Last modified: Saturday, January 6, 2001 6:20 PM

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The subject of this project is a Type 1 Fallschirmjägergewehr 42, or FG-42/I. This rare weapon was developed for the German airborne troops in WWII, under a number of incompatible specifications: It was to be compact and lightweight but sturdy, to fire the hefty 7.92 mm round and to be capable of functioning as a machinegun as well as a sniper's rifle. It utilized steel stampings to reduce weight and was equipped with a bayonet and an integral bipod. The characteristic angled grip made the gun easier to fire from the hip.

As far as I know, you can't buy a 1:6th scale version from Cotswold Collectibles...yet. The only one I've seen was made by...tah dah--Francis Tavares!, for the set made by Action City. Rather than bother or beg him for one, I'm going to attempt to make one of my own since this is an area that I need experience in. Making weapons is difficult since they need to be very precise-looking. I don't have a milling machine, so I need to experiment to find a mix of materials & techniques that will produce acceptable results. That knowledge can later be used in other similar projects, so it's a worthwhile undertaking.

11/13/98- This is one of those "out on a limb" projects. I don't actually have anything built yet, so this part of the project is about the preparatory steps that you have to think about before picking up any materials.

The first step in starting any scratch-built project is to locate reference materials. Naturally, the best would be the actual 1:1 scale version. Second best would be some scale blueprints showing all the views with measurements. Unfortunately, I don't have either of those. Fortunately, I do have a book showing what appears to be a fairly accurate ink plate representation of it (1), and I happen to have a 1/16th scale version (2) from Dragon's Fallschirmjager plastic model kit.

The picture in the book is close to 1/6th scale, but not quite close enough. It would be great if it were, because then I could make all the parts directly from the picture, laying them on top to make sure they were the right size.

The text states that the length is 94 cm. 1/6th of 94 is 15.6667 cm. (1 divided by 6 times 94). So to create a partial exact scale "blueprint", I scan this image and resize it to 15.67 cm. This is pretty easy to do using the onscreen rulers of Corel Draw. Fortunately, the print is accurately-sized (3), and measures 15.67 cm.

The next problem is that I don't have the depth measurement. This could probably be eyeballed by looking at the plastic model, but you might as well take a few measurements to be sure. The 1/16th scale gun is tiny so for this, you need a dial caliper (4).

To figure out the scaling factor, you take 1/6 (.16667) and divide it by 1/16 (.0265), which yields a scaling factor of 2.6667. This means that a measurement taken off of the 1/16th scale model should be multiplied by 2.6667 to give the 1/6th scale measurement. The caliper's unit of measurement isn't really important. If, for example, the 1/16th scale stock measures 10 units thick, then the caliper should be set at 26.6667 units, which will show you how thick the 1/6th scale version should be. It doesn't matter whether this is inches or millimeters.

The caliper is a very precise instrument, since it's geared to amplify the dial's needle deflection. This helps compensate for the fact that what you're measuring is very tiny. The biggest cause of inaccuracy is the tolerances to which the model is cast. Judging from the minute detail on it, I trust that the manufacturer was extremely careful about accuracy.

So... I can use the printout for the size reference, the plate for the left side detail reference (since it's clearer than the printout), and use the plastic model for the right side detail (unfortunately, it's not as convenient or clear) and the depth measurements.

Next, the project moves into the experiment phase. I have thought a little bit about what materials I will try, but you only know for sure what works after you've tried...


A Disclaimer: I'm making this up as I go along. I don't work in and have never worked in the 'biz' so I have no clue how the pros do this. I haven't even read any articles on this. The purpose of this article is to document my low-rent intuitive approach, using the tools and materials which I have at my disposal. It's purely an exploration in technique. It's not meant to sound authoritative & teach the correct way of doing it. (I'm curious about how the pros do it too.)

The tools & materials: a Dremel mototool, a pin-vise drill, a hobby saw, diagonal clippers, some needle files, sandpaper, tweezers, scissors, a ruler, pins, Zap-A-Gap superglue, Tenax plastic glue, Evergreen styrene, Super Sculpey, Magic Sculp epoxy putty, some pins & paperclips.

11/15/98- One of the hardest things about scratch building weapons is getting the look of mechanical precision. In real life, machines are usually made by machines. To duplicate that look in 1/6th scale, it makes sense to do the same. The problem is, I don't have a machine to do this, so I have to do it by hand, John Henry-style.

Here's an example of one way to create a weapon. This isn't scratch-building per se, but adapting or customizing. You do this to save yourself the work of creating the basic form, when some of the existing shapes are good enough to live with. The PPK is actually a 45 from 21st Century: using the basic form, some grinding & puttying was done. It's pretty ugly right now, since it hasn't been finished yet because the putty isn't fully cured. But it's still difficult to get mechanical precision after finishing because you can't easily add detail to fully cured putty, except by cutting, carving or engraving. It's much easier to do this as the putty is curing-- but then, the putty's surface is still unrefined. Sort of a 'Catch-22' situation.

(Since this page isn't overloaded with pictures, here's another...) These are some of the raw materials which motivated me to start the project. The helmet & splinter camo cloth were provided by Francis Tavares, and the decals are from Hal at Action City.

Meanwhile, I've learned that Cotswold Collectibles will be selling a Fallschirmjager in December 1998, and it sounds like it will be decked out with all sorts of goodies, including an FG-42. It's not quite the same as building your own, so I'm not complaining! I must admit that it would probably be a lot easier to accurize theirs than to build one from scratch-- but you learn more this way and there's a greater feeling of accomplishment. (Maaaan that sounds like a sour grapes argument if I ever heard one!!! ;^)

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