12 inches long
  • Wooden dowel, 1/2-inch in diameter by 3 inches long
  • Sheet balsa wood
  • Sandpaper
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Hobby knife
  • Wood glue

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  1. 1

    Mark two lines around the circumference of the 2-inch wooden dowel, two inches from each end, to identify the limit of the zeppelin's end-taper. Divide the flat circle on the end of the dowel into 28 equal wedges using the pencil and ruler. Draw a line from the end of each of the divisions down the length of the dowel so that, when viewed from the side, the dowel is striped with several horizontal lines. These lines represent the flat panels of the zeppelin's hull.

  2. 2

    Shape and round each end of the dowel with sandpaper, tapering equally from the ends to the rings drawn around its circumference. The end result will be a sausage-shaped dowel.

  3. 3

    Sand the long, flat panels between the horizontal lines along the zeppelin's hull with sandpaper. Work in long, straight strokes from one end of the hull to the other. The end result will show no curvature around the hull between the two rings.

  4. 4

    Cut the smaller diameter dowel at an angle so it can be smoothed into one of the curved sections of the larger dowel. Check your reference drawings to determine the exact dimension of this dowel, which will represent the zeppelin's cabin, and its location along the hull. Attach the cabin to the hull with wood glue.

  5. 5

    Draw the shapes of the tail planes onto the balsa sheet and use the hobby knife to cut them out. Glue them to the other end of your zeppelin as required by your reference materials.

Tips and warnings

  • While the goal of this model is to capture the long, lean lines of the zeppelin, you can add engines and propellers from bits of balsa.
  • You could shellac or varnish your finished zeppelin to bring out the beauty of the wood or paint it silver to match the original airship.
  • Your zeppelin will look best if it's mounted on a post stuck into the centre of the hull at the bottom, making it appear as if in flight.

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