Building A Crashed Glider for Flames of War

Today Joe Saunders walks us through a great scenery project.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of miniature gaming is visual appeal. Having an actual landscape that you can see and feel to place your lovingly painted troop and tanks on just makes the hobby that much more enjoyable. When the terrain itself matches the game’s theme and does its own part to tell the story then things get that much better!

In this article, I am going to detail how to build a crashed Horsa glider (which was used extensively by the Allies during World War II) that I have built for my own battlefield, which you can make for your own terrain collection. I will also present some variations on the build that you can use for inspiration for your own table.

Model Building Skills

This project is definitely more advanced in nature and as such uses a lot of different tools materials and techniques, but don’t let this scare you. You can substitute techniques as you see fit, or use the details described here to improvise and make something unique. (Just make sure you contact me to show me what you have made!)

There are 2 components to this build, the glider itself and the base it is mounted on. For each component, the tools and materials are listed in the appropriate section. The basic materials common to both build components are listed below:

Basic Materials
Hot glue gun and plenty of glue sticks
Craft knife and spare Blades
Metal Ruler
Masking Tape
Model Paints and inks
White glue
Pin vice
Paper towel (for dry brushing)
Plain paper Pen

Part 1: The Glider
Materials Required:
Foam core board (½ cm width)
Container/bowl larger than the foam pieces
Match sticks
Glider template (printed out)
Fine grit sandpaper
Wire mesh
Wire/sprue cutters
Paint for the colour scheme of your choice
Photos for reference of Horsa Gliders

Building the glider involves working with foam core, craft knives and hot glue. Take your time and be careful.

1. Print the template for the glider on printer paper. Make sure that when you print it does not distort the size. You can also make your own templates by printing line drawings of existing aircraft and stretching them to the correct dimensions for 1/100 scale (I hope I they are the right size when I display them here.  If not rescale to 1/100 then print.  Dimensions are on Wikipedia – Mark).

2. Using your scissors and or craft knife cut out the templates and attach them with masking tape to your foam core. Then using your blade and metal ruler cut the templates out of the foam core. When this is done you should have the glider body middle, left glider side, right glider side, wings and both left and right tail sections.

3. Taking your container/bowl fill it with water and submerge the foam core cut-outs in it. Let the foam soak for 10-15 minutes. Remove each piece and while it is wet, peel off the paper backing on both sides. You may need to gently scrape it off with your craft knife. Your objective is to have the foam sections without any backing paper and as pristine as possible. Leave the foam sections for a couple of hours to dry.

4. After the foam is dry, tape the template for the glider sides to the foam sections that represent the glider left and right sides of the glider body. Using your craft knife cut out the doors and use a pin vice to drill through the windows. Also, cut out the around the wing on both hull sides and on the centre section of the glider. Next, remove the template and use your craft knife to widen the windows using the pin vice holes as a guide. Go slow on these steps and use a fresh blade.

5. Using your hot glue gun glue the hull sides to the central section of the glider. (You will need to be sparing with the glue.) You will now have a sandwich of 3 layers of foam core. Use your tweezers to remove any stray strands of dried hot glue from around the model and trim any excess glue that has leaked out of the edges of the foam. (You need
the edges clean for the next steps.)

6. Take the wing and 2 tail sections and using your files, round off the leading edges (front). Use the file in a gradual motion rounding off the edges. After this is done, use the files to taper the rear edge of the tail sections and wing. You do not have to bring it to a point but taper it enough to create the impression of wing shape.

The portion of the wing that wedges into the glider body do not need to be tapered or rounded off. Leave this square for a better fit. After you are done with the files, gently take your fine-grit sandpaper and smooth off the filed areas.

7. Using your files in a semicircular motion, round off the body of the glider along the top and bottom edges. Also, taper the front and back sections slightly. Go slow and use the file evenly so all of the models has a similar curvature. After you are done with the files smooth out the surface with the fine-grit sandpaper.

8. Using your reference photos as a guide, take your pen and ruler and score the panel lines into the foam of the wings, tail section and hull.

9. Using hot glue, adhere the wings and tail sections to the glider body. You may want to angle them slightly upwards to create an impression of a wing. Next hot glue some match sticks under the edges of the tail section and wings on either side of the hull to reinforce the joins.

Using the wire cutters or sprue cutters, clip off any excess from the match sticks that stick out. Use your tweezers to remove any extra strands of glue.

10. With your wire cutters/sprue cutters cut 4 1x cm lengths, 4 x 1.5 cm lengths and 2 x 2cm lengths of match stick.

11. Glue 2 of the 1 cm match stick lengths on a diagonal from the hull to the underside of the tail sections on either side of the hull to form supports. (See Picture Below)

12. Glue 2 of the 1.5 cm lengths together to form a V sticking out from either side of the hull at the bottom under the wing. Take a 2cm section and glue it to meet the tip of the V coming down from the wing to finish forming the landing gear struts. Use your tweezers to remove any excess strands of glue. 

13. Cut a section of wire mesh with your wire cutters with 3 panels and leave 3 cross pieces in place at the top and bottom. Bend the panels to form the top of the cockpit and put a dab of white glue on the ends of the cross pieces. Gently insert the cross pieces into the foam. 

14. After the glue from step 13 is dry, paint and weather the glider as you see fit with acrylic paints. Do not use spray paint as the propellant in most spray paints will damage the foam! I recommend that you use black acrylic inks to line in the panel lines after you have painted the glider. Add any markings or decals you see fit. (I made a couple of stencils from plain paper to ad invasion stripes.) The Glider is now complete. It is time to build the base.

Part 2: The Base
Materials required:
Rubbing alcohol
Sandbox and kitty litter (clean!)
Gloss Gel Medium (for water effects)
Matt Black Spray Paint
Insulation foam (pink or blue)
Static grass (more colours the better)
Spare parts/equipment from your bits box

The base requires a lot of work with fine grits and liquid glues, spray paint and rubbing alcohol. Make sure to protect your work area from the mess and work in a ventilated space.

1. Using your scissors, cut out 2 sections of cardboard that are larger than the glider is wide. The actual size depends on how large you want the footprint of the piece to be on your games table. Cut the cardboard in roughly circular shapes.

One section should be slightly wider than the other. Cut a channel into the smaller top piece to create a groove that the glider will plough out as it crashes. You can gouge slightly into the bottom layer to create deeper ruts as well. Glue both sections together with hot glue. Make sure that each section has the carboard corrugations are glued together at right angles
to each other so the base will be stronger. Remove any stray glue strands with your tweezers

2.  Wrap the edges of the base in masking tape and use the tape to make the height between the cardboard sections and inside the groove and ruts less steep. Next cut various shapes of foam insulation into various size “rocks” and hot glue these on the base in a random pattern, making sure to remember that any large rocks should not be in the path of the crashing glider! Again remove any stray strands of glue.

2. Using your bowl/container mix white glue and water into a paste. Take an old brush and “paint” the cardboard base including masking tape edges and insulation foam rocks with the mixture. (You paint the foam to protect it from the spray paint used below.)

Then heavily sprinkle on a mixture of sandbox sand and kitty litter to create a gritty surface. Do not entirely cover the insulation foam with grit. The odd area can be textured but try to keep it free. You may want to go in sections applying the glue and grit, then moving on to a new section.

Without letting the glue dry, take the eyedropper and fill it with rubbing alcohol. Apply drops to the grit as it sits on the glue. The rubbing alcohol will spread around the grit and break the glue surface tension ensuring a better bond. Make sure the area is ventilated as the rubbing alcohol produces fumes. (This step is optional but promotes a
much better glue bond with the base.)

3. Before the rubbing alcohol evaporates take some of the white glue and water mixture and water it down until it is very thin. Now take the eyedropper and apply it over the grit and foam rocks. You should now leave the base to dry for at least 12 hours.

4. Once the base is dry, take it to a well-ventilated space and paint the whole thing with matt black spray paint. The glue mixture should protect the foam rocks from the corrosive effects of the spray propellant, but you should keep some distance with the spray nozzle from the foam just in case (to allow room for the propellant to disperse without touching the foam). Depending on the conditions you are spraying in, you should allow a few hours for the paint to dry.

5. When the base is dry, use hot glue to adhere the glider to the base. Remove stray glue strands with your tweezers. 

6. Using several shades of brown acrylic paint dry brush, the base with 3 or 4 layers lightening each step. Also, dry brush the foam rocks starting with a dark grey working up to light grey. I recommend doing a final light drybrush of white focusing on the open ground and rocks. Use hot-glue to stick a scatting of lichens around the base. Remove stray strands of glue with your tweezers.

7. Mix up some watered-down white glue and using an old brush paint it on in random patches around the base. Sprinkle your static grass on the patches. Vary colours between patches to build variety.

8. If you want to add discarded items like wheels or equipment from your bits box you can glue it down with white glue and paint it now. (This helps tell the story of the terrain and establishes a sense of scale
for the model.)

9. If you want to create water effects in the ruts in the base, paint the ruts dark green, then when the paint is dry pour gloss gel medium into the ruts.

10. Allow the glue/gloss gel to dry. Gloss gel will require 18-24 hours.

The crashed glider terrain is now complete.

Other Ideas
One of the most enjoyable aspects of building terrain is experimentation.

The methods I have explained can be expanded on further to create your own unique pieces. Allow your imagination to run wild and look for inspiration in historical photos.

Below are some examples of more pieces I have built with the same techniques.

Now Get Playing!

Now that you have built your crashed glider or something similar, it is time to get it on the board and play some Flames of War. As an objective, a regular piece of terrain, or centrepiece of your games table, your work is sure to look great and work as a basis for many new and exciting hobby projects!

About Joe Saunders

Joe has been a miniature gamer and terrain builder for over 30 years. His work has been featured on several websites and in various gaming articles. Joe also works as a commission terrain builder. He encourages you to share your hobby projects with him and hopes to see many variations on this project. He can be contacted at: