Sunday, February 10, 2013

Guillows - Outstanding Modern Era Airplane Kits

Friday, February 1, 2013

Outstanding Modern-Era Airplane Kits

The Discovery Process

  A week ago, I was looking at old wood toys when a thought came into my mine. Are there any American companies that manufacture retro-type wood airplane model kits. So I typed in American toy wood  airplane kits, and pages upon pages of images came up. There were plastic planes, aircraft, helicopters, people  carriers, people with toy airplanes, real airplanes, and so forth. However, 1 image caught my eye. It was an image of a B-25 Mitchell from a company called Hobbies (  I went to the Hobbies site, found the image, and a company by the name of Guillows was the one who made these airplanes. 

   I then types in Guillows in the address bar, found their site, and as Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes used to say- "come Watson, the games's afoot".  I spent time perusing through the site, and I just had to write about them. As it turned out, the company is situated in Wakefield, Massachusetts (USA), so I figured I'd simply call them up. I spoke to  a nice woman at Guillows (her name escapes me), and I was told that she would pass on my request to the president of the company.

  I awoke this morning, and  Mr. Mark Tennant had write me a letter. He gave me the permission that I had requested, and   I thanked him.  And so, after my daily coffee and Muffin at Tim Horton's, I came home, walked Buddy who refused to walk far, and then I went to my office. I wrote up yesterday's post about Bonham's (lead toy soldiers).After that, I went to the Guillows site.

   What had caught my interest was the fact that the airplanes were made from balsa wood,  and many of the photos of the site, were of the skeleton (frame) of the airplane without the finished skin.
The appearance was quite interesting, and when I mentioned that to Mark in my thank you letter, he said that many model-makers actually prefer to leave the skin off the models.

The History of Guillows

   Guillows was initially founded in 1926 by Mr. Paul K. Guillow, as the Nu Craft Toys company. Mr. Guillow was a WWI U.S. Navy Aviator, and that's what kindled his interest in model airplanes, and specifically balsa wood ones.  Mr.Guillow created a very successful card game called The New Lindy Flying Game", after the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh. That game initiated interested in the company's balsa wood kits. By 1933,  the company had expanded, and had moved from a small barn  to a second floor gas station, to its present location in Wakefield (Mass. USA).

   With the success of the company, different plane kits were manufactured, and there even was a 50" (1.27 M) wingspan model for the cost  of $ 1.50. Mr. Guillow also wrote 4 books as he was considered an aviation authority at the time. WWII started, and balsa wood was placed on a reserve materials list for the war production. The balsa wood came from South America, and was used in the production of life rafts and live preservers. Like most toy companies, Guillows had to change material production, and they switched to paper cardboard and pine.However  these materials were harder to work with, and were not always successful in the creation of new designs.

   With the end of WWII, many things changed. One of these changes was the improvement of plastics, which became a real competitor against balsa wood kits. However, Mr. Guillow and his staff, came up with what was to be a successful strategy. The company would concentrate on hand-launched and rubber-band propelled gliders. I remember I even had one of those. You built the glider form a 4-6 piece kit. The propulsion was a ling rubber band that was attached at one end to a small nail, and tat the other end to a propeller.  Saved-up energy was created as you wound the the propeller to shrink the rubber band. When you then threw the airplane,it had the initial movement from the throw, followed by the added propulsion form the unwinding rubber band.

  The new business plan worked, the company bounced back to a profitable venture, and more models were created. Sadly, Mr, Guillow passed away in 1953, and his widow took over the company, and  incorporated it.Roscoe Guillow, Paul's brother came into the company,  and with a few other well-chosen people, the company continued to an even greater level of success. 

   There's a lot more to this fine company's story,but for now, I'll stop here. You can read more about the company on their site and  about us >> history of the company. 

(Please press the address above to be redirected to the Guillow's fine site)

The P-25 Mitchell (above) was the photo that initially caught my attention.
Check out the wingspans of these models. Some of them are huge!

I especially like the artwork that accompanies each models' description. 
I purposefully removed all of the writing on the packaging covers, so you could see the fine illustrations of the models.

I even like the  layout design sheets that I think accompany each model kit.

However, I saved my favourite screen-capture for last.
I again removed most of the instructions,so that I could present to you just the 3-D designs.
Those drawings look just like the "real plans" of airplanes, or  of photos that you see when a news report is talking about a new airplane being on the drawing board (e.g. Boeing's Dreamliner or the Airbus from Europe). As you can see,these kits are  very sophisticated, but the real beauty is within the actual frame of the airplane.  I can now understand even more why some model builders would prefer to leave the finishing skin of the airplane off.

For sure, I will be writing another post  or using Guillows photos in a post. 
I didn't even touch on or write a short description of the history of each of the airplanes presented today, As with the history of the Guillows company, each of the airplanes presented today, had a interesting and important history  in times of war and peace.

As always,  thanks for dropping by,


Have a nice part of the day,
wherever you may be,


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