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Happy Halloween!

October 31, 2012

It’s that (scary) time of year again.

This year, Halloween is a little something different for me.  In years past, I’ve reveled in the opportunity to dress up – even when I’m staying home to give out candy.  This year, I haven’t devoted even 5 minutes of thought to what costume I’d wear.  Not because I have no interest in wearing one, but because I’ve been too busy with other things.

There was, for instance, the matter of B.T.’s Halloween costume.

I wrote a couple weeks ago about how that came about – about how Dear Wife and I had assumed B.T. would be thrilled to dress up as a Fireman, but about how upon actually being asked his opinion he firmly (and consistently over time) insisted he wanted to be an airplane instead.  And I suggested that I might share some of the in-progress pictures with you all.

Well, I’ve finally had the chance to load them up and today it’s Halloween, so I figured there was no better day than today. And thus for your viewing pleasure, may I present:

The Making Of An Airplane

The box after a first cut is made for the cockpit, and duct-tape applied for reinforcement

The box after a first cut is made for the cockpit, and duct-tape applied for reinforcement

I used as my primary model for this airplane a P-51 Mustang.  But of course, it had to be sized-down for a toddler.  And I knew I’d have to exagerate the lines and shapes to evoke the appropriate image. Here, I’ve made cuts in what seemed an appropriately-sized box to represent the cockpit.  It needed to swoop low enough to accompade arms (and there’d be no cockpit canopy, of course).  The left side is where the eventual front of the aircraft will be.  The right will eventually have a tail.

Cutting out the pieces of the airplane

These pieces will eventually become the wings

I realized very quickly that the cardboard was a little too flimsy – it would crumple if bumped the wrong way.  This would be a particular challenge for the wings – which needed to extend outward from the aircraft.  So I decided immediately to use a double-thickness for the wings – which meant cutting the wings out 4 times.

I originally meant for these to go on the opposite direction from the way they ended up – based on my misreading of an image of the aforementioned P-51.  But in the end it worked out great, because they looked like they were meant to go the other way around.

Scraps of Cardboard as the pieces of the plane are cut away

As the pieces are cut away from the cardboard, a lot of scraps are left. Here are some of the raw materials of the airplane.

The tail wings were cut as a single unit, to be attached to the tail-end of the fuselage.

Assembling the Tail

Here the parts of the tail are coming together: the tail wings, vertical stabilizer are shown, and the tapering end of the tail itself

I later realized I’d have to the tail wings down the middle in order to have a slot to fit the vertical stabilizer in.  But things had started to come together.

The Tail is Attached

Finished assembling the tail, reinforcing it with duct tape, and attaching it to the fuselage

While I’d planned to use double-thickness cardboard for the wings, I didn’t think to do so for the stabilizers on the tail.  For the tail wings that probably wasn’t a bad idea.  But for the vertical stabilizer, which is pretty large, it may have been an unfortunate decision.  Regardless, I reinforced the whole tail section with a lot of duct tape.

Time for a Paint Job

The wings are attached now, so it’s time for a paint job

After attaching the wings, it was time for a paint job.  With double-thick cardboard wings, I was pretty worried about the weight of the wings.  You can see on the tail that I added some support struts to help keep the vertical stabilizer up.  Harder to see is under the wings I added similar support struts to help hold up the wings.

In retrospect, however, the support struts under the wings needed to be about 50% larger than they were.  Even with them, the wings quickly started sagging downward.  They just weren’t enough to hold up the weight of these wings.

B.T. had originally asked for a yellow airplane.  But he later switched his preference to a red one, and that remained pretty consistent for the last couple weeks before Halloween.  So red it was.  I had plenty of leftover cardboard and paper to make a working surface on the lawn outside.  The above picture is after the first coat of glossy candy apple red paint – and that first coat killed a whole can of spraypaint.  (The second and later coats required substantially less paint, as some parts of the plane, such as the interior, did not get second coats.)

After finishing the paint job, there were still three things left.  First, and most important, was the propeller and engine.  The engine was six-sheets thick of cardboard cut in a circle shape and covered entirely in gray duct-tape.  The propeler was a pair of double-thick cardboard pieces taped together to make a 4-propeller set-up.  I chose 4 propellers because, again, my inspiration was the P-51, which happened to have 4 propellers.  All of this was fully covered in gray duct tape.  To attach all of this together, I drilled a hole through the propeller, the engine, and the front airplane, and secured it all with a bolt attached with a spring-loaded wall anchor.  I used several washer to separate the propeller from the engine and allow the whole thing to rotate fairly smoothly.

Next was the stylings and design elements.  Some white duct tape was perfect for the job, making a few white stripes on the wing and down the side, and a big “A for Airplane” on the vertical stabilizer.  (B.T. is learning his alphabet, and “A for Airplane” is one of the letters he knows best.)

Last, but not least, the plane needed a strap to make it wearable.  Luckily, we’d purchased a strap at Ikea about a month or two ago when we’d purchased a large shelf unit and needed to hold the trunk of the car closed to transport it home.  A few slits in the fuselage, and cutting the strap to a better length, and this baby was ready to fly.

The Finished Airplane

Here she is, in all her glory… B.T.’s very own Cardboard P-51 Mustang!


The finished result is imperfect.  As mentioned above, the wings sad a bit.  And I grossly misjudged B.T.’s size relative to the airplane: it dwarfs him and the weight doesn’t distribute evenly so it leans forward heavily when he wears it.

But he was super-excited to put on his very own airplane!

Happy Halloween you all.  Hope you stay safe and have an enjoyable evening!

8 Comments leave one →
  1. October 31, 2012 5:23 pm

    Hey that turned out pretty awesome! Nice work!

  2. October 31, 2012 6:52 pm

    That’s one fine-looking aircraft!

  3. October 31, 2012 9:00 pm

    This is insanely adorable, Stephen! Love it!

  4. November 1, 2012 12:09 am

    How fun! 😀

    • November 1, 2012 9:17 am

      Yeah, the little guy hardly let us take it off… until he got too tired to keep going last night. Trick-or-treating didn’t start until it was almost his bedtime, so he didn’t last very long.

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