Saturday, November 27, 2010

Making a Toy WW1 Tank (German A7V Part 1)

A few months ago I made a toy British WW1 tank that was a big hit with the kid it was a present for. However, Toy Making Dad is haunted by the bittersweet vision of a kid having to play with a toy tank with no enemy tank to fight against. Seriously, where is the fun in making "PUUURCH!" noises from the main guns without something for them to "BLAMMM!" against on the other side? So, an adversary is in order and the only German designed tank to see action in WW1, the Sturmpanzer-Kraftwagen A7V,  is the obvious choice.

First, a couple of quick historical notes (because my rule is that I get to use my BA in History once a month no matter what.) The British and French both made thousands of tanks in WW1 but for a lot of reasons the Germans did not. Building these tanks represented a ton (hehehe a tank joke) of effort and resources for what was seen as minimal gain. The tanks of the time were also mechanically unreliable and far from the fast moving seemingly indestructible beasts that are in everyone's minds now. The Germans only built around 20 A7Vs during the war and actually used far more captured British tanks that had broken down or had been knocked out and repaired.

So, I could make another British tank and paint it like the Germans did. Okay, that would be sorta fun. However, it wouldn't advance the science of making toy tanks out of 2x3s, wine crates and clementine boxes, now would it?

Okay, while the British tanks of WW1 have that "land battleship" vibe about them, the A7V has the all too familiar "The barn just came to life, sprouted half a dozen machine guns and is crawling down the street" look. A thing of beauty it is not but it does have its fine points. Chief among them is that it positively bristles with guns. There are six of the German version of Maxim machine guns, two on each side and two in the rear. The main gun is a captured 57mm gun in the front of the tank. Those cannons had been captured from the Belgians and Russians earlier in the war and used as anti-tank guns as well as the main armament of the A7V.

So, some things to keep in mind before I start designing and building:
  • It is a toy, not a scale model. I want to keep it simple and relatively easy to build. (Which also means easy to repair. It will probably see some rough play.)
  • I want to keep it close to the scale of the British tank.
  • The guns are the center point of this toy and we need to come up with a way where all are present and can move in some sort of way
  • A clacking noise as it is pushed would be nice.
 (One other note. I had sketched out numerous ideas for this toy before I started but once I started making saw dust, different and better ways to get the same result became obvious. So, not all the pictures will exactly match "the order of assembly" that the toy will ultimately have when I build new ones, but it is what it is; a proof of concept.)

Just like I did for the British tank, I grabbed a plan for the A7V from and sized it to scale in PowerPoint. Looking at the true dimensions of the tank, it should end up a little taller and not quite as long or wide as the British one. The British tanks is about 8 1/2" long so to match the scale my German tank needs to be about 7" long.

I'm using a 2x3 as the "hull" of my toy. It will be the center of the toy with everything attached to it in some manner. When the toy is finished, very little of the hull will actually show. The front and back of the tank will be about 1/2" thick so that leaves six inches for the hull. I traced the pattern on the block and marked the machine gun locations. The hull is taller than it needs to be here. Ultimately it will only be 1 5/8" from its highest point to the bottom. The cupola will be added later.

I marked out the locations for the main gun and each of the machine guns based on the pattern. I used a 1/2" forstner bit for the machine guns and a 3/4" one for the main gun. I made sure that I cut the holes to be deep enough so that they can securely hold a dowel the same diameter that will serve as the swivel for the guns. (Trust me; it will make sense in a minute.)

I'm finally getting smart about these things and have realized that it makes sense to work on a couple of toys of the same kind at the same time. Most of the time in toy making is spent in setting up cuts as opposed to actually making the cuts. Here are two hulls (creatively labeled "1" and "2") with their top holes drilled. Hull #1 already has the front and back slope cut. Honestly, I jumped the gun (so to speak) on that one and could have waited until the next step was done.

In another live and learn moment, I cut a 10 degree bevel along both sides of the top of the hull before drilling the side holes that will allow the guns to stick out. The bevel is so that the armor sides will hang at the proper angle and give the tank the correct shape. Not really a problem, but next time, I'll drill the holes first. These holes are the same diameter as the as their respective gun mount dowels and are centered on where the guns will poke through the armor plate sides.

The next steps are easy. Just pop a dowel of the appropriate width into the opening and mark where the gun should be centered and where the top of the dowel needs to be cut so that it will not protrude above the top of the hull. Before you cut the dowel to length, drill a hole into it that will hold the dowel that will be the guns. (I used 3/16" for the machine guns and 1/4" for the main gun.)

Don't worry about the angle, just cut the dowel flat at the lowest point.Yes, the jig is made from the corners of a clementine box.
This is just a test fitting and the guns are not cut to length. Still, you get the idea that all seven guns will be able to move independently.

  1 comment:

  1. Whoever commented on your British tank build about the A7V is clueless.


Just Saying...

While we don’t necessarily need more objects, we just might benefit from more making.
- John Dunnigan


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Regular guy who likes to make stuff who lives with a very patient wife, three daughters and three cats.