A substantially modified version of the single, unnamed D.H.80, the D.H.80A Puss Moth was de Havilland's answer to customer demand for cabin comfort and an end to the traditional flying clothes for themselves and their ladies.
The fuselage casting is in one piece, solid aft of the cockpit, with a separate engine nacelle. No pesky fuselage joint to clean up. The cockpit parts include the pilots seat and a bench for the two passengers. There is a control stick, rudder bar and an instrument panel.
There are a large number of struts to make up the wing support, the undercarriage and the cockpit roof framing. The instructions call for several pieces of wire to be added to the framework but no measurements are given.
The piece of clear card is intended for the cabin windows, made up of numerous small panels. The instructions suggest using Clearfix as an alternative. Either way some careful masking will be needed.
A number of extra parts are present, some small bombs, alternate smaller wheels and a pair of skis. These are to cater for some of the other boxings of the kit, which differ only in decals and painting.
The instructions are a single A4 sheet, clearly printed in Czech and quaint English, a colour profile and plan on one side, a short history, a parts layout and an exploded diagram for showing construction on the other. There are two prints of the same photo of the kit subject, and an additional photo detailing the strut arrangement. It's needed, there is a complicated strut assembly supporting the wings, and the construction diagram is less than clear and wrong in detail. I anticipate a bit of trouble getting this all together. There is a colour chart with references to generic names, AGAMA and Humbrol numbers, but no reference apart from the profile as to what goes where.
The decals are for a single aircraft G-ABBS, in silver, red and blue, which was
in the Prince of Wales flying club. The registration letters for the sides of
the aircraft are printed with a blue and red background, nice enough, but it
means matching two colours or lots of trimming.
I painted the fuselage and fin burgundy and royal blue as the best match I could get to the decals. Then I painted the wings silver after a gloss black primer. I painted and buffed the cowling and tailplane with Mr Metal Colour aluminium.
I added the seats, control stick and rudder bar to the cockpit, and did a little detail painting. There was no information on the instructions so I used light grey for the cockpit generally, with brown seats and picked out a few details in black and silver. I added belts to the pilot seat only, using thin strips of masking tape.
The thin cockpit framing was the only connection for the wings, which being solid resin, were relatively heavy. I had already broken some of the framing while cleaning up flash, so I had real doubts that it would hold up the wings, even in the short term. I made a spar from 1mm brass rod to add a lot of strength to the assembly. This allowed easy adjustment of the sweep and dihedral and prevent any spreading of the cockpit frame. This rod would remain visible after construction, but it seemed to be the best approach.
With the wings firmly attached it was
time to start the strut structure. The thin resin struts were about as strong as
over-cooked spaghetti and barely capable of holding themselves together let
alone holding the wing up. I had one break as I removed the flash, before I had
even detached it from the stub. I replaced the main wing “vee” struts with
Contrail aerofoil struts of about the right size.
The resin undercarriage legs looked like they would hold up the model, and they didn't break while detaching them from the stub, so they were used, time will tell if they are strong enough. The Puss Moth had an unusual mechanism to rotate the wheel leg fairings to provide an air brake. I added a length of thin wire to replicate the actuator which is clearly visible in some photos I found on the internet. All the wing and undercarriage struts were then brush painted aluminium.
After finishing the cockpit detailing, I added the solid resin cowling. The cockpit framing struts were very fragile, I replaced all of them with various sizes of polystyrene strip. The kit supplied only a flat sheet of clear plastic, to be cut up to build the cockpit glazing, but as no template was provided I didn't use this method. After the framing was painted, I glazed the cockpit using Micro “Kristal Klear”. The side windows were a little large for this method but I managed it after many attempts.
Using Kristal Klear, or other PVA type white glues, for glazing, is a bit tricky. It works fine for small windows and portholes, and is great for airliner windows. It only works for flat glazing. For these small openings, up to around 5mm across, it is quick and easy, gives better results than injection moulded parts, and is less fiddly than cutting clear plastic to fit. As the size of the opening increases it gets more difficult. It is possible to cast bubble canopies and astrodomes etc. using white glue, but it takes weeks to harden, and never goes really clear.
The technique I use is with a toothpick, smear the glue around the edges of the opening, getting right into the corners, and then drag a film of glue across the opening. You need a surprisingly large amount of glue to achieve this. The end result is a thin window, usually very clear, though sometimes containing small bubbles. Do not be alarmed when it goes cloudy with a coat of floor polish, it will clear again after a day or two.
Before completing construction I tried the decals. They were printed on continuous white film, with a coloured background surround,(see preview for a picture). I used the fuselage side registration decals, but was unhappy with the match with my paint. I lost patience trimming the wing registration letters, so used a set of code letters from a Ventura sheet, V7251, WW2 code letters, probably not the right size or font, but close enough, and they worked perfectly.
I then finished assembly by attaching the remaining small bits, the slots, wheels, prop, tail skid, fin and tailplane. The exhaust pipe, which broke three times, was then added. A little touch up painting, and a coat of floor polish to protect the decals, and it was done.
The decals were problematic and I really should have replaced the fuselage registrations. The lack of clear parts just added to the fun. The instructions were inadequate and incorrect in some details.
The nearest comparison I can make is with early Merlin, but not as good. Probably not worth the expensive price unless you really want one. Do not attempt without lots of scratch building experience. I was well outside my comfort zone with this one, so I did a whole lot of useful stuff to avoid finishing it, like sweeping the workroom floor and washing the dog. The result was OK, and it looks better than the old Frog kit. Not recommended.
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